I read through the forms using a ball point pen in the previous post, and here I’ve rehearsed the forms in color using Caran d’Ache Neopastels (oil pastel). The drawing measures 18 x 11 inches. Didn’t color everything. It’s just a dress rehearsal, still thinking out loud.
Got a chance to see the January exhibit at the Virginia Art League and to photograph my oil pastel Koi Silk in situ. I love the framing which was done by Carriage House Framing. The whole thing measures 41.5 x 29 inches.
Here’s another view for scale.
The exhibit in historic Old Town Alexandria goes through February 4.
Here’s a link for Carriage House Framing.
At the National Gallery yesterday I encountered my old friend Cezanne and his Still life with Apples and Peaches. I made this rapid, unfinished drawing with water soluble crayons. Cezanne’s painting is dark. My version brightens it up a lot. The crayons are very pure. Cezanne’s painting has, no doubt, darkened with age. But he also mixed the colors to deepen and dull them, giving them a feeling of gravitas.
I made my little drawing very quickly. I choose to be impulsive nowadays. Don’t question whether you have time to draw or raise other obstacles. Just pull out the notebook and have at it. With the drawing above, my daughter arrived soon after I started so the drawing didn’t go very far. But I like it’s summary cheerfulness all the same.
Scribbling out the idea … it’s like sight reading in music. I’m not sure how the music sounds yet. I haven’t actually heard it. I’m reading the parts, getting figures in my head. First I have to find out what is there. Later I will look for interpretation. First comes practice. At some future juncture my hands will go straight to the notes. You must assimilate the music. It has to go from the page to the interior of your head. You have to hear it a while, get a feeling for the whole, discover its anticipations, its revelations.
There’s a beginning, a middle and an end. I don’t even know what the beginning is. I compose the visual music at the same time that I learn it.
I like to paint big pictures. One way that I rehearse images before painting is by making large drawings. In that way, I also have twice as much fun because I make two big pictures — the preparatory drawing and its related painting. The two works are not necessarily in a one to one relationship though. This drawing, for instance, measures 50 x 42.5 inches but is a rehearsal for a painting measuring 60 x 40 inches. However they are close enough together that making the drawing offers genuine preparation for painting.
Someone told me that opera singers rehearse their parts in sotto voce to avoid straining their instrument. Maybe these big drawings are to the paintings what sotto voce is to the opera singer’s full throated singing.
I have another 60 x 40 inch canvas waiting in the wings. And another large sheet of paper waiting to be made into drawing. Seriously good fun is just around the corner because this artist likes to paint and to think BIG.
Kois are wonderful animals.
They are lively, gregarious fish. They are beautiful, graceful and swift swimmers. I often seek a parallel expression when I’m drawing and painting the koi. I want the drawing to represent the qualities of the fish themselves. The drawing should be direct and swift-seeming. Sometimes that directness is best achieved through the most obvious means. Sometimes I draw the fish quickly and boldly so that the gestures of drawing can echo the movements of the swimmers and the water that flows around them. Hatch marks (parallel lines used to create passages of color and tone in drawing) help to further convey a sense of things moving, and calligraphic gestures of line also evoke motion and urgency. This drawing is one where the sense of swift movement — even more than of form — becomes the subject of the picture. One partly submerged fish is so blurred that his forms are broken into a broad abstract shape and the blur takes on a loveliness of its own. Some pictures of animals focus on their anatomy, but in my koi pictures I have sought the relationship between the fish and the water and the ways that they fuse visually.
Koi Silk is painted using oil pastel on Nideggen paper and measures 38 x 25.5 inches.
Always something to learn when retracing
the visual steps of the old masters through a careful scrutiny of their works.
I’ve always loved that ceramic cup in the corner with the lemons in front of it. Here (above) I was making a copy using crayons, and I was mixing colors on the paper and getting slightly different color effects than one sees in Manet’s more subtle and monochromatic but beautifully colored canvas where silver gray predominates. I was able to copy the objects almost the same size as they appear in the painting, but I chose just the right hand corner for my small notebook. Below you can see what I was copying and its context in the painting as a whole.
Some art teachers will pester you about getting ellipses correct. And I urge you, Reader, to notice how out of kilter Manet’s plate and cup are! And yet — for some mysterious reason, perhaps known only by Manet’s astute visual imagination, the painting as a whole is immeasurably better, more dynamic, more psychologically intriguing by virtue of these “mistakes.” Clearly he knows how to draw things in perspective. Just observe the wonderfully foreshortened fork. But the plate and the cup are a thousand fold more lovely by virtue of the quirky perspective. Trust your instincts.
You can draw Manet’s picture too, even if you’re far from the museum by using Gallery’s zoom feature at their website. But not yet! The links are redirects …. http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.46427.html
EXCEPT — when you wish to zoom on the ceramic cup which ends up being covered by part of the zoom widget itself. However, never fear — WikiArts to the rescue. A large version of the image is available here — click on the picture to access:
Between the two sources you can get a lot of visual information about the painting.
The central tangle of nervous lines is what I see first. I thought I had done about as much work on these koi as I could, but I now realize that all the dynamism occurs in the center. The upper part of the picture remains uncomposed. I put the field of blue there thinking that the solid color was all that was needed. But the nervous green lines of those central fish require some counterpoint from the other sections of the drawing. I was so mesmerized by the center that I didn’t recognize the problem.
I’ve worked on it some more.
I added a fish’s nose at the upper right, which is a better correspondence with the source photo I use.
I had to get rid of as much blue as I could with a heavy eraser to be able to apply the orange.
After I added the fish nose, I began working on the opposite side simply to put more stuff there, stuff in this case being contrasting marks of dark and light blues.
I press the oil pastel deeply into the paper sometimes and it frays away the top of the crayon, creating an impasto.
Without the context of the rest of the drawing, details become episodes of abstract painting. The criss cross hatching on the right depicts a koi’s scales.
Here’s the fish with the scales again. Ripples of water roll over the fish and into their open mouths. The network of gestural lines follows these waves.
Here’s the whole thing again after these most recent changes. I might see more things to add or change after I look at it some more.
It’s 18 x 24 inches on Strathmore 400 series. Usually colored papers work better for pastels (even for oil pastels), but this is a sheet of ordinary white paper. No doubt the white contributes to the over all luminosity of the drawing.