If you want to observe gravity, creating a still life of drapery is a good way to do it. What is holding the cloth up? (It’s tensile strength?) What is pulling it down? Gravity! (I know the answer to that one!)
The tug-o-war between the cloth and the pull of the earth is what you study. Look for a long time. Gravity is a wonderful thing.
The folds of the cloth in the previous post have become a true mountain here. You could almost just invent a landscape from start to finish by laying out some heavy cloth on a table, letting it pile into a crest, watching the daylight from a near by window carve out its fissures and cliffs while changing the colors a little to something stony and grey.
The forms of nature bear resemblances that are more than just skin deep. In the mountain as well as the drapery, what the artist really draws is gravity and light!
[Top of the post: Mountain of Imagination, by Aletha Kuschan]
In an earlier post I wrote about Durer’s pillows and about drapery as a path to innovation and metaphor. You can take a simple piece of cloth and redraw it numerous times, each time rearranging its folds and find endlessly lovely new patterns of line and tone. Such a subject combines realism, observation, invention and abstraction in a delightful cooperative game. From a drawing point of view, it opens up myriad new subjects. However, from a narrative point of view, it presents a serious challenge. While I can draw and redraw the drapery folds with fascination, I’m not quite sure how, going from one drawing to another, I am supposed to describe the differences in words. Telling the story of folded cloth presents a challenge. Still I’ll give it a shot.
In the earlier example, I had a drapery that shared something in common with a woman’s hair bound up into a bun. This drapery, though, is surely a mountain landscape like those solidly built-up cloths of a Cezanne still life that were one quick morph away from being Mont Ste Victoire.
However, not simply the directions of the folds, but the textures of the pencil become the subject of the picture. In the drawing above, I made my tones with hatch marks and their directions create a kind of movement within the details. Through the different tones, allowing oneself to study the fine nuances between one layer of darkness and another, you can enter into the music of the image. What bass or treble are to music, light and dark are to drawing. A drawing like this one is not something you make in a rush — but more something that you let yourself savor and enjoy.
If the cloth was metaphorically a mountain, then in drawing it I was climbing. And each small pencil stroke is imaginatively a foot step. And the whole is a meditation.
[Top of the post: Drapery Study, by Aletha Kuschan]
One problem that artists have at the beginning arises from a misapprehension. When seeing a painting in a museum, people often think that that’s it. They see a complete, whole and finished thing and mistakenly suppose that the artist just painted it. Such a task, anyone would acknowledge to be difficult, but to create ex nihilo — which is often what people mistakenly suppose artists do — would be really, very hard — perhaps impossible. In fact most complex pictures have lots of studies that lie behind them. Studies can take many forms, but usually they exist. Typically they are not on display. They reside in the background. They lie stored in a drawer in the artist’s studio.
What defines a study? One might say that it’s any work of art that takes a separate aspect of an idea and pursues it in isolation. When you study old masters’ techniques, you find many such drawings that rehearse ideas that are later used in completed paintings.
So, it’s “okay” to take an idea apart and pursue it in bits. The drawing at the top of the post is that kind of drawing. I was interested in the drapery and drew it in isolation. To create this drapery I had first made a photograph — but even the photograph is part of the pursuit of an idea. I’m still not certain where it’s going. Or if it’s going anywhere.
The figure has no head or face and hardly any arms. These details don’t matter at this juncture, and I left them out. The details here are to drawing what scales are to music. This is a drawing of riffs and phrases. Such things have their own charms.
[Top of the post: Drapery Study, by Aletha Kuschan, colored pencil on Nideggen paper]