FIN 110 Unit 1

September 17, 2020

Frank Auerbach (American), Head of Catherine Lampert VI

(Note to self: while the text indicates he is American, the biographical material I find about him online indicates he was born in Berlin and works out of Great Britain.)

I’ve selected this image by Frank Auerbach, Head of Catherine Lampert VI, 1979-80, as my “favourite” image from the textbook Drawing Essentials: A Complete Guide to Drawing. Found on p. 183 of the text, this 30 3/8 x 23 inch drawing is apparently representative of Auerbach’s style, described as “highly expressive and nontradtional (sic) portrait drawings”; these words in part capture why I like the work.

According to the National Portrait Gallery website, Catherine Lampert is an art historian, and a frequent sitter for Auerbach. Auerbach studied under Bomberg, who “emphasised the need to evoke the sensed experience of another human being – their weight, mass, position and presence – above and beyond the imperative to describe a subject’s literal appearance”.

I’m drawn to art that is nontraditional and that as a result demands my participation in meaning-making. I’m also drawn to expressive figurative art, and this drawing does not disappoint. A variety of differently toned and sized lines are used (angular, broken, implied, structural) to create a face that although recognizable as a face and that although as a drawing it is “stable” and unchanging, is experienced as unstable and mutable. I like this because I experience personal identify (both my own and that of others) as mutable, unfixable, evolving, and often circling back on itself. I see this mutability as a positive attribute of being human.

The notes beneath the drawing tell us that Auerbach’s sitters pose for him over “many years”, even up to 100 sittings, and that he draws repeatedly, erasing, reworking. His process results in a portrait that reflects both the physical and psychological mutability of the subject over those multiple sittings. This result is something I admire, something I like to look at, experience.

September 24, 2020


We were to do three blind contour drawings and three gesture drawings of an object, a portrait, and a hand. The blind contour drawings were to be timed at 10 minutes and the gesture drawings at 2 – 3 minutes.

I was not able to get to 10 minutes in any of my contour drawings. I found it extremely difficult, as I kept losing track of what I had covered and not covered, and was afraid of creating a huge tangled mess of lines. In general, my contour drawings lasted three to four minutes. although the one posted in this blog timed at five minutes.

I chose to draw a set of Dr. Dre headphones that were lying on the desk in front of me, a portrait of a friend, and my own left hand. I did at least two versions of each of these, as I have never really drawn before, and the feel of the pencil in my hand and on the paper was very strange. I also thought that my lines would look uncertain and naive, and I was self-conscious about that.

For the blind contour drawings, I held my pencil (4B woodless, provided in kit) in the usual way, as I would hold it to write; for the gesture drawings, I held the same 4B pencil as demonstrated by Linda in class, with my fingers beneath the pencil, my thumb providing stability on top. Holding the pencil this way was freeing, as I had less control and didn’t have to take as much responsibility for the outcome. And even that observation was interesting. But I was surprised and also grateful to learn that way to hold a pencil for gesture drawing.

In general, I preferred the experience of the gesture drawings, although I did like the outcome of the second blind contour portrait drawing. I was more relaxed while gesture drawing, less concerned with the outcome. While blind contour drawing, I was extremely tense and focused on trying to get the drawing exercise to last ten minutes.

I enjoyed drawing the portrait and the hand; I really did not enjoy drawing the object at all.

I learned that I can’t use both sides of the page for drawing, as the drawing shows through the other side.