Past and Present Tenses

I used to make small paintings in emulation of artists I admired such as this painting of a sprig of holly in a crystal mug meant for a study of the early still lifes of Van Gogh.  The lozenge pattern of the mug, which one can find analogies for in certain Van Gogh drawings, was as significant as the “green-black” of the holly leaves (a color that Van Gogh loved) or the expressionistic pointiness of the leaf’s shape.  The scale, the smallness, the spontaneity of going outdoors and collecting a sprig and painting it all of a sudden were other things that I took from this master who I wanted to understand.

Yet there’s not just emulation of a famous artist:  the holly tree grew outside our house, you could see it from the living room window.  The mug was a fixture in the kitchen cabinet, container for many a cup of hot cocoa on a winter evening.  These were ordinary items from my life at that time and signified more about my life than I ever guessed then or than I can even guess now.

Whether memory lane provides a quiet stroll through the past or a fast-paced on-ramp into the future is sometimes difficult to gauge.  This painting that I made years ago seems to chide me now for the less-than-spontaneous patterns of my current art-making.  If I go back to that, I sense that I am not really going backwards but forwards….


Sometimes your friends’ blogs are the things that really set your mind spinning.

The way you muse about the meaning of the word “medium” is quite evocative.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard the meaning of medium in art expressed more aptly.  The choice of materials shapes an image so much more than most people think.  A medium can make certain effects very difficult to accomplish or it can make their acquisition smoother.  Sometimes that difficulty is exactly what one needs, too, for the sake of a kind of invention.  Equally much sometimes the ease with which certain media help a picture is like a God-sent blessing.  And whether it is easy or difficult — in either case — the medium poses limits around which art has to accept its confinement.  A picture is not the thing, but a parallel world to real things.  A picture is about thoughts about things.  Sometimes it’s like an echo cardiogram, a picture of how the heart responded to waves reflected against its surfaces.

Your autoportrait is very striking, uses its medium in a brilliant way.  And yet it conceals as much as reveals.  The walls a medium builds are as interesting as its windows and doors.

This is the comment I left at Benedicte’s blog today after reading what she said about the way that a medium in art is a bridge.  I was wondering what I could post at my blog, and after writing this at Ben’s blog I realized — “that’s it!  there’s an idea.”

Her comment just prompted all this hand waving and “gotta say something” from me.  Like the little kid at school, I find myself wiggling in the seat, hand shot straight up, “ooh, ooh, I know!”  Sometimes your friends make you feel positively brilliant!  One of the umteen reasons to extoll the wonders of friendship.

New and Old Worlds

The garden I walk through this Columbus Day morning is Cezanne’s Vase de Fleurs.  Its corridors and hedgerows, its flowering trelis and mossy banks, and fragrant shadows provide my autumn refuge.

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue, and from the outshirts of a city named to commemorate his oceanic leap into the unknown, I write near the District of Columbia.  I wander paths planted and pruned by nineteenth century French transplanted Cezanne on this day of Our Lord, October Tenth, Two Thousand Eleven in the U.S.A.

Just me and my handy dandy ball point pen.  Five hundred and nineteen years later, bringing various fellows named Paul along for the ride since “time is not linear.”

In the Garden

I spent the morning today and yesterday drawing in the conifer garden.  After so much rain, days and days of rain, it was wonderful to sit in the sun and to observe the sun.  Today felt like spring, so beautiful and mild.

I made a bunch of drawings.

After drawing I went back to my studio and did some fast paintings based upon the drawing.

It feels like the warm season should be beginning, not ending.  That’s how persuasive the sun was today.  But it won’t last long.  And I’m trying to get outdoors in front of the motif while I can.

We will of course have plenty of sunny days ahead — but not warm ones.  And my little fingers will get frozen, and all my landscapes will look like this little grisaille I did.


These flowers aren’t shy

These flowers, unlike the ones I mentioned in my previous post, are not shy.  Moreover they comprise another “junk painting” that I’m doing.  And junk paintings are definitely not shy.  This picture appears over top a canvas that I painted and rapidly learned to hate.  The subject of the underpainting was totally different. But the materials were swell —  oil primed linen on sturdy stretchers.  So I turned the thing sideways and discovered that it became the perfect format for the development of a junk painting based upon a beloved junk drawing:  a marriage made in heaven, surely.

I love my junk drawing.  So far the junk painting looks different from its source, stiffer though bolder; and perhaps it will strike out its own path, yet it’s near enough to the junk drawing to have me feeling giddy and light-hearted about wielding the paint brush.  You really have to set your sights on delight sometimes.  Seriousness is important, but we cannot live in that place all the time.

Meanwhile the source for both the junk painting-in-progress and the junk drawing holds some sway over the process.

They each carry memories of this drawing.  And this drawing in turn was based upon another painting of the same subject.  I am incorrigibly addicted to redoing the same motifs …