a joyful blue — another seashell

second seashell ap 11

I’ve been in full seashell mode lately.

I like to do the same motif many times.  This is the same seashell of the same set up that I posted previously, but it’s painted on Arches oil paper — a very different surface than the earlier one which is painted on canvas panel.  And it’s larger, a 12 x 16 inch sheet, compared to the earlier one of 9 x 12 inches.  Consequently the shell is a little bigger, though still not life size.

I should do it life size too.

That would be such a different way to experience it, a more tactile way.  I can do one life size using the 12 x 16 inch paper because the shell measures about 8 x 8 1/2 in its length and height.

I left the decorations of the cloth out — for now — possibly forever. The cloth is covered with a bunches-of-wild-roses pattern.  Though I love highly decorated cloths for still life, it’s also nice to do this motif in a plainer way that is more directly evocative of sky and sea.

I painted the picture late at night and left its right side in a peculiar state of incompleteness.  Intriguing these passages of thoughts that trail away.  It looks a little abrupt.

Each iteration of the painting reveals new things about the subject.

Each individual conch shell rewards sustained contemplation.  Hopefully the paintings will also capture some of the object’s inherent magic.


many parts make one whole

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It’s like the joke about the Dalai Lama ordering a pizza: “Make me one with everything.”

The picture above is a detail of a detail.  I copied a portion of Paul Cezanne’s Chateau Noir at the National Gallery of Art.  (I posted that one recently.)  This picture is a detail of that drawing (which portrays a detail of Cezanne’s painting).

Already this post is turning into Russian nesting dolls.

Anyway.  I like looking at details of pictures (including — I don’t mind telling you — my own pictures).  And for those who want to do abstract painting, you could find motifs for the abstractions by enlarging a small bit of some representational image.

What I like about the parts, though, is the way they reiterate whatever good things are happening in the whole.  At least in a really well organized picture the parts will be doing on a smaller scale whatever the composition is doing on the large scale.  It seems to me that this is true in the works of all the great masters.

So the lesson is — actually I’m not sure what the lesson is.  Just be a great artist.  There you go.  Easy peasy.


Ruby Red: Flowers on a Red Cloth


A glass pickle jar sits atop a table covered in a rich and brilliant red cloth.  Inside, the jar is filled with a spritely array of flowers of different kinds — mostly carnations of red, yellow and pink, with a couple lilies and red daisies and in the center a lovely yellow tea rose.  The jar diffuses the stems of the flowers in a soft way, heightening the light dark abstraction of the oblique lines formed by the stems.  The glass jar also catches the light of the room in intriguing patterns of reflection.

Ruby Red: flowers on a Red Cloth  is pastel painting that measures 14 x 18 inches.

further progress on the seashell

seashell ap 12 reworking.jpg

This little turquoise seashell painting progresses bit by bit.

I have a bunch of seashells ranged on the table in a composition that extends along the length of the table.  When I began this painting, I put one of the shells in the center and I could have portrayed it alone.  There is another shell beside it, though, and I drew that one too simply because it was there.  I knew that the edge of the picture would crop part of the second shell.

Lately I’ve been painting still life that way, letting the picture extend as far as it will, letting it end wherever it ends. It alters one’s relationship to the edge. Then edges of a picture can become fascinating places to describe. I remind myself that the frame will cover about a quarter inch.  Sometimes I find I am getting caught up in little details that occur on the part of the panel ordinarily covered by the rabbet.  And I don’t want the frame covering them.  Certain of my paintings probably need to be glued to a second support so that it can be framed in a floater.

It’s a bit of an odd problem to have, or an odd fascination.  But there it is.

The contemplative nature of still life is what I love: the fact that you can find intriguing bits of vision throughout the whole set up, so that the more you look, the more you see.  I never quite know how far the image will spread — once I’ve begun putting the central things into the composition.  Some object gets cropped — it goes without saying — and what will afterwards be occurring at the edge is unknown.  I like surprises.  I like visual mysteries.