DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt



Edwin (profile), 2012, by Fred Hatt

To draw a face by observation, I start out by touching.  Of course I can’t literally touch, so I watch how the light strikes the prominences, falls into the hollows, and flows across the flats, furrows, and swells.  My brush strokes the paper just as though it is stroking the model’s face, following in the path of the light.

This post is a series of my recent portrait drawings.  The first three are relatively quick sketches, twenty minutes of rough freehand rendering using this tactile approach with mostly white gouache and black watercolor.

Tanya (blue), 2012, by Fred Hatt

If you are old enough, you may remember the old Polaroid instant photos, the kind that would eject from the camera in a state of blankness, and then, as you watched, an indistinct image would appear and gradually sharpen, like the world coming back into the vision of someone awakening from a swoon.  This kind of drawing emerges that way, clarifying in stages.  If I keep on going over and over it with the darks and the lights, eventually it starts looking rather continuous-toned and realistic.  But twenty minutes is just a short enough time that the tactile quality still shows nicely in the strokes.

Tin (profile), 2012, by Fred Hatt

The next three drawings are nude portraits from the long pose sessions I run at Spring Studio.  These are done with a combination   of aquarelle crayons, watercolor and gouache, and the total drawing time for each is about two hours, or six times as long as the sketches above.

Crolie, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Even with the longer drawing time, I don’t want the images to become too smooth.  In the past, I used to make them smoother, but I think they’re more interesting when you can see the gesture in them, so when they get to a certain level of pictorial development, I switch from blending the gradients to sharpening the geometry and indicating subtle perceptions using bold gestures.

Crolie (detail), 2012, by Fred Hatt

In my nude portraits, I’m trying to integrate the face and the body.  Culturally, the portrait and the figure are separate artistic genres, but I like to merge them, to show the face as part of the body.  An actor will tell you that a character resides as much in the body, in energy and movement and posture, as it does in the face.  An artist’s model projects his essence with all of it together.

Julio, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Julio (detail), 2012, by Fred Hatt

Touching the model is not allowed, and usually in these open sessions there is not much opportunity to talk with the model either.  But I want my drawing to convey to the viewer that they could touch this person in the drawing, that they have an idea of her personality and her way of being in the world, that she could speak to them and they could come to know her.  I have to try to communicate all that just by looking and drawing.  It needs a wide open kind of looking, and the maximum possible energy channeled into the drawing.

Robyn, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Robyn (detail), 2012, by Fred Hatt

I will conclude with drawings I made of the one-year-old fraternal twin daughters of some close friends of mine.  I prefer to draw portraits directly from life, and nearly all the drawings I have published in this blog are done that way, but it’s hard to get babies to sit still enough for anything other than a very rough sketch, so I did refer to photographs in making these.  I wanted to try to capture the distinctive personalities and looks of these twin sisters.  Babies haven’t had time to develop some of the hard features and cultivated attitudes that individualize adults, but they are all born different, and their particularity is absolutely authentic.

Anya, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Katya, 2012, by Fred Hatt

All the drawings in this post are done on gray Canson paper, mostly with a combination of aquarelle crayons, watercolor, and white gouache.  They are 18″ x 24″ (41 x 61 cm) except for the baby portraits, which are 12″ x 18″ (30.5 x 41 cm).

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