Lay Figure Study for Peter’s Flibbertigibbet Knucklehead Crazy Aunt Dances to Bach on the Strand

Edward G. Nilges, “Lay Figure Study for Peter’s Crazy Flibbertigibbet Knucklehead Aunt Dances to Bach on the Strand”, 27 Nov 2011, charcoal on paper, approx. 1m*2/3 m

The wide charcoal line is like the Heisenberg model of the electron. It only approximates the actual position of the line which in fact constantly shifts under normal vision. I like your basic charcoal. It’s simple and sexy and black like coffee. It’s easy to erase but erasing it leaves wonderful shadows and your previous struggles are not wasted, for they leave a sort of nimbus behind.

The thumb of the left hand needs to be shortened a bit and again there’s that overemphasis on the hyloid bone of the foot (I think that’s its name, it connects the big toe with the heel, and is encased in a long muscle which in my case tends to spaz out after long runs in a cramp). I need an apprentice who’s better with hands than I but not one for feet since I like my foot drawings. I can do hands from life but consistently my imagined hands are crab claws, at least at first.

Hands are very expressive and come in many different varieties. My hands are big paws but Asians have small tapering hands. Peter’s Crazy Aunt’s hands are somewhere in between.

This is not a nude but a “lay figure” or schematic which shall be clothed in the final “cartoon” (line drawing for transfer to canvas).

I have a little Korean projector bought both for art and for teaching and presentation but I am jiggered if I can find its power cord, so after (1) mostly erasing the charcoal line (2) redoing the line more thinly and precisely in ink ( (and adding clothes for the poor girl), I shall poke closely spaced holes in the cartoon and then rub charcoal over the cartoon such that it will create a dot figure on the canvas.

Then you redraw the lines on the canvas.

The virtue of this ancient technique (which was used by Michelangelo and the other artists of the Renaissance and Baroque) is that during each step subtle refinements can be made. Michelangelo may have preferred his line drawing of the Libyan Sybil to the final fresco, since he did not like painting per se, and Fresco limits the painter to a narrow color range. Better to go back to pure line or pure marble, for which Michelangelo had a deep and passionate love.

I have studied this drawing carefully both directly and using Leonardo’s mirror test (in which the mirror image will reveal mistakes). It is based on my own kinesthesia and dance practice since no model could hold this pose (and no nice girl would do it nude for me). And…I have a Glenn Gouldian attitude about models: they become a sort of audience and only a real “pro” will refrain from thinking that the painting is all about her.

Whereas these figures are intended to be “abstract”. They start with me (and I have an amusing spammer who accuses me of trans-sexuality as if that’s a crime) but are intended to be universal. This is related to Adorno’s view of the concerto as the reconciliation of the individual with the collective.

I suppose that when I go to Rome next summer I shall punch in at the Sistine chapel and, along with the Mob, get a crick in my neck looking at the famous ceiling. But in the case of mega art like the Sistine chapel and la Gioconde, it’s almost as if too many yahoo eyeballs have violated these works and they are covered with the snail trails of uncomprehending stares.

Older flash photography damaged art: does a stare do the same? Probably not. But Yeats, in “The Stare’s Nest” puns (I think) on the name of a bird and the uncomprehending stare.

Which is why I like Poussin: the mob passes him by and I can look, or stare, at his work in peace. I don’t have to share him with Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

But museums are great, and art viewing should not be restricted to millionaires. We must put up with Japanese tourists in the Louvre photographing their wives in front of the Venus de Milo.

The nice thing about being an Artist is that your own flat has a nice collection of your own stuff for you to look at. Genuine original art, can’t beat that.

Commenters are welcome to point out errors in my drawing…even The Spammer, a local guy, I think, who was the moderator at a local and dysfunctional site a few years ago who hated my guts because I can write, draw, and climb mountains, and he can’t. The Spammer is always good for a laugh and when he gets tiresome I just shitcan his latest ID.

Had Glenn Gould been a painter and living today, I think, he would have revived the indirect techniques of the old Masters and used the computer, not to draw (the computer is terrible for that even with a digitizer pen) but to enhance. But he never saved older takes of his music because whereas the trace of the creation of a painting (the preliminary drawings, the cartoons, the grisaille) is appealing to the art lover, music is more demanding.

Painting is polyphonic but the final music, if musically polyphonic, is temporally the last take, a monophone. Schopenhauer, I think, thought of music as an alternate creation in a sort of Gnosticism, whereas painting tries to redeem the real world and show us how to see it.


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