I drew the owl late last night.


In dark owl time I drew him darkly to begin thinking about his wise place under the flowers in the large still life in front of the window at twilight. These are not the colors of the picture. They are the colors of the corner of the room at that comfortable hour. For the quiet nocturnal enjoyment of drawing inky shadows, I arranged him in a mantel of blues and blacks far removed from the light and airy pictorial table under flowers.

But this drawing is for getting better acquainted with the owl, not for figuring out the specifics of the painting — which is still a plan for a painting, not an actual painting.

I took some photos of the set up, back when it existed. It’s long since been disassembled. The camera distorts all the relationships between objects so that they don’t conform at all to the large cartoon I made for the painting. But the mind distorts things, too.

And yesterday I added the window behind the flowers using the blue pastel made at twilight, added it in a pen drawing, the first version of the altered idea.

The idea of the owl in that sketch is fuzzy and scribbly. The scribble version by its incompleteness can offer suggestions of ways to go forward with the idea. Indeed that is the chief virtue of scribbles, their openness to suggestion, the ways that they reveal possible paths without insisting on any singular interpretation.

101_8736 (4)

And now it’s sunny outdoors, a lovely bright and warm spring day.

UPDATE: In response to Judith’s comment I’ve included a close up of the owl in the drawing (the ability we have now to enlarge digital photographs this way is marvelous).

101_8736 (5)

The owl is an inch high in the actual drawing. You can see if you look closely that his body was longer at one point and that I just indicated his face and the holes for the candle light in his body by a few marks then sort of scratched over the whole to make him dark. The whole concept is gestural and quick.

There’s a kind of drawing where you just record your ideas and you don’t fuss over them. Imagine how many drawings one can make in a day — when there are no worries. And if you are, nonetheless, being specific about the thoughts then the drawing still records a lot of information. Think of it as like taking notes.  It’s not a kind of drawing to submit to “critiques” (you would never invite someone to critique the notes you take at a meeting, would you?) and yet sometimes such drawings will turn out to have a delight all their own.


5 thoughts on “the wise old owl at midnight

  1. Thank you for the words about scribbles. I’m going to do more scribbling, I think. I love seeing possibilities, and you’re right. They hide in scribbles waiting for someone to see them and coax them out.

  2. I saw from your blog that you like to research things, Judith. The Italian Renaissance artists (and their admirers among artists who came after them) had names for different kinds of drawing to emphasize the ways that different kinds of drawing retrieve different kinds of information in a period before photography was even dreamed of, when artists had to solve all the puzzles of visual thinking by means of observation and imagination. Reading about the difference between abbozzo and disegno may give you ideas about how scribbling can be inventive.

    I can be very particular in “scribbling” and yet open with it — letting the evocative nature of the marks suggest qualities about the object, its relationship to the other things around it, its shape, its lightening and so forth.

    It’s the difference between an approach to drawing that is too careful (before the information is assimilated) rather than one that is exploratory and easy-going, inventive, whimsical, etc.

  3. Good things to research. I’m not familiar — yet — with abbozzo. I can relate to what your saying from a writer’s perspective. I’ve always tried to help other writers see that the creative process isn’t at work in trying to write “perfect prose” but in the act of “scribbling” words, more or less, just writing this and that, having fun with the words and seeing where the imagination might take you. You’re helping me realize that the same concepts can translate into art, and that’s a very important discovery for me to make. Now…off to find out about abbozzo!

  4. I added an addendum to the post in your honor, Judith, by enlarging the scribble owl a little and commenting on him. And I used a writing metaphor! So great minds think alike, as my mom always said …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s