Like sky and sea the colors behind the seashell evoke memories of its ocean home.
I put my new cloth — the one I got just the other day — behind the shell, covering over the big jar and other things that sit behind the seashell in this still life set up. When I remove the cloth, the earlier set up will reappear. Meanwhile these colors bring with them ocean thoughts.
I worked fast on this little seashell until the light failed. I might do some more painting to it from imagination and memory. On the right hand side is another shell cut off by the edge. I can definitely develop it further from imagination, particularly since I drew these two shells before — in this same arrangement — before starting this painting. The shell on the right, cropped by the edge, comes too forward. But I can make it behave.
I am curious to see how much I can get down in short sessions.
Simonides of Cleos is reputed to be the first to discover that a seating pattern helps you remember things. I was using his method to remember where my koi were in the latest koi picture. I was making an idle drawing while sitting through a slightly tedious lecture and used the time to review the painting I had been working on the night prior.
Strangely enough I had quite a difficult time accounting for all the fish graphically, by remembering their shapes. And so it was the “seating pattern” at last the filled in some of the blanks. I didn’t get them all, but I got most.
I like to experiment with things. Put the objects on the table, perhaps move them around a little, but not to think about them overly much. Follow the instincts. Set the stuff down and begin. Sometimes I paint the scene fast. The painting above was done rapidly. It’s a very small painting. It’s the size of a postcard. I wanted to see how much I could convey without much fuss. The arrangement was crowded. I think the general sense of it has come through.
Looking at it now, I see how much I borrowed from Matisse without realizing. That’s the kind of influence that’s especially beneficial, when the earlier artist’s thought just seeps silently into your brain. One learns by much looking. We learn about painting from seeing other pictures. And there are so many ways of arranging things, maybe an infinite number.
For some time I have been portraying the objects on my table somewhat randomly as your eye might catch them when you walk into the room and scan the surroundings in an absent-minded way. They are composed and not composed at once. The picture is a composition. It has structure. But the things do not. They are random. The structure that the picture possesses is sleigh of hand. The objects simply are.
Why shouldn’t objects be portrayed haphazardly? Isn’t that how we encounter them? And all the spaces between the things, the strange wonderful interstices, I like to discover those spaces. I feel like I should make them as truthful as possible. I want to get the contours right whenever I can because that’s so much a part of the thing’s identity. The things have identities. Shades of Plato!
Just the top of the teapot peeks over the edge of this picture. That’s where the paper ends. It reminds you that the picture is artificial. The actual world seems not to have edges. But the picture does. So that’s where the objects stop. And the accidental contours of their abrupt conclusions can be fascinating.