Racing Koi

The fish rush a point just off center.

fast swim

See them gathered in a converging crowd of fish motion. The impression of rapid swimming and lightening quickness is characteristic because the koi are swift swimmers. In truth kois can be quick or lazy but all their interactions are choreographed like a ballet, fulsome and energetic yet focused.

When the fish swim time feels fluid.  Bright colors flash across the moving water. Rich and blue like the sky it reflects, the water offers you serenity.  You can watch with delight.  Some of the fishes are white and gleaming — their colors are bright and sharp across the surface — red and orange, shades of orange, some colors warm and deeper than others, mixtures of orange and red and pale yellow the color of butter, they cluster and demark a place where energy coalesces. Soft shades of blue like silk frame highlights where the light striking the water shines brightest.  Dark reflections create linear energy that echoes the strong contrasting contours of fishes’ bodies.  As the fish push toward the center and gather there, some appear in clearness with personalities and agency.  Others are blurred with movement. Those whiz past in mystery.

Racing Koi  is a pastel painted on Canson Touch Mi-Teintes paper measuring 28.75 x 20.75 inches

In front of Manet’s still life

Always something to  learn when retracing

101_0020

the visual steps of the old masters through a careful scrutiny of their works.

I’ve always loved that ceramic cup in the corner with the lemons in front of it.  Here (above) I was making a copy using crayons, and I was mixing colors on the paper and getting slightly different color effects than one sees in Manet’s more subtle and monochromatic but beautifully colored canvas where silver gray predominates.  I was able to copy the objects almost the same size as they appear in the painting, but I chose just the right hand corner for my small notebook. Below you can see what I was copying and its context in the painting as a whole.

Some art teachers will pester you about getting ellipses correct. And I urge you, Reader,  to notice how out of kilter Manet’s plate and cup are!  And yet — for some mysterious reason, perhaps known only by Manet’s astute visual imagination, the painting as a whole is immeasurably better, more dynamic, more psychologically intriguing by virtue of these “mistakes.”  Clearly he knows how to draw things in perspective.  Just observe the wonderfully foreshortened fork.  But the plate and the cup are a thousand fold more lovely by virtue of the quirky perspective.  Trust your instincts.

You can draw Manet’s picture too, even if you’re far from the museum by using Gallery’s zoom feature at their website.  But not yet!  The links are redirects ….  http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.46427.html

EXCEPT — when you wish to zoom on the ceramic cup which ends up being covered by part of the zoom widget itself.  However, never fear — WikiArts to the rescue.  A large version of the image is available here — click on the picture to access:

Between the two sources you can get a lot of visual information about the painting.

 

 

Cezanne Shapes

I got to see an old friend

after-cezanne

after many long years separation.  Cezanne’s Vase of Flowers is back on view at the National Gallery of Art.  For years and years it had its own special place and I visited it, studied it, drew it, copied it — and then it was gone.  But it’s back, and recently I made this quick and rough drawing in front of the painting, drawing a portion of its features approximately life size.

It’s not the sort of drawing for getting a likeness.  I was instead keen merely to make the gestures that I see in one small part of the painting. And I want to do many more such drawings in the future — private drawings that I make for my own use even if I do also afterwards make some of them occasionally public by posting them here.

The painting, for those not familiar with it, is reproduced below.

cezanne-flowers

You can learn more about the painting and can use the zoom feature to see it more closely here: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.45867.html

I’ve drawn it many times before, as for instance here: https://alethakuschan.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/my-cezanne/

The portion of the painting I was drawing above can deciphered by comparing the same area from one drawing I made in the past.

 

Drawing in the Museum

after-bonnard

Bonnard’s bright colors, his impulsive and sensitive rendering of paint into landscape forms are qualities that I’ve adored about his art for many years.  Some of his paintings  are on exhibit again at the National Gallery of Art after a long time spent in cruel storage. On the walls again, they light up the room where they can bring us much delight. I’ve intended to make some drawings after various favorite National Gallery paintings, and yesterday I got a chance to begin doing so; I started with this little crayon drawing, above,  after Bonnard’s “Stairs to the Artist’s Garden” reproduced below.

bonnards-stairs-in-the-artists-garden-cora-wandel

Making my drawing in front of Bonnard’s painting, I felt like I was in conversation with the old artist.  Copying also lets one see the image more keenly and experience it with more depth and immediacy.  Vicariously I stood with Bonnard in his garden.  I wanted to stay there longer, but sketching some of the large elements of the scene was a fun beginning.

My drawing measures 8.5 x 6.75 inches.  Bonnard’s painting measures 23 5/8 x 28 3/4 inches.  He painted his picture about 1942. I made my drawing about 4pm yesterday afternoon!

A sketchy sensibility can be very close to Bonnard in spirit.  In a gouache drawing of the artist’s own, the forms are put down through many delicate veils of color as illustrated here in a drawing “La Route, Paysage au Cannet” auctioned at Sotheby’s:

bonnard-la-route-paysage-au-cannet

Lacking a brush and working with different materials, I made mine initially in the fashion of a graphic drawing and only afterwards used rubbing, smearing (and a bit of spit) to dissolve marks into tints. But I think I was able to manage some faithfulness to Bonnard’s general method-in-the-madness of big raw shapes.

To learn more about the Bonnard drawing, here’s a link to the Sotheby site:

http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2014/impressionist-modern-art-day-sale-n09140/lot.430.html

 

 

Some suggestions for Drawing

Trace Elements

To do in class or between now and the next class, here’s some things to consider.

Find an old master’s drawing of a head (e.g. Andrea del Sarto, Giovanni  Battista Tiepolo, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Rubens, Albrecht Durer, Bronzino, Jean Baptiste Greuze, et al) and make a version of it in a medium of your choice (pen drawing, charcoal, charcoal pencil, graphite, etc.) being as faithful to the drawing as you can be.

Observe the main lines.  Ask yourself “what is the largest, most comprehensive shape that the artist has drawn?” This can be — may likely be an oval of some sort — but strive to capture the actual character of that oval — is it taller than it is wide?  is it wider than tall?  Does it taper?  Is it a “squarish” shaped oval? In any case, begin with that shape.  Copy the image working from the largest shapes to the medium sized shapes…

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