DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt



Barefoot, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Barefoot, 2013, by Fred Hatt

This post is an experiment. Some of my recent abstract watercolors, landscape sketches, and doodles have been randomly interspersed between the lines of Arthur Rimbaud’s synesthetic 1872 sonnet “Voyelles”. The original French poem and English translation by Oliver Bernard were copied from this site (where the fourteen-line sonnet is followed by a four-line “envoi” which is not included here below or in most versions of this poem I could find online). Oliver Bernard’s version is a prose translation, striving for the clearest expression of the sense of the original while sacrificing meter and musicality. If this version is too flat for you, check out Canadian poet Christian Bök’s fascinating version of “Voyelles”, translated five different ways.

These paintings were not inspired by this poem, and they have been sequenced randomly to avoid any specific reference to the colors or images mentioned in Rimbaud’s verses. When I draw or paint abstractly, I disengage my mind as much as possible from discursive thought and allow subconscious impulses to express themselves in the movement of the brush and the liquid medium. Imagery never drives the painting – any images are projections of the imagination, like the forms seen in Rorschach blots. I am trying to allow impulses of movement to arise from below the surface of awareness, as in my practice of Authentic Movement, described in this post. Perhaps this way of going fishing in the unconscious has something in common with the methods of a proto-surrealist poet like Rimbaud. Perhaps some accidental resonances may arise from the interleaving of sketches and lines of verse.  If not, please enjoy my humble doodles and Rimbaud’s delirious words separately!

Extinct Animals, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Extinct Animals, 2013, by Fred Hatt

A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu: voyelles,

A Black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,

Pastries, 201e, by Fred Hatt

Pastries, 201e, by Fred Hatt

Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes:

I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins:

Ego,m 2013, by Fred Hatt

Ego,m 2013, by Fred Hatt

A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes

A, black velvety jacket of brilliant flies


Autumn Wind, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Qui bombinent autour des puanteurs cruelles,

Which buzz around cruel smells,

Plant Spirit, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Plant Spirit, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Golfes d’ombre ; E, candeur des vapeurs et des tentes,

Gulfs of shadow; E, whiteness of vapours and of tents,

Path of Light, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Path of Light, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d’ombelles;

Lances of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of cow-parsley;

Pink Flowering Tree, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Pink Flowering Tree, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles

I, purples, spat blood, smile of beautiful lips

Electrical Storm, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Electrical Storm, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes;

In anger or in the raptures of penitence;

Land Forms, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Land Forms, 2013, by Fred Hatt

U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,

U, waves, divine shudderings of viridian seas,

Aromatic Tree, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Aromatic Tree, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Paix des pâtis semés d’animaux, paix des rides

The peace of pastures dotted with animals, the peace of the furrows

Mane, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Mane, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Que l’alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux;

Which alchemy prints on broad studious foreheads;

Green and Blue, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Green and Blue, 2013, by Fred Hatt

O, suprême Clairon plein des strideurs étranges,

O, sublime Trumpet full of strange piercing sounds,

Coral, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Coral, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Silence traversés des Mondes et des Anges:

Silences crossed by Worlds and by Angels:

Bosom, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Bosom, 2013, by Fred Hatt

— O l’Oméga, rayon violet de Ses Yeux!

O the Omega, the violet ray of Her Eyes!

Tracks, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Tracks, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I recently discovered the work of the comics artist Julian Peters. One of his specialites is illustrating poetry, including work by Poe, Keats and Eliot. He has a really beautiful comic of Rimbaud’s “Le Bateau Ivre”/”The Drunken Boat” – click on the appropriate title to see it in either English or French.

Color pieces in my post are watercolor paintings except “Green and Blue”, which is drawn with aquarelle crayons and blended with water. Black and white pieces are drawn with Tombow brush markers. “Mane” and “Tracks” are 11″ x 14″ (28 x 35.6 cm), “Ego” is 8.5″ x 11″ (21.6 x 28 cm), and all others are 5.5″ x 8.5″ (14 x 21.6 cm).


Forms of Fire

Filed under: Photography: Elemental Forces,Poetry — Tags: , , , , — fred @ 22:05

Dancing Fire Man, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

I recently returned from a week teaching art workshops at the Sirius Rising festival at Brushwood Folklore Center in Chautauqua County, New York.  I’ve been going to festivals at Brushwood since 1999, and it’s one of the special places in my world.  The climactic celebration at every festival is a huge community bonfire.   Here are some pictures from this year’s fire, with a few comments and two poems (written by others).

Circling the Bonfire, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Flames engulf the wood-stack, wriggling and leaping skyward.  This year’s pyre bore a carved blue dragon.  You can see the dragon’s trumpet-like shout and curled horns in the next two shots.  Salts of copper in the dragon color the flames blue and green.

Bonfire Nebula, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Horned Dragon, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt


A hymn from the Rig Veda (1500-1200 BC) in an English version by Robert Kelly

Your eyes do not make mistakes.

Your eyes have the sun’s seeing.

Your thought marches terribly in the night

blazing with light & the fire

breaks from your throat as you whinny in battle.

Blue Ghost, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

This fire was born in a pleasant forest

This fire lives in ecstasy somewhere in the night.

Arising Goddess, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

His march is a dagger of fire

His body is enormous

His mouth opens & closes as he champs on the world

He swings the axe-edge of his tongue

            smelting & refining the raw wood he chops down.

Lady Liberty, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

He gets ready to shoot & fits arrow to bowstring

He hones his light to a fine edge on the steel

He travels through night with rapid & various movements

His thighs are rich with movement.

            He is a bird that settles on a tree.

(from Technicians of the Sacred:  A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe & Oceania edited with commentaries by Jerome Rothenberg)

Launch, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Gazing into the fire is simultaneously exciting and calming.  The movement is too rapid to fully comprehend, but we know that this energy is within us, in the pulse of our arteries and the impulse of our nerves, the heat of our passions and the controlled combustion that is a life.

Firewatchers, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Firelight and Glowsticks, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Revelers in the Ember Field, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

I try to understand the essence of fiery energy by studying the forms of flame.  Combustion is all movement, so it’s really an abstraction to look at it as a still picture, but my slow draftsman’s brain likes to freeze the motion so I can trace its contours.  Photography is my tool for stopping time.  For the raging flames at the top of this post, a fast shutter speed (a thousandth of a second) shows the turbulence of shredded incandescent gas.  The images below use slow shutter speeds (half a second or more) to trace the movement of glowing embers as they rise through the column of heated air above the flames.

Bonfire Centerpost, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

These scribbles on the sky remind me of the tracings of fermions and bosons recorded in the cloud chamber of a nuclear partical accelerator.  They drift and loop and zag unpredictably.  This is the kind of energy I try to bring to my own drawings.

Incandescent Flux, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Dance of Hephaestos, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt


a poem by Elaine Maria Upton

There is a time of Water and a time of Wind.
This is the time of Fire, and Fire eats time.
The sands of the desert are uncountable!
Let go of the reckoning! Let go of time!
Let go of rain! Let go of forgiving!

Fountain of Sparks, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Cloud Chamber, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Fire eats rain and Fire eats trees. Fire eats
The leaves of corn. Fire is the grain and the husk
Of corn. Fire is the raging of Water. Fire is the roar,
the hum, the sting of Wind. Fire is the pepper pulsing
from the flower. Fire is the frenzied volcano dancing.
It is the lightning’s blitz, the drumming, the singing,
The beat of tribes, telling their story all night,
Piercing the bottom of dark, birthing the light.

Pyre, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Fire is the Earth exhausted, folding, sleeping
from days and nights of love, til there is no counting.
When flowers bleed, when lions sleep, when angels sigh, oh bleed, oh
sleep, oh sigh then! Oh, burn with mountains!
When leaves flame and fall to the ground,
When grass grows brown then gray, grieve not.
Grieve not, but follow the eagle and follow the grass.

Bottle Brush, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

River of Embers, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Weep not for the Earth. Weep not for the corn.
The Earth is the lover who gives all to love.
The Earth makes a bed of Love and the Sun knows.
The Earth makes a table of Love and the Fire knows.
The Earth feeds Fire. The Earth gives all to Love.
Follow the Earth. Look beyond your eyes as you go!
Follow the Earth to the beat of the Fire!
Open your thighs. Give all to Love!

From the website Poet Seers

Fiery Tresses, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

For more photos of fire, check this earlier post.


The Body Contemplated

Ray, 2012, by Fred Hatt

a person is a bit of this and a bit of that

fuzzy tendencies overlapping, interacting

forged and scourged in the kiln of embodied life


Earrings, 2012, by Fred Hatt

eyes ions, black magnetic pools


A la plage, 2012, by Fred Hatt

zone in on tones

undertone, overtone, midtone

let the parts fall where they may


Elbows & Knees, 2012, by Fred Hatt

body takes a beating just doing the day by day


Brooder, 2012, by Fred Hatt

why are things so

what do things mean

how do things work


Curvature, 2012, by Fred Hatt

a serpent grows limbs

a head aloft partakes of the clouds of heaven

as well as the dirt of the ground


Sleep Tight, 2012, by Fred Hatt

a stack of bones

opal tones


Halt, 2011, by Fred Hatt

expand, contract

concentrate, dissipate


Defeat, 2012, by Fred Hatt

hands ground down while forces face forward


Muscles of the Back, 2012, by Fred Hatt

the bones are the slowest river

the flesh, the nerves, the blood grow to flow, each in its way

life is a convulsion of matter


Gray, 2012, by Fred Hatt

eyes tomorrow

seated present


Outward & Inward, 2012, by Fred Hatt

sentry and slave

guard the grave


Defiant, 2012, by Fred Hatt

the body of light harbors a shade

the body of shadow contains a glow


Graces, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Luna Triune: wax and full and wane and new

the new of course unseen

every cycle has its way, its period, its mystery

each single season’s unique, any noise has its timbre

all is oscillation, orbs in orbit

go down long, draw in and in, only finally open out


Degasian, 2012, by Fred Hatt

bow, bend, lay low

tack and parry, stealthy slow

like grass grows


Retrospect, 2011, by Fred Hatt

space is light

matter is force

time is mind


Rorrim, 2012, by Fred Hatt

feeling with eyes, rove over ridges and marshes and creeks

body is topography and self is weather

sometimes stormy, often calm


Fine Lines, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I am made of moss and ferns

mushrooms and minnows and dim glow worms


Faun, 2012, by Fred Hatt

man is land

containing imagination

soil to till

seed to spill


Heartache, 2012, by Fred Hatt

bereft chest

abject head

trunk bent

tower leant


Brothers, 2012, by Fred Hatt

a man knows a man, nothing said


All the images in this post are watercolor on paper, sometimes with a little white gouache.  I painted all these within the last two months.  Sizes:

Graces and Rorrim:  38″ x 50″ (96.5 x 127 cm).

Ray, Earrings, Elbows & Knees, Sleep Tight, Gray, Defiant, Retrospect, Fine Lines, Faun, Heartache, Brothers:  19″ x 24″ (48.3 x 61 cm).

A la plage, Brooder, Curvature, Halt, Defiant, Muscles of the Back, Outward & Inward, Degasian: 14″ x 17″ (35.6 x 43.2 cm).


Body Electric: Walt Whitman

Filed under: Homage: Writers,Poetry — Tags: , , , , , , — fred @ 14:49
Walt Whitman, 1854, photo attributed to Gabriel Harrison

Walt Whitman, 1854, photo attributed to Gabriel Harrison

Walt Whitman was born into the working class, and had to toil and struggle throughout his life.  During the dark and bloody years of the American Civil War he served as a nurse to wounded soldiers.  His poetry and his political activities got him fired from jobs on several occasions.  In spite of it all, the primary tone of his poetic voice is ecstatic.  His vision was so clear that he persisted throughout his life expanding and revising what he saw as his single work, his great epic of embodied spirit, Leaves of Grass.

For Walt, all people and all things are equal because all are expressions of the divine, and the direct experience of the divine is the experience of embracing the wild and messy physical world.  His “Song of Myself” is not far from the Buddhist idea of “no self”, because by “myself” he means the experience of his senses, which is a universe complete, its grandeur expressed in its commonest parts:

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more
than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green
stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see
and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I
receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

(From “Song of Myself”)

Here is the last section of “I Sing the Body Electric”, a fragment of  Leaves of Grass.  It’s a Whitman’s sampler of body parts and vital functions ecstatically regarded.  I’ve interspersed a few of my sketches, not as illustrations of these words, but as love-offerings to Walt.  If they distract you from the endless skipping-stone of the poet’s cadence, or if you want to savor the full poem, click here.

O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and
women, nor the likes of the parts of you,
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of
the soul, (and that they are the soul,)
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, and
that they are my poems,
Man’s, woman’s, child, youth’s, wife’s, husband’s, mother’s,
father’s, young man’s, young woman’s poems,

Poleman, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Poleman, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or
sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the
ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger,
finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round,
man-balls, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;

Push, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Push, 2009, by Fred Hatt

All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your
body or of any one’s body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman,
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping,
love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked
meat of the body,
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward
toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the
marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;

Look Ahead, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Look Ahead, 2009, by Fred Hatt

O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!

Walt Whitman’s full-bodied embrace of life, of Nature, of humanity, has become rare in the arts of our era.  Our culture fears this raw openness, and chooses to sheild it behind layers of cynicism or sentimentality.  But Walt’s light still shines.

I’ll close with a set of artist’s reference photographs taken by the great American painter and teacher Thomas Eakins.  Scholars believe the model for these pictures may be Walt Whitman.

Old man, seven photographs, c. 1885, photo by Thomas Eakins

Old man, seven photographs, c. 1885, photo by Thomas Eakins

The drawings in this post are 70 cm x 50 cm, aquarelle crayon on paper.  Photographs are from the Walt Whitman Archive.


13 Ways: Wallace Stevens

Filed under: Abstract Art,Homage: Writers,Poetry — Tags: , , , — fred @ 22:07

In 1982 I had graduated from college with a filmmaking degree and had just gotten married, but I was really still looking for myself.  That year I had one of my early bursts of artistic effort, directed at painting.  I made this series illustrating Wallace Stevens’ popular bit of American Zen, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”, published in 1917.  These are all acrylic on paper, 24″ x 18″ (61 cm x 46 cm).  I think the verses are legible in these pictures, but if not, see the full text in its Wikipedia entry, a good introduction to this poem, including links to interpretations by other artists and composers.

Blackbird I, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird I, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird II, 1982, by Fred HattBlackbird II, 1982, by Fred Hatt
Blackbird III, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird III, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird IV, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird IV, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird V, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird V, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird VI, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird VI, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird VII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird VII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird VIII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird VIII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird IX, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird IX, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird X, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird X, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird XI, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird XI, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird XII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird XII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird XIII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird XIII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

This series is not much like my current work, but I see in it an attempt to find an approach to visual art that’s analagous to music.  The touch is a bit heavy, but also vigorous and bold.  If you take time to look at them, you’ll see, not just hidden blackbirds, but lots of evocative and suggestive forms nested in these compositions.

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