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).

2013/06/11

The Penetrating Glance

Clear Sight, 2007, by Fred Hatt

Clear Sight, 2007, by Fred Hatt

Artists who work from direct observation have a special way of looking at their subjects, a darting glance that picks up impressions the way a janitor’s litter spike snags trash. Nearly every action that builds up the drawing or painting follows from one of those quick looks. You look and make a mark, look again to refine the mark, look again to find the spatial relation of this to that, look for angles, look for curves, look for shades and colors, look to compare, look to correct. You’re constantly comparing your sketch to your model, translating perceptions into marks, trying to see better and capture better all the time, and racing the clock. In a classroom full of artists of mixed levels of experience, you can pick out the ones that know what they’re doing by watching how they look: how efficient and focused is their glance, and how frequently they look between their paper and the model.

My friend and fellow figurative artist Karen Miles made a little film about this (email subscribers will need to follow this link to view the film on YouTube):

These artists are drawing at Minerva Durham’s Spring Studio in New York, a drawing studio that attracts the most dedicated practitioners of drawing from the live model. If you were to observe a drawing session at Spring Studio, you’d probably be struck first by the quiet intensity of the whole group of artists. There is no music, no talking, just the single-minded focus on seeing and drawing.

Crouch, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Crouch, 2009, by Fred Hatt

In quick poses my glances are looking for overall forms, trying to see the figure as an arrangement of curves in space.

On One Knee, 2013, by Fred Hatt

On One Knee, 2013, by Fred Hatt

In the crayon drawing above, I made a first rough pass in magenta, then refined my contours in a bolder blue. There was probably a glance for nearly every separate stroke in the drawing. The sketch below is done with a brush and black watercolor. The individual strokes are easier to distinguish here. I see the curve of the shoulder and that becomes a brush stroke, then glance at the breast and make that curve, then at the belly and make that curve, and so on. Each marking has a certain rhythm and motion that reflect a quick tracing of that particular contour in my perceptual system.

Music, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Music, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Quite apart from the act of drawing, the normal visual process works by assembling impressions picked up by quick movements of the eyes called saccades. The eyes only see clearly over a narrow angle; the overall sharp photographic image we think we see is constructed in the brain as the fragmentary impressions of the saccades are knitted together. (Here’s a more detailed blog post about how that works.)

Complementary Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Complementary Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Constant practice improves the speed by which we receive such perceptions. Each moment of seeing is translated into a movement of the hand. The resulting marks reflect the quality of these movements, and thereby trace a record of the act of vision, a series of impressions made as the artist experiences them.

Passion, 2003, by Fred Hatt

Passion, 2003, by Fred Hatt

Drawing is not simply a copying of contours, but a trail left in permanent marks as the mind examines a scene over a particular period of time. Seen this way, it is clear that drawing captures something that photography does not. A camera, like an NSA surveillance program, indiscriminately vacuums up every detail of light information in its range. A drawing artist is more like a murder-mystery detective, following all the trails, picking up clues, details, impressions, until a coherent picture emerges from the process. Photography is a mechanical scan, while drawing is an active, responsive exploration of a scene. The distinction is between intelligence gathering and intelligent gathering.

Corner, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Corner, 2008, by Fred Hatt

The drawing medium affects how I see. When I am holding a pencil, as in the sketch above, I see the scene in terms of lines. When I use a fan brush, as below, I see broader strokes of light and shadow revealing the form in space.

Folding Forward, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Folding Forward, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I look for curves, and I look for angles. The form is constructed of flowing, rhythmic curves. The spatial arrangement of those curves is defined by angular connections.

Hands on Sacrum, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Hands on Sacrum, 2013, by Fred Hatt

In drawing with a linear medium such as crayon or pencil, light, shade and color must all be translated into line. I imagine that I am drawing, not on flat paper, but directly on the body itself, so that every line follows the three-dimensional shape of the body. Notice the white serpentine line running from armpit to hip in the torso study below. It represents the center of a highlighted area, but its meandering reveals the subtle irregularities imparted to the surface of the skin by underlying layers of bone and muscle, as a raindrop snaking down a windshield shows the hidden undulations in seemingly smooth glass.

Lines of Energy on a Torso, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Lines of Energy on a Torso, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Every glance is a fragment of perceiving. Every glance becomes a stroke in the drawing. It is a living process to record the phenomenon of life.

Imagining, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Imagining, 2008, by Fred Hatt

When there is more time to develop a drawing, additional layers of perceptions build up as the artist looks at the subject again and again. Light, shade, color, reflection, absorption, space, energy, temperature, texture, gravity, vibration, growth and decay – all the phenomena of matter and of life can be found by looking and looking some more.

Legs, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Legs, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Color and light in the real world are complex and slippery. Capturing such things is not a matter of simply duplicating a surface hue and value. Everything is relative, so everything must be seen relative to other things in the scene. As the work develops, the glances are comparative. What areas are redder than their neighboring areas? What areas are greener?

Back Light, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Back Light, 2013, by Fred Hatt

A body exists in space, and the image in the drawing becomes more real as it develops a sense of space. Further glances look at the parts of the body as they intersect with elements of the background.

In a Room, 2013, by Fred Hatt

In a Room, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I keep glancing, looking at light that reflects into shadows and light that penetrates the translucent skin and emerges tinged and diffused, looking at creases that swallow light and bulges that create specular highlights and gradients.

Side Arc, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Side Arc, 2013, by Fred Hatt

To draw is to see seeing, that is, to experience in action all the processes that go into visual perception.

Prone, Crossed Ankles, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Prone, Crossed Ankles, 2013, by Fred Hatt

2013/03/12

Rough and Refined Versions

 

Sh About to Rise, 2013, by Fred Hatt, details of sketch and final version side-by-side

Sh About to Rise, 2013, by Fred Hatt, details of sketch and final version side-by-side

The first post of Drawing Life was published on March 15, 2009, so the fourth blogaversary is upon us. I want to thank my readers, those that have been following since the start and those that have recently discovered the blog, those that subscribe by email and those that just check it out a few times a year. I just can’t help producing a constant flow of images – it’s my nature – but looking at the site stats and seeing how many people look in on what I post here, and especially receiving comments, motivates me to keep sharing with you through this forum. I invite you, dear reader, to tell me what you’d like to see more of here, questions you’ve wanted to ask me, or topics you think I should address. Please comment.

Some readers are mainly interested in figure drawing and art technique, some are interested in body art, others respond most strongly to the photographic visual essays, and still others to the art-historical surveys. For me, it’s all of a piece, all about my approach to visual art as a practice of self-development – a journey I have chosen as the central journey of my life, an effort to transform perception and a quest for mastery in an open-ended craft.

I long ago discovered that I needed a core practice, a strong trellis upon which to cultivate my twisty vines. For me, that core practice is figure drawing. It provides me with an ideal combination of discipline and inspiration, self-measurement and freedom to explore. Looking back over the last six months of posts on Drawing Life I noticed it’s been a long time since I just posted an update on my recent figure drawing work, and I’ve built up quite an archive of unposted work in the past year – enough to explore various themes in separate posts.

In my figure drawing practice I attend two regular weekly sessions, one of which (at Figureworks) consists of poses two minutes to twenty minutes in length, and the other of which (at Spring Studio) includes a single longer pose. Total drawing time on that pose, subtracting breaks, amounts to about two hours. It’s enough time to do a fairly refined drawing, though I approach it differently at different times, sometimes focusing on capturing a likeness, sometimes looking at subtleties of color or shading, sometimes studying the relationship of the face to the body or of the model to the surroundings, or any combination of these things. Sometimes I get off to a solid start and keep working on one sheet of paper for the whole duration of the pose. Other times I do a sketch and then start over again for one reason or another. This post is a collection of recent pairs of rough, sketchy versions and more finished versions of the same poses. It’s a way of looking into my process.  For each pair, my commentary will be inserted between the sketchy and polished versions.

Ch Diagonal, sketch version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Ch Diagonal, sketch version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Often I start out studying the whole figure and then decide to focus on a cropped view. This pose has a strong diagonal through-line, from right foot to head, with the model’s left limbs acting as right-angled buttresses.  After doing the sketch above, I decided I wanted to work larger to get more detail in the face, realizing that the diagonal tilt of the body worked in the composition without having to go all the way down to the right foot. In this case, the sketch was weak, but doing it helped to sharpen my perception for the more developed drawing.

Ch Diagonal, final version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Ch Diagonal, final version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Sage, sketch version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Here I felt the initial sketch was, in its rough form, a superb realization of my way of analyzing the figure, using curved lines to trace continuities of form, light, and body energy.  Further developing the drawing above would have obscured the white energy lines, destroying a drawing that is simple and intense. In this case I stopped, not because the sketch was weak or flawed, but because it was excellent in its undeveloped form. I went on to do the study below, applying most of my attention to the model’s face as an image of strong character and lived experience. I’m glad I stopped and saved the above version as a separate drawing, because it shows the robust, vibrant energy of the model’s abdomen, something that the second drawing omits.

Sage, final version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Sage, final version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

B with Mannequins, sketch version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

B with Mannequins, sketch version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

This is a wonderful model I’ve drawn many times before. For this pose, she set up an array of background elements and I decided to place her in this spatial context, with the blocks and boxes, hanging fabrics, and tattooed mannequin parts around her. In my initial sketch, above, I tried to get everything in the frame.  Later, I decided to develop the drawing with the model more centered, omitting details on the left. But there’s something almost Matissean about the stripped-down, off-center composition of the rough sketch.

B with Mannequins, final version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

B with Mannequins, final version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

M with Stockings, sketch version, 2013, by Fred Hatt

M with Stockings, sketch version, 2013, by Fred Hatt

This model, a fine artist in her own right, has the artist’s sense of what will make an interesting pose. She came up with this Schiele-esque pose, angular, fascinatingly awkward, casual and odd, with one stocking on and one hanging from the hands. This kind of pose is complicated and not easy to draw. I studied it in the above sketch for several layers of light and dark forms, angles and curves and cut facets, before attempting the realistic/impressionistic monochrome rendering, below.

M with Stockings, final version, 2013, by Fred Hatt

M with Stockings, final version, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Cl Physique, sketch version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Cl Physique, sketch version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

This model is a bodybuilder with incredibly defined muscles, and drawing him is an anatomical study. My initial sketch was an attempt to understand the pose, but I was craving more detail in the face and torso, and decided to develop the drawing in a vertical frame rather than the horizontal one with which I’d begun. This was a session I had to leave early because of a work obligation, so the second drawing here is less refined than some of the others in this post.

Cl Physique, final version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Cl Physique, final version, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Sh About to Rise, sketch version, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Sh About to Rise, sketch version, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Here’s another one where the sketch was too good to ruin by developing it, and I felt the model’s face needed more space to show its character. These two drawings need to be seen together. The sketch above shows the character of the body, and the sketch below shows more detail in the character of the face. There’s a limit to the paper size that can be used n the context of the crowded group session. Sometimes I wish I could draw everything in life size.

Sh About to Rise, final version, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Sh About to Rise, final version, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Reclining K from Head End, sketch version, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Reclining K from Head End, sketch version, 2013, by Fred Hatt

This pair is done in my studio, not in the Monday morning long-pose session at Spring Studio, as are all the other examples in this post. Recently I’ve had an opportunity to work with the same model almost weekly in my own studio. I expect there will eventually be a post here about this experience. In my own studio I can work with dramatic lighting that is not practical in the group setting of Spring Studio, and can work directly with the model to refine the poses. After doing the rough crayon and gouache sketch above, the pose was modified to paint the foreshortened view below.

Reclining K from Head End, final version, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Reclining K from Head End, final version, 2013, by Fred Hatt

All of the original drawings shown in this post are roughly 19″ x 25″ (48 c 64 cm). Some are drawn with Caran d’Ache aqruarelle crayons alone, and some are painted in gouache, combined with the crayons.

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.

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