Into the thick of the honey painting

Worked a little bit on the honey painting today (had icky chores that prevented my working on it a lot).  Am in that phase of looking more closely at everything, started each part of the painting as though it were a little painting in its own right.  There’s so much happening in the still life, such nuanced changes of color, subtle shadows, colors I cannot identify.  There’s such an amount of potential stuff that it’s rather mind-boggling. 

For some reason, I feel as though I forgot how to paint.  Or like I must relearn it.  Well, it’s none the less delightful for having become strange again.

The little honey pot has a bee and honey comb design on it.  Am struggling with that.  Right now the honey pot is winning, but it’s early in the fight.  Wish me luck!


Thinking small

Began another honey jar painting.  Feels like I’m beginning to paint for the first time, as though I haven’t done still life painting in eons, though I began one just a couple weeks ago.  I have many questions as I look at my little set up.  What a confusing, rich and complex cosmos a still life is.  Got so thoroughly befuddled that I had to make a second smaller painting (above), focusing on just the jar alone, and find that even just the jar has so many baffling features.  Elipses and corners and curving-away-from-you highlights …. While I figure out the small theatre stage of my complicated still life actors, I need to eat some honey.  Need something to soften the shock!

So much to look at in so small a space.  How did Chardin manage?  It’s all I can deal with to attempt painting just a few little things.

Finding your inner geometry

When you’re an artist, it’s 24/7.  Always on the job.  You think you’re just buying groceries.  No, sir.  Watch how you arrange the stuff on the conveyor belt.  Order.  Harmony.  Proportion.  Don’t you place those cans just so?

I find that when I place pictures here and there, just gettin’ stuff out of the way, that sometimes — no, often — there are these weird collusions.  Look at how the lines from one painting continue into the next, through different subjects, sizes, and despite the “accidental” placement.

Think that you’re just cleaning the house?  Oh, no!  You’re composing, I tell you!  It just goes with wearing the badge.

What does it all mean?  I have no clue. My paintings mean something to me. The accidentally deliberate confluence of composed lines and shapes means something. I could bend your ear telling you what I think my pictures mean.  But the spectator will, in any case, find his or her own meaning. The artist doesn’t own meaning — nor does the artist understand all the implications of his own pictures.

We live in a society. Ideas hitchhike in our minds like fleas on a dog and find expression through an artist’s work. We borrow or steal without realizing.  There’s always going to be a subliminal element that occurs outside conscious awareness.

It needs other people to figure out art’s meaning, an audience, spectators who sort out the full consequences of what things mean.  For that reason alone, artists should be bold in using their freedom. But before boldness one needs skill.

The grass was greener in the Middle Ages

I have sometimes done pictures that tell or suggest stories.  Yesterday I found an unfinished panel where I was beginning to paint “Spottie leaping through the forest,” an as yet unwritten, untold legend of our now departed dog Spot and his astonishing and unparalleled canine athleticism.  What prompted my mind’s eye image of Spottie’s feat, I cannot tell.  Some epiphanies just come unheralded, you know.  But I’ll bet that one influence upon me has been King Rene’s Book of Love, Le Livre du Cueur d’Amours Espris.  Its vivid colors and enchantingly depicted scenes stick to your mind like honey.  Perhaps as I feel once again its spell, I can finish the story of the Great Spot and give the world a new canine hero who is the equal of Lassie and Rin Tin Tin combined!

Dark Trees Dreamings

Arching branches and dark shadows on the ground and in the air, veiled skeins of amorphous shade.  The geometry of the topography of trees mapped out in sentinel positions, each one staking a meaning.  So many meanings planted, growing in a mind’s forest around which a wanderer in wakeful dreaming pleasantness muses upon so admirable a stand of trees significant, though of what am not quite sure.


A few years back, around the time I began this blog, I was painting honey jars.  One of the motifs I used back then has stuck in my memory, and lately I felt the urge to paint it again using the same image, but approaching it in a slightly different way.  So today I started a grisaille of a honey jar on a bright yellow plate in front of a cloth with a dark floral pattern.

How do I describe the thrill of repainting this idea?  Something about the dark flowers, their typography on this cloth that covers the table, bending the pattern of the flowers, making them almost animate.  The ways that lines appear by accident in the juxtaposition of elements.  The curves of flower shapes or the facet reflections of the honey glass, the changes in tonality in the viscous honey itself, as light passes through its depths, the bright yellow plate like a sun, like the sun that warmed the bees that made the honey that glows before night flowers.

Below is the earlier version, that whet my appetite.

Caffeine for after the late night

After having painted trees until the wee hours, I need a boost!

The surface of the tea in the cup, a smooth darkness, dark with specular highlights, a round dark and fragrant mirror, and the reflections shimmer when the surface moves each time you lift to drink.  Meditative thought-inducing dark drink.  A dark strong tea like mahogany, a strong tea for wakefulness, for resolute motion, to forestall sleep, for a bold thought, and deliberate and fruitful nostalgia.

Ah, still more green!  The landscape pervades all ….


The thin paint of the first thoughts gives way to the thick paint of further ruminations.  It’s like a different landscape.  The first one, more airy and light and chaotic.  The next stage is more vegetive.  Green, everywhere green.  I try to find as many greens as I can.

And vicariously I’m in these trees with their millions of leaves.  The clouds above, so fuffy.  The forms of clouds, their edges that dissolve.  I’m thinking I’ll go at this painting one more time.  Everything’s thick right now.  Got to let it dry.  But last night I dreamt of green trees all night until midnight, dreaming with the paint brush in hand and the sweet smell of linseed oil wafting.

It’s first manifestation was this below  — when it was positively ethereal.

Invention for its own dear sake

After the enjoyable ébauche of a painting-in-progress comes the picture that is sketchy from start to finish, l’ébauche pour l’ébauche that you make just because.  Indulgent and improvisational, the picture has one stage only, one that celebrates the present tense.  I let myself paint without thinking, experiment with no rules, complete freedom and whimsy reign.  To have an agenda or not to have an agenda, that is the question. And I ponder if for ten minutes or until the cows come home.  My choice.

To work , to rework a surface, whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to lightly glance over the whole image in the most summary and gauzy manner, and by opposing end them.  That ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.  And snap, the wish is real.

That kind of painting.  Been doing it.