a finger in many pies

moth on june 25

Even as work proceeds on “the Big Painting,” I still have other projects that need attention.  One is this partly completed 30 x 40 inch painting of a moth.  I am at a crossroads of sorts with it and must decide which direction it will go.  And I must decide fairly quickly as I have plans for it — plans that have a deadline attached.

But the lovely thing is that every activity helps with all the others.  Making drawings after sculpture at the National Gallery sharpens my drawing skills for my other work.  And the Big Painting and this picture of the moth have more relationships to each other than might ever be apparent to an outside observer.  So it all works together.


drawing with friends

drawing 6 alphonse legros

I went to the National Gallery of Art today to draw in the sculpture galleries with my friend.  The drawing above is from  Aimé-Jules Dalou’s portrait of Alphonse Legros.  I’ve drawn it before.   And I drew it twice more today.  The drawing above is today’s second drawing.  Below is the first, which was also a sort of “warm up” drawing.

drawing 5 alphonse legros

The first drawing measures 12 inches in length in the longest area; the second measures 11 inches, but the man’s features are larger in the warm up because the format is tightly cropped in a notebook.  Both are drawn using Caran d’Ache Neopastel crayons, using just three colors.

After doing these two largish drawings I turned to a smaller notebook to draw two of Rodin’s face studies of Honoré Balzac, both of which are amazing sculptural works and comparatively difficult to draw for their exaggerations and foreshortening.

I started first with a pencil drawing made very freely.  I let myself get acquainted with things when I draw and some drawings are ways of talking to myself about what I’m seeing.

drawing 4 balzac

For the other drawings I made of the Balzac, I used a wonderfully expressive Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencil.

drawing 1 balzac

In each drawing I feel like I am learning something about Rodin’s visual ideas and his feelings about the man he was portraying.  He portrays Balzac as a powerful and mysterious figure. It tells something about the power of great art that Rodin’s forms create these inferences about Balzac’s personality in ways that photography of the man clearly does not. In contrast with the writer’s rather ordinary appearance, Rodin creates a Protean figure while preserving elements of likeness.

drawing 2 balzac

The forms are so exaggerated that it’s difficult to get them right.  But I will draw these sculptures again because I want to learn these things.

drawing 3 balzac

I realize too that I have to allow myself my own reactions — that I am reacting to Rodin, and I am reacting to my reactions to Rodin, and I am translating the three dimensional images into 2 dimensional ones, and striving to be sensitive to the qualities of the particular materials that I’m using whether it’s the Neopastels or pencil or pastel pencil.

The drawing that made of Dalou’s Alphonse Legros appears in an earlier post:


Here’s today’s Legros and that earlier one together:

Of course the wonderful thing about sculpture is that you can walk around it and draw from different vantage points.


A link to the NGA feature on the sculpture can be found at that post.  And a link to NGA’s two Rodin faces of Balzac is here:


and here:




drawing without friends

after brocade in Cezanne portrait of Hortense Met

I was supposed to be drawing with friends Sunday, but I misplaced them.  My drawing group was meeting at one of the other museums on the mall and I had planned to join them.  But I could find nowhere to park until too late, and that parking space was quite far away.

However, I did draw at the National Gallery of Art, making some drawings after Cezanne. Above I drew one section of the curtain in the Met’s painting of Hortense, the artist’s wife. You can find the section of a fruit with leaves on the lower right below.


I also drew some faces from two other paintings.

after Cezanne Hortense

Both of these are portraits of Hortense.

after Cezanne

Love drawing Cezanne.  Sorry I missed seeing the friends.  But glad that I did get to make drawings after Cezanne’s beautiful paintings anyway.

more blue jay figurine & frog teapot

blue jay and frog teapot second drawing

I’m still not sure what this drawing looks like.  I was drawing until there simply was no further light by which to see. As the contours at the far edge of the seashell began to disappear I knew that drawing time was over.  I’ll be curious to see it again in regular daylight.

Unlike my usual habit, I drew the picture from right to left.  I wanted to make sure there’d be enough room to include the shell, though I wasn’t certain I would put it into the drawing.  So I began at the far right, getting that much beloved frog teapot in there.  And I spent most of the session working on it, later adding the blue jay figurine and only getting to the seashell at the very last.  This is the second drawing of the objects from this alternate angle.  (If perchance you’re just discovering this blog, these objects have a complicated story.)

I was drawing in very low light — which I enjoy — using the fading late afternoon light of an eastern facing window on this cloudy summer day, concluding the drawing with the day’s last faint illumination.

arranging the table

blue jay and frog teapot2

Looking at the still life objects from a different side of the table produces a different vibe.  I want to do more such drawings so I can make a better decision about how to set the table in the painting.

Blogging about the still life table helps me immensely too.  As I try to explain the visual questions in writing, drawing and through photography, I find that I get additional ideas.

a ripple in the vast universe

cosmic fish 1Last night I succeeded in asking myself what I wanted to think about when I woke.  When I did wake, I asked myself again: what do you want to think about now that you’ve just opened your eyes? You can hardly blame your mind, you know, if it produces worry if you took no care even to ask for good things.  Get something better by asking for it.

I remembered to ask and that was a good beginning.  I got some very good thoughts, too.

What do you want to think about? If your thoughts were a landscape, what would you wish it to look like? People choose their vacation destinations more carefully than they choose their thoughts.  Where do you want to travel imaginatively in the very present?


My dog Lucy began whining as soon as she knew I was awake.  Unfortunately for me, the hour is early.  I might go right back to sleep if she would not whine.  But perhaps she has been awake much longer, traveling in a landscape of dog thoughts that led her to the conviction that eating — immediately — is what she wants.

Nevertheless, I did entertain the notion that her whines might be my echo.  Am I, like her, whining inside? Life is such a miracle that we cannot see it and can barely appreciate it.  Why am I not awestruck by just the light and air that fills the room?

lucy dog

Oh well, I am not.  And I whine.  I whine inwardly just like the dog.  Dogs are alert.  Maybe she senses my whining and echoes it back to me, supposing that she does me a favor.  I thought the habits of my thoughts perhaps set up echoes in other people too, a particular person whose habits choreograph with my own — unknown, unrecognized, invisible to either side.

So I had asked myself if what I was doing encouraged or even caused the dog to whine. Merely asking a new question gains you new options. By confining her to the kitchen during the morning I make her unhappy. So I let her out. I still wasn’t going to feed her yet, but I would trust her to wander about the house and trust her not to disturb me too much.  Indeed letting her out got her to relax.

Turning thoughts around lets you consider them from different vantage places.


I have decided to believe that a good outcome will arrive regarding a particular worry that causes me inwardly to whine like Lucy. I’m not going to put too much expectation on it other than that — keep the expectation vague like the lovely smudginess of a drawing that sketches first possibilities and leave the time element vague as well so that life can quietly flow toward you. I want to change the circumstances by changing myself. I got Lucy to whine less by letting her go, and mentally I let go of these thoughts that dog me, that plague me with their whining, barking, and agitation.  I open the gate. There they go.


How will that mental change influence the cosmos? Assume that it will. There, that’s cheeky of you.  You creature of a great cosmos.  Assume that your influence has effect.  If invisible particles can travel through vast distances and affect planets, cannot you and your silent thoughts create a ripple in the temporal pond?

What shore will it touch?


questions and more questions


What do you do when you don’t know where the line is?

Here’s part of the merit in drawing things from new angles.  You have to rediscover some of the fundamental qualities.  Shouldn’t that heighten one’s powers of observation?

And the merit of doing studies generally is that you create an occasion for just living in the moment visually.  If you let yourself escape the need to have things exact, you gain the chance to strive after making them more exact.  I let go of the line in order to find it.  I let myself be willing to put it down wrong.  And each time you do that you increase the chances of getting it right.

But the other way of finding out the line’s location is to draw with masses instead.  I make a broad patch of color with some careless swipes of parallel strokes.  I estimate how large a swath of color to make.  Afterwards if I get a better sense of one line’s relation to another I venture to draw that contour.

blue jay turned

I notice certain mistakes.  I decide to leave them be.  To remove them makes the thought process too fussy.  I just draw over things, if it’s possible.  And if it’s not I pursue the features that remain.

The relative sizes and interrelationships of all the things are so complex and intriguing.  The precise curve of a line can be very beautiful and interesting to chase.

blue jay figurine and frog teapot different angle further (4)

I have other things on my mind sometimes.  But drawing is also escape.  Or, it’s as much escape as one is likely to get.


a longing at the center of things

studio on june 21

Even as I struggle to sort out where the still life objects will go, I realize there is still a way to get back into the painting:  I can work on the flowers.  They are the longing at the center of the whole.

If I find that I really need simply to paint, I can do that.  I can paint the flowers. I can also work more on the landscape seen through the window.

But I must be careful because even these distant features are influenced by the still life that will sit below — they are influenced and they will exert an influence.  The whole painting has to operate together as one comprehensive spectacle.

standing somewhere different

I have drawn the objects over and over.  I am probably going to continue drawing them.  I had settled on a certain rough plan for them and have been attempting to sort out the specifics.  It could seem strange perhaps to an outsider, but I think the disposition of the objects is very important.  I don’t exactly know why but I feel that it is.

Why else paint at all if such things are not very important?

Anyway, I haven’t been satisfied with the arrangement of the group though I have been thinking about the question in different ways.  And I’ve made various kinds of drawings, not only studies like the ones above, but compositional drawings also.

If I wish to avoid having to paint over things —  to avoid changing my mind later when all the things exist in thick paint  — then I have to establish the locations of the objects now.  Once that’s done, I can go back to the canvas and continue creating the painting there — for I’ll still have tons of decisions to make even then.  It’s staggering the amount of choice that exists inside what might seem to be a fairly rigid framework.

Anyway, I sense that I am stuck.  And I want to get unstuck.  So I have begun wondering about seeing the objects from other angles.  Degas said that the artist should draw his subjects from all kinds of angles.  Turn the thing around, see it from the side, from the back, from above, from below.  Get on a ladder if necessary — happily I don’t think I’ll be needing the ladder.  But in other respects I mean to take his advice.

blue jay figurine and frog teapot different angle (2)

So far I’ve only recorded the idea photographically.  And now I write about it.  But I’m going to draw some of the things from different vantage points and see what happens.

I think this approach can work in many areas of life.  If you have a problem — even a personal problem — ask yourself if there’s a way of seeing it from a different point of view.  How does the other party understand the question?  Even if you cannot know, even if you cannot ask, you can still imagine.

Gladly with drawing, getting a different vantage point is easy.  You just position yourself in a different spot and draw whatever it is that you now see in the new place.

Even if I decide to go along with the original ideas (who knows?) I do believe that the additional wisdom gained from having seen the object from different points of view will be valuable in some incalculable way.

another drawing from sculpture

Rodin 2 at NGA

I also drew the Fantasy Bust of a Veiled Woman (Marguerite Bellanger?) by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse while I was at the National Gallery of Art today.

A link to the object is below.  Often these links include zoom features (as does this one) so if you’re inclined to draw the lady yourself, check it out, though it’s a different view point.