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.
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.
I was already someone who sought to find the motif through several variations of a subject. Another bouquet is accompanied by four lemons. (Other pictures had two lemons.) The yellow lemons offer a visual foil to the violet lilacs.
This bouquet has other flowers besides lilacs — chrysanthemums (symbolic of long life) with also a single carnation, and possibly also a tea rose. The whole bouquet sits once again on the pale blue cloth now in front of the white wall.
I was learning from looking at Van Gogh’s paintings so the blue cloth has swirls of brushstrokes in waves creating shadows. All the forms are delineated, as in a drawing that has been colored.
The blossoms are heavier than in the other painting of the same theme, and they are more abundant. This horizontal spreading out of the flowers was something I loved — which I still love — and it reminds me of the shape of a tree. In this case the lilacs are also a little bit tree-like in the expressive, transparent shadow they cast. Once again, there are two lemons.
The color of the background wall was kind of a big deal in my family when I was growing up. I can’t recall the color name. But we liked it as an interior wall color. It was almost our official living room color. By the time this picture was painted my parents had moved to another state where they retired. I stayed behind. And the walls of the living room were still covered with the official hue.
The light is interior light. You might notice that it’s warm on the top of the leaves. Nevertheless, the shadows are transparent. Outdoor light might have been coming into the room too. I painted this so long ago that I don’t remember.
There were several bouquets that I set up on the same pale blue cloth. Lemons form a counterpoint in them, their yellow providing chromatic opposition to the violet of the lilacs. I remember that I liked describing the forms of the lemons with strong outlines. With these I was particularly pleased because they look solid.
You can see some of the warmth of the interior light in the blue cloth too. A yellowish cast reflects off the blue in places.
I felt like these flowers have almost a personality. They seem cheerful. Plural. Definitely an ensemble of happy lilacs. The same bush that produced these lilacs finished blooming only a day or so ago. So many years later!
It was a favorite glass, and I took flowers from the yard along with some we had purchased and plopped them into the glass of water. Put it on a white cloth. And I painted it.
I had to “reconstruct” the tip of the green fond that bends over on the left because (when I wasn’t looking) the cat jumped up and chewed the end off of it.
I’ve been working on flowers a lot lately. This pastel is the most full of things of the several pastels that I’ve done so far. It measures 30 x 22 inches on Canson “touch” paper. The curvature of the lens distorts the image a little (visible especially at the upper right), but you can get the idea.
I’ve been buying fresh flowers, arranging and rearranging them for the several pictures. It’s nice to have fresh flowers around. The persimmons are from the garden.
I bought the table about two years ago at a thrift store. I was “in the market” for a good still life table at the time, but figured I’d have to settle for department store tv dinner tables because of the expense involved in purchasing actual furniture. However, when I visited the local thrift store looking for vases and other still life items, the first thing I saw was this table whose edge you see on the lower left. It was very inexpensive! I recognized my destiny in the instant! It was kismet! I left immediately. Returned thirty minutes later with the family pick up truck and bought the desk and brought it home! It’s gotten a lot of use since that day, but this is the first time that the edge of the table itself has peeked out of the picture. Usually it’s covered with cloths. There’ll be more peeking in the future, rest assured.
Someday I’m gonna go full Cezanne with this table …
I set up elaborate still lifes for paintings. Even when I’m painting something else, it’s fun to see the still life sitting there on the table. I think to myself that everyone ought to have a still life table for the fun of having the things to look at and to put into interesting arrangements — whether you’re an artist doesn’t matter. Rearranging the items on the still life table could become a catalyst for rearranging things in your life (I’ve heard of some kinds of psychotherapy that use a similar tactic). Or maybe it’s something to do to nurture one’s inner decorator or architect.
In truth, though, everyone already has still lifes arranged all throughout their houses. We just don’t call them by that name. The shelf where I keep still life objects is a still life set up in its own right. I put the things on the shelf in ways that cram as many items on the shelf as possible, but the arrangement has its own unintended charm. I should paint that some time. And everyone has a corner of a room — kitchens are notorious — where a bunch of things sit in haphazard arrangements that echo the things’ uses in the lives of the home’s inhabitants. Other places to find the wonderful, revealing haphazard still life include the insides of closets, the work desk, the bathroom shelf, inside cabinets and spaces under beds.
All those compartments have a beautiful charm — are like entries in a diary telling us truths about the quiet spaces of living.
Flowers are a traditional subject, however, in traditional still lifes and so I paint them often. Moreover the flowers are organic in form and thus connect the inside and outside worlds. Nature made the flowers (and the gourd too in this still life above) and human beings made the rest in the still life above with the striped cloth.
17 x 23 inches, pastel on sanded paper, available.
In a little vase of flowers you can find so many things — the stability of gravity, the beauty of light, the profusion of nature, a riot of incident — they are all there. Even in the small compass of a little bouquet, there’s so much to see. A little vase of flowers is a microcosm of all of nature.
Pastel on sanded paper, 11 x 10 inches. Available.
I produced these during the night shift and spent a cheerful night that way. “The earth laughs in flowers,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Pastel, 18.5 x 14 inches.