Friday, February 11, 2011

Some observations on the Calmady children

I think I will take a little pause from the !00 pictures and remark briefly on the Lawrence portrait of the children I posted last night. At the snowcamp I taught last weekend I was trying to explain rhythm. I hope they got what I was trying to say.

When I posted this image I was noticing the rhythm Lawrence used in its construction. I have drawn some lines on the image below (and a little valentines heart, about which the whole constellation of lines orbits).

The arrows at the outside of the image show how the force of this whirlpool of lines turns. The lines spiral in towards the center of this swirling design in a decorative pattern that looks like a pinwheel. I want to point out that this is not a random thing that happened when he got the little tykes up on his model stand. This picture was designed as a drawing and the conniving little wretches were tweezed into the existing schematic that Lawrence had designed.

Those of us who would try to make a portrait by seating a bored model in a chair and copying their appearance will never be able to compete with the excitement that Lawrence was able to generate by going off piste. His drawing ability had to be greater than it would have if he had just "copied" the two self absorbed writhing urchins in front of him. They certainly sat for the faces, but most of this picture was concocted.

A round painting is called a "tondo" and artists have always liked to make them into a vortex. Lawrence was certainly familiar with many of the mother and child tondos done by renaissance and baroque artists of the Madonna and child. He has used the idea to propel a children' s portrait, ignoring the traditional function of the formal design motif and pressing it into service for his own use. His extensive knowledge of what other painters had done before would have been considered just part of what he needed to be a professional. But a picture like this shows why. When confronted with a problem or an idea for a painting he was able to paw through his mental inventory of the ways artists before him had exploited the same tondo shape and use that information. Handy knowledge for an artist, that.


clarkola said...

Hi-Rhythm-what's WITH that word? hmmm is design without rhythm like bread pudding without cream-
-a car without the keys-a sentence without completion-a cigar unlit- children without a wiggle?
Thanks for the valentine design lines-I MIGHT just be getting it. Kathy

Kessie said...

James Gurney recently had a post with a quote in it from Howard Pyle: "Don't paint the model. Make a picture." I think you've just given an excellent example of that.

billspaintingmn said...

Stape! I'm just saying~
. Seven discourses
. rythem
. Tondo
. pin wheel vortex
. paw through his mental inventory
. concocted
Bottom line: Handy knowledge for an artist, that!

These are confections to nibble on,
Thanks for the "box of chocolates!"

Barbara Carr said...

I always thought it was strange that the little girl's arm was coming out of the older girl's head. I still do. I guess there had to be something there, though. I always wanted my little sister to be as cute and nice as that kid. Maybe I should have "tweezed" her.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Hi there! Learning to get rhythm in a painting can take weeks. Sometimes even longer,

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes I saw that quote too.

Stapleton Kearns said...

What goes a tondo comes a roundo.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Little sisters look like they might be nice. In practice they seldom are.