the map is not the territory

If I redraw the vase enough times

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I’ll get some sort of map of it inside my head. The map is not the territory, but a drawing is not quite a map either.

It is not the thing, but it contains ideas about the thing. The thing is sitting over there on the still life table.  And these, on the contrary, were some of my thoughts in linear blue scribbles.

And it’s not just the vase, but the songbird on the vase (who is companion to the owl). So, it’s complicated.


The leaves on the tree outdoors

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or the panes of glass considered individually, seen in late afternoon. This painting with a window has so many possible ways of being taken apart, with each section of the image being like a portal that one can enter.

When did my fascination with still life begin? Maybe it was in childhood when I would stare at the row of figurines that my grandmother collected that lined her front windows, row upon row of strange curiosities in her narrow little house in southeast Washington.

The owl is a big figurine and the bird on the bud vase is another feathered companion. I’m not sure why they’re in the painting. Central casting sent them here. What am I supposed to do with them?

An earlier version of the owl looks like this:

owl in watercolor

I’m going to figure out how to get the pattern across the vase, particularly along the edge. I’m going to keep drawing it until I can find a version that’s flat and right in tone and color.

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more notes to self/early stages

The color contrast in the photograph


of this watercolor in its initial stage brings a violet into the picture that isn’t actually there. I wonder if I shouldn’t put violet into the wall of actual painting. Wouldn’t violet be better, and probably truer, to the light effects at dusk? Since the room’s interior is lit with warm yellow light, it’s hard to say what would be going on around the edges of the window, whether those passages would be yellow or violet, warm or cool.

There have been a bunch of things that I’m aware I need to solve. The falling off of the table was a question from the outset, when the still life was actually assembled. I was seeing the motif from two different angles. Now I’m trying to figure out how to split the difference.  The pattern of the cloth logically follows that decision. And how is it to look down at the cloth as it falls away when the painting is hanging on the wall?

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I was also just now wondering if the painting could reflect, could be about, a state of innocence. That possibility immediately brought to mind Fra Angelico’s San Marco frescoes. But I was also just thinking about the parlor of elderly woman whose home I visited thirty years ago, the woman who lived across the street from the church. The loveliness of that room was a microcosm of a whole civilization.

It’s such a beautiful day outside. The cool weather comes inside through the open windows, giving the rooms an oceanic feeling. We could be on a great ship sailing toward some magical place. The slow pace of life, awareness of the weather outdoors, shifts of light, movement in the leaves, interior and exterior meeting at the window are all qualities I want to materialize in this still life.

The flowers on the table. The flowers patterned on the cloth. The space that extends outdoors with the tree that’s visible on the other side of the glass, and also the reflections on the glass that are like a crystalline barrier. The panes of glass at the hour were reflecting the images of things inside the room. There were so many intersections of images meeting at the window panes.

An earlier version:

flowers window