the vase of flowers grows more sure

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Here’s how the painting looks on Friday night.  I put the study on a table beside the easel to make it easier to draw from.  The picture begins to feel more solid after a day of work.  I love painting that vase — and I’m not done yet.  The paint all over the canvas is very thick because I’m covering up parts of the earlier version.  There’s still lots of things to figure out, of course — like the entire bunched up green cloth that takes up the whole bottom half.

Here’s a closer view.  The painting measures 40 x 30 inches.

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What a fun day of painting, working on this picture.  You cannot look at blue and green all day with scattered red and yellow and violet and not be in a terrific mood.

Still quite a ways to go.  But I’m very glad with this stage.

putting the flowers into the vase

studio with flowers may 18

So it’s time to transfer some of the flowers in the newest bouquet, the ones on the aluminum easel, to the painting above it.  The painting on the wooden easel is an intermediary stage between me and the really BIG painting.

I’ve been working on this 24 x 18 inch study for a few days in succession.

Jump flowers, into the picture!

bouquet study may 18

And the flowers of the actual bouquet are now kind of spent.  Some are a little worn and others have gone entirely limp!  But that pretty rose is still firm.  It refuses to open, but it still looks like new.

flowers spent may 18

 

second large bouquet

second large bouquet no 2

I paint the flowers as though photography doesn’t exist.  And there’s no deliberate plan, I don’t have a strategy for singling out some of the flowers and subordinating others.  It does tend to work out that way at first, but the plan — if there is one — is subliminal.  I use the bee plan: I flit from flower to flower.

I just pick a starting point and begin describing locations and shapes.  Afterwards my attention goes willy nilly where it will.

I’ve taken lots of photographs — and may take even more since the photographs are like free flowers (and you never know when you’ll need some flowers).  But this direct, unscripted connection to the flowers painted from life is wonderful.  From the various studies, I’ll later choose whatever seems best, and those arrangements will become the bouquet that goes into the big painting.  I keep painting until the flowers wilt (or I do).

I’ve never done a painting in quite this way before so it’s intriguing.  It’s also emotionally satisfying.  I contemplate all the objects separately, getting to know them, before combining them into the big scene.

So there’s a question of light — what will be the lighting of the final picture?  Will it be specific and generalized, both at once?  I’ve been puzzling over the topic a bit.  I would offer that approach as characteristic of how my big hero Pierre Bonnard worked.  He made a compositional study of his painting motif, one where the objects are lit from behind by the window.  That’s the specific part.  But afterwards he painted it from imagination and memory, perhaps also by reference to a few drawings (not many, not nearly so many as I make).  And he got a consistent seeming image without obsession over whether the particular features were actually like the thing he had observed.  And indeed his paintings create a realm of brilliant, dreamlike pseudo-reality.

Here’s one of his studies for the painting that I’m emulating:

bonnard gouache drawing for painting

Bonnard’s gouache drawing measures a precious 6 x 4 inches (it’s reproduced on page 138 of the Met’s “Pierre Bonnard: The Late Still lifes and Interiors”).

And my oil study in-the-works above measures 24 x 18 inches.

I worked on the study during the day and at night.  I noticed only a few really significant differences in lighting (places where shadows fell in one instance and not in the other).  Since I can work on the painting effectively enough no matter the light, I am guessing that I don’t need to be especially scrupulous about lighting in the painting itself.

The blue at the top doesn’t relate to the large painting I have planned because actually there’s a second, smaller intermediate painting for which I plan to use the bouquet. That picture has a blue background so I’ve used blue here.  But my large, Bonnard inspired painting  will have a window behind the flowers thus a surrounding of mostly greens — from the window I found with a view of trees that I found, that I will have found when my “window shopping” is completed.

untangling garden

garden

This garden measures 34 x 28 inches.  It’s more difficult to photograph properly than usual because the canvas itself is out of square slightly and then the camera adds its own curve distortion. But these photographs are ones I’m using for tracking.  Later I will rephotograph all the paintings using a better camera.

Anyway, hopefully this painting makes sense of its reference drawing that I posted last week.  The relationship between drawing and painting is much clearer now. The drawing was very abstract; this painting is still very abstract (and may remain so – I’m not sure), but things begin to emerge from the roiling curved forms.  I am really pleased with the painting.  Sometimes a picture will start to delight you as you are painting and this one went that way.

There’s a line near the top that runs the picture’s length horizontally.  That marks the boundary that conforms to the reference photo I used.  The picture is in the same ratio as the photograph inside that boundary.  The bit of canvas above it is invention.  I left the line up to this point so that I could more easily make drawing changes to the main part of the image.  But I can cover the line up now because I know that none of the changes I’m likely to make going forward will profit by knowing where that boundary falls.

The preparatory drawing that I posted previously can be found here:

https://alethakuschan.wordpress.com/2018/01/26/tangled-blue-lines-untangling-thoughts/

 

graceful metaphors and symbols assembled in a bunch to be admired and examined

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I put some of my feelings into a bundle arranged in different colors, placed them into a glass of cool fresh water, set them upon the table, then stood and gazed at them to begin learning who I am and what I want.

The two paintings separated by slightly over twenty years are similar.  The subjects are essentially the same.  A vase of flowers sits on the table.  Surrounding each bouquet are light airy background colors.  Whatever you see is there because I put it there.  I arranged the flowers and then painted them.  How the two works differ reveals not only what I learned in the intervening years, it reveals differences in the way I think in past and present.  We know it doesn’t reveal anything about the flowers because the flowers don’t change.

What’s the difference between a white background and a pale blue one?  What about the introduction of blue and orange together — those chromatic opposites — what is the meaning of that?  Or the emotional effect?  How does it make you feel to look at a bunch of daisies sitting on a table?  What are the connotations of daisies.  They mean something different from roses.  Why?  Nature has given them radically different forms. The rose has depths.  One remembers so many different experiences of flowers by smelling them, holding them, watching them grow, by receiving or giving them as gifts.

Do the details take you deeper into the feelings?  Are the details more elaborate emotional landscapes?  Shouldn’t we bring things closer for inspection? Closer is more.

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These things that reveal our lives to us are so important.  For me it’s art, for others, it is something else.  Give some thought to the things that connect you to your past and to who you are inside.

Even seeing the differences when you’re the spectator tells something about the two image ideas. The differences in your feelings when you look at different scenes can tell you much about yourself if you watch and listen to the thoughts and feelings.

 

 

bouquet of flowers in a green vase

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I put all the flower bouquets into simple settings at the time.  Now I put them into complicated settings, with lots of color and patterned cloths.  But I like these simpler works, and I did do something like this one when I was painting flowers with pastel last autumn.

The one on the right was painted sometime in the early 1990s, while the one on the left was painted last autumn. They are not so far apart in design — though they are decades apart in years.  Thus it goes to show that my youthful self is still residing inside my head.  That’s how I’m interpreting the similarity — that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Obviously I am young at heart.  Here is the proof.

the curve

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For some reason I posed these flowers on a round table.  The blue cloth seems to have been the only still life cloth I owned!  Here it is again.  But I like it.  I must also have liked it a lot then to have used it so frequently.  It reminds me of the blue of the sky.

This time the profusion of flowers was crazy. I was again worried about being able to paint all of them, but evidently I managed.  And I also found a way of becoming mesmerized by the visual activity of the glass’s interior where the stems bunch together.

This was my favorite of the still lifes I painted in that era, and it’s still the favorite I suppose.

more & various flowers

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The bouquets gradually became more varied.  I was buying more flowers, different kinds of flowers.  Lilacs were still blooming out in the yard so those got added to the store bought flowers.  The blue cloth is still there, but now it creates a lower horizon, and a yellow background lies behind most of the picture.

I switched from the jade colored vase to clear glass.  It looks like a jar.  I have often favored simple jars for holding flowers.  I like the way the stems look through the glass.  It would be a theme of some of the subsequent pictures, the ones that come after this one.

I’m not posting the bouquets in order, though.  After so many years I have no recollection of the order in which I painted them.  I only know that the busier ones came later in the sequence.