DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt

2014/10/11

Reboot

Dance Shadow Drawing, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Dance Shadow Drawing, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

After five and a half years, 226 posts, and over 2800 images, with this post I bring Drawing Life to a close. Don’t worry – all the posts will remain online, and at the end of this post I’ll provide the link to a new site where I’ll share my work going forward. I’ve been going through a major transition in my life and it’s time for a kind of rethinking and spring cleaning of all my habits and practices.

The images accompanying this post are from an experimental drawing session I did last March with model/collaborator Kristin Hatleberg. I turned my whole studio into a cave of paper and covered the walls and floor with ink strokes tracing the outline or shadow of the body in motion. That was around the time my life transition was getting started, and this session was a sort of ritual for new creative possibilities.

Floor Figures, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Floor Figures, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

I rarely write about my own life here on Drawing Life. I avoid drama and so I imagine my life would be pretty boring to anyone not close to me. I devote much of my free time to drawing, photography, and other creative pursuits. While I show work and do events and performances fairly regularly, I’ve always maintained my art as an amateur practice. Of course the word “amateur” means lover, one who does something for the pure love of it. Since I work for a living, I don’t have to worry about creating work to please a market or to make it fit what some critics want to write about. I keep the work free, and I follow it wherever it leads me. To be honest, while I love a lot of living artists and their work, the international contemporary art scene as a whole, with its mega-wealthy collectors and ego-driven art stars, its combination of pretentious discourse and cheap gimmickry, bores me, and while I ignore this official Art World, it ignores me back. I’d rather treat my work as my own exploration of perception and practice. I do want to use it to communicate to a larger audience, but I’m actually more driven by the pleasure of sharing one on one, the special connection that develops between me and my models, the people I sketch portraits of and the people whose bodies I paint, the dancers and performers I collaborate with, and the fans of my work that visit my studio, sit with me on the floor and look through piles of drawings or photographs.

Tracing an Arc of Movement, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Tracing an Arc of Movement, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

For a very long time, I’ve lived a Bohemian lifestyle in New York, making my living through freelance photography, video production, film projection and other audiovisual work, with occasional commissions or paid gigs as an artist, teacher or performer. I’ve usually worked as little as I could get by with and kept as much time as I could for my creative work. The cost of living in the city has gone up and up in recent years, but I never had too much trouble finding paid work, though the older I got the more my lack of savings and lack of health insurance concerned me. So when I found the opportunity to take a job with good pay and excellent benefits, I went for it. I’m now a full-time film projectionist at the Museum of Modern Art, the first stable full time job I’ve had in over twenty years.  I’ve been a backup projectionist there since 2011, working full time hours since one of the full-timers retired last spring, and an official staff member since August.

Floor Figures, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Floor Figures, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

While I have been giving more of my time to paying work – even before my hiring at MoMA I’d been working an erratic but heavy schedule for the last couple of years – I have kept producing as much artwork as ever. While I haven’t been posting here on Drawing Life as frequently as I once did, this year I’ve done tons of drawing and photography, several live performances and film projects in collaboration with dancers, and have been developing a number of long-term projects that need time to come to fruition.

The job, with its demands, its regularity, and its security, changes everything. For a while I thought I could just re-arrange all my old activities into the new schedule, but it isn’t so simple. I’m determined that these changes will not diminish my creative life but will allow it to achieve greater depth. I could choose to keep posting here at Drawing Life as I have been. The list of yet-unwritten blog post ideas I maintain now has over 250 entries, some of which are sets of work that already exist and could simply be arranged for presentation on the blog. But I also want to devote some of my writing energy to a longer form, to a book or books that can develop some of my ideas in more depth. I think the internet is better suited to snippets and tweets and quick takes. Drawing Life’s picture essays have reached a small but appreciative audience, but they represent a sort of middle level of complexity, not enough for a deep read but maybe too much for the multitasking web surfer to take in.

Hand Stencils, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Hand Stencils, Temple of the Moving Body, 2014, by Fred Hatt

So I’m going to write a book. Wish me luck at achieving the kind of sustained discipline that will need. I’ve started a new blog, a Tumblr microblog called Inklings, where I’ll regularly share individual drawings, paintings and photographs, short films, and brief poems and paragraphs to inspire and please my fans. I’ve already added two posts there, a drawing and a four minute film about the wind. I expect to post there twice to thrice per week. What goes up there will also be shared on Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter, so follow the stream at any of those places.

Some of the online book services have blog-to-book functions, so I’m also thinking of making a Best of Drawing Life collection that you can download as an ebook or, better yet, order in hard copy. This would have maybe 50 or so of the most popular posts that have appeared here. Does that interest you? Would you prefer, say, photography and drawing posts in separate collections, or everything interspersed as has been the way on the blog? Are there any particular posts you’d like to nominate for the collection? I’ll continue to check the comments here!

2014/04/18

Falling Water

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

There is a kind of holy awe in feeling dwarfed by nature, going where our habitual self-importance dissolves in the face of grandeur. We feel ourselves as mere specks in a vastness, and yet to know our minuteness is in itself a kind of expanded consciousness. In our limited everyday sense of ourselves we are great and important, but also limited and mortal. When we are even a little bit aware of the immensity of the universe, we know that we are nothing, but also that in some way we are that vastness, for it has manifested in us in the form of awareness.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Last year, as the warm weather was just starting to give way to the first chills of autumn, I took a drive up to New York’s Ulster County with my friend the dancer and teacher Mariko Endo. Mariko has a background in butoh, the postwar Japanese performance movement. She wanted to dance under a waterfall. My great friend Alex Kahan, who lives in the area, took us to Awosting Falls in Minnewaska State Park, where we shot this video.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Awosting Falls is no mighty Niagara or Iguazu or Victoria falls. It’s just one of hundreds of cascades in the ancient, eroded mountains of the Eastern United States. It draws much of its majesty from its natural amphitheater, a nearly perfectly vertical semi-cylindrical backdrop around its rusty-colored plungepool that seems to contain and magnify the roaring cataract. It is a perfect proscenium to make a solo dancer look and feel small.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Mariko entered upon this stage to feel the frightful power of the water crashing around her, and to channel that power through her body in dance. Both Mariko’s movement and my shooting were improvised. We hadn’t known enough in advance about what the falls would be like to really plan or choreograph something. I had to shoot from a distance and we couldn’t talk to each other over the thunderous waters, so each of us entered into our own experience of responding to the energy of water and stone.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Mariko and I worked together to edit the video, returning to it several times over several months to try to find some structure. Mariko approaches editing as a kind of choreography, selecting bits of movement and sequencing and manipulating them to create a progression of feelings and transformations.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

When I asked Mariko what the piece was about for her, she gave me this quote from Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-1986), the originator of the butoh movement in dance: “We should be afraid! The reason that we suffer from anxiety is that we are unable to live with our fear. Anxiety is something created by adults. The dancer, through the butoh spirit, confronts the origins of his fears: a dance which crawls towards the bowel of the earth.” Mariko added, “The wind and the sound of massive amount of water falling which occupies my whole body. Speed and movement is the energy itself. When you are there, Nature foces you to face yourself and where you really are. I wanted to make a film which the audience can feel the texture of the rocks and the speed of the water fall through me.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

I hope a little bit of that feeling of being surrounded by overpowering natural forces, and of surrendering to let those forces flow through oneself, is communicated in this brief video piece. We borrowed a piece of music by the great English composer Jocelyn Pook – I also hope this video will turn some people on to her wonderful music.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

If you receive this blog by email, or if you want to watch in HD (strongly recommended), you’ll need to click this link to see the “Awosting” on Vimeo.

Awosting from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

 

2014/01/08

Gallery Opening on the Web

A sample from Fred Hatt's new photo/video website

A sample from Fred Hatt’s new photo/video website

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on a major redesign of my website highlighting the photography and video work I do for clients, many of whom are artists and performers. Today it went online: Fred Hatt Photo/Video. Please check it out and let me know your thoughts.

I worked with the great graphic designer Michael LaBash, who also designed my art portfolio site. I had some ideas about how I wanted it to look – dark colors, horizontal scrolling photo galleries – and he figured out how to make it all work and look beautiful. There are some images that were on the old version of the site, but there’s also a lot of new material and a gorgeous new look.

There are twelve different photography galleries and five galleries of video pieces, covering the work I do for visual artists, performing artists, and my landscape and urban photography. Many of the photos link to the websites of the client or subject.

If I’ve shot you or your art in recent years and you don’t see it here, I apologize. It was really hard to sift through all that work and find a good balance of samples to convey the range and quality of what I offer. But the process of choosing work made me feel very fortunate to have worked with so many amazing creative people. I’m not ambitious enough as a photographer and videographer to seek out big celebrities and supermodels and high-profile assignments – I just want to work with those that inspire me, help them show the world what they can do, and make a little money to be able to pay my bills and keep doing my own artwork without compromise. But there’s some beautiful stuff here!

2013/09/19

The Swerving Dash

 

Pedro quick poses 6, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Pedro Reaching, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Quick poses are the very essence of life drawing practice. The word “quick” originally means simply “alive” as in the quick of the fingernails or the phrase about judging “the quick and the dead” from the Apostles’ Creed. Abruptness and rapidity are the qualities that exemplify aliveness. So life drawing is quick drawing, and capturing the life force of the subject is done only with speedy, efficient marks. When a model holds a pose for a period of time, the energy and intensity, inevitably, gradually drain from the pose. Capturing the energy depends on immediate response and a complete lack of hesitation or dithering, even in cases where the artist has hours to study the model. In this post I’ll share some recent speedy sketches made sometimes under difficult conditions.

Classical academic drawing techniques, like those taught in Bargue and Gérôme’s Cours de dessin are analytical and methodical. They provide ways to achieve rigorous observation and accurate rendering of objects and figures. These techniques, though, are quite useless in capturing a pose a model can only hold for a brief interval, and they do nothing to teach an artist to work with flow and rhythm to get the feeling of energy and liveliness into the work.

When the drawing has to be quick, I prefer an approach in which the marking is a direct response to the act of perception. A glance of the eyes picks up the curve of an arm, for instance, and within a fraction of a second the hand holding the pen or brush or charcoal is imitating that curve. The eye falls upon the subject and the marker lands upon the page, cascading with a swerving dash that closely follows the swoop of seeing. The resulting sketches are rough and highly approximate in proportion, but they are lively and full of verve.

Magic quick poses 1, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Magic quick poses 1, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Since May of this year, Minerva Durham, the founder and director of NYC’s 7-days-a-week figure drawing center, Spring Studio, has been holding outdoor life drawing sessions with clothed models in Petrosino Square, just around the corner from the studio, in protest of an art installation area in the park being converted to a corporate-branded bike sharing station. I made these drawings in the park with a great dancer/model called Magic, in a session shown in this video. I think these are one minute poses.

Magic quick poses 2, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Magic quick poses 2, 2013, by Fred Hatt

It was cold, the wind was blowing the paper, and my pen was running out of ink, but I was trying to capture the energy of Magic’s poses with rapid marks. I tried using a fine-point sharpie (above) and a brush and black gouache paint, without any water to smooth the application (below).

I try to simplify what I see into directions and angles, but always keeping an eye on full shapes, never just lines. I don’t worry about the finished product, just the immediate process of transforming perceptions into marks.

Magic quick poses 3, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Magic quick poses 3, 2013, by Fred Hatt

In July, at the Sirius Rising festival in Chautauqua County, New York, I attended a life drawing class led by Bellavia, the artist whose sculpture was featured in this recent post. The workshop was held in an open-sided pavilion and, as with the Petrosino Square session, there was a constant struggle to hold the drawing paper flat in the gusty wind.

Snoo quick poses 4, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Snoo quick poses 4, 2013, by Fred Hatt

To encourage the artists to let go of tentativeness and draw boldly, Bellavia had the model do a lot of ten and fifteen second poses, and encouraged the artists to draw with the flat edge, not the point, of the charcoal. Any hesitation at all would make it impossible to draw anything. I practice quick drawing a lot, but usually the quickest poses I draw are one or two minutes. Ten seconds is just a blip in drawing time! Some of the drawings from that session have an almost cubist abstraction.

Snoo quick poses 7, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Snoo quick poses 7, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Last May, the ADaPT (A Dance and Physical Theater) Festival, based in California, came to my neighborhood in Brooklyn, with performances at CPR (Center for Performance Research). Festival director, dancer and artist Misa Kelly asked me to help organize a life drawing session in the performance space preceding the dance performances, an event described in this blog post. The models were Misa and Nushka. Since we were working in the very large performing space at the center, I took the opportunity to work in a large scale. I had five sheets of 38″ x 50″ (97 x 132 cm) paper, using one for each 20-30 minute drawing segment, drawing flat on the floor with brushes and sumi ink. I planned the session in correspondence with Misa and monitored (supervised and timed) the session, with a selection of invited artists drawing.

The first set was ten one-minute poses, three three-minute poses and one five minute pose. Of course when there are two models and you try to draw both of them, one minute is just thirty seconds per pose!

Adapt Festival 1, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Adapt Festival 1, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The second set consisted of two five-minute poses and an eight-minute pose,

Adapt Festival 2, 2013, by Fred Hatt

followed by four three-minute “moving poses”, in which the models performed a simple movement phrase repeatedly for three minutes. This was real movement drawing – the eye had to take in a shape and then draw it from memory, because even a second later, the body position had already changed.

Adapt Festival 3, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Adapt Festival 3, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Then there was an eighteen minute pose (the back-to-back pose at the top of the drawing below), and then ten one-minute and five two-minute poses, on the lower part of the drawing below and the one below that.

Adapt Festival 4, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Adapt Festival 4, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Working with very quick poses or models in motion, I like to use a brush and ink. The brush flows with less friction than dry sticks and there’s no time to fiddle around with re-assessing and correcting things anyway, so there’s no reason not to use an indelible medium. As in the asian art of calligraphy, the essence of the act is completely in the moment, in the freedom and intuitive engagement of the slippery brush.

Adapt Festival 5, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Adapt Festival 5, 2013, by Fred Hatt

In the ancient Latin philosophical poem De rerum natura (“On the Nature of Things”), Lucretius proposes an atomic theory of the universe in which unpredictable deviations (swerves, or “clinamen“) in the motion of particles cause convergences and separations that give rise to the living physical universe, and allow for the existence of free will. Clinamen is basically what contemporary scientists would describe as quantum indeterminacy. Lucretius says:

When atoms move straight down through the void by their own weight, they deflect a bit in space at a quite uncertain time and in uncertain places, just enough that you could say that their motion has changed. But if they were not in the habit of swerving, they would all fall straight down through the depths of the void, like drops of rain, and no collision would occur, nor would any blow be produced among the atoms. In that case, nature would never have produced anything.

Marisol quick poses, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Marisol quick poses 1, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The “swerve” of the drawn line is what makes it expressive, and what makes it a recognizable analog of the subject being depicted. Physics may involve a lot of straight lines, but biology is all curves. To study biological forms through drawing is to work with curves in all their varieties.

Terry quick poses 2, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Terry quick poses 2, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Quick drawing is like skiing the slalom, sliding with maximum speed, swerving with maximum responsiveness. When it works, a few simple strokes of ink can suggest the propulsive or serene energy of the living body.

Bethany quick poses 2, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The sketchbook pages shown in this post are 14″ x 17″ per page, usually shown as double pages. The “AdAPT Festival” drawings are 38″ x 50″. The drawing at the top of the post is aquarelle crayon on black paper, 19″ x 25″.

2013/05/26

Life Drawing at ADaPT

 

Sample works by visual artists participating in the ADaPT Festival Life Drawing Score, clockwise from left: Michael Alan, Jillian Bernstein, KIMCHIKIM, Masha Braslavsky, Fred Hatt, Susan M. Berkowitz, IURRO.

Sample works by visual artists participating in the ADaPT Festival Life Drawing Score, clockwise from left: Michael Alan, Jillian Bernstein, KIMCHIKIM, Masha Braslavsky, Fred Hatt, Susan M. Berkowitz, IURRO.

ADaPT (A Dance and Physical Theater) Festival, founded in 2011, hosts performances, master classes, and other events in its home base of Santa Barbara, California, and in locations around the world, including one on May 30, 2013 at CPR (Center for Performance Research) in Brooklyn. Festival director Misa Kelly is a dancer and choreographer with her company ArtBark International, and she’s also a life drawing artist and model – please click that last link to see some of Misa’s wonderful drawings.

Adapt Festival Program Orson, May 30 at CPR, features twelve performances by a diverse artists – the link has a full list and descriptions of the pieces. Misa’s a maximalist, surrounding her performance events with installations, projections and opportunities for audience members to express their own creativity. For this program, she asked me to recruit some visual artists and to act as monitor for a special “Life Drawing Score” in conjunction with the performance program.

Art modeling/life drawing is a form of performance, a creative interaction between models (many of whom are also performers in other contexts) and visual artists. This interaction is rarely seen outside of the small community of artists and models. Artwork may be exhibited, but the art audience may be unaware of the collaborative nature of artists’ work with models. Likewise, the dance and theater audience may not know that the performers’ experience modeling for artists is a vital part of their performance practice. Misa decided this special creative relationship deserved a place in a festival of dance and physical theater.

Misa Kelly, photo by Am Wu

Misa Kelly, photo by Am Wu

Here’s what will happen on May 30:

Invited visual artists will be having a private life drawing session in the performance space starting at 6 pm. I’ll be the session monitor. Our models will be Misa Kelly and one other dancer. (There will be no audience for this, until the last 20 minutes of it.)

At 7:15 the audience is invited to the Pre-Show in the lobby. There will be a video installation, sage smudging, and various activities intended to engage audience members to express their own creativity through writing, drawing, and moving.

At 7:35 the audience members will be allowed into the performance space to witness and/or participate in the last 20 minutes of the life drawing session.

At 8:05 there will be a full program of twelve dance and physical theater performances in the performance space. There are descriptions of all of these pieces here: ADaPT Festival Program Orson.

At the intermission (around 9:00) the audience will return to the lobby to see an informal exhibition of work created during the earlier private life drawing session.

Location: CPR (Center for Performance Research), 361 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY. Tickets $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

Links for participating artists and models:

IURRO

Jillian Bernstein

KIMCHIKIM

Masha Braslavsky

Michael Alan

Misa Kelly

Susan M. Berkowitz

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