I painted the flowers in simple patterns, graphic in character — really more a way of drawing with color than of painting. But the jar (actually a drinking glass) packed tightly with the flower’s stems attracted much of my attention. I was consciously emulating the late flower paintings of Edouard Manet, one of which is in the National Gallery of Art in Washington and which I knew well. I was aware of his other late flower paintings from books.
The white iris, however, that is still Van Gogh’s teaching. My teachers were the Impressionist painters and Van Gogh.
They were good teachers.
The bouquets gradually became more varied. I was buying more flowers, different kinds of flowers. Lilacs were still blooming out in the yard so those got added to the store bought flowers. The blue cloth is still there, but now it creates a lower horizon, and a yellow background lies behind most of the picture.
I switched from the jade colored vase to clear glass. It looks like a jar. I have often favored simple jars for holding flowers. I like the way the stems look through the glass. It would be a theme of some of the subsequent pictures, the ones that come after this one.
I’m not posting the bouquets in order, though. After so many years I have no recollection of the order in which I painted them. I only know that the busier ones came later in the sequence.
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.
Still life and physics have much in common except that the still life painter is a naturalist and the physicist, a theorist. I look at things in their wild state and merely record what I observe. The objects all adhere firmly to the table. Shadows fall in the direction opposite the light. The objects, being inanimate, never move about. And they have a stability that is rather marvelous to contemplate since they are so sturdy and compact. Each, while made of differing substances, has a tensile and a compressive power.
Light falls upon the whole of the scene. Its reflection into the eyes of the beholder provides the veil of color that becomes the picture. Some colors are cooler and recede, creating an “atmospheric perspective.” Other colors, warm ones, come forward and seem to greet us. I understand that light is kind of important in the field of physics. It’s very important in my trade too.
All that remains is time. But I did long ago notice that the still life table is like a clock whose color changes tell the hours.
I’ve made a bunch of drawings and paintings of seashells, and soon I will make more. I started collecting seashells a few years ago, and I have a group of shells now. Each one is a little different from the others and in time I hope to have portrayed the individual differences. For now I just portray the shells broadly.
I like putting them into different settings, among different colors, especially among different patterns. I am always eager to discover what the surrounding colors do to change the mood of a picture.
When I have a sufficient number of seashells to cover an entire wall, I want to have them all framed and hung together as though they were one large work composed of the ensemble. But that project waits in the future. First I have to paint them one by one.
I started with the red. Because — red! Just putting the paint down straight from the tube, I enjoy seeing it so beautiful, luminous. This is why I love painting — because color transmits wonder just in itself, even before you do anything.
I’m making a painted version of the pastel still life with flowers, the one with the red cloth. It’s one of my favorites from among the group of pastel still lifes that I did in the fall. I’m thinking that I may do painted versions of my three favorites. Time will tell. Certainly I had to paint the ruby red one.
When the colors are beautiful simply as colors, when it’s a silky blue and a pale green the color of early spring, I find that I like looking at the colors for themselves alone. They are their own raison d’être. Big expanses of pure color gives the artist delight, something that you hope to share with the spectator. The lines and forms of the objects build upon that foundation. I wanted the vase of flowers to rise upwards like a bold tree, a symbol of life.
I make lots of studies for pictures. This one rehearses the motif for a large painting. This crayon drawing (made with Caran d’Ache Neocolors) measures 24 x 36 inches. (The related painting measures 30 x 48 inches.)