I’m still busy reorganizing things in the studio — making good progress, too — I’m getting ready to shift into full flower mode. With the weather warming, we’ve been taking many long walks and already I’ve begun making drawings of flowers during those walks. I go equipped with a small notebook and a nubby pencil à la Bonnard. And there’s so many flowers to see. Gotta love spring.
These flowers above may become subjects for drawing, but for now they just sit on the table for our enjoyment.
I just learned that my pastel “Pickle Jar of Flowers” has been selected for inclusion in the upcoming “Mark” exhibit at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia.
Here’s how the gallery describes the exhibit:
Pencil marks, painting strokes, woodcuts, or a dynamic editorial eye are all marks artists use to create their works. Mark-making has been associated with conventional pen, pencil, and paper, but artists make marks on ceramics, plates, fabric, and film, with tools ranging from sticks to scrapers to pixels. Artists can also be marked with memories, conditions, or experiences that shape how their artwork is made. Specific tools, techniques, and the artist’s physicality are embedded in every work of art. This exhibit will show the viewer how the artist’s mark can be the most important element in transforming the ‘blank canvas’ into an image. Artists are also encouraged to provide a brief statement about their ‘mark’. The curator is Charles Jean-Pierre.
The exhibit will be on view from September 5th through October 1st with a reception taking place on Thursday September 14th from 6:30-9:30 pm.
A print of the painting is available for purchase here:
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.
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.
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.
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.
If a simple glass pickle jar gives you joy, you know you are a joyful person. I found the pickle jar in my mother’s cabinet. It was one of those things my parents kept out of a desire to give all possessions a second life. Emptied of pickles it became a flower vase. I cleaned it up after its years of disuse and marveled at how lovely the light is that passes through simple clear glass. The flower stems randomly distributed in the jar offer beautiful abstractions of dark green. The glass also reflects and intensifies colors in adjacent objects — the table cloth, the backdrop cloth. It catches highlights of daylight entering the windows. It is in short a light catcher. Whoever wishes to meditate on the meaning of the present tense can gaze into its interior and find passages of beauty to inspect.
The flowers are the heroes of any flower still life: comprised in this instance of carnations and a single large yellow tea rose. But a clear glass jar also brings strong poetry to the scene.
Glass Jar with Flowers is a small pastel painting on textured paper measuring 14 x 18 inches.
Visits to the thrift store are staples of an artist’s still life experience. I like thrift shops not merely because they are thrifty, but because they are the opposite of trendy. They preserve the past, and often that past they preserve is a peculiarly ordinary and everyday past.
Finding the green pitcher was one of those wonderful thrift store discoveries that every flea market aficionado loves.
The pitcher has no value in a monetary sense, but it is visually rich. It’s one of those objects that lends itself to numerable interpretations. Placing it into this still life gave the flowers a new character. I had been portraying the same hardy flowers over the course of several days (it is amazing how long well-tended cut carnations will stay fresh).
The green becomes a factor. The green of the pitcher, colored like a grassy lawn, brings its own associations of spring, evoking the sense of a landscape where flowers bloom. Of course this vase has its own porcelain flowers, too, ones that decorate its waist. A bright gold-yellow cloth and variegated violet and pale linen-colored cloth behind the flowers create a light-filled scene.
Green Pitcher with Flowers is a pastel painting measuring 15 1/4 x 21 inches.
A glass pickle jar sits atop a table covered in a rich and brilliant red cloth. Inside, the jar is filled with a spritely array of flowers of different kinds — mostly carnations of red, yellow and pink, with a couple lilies and red daisies and in the center a lovely yellow tea rose. The jar diffuses the stems of the flowers in a soft way, heightening the light dark abstraction of the oblique lines formed by the stems. The glass jar also catches the light of the room in intriguing patterns of reflection.
Ruby Red: flowers on a Red Cloth is pastel painting that measures 14 x 18 inches.
Among the first of a suite of small flower paintings, this simple scene depicts a glass jar filled with flowers sitting on a table top with a gold-green cloth against a backdrop of rosy violet. The principle flower of the group is a large yellow tea rose and surrounding it are carnations of different hues, pale pink, rich red, pale yellow. The green stems of the flowers create a lively abstraction in the jar’s interior where reflections of light enliven the pattern of light and dark shapes.
Bouquet of Carnations is a pastel painting that measures 13 x 16.5 inches.
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.