Sketchbook Writing: Francisco Goya’s Giant

Francisco Goya, “Giant”, aquatint , 1818

A new habit I’ve started in the studio is leaving my sketchbook open on my desk so I can easily jot down random notes as I work. One aspect I’ve been writing about is descriptions of these figures in the crayon drawings; how large they are, how they would walk and move, and how I want to portray them. I’ve been thinking about the figures as monumentally large in both size and weight. They move slowly and quietly, drift aimlessly through the water, and continually emerge and recede into space and fog. I see them as a contradiction as well; despite their monumental weight, they’re atmospheric, ghost-like and ethereal. In terms of character, they’re mysterious and withdrawn, make you curious about what they’re doing, and are also a little intimidating as well. I’ve found that being able to verbally describe the qualities of these figures helps me articulate them visually.

One image I keep revisiting is Goya’s print “Giant” from 1818. This print is an aquatint plate in which the plate has been etched to a full black. The highlights are then brought forward by scraping into the plate with a scraper, like a “fake mezzotint”. Although Goya’s topic is quite different than mine, there’s a mystery and quiet power and presence to this figure which is immense, delicate, and subtle at the same time.

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