Cosmic Fish

We know that the heavens are filled with living animals for the old poets tell us so.  The fish swims through the deep black currents of space among the bright stars.

And his eyes watch by starlight.

Making it Write

Write to yourself about why you paint.  Everyone wants an “artist’s statement” these days — I haven’t the foggiest idea why but evidently they just do.  Apply for anything and it asks you for an “artist’s statement” so apparently they are hot commodities!

As for me I say, “sit right down and write yourself a letter, and make believe it came from you.”  Tell yourself why you do what you do.  The left brain can explain the whole business to the right.  Those guys should stay in touch more — you know.  In fact, if you want to get really fancy, send yourself a Hallmark card — with the explanation, why you paint, all that.

What are you trying to achieve?  What do you want from your work? 

What I wanted above is to paint pomegranates. And then “I’ll be glad I got ’em.”

Hit it, Nat!

The interior of thought

You can break down the process of drawing something into components for the purpose of learning.  Many of these elements of drawing are well known even to non-artists: composition, light and shade, proportion, perspective, free-hand drawing.  Of this latter, I have long wondered in a wry way what its opposite might be, though I must acknowledge it’s a wonderfully expressive term:  free-hand, as though to marvel at the degree of control and daring that one sometimes finds in drawing. 

The well known terms can be broken further down into even more expressive nuances.  For artists, one might list things like contour drawing, cross-contours, blind contour, gesture drawing, drawings that can be corrected through erasure (pencil, chalk, etc.) and drawings that cannot be corrected (pen).  For tonality, one notes that there are many ways to create the appearance of light and dark:  hatching, cross-hatching, stippling, continuous tone, curved hatching, smudging. 

For proportion, one studies accurate, “realistic” proportion in various ways, sometimes by the use of devices such as a perspective frame, or by measuring with the hand or another kind of sighting tool or by training one’s own internalized sense of measure (again another variation on that marvelous free-hand approach — a kind of “point and shoot”).  Of course, along with proportion are various discoveries of and uses for distortion.  Moreover one uses the angle of vision to enhance the quality of dimension in objects whose forms are more easily recognized by one facade rather than another.

And so on.

However, there are entirely different ways of breaking down the process of drawing.  You can break it down in time — drawings made quickly, drawings drawn out very slowly, drawings made incrementally over days or weeks.  Drawings that are timed. 

Drawings made to understand the nature of binocular vision, or that study the texture of something attempting to evoke the sense of touch, drawings made from memory, drawings whose sole purpose is to understand one aspect of something such as a study that answers a question that maybe only the artist herself is asking.

Begin the Beguine

Beauty is addictive.  When you first glimpse aspects of it, you want it, and you begin seeking it, and the more you seek, the more you want it.

But beauty is also elusive and requires diligence if one is ever to find it.  And you find it in bits.  And you must be most alert, if you ever hope to understand what it is that you got.

It was there, it is gone, like the changing light.  Nevertheless, it’s a charming search — this hide and seek with beauty that enlarges the mind by small degrees.

A student in the school of life

If you were ever rejected from an art school you are certainly welcome here.  I was rejected from an art school too, from a very good art school and from an inferior one as well.  And, well, I just became my own art school. 

So far it’s working out just fine.

[above, copy after a Pierre Bonnard still life]

Flowers future

If you can imagine it, you can draw it.  Took me many years to realize this fundamental fact about drawing.  Much of the work of becoming an artist is caught up in learning how to “imagine it,” — in even recognizing what “imagining it” means.

I was looking at these flowers when I drew them, but the whole act of looking involves an imaginative gesture too.  The image of “what you think you see” as it organizes itself in your mind.

Flowers past

Every once in a while I do something specifically in emulation of an artist I admire, and yet often I fail afterwards to see any connection between my picture and the other artist’s picture.  In this drawing I was searching for the strange beautiful color-relationship of Bonnard, and I didn’t think I found it.  But looking at the drawing again, I discover that I did get something after all.  A start. 

The first steps of a path are not to be underestimated.  Is a beginning after all …

and beginnings are wonderful!

Beltway at Night/A fish dreaming

I drive back home at night.  Get on the highway.  There’s an astonishing number of cars on the road at night no matter what time the hour.  On the crests of hills you see the streams of cars before you.  Red lights ahead, white lights advancing, each stream a path of lights moving, opposing currents white and red.  In this darkness, I fancy I am a fish like my koi.  The road has taken me.  I am caught up in the current.  It has become a black stream of fast water whose calling caught my instinct as it caught those of the others.  I joined the throng and we hurry each along our light strewn paths.  We are fish migrating.  I am become a pupil in the school of fish.

In the school of fish, what do I learn?  What is the pattern of which I am unwittingly a part?