Pontormo, Descent from the Cross We’re doing a fun series of sketches in “Abstracting the Image” on Thursdays. Each week we’re taking a masterwork and exploring it with approaches inspired by contemporary abstract painters. The purpose of this exercise is to be able to lean on, and learn from the composition of the masterwork, while exploring a variety of ways to wonder within it, and make new marks. This is a way to get us off of the impulse to copy a “perfect” image (whether it’s a masterwork or our own photograph), while still benefiting from the structure. It gives us a place to start, and a direction to start walking. Done properly, this exercise would require 6′ canvases and many months, but as an experiment we’re shortening that down to quick two minute sketches using whatever art supplies we have on hand. Below are a few of my own sketches, done in class. I gave myself an additional challenge of using Procreate, a digital painting app on my iPad. It’s not perfect – for instance the drawing below would have best been done with carbon paper. Digitally, I could have hunted down some horizontal flip option, but within all my “it could be better if…” sorts of thoughts, there is something effectively freeing and highly productive about a 2 minute time limit. Pontormo, after Dorothea Rockburne’s “Drawing Which Makes Itself” in which a piece of carbon paper was used to create a positive and negative image (below) As I sketched the composition, I discovered qualities of the lines within it, and how they feed the composition. For instance, each line leads somewhere. It’s a lyrical piece. Lines are not just there to express the boundaries of objects, these lines function as pathways, taking us through the composition. In the style of Bryce Marden After a few sketches, I also noticed how Jesus and Mary formed a continuation of a shape together, a broad diagonal oval with tension as it’s pulled apart. In the style of Margaret Neill These sketches certainly aren’t perfect. I’d do each again in a slightly different way, but they were enjoyable little notes and explorations of things I found in the moment. The composition still had more to give and I’d love to revisit. Take a look and see what you see. In the style of Richard TuttleIn the style of Mondrian (early)In the style of MatisseIn the style of Margaret NeillIn the style of KandinskyIn the style of Ellsworth KellyIn the style of GregoIn the style of Donald JuddIn the style of Cy TwomblyIn the style of Bryce MardenIn the style of Cy TwomblyIn the style of Mondrian (Late) Ugh. It’s impossible to do a Mondrian quickly! Clearly that man thought about every quarter inch and weighted color for ages. I can’t even pretend to fake it in two minutes. After these “notes,” students are invited to find something they found interesting and explore it more. Perhaps they enjoyed drawing in a certain style, or wanted to apply a similar pattern approach to one of their own images. Once again, these are just notes – thoughts for further exploration. These sketches were mine, and there were excellent contributions from other people in the class. I’ll share some tomorrow. If this looks interesting, you are welcome to jump into the next section of Abstracting the Image, starting next week. Click here to learn more.