Shopping for ideas


I’ve been visiting the National Gallery of Art in Washington on recent weekends.  Monet’s painting of his garden has been a particular destination.  I’m painting landscapes now, and I look at Monet’s surfaces and seek answers to questions that I’m encountering in my own painting.  I have five landscapes in the works at present, each in different stages of “almost there.” Mine are small paintings, 18 x 24 inches.  Monet’s painting is quite large. His measures almost 60 x 48.  The room is so large that the painting doesn’t seem that big when you’re standing in front of it, but — wow — it is. Some sense of the scale is available by seeing it with museum visitors.


Details of Monet’s painting are visible on NGA’s website.  You can zoom into the nuances.




I remember this tree, a sugar maple that stood right outside the back door. I loved drawing it. The tree was full of romance. In 2003 hurricane Isabel damaged all the maples so badly that we had to have them cut down.  We were lucky that none of the trees completely uprooted.  None of them fell.

However the storm left them all tilting precariously. It was clear that any ordinary thunderstorm could finish them off. They had figured in paintings and drawing over the years.  These two drawings are ones I found in an old notebook. I ignored the leaves in these and fixed all my attention on the graceful trunks and branches.


And then they met their match.




I found these drawings of leaves and branches in an old notebook (the same notebook mentioned in the previous post).  I don’t know whether I drew from life or from a photo. I don’t remember a photo with an image like this, and the trees that I could have drawn from are gone now.  However at the time these drawings were made, the yard was full of sugar maples. They’re all clearly the same motif, drawn again and again.





I love the silvery character of pencil drawings.

window treatment


I was rummaging through an old notebook and found this drawing.  And I add it now to my idea(s) about a still life painting that’s in the works.  I can’t use this angle for the picture I’m planning, but I like the idea and so I note that it might work well in another, future version of the motif.

Thus it joins this drawing.


And this one.

101_8614 (2)

And joins the idea catalog for this motif below which is still just an idea in the mind so far.

101_8736 (3)

It’s a good thing I have this blog to help me keep track of this stuff.

Seeing this

bonnard fish

Someone on my twitter feed posted a marvelous painting by Pierre Bonnard.  Perusing a link further, I found this wonderful “Fish on a Dish,” above (Poisson dans un plat).  The title is catchy in English.

As soon as I saw it, it makes me want to paint.  I have a fish that I like to draw, one that I found years ago at random around the time that we first got an internet connection.  It was an image I found while looking for a fish cam, and from a pixelated photo I discovered, I have drawn many forms of that fish, one of which appears below (a detail of an acrylic painting). Many of them depart dramatically from their random photographic source.

fish detail 1 pixel

Now I am wanting to do something in pastel — something — I’m not sure what.  A picture with blues, something with squares — maybe the fish, maybe some koi.  I don’t know.

But seeing Bonnard’s picture makes me want to paint.  I don’t know how it affects you.  But for me, it’s as though he put both the sky and the sea on his kitchen table and then this fish in a dish.

me & my twin, separated by Time

NT; (c) Bradley Manor; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
NT; (c) Bradley Manor; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Her above, me below (as I was some time back).

Young woman my photo compare

I wanted a picture for a drapery study.  I needed a model, and having none I used myself and my mirror.

Then today I find Young Woman on a Terrace Giving Grapes to a Cockatoo, by Winifred Hansard Firth quite by chance.

What can I say?  Great minds think alike.


climbing the mountain

cloth study

Not only the directions of the folds, but the textures of the pencil become the subject of the picture.  I made tones with hatch marks and their directions create a kind of movement inside the details, in the lumps and folds like lichen growing between rocky ledges.  Through the different tones, a spectator can savor distinctions between one shadow layer of darkness and another.

You can enter into the music of the image.  What bass or treble are to music, light and dark are to drawing.  A drawing like this one is not made in a rush, and an observer ought not to rush either.  Linger here a while. It was a spectacle seen that captured my spirit. At the edge of the mind’s scenic overlook, standing over the chasm, feeling the breeze at the altitude, I paused.  I caught this view. I found this mountain of cloth. Lewis and Clark never surveyed it.

If the cloth was metaphorically a mountain, then in drawing it was I climbing?  And each small pencil stroke is a foot hold.  And the whole is a meditation. What Mont Ste Victoire was for Cezanne, this can be a Rockies that tumbled out of the laundry basket.

I am so far away from real mountains that I am reduced to creating my own from the materials lying about the house. And yet art can be real and imaginary in more ways than we suppose.  After all, I drew this mountain from life.

paths & their travelers

11Kuschan  OakTreeThere are as many paths in life as there are travelers, but upon each path the person taking a journey has to find a spiritual compass within himself.

Yes, a person should study assiduously!

Certainly, a serious person is very eager to learn and to see.  But the finding is certified not by outside authorities, but by the quiet sure judgment of the inward spirit.