Metaphors behind everything

Trace Elements

bowl of fruit, neocolor crayons

Each day of late I have been drawing fruit in bowls or in the compotier, beginning drawing early in the day, then continuing drawing late at night. I reflexively follow the contours of the fruits, but I could — and should — generalize them more. If I want to be a good student of Cezanne, that’s definitely what I ought to do.

bowl of fruit, neocolor crayons

The more generalized they are, the more they are like other things — though I suspect that their metaphor potential doesn’t need to be stressed particularly since, if it’s present, it’s already hard-wired into the brain. Why do we like fruit, apart from its flavors and nutrition? How did fruits figure in so many myths? The subject has a certain je ne sais quoi from the get-go.

study for Flower Wall

For me the fruits are visually most…

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Nose on the glass

Trace Elements

bowl of fruit, study

Look closely at things. Put your nose right up to the window-glass of reality and peer very intensely at everything. One of the great benefits of art is that it lets you rev up your perception to Level 11 and there are no adverse side effects. You are only using bits of time. However, looking closely at reality is time well spent. Reality is here for a reason. It deserves our appreciation.

Seek to be, as Henry James put it, “someone on whom nothing is lost.”

drawing close up

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Shifting Gears

Just a reminder that I’m using this blog much less now (doing a few reblogs and redirects from time to time) and am shifting my attention to a new blog Trace Elements. Come see what’s going on at the new blog, which you can find HERE.

Being Bold

Trace Elements

Meadow & Sky, notebook drawing

Delacroix advised artists to be bold. He felt that most artists are not bold enough. He was also the champion of the small, quick idea made in a rapid sketch. I find that when I want to do something new, it helps greatly to “talk” the idea through to myself in small drawings. I think of the drawings as little experiments. One feels a readiness to experiment when the stakes are small — literally. The above drawing, for instance, was an experiment in radical simplicity. In my imagination the drawing above could even be large. You can pretend. Never lose that childhood skill: Nature gave it to you for a reason. Draw on the cave wall as did the primordial humans: start with the cave wall of your mind.

Mountainous Scene, notebook drawing

You can imagine the gesture that you make with a pencil being…

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Simple Mountain

Trace Elements

Mountains are ideas as well as being places. Even people who have never spent time in the mountains respond to the idea of mountain. The idea pared down to its most spare form, as a pyramidal form, or as a word in one’s language, has some pull. I can think of ideas that mountains can mean — shelter, permanence, grandeur, sublimity. However, what I want is to discover various emotions.

Colors can evoke emotion, too. Apart from associations with particular things, colors have their own evocations. Putting together the idea of mountain and certain color harmonies — I’m not sure where I’m going with these things — I just made a little drawing. I’m thinking a bit about beginnings, ways of drawing at the beginning, the broad forms from which more complex pictures are derived.

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Pieces of Color

Trace Elements

You can always do something familiar in a slightly different way and in so doing expand your skills a little or change your perspective. When making these little shifts, they can seem inconsequential in the moment — and they might indeed be caprices. (Nothing wrong with that.) But sometimes they lead as first steps in new directions, with an influence that will reveal itself only in retrospect. So you give your whims their due, and see what happens down the road.

I’ve used collage a lot across time and used it in different ways, making large ones, small ones and medium sized ones. Usually I make collages as tools to sort out questions I have about a particular painting that’s in the works. Those collages are studies, as surely as many of my drawings are studies. They’re studies in a different medium.

I was curious lately about whether one could…

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What does the Mountain teach?

Trace Elements

This is how the Self speaks.

How does the Mountain speak? It speaks with gravity, with the difficulty of an uphill passage. It speaks with rocks that can make you lose your balance, or with pebbles that slide under your shoe then tumble away producing a slip from which you easily recover, but which costs you time and energy. The mountain speaks with changing weather, with heights each having its own character. It has shadow side and sunny side, a windy or calm side. Sometimes the mountain addresses you merely by its inexpressible beauty.

As you climb both beauty and gravity together take your breath away.

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One face, one fact

Trace Elements

How does one choose? What invisible decisions does your brain make? Or your mind? Or your soul? The decisions that occur before awareness? Before you even know you’re making a choice, it’s made.

“Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none,” writes Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay “Self-Reliance.”

The face stood out to me. As I walked toward a Buddhist frieze exhibited at the Freer Gallery in Washington DC, one face in particular caught my notice. The whole sculptural relief is a badly worn surface from whatever prior life it had before its inclusion in a museum. The faces had nubby surfaces, chipped here and there, or eroded by wind and water. Museum lighting adds another random element, casting parts willy nilly into shadow or prominence.

Time is the last factor. We were pressed. The frieze was the last thing…

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