Letter to ARC

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Letter to ARC


Published before 2005

[B]eing curious about Hockney's theory, I aquired a couple of (cheap) concave mirrors, and together with a fellow student proceded to immitate Hockney's Flemish set-up during the Christmas holidays; by drawing portraits of each other. Because of the dark weather, we had to use a very bright lamp as a light source.

We found the set-up interesting but very difficult to use. Of our three shaving mirrors, only one we could use, because with the others we were unable to get a sharp picture. The one we were able to use gave such a poor image that we could only use it like a camera lucida; meaning just for a few quick references, and then proceed to draw by eye.

After a couple of days, our results got beter quite quickly, even though the operating of the mirror remained very tricky, and we never mastered it.

A week later, I did a second experiment on my own, trying to paint still-life, you know: banjo, apple, vase. Just to see how it would go.

It went down like a lead balloon! After administering one darker layer of paint, my whole projection just vanished, because the projection surface wasn't white anymore. This was probably due to my weak mirror but still I can see this presenting problems. Next to that, I had to refocus a lot, because it was impossible to get, for instance, the whole of the banjo in focus at once, and it was very tricky, not to say impossible to change focus without changing the shape of the projection on the canvas thusly making the ends no longer meet.

And that made me realise: Hockney NEVER shows how you ACTUALLY paint with a mirror or with a lens. Maybe I am just too stupid to make it work, and I haven't been trying very long due to lack of time and success, but it makes me doubt.

It also makes me wonder whether anyone else has been trying to put Hockney's theory to practise, and if they encountered similar or other difficulties. Because this seems to me the best way to find out if this works or not. I for one intend to try again the moment I get my hands on a better lens or mirror.

This is all very short and crudely written (I hope you forgive me my many spelling errors) but I just wanted to leave a note.

Piet Hoogemuts