Art Quote du Jour

“Je n’ai, pour ma part, jamais évité l’influence des autres, j’aurais considéré cela comme une lâcheté et un manque de sincérité vis-à-vis de moi-même.”

“For my part I have never avoided the influence of others. I would have considered it cowardice and a lack of sincerity toward myself.”            — Henri Matisse

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Art Imitating Life

I bought three apples at the Giant Food store (well, actually I bought five apples, but I ate two of them).  These apples have already appeared in this blog in pictures (they were competing with the clementines, you might recall).   After comparing apples and oranges, these apples are ready to go head to head with new competitors.  They want to be famous.  Here they are in their room with the picture of their idols on the wall.

They stand before Cezanne’s famous apples of Provence.  I don’t know.  It’s hard making the real apples that nature makes and Giant sells stand up strongly against the rich pigmentary apples of imagination that Cezanne conjured when he looked at the contents of his produce basket of rural France during the 19th century.  Oh, how his old Provencal apples have such grandeur, such gravitas!  Real light reflects off mine and gravity pulls them down yet they don’t quite stack up!

When doing a “picture within a picture” of this sort, calling on the Masters, one ought to be ambitious and vie with the Big Guys.  So, I did.  I tried to do that.  I got Cezanne’s picture there (in the form of an advertisement for an exhibit at the Baltimore Museum) and I looked back and forth between it and my apples from Giant Food. 

Okay, so it’s back to the drawing board for me.  It’s hard to capture the full dignity and splendor of apples from life.  Cezanne was so clever.  But I tried!  And I’ll try some more.

Here’s the same three guys by themselves.

The Apples of my Eye

Last night it was oranges, today it was apples.  And now we can compare apples with oranges. 

I followed the same pattern as yesterday.  I drew first, then I painted.  To be more exact, I made pencil drawings, then an oil pastel drawing, then a water soluble crayon drawing, followed by the painting above.

The changes in medium dictate what you can describe and thus alter the way you think about the subject.

Each one has qualities it renders easily and qualities the medium can render only with difficulty.  And some qualities, of course, it cannot render at all — and that’s gotta really press you to think.

I don’t just think about the objects, but about each little corner of photons bunched together.  Every little “piece” of what you see can become a small composition in its own right, an object of meditation, a color or line thingy to yearn for.  A speck of color, a change from dark to light, a edge that diffuses into its surroundings ….  The world is wonderfully colored and composed.

In even a little clump of apples together.

Oh, my darling Clementine!

Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling, Clementine!

In the wake of my couple hours at the museum, I return to my still life plans with renewed enthusiasm.  I’m not sure why, but I always accept the gift of pleasure when it comes and try not to ask too many questions.  Something about copying the other guy’s still life objects (in this case figs belonging to Frans Snyders) jazzed up my experience of the colors, shapes and lines of my own set up.  I made these drawings last night — wanted to do something while that good feeling was still mentally vivid.  And I decided to approach my still life in the same way I had done at the museum:  I made some fast pencil drawings first.

Drawing the bright orange Clementines with pencil turns into a nice meditation upon tonal strength.  Without the umph of orange dazzling chroma, you have to find other means for deciding how to be emphatic.  I learned a new appreciation for nuances of dark and the wonder of figuring out where and how much gets you some magic (I’m still figuring).

I don’t really need to make the pencil drawings to do the color version, but making them helps nonetheless.  Having made the pencil version, I already know something about my subject.  We’ve already shaken hands and gotten beyond the formalities and are well on our way to the beginnings of a wonderful friendship.

(Just for the record, I didn’t actually sing the song while I was working, but it does make a clever post title.)

A change of pace

I’ve been in such a rut lately.  A friend of mine said I should reconnect with my roots and my old loves, so I went to the National Gallery of Art in Washington today.  Decided to draw still life since that’s what I’m working on in my own painting.  Found this Frans Snyders painting, Still life with Grapes and Game.  Besides the grapes and the game, it also features a tray of figs.  That’s what I drew.  You can see them on the left-hand side of the painting.

I only had two hours to look at paintings and also to make my little drawings now that Washington has upped the cost of its metered parking to new heights.  The Mint stamps only so many quarters, you know.  Anyway, before I made my oil pastel version, I drew it with pencil.

In both versions, I was not especially concerned with how Snyders painted his subject (though of course that’s a very interesting matter).  Instead, I drew the figs just as though they were real figs, putting my colors down in ways that suited my thoughts and making little attempt to describe Snyders’s thoughts and techniques.

It’s tricky being in a museum drawing this way.  So many factors enter in that people typically don’t think about in regard to art.  For instance, my left hand started going numb on me from balancing the pastel tray under my notebook.  And my purse and coat started weighing heavily on my shoulders.  (Could I be getting old?!  NO!)  Still, people ought to know that my hand was going numb while I was working and that my shoulders started to ache!  Hey, brownie points, please!

Alas, there goes my violin career.  Anyway, I feel that looking at this painting — even though I wasn’t thinking about Frans Snyders’s techniques — helped free up something in my brain as regards my own pictures.  Time will tell.  (And I’ve got to get back to the museum more often.)

The Rose of Indecision

The painting I displayed in a previous post has gotten the ax.  I turned it over and painted this quick study of a rose — with a few flower friends faintly adumbrated on the sides.  Just couldn’t get the first study going, so I ditched it.  Meanwhile, this rose is the same one I’ve drawn over and over. 

There’s even a new “study” drawing that I made this week:

And another more developed small painting:

I have stared at this plastic flower so much I think it’s beginning to feel self-conscious.

Thinking about still life again

As so often happens, I found this while looking for something else (still haven’t found the something else).  It’s a still life I did several years ago when I was first learning to use acrylic paints.  I was trying to make them work with more of a fluidity like oil.  Now that I’m doing still life again, it’s interesting to rediscover this little picture I’d forgotten I’d made.

Out of the Doldrums

I’ve been under the weather for a couple weeks.  I now have a new appreciation for that expression since my alter-ego, my car, was literally under the weather in the form of several feet of snow.  But Car and I reappear.  While I was digging my alter-ego, my car, out from the snow I caught a cold that afterwards metamorphosed into a sinus infection.  Many cups of tea, tablets of Claritin, little Aleve pills later (let me not forget also my Vick’s Vaporub and many pails of steam) I’m back.  (cough, cough)

I was high rolling through my New Year’s resolution to draw more, when last we met.  All that pittered away leaving only a shining memory.  I’m trying to rediscover that path.  Time to turn some of that drawing into painting, hence the above.

It’s not finished.  It’s nothin’ to write home about.  But I held paint brushes in my hand today and felt like a human being again.  Thank you Mother Nature for not sending us Washingtonians any more lovely snow.  Thank you pharmaceutical companies for inventing cold remedies.  Thank you snow plow drivers for clearing a path to the local drug store.  And thank you Prince Georges County Public Schools for the week of two hour delays that let me sleep late.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

What Became of Me

Usually I just write about art, but today I make an exception.  I haven’t posted anything in a while.  I was so deeply involved in my painting that I couldn’t be bothered to write on the internet, couldn’t be bothered to eat or sleep, didn’t speak to my family or bother feeding the hamsters — no, I was just a mad genius driven and compelled to push the edges of the envelope with my great, brilliant, genius work.  For those of you who are skeptical of that explanation, may I say the “hamster ate my homework”?  Hey, she was hungry!

Actually, I spent a lovely idyll being really, really close to Nature.  Indeed, I was never much more than another shovel-full away from her for — oh, just the longest time.  Well, before that — I mean, before I was shovel-close, I was crate close.  My first shovel was an orange crate.  My car as you see her pictured above was shoveled out with this finely hewn tool pictured below.  (I also used a yellow plastic wiffle-ball bat to knock the snow off those hard-to-reach places).  (Hat tip and thanks Ben for the offer of a shovel but I was able to find one in this country.  You must have ESP!)

Later, I was rescued and obtained a real shovel (not pictured).  But all this pertains to our first snow.  We were still innocent then.  All told, I hear from Washington DC’s Mayor Fenty that the region got 60 inches.  All those folks around the country who like to brag about how they deal with tough weather, all those who laugh at snow, ought to come here and find out what a real winter is like!

Sometimes it just gets to be too much.  Sometimes this happens.

Hey, I offered the guy my orange crate.  Signing off, from the Global Warming Capital of the planet, Aletha.

(Need to deal with this sinus infection now.  Ben, I’ve got Vick’s Vaporub, but I could sure use some tea. Of course, you probably already knew that!)

Art Quote du Jour

Le dessin est la probité de l’art.

Dessiner ne veut pas dire simplement reproduire des contours; le dessin ne consiste pas seulement dans le trait: le dessin c’est encore l’expression, la forme intérieure, le plan, le modelé.  Voyez ce qui reste après cela!  … Si j’avais une enseigne à mettre au-dessus ma porte, j’écrirais: Ecole de Dessin et je suis sûr que je ferais des peintres.

Drawing is the integrity of art.

Drawing does not mean simply reproducing contours.  Drawing does not reside solely in line;  drawing is also the expression, the interior form, the composition, the modeling.  Show me what’s left after that!  If I put a sign above my door, it would say Drawing School; and be sure, I would produce painters.

                                                                                                           — Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres