Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Nude as Landscape

I arrived late for the drawing session one time and because the room was full, artists elbow to elbow, I had to take a position off to one side - almost behind the model. In the end this was a good thing. I had an unusual angle. It was actually a simple drawing with all elements of the figure closely related in space with lots of overlapping so it was an easy drawing, easy to compare one part to another.  So easy in fact I had ample time to do two complete, this ink drawing on blue was the second .

This one, pencil on grey paper done more recently, was just as easy for essentially the same reasons. All important elements march back in space like elements of a mountainous landscape - near shapes overlapping further parts. I find that starting in the foreground and working back in space, one shape after another works best. Beginning at the top risks running out of space with near shapes like large feet running off the paper. Starting with near shapes, working back,  the laws of perspective are more easily seen. Look at the mattress and how it narrows as it recedes. The body does the same. Hnm, perhaps the feet here really should have been bigger!

"To be an Artist you must learn the laws of nature."    Pierre-Auguste Renoir

"The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first."   Blaise Pascal

"What a delightful thing this perspective is!"   Paolo Uccello

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"The only rule is work"

The title of this blog post is major maxim #7 by Sister Corita Kent who's wonderful graphic work is currently on view at the Tang museum.

This great exhibit presents dozens of her delightful serigraphs (silk screen prints) covering her artistic life from the late forties up to her death in 1986.

Rather than describing this show with personal interpretations, let me just say I left that print filled gallery with a huge happy smile, spent a few minutes in another gallery space but returned to those delightful prints for more! Along with the  joy of her color and heart felt text, we also gain insight to her practical creativity. In a time long before the magic of Photo Shop,  Corita Kent developed a simple way to manipulate and distort type to produce dynamic works. If you have any interest at all in graphic design, typography, pop-art, poetry, color,  or just plain 'good art'  -  "Someday is Now" is the show title and I say get yourself to the Tang at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY and See It Now!

The Exhibit opens later this year at the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art in June and  Pittsburg's Andy Warhol Museum next January. If none of these venues works for you, the link below provided by the Tang will allow you some general views of the show but believe me, it's a sorry substitute to being there. <>

"Damn everything but the circus."    Corita Kent

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Drawing, Design and the Nude

I spoke last week of the benefits of play.
Taking time to relax and get away from the rigors of a tough job or a bad situation is always a good thing. In art it is especially beneficial!  In last week's blog post I spoke about the insights to be gained in diverting from your normal approach by "adjusting" a failed piece, playing around with it just to see where it might lead.

In drawing the human figure I've often wondered what ways I might set the figure apart from the background or integrate it into the background. Playing around in various ways I've explored ideas like multiplying background elements as in the red toned portrait on the left or adding a simple rectangle as in this blue nude where the geometric shape is cool contrast to the organic form of the female figure. In each of these color pieces the light figure stands out from a darker ground pointing up it's importance.

Taking these ideas a step or two further, we might convert a sketch to a finished design like this B&W piece.  Simplifying the figure, treating it as a graphic element rather than a particular person makes it useful in any number of applications. I recall thinking this would work well as a wood-cut.   Don't you think?

"The anatomy of a picture is more important than the anatomy of the subject."   Marc Awodey

"A sculptor is a person who is interested in the shape of things, a poet in words, a musician in sound."
  Henry Moore

"The abilities to draw and paint are slaves to good design."   David Rankin

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fun Time!

 Every once in a while, looking back through old sketchbooks I find works which were never really meant to see the light of day. Pieces that, because the originals hadn't been particularly noteworthy had invited playful alterations. How could I resist?  Being poor work already I might have even made improvements! Looking at the male figure on the left, I saw awkward drawing, poor composition and a lot of empty space. The addition of a "twin" figure introduced "repetition" a solid principle of design. Adding massed background detail to set off the simple figures uses another design principle, "contrast". Both together helped make it a more interesting, more complete composition.

There's more to it than that. It's the basic creative urge that most artists share, the impulse to make something from nothing! The need to produce unique work, interesting not because it reproduces reality (a noble aim) but because it is just plain FUN! Playful engagement is the road to the new idea, new concept, new process -  in a word -  growth!

The works shown were fun but more than mere doodles, they were visual problem solving exercises. Faced with virtual disaster you are free to play around and to treat failures as opportunity. Not necessarily the opportunity to turn trash into treasure but a chance to learn.  It's like that early TV children's artist who would invite kids to scribble a line or two that he would turn into a funny cartoon drawing. - but looking carefully, gaining insight as you work. If in the end it's still a piece of trash you would have learned something there too!

Yes, I have to admit the fun ran away with me in that second piece. It became an over-done doodle but that's OK. It reenforced one other important concept, one tough to learn - knowing when to stop!

So, don't be too quick to toss bad works!. They are opportunities to push off in new directions, like taking a never traveled back road instead of a mundane highway and finding an architectural gem.  As the NY State Lottery motto says,  Hey - you never know!

"Creativity is not a talent; it's a way of operating."   John Cleese

"The essential ingredient for creativity is wasting time."   Anonymous