Sunday, March 28, 2010

The drawings.

A while ago I became restless in my studio, too much small fine colour work, and decided with the help of an old art history book to do some large charcoal reproductions of well known drawings by Degas, Munch, Renoir, etc. I have always avoided working in charcoal in the past and it is a big hole in my kit of techniques. Thanks to my work with Gauguin and later Cezanne I have been getting better at this process of ‘resonating’ with the works and minds of those artists from the past that appeal to me. Just as musicians step into the minds of composers while they play their music or readers live in the minds of writers, so I would launch myself into another intimate association with those I feel I can learn from.

While much of my creative work these days is in photography I still feel the need to expand my ability to create, and just as the artists of the time of Degas were starting to learn lessons from the new process of photography, so now I choose to go back to that transitional era and try to understand what the ideas embedded in their drawings have to teach me in my own photographic work.

Thank goodness these pictures are all in monochrome and I will be reproducing them in charcoal. All those weeks of working in colour can be tiring, but black and white are, for me with my partial colour blindness, dead easy. Subtle differences in tone are a pleasure for me to work with.

Later, I photograph myself between two of the drawings, Edvard Munch`s ‘Puberty’ and ‘Two dancers’ by Degas. In monochrome, I fit so well into the pictures. Later, as I continue to take photos I notice that the passions that drove the artists in their drawings have filtered into my own view of the world. This study of the work of other artists really does help inform how I see the world.

On a visit with my daughter and her family, I set my camera on the dinner table and casually snap away as granddaughter Katie resists help with eating her meal. From Munch ( she is munching, but reluctantly) I see this as a psychological moment and portray her small and overshadowed by ‘the helping hand’ and all the glasses and bowls. The next day I use a slow shutter speed and pan along with her as she does her dancing to classical music. Degas` dancers come to mind as she becomes absorbed in the expression of the music.

Somehow I doubt that I would have benefitted so much from just looking at and reading about those artists. I really had to move in, spend the hours of focus and learn with my hands and eyes. Stepping into each drawn line, each subtle tonal shift to become one with them so that their vision of the world could live again through me.

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