March 19, 2013

Learning by Drawing: Portraying Reality with Abstract Paintings and Black and White Photographs

I am a huge fan of using sketchbooks to learn about art.

Figure 1 - Before
I sent some postcards of one of my Reality-Based Abstractions.  The Cubist painters inspired these in-camera multiple exposures.  I stuck one of the postcards in my sketchbook. 

Figure 2 - After
Inspired by woven mats I saw in the Oceanic collection at the Peabody Museum at Harvard, I cut another postcard into strips and interlaced them.

About a month later, I absorbed the Picasso Black and White exhibition at the Guggenheim.  Using pen and pencil to draw this painting allowed me to really look and linger.  I noticed the artist's initial drawn outlines that delineated the areas that he later filled in with tones.

Using just pencil to create planes and values, I labored to recreate "Figure".  Notes jotted in my sketchbook:  "Ironic, that at points, I felt I was not recreating a Picasso perfectly.  A Picasso!  An abstraction!  Of all things."

After relaxing by leaning into and laughing at my fears, I drew this imagined ball rolling on a tightrope. 

Fruits of Labor
At the end of the afternoon, nearly dizzy from art overload, I drew this profile.  Looking closely at the Picassos taught me to look closely at reality.


I relayed some of these observations a few weeks later as I taught a Zentangle® drawing class.  In most cases, with Zentangle, we draw with black pens on white paper, adding shading with regular pencils.  In this class, we reversed the formula.

The discussion of black and white led one student to recall the futility of looking at art history books during the era when such books were printed solely in black and white.  Another described how they felt that black and white photographs portrayed the reality of a situation better than color photographs.

Time Marches On
Interesting, this idea that black and white photographs are more true to reality than color ones.   I believe that portraying a single subject from multiple perspectives simultaneously (like the Cubist painters) can depict reality more clearly than a "normal" painting.  What do you think?