Since the Bazille show is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, I’m getting ready to study several of the beautiful flower paintings featured in the exhibit. It’s great good fortune for me that these works are visiting now because doing large flower compositions has been one of my ambitions for a long time. I knew of the early Impressionist flower compositions from books but I haven’t been able to see any of the actual paintings until now.
Above is a flower painting I did many years ago. And below is Bazille’s grande machine of flowers currently in the exhibit.
And here they are side by side (magic of the internet):
The curving forms of the boughs in the tree canopy are so magnificent. How I would love to get in sync with that arboreal architecture. I imitate the loops and curvy forms. They make material the gladness of the light and the visual noise of summer. The riot of colors, the density of growing things, the layers upon layers of intervening leafage wherever you look, light loving leaves that fill the spaces between you and the horizon.
I am summer’s biggest fan.
When I see details like this I discover that I’m more of an abstract artist than I realize. But I love the visual incident of passages like this one, this detail of the painting Distant Oak.
I rarely — almost never — paint with acrylics now. I’m an oil painter. But I recall I did love the ways you could put layers over top each other quickly — and could with the addition of some white paint — recreate the bottom layer again and thus play rather easily with transparencies and texture.
This bit of abstraction appears on the lower left hand side of the painting.
I seem to be preprogrammed to make certain kinds of compositions. I particularly like ones that radiate in different directions like the spokes of a wheel. It’s a feature of my own mind’s topography that I wouldn’t know except for seeing it afterwards in art. It’s one of the reasons for painting — to paint not only the outer landscape, but the inner one too.
The comparison is more apparent when Distant Oak is turned upside down.
What do you learn about yourself by the things you do? What does your own mind’s architecture look like? And what is your brain trying to tell you?!
Sometimes you have to listen to yourself!
When I want to get myself to do something, I write about it a little. I have a bunch of notebooks that I keep — journals — with writing in them — leftover habit from English major days. Sometimes I just think in ink — “what if I did X ?”
One of the things I thought about was that I should make more little sketches — incoherent little sketches that are to drawing what making lists in notebooks are to writing. Now I am much quicker to give thoughts a visual shape even when I have no motif in front of me.
Recently I made a little sketch of a still life.
I don’t know if I even realized that it’s a sketch of the ruby red still life. But next thing I knew the thought that I should make a painting of the pastel was firmly rooted in my brain, and I was sifting through the stacks of stuff looking for a canvas panel of the right size.
Sometimes the reaching up is beautiful in itself. That’s why I made the landscape vertical, to strive toward that reaching for the sky that plants do. (We should all be a little more like plants from time to time.)
And in this detail of Perfect Summer Day the orientation I chose is a vertical part to echo the vertical whole.
I painted the seashell and bottle together because I like the shapes of each. That’s why I bought the bottle (another of the thrift store hauls) and why I collect the seashells. I love their shapes and colors. Looking at their surfaces fascinates me. I like the color blue. I like the folds in a cloth. I like the random things that end up being the edges of the painting when you paint without a plan.
This is a little picture — only 9 x 12 inches — painted on Arches oil paper, which is a wonderful surface, enjoyable for the artist.
I began doing still lifes in a random way, choosing the object I wanted particularly to portray and letting the rest of the picture arrange itself according to the dimensions of the format, and now I love the randomness of it. The edges become a new area of exploration.
Some people climb mountains or dream astronaut dreams — I explore the edges of the painting — far more sedentary, much safer physically, but still wonderful — I assure you!
How does one express this love of the edges? Or of the spaces between things? Do you believe me when I tell you that they are marvelous territories?! And while I rhapsodize the edges, do not suppose that I oppose the middle — I like painting’s interior too.
Everyone painting today is indebted to Monet in some way. I think I paid some of my Monet dues with these flower daubs. But what’s more I used iridescent paint in this acrylic painting, and the photograph comes close to capturing the effect. Its hard to capture in photography. Indeed it’s subtle even looking at the actual painting. Do you think Monet would have liked iridescent paints?
When you can peer into the picture and find more things, isn’t that a happy result?
Three of the pictures posted yesterday were painted yesterday.
I have been posting a bit more frequently in order to give my little bloggie a boost.
Thank you all who by your clicks have set my blog on an upward path.
My stats are improving wonderfully by virtue of your readerly interventions!
Just want you to know that I appreciate it very much.
I painted like a crazy person yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
We know each other by our faces. But how can you see the face of the past? I didn’t know what prosopagnosia is when I painted this. Sometimes instead you just heed your instincts and follow the forms as they appear.
Prosopagnosia (sometimes called face blindness) is a cognitive inability to recognize faces in someone with otherwise unimpaired vision.
Here it’s a visual metaphor for a distant past and the persons who lived in it, whose faces we cannot see clearly because they live in a perpetual realm of mystery and unknowingness.
I learned about prosopagnosia from reading various books by Oliver Sacks.