Thursday, May 24, 2012

Party Hat

After finishing a large complex painting like Blackjack Players, I usually go to a smaller, simpler composition, and this time went to a place I've been thinking about for a while, party hats:

Party Hat
6 1/2" x 5"     oil on linen     2012
Private Collection, New York

I'm now about to start a slightly larger painting (7" x 8") on the same theme; a composition involving four people in various odd hats. The initial sketch, below on the left, was made two years ago and has been floating around my drawing table ever since. I can't remember what inspired the idea -- was probably dreamt up while doodling -- but have always liked it. The drawing on the right is the final drawing, finished this afternoon.

left: initial sketch, ca. 4" x 4 1/2"  ink on paper, 6 July 2010
right: final drawing, 7" x 8" pencil on graph paper, 23 - 24 May 2012

I never wear a hat, but they can be very excellent in a painting: creating interesting abstract elements in a composition and allowing bright notes of color to enliven figures, singly or in lines and crowds.

Rogier van der Weyden utilized head wear to perfection in his masterpiece, Portrait of a Lady at the National Gallery of Art; the painting is brilliant in its fundamental abstract qualities. His work has been a major influence on me, and taught me early on that all great paintings, representational or not, are always founded on a strong abstract base.

Portrait of a Lady
ca. 13" x 10"    oil on panel     1460
Rogier van der Weyden
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


  1. Don't forget the rather excellent large black hat that Giovanni Arnolfini is wearing in the previous post!

  2. Dear Andrew,

    I love the final sketch and am particular struck by this woman's rather striking party hat. A witty hat fit for a queen, full of idiosyncratic whimsy.

    It seems she merely plays the fool but is wise enough to avoid being seen as foolish. Her hat is an indulgence which serves to afford her an emtional interlude from the more serious business of living (surviving?).

    For just as Shakespeare's fools she too strikes me as wise and no fool at all. The Fool knows that the only true madness is to recognise the world as rational.




"There is more power in telling little than in telling all."
- Mark Rothko

“The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meanings are unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.”
- Magritte

"Now, the idea is to get everything right -- it's not just color or form or space or line -- it's everything all at once."
- Richard Diebenkorn

“What I am seeking is not the real and not the unreal but rather the unconscious,
the mystery of the instinctive in the human race.”
- Amedeo Modigliani