DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Top Ten Countdown

Back Study #1: Convex, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Today, March 15, 2010, this blog turns one year old.  (Above, the first illustration from the first post, “Variations”.)

I have long shared my work with others largely through underground, alternative, and community-based venues.  In many ways, the blog has been my ideal gallery – virtually cost-free, accessible to all both near and far, open 24 hours, a place where I can share the full range of my work, my process, and my passions, without concern for whether anyone will buy, or whether a dealer thinks I’m diluting my brand.

I have long tended to put all my energy into producing work, rarely finding the time to edit and present that work, much less to sell myself or promote my career.  Feeling the need to post something here once a week or thereabouts has been a much-needed self-imposed deadline for me!

I thank those of you that post comments.  A sense of dialog sustains me.  It’s also been gratifying to pick up some fans in far-flung places, where they would have been unlikely to encounter my work in an exhibit.

In reverse order, here’s a listing of the top ten posts from the first year of Drawing Life.  These are the posts that have gotten the most hits, continuing to attract readers after they’re no longer on the front page of the blog, with a sample image and quote from each.  The titles link back to the original posts.

10:  Opening the Closed Pose

“The human body is as expressive when it is turned inward as when it is expansive or active.  The guarded nature of the crouch or fetal position shows vulnerability in a different way than the open pose.  The upper and lower parts of the body are drawn together, and the energy pattern becomes circular rather than vertical.”

Hanging Head, 2009, by Fred Hatt

9:  Shapes of Things

This post featured stereoscopic photographs, presented as anaglyphs, to be viewed with red/cyan 3D glasses.

“The compositional dynamics of a flat photograph are simple, their impact immediate and graphic.  A stereo image is more complex.  Looking at it, we feel we are looking through a window, perhaps into a world that has been miniaturized and frozen in time.  The eyes caress the forms or penetrate the space of the image.  Enjoy these images, then go out and revel in the spatial complexity of the world.”

Framework, 1993, photo by Fred Hatt

8:  Fire in the Belly

“Body painting is an ancient art of transformation, to make the warrior more terrible, the young mate more enticing, or the shaman more of a dream creature.  I have used it as a medium of discovery, exploring the landscape of the body and finding the forces that lie beneath the surface.  In the type of body art shown here, there is never any preconceived design.  As the paintbrush follows the natural curves of the body, it becomes a kind of divining rod, finding the quality of energetic pools and flows and manifesting them in visible form.”

Botanic, 2001, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt

7:  Painting with Light

“I first started experimenting with light painting in photography of models in 1990 or thereabouts . . . I was interested in the process because it bridged the gap between photography and painting or drawing.  As in painting, the image is created by manual gestures over a finite period of time, but instead of making pigment marks on paper or canvas, one makes light marks, through a lens, on a photograph.”

Smoke, 1996, photo by Fred Hatt

6:  Negative Space

“Clearly seeing negative space is about shifting the focus from presence to absence.  Finding the figure by looking at the negative space is one of the many artistic applications of the Hermetic principle  ‘As above, so below’ or ‘As within, so without’.  All reality exists on the cusp between interior and exterior, between past and future, or between any polarity you care to examine.  To draw is to surf on the points of contact.”

Stanley Folded, 2008, by Fred Hatt

5:  Anatomical Flux

This post featured drawings made at an artists’ sketch night event at “Bodies: The Exhibition”, a show of polymerized anatomical specimens.

“My favorite room in the exhibit is the one where blood vessels have been preserved and all the other tissues stripped away.  These figures look like my most manic scribbly drawings multiplied and exploded into three dimensions.  The arteries branch out treelike, the veins meander vinelike, and the capillaries are fuzzy like moss.  This quick sketch comes nowhere near the actual complexity of the specimen.”

Torse Vessels, 2009, by Fred Hatt

4:  The Spirit of Weeds

“In our uncertain time, everything seems to be breaking down.  Industrial civilization defines prosperity only as growth, but the limits to growth are looming everywhere . . . Such times will be hard for vast monocultures, and for hothouse flowers (and I do intend those as human metaphors).  Such times call for weedy spirits, for those that can find their earthly grounding even in the decaying manufactured world, and who burst with green power, determined to reassert the forces of life.”

Blue/Yellow/Green, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

3:  Meanings of the Nude

“The image of the nude reminds us that we are our bodies, that sexuality and appetites and mortality are our very nature, and that the beauty of our animality cannot be separated from the beauty of our spirituality.”

Gustav Vigeland, figure from Vigeland Park, Oslo, c. 1930, photo by Simon Davey

2:  Pregnant Pose

“The roundness of the pregnant form is quite unlike the roundness of obesity.  The skin of the swelling belly and breasts is drum-tight.  The entire body is surging with life-force and all the muscles are toned.”

Fertile Structure, 2001, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt

And finally – drum roll, please – the number one post, the one that went viral on StumbleUpon and got twice as many hits as any other individual post of Drawing Life in the past year:

1:  Visual Cacophony

“New York City is like the rainforest, dense with competing and coexisting lifeforms . . . This kind of visual excess has an energizing effect on me, like wild music that’s dissonant yet exuberant.”

Doll Window, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Thanks to you, my readers, especially to the commenters, and stay tuned – I’m just getting started!



Still from Fred Hatt's video for "Ka=Fire Mi=Water"

Still from Fred Hatt's video for "Ka=Fire Mi=Water"

This week in New York there are two performances I’m associated with and recommend.

On Sunday, October 18, at 8:30 pm, Monkey Town, Brooklyn’s immersive video cube bar/restaurant presents a program of Music and Butoh (Japanese avant-garde dance).  My elemental video imagery is part of the performance Ka = Fire  Mi = Water, by dancer Mariko Endo with live music by Gregory Reynolds.  “Kami” is a Japanese word for God.  Its syllables are the words for fire and water.  It suggests a conception of spirit as a circulation of rising and falling energies, and that’s about as good a description of what this piece is about that I can offer.

Also running from tonight through the 18th, Seeing Place Theater‘s production of Keith Bunin’s play The Credeaux Canvas is presented at the Bridge Theater at Shetler Studios.  This is an intense little story with complex, nuanced characters, and its depiction of young New York bohemians is rich and real.  The lead actress is Anna Marie Sell, whose portrait by me graced the cover of American Artist Drawing Magazine last Spring.   Anna Marie models for an artist in the play.  The director of this production is the multitalented Lillian Wright, also an actress and a great model I’ve worked with many times.  Lillian was the model for my light painting photograph below, which was used for the postcard and program for this show:

Lightpainting for "The Credeaux Canvas", 2008, photo by Fred Hatt

Lightpainting for "The Credeaux Canvas", 2008, photo by Fred Hatt

To keep up with my performances, exhibits and events, check the “Calendar” page on this blog.


Raw Urgency: Picasso at Gagosian

Filed under: Reviews: Art Exhibitions — Tags: , , , — fred @ 23:38
PABLO PICASSO Portait de l'homme à l'épée et à la fleur, 1969, Oil on canvas, 146 x 115 cm)

PABLO PICASSO, Portait de l'homme à l'épée et à la fleur, 1969, Oil on canvas, 146 x 115 cm

On Friday (my birthday) I went to see Mosqueteros, the exhibit of paintings and prints from Picasso’s last decade, at Gagosian’s spacious Chelsea gallery on West 21st Street in New York, curated by Picasso’s biographer, John Richardson.  When he was in his eighties, Picasso accelerated his already prodigious productiveness, creating hundreds of large oils, as well as drawings, etchings and aquatints.  The subject matter engages the traditions of 17th century masters like Velazquez and Rembrandt and Rubens (as in the above canvas, reminiscent of a famous Velazquez), but the energy with which Picasso attacks the work is quite modern.  The paintings are physically raw and unpolished, and the emotional content is equally raw, often expressing the painful conjunction of sexual frenzy with the anguish of the aging body.

The exhibit has about fifty large-scale paintings and about fifty prints.  The etchings and aquatints, many on a theme of female exhibitionism and male voyeurism, clarify the energy and restless experimentation of Picasso’s gestural mark-making, revealing a similar aspect in the oils.  The paintings hold to a fairly narrow range of figurative elements, mostly portraits and nudes, but the formal apsects of color combinations, composition and expressive brushstrokes are bold and dazzling.  There are images of faces and bodies squeezed together in contortions of lust, aching to merge two into one, and haunted faces already shadowed by the mark of death, dreading another kind of merging.

Picasso is considered a painter first and foremost, but his approach to painting, especially in these later works (1962-72), avoids the illusionism and polished sheen many painters strive for, instead giving us gestural directness and sheer energy.

My last post was about light painting, so I’ll close with a link to images of Picasso painting with light.  These images show clearly the special quality of Picasso’s movement.

Mosqueteros is on view through June 6 at the Gagosian Gallery at 522 West 21st Street in New York.


Painting with Light

Arch, 1996, photo by Fred Hatt

Arch, 1996, photo by Fred Hatt

The word “photography” is derived from greek roots literally meaning “writing with light”.  A light-sensitive chemical emulsion, or, these days, a light-sensitive silicon chip, is altered when it is exposed to light.  An image focused through a lens, with an exposure timed by shutter, is only one possible way of using this process of writing with light.  For example, you may be familiar with contact photograms, in which objects are placed on a photosensitive paper or film and the light darkens the area around the object, with the shadow of the object leaving a bright shape.  In fact, some photo historians believe photograms were produced as early as around 1800. One of my favorite contemporary artists, Adam Fuss, uses the photogram technique to produce mysterious and fantastic tracings of energy.

Light painting is another one of those classic experimental photography techniques.  In light painting photography, you work in the dark.  The camera’s shutter is held open for a while, and you move a light source around, and wherever the light goes it gets recorded on the film or digital chip.  Nowadays it’s very popular to draw things in the air with a handheld light, LED or glowstick.  Back in the early 1990s there was a vogue for using fiber optics to apply light selectively to commercial still life arrangements to get a painterly look.

The lightpainter can walk right through the frame during exposure, and as long as the light is not directed at him or her, the lightpainter will not be recorded, because the camera records only light, not darkness.

I first started experimenting with light painting in photography of models in 1990 or thereabouts, but the early ones haven’t been scanned yet, so I’ll post those some other time.  I was interested in the process because it bridged the gap between photography and painting or drawing.  As in painting, the image is created by manual gestures over a finite period of time, but instead of making pigment marks on paper or canvas, one makes light marks, through a lens, on a photograph.

The first three examples here were made in 1996.  The model was Kristin, an ex-gymnast and one of my great muses of that time.  In the image above, the technique is used simply to place light selectively to explore the form of a pose.  Of course, I would never know exactly what I was getting, as you can’t see the result at the time you’re doing it.  In those days I didn’t see the results until after I’d hand-processed the black and white film and made test prints in a rental darkroom.  This aspect of working blind, and the surprise and delight at discovering the outcome, was something I loved about this work.  The light streaks in the lower area of the “arch” and in the upper right corner of the image above, are made by the hand-held light passing through the frame.

In the example below, I suspended a micro-Maglite from a string and dangled it above the model while twisting the string to cause the light to spin:

Smoke, 1996, photo by Fred Hatt

Smoke, 1996, photo by Fred Hatt

And in this one, I used a long camping lighter to draw streaks of flame around the model:

Triangle, 1996, photo by Fred Hatt

Triangle, 1996, photo by Fred Hatt

Below is a series of four triptychs, made by mounting black and white lightpainting prints together in a frame.  These were made in 1998.  The models are Laurie and Heather. Some of these images are sideways, and in some the models are on mirrors.

Earth, 1998, photo tryptich by Fred Hatt

Earth, 1998, photo tryptich by Fred Hatt

Water, 1998, photo triptych by Fred Hatt

Water, 1998, photo triptych by Fred Hatt

Air, 1998, photo triptych by Fred Hatt

Air, 1998, photo triptych by Fred Hatt

Fire, 1998, photo triptych by Fred Hatt

Fire, 1998, photo triptych by Fred Hatt

See more of my black and white lightpaintings here, and color lightpaintings here.

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