A bumpy mass

"Accounts of Willem de Kooning as a young painter working in NY have described his intense visual curiosity. While walking down the street, he would suddenly stop and stare as if transfixed at a puddle of oil on the sidewalk. This may seem eccentric until we realize that it's not really any different than stopping to gaze at a sunset. Many unlikely combinations of shape and color can trigger our pattern-sensing mode if we are open to the inspiration." -- B. Dodson

Today we analyzed the drawings of master artist Giorgio Morandi for patterns, specifically those based on value and shapes. 

During our discussion of Morandi's work, I challenged students to describe what they saw using only the language of shape, not naming objects but instead using words like; area, shape, mass or piece. We described the types of shapes observed (cracked, craggy, organic/geometric, smooth), how many and if they were big/small. We also took notice of how they interacted with the surrounding area and each other, we talked about what they appeared to be doing--pressing, surrounding, hiding, pushing, etc.

When thinking about design, it is important to shift our awareness to "pattern sensing mode" because we see the relationship between things. Responding to the visual stimulation we are sensing, helps determine how it makes us FEEL, rather than just naming objects. Expressing your observations in visual terms, such as a "dark bumpy mass sandwiched between two straight edges." instead of "three buildings with trees" gives you a subject you WANT to draw. Right?-- and this description has the potential to make a much better drawing. Summing up and simplifying your subject becomes a very natural part of learning how to respond to what you see. This takes PRACTICE! Your descriptions may feel awkward at first, it gets easier. 

Student's worked from a still life that reenacted the same repetition of shapes and directional actions to the Morandi drawing above. For example, in the Morandi drawing  (ok--here goes my description) "the diagonal movement of the large, dark pillowy mass filling the space between a group of sharp edged geometric shapes" guided the placement of these same components in the still life. Lighting from above, left created a situation where the shadows appeared to overtaking the forms, blurring the lines between object and background, such as we see in the artwork by Morandi. Seated in a semi-circle around the model stand, student's responded to different views, recording what interested them most.

The results were fascinating! Look at the final drawings, can you see how they turned into landscapes of far off places--(Italy or Switzerland anyone?) instead of a group of boxes sitting on a model stand in front of large wads of crumpled paper. 

"Good design grows out of a sense of wholeness and is expressed in the relationship of the parts rather than in the skillfulness of rendering any particular part." -- Dodson