DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Working Big – Part 2: Weaving with Bodies

Explorer, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Explorer, 2010, aquarelle crayon on black gessoed canvas, 72″ x 72″, by Fred Hatt

In last month’s post, “Working Big – Part 1”, I shared a selection of large figure drawings done at or near life-size. Over the last decade I’ve also been doing large-scale drawings with multiple overlapping figures.

In the Drawing Life post “Time and Line”, I wrote about how I arrived at this approach, and how it relates to my earliest creative impulses. I wrote:

The cubists were trying to move beyond the limitations of the pictorial or photographic view by showing their subject from multiple angles simultaneously, suggesting the third spatial dimension not by the traditional way of projection or perspective, but by fragmentation. In these drawings, I’m fragmenting the fourth dimension, time, to bring it onto the plane and into the frame.

On my portfolio site I describe these drawings as “chaos compositions”, and briefly describe the process as follows:

Chaos Compositions emerge from a two-phase process: first generating a chaotic field through a response to movement, followed by working to reveal order hidden within this chaos.

I work on the floor, crawling over the large sheet and covering it with overlapping sketches of movement or quick poses taken by a model-collaborator. Once the drawing reaches a certain density, like a tangle of threads, I begin to work on carving a structure out of this undifferentiated energy field. I bring some of the layers of drawing forward by adding depth and weight to the forms, and push others into the background or into abstraction. I alternate between crawling on the drawing, where individual lines can be followed like paths, and standing back to get a sense of overall form and balance.

What is expressed in these works is not a concept or a personal feeling, but something unconceived, a spirit that emerges from the moment, from the interaction of artist and model and environment.

Several chaos compositions are included in the gallery “Time and Motion Drawings” on my portfolio site.

Still more posts about this process are linked in connection with some of the drawings below. As you can see, I’ve written fairly extensively about this way of working, and you can follow those links to read all about it if you wish. Here I’ll just share a selection of these pieces, with some unstructured thoughts about what these odd drawings mean to me.

End in Ice, 2012, by Fred Hatt

End in Ice, 2012, watercolor on paper, 38″ x 50″, by Fred Hatt

Each model embodies a certain particular essence, a range of qualities that express the way his or her self and structure exist in the world.

Follower, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Follower, 2006, aquarelle crayon on black gessoed canvas, 72″ x 72″, by Fred Hatt

The curves of the body in all its different attitudes become waves in a field of energy. My drawing surface becomes a sensitive membrane that receives these vibrations.

Colt, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Colt, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 37″ x 48″, by Fred Hatt

Each piece is a portrait of one model. These are not different bodies sharing a setting, but different moments exposed on the same emulsion.

Ruminate, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Ruminate, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 36″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt

To look at these drawings is not to look at a picture, but to fall into a vortex, a field of chaotic forces.

Biome, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Biome, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 37″ x 48″, by Fred Hatt

By finding and following the lines that define the overlapping bodies and faces, we find our way through the maze of the drawing. For me this experience is metaphorical, for in the field of forces that is the world, it is our own bodies and identities that ground us and give us continuity.

Contain, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Contain, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 36″ x 66″, by Fred Hatt

I want the viewer of these drawings to get some flavor of the experience I have when drawing them, an experience of surrendering to complexity but discovering clarity in the body and its life force.

Verso, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Verso, 2008, aquarelle crayon on paper, 48″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt

The chaotic nature of the world is inherent to its beauty. Geological and biological forms, clouds and galaxies, grow out of the infinite complexity of interacting energies and interdependent beings.

Hold, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Hold, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 37″ x 48″, by Fred Hatt

To grasp the universe is to lose the self in the moment. It is an experience I seek again and again, with a crayon in my hand.

Twists, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Twists, 2010, aquarelle crayon on paper, 48″ x 50″, by Fred Hatt

(The image above is deconstructed into its component figures in the post “Reverse Engineering a Drawing”)

Awakening, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Awakening, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 37″ x 48″, by Fred Hatt

I don’t tell my models how to move, but let them find their own poses. I am not concerned with realistic rendering, but with the qualities of the curves and the forms of energy they seem to call up from the potent void of negative space. I am attempting to see beyond the surface of things.

Hero, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Hero, 2010, aquarelle crayon on paper, 48″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt

(The drawing above is included in the post  “Finishing Touches”, where I explore the development of the negative spaces in several chaos compositions.)

Water Cycle, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Water Cycle, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 37″ x 48″, by Fred Hatt

When I am drawing, I am close to the large paper and cannot see the overall pattern. I am down in it, exploring whatever passage I have found for the moment. Later, looking at the drawing from a distance, I see it abstractly, as veins of color in a crystal, or as objects in a whirlwind. Then the eye discovers a face or part of a body, and that is an opening into the image, which can be traveled like a path through the woods, or like a strand of thought through the din of the chattering mind.

Gaze Angle, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Gaze Angle, 2009, aquarelle crayon on paper, 48″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt

(The phases of development of the piece above are detailed in the post “Composing on the Fly”.)

End in Fire, 2012, by Fred Hatt

End in Fire, 2012, watercolor, oil pastel, and aquarelle crayon on paper, 38″ x 50″, by Fred Hatt

These works, even more than my other drawings, are products of close collaboration with great models who share their own creative expression in the work. The models who posed for the large drawings in this post are Kuan, Pedro, Stephanie, Jillian, Madelyn, Neil, Milvia, Jeremiah, Kristin, and Jessi.


Working Big – Part 1


Nocturne, 2009, 48″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt

Many figurative artists carry on an ongoing practice in group life drawing sessions, as I do, but when they have a chance to work with a model in their own studio, they choose to do work that is much more planned, composed, and developed.  I tend to get less planned and more experimental when I work in my own studio.  It provides an opportunity for spontaneity and direct creative collaboration with the model that just isn’t possible in the group setting, and above all, it makes it possible to work on a bigger scale.  In a classroom shared with other artists, it just wouldn’t do for me to take over half the floor with an enormous drawing.

The crayon drawing above, like all the other large scale drawings in this post, was made without planning or preliminary sketches, going directly to work on a four by five foot sheet of black paper, and the figure is approximately life-size.  (The model is Museworthy‘s Claudia.)  This way of working doesn’t guarantee a good result – in fact, there’s a high failure rate.  The real disasters won’t be shared here.  When it does work, though, the resulting drawings can have a lively quality that too much thinking and planning tends to stifle.

In quick sketching, working much smaller, my way of approximating proportions is to rely on the rhythm of the movements of the hand.  A torso, for example, might be thought of as a musical measure, consisting of a quarter note for the curve of the breast, a series of sixteenth notes for the ribs, and a half note for the abdomen.  (That’s an explanatory metaphor – in practice I never think of visual rhythms in quite such precise terms.)  The smaller the drawing gets, the more difficult it is to use this rhythmic sense, because the movements used to make the lines become so small.  It is easier to feel the fluctuations of movement with the forearm than it is with the fingers, and it is easier still with the whole arm and shoulder.  Sometimes, as in the sketchbook page below, I try shifting the scale of my sketches as an exercise, and for me, working small is challenging!


Michael quick poses, 2012, 17″ x 14″, by Fred Hatt

I’ve done many portraits around twice life-size.  The human face is a complex cluster of forms, and when the drawing or painting is small, we are forced to simplify by the bluntness of our instruments.  You just can’t facet a diamond with a sledgehammer.  Upsizing the subject makes it possible to capture much more meaningful detail with our clumsy fingers and dull tools.


Marilyn, 2011, 19″ x 25″, by Fred Hatt

The remainder of this post consists of large scale figure drawings made in my own studio on papers ranging in size from about 30″ x 48″ (76 x 122 cm) to 60″ x 60″ (152 x 152 cm).  In past posts I’ve found that these large drawings, especially the complex ones with multiple overlapping figures, lose a lot of their impact and even legibility at the size I use for pictures on the blog.  I’ve made these images slightly larger than what I usually use here, but I haven’t made them much larger because I don’t want to give away online pictures of sufficiently high resolution to let someone make book-quality prints.  I hope these reproductions will give you a sense of what the originals are like, and if you want to see them in their full glory, you’ll have to visit my studio or an exhibit of my work!

Feet, 2007, by Fred Hatt

Feet, 2007, 48″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt

I often make my larger work in pairs.  The larger-than-life-scale crayon drawings above and below were done in the same session.  Both are 48″ x 60″.  These are on my portfolio site, and the digital images have been popular recently on Tumblr and Pinterest.

Back and Hand, 2007, by Fred Hatt

Back and Hand, 2007, 48″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt

You might think it would be hard to maintain proportions, painting in watercolors directly from life, without preliminary measurements or sketches, on a piece of paper too large to see all at once from working distance.  In fact, when making the figures smaller than life-size, proportion has been a problem for me.  It gets much easier when the figures are life-size, since I have a very good sense of how long an arm is, how big a hand is, and so on.

Mountain and Valley, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Mountain and Valley, 2012, 38″ x 50″, by Fred Hatt

Since I’m working directly from life, and I like the models to take interesting poses that might be challenging to hold over a long period of time, I try to work very quickly.  These are essentially quick sketches, not so different from what I’d do on a much smaller piece of paper in twenty minutes or so, and they have all the roughness that implies.  We’re not used to seeing the scribbly techniques of the quick sketch at this scale.

Towering, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Towering, 2012, 38″ x 50″, by Fred Hatt

The drawing above was made by observing through a mirror placed on the floor, to see the figure as though from beneath.  Of course this means the drawing was done upside down.

Spinal Curves, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Spinal Curves, 2012, 38″ x 50″, by Fred Hatt

Most artists doing observational work at large scale use an easel, but paper or canvas of this size mounted on an easel would be like a wall between the artist and the model.  For me it’s important to have open space between myself and the model, with no energetic barriers, so I do all of these big drawings on the floor.

Waxing Moon, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Waxing Moon, 2010, 48″ x 30″, by Fred Hatt

The pair above and below are done in aquarelle crayon on black paper.  Each piece is 48″ x 30″ – the smallest pieces in this post, besides the portrait and quick sketch examples seen near the top.  These drawings were featured in an earlier post, two years ago.

Waning Moon, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Waning Moon, 2009, 48″ x 30″, by Fred Hatt

In the next pair, I’m trying to get the kind of bodily expressiveness Rodin mastered in sculpture, using direct, no-sketch watercolor painting and life-size scaling, and working with exquisite dancer-models.

Melting Glacier, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Melting Glacier, 2012, 38″ x 50″, by Fred Hatt

Thawing Permafrost, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Thawing Permafrost, 2012, 38″ x 50″, by Fred Hatt

Since I’m working on the floor, I tend to favor reclining poses, as I can see the pose while crawling on top of the drawing paper, without craning my neck.  I love these unusual foreshortened views of the body, and I feel that the view of the head from above has a special subjective quality – it suggests the face we feel from within, rather than the face we present to the world.

Cool Down, 2003, 60" x 60", by Fred Hatt

Cool Down, 2003, 60″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt

Many of my large-scale figure drawings feature multiple, overlapping figures of the same model, incorporating the temporal dimension into the composition.  You can see many examples here,  and posts about the process here and here and here and  here, and those drawings will be the subject of “Working Big, Part 2”, to be posted in about a month.

Double Exposure, 2007, by Fred Hatt

Double Exposure, 2007, 30″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt

Thanks to my great model/collaborators for these drawings:  Claudia, Izaskun, Jeremiah, Kristin, Kuan, Pedro, and Yuko.

My work is included in the exhibit Faces of Figureworks: Self Portraits, January 5 – March 3 at Figureworks Gallery in Brooklyn, with an opening reception Friday, January 11.  I’ll post further details here soon.  If you’re in NYC, come see me!


Finishing Touches

Dreamer, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Here’s one of my recent works of a type I call chaos compositions.  These are large-scale drawings, four by five feet (122 x 152 cm) and up, made with aquarelle crayons on black paper or canvas.  These combine multiple sketches of the same model in different poses, overlapped willy-nilly without preconceived design.  I basically keep adding drawings to the same paper until it starts threatening to be an indecipherable mess, and then struggle to reveal the beauty in the wondrous complexity that results.

Part of what I’m going for here is to create images that demand of their viewers a kind of looking that is completely different from our default response to pictures.  When we look at a picture, we tend to see it all at once.  We immediately recognize its imitation or simulation of our visual experience of the world, and relate to it through the reality or fantasy that it illustrates for us.  Deeper looking may involve noticing telling details or observing how an idiosyncratic style communicates the subjectivity of the visual experience.  But it is the immediate and unified visual experience that captures our attention and imagination.

A piece of pure abstract expressionism deliberately foregoes these illusionistic charms, but still, it tends to hit us all at once.  We take it in as an overall composition of textures and colors and shapes that express something directly through their energy or their physical properties.

With these chaos compositions, the first glance is a hit of the abstract kind.  We see a busy field of colors and lines, and maybe we get a feeling of swirliness or jaggedness.  It is far too jumbled to be interpreted as a picture, though we cannot fail to see that the elements of the composition are human figures.  Some are more developed and others more sketchy, some are clear and bold while others are almost lost in the density.  Abstraction and figuration coexist here in a state of virtual tensegrity.

Most (not all) of the figures in these drawings are complete figures, but to see a figure in its entirety requires starting with its more obvious features and carefully tracing areas of color or line that may be woven in with several other figure drawings occupying the same plane.  If the viewer is sufficiently captured by the drawing to try to unravel it in this way, he or she has been drawn into a way of looking that is far more actively engaged than the receptive mode demanded by most pictures.

Kuan, a dancer/choreographer and model who recently posed for one of these chaos compositions (not shown here because not yet finished), observed that these drawings are like maps of cities.  There are different neighborhoods of varying character, all woven together by lines of movement.  You can look at the map and get a kind of overview, but the only way to really explore the city is to follow the lines, to move about within it, experiencing the distinctive pockets of a particular character and the transitional areas where multiple characters may coexist.

In previous posts on this blog, I’ve shown the progressive building-up of one of these pictures, or I’ve shown how the original figure drawings can be recovered by carefully studying the finished work.  I’ve looked at this work as it relates to my earliest creative impulses to express movement through line.  Many other examples of chaos compositions can be found in this gallery on my portfolio site, and related work can be seen in any of my posts tagged “movement drawing“.

Those posts should give you a good idea of the process behind these works.  Here, I’m going to focus on the final stage of development of three recent chaos compositions, looking at the finishing touches whereby I try to discover the composition residing in the chaos.  Here below is what “Dreamer”, the drawing shown at the top of this post, looked like at the conclusion of my session working with the model, Izaskun, before finishing work:

Dreamer, 2010, by Fred Hatt, early state

The finished version shown at the top of the post has been developed by a couple of hours of work in the studio, without the model present.  If you scroll up and back down to compare the two versions, you can see that the early state immediately above this paragraph contains virtually all of the figurative elements that are in the finished version.  You may be surprised by how little has really been added to the drawing to finish it.  But I think you’ll agree that the final version has a richness, a “snap”, and a dimensional quality that aren’t there yet in the early state.

Unfortunately, these large drawings lose a lot of their impact in such small reproductions.  (I’d love to have a show of these pieces in a gallery large enough to host a collection of them, but I don’t have anything lined up at this time.  Any gallery referrals are welcomed!)  Let’s look at a detail of “Dreamer”, in before and after versions:

Dreamer, 2010, by Fred Hatt, early state, detail

Dreamer, 2010, by Fred Hatt, final version, detail

Part of what I’ve done is simply to color in background areas to help separate the figures from the overall black field.  I’ve also paid particular attention to the faces.  I find the faces work as powerful focal points in these pieces.  The face in the upper right quadrant of this detail has had its warm tones complemented by cool tones.  The distorted face of the foreshortened figure in white, here in the upper center, has been proportionally corrected, which also allowed me to clarify the red-lined face just to the left of it.  The faces in the lower left quadrant have also been sharpened or developed.

Here’s another chaos composition, “Hero”, shown as it was just after my session with model Jeremiah, and then as finished:

Hero, 2010, by Fred Hatt, early state

Hero, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Again, let’s look at a detail view, the better to see some of the finishing touches:

Hero, 2010, by Fred Hatt, early state, detail

Hero, 2010, by Fred Hatt, final version, detail

In this segment of “Hero”, nearly all of the final development is focused on the background.  Color in the background clarifies both the figures and the overall structure while allowing the figures to remain close to their original form as raw, quick line drawings.  The standing figure near the right hand side of this detail has been filled in with yellow, and a figure just above the eyebrows of the large face on the left side of the detail has been restored from almost complete obscurity to just near obscurity, by tracing its lines in a lighter color.

Here’s our third and final example, “Sole”.  The model here is Madelyn.  First, the whole piece in two states:

Sole, 2010, by Fred Hatt, early state

Sole, 2010, by Fred Hatt

This piece started with the large feet, drawn to nearly fill the space of the drawing.  The full figures were then layered over and around the feet.  For me the soles of the feet represent the human connection to the earth, our grounding.  (A similar oversized sketch of feet, without the overlapping figures, can be seen here.)

Compared to the other two chaos compositions featured above, “Sole” has more of the feeling of a landscape.  The figures are, if anything, even more hidden, and the background elements, especially at the top and bottom, have been filled in with more detail and texture.  Here are our before and after detail views:

Sole, 2010, by Fred Hatt, early state, detail

Sole, 2010, by Fred Hatt, final version, detail

The in-between black spaces have been filled in with snaky and leafy patterns.  The arch-backed figure in the lower part of the detail has been made more dimensional by the addition of a network of cross-contour lines.  Both linear faces in the upper half of the detail have been sharpened with black and red and white lines.  The toes of both of the underlying giant feet, which had become obscured beneath the figures drawn over them, have been brought out by the addition of red outlines.

In finishing these drawings, I am cautious not to overdevelop the figures that result from my initial work direct from the live model.  I feel that the drawings made by direct observation have an energy that is rarely enhanced by further finishing, even if the figures are very rough or distorted.  The finishing work is often largely focused on the gaps between the figures.  Developing a background helps to push the figures into the foreground, giving them a feeling of depth and separating pieces that would otherwise be lost in the general tangle.

All three of the drawings featured in this post are 48″ x 60″, aquarelle crayon on paper.


Reverse Engineering a Drawing

Twists, 2010 by Fred Hatt

Reverse engineering is taking something apart to find out how it was put together.  The term usually applies to technology or manufactured products, particularly in the case of competitors seeking to discover trade secrets or make knockoffs.  I’ve never heard the phrase applied to an artwork, but a drawing or painting does conceal stages of construction.  In my last post I wrote about artist William Kentridge.  His method of charcoal drawing animation reveals the drawings he exhibits as processes of exploration and development.

Over the last seven years I’ve been making large-scale drawings with multiple overlapping figures.  Each of these is created in close collaboration with a single model.  I call them “chaos compositions” because their process involves drawing over and over on the same page to create a field of chaos, and then working to find a dynamic structure within that chaos.  Many examples, and an explanation of the process, can be found in this gallery on my portfolio site, and others in the blog posts “Time and Line”.  The stages of development of a chaos composition are shown in the post “Composing on the Fly”.

“Twists”, pictured at the top of the post, is a recent chaos composition, 48″ x 60″, or 122 cm x 152 cm, aquarelle crayon on paper, created in collaboration with the great model Madelyn.  Figurative elements are clearly visible, but the overlapping is dense enough that much of it is essentially abstract.  Different colors are used in different figures, making it possible to discern connected parts of individual figures by following lines of certain colors.  I’m trying to create images that require a more active approach to viewing than the traditional straightforward pictorial composition, and finding the starting figures is one way of active looking at these pictures.  It’s a little easier to do this with the original drawings, in which the figures are close to life size, than with a small online reproduction, but here I’m going to do it for you, using cropping and selective digital erasure to separate the component figures.

Figure 1, from Twists, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The lower part of this figure is easy to see in the finished piece, but the upper part has been heavily overdrawn and is difficult to find.  On these re-separated figures, where you see many other colors crossing over some of the contour lines, as in the left arm above, that is an indication of great density in the final piece.  Below, two figures from the left side of the picture.

Figure 2, from Twists, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Figure 3, from Twists, 2010, by Fred Hatt

One of these figures serves to frame the lower left corner of the picture, while the other turns away, to reach out of the frame.  The line of the back has been sketched twice in the one just above, once in pink and then in a light blue, with a slightly altered repeat of the pose.  Toward the middle of the piece, there are several more dramatic poses.

Figure 4, from Twists, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Figure 5, from Twists, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The figure below is particularly hidden.  The hand, in white, really stands out, but the forward-bending figure with the crossed feet is difficult to distinguish in the dense mass of line and color.

Figure 6, from Twists, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The one below is a little easier to see, but it’s an unusual pose that may be hard to figure out, and the drawing is somewhat distorted.  The model was twisting and leaning to her left side, so the angle of view appears to be from below.

Figure 7, from Twists, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The figure below is in the upper right corner and has much less overlapping than the central figures.  This pose is a complex sculptural arrangement of counterbalanced curves.

Figure 8, from Twists, 2010, by Fred Hatt

In the middle of the composition is this standing figure, which is ghostly and hard to see.  Nearly every part of this figure is masked by something more dominant in its vicinity, including the yellow raised hand, which becomes an echo of the bolder white hand above it.

Figure 9, from Twists, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Now that you’ve seen the drawing deconstructed, look again at the final version.  There are things going on here that can’t be seen in the separated figures, juxtapositions like the multiple hands in the upper middle area, organic shapes that appear between or in the overlaps of other shapes.  It is a picture of energy, a sketch of a single figure moving in time and space, an attempt to see in four dimensions.  I hope that the total is more than the sum of its parts.

Twists, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Thanks again to Madelyn, the model for this piece, a fine model and a great creative collaborator.


Time and Line

Plantar, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Plantar, 2008, by Fred Hatt

In an essay I wrote in 1999 I said “Drawing records something photography does not – the movement of perception in time.”  Every mark made in drawing represents a moment of seeing or of imagination.  The energy of the artist’s strokes convey to a viewer something of the energy of the creative act.  I want to preserve this quality of line, and for this reason have chosen to work primarily with media in which the line does not become blended or smudged.

Since the time I came to understand the time-based aspect of drawing, it has been an important basis of my creative process.  I had first experienced drawing or painting as a record of the movement of consciousness in making abstract work, but I eventually discovered that my focus benefited greatly from working with models.  In In order to practice working from models in motion, I organized “Movement Drawing” sessions, life drawing sessions in which the models were dancers and other kinds of trained movers.

Movement Drawing Flyer, 1997, by Fred Hatt

Movement Drawing Flyer, 1997, by Fred Hatt

In order to make it possible to see and capture something of the movement, we asked the models to perform extremely slow movement, stop-and-go movement, and repeated movement (same gesture or movement phrase repeated for five minutes at a time).  These sessions were challenging and exhausting practice.  It was possible to fill an entire fat sketchbook in a single session.  I was spending a lot on paper, and the piles of drawings in my apartment were growing quickly.  One of my solutions was to draw many overlapping figures on the same page, using different colored crayons selected randomly so that the individual figures could be distinguished in the mesh.  Here’s a typical example from that time:

Patrick movement sketch, 2000, by Fred Hatt

Patrick movement sketch, 2000, by Fred Hatt

Another adaptation was drawing with ink on long scrolls, as seen in this previous post.

Around the time I was most intensely involved in movement drawing, I visited my family in Oklahoma, where I grew up.  Looking through the artwork I had done as a child, the earliest sketch I found was a crayon drawing made when I was three years old or so.  My mother had labeled this drawing as I had described it to her, “José Greco Dancing in Purple Boots”.   José Greco was a famous flamenco dancer and choreographer who made a great impression on me as a child.  Here’s a clip of Greco’s dance, followed by my childhood interpretation:

José Greco Dancing in Purple Boots, 1961, by Fred Hatt

José Greco Dancing in Purple Boots, 1961, by Fred Hatt

Finding this drawing showed me that I had known my mission from the start.  Already at age three I was inspired by dance, trying to capture the energy of movement through scribbly crayon drawings.  I just lost my way in life and it took me nearly forty years to find my way back to the path!

Starting around 2003 I began using the technique of overlapping figures in different colors to make much larger, almost mural scale drawings, and developed a way of working in which I allowed a sort of chaotic buildup of figurative lines, followed by a phase of finding dynamic form in the mess.  An earlier blog post describes the process and shows phases of development of one piece.  A number of large drawings made in this way can be seen in this gallery on my portfolio site.

The remainder of images in this post are of several of these large drawings made in the past year.  All are 48″ x 60″ (122 cm x 152 cm), aquarelle crayon (sometimes combined with oil pastel) on black paper.  These are selected not necessarily as the best of my drawings of this type, but to show variations on the style.  Each one is made working with a single model who takes multiple quick poses, mainly of their own choosing.  Work with the model is completed in a single session, followed by further work on my own to develop and clarify the compositions.

The model for this one is a dancer of great intensity:

Tropic, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Tropic, 2009, by Fred Hatt

On this one I kept changing the orientation of the paper as I added new figures.  It makes it a little difficult to read.  I imagine it being displayed on a ceiling, or with a slowly rotating motor so different figures might dominate the composition at different times:

Edges, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Edges, 2009, by Fred Hatt

In the next drawing, the overlapping figures become a kind of complex landscape, a mysterious cave:

Range, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Range, 2009, by Fred Hatt

On the drawing below, when I was finished working with the model I was afraid the mass of figures was a hopeless jumble, but bringing color into the in-between spaces caused the whole thing to crystalize beautifully:

Seer, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Seer, 2009, by Fred Hatt

In these drawings, not only do the lines express the movement of my perceptions in time, but the multiple overlapping figures show the movement of the model over a period of time.  Aspects of the bodily form, the quality of movement, the energy and feeling expression of the model become part of the resulting image.

The cubists were trying to move beyond the limitations of the pictorial or photographic view by showing their subject from multiple angles simultaneously, suggesting the third spatial dimension not by the traditional way of projection or perspective, but by fragmentation.  In these drawings, I’m fragmenting the fourth dimension, time, to bring it onto the plane and into the frame.

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