Below are excerpts from Françoise Mouly’s interview with artist Christoph Niemann.
I became obsessed with drawing trees when I was a teen-ager. I took the same approach as I did when learning to draw the human body—trying to understand the structure, the weight, the proportions. But I always got lost in the details, and the results didn’t look convincing. Trees are much too complex to follow rules; each is unique, especially in the summer, and I’ve made my peace with that.
I do keep looking to see how the masters solved trees. (I recommend Matisse, Félix Vallotton, and Wayne Thiebaud.) But I admit the most important lesson came from watching the TV host Bob Ross: if you want to draw trees, you have to loosen up and be in a good mood.
… I try to find a sweet spot, where an image that’s technically an abstract composition of shape and color is somehow legible to a viewer. The recognition doesn’t flow so much from deciphering clues as it does from tapping into unconscious visual memory. This process is hard to get right, harder to pull off than traditional representation or conceptual drawing. But I constantly show my work around and ask a single question: What do you see?
(Françoise Mouly, “Christoph Niemann’s ‘I’ve Got It,’” http://www.newyorker.com, 7-26-21)
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