I’ve been getting back into the studio since the Christmas break. Lots of things going on with other projects and also the dreaded DIY at home. In short I don’t feel “studio fit’ – in fact I feel quite flabby (visually too). I started with some paper work and it was a sorry tale. The days are dark , the studio is cold and I kept drifting into landscape sketches out the window -just to get something done. So I made an abrupt stop and set up an easel with some larger paper and started a copy of a Matisse drawing that I like of a nude in an armchair 1924ish. It is part of a number of similar lithographs of the same model with the same approach. Matisse had gone back to using half tones, and generally exploring atmospheric colour. The drawings are beautiful, completely captivating and I chose one I had a decent photocopy of.
I wanted to work from this drawing for a number of reasons – firstly it provided me with a ‘distance’; not being my work it meant I could just get on with it and not think about anything other than the challenge of a transcription. As I cracked on though, I was compelled to keep doing them – one became two, two three, four and so on I have now done seven and still want to work from this drawing. At times I have had a glimpse of ‘my drawing’ coming through this drawing and I want to keep on until I am content that I am drawing and not transcribing if that makes sense. I hope the approach and general level will then be taken on to other things.
I recommend this as an approach if you have been away from your work – at any time really. I know Cezanne used to swear by it (at it as well probably) and Matisse copied several works. I have done many studies of other art but I am much more tuned into a deeper motive now.
Furthermore it serves a useful, ‘dusting off the cobwebs’ exercise and does point to the need to work in demanding ways that put your stamina and concentration to the test – it provides a benchmark also for your own work. It forces you to rework consistently too. Reworking is such a challenge for an abstract painter especially if acrylic is used. Oil paint can be wiped out; Acrylic is fast drying and often becomes layered and encrusted through reworking. This is an issue I have sought to deal with over 12 years now and it will never change. How do you rework acrylic and keep it fresh?
Anyway below are a few of the least offensive versions of the Matisse drawing – I may post some more if something develops– The head intrigues me also and I have done some of that - The model has a very particular look and Matisse’s ‘personality stamp’ is also telling – his drawings are so devoid of any ‘academic’ nuance in spite of the same kind of ingredients such as the use of tone etc. The marks are more definite though they stand up as probing questions rather than being subsumed into a received pictorial language. They stake out their own territory and were essential to his development. Quite humbling really.