Thursday, January 28, 2010

Knowing When to Stop

The Getty Museum in L.A. is showing an exhibit of Rembrandt's sketches called "Telling the Difference" . It is a study in understanding the difference between a master and his students.  Between confidence and tentative, careful attention to detail. Some are true Rembrandts, the others, works of his students. The way to discern the difference is in that very scarcity... the confidence in a single stroke to emit an emotion. That is all.

I remember my junior high art teacher scolding me for using every bit of space on the canvas.  I did not understand the whole "less is more" theory at the time, and am not sure I fully follow that lesson still.  What is intriguing to me about Rembrandt's sketches is the way he uses the blankness. The white space represents something - most often, light.

(Rembrandt's Study of Hendrickje Sleeping: The British Museum)

In this sketch of his sleeping mistress, the whole of the ink is less than the sum of her parts.  She, for all practical purposes, in Rembrandt's eyes, is mostly light:  The absence of color: beautiful space.  Space used to bother me.  Now I see space as hopeful. Possibility.  Love.  I think perhaps his love for Hendrickje made this point more poignant in his study of her in her most vulnerable state: sleep.  Look at her hair. Her gown. Her face. So much light. Blank space on the canvas.  It seems to represent the glory of his love for her in some way.  No doubt the real sunlight reflected in this way, but why not see it through his eyes.  He loves this woman. He loves that she loves him. He loves her "light".

How much light do you and I radiate to those who love us?  In my mind, I picture my loved ones, and see some light, yes.  I venture to make the claim that I will look for more "light" in them.

Painting and Drawing Secrets

No comments: