Art 1 – Due Nov 25 – Chuck Close “breaking it down into pieces”


In his career as a painter, Chuck Close has used the grid method as a formal structure in his work. In his early years as a photo-realist, Close hid the grid with paint. In his later work, the grid becomes an essential part of his paintings.

1. Choose one of Close’s paintings (you’ll find a gallery at  Comment on the significance of his technique using the grid system.

2. In his words, Close says he “builds experiences for the viewer.” What is your personal response to his work?

In your sketchbook, do a 1 hour drawing of something of your choice. Begin with a grid that will remain in your design. Color is optional.


26 responses »

  1. Using the grid technique lets us break down the photo we are trying to convert into a piece of art and it allows us to focus on and pinpoint certain areas of the photo. The grid technique makes it so we don’t fret over the big picture but rather help us take it one step at a time. I see this especially in his painting Phil. When Close says that he “builds experience for the viewer” i think he is talking about how you can start by looking at the smallest square and build your way from square to square until you get the whole piece of art. He is essentially building your “experience” with the squares. I like his work and I think it is really cool that he doesn’t “wheel” back and look at his paintings. He seems to just go with and he knows what he wants to do. His style is very catchy and is fun to look at because it requires more than a quick glance to appreciate it.

  2. In Chuck Close’s “Self Portrait II,” his face seems like its being viewed from underwater. The slight distortions caused by the grid technique seem natural, making the portrait almost more real. The colors are soothing, friendly; it is a human face. I personally love the portrait, and he appealed wonderfully to at least one individual of his audiences. It is quite the experience and he is quite the artist.

  3. By using the grid technique in the painting Phil it helped Close convey the emotion in the face and eyes of the person, by having the individual circles and lines within the grid create the features and the expression, not just letting lines and shading be the only things to convey the emotion. I think Chuck Close’s work is interesting and cool, because it lets me focus in on the individual squares of the grid or un focus and look at the whole face. I find it amazing that he creates the painting without “wheeling” back to get a look at how the face is coming along as a whole.

  4. Using the grid system helps the artist break down the piece and make the final art work detailed, complete, and proportional.
    I personally think, that his work is really inspiring and unique the way he does the square things.

  5. The use of the grid in Close’s painting “Self Portrait” is a very bold statement. In this amazing work, as with all of his, you can study the up-close shapes of the grid, or you can step back and see the picture as a whole. But I feel that in this one piece, he uses the grid in a very bold way and makes it easier to study the squares.
    I think one of the most amazing things about Close’s work is that he says he learns from experience and we can tell from the difference of his paintings now versus his older paintings. I feel that it is something really amazing when you can say that you learn from your mistakes and from experience because that is what everyone does and i think it is really great that at such a high place in art Close still thinks that.

  6. The use of the grid technique adds many different dimensions and levels to his work. For example the slight warpedness it adds to the portraits demonstrates humanities imperfections. Also taking something as daunting as the human form and breaking it up into tiny bite sized squares comments on the many parts of a hole on the construction of art. It almost seems like each individual square is an abstract piece of art which when looked from afar creates the illusion of a human face. This is also gestures towards the importance of perspective. I think the bold use of abstract squares to form his pieces of art creates an aura of warpedness which just adds more layers than just a regular face.
    I think it was really interesting that many critics say that his work after his disability hindered his movement was some of the best pieces of his career which really goes to show you nothing’s over till it’s over. Most people would have thought his art career was over but you the human ability to do anything is really only hindered by the limit of one’s imagination and Chuck Close really demonstrates this.

  7. 1. Choose one of Close’s paintings (you’ll find a gallery at Comment on the significance of his technique using the grid system.
    In the painting Phil, the use of the grid is essential and in a way captures the eccentricities of the subject (Who I presume is Philip Glass) The grid is necassary for this painting, otherwise it would just be another somewhat abstract looking painting. The grid helps us to see how similar we are yet how dissimilar at the same time which gives Closes work a very universal feel, especially with his other works of portraits, some of the things the people doing are universal to us as humans. His work makes me see people on a different level, and I feel like it allows insight on a bit of a more personal level that I don’t think a photograph can get unless it is very, very well composed. Overall I really like his work.

  8. Chuck Close’s work is amazing. I really like how he made the analogy with the composer. He made it relate to something we could visualize to help us understand. It’s amazing how he doesn’t move back to observe his painting and just goes with it knowing how it will turn out yet he is still amazed that he can do that showing that he appreciates the work.
    My favorite piece of Close’s is “Self Portrait II” 2010, oil on canvas, 36” x 30”. I’m not a huge fan of paints but his work is fantastic. It doesn’t have to all physically link but there is still this flow in his work. The colors blend and the lines relate to one another, creating an image.
    I think using the grid technique always him to do the blending and mixing, it also makes it possible for his not to step back to observe his work.
    Close says he “builds experiences for the viewer.” I think he is showing us that there are many ways to observe and create works of art. He is confident in how he doesn’t “wheel back.” I like how each individual grid is not the same as any other grid but in the end they make a beautiful painting.

  9. I pick “Self-Portrait II, 2010. Oil on canvas, 36″ x 30″ (91.4 cm x 76.2 cm). ” This one in a whole picture viewing is like a man’s face, but it’s formed by small pieces some warmer colors combination formed skin, some darker colors formed the background and the glass side. “builds experience for the viewer” I think maybe it means this style can let viewers viewing the whole picture first then viewing the small pieces or small pieces first then the whole picture. The grid is the main point of this style drawing, from clues to form the whole.

  10. I chose the picture “Phil” because it really shows the technique in which he uses the different shapes and colors to create one piece of work overall. When he says “builds experiences for the viewer” my personal response to his work is that he uses what has in was we cant replicate.

  11. The grid system gives Close an easy way to focus on little details. Because there are little blocks he can focus on each individual one. By focusing on each block there is a sense that it is not one art piece, but rather it is an art piece formed by multiple other works of art. Each block feels like a new painting, with color, and shape, and texture. “The expieriences for the viewer” mean that he wants people to see art as he now sees it. In the video he talks about how he has face blindness and how he had to change how he did art. He wants us to change, or at least be open to changing how we look at art.

  12. looking at his painting titled “Phil”, Its easy to see that his grid system allows him to do a multitude of things. The first being that he can show how an individual square, something that may seem innocuous, can have a large effect on the overall painting. If one of the squares wasnt painted “properly” we’d be able to tell in a heart beat. The grid also adds texture to the painting as a whole. The criss-cross lines draw our eyes all over. One of the biggest advantages is the grid gives him a way to focus on one small part of the painting. While the overall effect is derived from the painting as a whole, the ability to look in close at individual squares is important for the creative process. Im not a huge fan of his work. I cant put my finger on why. Most of it doesn’t appeal to me. I dont totally see the value that is achieved in his design. However, i do like a few of his paintings.

  13. In Paul IV Close uses the grid in such a way that it creates the interesting effect of having an outline of the face that is at once hazy and sharply defined. my response to his artwork is negative. i find his portraits to be eerie and unsettling, a feeling accentuated by their large scale.

  14. In Self Portrait II Close uses brightly colored diamonds to create an image which really conveys the image of Close’s face. The swatches of color seem to be offset which is created by the way he works the grid into the image. each diamond is its own picture but they come together in a fuzzy sort of way that lets your imagination complete the face. I agree with Close’s description of what he does because he doesn’t just paint a picture for the viewer, he causes us to complete the picture with our own memories of what faces really look like and create our own unique experience.

  15. I really like Close’s painting Lucas. It is one of his hyper realism portraits. I think his hyper realism paintings really show the power of using a grid. The portraits are symmetric and contain realistic creases and wrinkles which really bring life to the portraits.

    Close’s paintings amaze me. I especially like the hyper realism ones. The the newer ones are interesting, but some things in the hyper realistic art I find very striking. When I saw his realistic portraits up close (haha ;)) I was stunned by the realistic textures of the skin and hair. Close did a very good painting hair. Beards and mustaches looked wiry and thick which was very intriguing. I really enjoyed looking at single hairs which looked like hairs alone and didn’t just form hair by making a mass on top of a head. Close’s newer more abstract art work is still amazing, and I like it too. It’s interesting how he can plan out each square with different shapes and colors, but over all make a face.

  16. In Emma, a picture of a baby, Close uses his grid to assign each spot several bright colors, making it obvious that he is using a grid, but also making a distinct picture, distinct meaning that it obviously forms something bigger not that the image is sharp, because the lines a rather fuzzy. The grid makes it so while the colors look good together, for the most part they don not entirely blend together. I really enjoy his work, both the incredible hyperrealism and the more bright versions where the grid is left in. I like how you can tell that there is a story behind each face, which is sort of what I think he means when he says he “builds experiences for the viewer,”

  17. I really like Chuck’s style. His grid gives me the feeling that he is taking something broken and distorted and finding meaning in it. I believe that everyone who views this work is forced to do the same. Although they may all see “Phil’s” face, its not really his face – its just a collection of spots put together to find meaning.

  18. I find Chuck’s 8th piece in the gallery to be very interesting. Instead of using defined lines and shapes he simply employs circles of color to create his finished work. This creates and almost blurred effect that melts details forcing the observer to focus on the more prominent contours of the face. The colored dots also leaves pinpoints of blank canvas in between each other that as the lightest colors grab the viewers focus if they try to look closely. The overall affect of the piece is that when it is perceived in peripheral vision the face appears whole. I think that Chuck definitely does build an experience for the viewer each piece evokes something new when you see it and it’s clear that a lot of though goes into the elements of every one. I personally find Chuck’s work to be often intensely complex, and vivid while fluid yet strangely geometric in nature.

  19. In paintings like the Self portrait ll, it allows the image to become both abstract and an actual person simultaneously. Each little piece of the grid is in a way it’s own painting, creating a very interesting effect. This technique also has no sharp lines when you look at the painting as a whole, and the colors instead blend together from a distance.

  20. In Cindy, Close exaggerates his technique of using a grid of bubbles to create the image of a person. This does a nice job not only of avoiding the tedium of delving into the details, but it also avoids the drawing of a perfect, “bland” person.

    In my opinion, by this, Close means that his art brings the viewer through an experience by having multiple works of art in one illustration. He mainly does this through composing all of his paintings with little bubbles, each a work of art in themselves.

  21. The way that Close uses the grid system makes it so that seeing his work up close seems to be possibly abstract and not recognizable. But when the pieces are looked at from a distance, appear to be very detailed portraits. I really enjoyed his painting “phil”. The way that he showed the detail in the hair is very interesting. His paintings are definitely an experience to whoever is looking at it. The experience also changes depending on how far away someone is from the painting.

  22. In “Self Portrait”, Chuck Close manages to maintain a high level of realism while also using the grid to make his work make even more interesting. From afar, the portrait is barely distinguishable from a photograph, but then the individual grids become more visible as one gets closer to the painting.
    I think how Chuck Close says that he builds the experience for the viewer is an accurate depiction. I personally enjoy his work much more than I do other artists, because I appreciate his realism, and it’s also very interesting how it is completely different up close than it is from afar. He “builds” the experience because he is able to control the experience of the viewer from different distances. It slowly progresses from indistinguishable dots to an incredibly realistic portrait as one steps back.

  23. I looked at a couple paintings of his of a woman. They are very expressive and I think his use of a grid helps in that. The colors are deeper than they would be had he not used the grid theme because the eye blends the colors together from each square. I like the effect of abstract, organic, rounded shapes of color within the squares. It adds, like I said, depth and is more interesting. It forces the viewer to look at the art close up and at a distance to understand its full beauty and magnificence. The mixture of different shades per square also adds a more realistic quality than usually achieved without it. I noticed this in the eyes especially where he uses not only blue but white to lend the effect of shininess and to create a more realistic iris color when viewed from far away.

  24. One of the most intriguing of Chuck Close’s works is his Self Portrait (the one of him with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth). For me, the painting is effective in producing and emotional response because of the emotion that is shown in the face itself; the work gives a certain feeling to the viewer and thus starts a conversation that almost necessitates a response from the viewer. I think Close’s use of the grid technique is what allows him to achieve this affect. By breaking the image, in this case his own face, down into pieces, he is able to capture bits of emotion that, although they may be hard to catch from the face as a whole, are integral to truly conveying the emotion of the moment.

  25. 1. In his painting, “Phil,” he used a combination of colors per grid square, so it appears as one color from a distance. As to make sure the shapes were not angular, he would incorporate a color of the shape in outside squares for balance. I believe that he adapted the grid technique well, and can incorporate the colors by using a combination of colors per grid square to make it appear as a whole image.
    2. “Building experience for the viewer” probably means understanding how he can still paint despite his paralysis, so it teaches people not to give up on something just because it is difficult, and to adapt.

  26. Choosing his painting “Lucas,” it seems Close uses a polar grid instead of a more cartesian grid. This gives the painting a somewhat hypnotic affect, and brings lots of focus to the Lucas character’s stern eye contact. It seems a bit like a mosaic, or like a crop circle, where without knowing how it might look from afar, he still manages to be spot on in the portrait, Different styles of gridding, either circular or square or even fractal, can give different effects although one is essentially still drawing the same person, in an abstractly realistic way.

    I find Close’s work to be very impressive, knowing exactly how each color and shape will appear from a distance. His work seems like a more abstract version of pointillism, although Close’s includes shapes and contours of colors, and he works with a grid. The farther you back away from his images, the more realistic they begin to appear. The colors you’d least expect to make up skin tone, like cyan, green, beige, and brown, are layered to make the texture of someone’s flesh.

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