what drawing is

little lattice drawingDrawing is abstract. Drawing is the idea visible.  Drawing is artifice.

I drew in a little notebook some of the time while we listened to Musicians from Marlboro last night at the Library of Congress.

I was remembering a once and future painting of a fish who swims in a dream, of a lattice that surrounds ideas, of a bird that sings at night and of roses blooming.

Dark and Light Spaces

Dark and light are elemental.

koi swimming in light and darkness

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.

Celestial Koi

The fishes live in water and time. 

celestial koi 54 x 40 smaller

We live in air and time with our feet on the ground. Yet through watching the koi one can imagine the life of floating. And admittedly some experiences of time do seem like floating.

Koi fishes float in a field of pale blue, swimming and turning in every direction.  Here is a picture about floating, about drifting in freedom and peaceful serenity. Many of the fishes are orange-colored, contrasting brightly with the predominant blue, like beats in a music where the blue is the silence. The perspective is ambiguous.  One seems to see the fishes at the top as if looking at the water’s surface: they seem to swim on a plane that is oblique to our angle of vision.  But the fishes in the middle of the picture swim straight before us  — as though we see them from inside the water.

Looking up and down changes perspectives…

The celestial koi are angel-like in their elegant energy.  They rise and fall like leaves falling from a tree, like petals falling from flowers, like birds startled and scattered that fly off in all directions. The curves of their swimmer’s paths sets them free in equilibrium and energy.

Celestial Koi is a very large picture composed using two sheets of sanded pastel paper. Overall it measures 54 x 40 inches.

 

 

Racing Koi

The fish rush a point just off center.

fast swim

See them gathered in a converging crowd of fish motion. The impression of rapid swimming and lightening quickness is characteristic because the koi are swift swimmers. In truth kois can be quick or lazy but all their interactions are choreographed like a ballet, fulsome and energetic yet focused.

When the fish swim time feels fluid.  Bright colors flash across the moving water. Rich and blue like the sky it reflects, the water offers you serenity.  You can watch with delight.  Some of the fishes are white and gleaming — their colors are bright and sharp across the surface — red and orange, shades of orange, some colors warm and deeper than others, mixtures of orange and red and pale yellow the color of butter, they cluster and demark a place where energy coalesces. Soft shades of blue like silk frame highlights where the light striking the water shines brightest.  Dark reflections create linear energy that echoes the strong contrasting contours of fishes’ bodies.  As the fish push toward the center and gather there, some appear in clearness with personalities and agency.  Others are blurred with movement. Those whiz past in mystery.

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

just back from the framer

The still life with flowers

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has got a new frame. I may continue tweaking the image — still figuring that out — but it has its frame so that in all changes going forward they will harmonize with each other.

Here it is below crammed into the studio. Sitting above it is probably the next thing that’ll make the trip to Georgetown Frame Shoppe, the pastel koi.

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Peter did a fabulous job on the corners of this beautiful molding.

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Stuff I love

I love drawing patterns on cloth

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when they recede in depth or when they follow folds in drapery.

I love the picture within a picture, putting something in the still life that has a picture on it, and making this other picture another space in the illusory painted space.

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Another thing I love are the confusing bits of chaos that you see when you look at something through glass.  I like to put bottles in the still life to draw the things seen distorted by the glass, love to draw the fruit in the blue compotier to see the blue alter the colors of the things.

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Also the pattern on a cloth that sits flat on the table top between two objects, to contemplate that space as a special landscape of imagination —

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— the way that pattern looks abstract because it’s partly covered up and is seen from an oblique angle so that’s it’s made twice unfamiliar.  All those kinds of things are fascinating, are wonderful beyond compare.

Sometimes I like the interstices better than the objects. The “negative space” sometimes gets you closer to the perception because when you draw it you are no longer naming the things, but are instead drawing the spaces between the things, seeking to draw parts of the entire veil of light hanging in front of your eyes — seeing it as a veil.

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To dematerialize the objects is part of the goal. A few times (admittedly rarely) I heard painting criticized because it is “flat.”  Also because it’s static (as opposed to a movie). Painting isn’t modern, the critic said, because it’s flat and still. But I love painting precisely because it’s flat and immobile so the mind can enter it and move freely.

The pretended space is wondrous. I like to draw the rim to rim on anything that has a void in its parts, like the opening of a shoe, the interior of a cup.

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I want to create the illusion of the thing on the canvas and the artifice of that delights me. But I also am glad that it is flat because in being flat it has design.  Things are not just things but can connect to each other because some linear relationship that exists only in the mind and on the page begins to pull the things together into a motif.

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“Motif” is a pictorial thing, a picturesque thing, it’s a scenic idea.  Out in the world is raw reality (in whatever form it actually is).  In the mind, on the contrary, are things with names to which meanings attach.  I want to fix the meaning into a shape.

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In the picture, are lines, colors and shapes that can delight the eyes and sometimes puzzle the brain and which pull and tug and affect the emotions in sometimes strange ways.

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the window at twilight

I’m not sure where the idea came from.

101_8736 (3).jpgIt seemed just to have arrived. Maybe I was thinking about this picture more than I knew because there’s something about it that I like, that keeps pulling me back.

I decided to put the two drawings together.  That was the idea. Put the window with the twilight effect behind the flowers on the table. The decision definitely connects the picture further to Bonnard, and that’s what I want.

I couldn’t find the drawing of the window. I had it just the other day. It sat on top of the pile, but I rearranged things and now the pile is gone, and  I don’t know where it is. But I have been able to make a first sketch of the idea by retrieving the copy I posted on this blog.

I arranged them on the computer screen so I could see them both simultaneously rather like the way they’re displayed here.

Formerly the two things had nothing to do with each other. Now they feel intentionally connected. What luck that I even made the drawing of the window. It had been a whimsical gesture at the time. I had been working in the studio all afternoon. As I was finishing up, I noticed how the light inside the room contrasted with the cool evening light outside as twilight descended. It’s an effect that I always love to see.

I hesitated to draw the scene since it would dissolve so quickly.  I only made the drawing on a kind of dare to myself. What was there to lose? Isn’t that why you learn to draw? To tackle the dissolving, transitory motif, to see how much you can grab before it’s gone? Why not sometimes just swat at scenes, see what you get. So I picked up the nearest sheet and the most ready box of pastels and began drawing very fast. I didn’t even know how much of what I was looking at was “the motif.” There’s just me looking up, seeing colors and finding that I want to stop everything I’m doing to look at them.

After seeing that the window could be joined to the table top motif,  I began to see various ways I could figure out the rest of the painting, too. One idea seems to flow from the others. Why not take the scene apart thing by thing?

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The bowl of apples, for instance — should it hold apples? If so, why three? Should they be arranged this way or some other way?  Why not begin some studies and figure it out? I can go through the whole picture this way, making inquiries of each thing.

The drawing of the compotier that I love also makes me believe it would be good to put different arrangements of fruit in the bowl. This drawing, below —

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Meanwhile, why is the owl there? He has always struck me as being the feature that makes the picture look a bit clunky, but maybe he’s there for a reason? Making more drawings can help me sort out the questions. Can he be a more serious owl?

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I’m starting to feel pulled into this project again. That’s a good thing.

UPDATE:  Here’s another thought for this painting, a shell motif in the curtain.

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Related posts here and here.  Also here.

UPDATE:  Just realizing now how different the relationship of the flowers to the window is in the new idea.  The scale is utterly different.  I like this relationship better than the one I began with — so use it going forward.  Let the composition at the top be the guide.

UPDATE:  Information on owls in art:  https://eclecticlight.co/2016/06/23/owls-and-the-reading-of-boschs-paintings-1/

Framed

Small sea shell against colors reminiscent of the sea

sea shell

This one now joins two similar shells painted in oil pastel.  All three are framed and ready to make their way in the world.  Ah, now for that part!

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Here’s the other two.  I also got a frame for a small shell painting.  The beautiful framing is done by Georgetown Frame Shoppe.

materials of art

Finding the right combination of materials

Kuschan sea shell  in pastel large 18 x 24

is a challenge. In anticipation of teaching a pastel class in the fall at McLean Project for the Arts, I’ve been trying out pastel ideas. The most basic relates to materials. What kind of pastels do I recommend for beginning pastellists? What sorts of surfaces will I recommend? At first I was leaning toward a 30 half stick set of Rembrandts, but certain colors of the sticks can be difficult to use. So I’ve purchased a 24 stick set of NuPastels which I’ll be testing for a while.

I’m already familiar with both brands, but the question in my mind is which small set of pastels would be easiest for someone new to the medium? NuPastels grand set is 96 sticks large. I love them. But I’m not recommending that the newcomer invest in a large set from day one. While some people in my class may have used pastels before, and may have their palette already well sorted out, I need to consider the absolute newcomer too.

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Here are the pristine NuPastels vying with the bananas for attention. I got these at Artist & Craftsman Supply in Hyattsville, MD, a new store in this region. (You can buy stuff from them online also.)

While trying out materials with the beginning artist in mind, I was using Canson mi-teintes papers. That was the surface that certain Rembrandt sticks weren’t liking. When fighting with pastels — some sticks get slick and won’t crumble onto the paper and adhere — I was thinking what a shame it is that I cannot recommend sanded papers which work a lot more easily with all kinds of pastels.  They’re expensive though and expensive surfaces are not good choices for newcomers.  You don’t need to feel intimidated by a sheet of paper.

It dawns on me now that maybe using one of the acrylic pumice mixes might solve the problem so I’m headed back to Artist & Craftsman later today to get some Golden Pumice Gel to use on Strathmore watercolor paper.  I’ll be testing this combination using both the NuPastel 24 sticks and the Rembrandt 30 half sticks.  My chief question will be how full is the palette in range?  How easily are these materials used in this particular combination?

When I did my  kois which were the feature of the previous post I was working on UART fine sanded paper and Canson mi-teintes “touch” papers with a variety of pastel brands including NuPastels, Rembrandts, Senneliers, Richeson, Unison, Diane Townsend and Great American.  They’re all wonderful. It helps that I had depicted the koi in other media before I began doing them in pastel.

Meanwhile, the drawing featured at the top, seen below in scale, was an experiment too, one made before I knew I’d be teaching a pastel class.  I just wanted to make a larger than life size shell to see what that would be like, and I used ordinary Strathmore 400 series paper with Conté pastels.

Kuschan sea shell in pastel large studio view

I like to try things. Strathmore 400 series medium tooth paper is all purpose. It’s not designed for pastel, but it was not difficult to use. You wouldn’t want it for soft pastels, but it’s a decent surface for the harder ones. The notebook pictured on the easel is 18 x 24 inches.

If you look very closely you can see a highly specialized artists’ tool on the upper right hand corner of the drawing.  It’s used for keeping the pages of the notebook tight while it rests on the easel.  I believe it’s called a “clothes pin.”

At McLean Project for the Arts registration is open for my “coloring book” class — a study in line.  That happens in July.

 

Another koi drawing

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This drawing in oil pastel is near completion. All the fishes still need a going over; some more than others (like the guy on the lower left who’s only blocked in).  When I see it across the room I love the design and the overall affect of the colors. Partly for that reason I sometimes fail to notice how much is unfinished. My mind jumps to the things I like. Seeing the painting reduced in photography helps me sort out what needs attention.

It’s oil pastel (Caran D’Ache Neopastel) on violet Canson mi-teintes pastel paper. The darkish violet-purple is a wonderful tone to work on, making all the colors really strong, especially the lights.

This one’s going to the framer when it’s complete.  Hopefully that will happen fairly soon.

If it looks familiar, that’s because I’ve also been working on this motif in a painting that’s still in the works too.

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I like doing the same motif more than once. The differences interest me.  I’m not sure why. They become variations on a theme as in music.

Certainly the white ground of the painting verses the violet tone of the paper makes them dramatically different in feeling and mood.