Wanderings of an artist in the trenches.

Limiting the Lines


 
 
Readers of this blog will recall that I was invited to Germany to work on the Black.Light project with several international artists. You can read the account of that trip here:
 
 
While there I got to meet Danijel Zezelj whose work I have loved for quite awhile, and watch him at work with his rollers and acrylic paint. I was struggling with a way to approach the work I was to do for that project because I didn’t want to just do what I normally do.
 
Upon arriving there I immediately fell into just doing pen and ink drawings. And they were fine, but they weren’t killing me. They didn’t capture the raw and brutal nature of the genocide. I wanted something much more simple and blunt. I had been working with putty knives at home and asked if they would take me to get a set.
 
That was a transformative decision for me. Because I couldn’t noodle with a putty knife the work took on a more direct and edgy feel. They were so much more suggestive than the pen drawings I was doing. I felt very good at that point about where I was headed. I felt that I had found something that almost felt tribal, like cave paintings.

George Pratt – 15 black lines, 8 white

Watching Danijel work with the rollers was mesmerizing and took me back to printmaking days and my work with monotypes. Upon returning home I got my rollers from my print studio and began attacking the final Black.Light pieces with both rollers and putty knives. I was very happy with the results. Danijel is certainly the master of the rollers and I’m so appreciative that he turned me onto them again. They’re the perfect counterpoint to detail.

George Pratt – 15 black lines with roller

I teach an Advanced Representational Drawing class and got the students messing with the rollers and the putty knives. I was very apprehensive the first time out with them on those tools. I really thought it was going to turn into a cluster. But they clicked right into it and were quickly doing some of what I believe are their best drawings. It forces them to simplify.

The problem I ran into the other day was that the students all seemed to be falling into a mode where they were trying to do basically greyscale paintings. As a result the drawings suffered. They weren’t really “seeing” what was in front of them because they were too busy trying to blend everything and take it to some place more like painting. Lots of fixing going on rather than trusting in the marks the were making. Lots of blending and softening and what they would end up with was a tepid, sort of lackadaisical drawing that wasn’t really a drawing and wasn’t really a painting.

George Pratt – 15 black lines with roller

So I made them stop and squeeze out only black acrylic. I told them they could use fifteen lines with only a roller and black. Each mark could be something like five to eight inches long, depending on how long the paint would hold out, which wasn’t long. Lots of groans. Haha! But they dug in.

George Pratt – 15 black lines with roller


George Pratt – 15 black lines and 5 white lines with roller

The pose ended up being something like eight- to ten minutes. One student, as you’ll see, kept count of the strokes on the side of his drawings.

Student Mark O. working in class


George Pratt

 

Student Sam W. working in class.


Student Brooke S. working in class.

 

George Pratt – 15 black lines and 5 white lines with roller

This was a wakeup call for the students. Suddenly each mark had to mean something. They had to be frugal and zero in on the best use of each mark. What they couldn’t do was to cover up their mistakes or, to quote Scott Hampton, polish turds.

George Pratt – 15 black lines and 5 white lines with roller

They were the best drawings they’d done. Everyone was surprised (except me).

Alex Pitthan’s 15 black lines


Mark Orzechowski’s 15 lines.


Mark Orzechowski


Mark Orzechowski


Rachel Ciaramella


Gabriel Gomez


Gabriel Gomez

So we did that for awhile, then I told them they could have fifteen strokes with black and five strokes with white, using only a roller. Now they were excited and dove right in. Again, beautiful drawings resulted. No longer were they meandering around being noncommittal. The lines they were putting down were to the point and essential. 

Mark Orzechowski

Today we did it all again, but they could have eight white lines instead of just five.

It will now be interesting to see where this newfound confidence leads them in other media.

Advertisements

8 responses

  1. Hi George, you’re a good man, thanks for sharing with us your knowledge and experiments on painting. I miss the lessons you shared on your old blog. Greetings from Coruña

    September 13, 2014 at 7:27 AM

  2. Aleksandar,
    Thanks for the kind words. Coruña is so beautiful! I really enjoyed my time there. Everyone was incredibly nice and enthusiastic.

    I’ve been digging through the old blog and will be adding some of the older content onto here.

    Thanks for following the blog! I’ve also been adding new content to my website and hope you’ll stop by there as well. If you don’t mind spreading the word that would be great!

    September 13, 2014 at 11:06 AM

  3. Eli

    These are stunning George!

    September 14, 2014 at 10:40 PM

    • Thanks, Eli! Wish you were here to dig in on the drawing. Know things are going to be great for you in Rhode Island, though!

      September 14, 2014 at 10:48 PM

  4. Alberto

    Great entry and beautiful pieces. Just inspired me to bust out my rollers/putty knifes and try. Especially when I’ve been having “the want” for simplification on my work and having trouble achieving it. Thank you for this.

    September 15, 2014 at 2:33 PM

  5. took you long enough to get to this place dude 🙂

    November 22, 2014 at 6:15 PM

  6. Brilliant work as always, and what a fantastic exercise for you students! I’m jealous.
    Rachel.C’s piece is excellent, love it.

    June 2, 2015 at 8:24 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s