Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Kent Collector Journal & How to Draw



Marguerite Eisinger, the Editor of The Kent Collector journal kindly published my article in her new Fall/Winter 2010 issue. It's based on two posts I wrote on this blog last January as an appreciation of some of my favorite wood engravings by the 20th century American artist Rockwell Kent. If I was really organized I'd now have a spiffy link you could click that would bring up those two posts so the curious could read them. But I just raked up two tons of leaves out of my backyard and will make you go search for them yourself.

The journal is published by one of the coolest regional museums, the Plattsburgh State Art Museum in northernmost New York State. Kent lived at the end of his colorful life in the Adirondack Mountains near there and gave a large amount of work and personal effects to the Museum, making it really the Rockwell Kent Museum. Here's a link to The Kent Collector website- I urge people to subscribe.

Kent has been a wonderful teacher to me. He first came to my attention when I was 19 and just starting out as an artist. I was drawn to his wood engravings for their expressive power. Kent's secret in my opinion was his amazing drawing ability.

So much "drawing" these days consists either of passive recording of details or more often, slavishly copying a digital photograph. In both cases one can end up giving the viewer way more than they can digest. The real issue in draughtsmanship is sensing what's central to the feeling your hoping to evoke, and then ruthlessly clearing away all the incidentals that would distract your viewer. Kent was a master of this.


In the print above he shows us two lovers stretched out on the ground. When you look at their legs, all a network of intersecting diagonals, the figures seem very much separate individuals. But when you come to their arms, he arranges them to work together to create a beautiful unexpected shape- a sharp rectangle right in the center of the composition. To drive his point home look at how Kent plunges the woman's chest into shadow, leaving all the drama of the highlights on the arms and shoulders. He makes you look there and seems to say that together these two people make something new.

Always the struggle for an artist is to invent something that tells the story. Kent makes it look so easy in prints like this one. This man excites me. It feels like he reaches out to hand me a torch and urges me to go make my own new discoveries in my own studio. That's what good drawing is all about.

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