DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt

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).

2013/07/26

Surface Tension

Filed under: Drawing,New work — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Fred Hatt @ 16:39
Curled Back, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Curled Back, 2013, by Fred Hatt

On the scale of galaxies and bodies, the universe embodies the elegant equations of Einstein and Newton, but at the subatomic scale, it’s all quantum weirdness, a foamy chaos of particles popping in and out of existence. Processes of evolution have generated the great panoply of Gaian life, but to the individual creature it’s just an ongoing struggle to survive and thrive. A human life viewed in retrospect by a biographer can have the structural inevitability of an epic novel, but that same life lived day-by-day may be experienced as a jumble of more-or-less random encounters and issues.

I aspire to reflect this dichotomy of scale in my drawings: on the big scale, elegant form, while on the small scale, chaos. From a distance, I would like my drawings to appear realistic, even classical, while a closer approach reveals an underlying turbulence of colors and markings. I avoid blending and smoothing, as I feel the energy of the marks captures something of the living energy of my subjects. Vivid hues blend in the eye to give the impression of subtly variegated tones.

Curled Back (detail), 2013, by Fred Hatt

Curled Back (detail), 2013, by Fred Hatt

This scribbly way of rendering values and volumes takes some time, but a relatively limited ten- or twenty-minute sketch shows it in its roughest and perhaps clearest form. When I am working this way, I generally try to do so right from the start of sketching, not to draw in a more formal way and then add a layer of chaos as a veneer. The drawing holds together because it’s craziness all the way down.

Sketch in Primaries, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Sketch in Primaries, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Rough Torso, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Rough Torso, 2013, by Fred Hatt

In the early stages of drawing, value (lightness/darkness) is the most important consideration in choosing a color to draw with, while hue is a secondary concern. As the drawing develops and the values from shadow to highlight becomes well established, the relative lightness of additional marks has a diminished effect, and color becomes the primary reason to choose one crayon over another.

Seated Side, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Seated Side, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Seated Back, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The following drawings are mostly longer, more developed pieces made using this technique of building a larger order out of small passages of chaos.

Curly Hair, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Curly Hair, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Human skin is never a flat surface color that can be matched the way a decorator might mix pigments to replicate a paint swatch. Skin is translucent, exhibiting properties of specular reflection and subsurface light scattering. Its coloration comes not only from melanin and other pigments inside the skin, but from the colors of blood and muscle and connective tissue showing through it. It has constant subtle variations. Figurative artists have all sorts of esoteric methods and theories for capturing skin tones. The one that works best for me is additive color mixing with scribbly strokes.

Poet, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Poet, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Green Blue Purple, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Green Blue Purple, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The great magic of figurative art is to capture the sense of aliveness of the subject. By expressing energy in the vigorous markings at the smaller scale of the drawing, I hope to convey the feeling that this person I am showing you is alive, is full of breath and blood and might potentially move or speak at any moment. I put as much of my own energy as possible into the work of drawing, and I want to preserve the record of that kinetic energy in the markings that compose the image.

Sculptor, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Sculptor, 2013, by Fred Hatt 

Body Artist, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Body Artist, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The model expresses her or his energy through the body, the pose and expression. The process of seeing and drawing is necessarily a process of abstraction, as this living being is translated into perceptions of angles and curves, contours and volumes. The magic of capturing aliveness depends on not letting the subtler aspects of the subject get lost in that translation. I try to achieve it by approaching everything as energy. Life is energy, the body is energy, perception is energy, mark-making is energy, a completed drawing is energy.  Energy is the aspect that unifies every stage of the process.

Ballerina, 2013, by Fred Hatt

If, while drawing, even one thing you see or do is dead, the drawing dies. All of it, every object, every mark, every thought, every moment, is alive. In this way, the drawing is full of life.

Rodinesque, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Rodinesque, 2013, by Fred Hatt

All of these drawings are roughly 19 1/2? x 25 1/2? (50 cm x 65 cm), aquarelle crayon on gray or black paper. “Curled Back” is done in a combination of aquarelle crayon and gouache.

2013/04/17

Buds and Blossoms

Filed under: Older work,Photography — Tags: , , , , , — Fred Hatt @ 19:15
First Green, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

First Green, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

To celebrate the full arrival of Spring that we’re feeling this week here in New York City, let’s look at buds and blossoms, the botanical embodiment of the surging life force, the butts and bosoms of the plant world.

These photos were taken over more than a decade, on dates ranging from March 21 through May 22, and they’re ordered here by day of the year, no matter the year, so the sequence should give a sense of the process of spring as it unfolds over the weeks – how the first wee shoots appear on the gray bare branches, hints of the green eruption to come, and how the pinks and whites and yellows of early spring prepare the way for the bold, brash colors of the late spring.

As usual, I’m sharing way too many pictures – I love them so much! – so I’ll shut up and let them speak for themselves.

First Yellow, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

First Yellow, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt 

Yellow Willow, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Yellow Willow, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Blossoms Under a Metal Roof, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

Night Blooms, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

Night Blooms, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

Night Sprout, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Night Sprout, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Springtime Sunset, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Springtime Sunset, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Blossom in the Wind, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Sakura, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

Sakura, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

Renewal, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

Renewal, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt 

Statue in Spring, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Statue in Spring, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt 

Grand Opening, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Grand Opening, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt 

Ready, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Ready, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt  

Fresh, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Fresh, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt 

Spring Sun, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Spring Sun, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt 

From the Coccoon, 2007, photo by Fred Hatt

From the Coccoon, 2007, photo by Fred Hatt 

Pink, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Pink, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt 

Red, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Red, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt 

Spring Fountain, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Spring Fountain, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt  

Burgeoning Bough, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Burgeoning Bough, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt  

Unfurling, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

Unfurling, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt  

Tulips and Taxis, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Tulips and Taxis, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt 

Pink Tree, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Pink Tree, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt  

Pink Arms, 2007, photo by Fred Hatt

Pink Arms, 2007, photo by Fred Hatt  

Restoration, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Restoration, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt 

Red Shoots, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Red Shoots, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt 

Etched in Green, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Etched in Green, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt 

Over the Fence, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Over the Fence, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt   

Young Leaves, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Young Leaves, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt 

Bees' Target, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Bees’ Target, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt 

Burning Bush, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Burning Bush, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt   

Flowers in Late Afternoon, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt

Flowers in Late Afternoon, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt 

Sunset Green, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt

Sunset Green, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt  

Spring Green and Brick Red, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Spring Green and Brick Red, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt  

Blossom with Droplets, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Blossom with Droplets, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

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.

2013/01/13

Portraits of La MaMa

Ellen Stewart, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Ellen Stewart, 2011, by Fred Hatt

La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, one of the world’s great laboratories for cultivating new talent and exploring new directions in the performing arts, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2011.  Eric Marciano, an independent filmmaker for whom I have often worked as a videographer, produced some video pieces about the history and future of this great creative hothouse, and he asked me to draw portraits of a few of the key people interviewed or profiled in the clips, and to animate the process of creating the drawings.  Eric’s company, American Montage, recently posted the resulting clips to  its Vimeo page, so I can share them here with my blog readers.  The video is embedded at the bottom of this post (but those who receive the blog by email subscription will have to follow the link to see it on the web).

These drawings could not be done from life, as I always prefer in portrait drawing, but had to be done from photographs, or, in most cases, freeze-frames from video interviews.  They also had to be made to fit the wide 16 by 9 aspect ratio used for high-definition video, not the frame I would usually select for a portrait.  This means much of the frame would be background, so I’d need to develop background designs for each face.  I set up an easel with a camera on a tripod behind it, and as I worked on the drawings I stopped frequently to snap photographs of the work in progress.  The photographs were used to make animations of the drawings as they come into being, layer by layer.

In “Faces of Figureworks“, the exhibition featuring self-portraits by fifty artists currently on view (through March 3, 2013) at Brooklyn’s Figureworks Gallery, I’m showing a new self-portrait drawing alongside a similar, but slower, animation of that drawing’s evolvement, displayed on a digital photo frame.

I remember being fascinated as a kid by Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1956 film Le mystère Picasso, in which the famous artist painted on back-lit glass panels so the development and alteration of the works is recorded as it happens in time.  It made me aware of drawing as a time-based artform.  While we usually see drawings or paintings only in their finished form, their creation is a process of movement and change.  Many of the directions I have explored in my own work, including painting as a performance, and many posts here on Drawing Life, have been my attempts to explore my own process, and to share that process with others.

In this post I’ll share the drawings I made for the La MaMa video, with stills of each drawing in its finished form, and brief introductions of the subjects, and at the bottom of the post I’ll share the animated clip.

So many famous writers, performers, directors, designers, and composers have been associated with La MaMa that a small selection of portraits like this is necessarily a somewhat arbitrary sampling, but one name is essential.  La MaMa was the creation and lifelong project of Ellen Stewart, also known as Mama, whose portrait leads this post above.  Stewart, a fashion designer, started La MaMa as a performance café in 1961, a supportive place for the burgeoning creative experimentation of 1960′s New York and soon a magnet for artists from all over the world who were drawn to its cross-cultural playground of theatrical magic.

Andrei Serban, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Andrei Serban, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Stage director Andrei Serban is known for innovative approaches to classic texts with enveloping theatrical pageantry.

John Kelly, 2011, by Fred Hatt

John Kelly, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Artist, singer and dancer John Kelly transforms his persona to explore the worlds and psyches of Egon Schiele, Joni Mitchell, and Caravaggio, among others.

Peter Brook, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Peter Brook, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Since the 1950′s, director Peter Brook has been making spectacular, visceral theater and film with an international cast of collaborators.

Elizabeth Swados, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Elizabeth Swados, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Composer, writer, and director Elizabeth Swados makes exciting music and theater, crossing every boundary of style and genre.

Chris Tanner, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Christopher Tanner, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Visual artist and performer Christopher Tanner approaches everything he does with extravagant maximalism.

Mia Yoo, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Mia Yoo, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Mia Yoo, a former actress in La MaMa’s Great Jones Repertory Company, is Ellen Stewart’s successor, the Artistic Director of La MaMa ETC since Stewart’s death in early 2011.

And here’s the film, courtesy of Eric Marciano and American Montage, Inc.  There is a glitch in the first clip, where Peter Brook’s background disappears and reappears at the end, but this should give you a good look at how my drawing process works.  I believe the music is an excerpt from an Iggy Pop song.  If you don’t see the video here, follow this link.

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