I just learned that my pastel “Pickle Jar of Flowers” has been selected for inclusion in the upcoming “Mark” exhibit at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia.
Here’s how the gallery describes the exhibit:
Pencil marks, painting strokes, woodcuts, or a dynamic editorial eye are all marks artists use to create their works. Mark-making has been associated with conventional pen, pencil, and paper, but artists make marks on ceramics, plates, fabric, and film, with tools ranging from sticks to scrapers to pixels. Artists can also be marked with memories, conditions, or experiences that shape how their artwork is made. Specific tools, techniques, and the artist’s physicality are embedded in every work of art. This exhibit will show the viewer how the artist’s mark can be the most important element in transforming the ‘blank canvas’ into an image. Artists are also encouraged to provide a brief statement about their ‘mark’. The curator is Charles Jean-Pierre.
The exhibit will be on view from September 5th through October 1st with a reception taking place on Thursday September 14th from 6:30-9:30 pm.
A print of the painting is available for purchase here:
The earliest depictions of flowers dates back to the Old Kingdom (~2500 BCE) and the earliest evidence of the collecting of flowers in bouquets is demonstrated in the archeological finds of ancient vases. It’s a motif that’s been around a long time in art. And it’s still going strong.
I painted this 16 x 20 inch bouquet yesterday using acrylic paints, a medium that I haven’t used in a long time. Taking it up again is a blast. I love it.
So you should walk like an Egyptian, think like an Egyptian and paint flowers like an Egyptian. You can even listen to the song while you’re painting. Ay oh whey oh.
The drawing that I chronicle here continues to gain more stuff. I say “more moth,” but it’s really more leaves — though aspects of the moth evolves as well. I see the edges of the moth in relation to the leaves, and it’s necessary to get the leaves in there so that everything can be altered later as necessary. You can’t know what you want to change until it’s there to see.
This 32 x 24 inch drawing is preparatory for a painting. The painting is larger and includes another element not present in this study. I have a second more careful preparatory drawing that’s in the works as well. These are the rehearsals.
A polyphemus moth in real life is large, easily 4 inches across. This moth, of course, is much larger — though not as large as Mothra. And it won’t be transporting any Japanese girls anywhere. Nor is it likely to fight Godzilla — or King Kong — or anybody else. It’s a peaceful moth. The leaves in the picture are metaphors, and I wish I could tell you what they stand for metaphorically — I really wish I could. But I haven’t a clue.
Sometimes the artist is the last to know. I just paint what I’m supposed to paint. It was my idea. But my own brain is very hush-hush and “need to know” about the topic. The conscious me who writes this blog doesn’t possess a high enough security clearance to be granted access to the Top Secret information …. so there you go.
Once all the leaf stuff is in this version of the picture, I can start moving leaves around. It is as self-help guru Brian Tracy wrote, “anything worth doing well is worth doing badly at first.” Not that I judge my moth and its leaves as bad. Quite the contrary, I like them. But a rehearsal might go really well too. It’s still a rehearsal.
I need my practice moths so that my more deliberate moth can sail through its pictorial night and accomplish its symbolical purposes. And if I do it right, who knows? My brain might even tell me what it all means.
I have been wondering about these leaves. Clearly the scale of the leaves and the scale of the moth are at odds with each other. But I felt from the outset that the leaves should be that way — that they should fracture the surface. And my intuition told me it should be those leaves, too, because the color is right — even though the color is false because I artificially altered the colors of the photograph and now I don’t even remember what kinds of leaves they were.
But the clearest sign I have that the leaves are the right leaves is that parts of the most recent dream comes back while I draw. I don’t recall the dream exactly, but moments of it come into thought where I seem to see the images in peripheral vision. Then the memories scatter as dreams often do.
The dream tone is there. The emotion functions like a rope that you can use to pull yourself back into the outer margins of the dream even though, of course, you’re wide awake.
So if these leaves can evoke the dream tone, then something about them must be right. They don’t have any logic. These leaves have nothing to do with this kind of moth — not in real life. But in terms of some kind of symbolism their convergence makes sense. I’m going to go with that. A picture can have a logic all its own.
I want it to have logic. I want it to cohere. But it has to happen on its proper terms. I don’t feel that I choose those conditions. Somehow I found them and I just recorded them.
I’m drawing the moth today — preparations for a painting that’s in the works. But my thoughts keep returning to this landscape painting above that I began perhaps two years ago and which I return to from time to time — and which I need to finish fairly soon.
It will have a lattice across the middle to represent the chain link fence. At long last it will have many other minor additions of dot or color.
Something about drawing the veins of the leaves reminds me of the small passages of the garden painting and of the ways that I seem to re-enter the garden whenever I work on it — as though the flowers were still there, as though the blueberries were still being prepared for planting, as though time were standing still back one morning years ago and the shaded leaves still bent under the weight of the dew.
One seems to have a sense of the future, but you can’t really know what the future will be. The future one imagines is not the future that arrives. And the past that you relive is not the same as the past that occurred. The present — even the present shifts — even as you live inside it.
Van Gogh was such a wonderful writer as well as being a great artist. If you rummage through his letters even at random, you always find something remarkable. So it is that I find this passage today:
The poor soil of Drenthe is the same, only the black earth is even blacker — like soot — not a lilac black like the furrows, and melancholically overgrown with eternally rotting heather and peat. I see that everywhere — the chance effects on that infinite background: in the peat bogs the sod huts, in the fertile areas, really primitive hulks of farmhouses and sheepfolds with low, very low walls, and huge mossy roofs. Oaks around them. When one travels for hours and hours through the region, one feels as if there’s actually nothing but that infinite earth, that mould of wheat or heather, that infinite sky. Horses, people seem as small as fleas then. One feels nothing any more, however big it may be in itself, one only knows that there is land and sky.
For Van Gogh on that day it was his being in an enormous prospect outdoors, among infinite seeming fields. For me it is the confined corner of my studio where I find another sort of infinity — for everywhere I look I see some small thing that opens large with details and beauty. And everywhere I look the things seem imbued with ideas. Nature has filled the room with thoughts and the things are poems.
I put flowers into the bouquet last week. I think it has enough flowers now. I put flowers into the decoration behind the bouquet too. I worked some on every inch of the painting making little alterations in this and that.
Now everything is in the painting, but everything still needs tweaking. This large still life — it measures 48 x 36 inches, is “resting” while the paint dries. And I’m working on something else in the interim. Then it will get its tweaking. And then …
When you need flowers, remember that you can find reproductions of my pictures on Fine Art America. (Got to plug my own site — this is an advertisement!)
I have put many of the flower pictures there, some koi, some landscapes. And there’ll be more coming.
So if you need something red, please think of me. And when you need flowers. And koi. And so on. Think of me!
The last time I bought flowers I decided to draw them with oil pastel. It’s the easiest medium for me to use — very direct — just grab a sheet of paper, open the box, begin.
I made this drawing and the next on Strathmore 400 series 18 x 24 inch notebook sheets. That makes the flowers approximately life size. Drawing same size provides an interesting sensation as well — you can feel very connected to the thing when you draw it life size.
Now I find these drawings become helpful when I need flowers for a flower painting. More and more I find myself doing some of the flower pictures from composites. And when I need individual flowers to put into a painting, I can turn to these drawings.
That fact, in turn, makes me want to draw more flowers — definitely a virtuous circle ….
Different painting on the easel today. Yesterday’s painting was a large still life. I put paint on nearly every square inch of its 48 x 36 inch surface. Yesterday’s paint surface is tacky so while that one dries, I take up this smaller painting. I like switching from one painting to another. It keeps my thoughts lively.
I’m working from drawings, but rather than use the actual drawings I find it more convenient to use my computer —
And there are cheerful things in the studio to look at whenever I look up from my work.
But here’s the guest of honor. The painting is in a middle phase. Lots of stuff is already there, but everything needs to be gussied up.
So, that’s my day.