While I’m painting one thing, I think ahead to other subjects. Thus while painting koi, I am often planning flowers. We visited the National Gallery yesterday where I encountered the newly cleaned Vase of Flowers by Jan Huysum in the Dutch galleries. In the American galleries we came upon Severin Roesen’s flowers. The latter is obviously indebted to the traditions of the former, and my pictures will lean fondly toward both while being very different from either of them.
The Huysum is a miracle of detail. Here and there ants wander among the petals. Everywhere you gaze, you find descriptions of things. Dew on leaves, veins, moss in the bird’s nest, striations in the colors of the flower petals. I look on those things with wonder and delight. But in my flowers I tend toward surfaces more messy and modern. I recently got four books on Bonnard, and I look at his blurs and confusing forms with a kind of longing that I find hard to explain. I am drawn to his modern sensibility.
Bonnard’s way can seem easier, but it’s not. All these masters pose challenges, and happily when I paint my own pictures, I’ll be focused once again on the idea in my head and the flowers on my own table. Thus one can enjoy the pleasures of emulation while escaping its psychological peril.
I seek an in-between place, between realism and chaos, some way station between the splendor of enumerated things that you find in Dutch paintings (and among its ardent admirers like Roesen) and the perceptual chaos of vision sifted through memory that characterizes Bonnard.
But all that lies ahead among the spring thoughts because for now I’m only dreaming and planning like the gardener with his seed catalogs. It’s winter. And I have kois to finish.