Wednesday, April 18, 2007

THE PAINTED WORD III - Emerging figures

   In that first go-round in 1987 one of the courses I signed on for at Parsons was a basic design course where, in the name of design exercises, I drew my life - recurring images: a dog, a child so lost it might be a ghost, a woman with fine big breasts, all in a forest from which a benevolent face seemed, in the sky overhead or in the leaves, as wispy as the ghost-child but with solid substance. Though the dog, the child, the woman - all were in jeopardy.

I did it six inches by eight inches. Then keyed the little drawing and transferred it to a board I acquired that was six feet by eight feet. And doing it and looking at it filled me with powerful if undifferentiated emotion such as I had thought I could never experience - and then I colored the enlarged version, and the colors took over - the color. (And I did it again in oil some years later when I had more technical skills.)

For a time I put color aside. I went back to anatomy and figure drawing and it did not often get me into such a huge place as in the moment color appeared. But it sometimes did. I worried that the uneducated drawings I made when I started - children around a tree in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, human looking cars parked in the winding roads of the union houses across Eighth Avenue, cheerful and dangerous hanging traffic lights, and wooden water towers against the sky (not unlike one that had been in my childhood line of sight way back in Connecticut).

I thought that with anatomy and further knowledge I was in danger of getting farther away rather than closer. Yet I had to try. And sometimes I got very close. And I knew I might need the anatomical knowledge to get closer.

In recent nights, now 20 years later, rather than reading I have been looking at pictures of skeletons. And because de thigh bone does not attach to de hip bone without muscles and ligaments, I am looking at pictures of muscles too. As on that plaster replica of the old Houdon statue that I got out of a storage area behind the hot water boiler last week.

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