Saturday, 10 March 2012

Assignment 5 Option 2 - Research Hockney + Degas

David Hockney - Coloured pencil

For the previous section on line drawing I had a look at Hockney's drawings and since then I've come across him constantly. Because of the current exhibition there's been a couple of programmes and items in magazines. This has mainly focused on his recent landscapes so it's interesting to have a look at his drawings.

He strikes me as an artist that not afraid to experiment and try out different media. He appears to draw constantly, always sketching everywhere he goes and now he takes his iPad with him for that. His coloured pencil drawings are beautiful. I love the way he focuses on one area and leaves the rest apparently unfinished. He often uses the medium to hint at the colour of the clothes, only colouring the shaded area of the fabric rather than the whole area, which is an interesting technique and gives the effect of bleaching the drawing out.

The drawings remind me of photos and film where everything is black and white except one figure which has colour (I think Schindlers List has the little girl in the red coat). It seems to focus the eye on the subject and ignores the rest which the artist thought unimportant.

I've always found coloured pencil a bit difficult to work with so its interesting to see how he has used this medium in such an effective way. The brief mentions how he demonstrated the wonderfully expressive potential of this medium and I would certainly agree. The drawings seem to communicate the attitude of the sitters. They all seem thoughtful and distant, he's managed to show that they are all in another world.

Hockney - Man-Ray 1973 coloured pencil 17x14in
Hockney - Joe McDonald 1975 coloured pencil 17x13in
Hockney - Jacques De Bascher De Beaumarchais

Hockney - John St Clair coloured pencil 17x14in
Hockney - My Father, Paris Jan 74 crayon 25x19in


Degas was a reluctant Impressionism, preferring to call himself a Realist or independent.  He was famous for his paintings and pastels of horses and dancers.

Degas - The Bath - Woman Supporting her Back pastel on paper 1887
Degas - After the Bath, Woman Drying her Nape 1898 62 × 65 cm

Degas - Woman in the Bath, pastel 1886 70x70cm
One of the things I notice about Degas pastels is the texture of his marks. He lays down the pastels with directional hatching strokes appearing to lay these layers on top of each other which allows the underneath layer to shine through. The vibrancy of the colours is also noticeable. He doesn't seem to blend too much (at least the top layer) and this keeps the colours bright and fresh.

Degas was apparently very experimental with his media. He would sometimes use more than one medium in the same piece e.g. oils and pastels or pastels over charcoal. Analysis has found that he would mix the pastels with a liquid fixative sometimes to the point that they formed a paste.

Often his choice of colours is interesting. In "After the Bath, Woman Drying her Nape" he has used contrasting colours as highlights, for instance, the shadows on her back and hair have green areas on top of reddish orange. Interestingly I've subsequently found out that his eyes were beginning to deteriorate when he worked on this drawing so possibly at this stage he was using brighter colours because of his sight.

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