Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Love & Hate

Here are three nudes,  - all done with Prismacolor pencil on Canson Paper, - none really finished. You can see in the lower two  slightly looser ways of working than my usual clean line as seen in the reclining nude.   It's a more forgiving technique where a few extra lines are no problem and can even be positive since it gives a softer appearance. As we've noted in the past, the added white gives a convincing sense of form, produces a relatively realistic

rendering of the figure and a recognition that this is a particular person posing as opposed to just "a nude".  Though just sketches, they are still portraits. Even the reclining figure is a likeness.

It's amazing how quickly form pushes out from the background when even this small amount of white is applied,  - even the coarse hatched application works nicely!  I like that white hatching, - in it you see the hand of the artist at work!  (Pay no attention to the "bandaged" ankle, - I was a bit heavy handed!)

John Singer Sargent, a fine American artist, loved white! He would often pose models wearing white so that he could point out the variety of color within the whites. Adding the strongest lights in pure white, he produced great contrast and some dramatic interest. Look at those splotches of sunlight! Without those this painting would have been soft, flat, much less interesting. We could have missed seeing the figures and appreciating those splayed legs. (Very much the subject!) In the charcoal sketch below, Sargent used white chalk to add high-lights to the drapery of a cloak, again adding contrast and enhancing the form of the folds.   

Speaking of contrast, I'm probably crazy to place my work anywhere near the work of a master like this, - but I had to make my point about the use of white in drawing, right?    Damn, that hurts!

While we have Sargent's wonderful works here, let me talk a bit about something opposite white high-lights,  - a particular use of shading. Notice how he has obscured the face in his draped figure by putting it in shadow.  It is basic human nature to be attracted to faces but unlike my pencil portraits above,  Sargent wanted our focus to be the drapery and the total figure, not the particular person.  Even in the painting above where the people posing were his personal friends, he left the faces somewhat undefined so that we'd see the whole composition rather than focusing on individual personalities. Here we see the faces as repeated shapes, three orbs echoing the repetition of the three pyramidal leg shapes in the foreground.  John Singer Sargent was an artist who not only could  draw and paint,  he composed his subjects with integrated line, light, shape, shade and color to produce beautifully designed pieces, - Master works!

It really does hurt!  

"Nothing is anything by itself, only in relation to other things."  Robert Levers

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