DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt



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!


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. I 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.


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″.


The Doodle Abides

Nature Boy, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I drew this this morning after a session of Authentic Movement.  It’s a kind of moving meditation, a group practice of discovering the impulses to movement within your body, following them wherever they lead you, and responding in the moment.  The practice called Authentic Movement was developed in the 1950’s by Mary Starks Whitehouse, a student of choreographers Mary Wigman and Martha Graham, and developed in later decades by Janet Adler, Joan Chodorow, and others.  My friend Peter Honchaurk, who studied the form with Adler,  introduced me to it twenty years ago, and ever since then it’s been one of my essential practices.  Nowadays I’m part of a peer group of Authentic Movers, and we meet once a month in Prospect Park in Brooklyn to move and witness together.  Many people treat the practice as a form of somatic therapy, but for me it’s always been most essentially a way to stay in touch with the creative spirit that resides in the body and in the relationship between the inner world and the world outside.

The drawing above is an expression of the connection with elemental energies that I felt moving in the park.  The remainder of the pictures in this post will consist of a collection of my doodles, most of which are done while at work, riding transportation, or talking on the phone, not in connection with Authentic Movement practice.  Illustrations are in random order, so the relation of text to images is mostly coincidental.  (Earlier posts on the art of doodling are here and here.)

Score for Solo Dance, 2011, by Fred Hatt

In Authentic Movement we usually move with eyes closed.  For a person like me, extremely visually oriented and, if not quite intellectual, at least mental, consciousness tends to reside mainly in the head, with the body serving as the vehicle to move the head around in the world.  When the eyes are closed, awareness naturally shifts downward into the body.  Eyes-closed orientation relies not on visual cues, but on contact with the ground or floor.   Proprioception and tactility supplant visual/intentional navigation.

Analysis, 2011. by Fred Hatt

If you’ve followed this blog for a while you may have gleaned a central theme, that I treat visual art as an art of movement, like music or dance.

Curandero, 2011, by Fred Hatt

All organic forms, the bodies of plants, animals, and people, the shapes of clouds and of the land, emerge from dynamic processes of movement and growth.

Generative S;iral, 2012, by Fred Hatt

To draw is to feel form back into the movement from which it arises.

Forest Runner, 2011, by Fred Hatt

You can get to know a landscape by roaming about it, feeling its texture with the soles of your feet and its contours as gravity reveals them to you.

Floor Plan for a Happy Drunk, 2012, by Fred Hatt

A blank piece of paper is a fairly homogenous landscape, so roaming about it with a brush or pen or pencil is an exploration of the hills and valleys of your mind more than of the paper.

Cogitation/Constipation, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Authentic Movement takes place within a space defined by the “witnesses” who observe the “movers”, and with their attention create a protected circle where the magic can happen.  A doodle happens in a space defined by the edges of the paper provided for it.

Mountain Mouth, 2012, by Fred Hatt

The doodle grows into the two-dimensional space of the paper as a growing houseplant expands within the space contained by its pot.

Bacterium, 2011, by Fred Hatt

If you’re dancing in a space, of course you can keep going back and forth over the same little patch.  When you’re making marks, you have to keep moving into territory that hasn’t been marked yet, as a plant’s roots must penetrate the as-yet unoccupied dirt.

Wreckage, 2011, by Fred Hatt

In movement or in drawing or doodling, you are always responsive to sensory input.  Marks or gestures may arise from internal impulses of nerves or emotions or imagination, or they may come from hearing a bird or feeling the wind.

French Curves, 2012, by Fred Hatt

This approach eschews concepts and plans.  There is no preconceived idea one is trying to portray.  There is simply a flow of moments, shapes that flow into other shapes, images and impulses arising in the mind, in the body, or in the world.

Treasure Map, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Of course, shapes are seen as things, and the imagination picks up images and runs with them, so free improvisatory doodling or moving is not necessarily strictly nonobjective, but I try to keep representational elements ambiguous, so that I retain the freedom to reinterpret them.

Old King Lear, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Most of these doodles are made without any particular idea in mind, but once they’re done it is much easier to come up with descriptive titles than it is for my figurative drawings.  There is nothing like mindless abstract movement to inspire the imagination!

Stiff Salute, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Organic movement is all about curves and spirals, meanders and branches, echoes and fractals.

Fleurs du Mal, 2012, by Fred Hatt

How does electricity move?  How does blood flow?

Tesla, 2012, by Fred Hatt

How do a flower’s petals unfold?  How do a tree’s limbs reach out and out, penetrating a space of air?

Pagoda of the Hairy Eyeball, 2011, by Fred Hatt

How do you slip on the ice?  How does water carve a canyon?

Man on Wire, 2011, by Fred Hatt

How does the wind wriggle through a gap?  How does a weed expand a crack in concrete?

Bird Lizard Blizzard, 2011, by Fred Hatt

How do dividing cells accrete into a spine?  How does heat make light ripple in air?

Water Cycle, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Why do arteries look like trees?  Why do trees look like lightning?  Why does a river delta look like a tree?

Jazz Hands, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Why does the large scale structure of the universe look like neurons?

The Devil Toupée, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want the movement of the hand to reflect the natural movement of  growing things.

Writhing T-square, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want the movement of the hand to reflect the movement of the mind.

Cul-de-Sac Subdivision, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want a drawing to grow like a plant grows.

Indomitable Weed, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want random things to come into the drawing just as random things enter into any experience, any environment in the world.

Museum of Maladaptive Mutations, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want to create not by fiat, but by adaptation.

Shaft, 2012, by Fred Hatt

The movement of the mind does not stand apart from the world.  Like the movement of the body, it happens only within a world that has forces and pressures and countercurrents and resistance.  To make is to engage.

Thorny Vessels and Tricky Steps, 2012, by Fred Hatt


Cut to the Quick

Julio Quick Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

As the 2012 Olympic Games get underway in London, we’ll have an opportunity to observe the elegance and power of the human body in action, diverse kinds of bodies honed through intensive training for different skills.  Here I salute the occasion with my own studies of the body from figure drawing sessions at Figureworks Gallery in Brooklyn and Spring Studio in Manhattan.   All of these sketches are made with watercolor and brush during sequences of two-minute poses.  The illustrations are presented in random order, and the interspersed text is not specifically related to the adjacent images, but generally to the whole collection.

Alley Quick Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

A sequence of quick poses is a kind of dance, as the model moves from one position to another to reveal the anatomical structure and the expressive range of the body.  The artist has only a moment to capture whatever can be captured.  I am fascinated by the variety and dynamism of quick poses – the models can do all sorts of things that would be impossible or painful to hold for even a five or ten minute pose.  Knowing that the timer is relentlessly counting down, I enter into a mode of hyperfocused flow, my eyes and my brush both in constant and coordinated motion.  The only way to get anything interesting is to work with swift efficiency.

Gwen Quick Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Here I’m posting complete sequences, so you’ll see some awkward passages as well as some lovely bits of brushwork that reveal something true of the model’s aliveness or individuality.  Every real brushstroke is a rough approximation of the ideal brushstroke into which the visual cortex is translating the forms it perceives.  I’ve been practicing this for many years, so my approximations are pretty good when my focus is on.  It’s more important that the lines be confident and expressive than that they be accurate.  If I were to stop to measure or take a moment to step back and look critically at the sketch, I would hardly be able to get anything at all in two minutes.  I have to go unhesitatingly with the flow, and trust the flow.

Pedro Quick Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I look for curves – the curve of the spine, of the hip, of the neck, of the knee, and make each curve a stroke of the brush.  I try to emphasize what makes each individual body unique, not to genericize the anatomy.  That uniqueness is in the curves.  The curve of one person’s hip is quite different from that of another’s hip.  I always look for the physical idiosyncracies.

Crolie Quick Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I generally omit or radically simplify faces, hair, hands and feet.  Those parts of the body are detail traps, best saved for more leisurely studies.  But they are also often key to the particular expression of a pose or model, so I try to get some indication of their angles.  The direction of a gaze, the splay or curl of the fingers, the twist of an instep can be the detail that makes the pose come alive in the sketch.  For me, angles and curves are practically the whole of quick drawing.

Eric Quick Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Quick poses are a special exchange of energy between model and artist.  A set of quick poses gives the model an opportunity to perform, to stretch out, to test their limits, to offer contrasts of feeling or form.  As the artist, I cannot let such a gift go unappreciated.  When a model is really giving the energy, drawing is like dancing with a fantastically graceful or dynamic partner – complete abandon is the only appropriate response.

Claudia Quick Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

A kind of time dilation can occur during quick poses.  From my own experience as a model, I can tell you that holding a challenging pose can make two minutes seem like an eon.  For the artist, a pose that’s complicated to draw can make two minutes feel like a few seconds.

James Quick Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Observing angles is a quick way to see how one thing relates to another thing in space.  When I’m doing quick sketches, I’m making lots of lines that I don’t draw.  In my mind, I make lines between points to see how they relate in space.  I check the angle going from nipple to nose, or from fold of elbow to bulge of heel, or from where the arm meets the leg to the pubic ridge.  When all of those parts are in the right angular relations to each other in space, proportions will be a fair approximation of the reality.

Robyn Quick Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Sometimes it’s easier to see curves and shapes and angles by looking at the negative spaces, the places where the body is not, and how those places relate to each other.  Or the angles of the body may become clearer by seeing them in relation to straight lines such as a wall or surface, the pole the model holds or the wall on which he leans.

Adam Quick Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I’ve pored over anatomy books, assimilating as much structural understanding of the body as I can, but I depict only details I can see.  The knowledge helps me to grasp these features of the body, but I can’t get lost in an analytical breakdown of the body.  I try to get as many anatomical details into the sketches as I can, because these details individualize the body.

Tin Quick Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Curves and angles, negative spaces, spatial relationships, anatomical details, flow and rhythm – it’s a lot to see and a lot to try to depict in two minutes.  The only way to do it is to merge perceiving and drawing into a unified process.  This is achieved by trying and trying and refining through hundreds of hours of practice.

When you watch an Olympic gymnast, you are seeing someone who has developed a perfect unity of perception and action through relentless practice.  Drawing is more subjective, but the learning process is similar.  All the details have to come together, to become one act.

Claire Quick Poses, 2012, by Fred Hatt

All of the original sketches in this post are made with watercolor and a brush in 18″ x 24″ sketchbooks.  Multiple pages have been stacked vertically in the illustrations so a whole series of quick poses appear in a single image, as though the drawings were made on a scroll.  Action sketches actually made on scrolls, drawn by me more than a decade ago, can be seen in this post.  I have also written previously about the similarities between life drawing practice and athletic practice, here.


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