Robert D'Arista, Monotype

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The First Blind Contour Drawings?

Auguste Rodin

Beginning drawing students are often baffled and disheartened by an exercise that has become a canon in art training. I'm talking about the so-called "blind contour" drawing. Pencil to the page and eyes on the model, a line is pulled without watching the pencil. The exercise is unparalleled as a way to begin to develop eye-hand coordination. The more typical sewing machine stitching and symbolizing that typifies beginners' sketching begins to yield to confident, seismographically sensitive lines full of particular information about the subject's actual form. The sculptor Rodin certainly practiced blind drawing routinely as his many studies from the moving model attest. But earlier than Rodin by almost four hundred years another great artist practiced the blind drawing, perhaps not so much from choice but by necessity.

In 1976, numerous large charcoal drawings by Michelangelo were found on the plaster walls of a crypt beneath the New Sacristy in the Medici Chapel in Florence's church of San Lorenzo. Michelangelo, who had grown up in the Medici household virtually as an adopted son, fell out with the Medici after they were ousted from the city in 1520. Flipping his allegiance, Michelangelo designed battlements to protect the city from their return for which he paid by having a bounty placed on his head when they returned to power. Michelangelo hid out in the crypt for about six weeks during which time he occupied his time by drawing in the darkness. In his own words, Michelangelo writes of the conditions:

"I hid in a tiny cell," he wrote, "entombed like the dead Medici above, though hiding from a live one. To forget my fears, I fill the walls with drawings."

Not seeing what he was doing was clearly no impediment to the great master. The lines are as fluid and informed as his life studies. Check out the drawings on the links below.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Alex Fowler

Some drawings by contemporary British artist Alex Fowler.

More at Alex Fowler's website.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"The Hand Is An Interpreter, Not a Copyist..."

 To launch the new semester:
“There is a freemasonry... among figurative painters – and I mean the term in the metaphoric sense of a secret club as well as the sense of a guild of highly developed craftsmen, for great skill is required to observe and render the body. And it is both, observation as well as drafting. Over a lifetime of close watching one learns how muscles move and pull and place our bones into postures, and the ways that our bodies and faces can reveal our thoughts; the long, slow, laborious practice of making marks to represent what one sees isn’t as direct as the same thing might be if one takes a photograph, the mark-making also conveys what one senses and feels. The hand is an interpreter, not a copyist…”  

(from a review of the exhibition, The Figure in Contemporary Art, Cypress College, curated by Thomas Butler, by Geoff Tuck on the blog Notes on Looking.) Click on the link to see work by Jerome Witkin, Domenic Cretara, Odd Nerdrum, Sigmund Abeles and others.