Picasso as a Teacher

“One day I said to Pablo:  ‘Why don’t you give me a few basic notions of painting so that I can orient myself a bit in that field?’ But he only answered: ‘The time will come when you will suddenly realize that, without any help from outside, you’ve learned all you need to know.  Anything I might explain to you meanwhile would be of no earthly use to you.’” (Dominguin, 1961)

[Taken from Picasso on Art: A Selection of Views, ed. By Dore Ashton, Da Capo Press: NY, 1972, page 24]


The Details of Things

A bunch of artists that I have met via the Internet, as for instance Bénédicte Delachanal and Jana Bouc, often work in watercolor, and seeing their works online has filled me with watercolor nostalgia for some time.  So I finally dug out the old watercolor pans and, enlisting the help of the favorite objects, I did a still life.  The arrangement of objects is inspired by artist Shir Shvadron and also harks back as well to an exhibit that I saw ages ago at the Meridian House in Washington devoted to then young contemporary Netherlandish artists.  The exhibit called “Reality Revisited” included artist Jan van der Scheer whose Summer Light of 1979 appears as a color reproduction in the exhibition catalog.

Jan van der Scheer’s “Summer Light” of 1979

While I was drawing I was very aware of Shir’s work, its having been most recently in view, but the interconnectedness of images is complex, and one’s indebtedness typically reaches farther than one thinks.  As regards my rice and tea bowls, they are things I got one memorably hot summer day years ago at a Chinese grocery in DC’s Chinatown district.  And my tapestry comes from a scarf that I found at a second-hand store.

Shir Shvadron’s Still Life

Though one doesn’t always think about it, these objects were all made by anonymous artists.  A textile designer developed the beautiful patterns of the scarf and someone also painted the patterns of the bowls, patterns that reach back far into Chinese history as well as deeply into the pattern center of the visual cortex.  The history of any idea takes one down long winding and detailed paths that disappear into the foggiest past time.

All these others are teachers as surely as are the people in whose classrooms I once sat.

One thing I like about still life is the occasion it provides to peer closely into the details of things, the juxtapositions of colors, the nuances of light and shade, the linear edges that criss cross each other in intriguing ways.  Watercolor adapts well to this interest in small features for the brush only holds a little pool of color at a time.  It’s practically an invitation to perceive the things as patches, as little over-lapping veils of light.  I can be sloppy in even the smallest bits so that even the edges around the tea cup are made of innumerable little stains.

All in all, not a bad way to pass a few hours in the daylight.

UPDATE:  Shir Shvadron’s exhibit of November 2012 in Tel Aviv can seen here.