I’ve been talking about the the idea that shapes in a composition can be activated to hold each other in place. In this way, there is no background and no object, there is only the interaction of shapes on the surface of the canvas. Everything in the picture holds everything else in place. Sargy Mann. See how interconnected these shapes are? Each shape leads to the next and pushes into it, holding it in space like yogurt holds a blueberry. Intervals I’d like to add another element to consider: measurement. When I suggest we measure forms and space in my drawing classes, people get the idea that their drawings must suddenly become unerring, rigid, and void of personal expression. In truth, the process of measuring can be a rich experience that takes the artist through levels of sustained curiosity, and deepening observations. After some time, the drawing students realize the process of measuring can be an exploratory, tender, and fluid process. The experience of seeing Before I introduce Sargy Mann, I think it’s worth noting his teachers: Dick Lee, Euan Uglow, Frank Auerbach, and Anthony Eyton; all artists known for their intense experiential-based observational work. Dick Lee, Portrait of Ruth, 1960 Dick Lee was an artist who worked compulsively from life. He had an eye for tone that enabled him to tune in to minute tonal changes within his subjects. This picture may be small on your screen, but do you see the drawing that delineates the tonal shifts of form within this painting? He’s measuring. Euan Uglow’s paintings are meticulous notes of color, form, and measured coordinates. Often perfected over years, he makes no attempt to hide his process of measuring intervals, the process becoming equal to the subject itself. Frank Auerbach Frank Auerbach is known for the intense travels of his brush across the surfaces of his landscapes and faces, his notes of planes within the form eventually becoming the subject, taking the painting beyond the form and into abstraction. Anthony Eyton, Two Chairs You may remember Anthony Eyton, with his “do you see?” story about his experience of looking and re-looking, and seeing a chair for the first time. Sargy Mann Sargy Mann (1937-2015) studied observational painting in the 60’s from Dick Lee, Euan Uglow, Frank Auerbach, and Anthony Eyton. After building a career as a painter, Mann began to lose his sight, and was completely blind for the last 25 years of his painting career. Astonishingly, his work as an observational painter endowed him with enhanced abilities to see and record the experiential changes in his vision, past what most sighted people are aware of. “The idea that art is like a sort of sixth sense, that it is a unique way of accessing more and new experience of reality, not making it up but actually accessing more of this virtually infinite array of information.” – Sargy Mann For Sargy, now without clear vision to guide him, slowly learned to feel his way across the canvas, much as he would feel his way across a room, counting steps, searching, noting his location by measurements and relationships from one landmark to the next. In drawing and on the canvas, finding your way between landmarks can be called “point to point.” It’s not the most common way of drawing, but with a little practice it can open artists up to new possibilities of recording relationships of form and space. Sargy Mann implements point to point measurement when feels his way between physical landmarks across a room, or as he studies his wife’s figure with coordinate points marked with blue tac, positioned on a cylinder “model.” “If your subject is your own experience, then as long as you are having an experience, you’ve got a subject.” – Sargy Mann Please check out the videos below, showing Sargy Mann’s extraordinary observational process of measuring, and experiential painting.