When you need something to draw

When you need something to draw, you can always try punching a pillow.  It worked for Durer.  He punched a pillow and drew it.  Punched it again and drew that.  They made charming drapery studies.

If you compare the still lifes of Cezanne with their heaped up folds to his landscapes of Mont Sainte Victoire it soon becomes obvious that the two have much in common.  Cezanne’s still lifes and his pictures of the mountain are versions of the same idea.

Sometimes I go on a drapery spree and make oodles of drawings of drapery.  Drapery turns out to be very expressive.  It’s filled with moods — like clouds.  No psychological depths exist that cannot be summed up in some manner by folded textile.

Even now revisiting my drawings made after Picasso’s Corina Romeu, I have to admit how much her hair is like this drapery study above.  And it is not just a consequence of my personality and my drawing.  It was in Picasso’s version too.  He was just as much swayed by the effects of gravity upon cloth in shaping ideas of dimension and form.

It all started with the Greeks.  They really were onto something.

[Top of the post:  Cloth mountain (drapery study), by Aletha Kuschan]

First Versions

I believe this was the first version.  The more detailed version came later (see previous post).  I like this one better.  It’s the more psychological of the two.  Eliminating all the “stuff,” I focused completely on her face.  All the territory I tried to understand could be found around the eyes and nose and mouth and jaw.  Lights and darks appear with the logic of a flashlight beamed toward something.  It is all incomplete.  It’s a random visual journey.  Except that it isn’t random, rather only seemingly so.

When your mind wanders, it doesn’t take a random journey.  It journeys to where the interest lies.  My eyes moved through the picture, and my hand drew whatever had caught my momentary attention.  And my attention kept coming back to the interior of the face, searching out the interior of the woman’s painted thoughts.

Isn’t that the amazing thing about Picasso’s picture, that he painted someone thinking?  And in making a copy of his painting, I caught a few of the lady’s thoughts too.  Her thoughts, Picasso’s thoughts, my thoughts are all somewhere in the mix.

Who says that making a copy is just an exercise?

[Top of the post:  Drawing after Picasso’s portrait of Corina Romeu, by Aletha Kuschan]

Redoing it

The National Gallery of Art in Washington (my favorite hangout) had a fabulous exhibit on Picasso about ten years ago.  The exhibit’s appearance was especially fortuitous for me — and I’ve got to tell you, I love it when the big institutions do things especially tailored to my needs.  I had always been fascinated by certain of Picasso’s early works, and the paintings I loved most happened to be among the ones exhibited.

I went through the exhibit almost daily, for a season, and often I made drawings from the paintings. There were lots of drawings exhibited too, which was wonderful.  Seeing Picasso’s drawings side by side with his paintings gains you insights into how he made his pictures.

This drawing was one I made from a Picasso “blue and rose period” painting.  It’s a copy of Picasso’s Portrait of Corina Romeu, which you can find at a comprehensive website of Picasso’s works.

When I made this drawing, I wanted some memory of the light and dark relationships between her face and the background.  In a later drawing, I focused solely on the face.  I’ll post it up next.
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[Top of the post:  Drawing after Picasso’s portrait of Corina Romeu, by Aletha Kuschan]

My Ingres’s Wife and What the Heck

I made this drawing after Ingres’s portrait of his wife.  One finds quite a bit of distortion in Ingres’s images, and his portrait of his wife, though it seems so “realistic,” is no exception.  Her arms are very strange.  One hand folds under her arm and morphs into the most amazing shape.  And the arm she leans on is very hefty.  And these qualities must have really captivated me because I exaggerated them further though not intentionally.  I was trying to make a faithful copy.  I was completely caught up in the image.  I let proportion fly out the window — which is a good thing to do sometimes.  What the heck.  Just let yourself go.

As a consequence, I’d advise you not to mess with my Mrs. Ingres.  She’s got a wicked right hook.  Believe me.  She may look sweet, but don’t cross her.

[Top of the post:  Drawing after Ingres’s portrait of his wife, Delphine Ramel, 1859, by Aletha Kuschan]

Another Copyist

Here’s a drawing after an Ingres portrait by Kirstin Lamb.  Her copy has become an entirely new image, quite in its own right, with wonderfully loose lines and frank directness.   It’s certainly fun for me finding it and being able to demonstrate someone else’s use of copies.  You discover how fully inventive Lamb’s copy after Ingres is by comparing it with its original.  Mrs. Hayard has had a good make-over, as a consequence becoming a thoroughly modern Millie. 

[Top of the post:  Copy at Ingres’s Madame Charles Hayard, by Kristin Lamb]

Drawing a Peaceful Sky

I think this place looks peaceful, though I have no idea where it is and what source I used for this drawing.  Was I looking at a photograph?  Or maybe I put my own colors into someone else’s drawing?  Or maybe I made the whole thing up?  It doesn’t really matter.

Drawings take on a life of their own.  Whenever the artist starts seeing the drawing as simply what it is, then she begins seeing the drawing the way other people see it.  I’d love to visit this place.  To see the radiance left in the twilight sky that is richly mirrored in the water.  It looks so quiet, so clear, so calm.  It is dusk or dawn?
[Top of the post:  Landscape at Twilight, by Aletha Kuschan, crayon drawing in a notebook]

Drawing from “life”

The same Renaissance portrait sculpture that I drew and posted previously is pictured above from a different angle.  The wonderful thing about drawing from a sculpture is that you can study a figure from various angles, and yet always the pose is the same since, of course, she never moves. 

I was aware of an artist’s manual, written by none other than Peter Paul Rubens, that exists now only in a fragment.  He advised artists to make drawings after sculpture (as was his own practice) and to draw in such a way as to breathe life into the figure.  It should not look like a sculpture, but like a person.  I was aware of that advice and felt at the time of the drawing that my version was too much sculpture still and not enough of a person.  However, looking at the drawing now from a distance of some years, I think the woman in the drawing looks very alive — even despite her iris-less eyes. 

That’s why you draw first and editorialize later.  You need to gain distance from your drawings if you are really to understand them.  At the time of their making, your mind is full of your intentions — many of which do not make it onto the page — many of which are even conflicting and unformed.  And your mind is full of the model, which will of course be different from the drawing in innumerable ways (and this is not necessarily a bad thing).

When you are drawing, you should simply concentrate upon drawing, being focused on the subject and your visual thoughts about it.  And afterwards you can learn to understand the drawing you made, but you have to realize that it takes time.  What you notice about your drawings changes with time.  (Sometimes your drawing gets better!  Sometimes it gets worse.  Que sera sera.)

I can’t find the particular sculpture that I drew on the National Gallery’s website.  Perhaps I can locate it at a later date.  However, it is similar to this figure attributed to a follower of Andrea del Verrocchio. 

I like the way this woman’s head is held high, the way her neck is as supple and erect as a young plant.  This would be a difficult pose for a model to hold without tiring, which is exactly why drawing from the sculpture has so many benefits.  This model not only doesn’t move: she never gets tired. 

[Top of the post:  Drawing after a Renaissance Sculpture, by Aletha Kuschan]