Dessin puriste (1925)

This is another response to an individual work, a copy of which can be found in Krauss’ book, The Picasso Papers.

Before I get to this, though, let me offer some quick notes to the essay, “The Circulation of Signs.” Krauss brought up an interesting issue in the introductory essay, while discussing Picasso’s work in general: if the meaning expressed in a given work which is abstract is self-referential, the meaning can be without value. (Please see All signs lead to Picasso.) Because this is in the introductory essay, I thought she would spend the length of the book addressing its main concern. She does somewhat, and I’ve included what I found useful in my post, Violin (1912); however, she spends most of her time discussing how several different works refer to ongoing political concerns during the time that the works were created. (So the works refer to issues that lie beyond the work, and issues very specific to a time and place, and thus, they are not self-referential.)

I am a little disappointed. To address the issue in her introductory essay, I can again only offer my own opinion, and that is that if a given work has good form, it has something of value. OTOH, art is inherently a social medium; IE, it is made with an audience in mind. It doesn’t have to be political, but the more it comments/engages with issues that lie beyond the work, the more it engages with its audience on a level that is beyond form itself.

Okay, moving onto the work I am responding to. I thought it was by Picasso but it’s  actually by Amedee Ozenfant. It can be found in the section entitled Picasso-Pistache.

Krauss goes on at length about how Picasso was criticized for creating pastiches of works/styles which were created/used by his contemporaries. I have not finished the essay, so I can only say that thus far she offers two responses: one which is critical and one which seems to justify what Picasso did by saying that he took the style of a given artist and then did more.

Today, we seem to allow this but call it “appropriating” the style of another artist while “making it one’s own.”

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Ozenfant’s Dessin puriste (1925) may seem to look like a pastiche of Picasso’s work in that it is a flat representation of the objects, and the contour of one object may share the same lines of the contour of another object. But Ozenfant does something that does not make me think of Picasso, and that is how the picture is scored horizontally and vertically by how the contours of certain objects run along what would be one of two grids, one which divides the picture into thirds and the other into quarters. This does not happen with all the lines, but it happens so often that it looks intentional. It creates some interesting visual rhythm which is not very obvious.

What it fails to do which Picasso does so well in his cubist work is create tension between the flatness of the work and the illusion of dimension. This is because there are no vanishing points. You can compare this to Landscape with Posters (1912), which has multiple vanishing points. It is only flat and thus less engaging.

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I tried to do this by eye, but eventually I had to use a grid, because so much of what is effective of this drawing depends on how well certain lines match up with other lines.

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When I was done with the pencil version, I simply added ink using a ball-point pen.

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I only wanted to make sure I had smooth lines (so I compulsively went over the lines until they “flowed” well). However, looking at the finished version, I think the variation of thicknesses in the lines creates some illusion of depth and thus creates some tension between the illusion of depth and the flatness of the drawing.

In short, it doesn’t look as flat as the original, which I guess is neither better nor worse, as the effectiveness of the original was achieved, in part, by its flatness. Either way, it was interesting to see the drawing move in another direction by merely changing the quality of line. 

 

Here’s a horse

I’ll be on hiatus until the end of May. In the meantime, here’s a picture of a horse.

082509 Horse
(2009) 11″ x 14″ Pencil on drawing paper 

I used a grid.

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There’s not much I can say about this, because I drew this in 2009. I think it took a few hours each day, over the course of a week, to complete. Thought bubble: guy on YouTube telling viewers not to copy from photographs. Don’t remember who it was, but I do remember I cringed a little, because, at the time, that was my plan to develop my artistic skills.

And I know why some people would say this. It’s like practicing how to draw using carbon copies. (I’ve done a few of these.) Both are like training wheels. You may be getting results, but you don’t really know if you can do it on your own until you stop relying on them. Moreover, you are not relying on certain skills you do need, like using one’s sense of proportions in order to draw guidelines by eye.

I see using grids as halfway between using carbon copies and going by eye, and I see drawing something from a photograph as a first step before moving on to maybe a cast of a figure and then a live model and then finally drawing something or somebody in motion.

Everyone goes at their own pace and I think it’s okay to use training wheels if you want to, as long as it is helping you and not something you get in the habit of relying on indefinitely.

Never Say Never

We have over 7 billion people in this world, and I have honestly never seen a true doppelganger. You know how people compare photos of two or more celebrities and call them “twinsies?” Maybe I’m guilty of confusing one for another in a movie in which only one appears, but looking at photos side by side, you can tell who is who. And let me underscore the fact that it’s a photo comparison and not videos in which you can compare body language, etc.

All this to say… When it’s not the girl, it’s not the girl. In this case, it is not Da Vinci’s Study for the Head of a Girl, c 1483.

I thought it was a simple drawing, so I wanted to aim for the true size, which was maybe fifteen percent bigger than how it is in the book. I want to say that the subtle change in size, as opposed to making it an even 100% bigger, threw me off, but I think it was in how complicated the drawing really is. It’s simple in that there are fewer lines, but it’s complicated in that each line does more work: a small change in a small line, especially those depicting the eyes, can make a big difference and their being “off” that much more noticeable.

Attempt #1

Step 1. I began with a grid.

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I divided a photo copy of the original into ten, horizontally, and then because it wasn’t easy to divide it vertically into ten, I cropped some from the top and bottom before dividing the middle into ten. I then made a similar grid on a slightly larger piece of paper.

I remembered to crop a proportionate amount off the top and bottom before dividing the middle into ten. Each division was now 1.69 cm, which was difficult to draw lines for… but I had to let this go because if I tried to crop more from the top and bottom, to make each division an even 1.5 cm, for example, I would have to adjust the divisions again in the original.

… and grids can only help you so much anyway.

I then did my best in pencil… but looking at it now, I can see the right eye (what the figure would call her left eye) is a bit off.

Step 2. Apply ink.

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I know. It’s bad. She either looks “haunted” or she’d just been in a brawl… and you might not notice but there’s a hole in the right eye.

I realized after applying ink how off it was and tried desperately to fix it. “Fortunately,” I could erase the ink, but only at a cost to the quality of the surface of such delicate paper. Well, it’s not that delicate, but I learned the hard way that I had to be careful with how many times I went over it with ink or pencil.

Attempt #2

Step 1. Make a carbon copy of my first attempt.

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Step 2. Go by eye to clear up the lines.

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I didn’t go further than this, because it didn’t look like her and that blasted right eye… I was already boring a hole into the paper. So I put it away for the day… which then turned into more than a week.

Attempt #3

Step 1. Make a grid.

Step 2. Line up the carbon copy of the first attempt onto the grid. The carbon copy helped me save time on the hair and body, while the grid helped me redraw all the lines for the face.

Step 3. Apply ink.

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It’s better than my first two attempts. However, she doesn’t look quite as “sharp”… and I really can’t explain why. I further divided each square, around the eyes, into eight, vertically and horizontally, and I still couldn’t get it right. I finally relented and erased the grid lines, and then had to go by eye and redraw what the eraser had erased, which made no difference — I’d memorized how to draw her eyes a particular way, including whatever I was doing wrong.

Well. Like the title says, Never say never! I mean, I’ll try again… but not any time soon.

Materials

Lead pencil
Ballpoint pen, black
Laid paper, slightly grey-blue, 90 gsm (I purchased this online but I forget from where.)

Copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Study for the Head of a Girl, c 1483, from Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings and Drawings.