Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Blot Drawings of Alexander Cozens


Eighteenth century British landscape painter Alexander Cozens promoted a novel technique for generating compositions. He called them "blot drawings" and their purpose was to unlock the imagination by suggesting random shapes and forms.



Cozens described a blot as a "production of chance with a small degree of design." 

It wasn't a completely new idea. Chinese artists had used similar methods for centuries, and Leonardo da Vinci had suggested in his notebooks that artists might find ideas for compositions in wood grain or stains on the wall.


Cozens' student Henry Angelo, recalled that he:
"dashed out upon several pieces of paper a series of accidental smudges and blots in black, brown, and grey, which being floated on, he impressed again upon other paper, and by the exercise of his fertile imagination, and a certain degree of ingenious coaxing, converted into romantic rocks, woods, towers, steeples, cottages, rivers, fields, and waterfalls. Blue and grey blots formed the mountains, clouds, and skies'. An improvement on this plan was to splash the bottoms of earthenware plates with these blots, and to stamp impressions therefrom on sheets of damped paper."

Cozens published a description of the method in his pamphlet: "A New Method of Assisting the Invention in Drawing Original Compositions of Landscape" (1785-6). 

Cozens' ideas later inspired the Surrealists and Abstract Expressionists to develop techniques such as automatism, where freely-created abstract designs were generated by random or unconscious processes.

Wikipedia on Alexander Cozens

11 comments:

A Colonel of Truth said...

What came first the chicken or the egg? Cozens or Rorschach? Cozens. Was he egg or chicken? Matters not.

jeff jordan said...

Heading for decalcomania…...

Charley Parker said...

Interesting to compare to the watercolor drops technique of Arthur Melville: http://linesandcolors.com/2015/10/11/arthur-melville/

Rich said...

...that's the complete contrary of Norman Rockwell's careful, mentally-thoroughly- applied and planned out lawyers of...ehhhrr... layers of paint IMHO;-)

Jean At Home said...

And of course we've all done a version of seeing this way practically all our lives as we look at clouds and see images that morph even as we gaze at them.

Rich said...

...yea!
I don't fly often; but last time looking out from the window while approaching Crete Island, lingering, there was a left-over cloud bank from a past thunderstorm.

In the morning light, erect, lonely, there stood out the Statue of Liberty.
In my view. Had I arrived five minutes later/earlier....it probably would have morphed into...

Imagine

David J Teter said...

I have been doing something similar lately. Yes, it is a good way to unlock our imaginations. Sometimes we develop habits that we don't necessarily see in our own work and working various ways can help overcome them. It also makes the simple pleasure of drawing more fertile and fun, no pressure to produce 'something'.

Allen Garns said...

When I was at Art Center, Dan McCaw had us take a sheet of Arches and some India Ink and make all kind of strokes, marks and spatters all over it. Then take a framing/cropping device and move all around it and find interesting compositions. I remember it bding pretty effective. I had forgotten about that until now.

gyrusdentus said...

sounds like a great idea for people not having studied composition.

Roberto said...

I recently attended a very interesting and quite beautiful exhibition of abstract paintings produced from coffee-grounds/stains, by Avi Roth, a local artist here in Altadena, California. Mr.Roth starts with his coffee-graph images and then tints and manipulates them digitally, adding color and graphic elements to produce his mythological images. Abstract painting may not be everybody’s ‘cup-of-tea’, but I found his work/exhibition to be quite impressive.

http://www.coffeegraph.com/gallery/

http://www.coffeegraph.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/roth.pdf

I have an on-going series of abstract paintings that begin with this hap-hazard ‘Automatistic’ painting approach, into which I introduce geometric and graphic elements with stencils and contact-printing, similar to Angelo’s description of Cozen’s work. This is a great way to ‘warm up’ to a painting session, or to ‘wind down’ after a session and release some of that psychic-energy in a creative and playful way. -RQ

http://www.artandsoulproductions.com/quantum-foam-series.html

Jhhl said...

When I was living in Vienna (almost 40 years ago..), I visited an artist named Kurt Regschek, who was kind of in the second wave of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, and a friend of the recently deceased Ernst Fuchs. Regschek kept a jar of pencil shavings near his drawing desk. For some of his work, he'd dump it on the paper and swish it around, clean up, and afterwards build the drawing around that. It was a way to get to dream based images for him, images that came from him unconsciously. Yeah, Vienna.

Here is a gallery of drawings I think he made this way.