Oh artist, how do you render it tempestuous? If the tempest is inside, how do you see it? Could a teapot be a metaphor for the tempestuous person. The fire that lit, the swirling steam, the forces of Nature held captive in miniscule space. Outside the serene blues, the limpid greys, a calm design.
Like a tempest in a teapot has always signified a fuss made about small things. But what if you’re the teapot? Ah, a teapot is a chamber both strong and brittle.
Well, a tempest in art is always a good thing. Everybody loves a good storm. And perhaps you even relate to the fictional storm unseen inside a teapot’s porcelain walls.
The beginning of learning is wanting. Learning begins with wanting. When I first wanted to paint I was a child and I wanted something from art that a child craves. Desire was composed of bright pretty colors, realism, things that looked bold and compelling.
It was this week last year that Paul Squires, that great poet from Australia, died at the still young age of 46. It’s hard having to remember this fact, that Paul is no longer in this world. However, his poetry still lives at the site he created Gingatao. And what can be said now in remembrance?
“And feels his forehead touch the emptied sky/Where all antinomies flood into light” — Irving Layton
“About him the air felt sweet with singing/Heard waves beat on the indestructible core” –Vernon Watkins
I had started reading poetry again in the wake of Paul’s appearance in my life. He became my teacher. I am still his student after his passing.
“… And though you may close this book forever and never read another word, wordless the world will come to you and reveal itself to you and there is no other proof that you exist but this, that you are beloved of the earth and the creatures around you, insects and stars are quietly harmonising with your breath and the rhythm of the ocean enlivens us all…. Click on these words and read the whole amazing thing he says.
I am still his student and would that I could make others students also — or readers or friends — in a friendship across time and space. Paul is among the great poets now. Truly he is among them.
A picture should enjoy an aspect of ambiguity, just like persons. It needs some enigma. A friend once told me “a little mystery helps.” And it does.
I’m not sure where the path is leading here, whether into the meadow or up into the sky.
In late spring and early summer the hill in the background is filled with azaleas and later with rhododendrons along its meadering paths. I love to take walks there. I try to carve out a few days each year to see the hill of flowers.
At other times, I walk far across the park to see the hill from a distance. That’s the view I drew here when I climbed the hill with my crayon.
It makes a huge difference whether the picture is horizontal or vertical! What a difference there is between the solitary tree trunk standing in the leaf litter of autumn verses a whole gathering of trees massed like sentinels! Even in a sketch. Even as just scratches on the page!
What counts is what remains behind. Sometimes artists — especially when they are new — are over-scrupulous in comparing what they make with its model. Even Matisse acknowledged that art is a truth that’s parallel to nature. You make your drawing as faithfully as you can. You really let yourself be in touch with the reality that you think and see and feel.
Afterwards, and of course there is afterwards, you have the drawing itself. It’s its own little world. You should not care too much whether it is the exact replica of Nature as you saw her. What is it in itself? In itself is all that the spectator will afterwards know. In itself is really what counts. You were making a drawing. You are not placing a landscape of dirt and trees and bugs and animals on the floor for your spectator to inspect. You are giving them an image — a visual idea on a sheet of paper. All that they can inspect are its lines and shapes and colors and forms.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love Nature. But Nature and Art are not the same thing. They are sisters, perhaps. But each is her own person.
I did the drawing above one day. I don’t now know where I was or what I looked at.
I just posted some little flower drawings I did today. It’s interesting to compare these small drawings with some very large drawings that I’ve done in the past. These are the older, large drawings above. If you click on the blog heading you can see these in comparison with the new drawings I did today.
I guess I must really like flowers.
I started off my day with flowers. Cup of hot tea, quiet studio, an hour or so to draw. After having been busy with many non-art things lately, I thought it was time to just draw. A still life that I set up months ago was hiding behind a pile of things. I uncovered it and decided to draw it again. Previous drawings were large. These are small. All on sheets 9 1/2 by 11 inches.
Sometimes it’s good to just draw. Without goals, without preconceptions. Just let the lines go where they will. Fool around with different tools. Let yourself watch lines forming and time passing.
The sketch stands at the opposite end of the highly realized drawing. If you really want to understand the sketch, if you’re an artist, you should spend some time doing the most elaborate kind of drawing that you can do. Or, if you don’t wish to make detailed drawings yourself, spend some time studying some examples of careful realism. And after you’ve studied detail and really thought about it some, ask yourself:
What is the charm of the sketch?
It’s important to do this right. Ask yourself the question, but don’t be too hurried with an answer. Maybe you will never find an answer, but I hope you come to understand the special charm of the ephemeral idea that takes fragile form in a sketch.
Ponder it. Think about it a long time. Look. Draw. Make sketches.