DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Profile View

Filed under: Figure Drawing: Portraits — Tags: , , , , — fred @ 14:50

Kika Eyes Closed, 2002, by Fred Hatt

The profile or side view of the face has been a standard for coin portraits since ancient times, probably because it remains recognizable even when worn smooth.  The contour of the front of the face, and of the head and neck, conveys the individuality of the subject even when it lacks such significant interior details as eyes and ears.

A couple of decades ago, the side view of the face would probably have been the first meaning of the word “profile” to come to mind for most people.  Now the word is more likely to evoke a Facebook profile, a company profile, “racial profiling” or some such more informational expression of identity.  Facebook profiles include profile pictures, of course, but hardly anyone uses a side view.  It’s just not the way people see themselves.  But the side view can be a distinctive and highly expressive aspect of the human face.  In this post I’ve gathered together a variety of my own drawings of faces in the profile view.

Daniel Eyes Closed, 2003, by Fred Hatt

The subject of the drawing above has bold, prominent features, but his energy is turned inward as though in meditation.  The one below has a similar facial contour, but the pale eye and the shadows and wrinkles around it, give it a completely different expression.

Scott, 2008, by Fred Hatt

In the drawing below, the primary light source is behind the subject, making the facial contour both a bright line and an indicator of the more complex three dimensional structure of the face.

Che, 2002, by Fred Hatt

Below, the internal contours of hair and beard and brow wrinkles add a lot to the feeling of the personality of the subject.  As in the sketch above, you can see part of the eyelid of the hidden side of the face, which gives a clearer direction to the gaze.

John, 2002, by Fred Hatt

The angles of nose, jaw and brow help to define the individuality of the face.  The eyelids and the usually shadowed area where brow, eyelid and nose meet are also significant forms.

Izaskun, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Alley, 2009, by Fred Hatt

The way a person arranges, or does not arrange, their hair, and the way the neck carries the head atop the body, are other distinctive aspects of the body that convey personality, and that can be observed in most of these examples.

Patrick, 2006, by Fred Hatt

The arrangement of the neck and jaw in particular can give a profile a more sensitive or a more aggressive appearance.

Vinnie, 2009, by Fred Hatt

In the side view of the face, the ear is a central element.  The human ear is a wonderful convoluted shape, with considerable variation in size and overall shape among individuals.

Tram, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Hair can alter or emphasize the shapes of the head, as in the jutting beard above or the haircut below that reinforces the rectangularity of the model’s head.

Robert, 2004, by Fred Hatt

Marilyn, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Sometimes the neck and collarbone and shoulders are nearly as expressive as the face.  When I am drawing I often feel that I am exploring a landscape of hills and valleys, ridges and chasms.

Tanya, 2005, by Fred Hatt

Rios, 2010, by Fred Hatt

On a hairless head, the face and the skull are unified.  Hair often frames the face and disguises the shape of the rest of the skull.  This can make the face look larger or smaller in relation to the head.

Theresa, 2010, by Fred Hatt

In the drawing below, I knew I hadn’t captured the contour of the face accurately in the full upper body sketch.  Projecting the face in a larger size made it easier to capture this model’s distinctive profile.

Corey Two Profiles, 2009, by Fred Hatt

In the drawing below, I did the face large, and the full body smaller, from the opposite side.

Ivanhova Two Views, 2010, by Fred Hatt

And in my final example, two models posing together show very different facial structures.  The female figure in the foreground has prominent cheekbones, shallow eye sockets, and a relatively flat nose.  The male figure behind her has a prominent brow ridge and a more pointed nose.  Both models are sitting back, resting on the elbows.  The female settles her head into the shoulders, while the male’s head is slightly more lifted.  In drawing from life, capturing a likeness relies very much on observing the subtle differences that make each person physically unique.

Sasho & Tin, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The drawings in this post are in the range of 18″ x 24″ to 20″ x 27″, drawn in aquarelle crayon on paper.  Most of these were done during life drawing sessions at Spring Studio or Figureworks Gallery.  Some other side view portraits are among those in this earlier post.


Face Plus Body

Betty, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The portrait and the nude are generally considered distinct and separate genres within pictorial art.  The nude is rarely a depiction of a particular person; rather, it is usually generalized or idealized, used to depict eroticism or heroism, struggle or abjection, joy or disgust as universal phenomena.  The portrait is about conveying the essential character of an individual.  Historically, the line separating these subjects was rarely breached, except in the occasional portrait of a mistress. Alice Neel and Lucian Freud both made highly individualized depictions of nudes, but they’re outliers.  In contemporary art, the body is still nearly always de-individualized and even depersonalized, used as a symbol or provocation.

Piera, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The realistically observed portrait has been a staple of art since the Greeks and Romans, but of all the classic genres it has been the most challenged by the rise of photography and the most marginalized by the conceptual turn of contemporary art.  To me portraiture remains a compelling pursuit.  I believe a drawing or painting captures a subjective reality that photographs often miss, and the essence of a person is a rich and complex subject to tackle.

Jeremiah, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The nude portrait became one of my own primary genres simply because, many years ago, I was asked to be the monitor, or session supervisor, for a weekly three-hour nude pose at Spring Studio.  This isn’t the class I would have chosen to run, as I was more interested in quick poses and movement than in long poses and academic rendering.  Nevertheless, learning to sustain my focus and to develop drawings through a longer process was a great learning experience.

Aimi, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Minerva Durham, the proprietor of Spring Studio, favors models who have unique character, and that surely helps keep it interesting for the more advanced artists.  When you draw from life as a regular practice for years, after a time you struggle more with boredom and the rut than you do with form and proportion.  Drawing endless generic nudes could get a bit dry, but if you try to perceive and capture the specialness of each model, it remains much more interesting.

Sue, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The face and the body both show us something about the person’s character and life experience.  The face is the window to the soul but also the public mask of self-presentation.  In the body we see how the energy flows and rests.  The body also conveys a great deal about the subject’s attitude and way of relating to the world.

Kate, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Nude portraits are nearly impossible to sell in a gallery show.  People love these pictures, but no casual collector wants a recognizable picture of a nude individual hanging in their home – even if it is themselves.  People have often commissioned me to do nude portraits of them, and they love the resulting pictures but have difficulty deciding where – or if – they should hang them!  But since I have always supported myself by other work in order to keep my art free from the dictates of the marketplace, I don’t mind that the work is unsellable.

Christophe, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The division separating the nude from the portrait may exist because of market realities, rather than because of any deeper reason.  But the combination, the nude portrait, represents to me a reunification of the primal split in the human soul, our loss of connection with our physicality and our earthly nature.  Technology has allowed us to separate ourselves more and more from Nature, which is our origin and on which we are utterly dependent whether we realize it or not.  Only our own bodies can reassert this primal symbiosis.  A portrayal of face and body as one is a small statement of the unity of spirit and matter.

Amalia, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

There”s a section on nude portraits, as well as one on head-only portraits, on my portfolio site.  Also, many of my previous blog posts have featured nude portraits.

Julio, 2010, by Fred Hatt

All portraits in this post were made in the last six months during the Monday morning long pose session I monitor at Spring Studio.  All are aquarelle crayon on paper.  Sizes range from 18″ x 24″ to 20″ x 28″.


Empathic Portraits

Filed under: Figure Drawing: Portraits — Tags: , , , , , — fred @ 23:03

Henry, 2010, by Fred Hatt

To draw a portrait from life is about more than just reproducing the shapes that constitute the model’s appearance.  It has to capture the look of the person, to be a recognizable likeness.  But I want my portraits to go beyond likeness, to suggest a mind full of thoughts and a heart full of feelings.

When I’ve done portraits on commission, I’ve often been not completely happy with the results.  I’ve come to believe it’s because when I’m being paid to produce, I can’t quite get to the relaxed state in which I do my best work.  That’s something I’ll have to work on.  For this post, my illustrations are drawn from recent work I’ve done at the regular monday morning three-hour pose at Spring Studio, for which I’ve been the official monitor for many years now.  At these sessions I’m neither being paid nor paying for the model.  I’m there every week, and I can afford to experiment.  Not all the drawings are great, but often enough I can really get in a groove.

Alley, 2010, by Fred Hatt

When I’m drawing from a live model, most of my attention is focused on perceiving and reproducing the curves and angles, values and colors I see.  It’s a practice I’ve pursued diligently for over fifteen years.  The drawing never quite captures all the subtle wonders of the living figure in front of me, so I can direct all the energy I can muster toward this task for the available time without ever coming to the end of it.  Because I’ve practiced so much, this act of observational drawing is like a meditation.  I don’t know what happens with brainwaves, but I know that the sensory and motor parts of the brain both become fully absorbed in the task of drawing.  In this state, a subconscious awareness also comes into play, and I think this is the key to capturing a living essence.

Esteban, 2009, by Fred Hatt

In drawing, I look at the model so intensely that the experience becomes like that of gazing upon a beloved.  The unique qualities of the face, even its asymmetry or scars, become beauty in my drawing eyes.  The eyes, the hand, and the brain are fully engaged in a compelling but unperfectable task.  The setting is physically and emotionally safe.  Then the perception of the heart is able to open.  I may not know what the model is thinking, but I have a sense of what they are feeling, at least the tensions and discomforts of the pose and the energy with which the model responds to that challenge.

Yisroel, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Having done the long pose as a model myself informs this awareness.  The body is not designed to remain immobile for long, and there is a certain amount of low-level pain and suffering involved.  Some models think, some meditate, some recite poetry or sing songs in their minds.  Some show pride or defiance, others look sad or tired, thoughtful or reminiscent.

Michael, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Jiri, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Madelyn, 2010, by Fred Hatt

It is not only the face that shows these feelings, but often the entire body.  The face and the body bear the marks of the person’s experience of life, and express the attitude with which they confront the world.

Diane (face), 2009, by Fred Hatt

Diane (body), 2009, by Fred Hatt

Joe, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Joe, 2009, by Fred Hatt

All these drawings are 50 x 70 cm (19.6″ x 27.5″), aquarelle crayon on paper.  Some of my other portrait drawings can be seen on my portfolio site and on this post or any posts on this blog tagged “portraits“.


Self Portrait

Filed under: Figure Drawing: Portraits — Tags: , , , — fred @ 00:47
Self, 2009 (mirror inverted), by Fred Hatt

Self, 2009 (mirror inverted), by Fred Hatt

This is a self-portrait, drawn in 40 minutes this past Sunday evening.  The version above has been flipped across the vertical axis so it appears as I appear to others, rather than as I see myself in a mirror.  My self-portraits always look a bit angry.  I think it’s just the intensity of the artist’s stare.  I must look like quite an ogre to the models who pose for me!

While making this drawing I put a camera looking over my shoulder, set to take a picture every 30 seconds.  Here are some selected stages in the development of the drawing.

In the first two minutes, I roughed in the highlights, drawing with the edge of my crayon:

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 1:30

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 1:30

Next I started outlining the bright shapes:

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 4:30

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 4:30

And then the dark areas:

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 7:30

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 7:30

I started bringing in the color of the warm-toned light to my left:

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 10:00

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 10:00

And the cooler-toned edge lighting to my right:

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 11:30

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 11:30

Then reddish shadows:

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 14:30

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 14:30

I started looking for the highlights within the highlights, making strokes that followed the three-dimensional contours of the face:

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 18:00

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 18:00

By that point I was about halfway through the process.  From this point on I was looking at color, details, and correcting distortions.  The face was too thin, so I thickened it up:

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 23:00

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 23:00

Toward the end of the process, I was developing the texture of hair and other details.  These features can be drawn with a loose hand, as the energetic feel is more important than the precise detail.  Some shadows appear reddish, while others are cooler in tone.  I used a bluish green, the complement to the natural flesh tone, to deepen these shadows:

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 37:30

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt, in progress at 37:30

I stopped at 40 minutes because I wanted the drawing to remain loose and spontaneous.  Here’s the finished version, as drawn, not flipped as in the version at the top of the post:

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Self, 2009, by Fred Hatt


Me As Seen By

Fred Hatt, 2008, by Jean Marcellino

Fred Hatt, 2008, by Jean Marcellino

I regularly post my drawings of others here.  This post is about other artist’s images of me.  The rendering above is by Jean Marcellino, a master of the light and shadow technique using chalk, charcoal, graphite and sanguine.  I think she really captured my expression.

Jean often comes to draw at the Monday morning session at Spring Studio, for which I serve as monitor.  As one of the duties of that position, if our scheduled model is running late, I have to get up on the stand.  When the artists are ready to draw, they’re ready to draw, and they’ll settle for me as a model if they have to.  Here’s another Spring Studio tardy model substitute sketch of me, from Robin Kappy, an artist and psychotherapist:

Fred Hatt. 2009, by Robin Kappy

Fred Hatt. 2007, by Robin Kappy

I think any artist that works with models should experience the other side of the easel.  When I decided fifteen years ago to pursue life drawing as a regular practice, I couldn’t really afford to pay for several sessions a week, so I arranged to be a backup model and was able to draw for free on condition of willingness to step in as a nude model as needed.  I am sure some of the artists who had shown up because a beautiful girl or strapping adonis was on the model schedule were disappointed when they got me as the stand-in!  But for me it was invaluable experience.  I learned where the weight, tension, and energy is in action poses, so that later when I was drawing the same poses I could observe them with an inside understanding.  I learned the suffering of the long pose – any pose held for a long time involves enduring pain, and the longer it goes on, the sooner the pain comes after each break.  These experiences gave me a strong sense of empathy with the models.  Not only does this influence me to treat models kindly, but I have come to believe it is a key to making the kind of connection with the subject that makes the drawings come alive.

Another Spring Studio regular, Karen Collidge, pursues her work with a barreling restless energy.  She does both figurative and abstract expressionist work, and each type of work feeds the other.  Karen has drawn and painted me on multiple occasions.

Fred Hatt, 2009, by Karen Collidge

Fred Hatt, 2009, by Karen Collidge

Fred Hatt, July, 2007, by Karen Collidge

Fred Hatt, July, 2007, by Karen Collidge

Here are three sketches Karen made the same day:

Fred Hatt, December, 2008 #1, by Karen Collidge

Fred Hatt, December, 2008 #1, by Karen Collidge

Fred Hatt, December, 2008 #2, by Karen Collidge

Fred Hatt, December, 2008 #2, by Karen Collidge

Fred Hatt, December, 2008 #3, by Karen Collidge

Fred Hatt, December, 2008 #3, by Karen Collidge

One of the pleasures of modeling for a drawing class is to walk around the room during the breaks and see oneself as seen by many people, who have radically different ways of perceiving and of expressing their perception.  It’s especially striking at a place like Spring Studio, which attracts a wide range of artists who have been trained in different traditions and media, and many of whom have developed their own unique approach through many years of practice.  If you had a bunch of photographers shooting the same model in the same poses and the same light, you wouldn’t see nearly the variety.  Still, some photographers find ways to make their technological medium unique and personal.   Stéphanie de Rougé photographed me in my studio using overlapping exposures with an all-plastic Holga camera, a technique described in this New York Times article (with slide show).

Fred 14, 2008, by Stéphanie de Rougé

Fred 14, 2008, by Stéphanie de Rougé

Stéphanie alternated shooting me and artwork and objects in my studio environment, letting the images combine on the film without ever knowing exactly how these juxtapositions would manifest until the negative was processed.  I appreciate this approach, as I have a great respect for the creative power of randomness.  The resulting pictures weave the artist and his work together.

Fred 15, 2008, by Stéphanie de Rougé

Fred 15, 2008, by Stéphanie de Rougé

Fred 7, 2008, by Stéphanie de Rougé

Fred 7, 2008, by Stéphanie de Rougé

Marcy Currier is an intuitive artist and healer I met at Brushwood Folklore Center.  She was the model for Seer, the last image in my previous post Time and Line. Marcy does chakra portraits in colored pencil, based on her sense of the energy a person radiates from the different facets of their being.  The different colors correspond to the spectral associations of the seven energy centers described in the yogic physiology of the energy body.  Here the blue color represents creative expression, interpenetrating all other levels of my being.  This is a completely different kind of observational drawing!

Fred Hatt, 2009, by Marcy Currier

Fred Hatt, 2009, by Marcy Currier

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