Monday, October 28, 2013

A contour line leads to Illinois

A contour drawing (c) Philip Hartigan, posted with permission of the artist
Last week I was searching the internet for contour drawings and came on this one by Philip Hartigan, an English artist living and working in Illinois. It's a "blind" contour drawing, a slow and sensitive method in which the artist draws while not looking at the paper, instead concentrating totally on the subject and following with the pencil or pen every little bump and hollow as if touching the edge of the form with a fingertip. Contour drawing was one of the elements of the teaching of Kimon Nicolaïdes in the first half of the 20th century. Later, Betty Edwards popularised it in her best-selling book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

As so often happens, this one link led to a whole lot more. Philip Hartigan is a painter, printmaker and sculptor and he writes for Hyperallergic. His stop-motion animations are a delight to watch. He also does some university teaching.

Some more videos:
Hartigan briefly describes an installation of toy soldiers, 1 min 12 secs
A Google Hangout conversation with P.E. Sharpe, Philip Hartigan, Hrag Vartanian and Jillian Steinhauer of Hyperallergic. -- 35 mins.
A Google Hangout interview, 1 hr

Monday, October 21, 2013

My top eight

The Night Watch by Rembrandt, 1642, at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Public domain image from Wikipedia


This was intended to be my top ten list but I can't decide on the last two, there are so many I would like to include. So it's eight for now.

Picasso --
Rembrandt --
Paul Klee --
Alice Neel --
Andy Warhol --
Peter Doig --
Gerhard Richter --
Sean Scully --

P.S. I've added some sketchbook pages to my website --

Monday, October 14, 2013

An aesthetic sense?

Isaac Levitan (Russian, 1860-1900), Over Eternal Peace, 1894. Image from Wikipedia
Do we have an aesthetic sense? I mean, in the same way as the senses of sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell. There are other senses in addition to the famous five such as position sense; and I have blogged about a sense of balance which I believe exists.Certain animals have a built-in sense of direction which helps them to navigate; and plant root cells contain particles that enable them to sense gravity and to grow downwards. So ... I’ve been wondering: is there in our make-up a built-in aesthetic sense that leads us to make judgments about whether a thing is beautiful or ugly or somewhere in between?

I believe it’s a valid question because it seems likely from observation that we do have such a sense. If so, where did it come from, how did it evolve? Would it mean that species other than humans also have some sort of aesthetic sense?

I remember a dog we had once, a German Shepherd. She was a stately and ladylike dog, "fair-haired in her gracious manner". She would come when called, never gave any trouble. When she was about four years old we moved to the house where we are now. Behind the house there’s a strip of garden, and then a steep hill which is high enough such that at the top you can see right out to sea. This dog went up there one day and didn’t want to come down. She sat down in the grasses in her stately way and refused to come when called. It happened many times. I’ve often wondered ... what did she like so much about the top of the hill? ... could it have been the view from up there ... the space, the far horizon?

Aesthetics is an issue of philosophy. However, even in art college the philosophical topics under discussion are more usually politics or advertising or linguistics rather than aesthetics as such. As an artist I find the topic of aesthetics interesting in its own right and I'd like to understand it better.

It so happens that today I'm beginning an 8-week philosophy course (online). I'm hoping it will help me to think about questions like this in a more structured way.

To be continued. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Michael Kessler at work

"Michael Kessler (born October 23, 1954) is an American artist. He currently lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Kessler's works are characterized by large fields of diaphanous color that are activated by organic linear structures that have been visually and physically woven into a grid structure which consists of thick slabs of paint. These organic linear structures are overlapped and punctuated by dendritic growth patterns that suggest the bending of time and space" (from Wikipedia).