because I like the shapes

seashell and bottle

I painted the seashell and bottle together because I like the shapes of each.  That’s why I bought the bottle (another of the thrift store hauls) and why I collect the seashells.  I love their shapes and colors.  Looking at their surfaces fascinates me.   I like the color blue.  I like the folds in a cloth.  I like the random things that end up being the edges of the painting when you paint without a plan.

This is a little picture — only 9 x 12 inches — painted on Arches oil paper, which is a wonderful surface, enjoyable for the artist.

I began doing still lifes in a random way, choosing the object I wanted particularly to portray and letting the rest of the picture arrange itself according to the dimensions of the format, and now I love the randomness of it.  The edges become a new area of exploration.

Some people climb mountains or dream astronaut dreams — I explore the edges of the painting — far more sedentary, much safer physically, but still wonderful — I assure you!

How does one express this love of the edges?  Or of the spaces between things?  Do you believe me when I tell you that they are marvelous territories?!  And while I rhapsodize the edges, do not suppose that I oppose the middle — I like painting’s interior too.


Part way there

two shells

Part of this picture I love.  The central shell has a nice presence.  The smaller shell needs adjustment.  But it’s been a good painting day.

I need to wipe out the smaller shell and redraw it.  But it’s been a good painting day nonetheless.

more fish & frog

oil July 2 fish vase frog pot (2)

Yesterday evening I worked more on the oil study for my painting in the works.  Earlier versions of this oil study and of a watercolor of the same motif appear in earlier posts. The painting is 9 x 12 on Arches oil paper.

The idea for the particular colors in the cloth came from the watercolor version I did earlier. I liked the colors there and decided to use them here as well.

Now I need to transfer these ideas to the mysterious big painting in the works.

Green fish vase & frog tea pot

oil july 1 two

After working on a watercolor version of the two objects, I decided to do some more painting on a little oil study I made on paper. I made dramatic changes to the fish vase, and sometime soon I’ll have to work on the frog tea pot also.

All these recent pictures are studies for a painting — a large still life — that’s in the works.

Here’s a detail of the fish’s face and a similar passage from today’s watercolor.

two bottles

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I’m focused on one painting for a while, one that I’m not ready to picture here. It’s a largish still life.  I make small practice paintings concerning parts of it.  The picture of two bottles on a varicolored cloth is one such example.  I brushed this together quickly and so far it provides just a kind of rehearsal for the forms. But I plan also to use some of these studies to test out color and drawing ideas before I try them in the actual painting.  That way if something clearly isn’t effective, I’ll know.  Hence more stuff needs to be added to this little pochade for its experiment to be complete.

I like the breezy, sketched appearance of this little study.  But when it dries I will begin indicating the pattern on the cloth.  During that phase, who knows but I might completely wreak this picture.  Or not.   I’ll find out.  In any case it’s practice so it’s role is to provide me with information.

It’s a bunch of fun to paint. A lark.  I love little things like this. It’s 9 x 12 on Arches oil paper.

being studious

blue bottle second stage oil

I have finished the first stage of my study for a painting that’s in the works.  All the running design is there, which is the main passage that I’m wondering about.  Having painted it once, I can contemplate better how its perspective ought to go.  I won’t be approaching it scientifically — no point perspective for me — too much a recipe for headache for an innumerate like me.

Instead just seeing the pattern that I’ve painted, I’ll figure out something that I like, some version of what I see that fits together with the other components of the painting in question.

An earlier stage of this study appears below.

blue bottle oil early2

I don’t know why it’s so important for me to sneak up on my paintings, though I wanted some practice painting the elaborate cloth that rests on the table.

I get ideas along the way, some of which I’ll record here so that I’ll have a reminder I can access if perchance I forget what I was doing ….  So the black in the design above I have varied a little using four mixtures — mars black & chrome green; mars black & quinacridone purple; yellow ochre & mars black;  and mars black & thalo blue (red shade with some white).  In each case it lightens and gives the black a chromatic base.

It’s hard as I paint the study (9 x 12 on Arches oil paper) to see all the color effects because the light in the room is rather low. So taking the picture outdoors to photograph it served a dual purpose:  make a record of its progress and see what it actually looks like!

The pink part of the pattern is lighter than necessary.  I decided to start light and adjust the color going forward.  I might experiment with using glazes for some of the color adjustment — not sure yet.

In the actual painting another bottle sits next to this dark blue bottle.  But that’s okay.  One thing at a time.  The other bottle has a hole in the center.

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again, the fish vase


101_8955 (2)Today I’m making an oil study of the fish vase and have just begun indicating the object that’s beside it — the frog tea pot.  An earlier post showed the fish vase in watercolor and again in oil pastel.  This time I’m using oil paint.  Each medium helps one think about visual features in different ways.

All that plus they say that practice makes perfect.

I like looking at the changing lights across the surface of the vase.

An earlier version of this oil study looked like this:

fish vase oil

More of Froggie

frog detail 3

I worked a little more on the frog-on-the-shelf painting.  The frog is beginning to look more there. And I tidied up the edge of the shelf where a bit of paper over-hangs and confuses things. I don’t know how long I’ll work on the painting, which is a little oil study on paper. I’m beginning to get interested in it, am enjoying going into its small spaces.  And I like watching the light make subtle changes among the actual objects.

frog bottles shelf ptg

The Eiffel Tower, the blue bottle, the shell, the yellow vase — I ignored all of them today. I had only a little time in which to work, having taken up the picture again near the end of the period when the light is right.  The vase behind the frog which has the songbird design on it needs to twist so that the object recedes in space.  And the sea shell is little more than a gear drive shape at the edge.  If I continue working, all these things will need their turn.  But today was devoted to Froggie and his edges — to all the passages that press against him.

While working and watching, I began getting caught up in the aspect of figurines on display. In yesterday’s post I remarked that two of the objects have associations with my mother. The whole idea of figurines also takes me back to memories of my paternal grandmother.  I hadn’t realized it until today’s session.  Grandma must have had frog figurines.  She had all sorts of little objects of that sort.  They sat in rows in her living room window.  They were exactly the kind of thing to fascinate a small child, such as I was way back when.

The shelf of things looks wonderful in the natural light of the room. I took a photo which I’ve doctored enough to render the things visible.  The squash from today’s other work sits on the shelf under Frog & Company.

still life shelf2 (2)

Yellow and Orange

When you paint as much blue as I do

squash wc (2)

sometimes you need some yellow and orange. The koi pictures that feature so prominently in my life and studio make one need strong warm colors from time to time as a foil to the watery blue reflections of sky that dominate those works. Since I have an ancient squash that’s been sitting on the kitchen shelf for longer than I’m willing to admit, and as I don’t think I’m interested in cooking it anymore, I decided that it’s perfectly suited to the still life table where it sits very nicely.

squash and shell oil

I painted it with watercolor in the picture on top, and afterwards decided to have a go at it with oil paint too. For the oils I paired it with one of the sea shells.

The light comes in from the window facing south at the backyard and also from an east facing window that bounces light from the neighbor’s light colored house, filtered through the leaves of shrubs I need to prune.  I have a bright yellow plastic table cloth that I bought for a dollar at the grocery store, purchased for its brilliant color and assembled together the items and ambient light all make for much bright yellow wending warmth.

So, there they are — today’s immersions in a foil to blue.  The balance of the color reproduction is off.  The pictures are cooler and more lemon shaded (especially in the cloth) than gets captured here. But I learned long ago that the camera sees things a little differently than our eyes do.  And the reproduction catches the general sense, and hence is as we say “close enough for jazz.”



Frog still life: 1st go

frog still life first go

In just under two hours I began an oil sketch on Arches oil paper of a ceramic frog and some other objects that are arranged haphazardly on a kind of over-flow still life shelf.  The bottle with the bird motif has appeared on this blog before.  To its right is part of a conch shell.  To its left is a little model of the Eiffel Tower.

I realized afterwards that among English speakers the juxtaposition of the frog and Eiffel Tower might seem significant, but their appearance is accidental.  The Eiffel Tower got misplaced on the floor while I was cleaning and upon its rediscovery, I just put it on the shelf with other things. The Eiffel Tower formerly belonged to my mother.  And the froggie, while he is exclusively mine has associations with her as well since she owned a similar little ceramic frog (someday I’ll have to paint a face off of the two ceramic frogs). In any case the two things, Parisian landmark and frog figurine, connect through her rather than through any humorous cultural associations — unless cultural associations over-rule all others …

I bought my ceramic frog last summer at Homestead gardens near Annapolis.  I liked his cheerful green demeanor. I also loved holding it in my hand.  The glass is so smooth that just to hold it offers comfort, offers a mediation on mindfulness through the sense of touch.

It’s amazing to me how sketchy of a sketch this sketch is, but there’s so many little color notes to observe and even in as short a span as two hours the light began to alter rather dramatically.

I don’t know if I’ll continue work on the picture or not, but I like to set myself the task of doing fast little paintings to see how much I can gather together through quick thinking.  The froggie has colors across his chest that require a careful depiction if his form is to be evident. Some of the marks on him now relate to those colors, but I haven’t enough there yet to establish them as colors sitting on the surface. Revealing what is shadow and what is marking in a painting’s early stage can be tricky.

If I do continue working on the painting, it’ll be the frog who gets my attention first. For today, though, I wanted to catch some of the hodge podge of things in their thingness. As a preliminary sketch, I think it’s not half bad.

The blue bottle (to the Frog’s left) and the yellow vase behind it are regulars on my still life table, as the drawings above attest.