Tag Archives: Drawing

Contemporary Art (3) – Douglas Kolk

Douglas Kolk, Nurse City, 2007, Collage on paper, 189.2 x 189.2cm

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Douglas Kolk, Where You Went, 2007, Collage on paper, 188 x 210.8 cm

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Douglas Kolk, Help me Nasal, 2005, Collage on paper, 97 x 81 cm

Douglas Kolk (b. 1963 Newark, New Jersey) lives and works in Boston. He seems to be preoccupied with the notions of identity and the contemporary experience of the visual/mental overload.  His collaged drawings hover somewhere between the finished artworks, huge posters and the studies torn out of a sketchbook. Although their visual impact, highly individual language and emotional/conceptual intensity (touching the level of an  intoxication) makes them the independent, strong artistic statements, the media used (paper on paper, some drawing, some painting) stress the fragility and the provisional nature of the subject.

Drawing influence and the original images from pop art, TV imaginary (commercials, cartoons), newspapers, popular stories/mythologies Kolk’s fragmented, troubled yet intimate works appear as the ‘organized anarchy’ and a ‘fructile chaos’ – the space of possibilities and becoming. The confusion, the lost innocence and the verge of a collapse constitutes the expressive negativeness of the language, yet – with the relatively generous patches of the white space left and the general impression of indeterminacy the propositions seem to ‘open up’ towards the new/different (desired?) state, which they are pioneers to.

The artist work has been shown internationally at galleries and museums including the Kunsthalle Mannheim in Germany,  and The Royal Academy in London. His work features in several prominent collections including The Falckenberg Collection and the Saatchi Gallery. He is represented by Arndt & Partner in Berlin and Zurich.

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Drawing – Workshop

Here are few general observations I made myself or heard from my teachers:

* remember that drawing is also a physical activity – engage all your body, whole arm, torso – not only your hand

* do control the pressure and speed of your tool all the time

* quality of line used is very important (generally – it’s what makes the difference between a successful and failed attempt)

* take care about the composition/layout of your drawn piece on the page – it should be visually attractive

* practice drawing not driven by any care about an outcome/results

* change your drawing hand in order to loose control

Here are few tasks you can try to fulfill:

* in order to ‘warm up’ have a generous go in the mark making; try different drawing tools and supports, explore each of it carefully – you should know exactly what your tool/support can do for you; switch freely from barely visible marks to those bold and very dark, vary approaches and scale, wet your support, texture it etc.

* objective drawing – set up few simple objects and try to draw them without any attempt of taking measurements – just like a child would do it; then get a colour pencil and draw the same still-life on top of the old drawing – this time you will try to be as precise as possible using any system of getting the proportions right, that you find useful; having finished you should be able to assess how our mind ‘sees’ three-dimensional objects (looking at the first, unmeasured drawing) – how much it simplifies and ‘rationalizes’ even the very simple things and how much we rely on the good, accurate measuring technique

* “blind drawing” – draw without looking at the page – only on the object drawn, be honest with that, try to draw quickly, in a continuous line (without removing your hand/tool from the page); then slow down and contemplate your object’s form, lines, appearance, details – follow them with your eye, let your hand follows naturally what your eye sees and mind ‘reads’; this type of a drawing is especially important to develop the habit of an intense, object-focused and free from the premature judgment drawing, since our mind is always more than ready to spot the ‘wrong’, ‘clumsy’, ‘incorrect’ etc. – not looking at the work in progress allows to be more preoccupied with what really matters – discovering the essence of the drawn piece and trying to convey it as simply and effectively as possible.

* drawing from the memory – do you remember the facade of your own house? your own bike?, the bookcase that is right behind you? (but don’t look back!) – try to draw it; I remember my own great shame when asked to draw the building of my own college, which I would see not more rarely than each day for months. I drew it with a “proper”, tinted roof while this beautiful XVIII c. great house has a … completely flat roof – in a fact, it’s invisible… I made also a dozen of less embarrassing, but still – mistakes, I spotted some silly details, I missed the obvious things… It’s really interesting how human memory works like, how weak it is and in how burning need of help it is to improve; so, draw from memory as often as possible, try to memorise what you see, then check it out by putting its contents on a sheet of paper.

* speedy drawing – here you need a stopper (or a nice, accurate sense of time) and an assistant (the more of them the better) – ask your helper/s to move around a busy set-up (in a room, on a street) – to change the position every 10, 15, 20 seconds, try to draw not only the person’s pose, but also the surroundings; that is a great exercise in developing the boldness and confidence, the free approach to drawing – there is no time to worry about anything, you just have to act, to use your natural reservoirs of expression.

* ‘surprise’ drawing – you need an assistant, and one willing to draw too (!) – blind him/her with a black cloth, find and object to draw and, not giving any direct clue what that object may be, try to instruct your partner how to draw using any code you can invent, apply (e.g. “clock” code – like “draw a line from 5 to 2 o’clock”); then swap the places between you; apart from the great fun this task is fantastic to make you (others) aware how you perceive even the simplest things, what kind of a language you have or you need to develop to convey the sense of what you are looking at.

Here we are then… Good luck!


Drawing – Introduction

Considered to function among the most intimate, personal of all arts drawing is often defined in many different ways.
Drawing appears to be an act of mark making, a product of that act, a vehicle for visual expression, a skill of seeing things as they are (copying reality), extracting an essence from a drawn object, creating fiction (eg. drawing from imagination) and many more.

What differs drawing from other means of expression (especially from painting) are materials and techniques used but also the function and purpose.

When it’s quite popular among artists, designers, architects to make preparatory sketches in a “trial and error” approach leading usually towards a finished piece; its much less recognised to produce eg. a painting as a purely introductory material made towards a drawn piece (I mean a drawing as a finished artwork).
The history of art is partially “responsible” for that. While art colleges widely recognised drawing as a “foundation of art” and a very useful exercise in eye/hand training, the products themselves remained often unsigned and were never understood as equal to paintings, sculptures or prints.

Today’s position of drawing is even worse. Discovery of photography, cinematography, mass-media and more recently multi-media made a paper-pencil based art a sort of an old-fashioned, hobbyist’s interest useful for kids, some artists (”some” because there’s quite a number of professionals dealing with drawing only marginally) and people who just don’t have a camera or computer around the corner (and they’re in a need of recording/processing something visually).
There’re art colleges (my college is one of them) where drawing as an independent subject doesn’t exist, no compulsory classes are functioning and students who finish their degree are at considerably various levels in terms of drawing.

One may ask – why to bother at all (as we, in the 21st century, have sophisticated electronic tools and processes for image making, recording etc)? Lets take a modern cityscape – Isn’t a photo of it (obviously in colour and enhanced on the Photo-shop) or digitally manipulated design (again fabulously colourful and “busy”) a more accurate account, than a B&W modest sketch?

In our times – we like an option of “an instant life” (think about instant coffee – quick, more or less the same each time, requiring no skill or knowledge to make it, an imitation of a “real” coffee); we’re stuffed with images which are just perfect (think about the National Geographic breathtaking photos); we have no understanding and/or experience of a slow, sometimes laborious and non-efficient craftsmanship (like eg. goldsmith’s or shoemaker’s craftsmanship).

That all combines towards a model-modern-man (an average man) who doesn’t even consider himself drawing (writing) not because he thinks he’s got no talent (that’s more “advanced” thinking) or that drawing is “for artists” (writing for writers). He doesn’t even consider himself drawing (writing) because he’s got no need for translating reality that surrounds him into a meaningful and insightful set of lines on a sheet of paper (an insightful set of sentences).

We draw what we want to familiarise and to understand (that’s the main purpose of children’ drawings). Rejecting drawing doesn’t mean that we understood everything, but more that we chose another mode of functioning in our world – that of simplified, defensive, focused on symbols, stereotypes and mass-images rather than on real subjects with their real nature.
This is a point when drawíng starts to shift towards its deepest meaning. Drawing as a visual voice of a particular philosophy of an individual’s life.
Philosophy of being constantly conscious, insightful, skillful enough and ready for multiple interpretations and translations of objects, settings, situations and phenomena.
This kind of drawing is a life-long challenge, understood more in terms of extracting (or looking for, researching) senses rather than simply as a technique or a product.


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