Crit Quad #4: Hiratsuka Niki

Ballerina No. 4

Hiratsuka Niki
“Ballerina No. 4”, conte crayon on paper

“Inspired by Edgar Degas’ work, I chose to explore the theme of the “backstage ballerina” in this piece. The dancer is depicted in the midst of a warm up stretch. Wholly unaware of being viewed, and engrossed in an inner world, the subject unintentionally reveals components of her private self. In not attempting to showcase her beauty she embodies more of herself within this intimate moment of self-contemplation. This paradoxically brings to light a form of beauty which cannot be witnessed onstage.”

Casey Roonan, Teaching Assistant
Casey Roonan, Illustrator & Cartoonist
“This is a very elegant piece in a few ways.”
Mentioned: John Singer Sargent, Wally Wood, Bernie Wrightson, Edgar Degas

Annie Irwin, Teaching Assistant
Annie Irwin, Weaver, Textile Artist, Painter
“The way the conte crayon is applied to the surface has different weights to it, you’ve managed to accomplish a range of value.”
Mentioned: Seurat

Alex Rowe, Teaching Assistant
Alex Rowe, Book Illustrator
“In just a few simple marks you’ve captured the darkest shadow, the light, the reflected light, the light hitting right on the forearm, that is absolutely beautiful.”
Mentioned:  Coles Phillips

Clara Lieu, Visual Artist & Adjunct Professor at RISD
Clara Lieu, Fine Artist & Adjunct Professor at RISD
“What I don’t see in the drawing is your opinion. What is your view of ballet?  How do you see ballet?”
Mentioned: Misty Copeland, A Life in Motion

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A free moment

Emerge No. 5, detail

The large figure drawings have been photographed and posted on my website, the prints and photographs are at the framer, and my studio is set up and ready to go for Waltham Mills Open Studios this weekend.  For the first time in months I don’t have any pressing work that needs to be done immediately. I’m taking some time this morning to breathe momentarily before the wave of installations, opening receptions, and gallery talks begins next month.

My advice column “Ask the Art Professor” has been on hiatus for the past two months while I prepared for my exhibitions.  Now that the exhibition work is complete, I’m going to work on getting the column up and running again. I have missed working on the column, so it will be nice to get back to writing.

Emerge No. 2, detail

4 weeks

Studio View

I have 4 weeks left until I install my exhibition at Simmons College, and there is still so much that needs to be done before then.  It looks like I really will be working up until the last minute.

Over the past week, I’ve been working on adjusting several of the large figure drawings, mostly scraping away at the etching ink areas with an x-acto knife. I’ve been trying to get the figures to become more transparent, and to soften the transitions in the tonal areas so that they are more gradual.

One aspect that has come up in the scraping process is that for some reason, areas that are scraped with the x-acto knife have a slightly different color than the etching ink areas.  In some ways, this introduces a third color into the images.  The etching ink is very brown, the lithographic crayon is a fairly straightforward black, while the scraped areas verge on looking blue by comparison. The issue is that when I scraped one area of the drawing, that color difference really stood out a lot against the rest of the drawing. I ended up scraping significantly more than I initially planned on, in order to more evenly distribute the scraped areas throughout the entire drawing.  This way, the color change from the scraping process won’t appear to be isolated to one area.


Studio View

Today I finished the last areas that needed etching ink, which means I really am on the verge of being finished with these drawings for my November exhibition. From here on, I don’t anticipate any major changes in the composition of these drawings.  I’ll focus mostly on slight adjustments in all of the drawings to try to balance the dynamics between the five drawings. Mostly I will spend time scraping away at the etching ink areas with the x-acto knife.  There are many passages throughout all five drawings that are too heavy and lack the transparency that I’m looking to achieve.

Studio View


Studio View

Although I am actively working in the studio on these large figure drawings, the logistics of my November solo exhibition at the Trustman Gallery are starting to need more attention. I spent most of the morning shooting photographs of the three figure drawings I’ve finished so far, and I have to get started on a new artist statement for this show. I already have an artist statement that is an overview of “Falling“, but this series of large figure drawings really warrants a new statement since it’s much more specific than the previous works in this series.

Within just a few weeks of working, I’ve already seen a learning curve in these figure drawings.  My marks with the etching ink have loosened up a lot recently, and the consequence is the the figure drawing on the left in the image below feels too controlled and stiff right now.  That drawing is nowhere near finished, but I’m really going to have to make some major changes to get the composition more dynamic and lively.

Studio View

Good momentum

Studio View

I’ve gained some really good momentum with these figure drawings.  Just a few weeks ago I was dreading working on these drawings, but I’ve made enough progress lately that working on the drawings has become a very satisfying experience. A huge part of this is the fact that my schedule allows for significant time in the studio four days a week. I am almost finished with the etching ink sections of the drawings, which means I am close to completing the work I need for my November solo exhibitions. This is great news, because it means I don’t have to stress anymore about meeting the November deadline. Knowing that the majority of the hard work is behind me,  I can now work at a less frantic pace.

Studio View


In progress

Last night I created the digital image above so I could look at all 5 figure drawings together as a group.  My studio doesn’t have enough wall space for me to hang all 5 drawings together, so this digital image allows me to critique the drawings as a group. The final stage of this series will be tweaking each drawing in response to the others in order to create the dynamics I’m looking to achieve in the series overall.

When I started this series of drawings, I conceived the images as a sequence. The idea was that the first image was extremely dark and dense, packed with anguished figures. As the progression moved forward in the drawings, the anguished figures would start to diminish, become more ghost-like, until they almost disappeared altogether. Simultaneously, the single standing figure in the center of the composition would begin to emerge more with every image, becoming more solid and concrete as the sequence went along.

At first I put the 5 drawings together in a digital image in this linear sequence that I described above. However, seeing the digital image of the 5 drawings together got me questioning whether this sequence was truly representative of my intentions. These drawings are meant to represent my treatment and recovery from depression, but the more that I think about it, the process has been anything but linear. You don’t start out depressed, and then get incrementally better every day through treatment.  The process is much more complicated than that.  Even with treatment, your mood still fluctuates.  The depression comes and goes; sometimes it’s barely there, while other times it comes back full force. As a reaction to this thinking, I’ve decided to instead to mix up the images, so that the moods leap and change with every drawing.

Studio View

Studio View