DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt

2014/03/15

The Verb “To Draw”

 

Sky God, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Sky God, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Today, on Drawing Life’s fifth anniversary, I would like to invite you to an exhibition (details at the bottom of this post) and to ask the question, “Why is ‘drawing’ called that?

Serrate, 2008, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Serrate, 2008, by Fred Hatt (detail)

The word “draw” comes from Old English and Germanic terms describing various forms of pulling. Sometimes it’s draw, sometimes drag, draft, or the like.

Neon Creature, 2008, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

Neon Creature, 2008, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

(Note: The illustrations between paragraphs are details of my artworks that have appeared in the past five years of Drawing Life. Clicking on the images will link you to the original posts containing uncropped versions of the works. An earlier post with similar detail crops is here.)

Mitchell 2, July, 2011, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Mitchell 2, July, 2011, by Fred Hatt (detail)

We have phrases like draw back, draw forth, draw out, draw in, draw from, draw towards, draw up, draw down.

Street Grass, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

Street Grass, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

An account can be overdrawn, a character in a play underdrawn, breath indrawn.

Torso Vessels, 2009, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Torso Vessels, 2009, by Fred Hatt (detail)

You can draw a card, draw a gun, draw a conclusion, draw a crowd, draw a salary, draw a carriage, draw water, draw fire, draw a blank.

Waxing Moon, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Waxing Moon, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Supposedly the reason we use the word for sketching, or for making pictures, is because we draw our charcoal (or other marker) across a page. But of course the hand engaged in such action is pushing as much as it is pulling.

“The Active Mirror”,2003, by Fred Hatt, detail of acetate drawing

The Active Mirror, 2003, drawing performance by Fred Hatt, detail of acetate drawing 

Maybe if we called it “pushing” instead of “drawing”, we would think of this artform differently. But the sense of pulling seems right to me in myriad ways.

Earth, 1998, photo tryptich by Fred Hatt (detail)

Earth, 1998, photo triptych by Fred Hatt (detail)

To draw observationally is to draw near to something, to study it as if you could pull its essence into you through your eyes. The artist draws inspiration from the subject. By having a subject or object of study the artist remains grounded in a living relational reality, drawing the spirit of life into the picture.

Vascular Tree, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

Vascular Tree, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt (detail) 

To draw imaginatively is to draw images, entities, energies up from the unconscious. It is to find embryonic notions and incubate them, and to coax them out of the nest. It is to exaggerate, to extrapolate, to speculate, to reach into the well and draw up the water of potentiality, to make the unreal visible.

Connection, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Connection, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail) 

To draw abstractly is to draw upon primeval attractive forces and the structures and processes that derive from them. It is to know hues and shades as pure qualia, to know marks and shapes as matter and energy, to know structures as harmonies.

Towering, 2012, 38? x 50?, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Towering, 2012, 38″ x 50″, by Fred Hatt (detail) 

To share one’s artwork with another person is to attract someone to you not with your looks but with your vision. Even the work of an artist long dead, if it be strong, brings some of those that experience the work close to the artist’s bosom or cranium. The audience is pulled into the artist’s way of experiencing the world.

Twixt, 2011, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Twixt, 2011, by Fred Hatt (detail) 

Of course most of what I’m saying applies not just to drawing per se, but to any really great work of art, be it music or dance, storytelling or performing. Art is what draws us. It draws us out of ourselves, draws us to a new way of feeling. Art draws magical power out of humble, earthy materials. Art calls up the bright spirits and the dark spirits so that they dance for us. Art draws us in. It draws out the creative power that is hidden everywhere and in all. Inspiration means the drawing of breath. Our consumer culture is all about taking in. Drawing is taking in with acute high awareness.

Licking Flames, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

Licking Flames, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt (detail) 

Most of our contemporary arbiters of culture think of drawing as a subsidiary thing – a training practice like a musician’s scales, a quick and dirty throwaway tool like brainstorming with Post-It Notes, a messy way of working out a composition or concept, like a plot outline. They see drawing as sketchy, undeveloped, unsophisticated.

Soft Angles 5, 2009, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Soft Angles 5, 2009, by Fred Hatt (detail) 

I contend that drawing is one of the very most basic forms of art, along with music and dance and performing and storytelling. I think it makes more sense to say painting, sculpture, and design are developments from drawing than vice versa, and so drawing must be considered more fundamental.

Adapt Festival 3, 2013, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Adapt Festival 3, 2013, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Those who have followed this blog over the years know that I work with photography, video, performance, body art. I think of drawing as the root of my practice, and the other forms as extensions or variations on drawing. The images accompanying this text are details of figure drawings, doodles, abstract paintings, photographs, and body art. For me they all have some quality in common – a quality that is the essence of drawing.

Window Display in Sunlight, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

Window Display in Sunlight, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt (detail) 

Where do you draw the line to define drawing as distinct from, say, painting? Wet media vs. dry? That doesn’t quite nail it. Some pastellists call their work paintings, while ink wash or watercolor sketchers may call their work drawings. Quick vs. developed? That doesn’t work either. There’s a fashion in the art world these days for painstakingly obsessive works using ink or pencil, works that may take longer to make than most paintings, and usually these get called drawings. My friend Lorrie Fredette, sculptor and installation artist, recently made a series of works using sutures, black and white threads sewn into sheets of paper, and she called these drawings. Not all drawings are linear, not all are monochromatic, not all are simple. If there is an essence that defines the art of drawing, it might be directness, or spontaneity, the distillation of energy in image.

Double Exposure, 2007, 30? x 60?, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Double Exposure, 2007, 30″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt (detail) 

What do you call an artist whose primary focus is drawing? Draftsman? That sounds to me like someone who makes schematics and blueprints. Calligrapher? Graphic artist? Designer? Cartoonist? Sketcher? Delineator? Depicter? Tracer? Doodler? Those are all subsets of drawing. “Drawers” usually refers to either sliding storage compartments or underpants, so that doesn’t quite fit the bill either. I have seen some use the term “drawist”, but that seems to me an awkward construction. It think I will have to settle for calling myself a drawing artist.

Coral, 2011, doodle by Fred Hatt (detail)

Coral, 2011, doodle by Fred Hatt (detail) 

If you are someone who draws, or who loves drawing, let me know in the comments section what drawing is all about for you.

Henry, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Henry, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

If you’re in the D. C. area you can see one of my original drawings in the exhibition “Melange“, curated by Iurro, at Artspace 109, 109 N. Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia.Artists in the show include Rachel Blier, Peter Bottger, Joren Lindholm, Scott McGee, Paul McGehee, Jitka Nesnidalova, Tea Oropiridze, George Tkabladze, and Tati Valle-Riestra. The opening is Sunday March 16, 3 to 6 PM.  The show will be up March 18-May 10, 2014.

2013/12/09

Vowels

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

fredhatt-2013-autumn-wind

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).

2013/10/20

Pointz of Contention

Mural by Dase, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Dase, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

5 Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Inc. is a 200,000 square foot factory building occupying a whole block in Long Island City, the southwesternmost district of the borough of Queens, in New York City. Since 1993 the building’s owner has allowed the building to be used as a fully legal venue for urban graffiti artists from around the world to showcase their artistry.

5 Pointz Loading Dock Area, photo by Fred Hatt

5 Pointz Loading Dock Area, photo by Fred Hatt

Curator Jonathan Cohen, also known as the artist Meres One, selects artists, who must submit work samples and designs to get permission to paint at 5 Pointz. The building is regularly renewed with new murals replacing those that have had a good run.

Mural by Cortes, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Cortes, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

The center is well known to anyone who rides the 7 train, whose elevated tracks pass right by 5 pointz. It’s directly across Jackson Avenue from PS1, MoMA’s satellite museum devoted to contemporary art, and many visitors to that august institution also visit 5 Pointz to see a kind of contemporary art that springs from the streets rather than the academies. If you’ve never heard of 5 Pointz, perhaps you’ve seen it in music videos by Kurtis Blow, Doug E. Fresh, Joss Stone, or Joan Jett.

Mural by Sinxero, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Sinxero, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Jerry Wolkoff, the long-time owner of the building, has made it available as a painting space for artists over the past twenty years (Back in the ’90’s it was called Phun Factory). The idea was to discourage graffiti vandalism by offering spray paint artists a legal place to exhibit their work. Particularly since Jonathan Cohen’s curatorship began about eleven years ago, the place has become one of New York’s cultural landmarks, a destination for practitioners and appreciators of street art from all over the world.

Mural by Meres One, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Meres One, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

5 Pointz Posted Rules, photo by Fred Hatt

5 Pointz Posted Rules, photo by Fred Hatt

Jerry Wolkoff’s son, David Wolkoff, is a developer. He wants to tear down 5 Pointz to build two luxury high-rise condo towers. Manhattan and the parts of Brooklyn and Queens that are close to Manhattan are already glutted with fancy condos for the ultra-rich. Many of the most expensive apartments are not even used as residences, just held as investments by people who have a lot of excess money they need to park. New York, along with London and other international cities, has been subjected to massive development of this kind in recent years. It’s made it more difficult for artists and other middle class and working class people to live in the city, but money rules over all.

Mural by Joseph Meloy, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Joseph Meloy, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Long Island City is one of those parts of New York that’s a short train ride to Midtown Manhattan but still has a lot of old, decrepit industrial buildings and warehouses, so it’s a natural spot for development. On the blocks around 5 Pointz you’ll see wholesalers and taxi dispatchers and sidewalk food cart garages, but gourmet restaurants and designer boutiques are nearby, and the blue glass Citicorp Tower looms above the art center.

5 Pointz and Citicorp Tower, Long Island City, Queens, New York, photo by Fred Hatt

5 Pointz and Citicorp Tower, Long Island City, Queens, New York, photo by Fred Hatt

The City Council voted unanimously to allow the bulldozing of 5 Pointz. The developers agreed to feature some aerosol artworks on the facade at the base of the new building, to “preserve the heritage and legacy” of 5 Pointz. It is hard for me to imagine, though, that the managers of a luxury condo building will allow the kind of freewheeling spirit of creative anarchy that the old 5 Pointz has embodied.

Mural by DT, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by DT, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

I think destroying 5 Pointz is a crime and a disgrace. It was almost exactly fifty years ago that developers were allowed to raze the old Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, a true temple of transit and one of the great architectural masterpieces of McKim, Mead & White, to build the uninspired arena of Madison Square Garden with today’s depressing Penn Station in the basement. It was a true act of vandalism that shocked the aesthetic conscience of the city and led to the rise of the historic preservation movement.

Mural by Monsieur Plume, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Monsieur Plume, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

5 Pointz is no masterpiece of architecture like the old Penn Station, and the art on its walls is not all of transcendent quality, but neither is all the art on the walls inside PS1 or other centers for contemporary art. These institutions are valuable because they are vital laboratories of creative ferment, filled with many clashing varieties of contemporary art, not yet culled by time, the ultimate curator. We go to be wowed by some works, bored by others, and angered by others.

Mural by James Cochran, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by James Cochran, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

A lot of the contemporary art in PS1 is abstruse and condescending, or crudely and pointlessly transgressive, or gimmicky and commercial, but there’s a great variety and it can be a very exciting museum to visit. I’ve often thought of 5 Pointz as PS1’s outdoor annex, offering work that is grand in scale, with vivid colors given their fullest expression in the bright light of day.

Mural by Nicholai Khan, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Nicholai Khan, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

The City Council would surely never approve the destruction of an established museum such as PS1, with wealthy donors and corporate sponsors and a respectable board of trustees. 5 Pointz, though, has none of those recognized signifiers of legitimacy.

Mural by TooFly, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by TooFly, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Currently the most famous “street artist” in the world, that master of self-promotion Banksy, is in New York, sending his fans on a sort of treasure hunt to find the new pieces of work he’s installing around the city at regular intervals.

Kool Herc mural by Danielle Mastrion, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Kool Herc mural by Danielle Mastrion, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mayor Bloomberg criticized Banksy, saying “Art is art, and nobody’s a bigger supporter of the arts than I am. I just think there are some places for art and there are some places [not for] art. And you running up to somebody’s property or public property and defacing it is not my definition of art.” And indeed, Banksy is painting graffiti on property he doesn’t own, without permission, but of course he gets away with it because he’s a celebrity and an international art star who also sells work in galleries for serious prices.

Mural by Kram, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Kram, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

The artists of 5 Pointz are nearly anonymous. It took me quite a bit of digging to identify the names of the artists who did the pieces pictured in this post, and still I couldn’t find some of them, and may have made some mistakes. If anyone who is knowledgeable can correct or amend my picture captions, I’d truly appreciate it.

Mural by unidentified artist, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by unidentified artist, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Some of these artists have surely engaged in illegal tagging elsewhere, but all the work at 5 Pointz is completely legal.

Mural by El Nino de las Pinturas, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by El Nino de las Pinturas, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

I took all the photos in this post last weekend, and if you can visit 5 Pointz soon you can see the originals. Most of the murals are eight or ten feet tall, and these small photos don’t really do them justice.

Mural by Rimx & Nepo, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Rimx & Nepo, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

You’ll notice the great variety of styles and themes, abstraction and figuration, whimsy and seriousness, pop cultural and art historical references. There is a lot of the wildstyle lettering that came out of the New York school of graffiti art of the original hip hop era, and traditional lowbrow motifs like skulls and monsters, but there are also realistic portraits and some truly sophisticated painting techniques.

Mural by Fumero, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Fumero, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

The city will do nothing to stop the celebrity Banksy’s illegal work, but they will sanction the razing of the outsider artists’ legal work at 5 Pointz. They’ll protect the gallery-anointed contemporary art at PS1 but not the street-culture contemporary art at 5 Pointz. It’s hard not to see this as an example of a class-based double standard.

Mural by True Fame, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by True Fame, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

As of the time of this writing, there is a temporary injunction stopping the bulldozers, based on a claim by seventeen of the 5 Pointz artists, invoking the 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act.

Mural by Mr Blob, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Mr Blob, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

To be fair to the Wolkoffs, they do own the building, and we can be grateful to them for having made it available as a place for the creation and exhibition of artwork over the past two decades. But I find it disappointing that someone who owns such a collection of art would decide to destroy it to put up more luxury condos in New York. Surely there are other options available to billionaire developers.

Mural by Meres One, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Meres One, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Click on the link and look at the principles of the Visual Artists Rights Act. No one would question the application of this law if someone who owned a recognized masterpiece like Picasso’s Guernica announced plans to destroy it. The court will need to determine whether works by little-known artists, not acclaimed by the curators of major institutions, and in a genre associated with criminal vandalism, deserve the same moral rights as the Picasso.

Mural by Auks, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Auks, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Fine art by recognized masters has been destroyed by its owners in the past. A famous case is Nelson Rockefeller’s destruction of “Man at the Crossroads”, Diego Rivera’s commissioned fresco at Rockefeller Center, which was interpreted as anti-capitalist propaganda.

Mural by Kid Lew, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Kid Lew, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

The boundaries of art that is recognized as such by the arbiters of culture are subject to change over time. Not long ago, the common attitude among serious art curators would have been to dismiss popular artists such as Norman Rockwell and R. Crumb as “mere illustrators”, not fine artists, but that is beginning to change. A little further back, the art authorities in France dismissed the impressionist painters as crude daubers, not worthy to be considered in the same league as their favorites, painters we now see as stodgy academic bores.

Mural by Esteban del Valle, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Esteban del Valle, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

I suspect the work of some of these street artists will some day be seen as important work – not all of it, but some of it. For now, these artists are clearly underdogs, Davids confronting Goliaths of great wealth.

David & Goliath, after Caravaggio, mural by unidentified artist, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

David & Goliath, after Caravaggio, mural by unidentified artist (Reckin’ Krew?), 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Recent decades in New York have seen a significant loss of the city’s diverse cultural manifestations – not just street art but funky mom-and-pop businesses, community gardens, eccentric neighborhoods and vibrant local artistic scenes – to make way for generic apartment towers and homogenized franchise businesses. A recent editorial by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne expresses feelings I hear often expressed among New York’s creatives. Will history see rampant commercial development as a greater act of vandalism than graffiti tagging?

Mural by Onur, Senor, Wes21 and Kkade, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Onur, Senor, Wes21 and Kkade, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

If 5 Pointz is razed, the center of gravity for street art in NYC is likely to shift to the Bushwick Collective, an area around the intersection of Troutman Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Brooklyn where curator Joseph Ficalora has invited street artists to create elaborate works on the many blank industrial walls. It doesn’t have the high-profile location or the single massive building of 5 Pointz, but it’s already become a destination for the practitioners of aerosol art and their appreciators.

Mural by The Yok & Sheryo, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by The Yok & Sheryo, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

I think street art is a vital and important part of the visual arts culture of our time. Let’s not dismiss this work based on class prejudice.

Mural by Mataone, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Mural by Mataone, 5 Pointz, photo by Fred Hatt

Update added November 19, 2013: Last night, under cover of darkness, crews working on behalf of the developers smeared over all of 5 Pointz’ murals with white paint. The “Graffiti Mecca” is no more.

My friend Steven Speliotis memorialized the whitewashing in this video:

2013/01/25

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.

2012/12/19

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!

fredhatt-2012-michael-quick-poses

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.

fredhatt-2011-marilyn

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!

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