Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How I became Rembrandt's Youth:

Last night, chastised by my own blogging, I drew. The results were so so. Slightly burnt by that humiliation (perhaps art's finest tool) I decided that while I'm sorting out things for the next stage of You'll Always Come Back, we'll take a look here at some drawings from the past.

The convergence of drawing and blogging have something in common. Both are a bit like keeping a journal. There's potential for sharing an intimate, and uniquely private act with others. Most drawings are intimate by nature. A painting can have an impact from across a room, it can blaze on a museum wall, but a small drawing only comes to life in your hand. I enjoy showing others what I draw, as long as the work passes my quality control, but for the most part I make them to train my hand and eye, and as a way of seeing what cannot otherwise be seen.

In the training department, I'm pretty old school - Chinese old school. Once I decided, in my teens, to devote myself to learning to draw, I began to follow the recommendations of the ancient Chinese, who believed that the aspiring artist should choose the old master whose work was most inspiring, and assiduously copy those works until their own personality and method emerged from the work. I wasn't quite willing to put off drawing from life that long, but I did begin to make my own versions of the drawings by the artists that I admired the most.

Yesterday, when I was looking through the flat file, I happened on this quill pen copy of a Rembrandt etching, done in 1980, when I was 20. Rembrandt rarely portrayed male nudes ~ and that, for me, (being a favorite subject) increased the intrigue of this etching. Most, if not all, of the other examples of the unclothed, or semi-unclothed, male in his work are images of Christ on the cross. I did make some changes from the etching - my version is much longer and leaner than the youth that Rembrandt had as a model. Since this was just a little before I found my first male model, I made the legs more like what I was familiar with - my own. In fact, everything about the model was changed slightly, so that this is actually another self-portrait - filtered through a pre-existing framework. That method would become very important in later work, where quotations, or, as Larry Rinder pointed out, "sampling" - would become an intrinsic part of the visual language I work with.

Before I did the drawing, I tinted the paper with faint watercolor washes, cerulean blue and raw sienna. That was a method that I was playing around with at the time, and decided to try out in combination with Rembrandt's etching.


Cathy said...

Beautiful! The effect of the watercolor wash is lovely.

Dan Dutton said...

Thanks! I'm all excited about showing some of these very small drawings on the blog - ones small enough to fit on my scanner bed. This format is really a nice way to look at drawings & I have a lot of small ones accumulated over the years that I've never shown to anyone. So here goes the online drawing exhibition of small works on paper!

Cathy said...

I had never thought about your point that drawings are more intimate than paintings.

You're very good at drawing hands and hair.

Dan Dutton said...

Thanks! - but I'm not so sure about hands! For every one that turns out well, there are a bunch that look clunky to me. "The hands speak." I have a thing about hands - to me they speak about character. I'm probably wrong, but sometimes I judge a person by their hands - there are certain shapes of fingers and fingernails that I just don't trust! THOSE kinds never appear in my drawings, not even on monsters. Now vanity speaks; I like mine.