ART 1 – Ellsworth Kelly – HW due 9/23


1. Look at the following 2 articles on Ellsworth Kelly and the interview with him in the video.

2. Comment on at least one piece of advice that’s useful for you as an artist.

3.  And, comment on how his seemingly simple works actually reflect his sensitivity to form and how they are connected to emotion or expression.

In your sketchbook, do an hour of contour drawings of various individual objects (as we will do in class) or do a contour drawing of things stored in a garage, attic, or a closet.  You may use several pages for this or work in smaller frames on the page (so you can think about composition as Kelly does).


34 responses »

  1. I think that the advice just put a line down is very good because tend to over think every thing.
    The contour drawing of the plants were amazing. I thought that the non symmetrical leaves of the oak made them reflect the actual plant.

  2. Just making a simple contour drawing of what you plan to draw seems to help as we tend to look at an object and its complexities and immediately become intimidated, overthinking our approach to how we could draw something complex. Contour drawings seem to break down the object to the simplest essence of what it should look like, without losing the ability to identity the object. When we take a step back to look at our drawings it isn’t so much the detail one sees as they move out, but the outline…
    By not just seeing the outer form of an object such as a plant, we can add more bulk than necessary and overdo it… Plants being rather patterned and characteristically simple— especially those without flowers— can be easily overdone if their “veins” and shades were all taken into account. Just like how most people generally don’t draw humans with their veins or shading… Shading can put unnecessary stress on the painter and on the work… I know I’ve tried to get the shading around a person’s eyes right and I end up just making them look old or tired. Shading can sometimes take away from the effect one is trying to achieve, so one would need to be extra careful when applying shades.

  3. As an artist, you have to make a piece of art great when examined close up and far away. This is actually quite difficult, because if you concentrate on the small details of a drawing or painting or sculpture, from far away in just seems like an indistinguishable blob that you need to get closer to to really recognize the beauty. However, if you make a drawing to open and large, then there is almost nothing to see when you get closer, only collections of lines. You have to find the perfect balance for an audience to really enjoy.

    Kelly’s drawings are simplistic and reflective of how we really see things. When we look at a cup, for example, we don’t really see the designs drawn on it or the intensity of the color; we see a cup. Our basic interpretation if the world is shown through Kelly’s art.

  4. I think the most useful piece of advice he offers is that your art has a certain feeling up close and another when you’re viewing it from farther back. I think you definitely get a certain feeling from each drawing, I’m not sure exactly what it is about them but there is always a feeling coming from them, but I certainly get an emotional response from each one.

  5. I think one of the best advice he gave in the video was the piece that he said about the importance and difficulty of the second line, or brush stroke. The first is easy but the second thats the one that must follow the first must interact with it must depend on the first. This was I thought one of the most important things he said. His seemingly simple works actually represent his sensitivity especially in his geometric black and white sketches, for one because of the thought he put into it, thinking about the radius and how it fits the paper, and two how he was talking about what people get from looking at art up close and far away I think his drawings are meant to evoke different things from different physical perspectives.

  6. I think that Kelly’s best piece of advice is to just start putting down lines because I tend to over think what I want to do with my piece. By putting down lines immediately it creates a free flowing feel within the piece. I also think that Kelly’s simplistic art makes us look at the piece as whole and it reflects how we see things in real life. We dont stop to look and break down certain complexities of everyday objects.

  7. Advice for artist: When you are sure something is done, don’t add more to it.
    Kelly’s work makes there be emotion in a simple shape, but color plays a huge part.

  8. I think that one piece of good advice that he gave was that art should look good up close as well as form farther away. when his drawings of plants are so simple and made of just lines, it is better able to capture the pure essence of the shape without clogging that up with shadows and textures. this creates a more pure drawing which evokes more emotion because it is so simple and yet so clear.

  9. A good point of advice is that, as seen in the video, a work of art can be simplistic, but still convey an equal level of emotion, in comparison to a complicated work. The simple contour drawings needed no explanation, because one line was clear enough. The colors and shapes also intentionally showed contrast, and boldness.

  10. A good piece of advice that can be extrapolated from the two articles and the interview is the importance of simplicity. A minimalist line can express more to a viewer than a complex one because it implies rather than states the message trying to be conveyed by the artist. If the intention is stated, it must be paraphrased, because how can an artist summarize an emotion or event with only fact. With a simple line, the artist gives the viewer the freedom to read as deeply as they want into the piece, whereas with a complex line, everything is stated and it is much harder to imply more when so much is already there. In addition to conveying more, a simple line looks much more elegant and clean from both up close and a distance, since it implies shadow and depth, and whatever else the artist wishes to include.

    The simplistic nature of Kelly’s drawings gives more depth to one of his pieces since it leaves the viewer the option to delve as deep as they wish into the meaning and emotions that are being conveyed. The fact that he can successfully portray plants with such precision and while using so few lines displays an almost complete mastery of form, in that he can represent something with almost entirely implication, using only a few clean lines.

  11. The two pieces of advice that stand out most to me are to convey the image in as few lines as possible and to try to make the barrier between what is being observed and what is being drawn. To me these remarks seem like they should result in abstract pieces of art that, if a little imagination is applied, can be viewed as still lifes. His last comment about heaven reflects his simple needs and this is also shown in his work. His pieces, especially those depicting flowers or leaves, are plain yet exquisite. They radiate the gentle beauty of nature.

  12. I think the most important piece of advice is to know that even if your art is simple, or not perfectly detailed, it can be enjoyed by other people. The simplicity of Kelly’s art reflects his sensitivity because he can look at his contour drawings and still see the real thing that he drew and feel a connection to it.

  13. i find as an artist that the best advice is to not give up on a piece. i find it really interesting how his simple shapes can represent forms so well. his Techniques of pressing harder or softer with a penicl is really interesting.

  14. Ellsworth Kelly says that art should look as brilliant close up as it does far away. He also says when a painting feels done, don’t add on to it. Ellsworth Kelly uses distinct lines to show not only depth but a sense of emotion. His omits different parts of specifically plants to show focus on other parts of the plant. He uses a delicate approach to show the beauty of nature. He tries to show focus on everyday objects and he tries to bring out the emotion in simple items.

  15. I think that his most useful piece of advice is when he says in the interview that we should try to make drawings look different up close than they are far away. I think this means that when we are making art we should look at it from both perspectives. He shows that the simple contour drawing can be made to show more than just the object being drawn by simple changes in line thickness, darkness, and shape. These subtle changes bring out emotion in the drawings he creates.

  16. I think the most useful advice for an artist is to not give up and never be afraid something is gonna look bad. Just do it anyway. I find a really simplistic beauty in the works of Ellsworth Kelly. So much can be expressed with simplicity and I think that’s a very important message to follow not only in art but in life.

  17. As an artist Ellsworth gives many good pieces of advice, but for me the one that seemed most useful was when he talks about how something doesn’t have to be super intricate to get an emotion while just something simple can evoke that emotion maybe even add more to it.

    Like many have said, Ellsworth’s pieces seem simple but they actually show his sensitivity to form and connect to the emotion in it. He does this by not having an emotion and drawing it but finding within your drawing while doing it. He also enables his pieces to evoke something close up and then give a different feeling when you are far back.

  18. I think that the most useful advice he gives is to make the paintings equally interesting up close and far away, conveying different emotions for each view. That way, it’s almost like every piece of art has two pieces of art in it.
    His simplistic drawings show his sensitivity and mastery of form because he is only showing the viewer what is needed to successfully communicate what he wants. It seems like a challenge to have depth in a painting or drawing without any shading or other techniques like that, but he does it well. In the New York times article he says that his drawings of plants trigger memories for him, an by leaving the plants without too much detail in his drawings, it becomes possible for this to happen with other people, which is an effective way of conveying emotion.

  19. The advice that I found most helpful and relatable to was to have the art look great up-close and far away. This was really inspiring to me because it shows that to be really great you cannot be too detailed or too bold, but an equal mixture of both. Kelly’s artwork has a very exquisite sense of detail up-close, but the image also looks really amazing from far away. This is important because to be able to see the up-close detail, it needs to catch your eye from far away.
    A lot of people say that simplicity is key, and in this area, I agree. Having something that looks simple or that looks to be half done leaves room for interpretation to what the rest of it could be like. Art is all about the reaction the viewer gets from the piece. The simplicity and eye-catching designs of Kelly’s work really shows that and I think that is one of the reasons why his work is so amazing in so many people’s eyes.

  20. I really like how down-to-earth Kelly is with his art. He likes to go out into nature to draw nature and tries to depict the essence of his subjects in a simple form. I thought it was interesting that he commented on how he could never draw something as well it looked in nature itself, but he doesn’t really try. Instead, he simplifies it to lines. His teacher said that you can’t learn to draw until you learn to see, and I think he sees nature in two ways: in its complex detail and its simple form. It’s very cool that he was able to just depict one of these in his work.

  21. I think that a piece of good advice from Kelly was how to put just one line down on paper first, and keep adding to it. I like this piece of advice because I tend to get overwhelmed and sit and stare at what I am drawing for to long before I actually start. As a lot of people have said I think the simplistic nature of Kelly’s drawings are what makes them great, because the are clear and leave room for you to interpret.

  22. I think the advice that you need to make your picture look great both close up and far away is very useful. I also think his point about building off one line was useful as well.
    I really like how simple his drawing are, and the way they convey nature without copying it. I think that is a rare and useful talent, and I really admire it.

  23. A skill thats important to this is the ability to draw things highly detailed, and also have it look good when you stand back and look at the big picture. The simple feel of the art tells us that we should struggle to find meaning in the piece – this creates a lot of room for discussion!

  24. I found it useful to read about how Kelly’s depictions of “leaves, stems or blossoms” don’t hold most of their meaning in the representation; they are meant to give us insight into his mind. To view the process of transcribing from the mind to paper. This will help me to think about how viewers see this process in my art, as well.
    Kelly’s works are visually simplistic. However, the feelings that come with them are often deceptively complex. One faucet of this emotion is how he treats his work; Kelly will want to hold some seemingly worthless works very dear to him, yet throw out others.
    Overall, this relationship that he seems to have with his works inspires emotion, dedication, and intimacy, that are illustrated as emotions in his drawings.

  25. I think one of the most valuable pieces of advice he gives is on how to approach a new piece of art. I think almost everybody is afraid of, as he calls it, the white canvas: the open space, almost too full of possibilities. I find, for example, that when I write, the second or third sentence is much easier than the first. I think his advice–which is to just take it one line at a time–is very applicable both to my artistic process and to the rest of my life. I was particularly interested in Kelly’s explanation of how his work intersects with some of the more abstract art that was being created around the time time he was working (Picasso, etc). His art is extremely simple on the first pass, just a contour, but his lack of shading does not suggest a misunderstanding of the object. Instead, he uses overlapping to show depth, and his style toes the line between simplicity and representation.

  26. The video showed those pictures are drawed by simplest shapes, colors, and used some basic sketches. Those basic pure colors looks simple but give people some space to imagine. But for my own opinion, it’s better can have more lines or colors gradually changes. I can’t really feel like this drawing style, but it’s good to see.

  27. I think piece of advice that he gave that most rings true to me is the idea that pictures look differently from afar than they do up close. This idea helps us see an image or form ons several different levels as a result of the distance at which we view them. If we zoom in on a Van Gogh, we get a totally different feeling than if we were 10 feet away. I think his seemingly simple works reflect the care and mastery of his art. He choose what he wants to leave out of the drawing and yet we are still able to identify it as a cohesive expression as a posed to a jumble of lines.

  28. A piece of advice that I found helpful was allowing the drawing to be found, it helps to breakdown our self critical tendencies and filter expression less. His sensitivity to form is seen in his minimalistic style that in the absence of shading and interior detail requires drawing to pay closer attention to figure, size, and perspective. Minimalism also helps to focus the observer on what the creator was trying to convey in the artwork and gives the subject(s) more expressive potential.

  29. I thought it was interesting when he talked about how art should be interesting close up yet interesting in an entirely different way when farther away. Just like you can add all this complex detail to one part of a drawing but when you back up it blends together to create a pattern. I would like to try that in my art.

  30. I think what it said about looking at and perceiving art differently from far away and really close up.
    People sometimes focus so much on the detail of a drawing–of getting every little piece perfect–that they miss the whole point. What Kelly does that’s really cool is that he puts in the details you need but without overwhelming the viewer. His paintings are almost more honest in that way.

  31. I have a question- do we have to sketch a certain amount of time each night? My dad mentioned it, but i don’t remember you going over it in class.

    • You may choose to do your weekly sketchbook homework in one sitting. Or, you can pace yourself and break up the time throughout the week. (The goal is to spend 45 minutes to one hour per assignment.) Just remember to tally the minutes on the page. If you are doing extra drawings in your sketchbook for enjoyment, feel free to show me what you’re working on!

  32. I found it interesting how he talked about having the perspective up close and far away of the picture. The contour lines, even though there is no shading the lines depicted in the right wa can still be filled with emotions. A piece of advice for me is that as long as you depict a line in the right way you dont really have to change it in many ways.

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