École de Bonnard

owl flowers dec 2017 (2)

All the artists I’ve wanted to study from are — to put it crudely — dead guys. When I was a youth I studied with Degas (though I never met the man).  Later on I studied rather extensively with Van Gogh.  I did study with Diebenkorn too, who was an artist of my time (he was born the same year as my mother) but by the time I began studying with him, he was gone as well.

Now I attend Bonnard’s classes.  I meet him via books mostly, sometimes in a painting hanging at the National Gallery of Art or the Phillips Collection.  He didn’t ever want to be a teacher (so far as I know) but he has consented to let me become his student anyway.  (Like what is he going to do to stop me?)

I was teaching some myself a while back.  But now I’m a student again.  I think the student role suits me better.  I don’t say I’m a good student because I do whatever I please.  But Monsieur Bonnard doesn’t seem to mind.

Anyway all the posts for a while are diaries of my schooling.  I have a project.  Step by step I search after the answers to the pictorial problems that arise.  I love it.  And this blog helps me stay on track. If you want to study in the École de Bonnard, too, do join me.  The more the merrier.

The acrylic painting above is one of the versions of the motif I’m currently working on under Bonnard’s pleasantly permissive, ethereal, heavenly supervision.

(Oh, but note, I stole the figs from Frans Snyders.)  Steal figs here:



Meanwhile, the student’s path toward learning is not always easy or straight.

A blogger pal Dr Andrea Dinardo of the University of Windsor has an inspiring TED talk on the topic of resilience.  You can find it here:

Free yourself.


Comment to an artist friend

” I am playing with the idea of letting a painting dictate

little landscape from memory of photo

its own direction…,” said my artist friend Fritz at his blog Fruitful Dark.

Those words describe the way that I try to relate to perception. I am always striving to be more connected to the motif, to discover things about it, even in random ways. I want something that is opposite of technique (as usually understood) — instead to have a direct line of thought between what I’m seeing and what gesture I make on the painting or drawing. What if the most notable thing in a certain motif is, say, the reflection on a vase? The usual advice (and I’m not knocking it) is to start with the big shapes first and go toward details — for this approach is a way of organizing the picture to get at a kind of realism or even just the awareness of the whole. And I have worked on my drawing chops for years to learn about proportion and the big sense of the image, and so on. But sometimes now I go the opposite direction — I let my mind work with the first thing that really pulls me, no matter what it is or how illogical a process it might invoke. Because one interesting idea is not something that just sits in isolation — it leads to other ideas, places and feelings.

The odd detail will help you notice some other feature that maybe you hadn’t seen. I am not fastened to one picture even — though certain pictures become ones where the aim is completeness. Those I will wrestle with over whatever time span is necessary. But other works are passages of travel through various ideas. They don’t have to be finished. They can proceed willy nilly.

Of course none other than Corot said to continually attempt to get back to the first impression — that first sense of “ah!” — and you might not even know what provoked THAT feeling. It is somehow mixed in with everything all at once. And it’s hidden inside lots of separate items. It stands behind the details like a gravitational force.

But horses for courses. I don’t have to do the motif the same way every time. I can go totally illogical with it. I can fasten down a detail if it suits me, why not? And I can leave details hanging suspended in chaos for the sake of experiencing a passage of thoughts. The things learned will accumulate. They’ll go somewhere more connected in time.