DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Rest and Motion

Sultan and Odalisque, 2011, by Fred Hatt

I like to mix it up, combine drawing with physical movement, and try to capture the feeling of movement with my lines.  Valerie Green’s Green Space Studio in the Long Island City section of Queens hosts a monthly event called “Cross Pollination“, where the studio is opened up for artists, musicians and movers to do their own thing, do one of the other things, and generally draw inspiration and energy from each other.  All the drawings in this post were made at that event.

When I first started posting “Cross Pollination” drawings on the blog, I just titled them with numbers.  They were, after all, just fragments of an ongoing practice, little bits of my own restless variations on the theme, passing moments in the ebb and flow of energy at the actual event.  In later posts, it occurred to me that giving these spontaneous sketches titles might make them more interesting, might make people look at them a little differently, or at least notice how remarkably different one piece was from another.  When a piece of drawing is pretty abstract, the mind, which is oriented to clear imagery and narrative understanding, has a hard time getting to grips with it.  A title gives just a smidgen of narrative or description or association, but it makes a difference in our ability to see what’s in the drawing.  Generally, the titles I have bestowed on these drawings have nothing to do with what I was thinking at the time the drawings were made.  They are phrases that came to me when looking at the drawings later.

The picture at the top of this post, for instance, could be seen as a pure abstraction of squiggly and curvy lines.  But the drawing was inspired by watching dancers in motion, so the lines can be seen as human figures.  The figure on the left seems to be furiously dancing with a sword in swirly robes, while the figure to the right displays curvaceous feminine charms.  So why not evoke orientalist fantasies?

Attitudes, 2011, by Fred Hatt

I try to keep a very loose and responsive hand on the brush, feeling contact with the paper through the delicate tension of the bending bristles, and letting the movement of the hand and brush, and the flowing of the ink, capture the variety of stances and qualities of energy projected by the dancers in the room.

Striped Shirt, 2011, by Fred Hatt

All the figures in the drawing above were made while observing Valerie, Green Studio’s proprietor and director.  Her striped shirt and voluminous ponytail are unifying patterns.

The Oblivious Crowd, 2011, by Fred Hatt

The sketch above could easily be read as pure abstraction, but you can see that there are three figures along the bottom, sitting on the ground at the right, crawling at center, and walking hunched over at the left.  Around those figures you can see several taller figures, more energetic, more blurred.  I don’t recall the scenes I was observing while drawing this, but looking at it now I see the lower figures as the tortured movement of a defeated or injured person, while the other figures represent the people that rush past, paying no attention.  It’s a scene you can see nearly any day on the streets of New York.

Sleeping Mountains, 2011, by Fred Hatt

When the dancers are cooling down, they’re a lot easier to draw than when they’re leaping about.  Sometimes, as in the above sketch, I see them as the contours of a landscape.  The one below is much more of a literal figure drawing, a study of dancers’ stretches.

Hang Out and Warm Up, 2011, by Fred Hatt

At other times, as in the drawing below, I forget about representation and just get into the movement of the hand over the paper.  This is treating drawing as dance, an art in motion.  As this piece developed, certain parts of it suggested images to me, watery and sleek and sexual.  That influenced me to bring out those aspects, but I was also trying to keep everything ambiguous, to keep the images from taking over from the energy.

Billowing Shroud, 2011, by Fred Hatt

When the dancers get going, there’s no way to draw the body in the ways we learn in life drawing practice, carefully tracking contours and analyzing weight and observing the angular relationships between points.  But sometimes I try to see how efficiently the calligraphic manipulation of the brush can suggest the momentary bodies I capture in memory.  Some of the figures in the drawing below remind me of the shapes you see when watching a fire, shapes that often resemble dancers and leapers and writhers.

Fire Sprites, 2011, by Fred Hatt

In the drawing below, two standing figures at the center demonstrate attitudes of power and confidence, while figures around them show ways of bodily experiencing our connection to the Earth.

Grounding and Standing Tall, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Here’s a rough sketch of the studio, with an artist sketching in a notebook at left and a flutist playing at right.

The Scene at Green Space, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Here are more down-to-the-ground figures, squatting, crouching, scuttling, or lying on the back letting the limbs strive upwards.

Down on the Floor, 2011, by Fred Hatt

The next drawing was the last one of a session, and it seems to show the dancers solidified into various sculptural attitudes, stony remnants of life.

After the Storm, 2011, by Fred Hatt

All of these drawings are on 18″ x 24″ paper.  Most are drawn with ink and brush, but the sixth, seventh, and tenth drawings were made with marker.

Previous posts featuring drawings made at Cross Pollination events at Green Space Studio: 

Forces in Black and White

Dancing Brush

Cross Pollination at Green Space


Forces in Black and White

Biomass, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Drawing with ink and brush is more like ice skating than it is like walking.  The lack of friction frees the movement to express the bliss of bodily momentum, making great looping explorations of space.  Smaller strokes can zigzag or oscillate.  If you think of the large flowing lines as low frequencies and the small vibrating ones as high frequencies, there’s a kind of musical sense of harmony and timbre going on in these ink brush drawings.

Equus, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Because of my regular practice of life drawing, all the lines I make have the curves of organic forms and the energy of living movement.

Leaping, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Sometimes Asian calligraphy shows this kind of loose, dashing, impulsive stroke.  The drawing above is inspired by looking at people dancing.  The simple brush strokes suggest figures but communicate their energy while only suggesting their form.  The drawing below uses the same simplified strokes but is drawn more slowly and composed more consciously.  Here you can make out many figures and fragments of figures.  Some of the brush strokes may belong to more than one figure.

Community, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Combining the musical abstract approach and the calligraphic figurative approach produces more ambiguous images.  I often like to keep the figurative elements of the drawing from getting too specific.  Something that can be read in more than one way is more evocative.

Leda, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Every vertebrate is a snake at its core.  Sometimes in movement we can experience a hint of that slippery freedom.

Sinuosity, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Smooth and constant motion is inertia, the same as stillness.  We experience movement only through changes in direction or through acceleration or deceleration.  As in every aspect of experience, change is fundamental.

Breast Momentum, 2010, by Fred Hatt

All of these ink drawings were made at GreenSpace in Queens, New York, during their Cross Pollination events, open sessions where the studio is made available for free improvised music, dance and art.  The drawings are infused with the energy of the music I’m hearing or the moving bodies I’m watching, or from my own movement, as I tend to alternate dancing and drawing.  The movment is too quick to allow for the kind of figure drawing I practice regularly in timed sessions with models, so these drawings usually go more abstract.

Black Sun, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The energy flows in from the music and dance, and manifests in the movement of the hand and brush.  Another factor, one that becomes increasingly dominant as the page becomes filled with marks, is an intuitive sense of composition, a feel for dynamic asymmetrical balance in the plane of the drawing, balance of light and heavy, simple and complex.

Irrigation, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The elemental forces of the world are constantly moving and changing.  We move to be a part of the process, and we draw to trace its fleeting passage in a lasting form.  Cycles within cycles, changes upon changes, make a world, a life, a body of work.

Sky God, 2010, by Fred Hatt

All of these drawings are ink on paper, 18″ x 24″.  Other drawings from the Cross Pollination sessions can be seen in these posts:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5.


Dancing Brush

February Cross Pollination #1, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Drawing with ink and brush has a fluidity that captures the energy of motion.  The brush is sensitive to the slightest variations in pressure, rendering lines that have varying weight and dimension.  I have long favored this medium for movement drawing, where there is no time to develop the image through shading, color and details.  That spontaneous moving brush line is both expressive and efficient.

I’ve previously posted my sketches from Cross Pollination events at Green Space Studio in Queens here, as well as here and here.  At these casual sessions, musicians, dancers and artists come together to inspire each other.  Often, musicians and artists dance, dancers paint or play music.  For an artist, there’s a lot of energy and rhythm to draw upon.  For an artist with a figure drawing background, it’s challenging because there’s little stillness.  My experimentation has led me to an approach that’s basically abstraction built on figurative forms and fragments.

February Cross Pollination #2, 2010, by Fred Hatt

The above sketch shows various elements of the scene:  the long dreadlocks of the saxophonist Sabir, the seated flutist Lori, and Theresa with her sketchbook on her knees.  Most of the other forms here are fragments of the moving dancers, glimpsed in a passing instant.

February Cross Pollination #3, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Here I went completely abstract with an octopoid shape.  You can’t tell it, but the lines here are also based on the bodies and movements of the dancers and musicians.

February Cross Pollination #4, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Attitudes and bearing inform the one above.

February Cross Pollination #5, 2010, by Fred Hatt

And here the dancers get a little wilder and freer, driven by the saxophone and drum you can see at the center of the composition.

All of these drawings are 18″ x 24″ (46 x 61 cm), sumi ink on paper, using brushes.


Cross Pollination at Green Space

Before going into the subject of this post, I will mention that this Saturday I will be exhibiting artwork and performing at “Summer Magic”, the fifth-anniversary fundraiser event for CRS, an important supporter of butoh dance, movement theater and healing arts in New York.  Info here.

Cross Pollination 02, August 2009, by Fred Hatt

Cross Pollination 02, August 2009, by Fred Hatt

Choreographer Valerie Green‘s lovely Green Space Studio in Long Island City (Queens, New York) overlooks the Manhattan skyline and the 59th Street Bridge.  Once a month Valerie hosts “Cross Pollination“, an open improvisational session in the studio where dancers, musicians and visual artists can practice their crafts while taking inspiration from each other.  For me it’s an opportunity to draw some dance and do some movement myself.  Many of the participants alternate between playing instruments and dancing or between dancing and drawing or painting.  Here are some of my recent sketches from these events.

Cross Pollination 02, June 2009, by Fred Hatt

Cross Pollination 02, June 2009, by Fred Hatt

Cross Pollination 03, August 2009, by Fred Hatt

Cross Pollination 03, August 2009, by Fred Hatt

Cross Pollination 03, June 2009, by Fred Hatt

Cross Pollination 03, June 2009, by Fred Hatt

Cross Pollination 04, August 2009, by Fred Hatt

Cross Pollination 04, August 2009, by Fred Hatt

Often the movement of the dancers at Cross Pollination is way too fast for me to draw the figures by observation.  I either construct the figures imaginatively from fragments observed or caught in memory, as above, or simply use the energy and fleeting impressions of figurative elements to construct abstract compositions like those below.  In these I’ve turned the paper to different orientations while working, so if you look at them from different angles you may be able to pick out recognizable body parts.

Cross Pollination 01, June 2009, by Fred Hatt

Cross Pollination 01, June 2009, by Fred Hatt

Cross Pollination 01, August 2009, by Fred Hatt

Cross Pollination 01, August 2009, by Fred Hatt

I know at least one other artist that often attends these sessions has posted her Cross Pollination work on the web.  Check out Irena Romendik‘s light-footed brushwork.

My drawings pictured in this post are either 18″ x 24″ (45.7 cm x 61 cm), ink on paper, or 50 cm x 70 cm (19.7″ x 27.5″), aquarelle crayon on paper.

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