Striped Cloth with Flowers and Gourd

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Many times a bouquet of flowers will be arranged as though to get at a perfect order.  I arrange the flowers when I paint them.  But the random arrangement of weary flowers is lovely too.  The flowers bunched along two sides of the vase leaving one green fond striving upward in space alone.  That single leaf intersects the purple shadow that descends from the cloth behind the bouquet locking the composition together .

The striped cloth is a marvel to look at.  I love to portray it.  Its bands describe the shape of the space they occupy like a physics of color.  The bands of green along the sides of the gourd running perpendicular to the bands in the cloth are Nature imitating art. Many colors are scattered through this picture and only the precision of their positions gives them balance.  In a picture like this one, the only goal is to put each color exactly where it belongs.  And then the rest is easy.  The picture composes itself. And then the image resembles the things, like a mirror of life.

Striped Cloth with Flowers and Gourd is a pastel painting measuring 18 x 24 inches.

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Tea Roses

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Bold yellow tea roses, a brilliant violet color in the background, a white and blue table cloth along with three bright orange, plump persimmons: these compose the scene with additional help from a jaunty white pitcher in the center that has a single pink painted rose decorating its rondure. Sometimes the colors and positions provoke a mood.  This arrangement seemed provocative to me. It feels assertive. I thought the objects seem to speak. It is for each individual spectator to decipher life’s bold messages.

Tea Roses is a pastel painting measuring 20 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches.

Golden: Two Bouquets on a Table

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Two vases of roses sit on a honey colored wooden table.  The far edge of the table is visible on one side and the rest is covered by a shimmering yellow-gold cloth.  Behind the whole scene is a violet colored cloth.  Both vases are abundantly stocked with roses.  One bouquet sits in a clear glass jar. The other, a white pitcher, is also filled with numerous roses of many colors.  One single spent rose lies flat on the table.  Beside it sit three bright orange persimmons.  In between the two vases sits a blue pedestal bowl. A few other objects of ambiguous identity sit behind or beside the white pitcher.

This is one of the most complex still lifes I’ve ever painted so far.  While it is challenging to capture the flowers since they soon perish, it’s also important to make something of all the relationships of all the things.  The design on the cloth, its fold and foreshortening are the gravity of the picture. Everything has to sit upon that gold field and seem to belong there, and to seem as if it might always be there in that forever sense of art.  Long after the real flowers have faded and disappeared the appearance of the flowers can still last.  And the picture has to hint in the direction of that poetry, has to become a memory of things seen.

Golden: Two Bouquets on a Table is a pastel painting on sanded paper measuring 18 x 24 inches.

The Red Cloth & the Big Bouquet of Flowers

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A complex ensemble of varied objects sits on a table decorated by a large bouquet.  The table cloth is brilliant red.  The flowers are of many types: lilies, daisies, carnations, roses.  A couple of winter gourds, a queen conch seashell, and a blue pedestal glass filled with smaller seashells sits beside the flowers.  Behind them a cloth of pale blues and silver adds a sky-like element.  And off to the far right a deep red-orange cloth peeks out framed by some hanging purple flowers from a vase sitting outside the picture frame.

The complexity of a scene like this one gives the artist many sources of intrigue.  I love exploring the shapes of many things when they are bunched altogether.  It’s a passion that hopefully transfers to the spectator. In any scene of things, many wonderful visual features are always present.  One of the aims of visual art is to provoke us to look more deeply into the appearances of the world.  Every corner of the universe is filled with splendor.  And splendor can begin with the simple contemplation of even a color.  A brilliant red is a powerful sensation in its own right.  And the shapes of things, the colors of many things, the lines that the mind describes around things are all sources of the most powerful fascination.

The Red Cloth and the Big Bouquet of Flowers  is a pastel painting on sanded paper measuring 18 x 24 inches.

Glass Jar with Flowers

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If a simple glass pickle jar gives you joy, you know you are a joyful person. I found the pickle jar in my mother’s cabinet.  It was one of those things my parents kept out of a desire to give all possessions a second life. Emptied of pickles it became a flower vase.  I cleaned it up after its years of disuse and marveled at how lovely the light is that passes through simple clear glass.  The flower stems randomly distributed in the jar offer beautiful abstractions of dark green.  The glass also reflects and intensifies colors in adjacent objects — the table cloth, the backdrop cloth.  It catches highlights of daylight entering the windows.  It is in short a light catcher.  Whoever wishes to meditate on the meaning of the present tense can gaze into its interior and find passages of beauty to inspect.

The flowers are the heroes of any flower still life: comprised in this instance of carnations and a single large yellow tea rose.  But a clear glass jar also brings strong poetry to the scene.

Glass Jar with Flowers is a small pastel painting on textured paper measuring 14 x 18 inches.

Ruby Red: Flowers on a Red Cloth

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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.

Bouquet of Carnations

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Among the first of a suite of small flower paintings, this simple scene depicts a glass jar filled with flowers sitting on a table top with a gold-green cloth against a backdrop of rosy violet. The principle flower of the group is a large yellow tea rose and surrounding it are carnations of different hues, pale pink, rich red, pale yellow.  The green stems of the flowers create a lively abstraction in the jar’s interior where reflections of light enliven the pattern of light and dark shapes.

Bouquet of Carnations is a pastel painting that measures 13 x 16.5 inches.

textures of the second kind

 

There are two kinds of texture in art.  Both are wonderful.  Both deserve consideration.  Sometimes both exist together.  Sometimes only one or the other is present.

There’s the texture of the things depicted:  the soft silk that looks like silk, the lemon that has a rough skin, the egg shell that seems to be brittle because it looks brittle.

Then there’s the texture of the art materials used to make the picture, and they are many. In the illustration above, a detail of one of the koi drawings, the crayon catches on the raised burr of the paper speckling the surface, creating a veil over the imagery below it.  It’s these textures of the second kind that I love to discover.  Every artists’ medium has a wonderful, special charm.

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In the detail above of a crayon drawing made after Matisse’s painting La Coiffure at the National Gallery of Art, the layers of crayon colors overlap.  Some of the paper texture breaks up passages of color.  In other areas sharp lines delineate forms and soft lines blend one passage into another.  Because the pigment can be applied in layers, warm and cool passages of color can interact with each other above and below.

In the pen drawing details above the color of the ink is a strong factor, and equally strong is the white of the paper.  In a pen drawing, sometimes what you don’t draw — the shapes of the spaces that you leave blank become dramatic effects in the drawing.  Of course the characteristic hatchings and wiggles and calligraphy of pen lines give a pen drawing its essence and its energy.

 

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Pencil drawing is a responsive medium for creating contours with line, for evoking texture through imitation and for creating subtle lights and darks that reveal forms — and in the case of portraits graphite provides the subtle gesture that gives way to visual expressions of emotion.

With pastel you can drag very soft passages of pigment over top of other layers, the layers can partially blend, and through these operations you can achieve very soft transitions and delicate blurry effects.

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Whatever the material, each medium has its own peculiar charms that the artist must seek out through manipulation and experiment.  Sometimes the natural textural qualities of the medium can be used to evoke the optical textures of the things depicted.  Sometimes the beauty of the material’s texture is sought as an end in itself.

Through these limited examples in my own art, I hope readers find another element of drawing that they can use to pull them closer into the magic of pictorial art.

 

Dark and Light Spaces

Dark and light are elemental.

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Large fishes swim out of the dark recesses of the pond toward the light. The closest fish is near in size to the actual living fishes.  When the koi are near enough to touch, they look like this.

Light and dark are elemental — day and night, sleep and wakefulness, insight and confusion, known and unknown.  This picture has two separate sides, one dark, one light.  On the left side where the pond is dark, the white fish with orange patches stands out keenly. On the right side where the water is lighter, where pale blues colored like morning abide, the textures become almost silky. Whenever a picture separates into left and right, I look for possible correspondences in thought since our brains have left and right sides that perceive things differently. Sometimes the hints of different orders of perception will manifest themselves visually in a picture with “right” and “left.”

They do blend together also.  The fishes clump together. The alternate states blend together too.  Sometimes knowledge and mystery are all mixed up like fishes.

The fishes are more particular in depiction than in some other pictures of the koi.  You see into the fishes’ sympathetic eyes, can see their conspicuous whiskers. Some of the fishes’ bodies gleam with reflections of light when their wet skin meets air as they momentarily rise to the surface.

Like left and right, like dark and light, the fish rise to the surface or else swim beneath it unseen.  Like thoughts the fishes swim sometimes into places where they become visible.  Like thoughts, too, they are good metaphors for all the things that we don’t know about ourselves.  When they slip beneath the water, their disappearance is like the unraveling of a dream.

Well, here they swim — keenly seen and fully visible. Some fishes, it’s true, are more blurred and veiled by water that passes over them. The random partial views of animals form signposts, contribute to the theme running through the story that is the life you live, presenting the metaphor that an invisible director offered in this real life movie so that hints and clues can sparkle and gleam, like reflections of deeper meaning and poetic connection.  By randomness some things — fishes in this case! — are seen and other things are hidden or are visible only in part.  One sorts out a life puzzle without instruction. Or are the directions there too, also hidden in metaphors?

“Light and Dark Spaces” measures 19 x 24 inches and is drawn with dry pastel on Canson Mi-Teintes textured paper.

The Convergence

DSC_0987 (2)The Convergence shows a group of koi racing across the surface from left to right. When The Convergence hangs together with Racing Koi (below) as pendants, the koi fishes seem to be racing toward each other.  In The Convergence brilliantly orange-colored fishes predominate and their complementary color contrasts brightly with the serene blue of the water.  The fishes’ forms are modeled and dimensional.  Some of their features are clear, and one senses the round slippery, firm shapes of the powerfully moving fish as they push through the water, as they companionably shove into each other.  Koi are “brocaded carp,” specially bred fish noted for their beautiful color patterns and strong hues.  In this picture the brightest colored fishes have accidentally gathered together, filling the center with vivid red-orange.  A linear energy runs throughout their movements.  Dark reflections in the water create lines that also parallel the strong contours of the kois’ bodies with energy that is vibrant and yet somehow soothing.

Converging Koi is a pastel painted on Canson Touch Mi-Teintes paper measuring 28.75 x 20.75 inches.

The companion picture Racing Koi, featured in the last post, is below.

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