I chanced upon an early BBC Four programme about the English painter Maggi Hambling, born in 1945, an artist I know little about. Making their Mark: Six Artists on Drawing documented Hambling’s approach to drawing. Figure drawing from life is a vital part of her daily routine. ‘Being yourself fully present before this bit of truth, something will happen.’
Drawing is trying to discover the truth at that moment. She talks of marks and not lines, being made as if for the first time. She uses a chunky stick of graphite. She works at great speed controlling the graphite through her eyes, using sensual touch to reveal the truth of the subject.
She feels that the process of making art is as Giacometti said, ‘like a blind man groping in darkness.’ She feels she must ‘battle on’ with the occasional ‘gifts from God’.
She follows the same rituals every day. ‘Unaccountably, perhaps for half an hour, something will go right, she has no idea how or why.’
Hambling is a strong, focused and dedicated artist. Watching this film has made me realise just how hard it is to make art and how I should not be quite so hard on myself, for not succeeding with every attempt.
By contrast, I saw the documentary of the American fashion icon Iris Apfel, born in 1921. She has Brooklyn stamped right through her, flamboyant and utterly confident in her taste. She uses her body as a canvas for her vast collection of clothes and jewellery, which, to the untrained eye, she appears to wear all at once.
This film is an intimate portrait of her life, her love of fashion and her husband Carl, who died at the age of 100, shortly after the film was made. Revered by the fashionista, she is a living monument to individuality, carving a unique and colourful niche.