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Realist streak

Post #1281 • January 23, 2009, 12:10 PM • 48 Comments

Despite all the gestural work that I do, I have a fierce realist streak, and it frequently demands exercise. I'll wake up in a particularly Balthusian mood and the palette knives stay in the box for the day. This streak waxed especially acute yesterday, and for the first time in years I broke out the crow quill.

Nude (T.E.), 2009, ink on paper, 7 x 9 inches, ©FE

Too, to paraphrase a line of Hanns Johst, when I hear about sophisticated conceptual strategies, I reach for my crow quill. I enjoy all the license afforded by the art world, truly, but part of me wants to make art that comes together like a good dovetail joint, handsomely and without flourish. This part feels prodded when I follow the art world too closely. Go and draw, it says. Get it right.

detail

Sadly, I was drawing much better circa 2004-2006, when I taught figure drawing classes several times a year. Scraping the rust off is painful, and had the model not indulged me to take a photograph so I could finish it up afterwards, I likely would have junked this one. As it is, it's far from perfect. But there were moments when a grand erasure and a bold reattempt put something where it ought to be, and I would feel a private surge of victory. To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle, said Orwell. I don't know if anyone has ever remarked on the thrill of winning that struggle, however partially.

detail

(I put this drawing on the scanner, so I have maximally sharp details.)

On a possibly related note, I picked up the new George Tooker monograph. Tooker's exhibition travels to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at the end of the month. I'll be there.

Comment

1.

Chris Rywalt

January 23, 2009, 1:03 PM

It's very, very hard to see what's in front of you. When I was going to the figure drawing group very regularly I noticed that the best artists there, the ones whose drawings looked best at first glance, I mean, were the artists who weren't really looking at what was there; they were drawing what they "knew" to be there. Like that little pink inner corner of the eye, the name of which I cannot remember or find right now, which is nearly invisible to my eye, anyway, but which they always stuck in there, the same way every time. Or reflected shadows -- academic realists love reflected shadows, but they show up in real life a lot less, I think, than they do in academic paintings (and commercial photographs, where reflectors are used to get them to show up better). They'd draw what was supposed to be there, what they knew should be there, but which I doubt they actually saw in front of them every time.

To me, that makes a superficially better drawing, but one which lacks a certain something, that something that comes from observation, from trying your hardest to put down what you actually see and not what you imagine. What you imagine comes from culture, experience, and many other things unrelated to seeing. But seeing is its own thing.

As stylized as my drawings might sometimes look, as modernist and so on, at bottom what I was trying to do was draw what I could see, and only that.

2.

Gertrude

January 23, 2009, 1:20 PM

I like this drawing. It's not perfect (and, I'm not trying to be bitchy when I write that - there are small details - I want to see the weight of the head resting on the curled hand for example), but I keep returning to the drawing and looking and looking.

When a figure is isolated in negative space, it must define that space - the illusion of real space is one of the rewards of representation. Very nice drawing.

3.

John

January 23, 2009, 1:42 PM

Try projecting the photograph, just to get outlines of the major parts in their right places. Crow quill is unforgiving of the places where this one gets it wrong, and the rest is too right to let you get buy with that.

4.

opie

January 23, 2009, 2:24 PM

Drawing or painting what you "know is there" can be risky, Chris. Art flows more easily when you are not thinking about what's right. The Impressionists taught painters to look, not assume.

5.

Chris Rywalt

January 23, 2009, 2:33 PM

I was actually told to draw what I see, not what I think I see, by a t-shirt airbrush artist back when I was doing shirts on the boardwalk in Wildwood. And that was just to get a decent tracing of a photo onto a shirt.

6.

donatella

January 23, 2009, 4:14 PM

you are using photography to help you draw? how absurd is that? it is the end of the world...

7.

Franklin

January 23, 2009, 4:42 PM

Yes, Donatella, after drawing for two hours from the model, I referred to a photo to work on it for one more. The world continued.

8.

John

January 23, 2009, 4:43 PM

donatella: no, it is the beginning of a new world. Things are different now, didn't you know? The camera obscura has been replaced with something better.

9.

Franklin

January 23, 2009, 4:56 PM

There's a famous story about Whistler. A student said to him, "I want to draw what I see!" He replied, "Wait 'til you see what you draw!"

All those little tricks like the reflected light on the shadow side of the object turn out to be enormously helpful when it comes to conveying form. It may just be a cultural tic, but it works, so you might as well use it. Robert Beverly Hale wrote that he could always tell who the junior students were in the figure drawing class - the art school cat would sit down in the window and the beginning students would dutifully draw the cat's shadow on the model. You pretty much have to establish a crosslight either in real life or your mind. I took to asking students, "Where is the light coming from?" The right answer is that the light is coming from where you put it.

All those little hacks are pretty wonderful - working with a certain number of head heights, drawing an egg for the ribcage and two wheels for the hips, on and on. You just have to make sure they don't take over the drawing, or you end up with superficial results.

10.

Aric Calfee

January 23, 2009, 6:45 PM

Nice. Makes me think of R. Crumb a little, with the cross-hatching. Thanks for posting it.

11.

Chris Rywalt

January 23, 2009, 8:14 PM

The camera obscura was replaced by the artist statement obscura.

I accidentally saw some images from Tooker on Catherine Spaeth's blog (where I went to confirm that she is indeed as humorless and prolix as I remembered). Wow, that looks great. Count me in on the Philly trip. We should save up some money now so we can have dinner at Raw.

12.

Chris Rywalt

January 23, 2009, 8:17 PM

As far as those drawing hacks, Franklin: Well, I consider them crutches when you're drawing from life. If the model's in front of you, just look. All of that stuff is handy if you're a comic book illustrator, though. I mean, maybe it works for conveying the sense that "this is a real drawing/painting and it's very realistic!" but I don't think it works in the sense I'm groping for. It works but it's too easy.

Then again sometimes I think I take the hard way because I'm a masochist. That'd explain my marriage, too, come to think of it.

13.

Franklin

January 24, 2009, 6:20 PM

If the model's in front of you, just look.

Ingres said that everything you need to know about anatomy is in front of you on the model, but it doesn't work. It's like saying that everything you need to know about chess strategy is right there on the chessboard. Da Vinci said of drawings by artists who didn't know the figure well, "you would think you were looking at a sack of walnuts rather than the human form, or a bundle of radishes rather than the muscles of figures." You need some kind of organizing principle or you end up at the mercy of the details. The tricks are all organizing principles of some kind. The issue, of course, is that you can't stop at the tricks - the drawing has to be better than the tricks.

14.

Chris Rywalt

January 24, 2009, 7:15 PM

Comparing figure drawing to chess? Holy inappropriate parallels, Batman! The huge difference is that, actually, everything is there on the chessboard -- but it's been gone over by the absolute best minds of humanity for hundreds of years and they've all worked out details you'll never work out on your own even if you're the smartest human being who ever lived.

Figure drawing, however, creates itself anew every time a model sets a pose.

You have opposing quotes from Leonardo and Ingres which makes it hard to pick which argument by authority we want to go with; both guys were pretty damned good, so clearly their methods work.

I think a study of anatomy and all those tricks can help, but I don't think they need to. They can end up like scaffolding that's never taken down: The arch never really needs to work because it never has to hold itself up. You can skip the keystone that way.

And, me, I'd just rather concentrate on getting the arch right and not worry about the scaffolding so much. My metaphor breaks down here, because I'm not sure you can build an arch without the scaffolding. Let's say I'd rather put up a geodesic.

I'm not saying my way is better. I'm just saying my way is in the direction of what I'm seeking. I look at academic figure drawings and paintings and of course I like them, but the more of them I see the more I'm struck by how unrelated they really are to reality; we've been culturally conditioned to think of the style as realistic but it's not. So in a way I'm trying to find my own realism.

15.

Chris Rywalt

January 24, 2009, 7:28 PM

Also, I've noticed that my vision is notso hotso. So I've been concentrating on trying to see what I can actually see. I mean, I know my vision is poor -- that's why I wear glasses! -- but I'm coming to find it's not even that great with the glasses. And as I've gotten older I've had more trouble switching from focusing on the paper to focusing on the model. So I want to be sure I'm not making stuff up just because I can't see.

16.

Franklin

January 25, 2009, 7:51 AM

...it's been gone over by the absolute best minds of humanity for hundreds of years and they've all worked out details you'll never work out on your own even if you're the smartest human being who ever lived.

Well, we could rather make the same case for figure drawing. When I've taught figure drawing, the homework every single week was to copy master drawings, for exactly the above reason.

Ingres would have trained on the plaster cast just like every other painter in France at the time, so he was obviously not working from a naive perspective. I have no idea what motivated the remark.

Do what you have to do, of course.

17.

feneon

January 25, 2009, 8:54 AM

You have a great deal of courage to show such a lame drawing on a, more or less public forum. Much too long representational art has been kept in the dust bin - in Academia, and evidently with yourself. Draw with less self delusion. Try simple contour, a la Hockney, and put away your eraser. The only way to correct a mistake in drawing is to not do it the next time. Check out Matisse on this one.
I recommend a mirror to look at the work as it progresses. Also, think about whether the model might have bones in her body instead of playdough. Or maybe this is an inflatable model.?
If the old realists had the right idea, they would still be dominant. They had to give it up - in France anyway, because of the clear superiority, of impressionist visual empiricism over the cronyism of the Academy which purveyed it's own set of supposed classical precepts.
If you are convinced the best representational work was all figured out in a time when only the aristocrats got to own work, you are hopelessly lost and need to go back to your other work, and quick. Figurative art is a picture of us all, and if presented in public, for us all.
All you need are your eyes, Grasshopper. as the Shaolin says on TV.
No amount of self congratulation is going to make it better - to most others. That's why it's called representational.
Good luck, you have hundreds more drawings to do to get it right.

18.

Bunny Smedley

January 25, 2009, 9:49 AM

Chris wrote:

You have opposing quotes from Leonardo and Ingres which makes it hard to pick which argument by authority we want to go with ...

Surely, though, picking those two specific artists makes it quite easy?

Ingres drew absolutely beautifully, but I don't think anyone would say that his greatest strength was his realistic depiction of anatomy - on the contrary, his willingness to depart from the anatomical realities of the women before him freed him up to create sinuous lines more weirdly compelling than the fairly conventional stuff thrown up by everyday bodies. In the painting, part of the magic was the combination of almost hyper-realist finish (notably there in the furniture, jewelry, but most of all fabric, which I think Inges loved more than anything else) with magnificently unlikely forms. Inges, of course, was a great enough artist to make it clear that this disortions came out of personal choice, rather than incompetence - easier said than done!

As for Leonardo, he does seem to have been obsessively interested, not only in how things 'really' look, but in the anatomy that underpins surfaces. If you want a 'realist' hero when it comes to anatomy, Leonardo is surely a safer bet than Ingres?

One problem with drawing humans is that most artists have too much invested in how a particular model (so often, an attractive woman) 'ought' to look, and how the artist feels about that. If one moves along to the slightly less emotive subject of drawing horses, though, it's hard to deny that the painters who depict horses most convincingly (Stubbs first and foremost) tend to be the ones who did, in fact, have a notably strong, 'scientific' as well as practical grasp of equine anatomy. In other words, it's great to make lovely patterns from horses, and also great to express what one feels about them - but seeing horses as they actually look is something that pretty much all sighted people share, so perhaps as a virtue it communicates itself in art more strongly than some other, more subjective considerations.

Ultimately, though, whatever the methodology, what matters is what ends up on the page. There's a lot to like about the drawing you've posted here. Sure, it's 'far from perfect' - most drawings are. But it's also sufficiently strong as to make it a genuinely interesting experience to sit down and look at it, and to think about which parts work and which parts don't, which is more than one can say for, oh, about 80 per cent of what was on show at the London Art Fair recently. Please do keep practicing this sort of drawing, and please do keep posting examples as you go along.

Finally, as for Feneon's 'all you need is your eyes' - Feneon, good manners, a constructive attitude and an ability to read through someone's actual post before laying into it might not go amiss, either.

19.

feneon

January 25, 2009, 10:08 AM

Chris,

Your comment (#18) was indeed well mannered and generous. These qualities, generosity and protocol, are not regularly constructive. And I was mostly using my own eyes to summon the comment, not what was previously posted, regardless of whether or not this required "ability". As well, I meant what I said about the display of courage. Should the less-than-approval comments not be rendered? Is that constructive? This is not the work of someone in school to learn, but someone who perhaps teaches? Can't the teacher be honestly commented upon? I will take responsibility for the style of my comment, which may offend. Perhaps I was visually offended.

20.

opie

January 25, 2009, 10:13 AM

Feneon, Take Bunny's admonition ot heart. a catty tone is not good criticism. If you have students, I hope you don't go at them like this.

Bunny, good points about Ingres. I find that I must always point out to students the differences between detail, exactitude and realism.

As for Ingres and fabric, I have always thought that if I could do to any color what he did to blue taffeta (I think it is taffeta) in the Metropolitan's portrait of Princesse Albert de Broglie I could die happy.

21.

feneon

January 25, 2009, 10:32 AM

Opie, (#20) No, Academia and I thumbed noses at each other a while back, so I do not have an obligation to not shoot from the hip if so moved. (Unless that is really upheld on this blog - is it?) By the way, I sincerely meant the other parts of comment #18 as a means of improving the work.
Franklin, why a crow quill? Try a writing nib.

22.

opie

January 25, 2009, 11:09 AM

Shooting from the hip is our stock in trade, Feneon. You can denigrate academia all you want to.We just like to keep it as civil as possible. Those are Franklin's rules.

23.

feneon

January 25, 2009, 12:08 PM

Ok, civil as possible.
Respectful of the fact that a drawing has been made public, ok. Respect the drawing itself, no. Good as he can do right now, ok. Good figure drawing from life, or photo, or both. Sorry. I've seen too many drawings.
If a waiter serves you bad food you don't have to consume it. Consuming an art work is a different matter. If it has come within your vision (blogasphere), you've been forced to consume it. I can't send it back, I've already seen it.

24.

Chris Rywalt

January 25, 2009, 12:18 PM

Crow quills are nice. I thought Franklin failed to use some of the quill's flexibility here -- one of the things I like about quill tips is the sharply limited, but still usable, range of line thicknesses you can get out of them. On the other hand, I broke the last one I had, so maybe I'm too hard on them. Also, of course, varying line thickness is sort of my forte. I didn't mention it because I don't want to try to critique Franklin for not being me.

My point is, crow quill is cool.

25.

Chris Rywalt

January 25, 2009, 12:32 PM

Franklin sez:
Well, we could rather make the same case for figure drawing.

I respectfully disagree. Any given board in chess, especially for openings and end games -- because the permutations are more limited -- has been studied in depth by the best minds for hundreds of years. However, every model is different. The model sitting for you hasn't been studied for hundreds of years. In fact they only exist exactly as they are for that one moment; even by next week they'll have changed.

You might say that all humans are basically the same, and you'd be right, but you'd also be setting aside something I know you know, which is that the human brain is very finely tuned to the study of faces and human bodies, so extremely tiny differences are greatly magnified. Therefore, to a person's eyes, each person is very different.

Which is why Bunny's mention of horses seems beside the point to me: You can have a strong scientific basis underlying a horse depiction because, even if you're wildly off in your portrait of a particular animal, no one will know, because most people can't tell one horse from another. Set a horse's eyes too far apart or one slightly above the other and viewers are unlikely to notice.

You're right, Bunny, though, about the investment in how models "ought" to look. I've always noticed how painted and drawn figures change depending on the era; has human anatomy changed that much? Then again, look at nude photos from the early 20th century, and you'll find yourself asking the same question. Somehow, even nude, many of the women still look like 1920 or 1910 or whatever. Maybe human anatomy really does change! (I personally wonder about this stuff.)

That thinking about how models "should" look is exactly what I'm trying to avoid by observing as closely as possibly how they do look.

Also, to a degree, at times I'm trying to get how the model feels more than how they look.

26.

Jack

January 25, 2009, 1:00 PM

Yes, Bunny, Ingres was apparently incapable of drawing a line that wasn't sinuous. Your comments remind me of the criticism leveled at his Grande Odalisque, to the effect that he had given her extra vertebrae to achieve her impossibly long (and gloriously sinuous) back.

27.

Jack

January 25, 2009, 1:02 PM

And Chris, stop trying to make excuses for groping the models. How they feel, indeed.

28.

Franklin

January 25, 2009, 1:09 PM

Feneon, posting a drawing online doesn't count as a courageous act in my book. The pessimal outcome is that someone whose opinion I respect will find it disappointing, and even that's likely to elicit some feedback worth heeding. The pseudonymous commenters who couch their barbs in betrayals of their own confusion and ill will tend to make me think that I'm doing something right. I mean, "The only way to correct a mistake in drawing is to not do it the next time"? Who knew? Also, "think about whether the model might have bones in her body instead of playdough." I can name a dozen bony landmarks visible in the above drawing. Can you? Civility is a fine thing, sure, but it won't cure foolishness. I agree with this though: "you have hundreds more drawings to do to get it right." Except that the number is probably too low.

Crow quill, for me, is the anti-brush. I could definitely push line variation. I'm also thinking of copying a particular Michelangelo pen drawing to see how he worked the values.

29.

Bunny Smedley

January 25, 2009, 1:41 PM

The ever-quotable Chris wrote:

I've always noticed how painted and drawn figures change depending on the era; has human anatomy changed that much?

Isn't the absolutely classic example of that - the one everyone uses, I mean - the sloping shoulders of Ingres' female sitters? Clearly, sloping shoulders were wildly fashionable in Restoration-era France, and Ingres' pictures are full of them - but so are portrayals of women by far less competent, far less original painters. It would be easy to explain this away as some sort of artistic convention, were it not for the fact that the Goncourt brothers etc actually note, a few decades on, that one so rarely saw sloping shoulders any more. Where did they come from, and where did they go? I wonder about these things, too - without much success, in this case.

As for horses, though, Chris - although you're probably right that many people we all know can't tell one horse from another, it's true both that those people who can tell one horse from another are notably keener on e.g. Stubb's horses, or Leonardo's for that matter, than e.g. Titian's (Degas' horses are great, too, but I've no idea what if anything he knew about their anatomy) - but at the same time, also true that most of the original admirers of Stubbs' work probably knew and cared far more about horses than they ever did about women, and hence may have been more sensitive in these delicate questions of equine portraiture than you are! ;)

30.

Franklin

January 25, 2009, 2:00 PM

Have we told Bunny today that she's awesome?

31.

Chris Rywalt

January 25, 2009, 2:02 PM

However much they might've cared about horses, and could to some degree tell them apart, wouldn't affect all those neural circuits evolution built into them for recognizing human faces. They'd still have more brain matter excited by viewing a human face than a horse.

Why anyone would be more interested in a horse than a woman...wait, I'm married. I understand that perfectly!

As far as Ingres and his sinuous backs, Jeff Freedner once wrote -- maybe it was on this blog, even (I think it was him and not John or Jack -- I could be getting confused by the Js) -- that at least some of Ingres' modifications were done to adjust for viewing angles. La Grande Odalisque, he said, was designed to be hung high up on a wall, so the figure was stretched so it'd look right. I have no idea if this is based on anything, but it sounds good to me. What the heck.

Some of Ingres' drawings could be right out of a modern comic book, though. Damn. As long as he wasn't taken in by current anatomical fashions, he could be perfectly at home in the 21st century!

32.

Franklin

January 25, 2009, 2:04 PM

Ingres was an enthusiastic user of the camera lucida, if we're to believe Hockney.

33.

Chris Rywalt

January 25, 2009, 2:06 PM

Oh, by the way, Bunny: You're awesome.

Regarding the anti-brush of the crow quill: If I wanted an anti-brush, I'd go with a Rapidograph (or whatever the modern equivalent is). I played with a very old-fashioned ruling pen for a bit, too. The other artists that day made fun of me for crippling my best feature. They wanted to know if I was going to draw blindfolded next.

34.

Chris Rywalt

January 25, 2009, 2:10 PM

The evidence I've read for Vermeer's use of a camera obscura is pretty compelling. I'd like to see equivalent evidence for the camera lucida but I haven't yet. Not that I've gone looking.

Hopefully Hockney is a better historian than he is a painter. Wait, that's not that hard. Oh, snap!

35.

Chris Rywalt

January 25, 2009, 2:16 PM

What do you know, the Hockney book's in my town library. And here I was looking for something else to read.

36.

feneon

January 25, 2009, 2:44 PM

Comment #28

"The pseudonymous commenters who couch their barbs in betrayals of their own confusion and ill will tend to make me think that I'm doing something right.'

No outing. People occasionally have good reasons to hide their identities. I will delete efforts to disclose them.

Why would I betray ill will? I'm the victim, (i did expose myself to it), you are the perp.

Did I sound confused at any point about the rays emitted by your drawing?
Also, I think you're being a bit catty.

37.

Franklin

January 25, 2009, 2:56 PM

There are a lot of blogs out there, Feneon. Maybe another one would better suit your injured sensibilities.

I'm kind of tempted to try a camera lucida now. I found one made in England for £107, which is US$145 today.

38.

Jack

January 25, 2009, 2:57 PM

Re the last paragraph of #31, once upon a time there were cartoonists (sort of) who worked for popular humor or satirical publications, who were also wonderful draughtsmen from an art perspective. I'm thinking of Daumier, but also now relatively obscure names like Gavarni (who was good enough to be admired by Degas).

39.

Bunny Smedley

January 25, 2009, 3:02 PM

Hockney, alas, is now noticeably better at being a very nice man (loves dogs, loves his own corner of Yorkshire, speaks up for civil liberties - what's not to like?) than he is either as an artist (some of that rather elegant early work notwithstanding) or indeed as an historian.

Regarding the camera obscura, Hockney makes a mistake endemic amongst not-very-good historians: having discovered that something is striking and almost certainly true in several cases, he then extends the idea too far, until the whole argument starts to collapse under the weight of its own reductiveness. Sure, Vermeer quite possibly did use a camera obscura - for some reason, I've long been sure that Sassoferrato did too, and I guess we could all list our own nonimations - but the fact remains that while anyone could use the wretched thing, one mechanical aid no more explains Vermeer's unique qualities than does e.g. whatever is currently assumed to be wrong with the aged Monet's eyesight, or Van Gogh's mental health.

This is part of the reason why I can never manage to summon up much outrage at the idea of an artist (that's you, Franklin!) using photos as a source for a handmade image. I'm not saying that this is an uninteresting practice - if I were writing about an artist who always worked from photos, or never did, I'd probably spell this out - but I still think that whether an image takes off or not is really more a question of what the artist does with the inputs [sic] than what those inputs constitute in the first place. As an approach, it's worth trying - and in the case of Franklin's drawing, it seems that being able to use a photo stopped him from abandoning work on the drawing under discussion, which at the very least will presumably have taught him more than abandoning the drawing would have done.

Someone will doubtless say that this is a false comparison, but here goes: although I personally think there is all the difference in the world between seeing a work of art 'in real life' as opposed to looking at a photograph of it, I'm boundlessly grateful for being able to check my recollections, to compare works I've seen with works I'm unlikely to see (possibly because such works are now lost or indeed destroyed) - or indeed, to be able to watch the development of Franklin's work from a distance, as we all seem to be doing. A studio visit would be better, obviously - parenthetically, I don't really like commenting on work this way, if only because nuances of tone get lost in the typing, and judgements can sound so much harsher or indeed blander than intended - but as compromises go, once more, photography is at least generous with its compensations.

Chris, what you write about Ingres and viewing angles may well be right. It was a revelation to me the first time I saw an El Greco hung at proper altarpiece height - it certainly explains a lot about his apparently enlongated figures and ridiculously over-extended gestures! And of course your point about evolution shaping our neural circuits to recognise human faces is so entirely water-tight that I wouldn't even dream of suggesting that some backwaters of the British aristocracy might arguably have been thought to have developed along their own, specialised, only slightly horse-faced lines ...

(That's a joke, btw - seriously, I'm sure you're right.)

Oh, and thanks for clearing up the vexed question of my current degree of awesomeness. You lot are awesome, too. Always nice to be told, though, don't you think? ;)

40.

Chris Rywalt

January 25, 2009, 3:04 PM

Fenfen does have a point there about the way art exposes itself to you without asking permission. Kind of an interesting idea.

41.

opie

January 25, 2009, 3:16 PM

Chris, Bunny's comparison was a good and interesting one.

Feneon we are extremely critical around here. You can say Franklin's drawing sucks all you want. But back at the beginning of this blog there were lots and lots of nasty, personalized, ignorant, childish, stupid comments clogging up things so Franklin made some pretty good rules of conduct, the jerks got blasted out of the water and we have been on a fairly even keel ever since - lots of tough criticism with a minimum of personalization and name calling. I suppose we are a little oversensitized to ad hominem remarks, but there it is.

42.

Chris Rywalt

January 25, 2009, 3:17 PM

You're absolutely right, Bunny, about the explanation not really explaining anything. Vermeer may have used a camera obscura, but of course that's not why he's a good painter, or why anyone still likes him a couple of hundred years on. Still, I think it's interesting to explore that kind of thing.

As a former airbrush artist with his very own opaque projector, I understand about tools. I've personally rejected working from photos and projections and all that, and I'm tempted to scoff at anyone who still uses it as being uncivilized, kind of the way no one's as fervently religious as a recent convert. But underneath it all I know it doesn't make a difference, in art, how you get there; it's the getting there.

And you're right, too, about photos of art and JPEGs: I always use the Web to check on what I just saw while I'm writing about it. As long as I've seen the work in person I don't mind referring back to a reproduction to remind myself of things or to pick up details I might have missed. And it's rare that I just wander into a show without having seen some of it online; JPEGs can draw me in and make me want to see the originals. That's how I saw Chris Ofili and why I want to meet up with Franklin to see George Tooker's work.

As far as the horses, I can quote Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show: "Charles says he and Camilla are in a stable relationship. He's been saddled with her for years. They hit the hay every night for unbridled passion. I'm trying to say she looks like a horse!"

43.

opie

January 25, 2009, 3:25 PM

Bunny I am straining to imagine something collapsing under the weight of its own reductiveness.

Of course using photos is OK. Everything is OK in art if the art turns out OK. This one of the very few art rules that seems consistent.

You are completely right about Hockney. I so far have not found anything to disagree with you about. This is very peculiar.

44.

Chris Rywalt

January 25, 2009, 3:27 PM

OP sez:
I so far have not found anything to disagree with you about. This is very peculiar.

This is possibly the funniest thing I've read on this blog yet.

45.

Bunny Smedley

January 25, 2009, 3:57 PM

Funny, Chris? Funny? I'm worried ... I can't decide whether this is the moment to put my life savings on the 2.10 tomorrow at Ludlow (horses seem relevant here) now that my luck's clearly in, or conversely, to give up posting forever more, as my online career has now reached its natural zenith ...

46.

opie

January 25, 2009, 4:21 PM

Huh. I don't understand either one of you. Obviously our shared agreement signifies nothing less than genius.

47.

Chris Rywalt

January 25, 2009, 6:19 PM

What's funny, OP, isn't the content -- of course you and Bunny are geniuses, and of course you agree on everything -- it's the tone.

I wouldn't put my life savings on there, Bunny, but I'd put up a goodly bet.

48.

cat

January 28, 2009, 11:29 PM

I think this style of drawing, the crosshatch I think its called, is very hard to do when you're attempting to do realistic artwork. I think you did a wonderful job on this.

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