Bold yellow tea roses, a brilliant violet color in the background, a white and blue table cloth along with three bright orange, plump persimmons: these compose the scene with additional help from a jaunty white pitcher in the center that has a single pink painted rose decorating its rondure. Sometimes the colors and positions provoke a mood. This arrangement seemed provocative to me. It feels assertive. I thought the objects seem to speak. It is for each individual spectator to decipher life’s bold messages.
Tea Roses is a pastel painting measuring 20 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches.
The red sprig of berries is connected to the left-hand edge. The brown vase is connected to the top. The whale whistle is connected to the jade green jar. The blue and yellow cloths are connected along their entire shared boundaries like Siamese Twins. Everything in the picture is connected to everything else.
And that Whale Whistle — I think he’s looking at you.
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.
Sometimes the best part of a still life might be the depiction of the turn in a fold of cloth. In ordinary life I don’t suppose people think much about the leading edge of a cloth as it folds under itself. I know that outside of my practice of art I rarely think about such things. It is art that brought me into contact with such ideas.
Perhaps physicists sometimes think along this line. Once, very late at night, I heard a physicist explaining multiple dimensions on the radio. He said that the hidden dimensions might be like tubes that coil in upon themselves.
Well, whether or not there are hidden folded dimensions that create the universe there are certainly frequent occasions when the cloth folds, and the observation of the fold is a marvel to behold.
Sometime I’ll have to talk about the rest of the painting, the part above the fold.
I painted the seashell and bottle together because I like the shapes of each. That’s why I bought the bottle (another of the thrift store hauls) and why I collect the seashells. I love their shapes and colors. Looking at their surfaces fascinates me. I like the color blue. I like the folds in a cloth. I like the random things that end up being the edges of the painting when you paint without a plan.
This is a little picture — only 9 x 12 inches — painted on Arches oil paper, which is a wonderful surface, enjoyable for the artist.
I began doing still lifes in a random way, choosing the object I wanted particularly to portray and letting the rest of the picture arrange itself according to the dimensions of the format, and now I love the randomness of it. The edges become a new area of exploration.
Some people climb mountains or dream astronaut dreams — I explore the edges of the painting — far more sedentary, much safer physically, but still wonderful — I assure you!
How does one express this love of the edges? Or of the spaces between things? Do you believe me when I tell you that they are marvelous territories?! And while I rhapsodize the edges, do not suppose that I oppose the middle — I like painting’s interior too.
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.)
I only learned about Wenzel Hablik a couple weeks ago. His painting is on the cover of a book my daughter has been reading. Soon after I happened upon a video in French about an exhibit at the Musee d’Orsay called “Beyond the Stars. The Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kandinsky” and there was a curator standing in front of his painting, talking about it.
I had no idea it was so huge! My painting is pretty big too. Mine above, his below.
Indeed, he’s got something in common with a lot of things I have painted but I’d never heard of him until very recently. It’s always fun to discover things like this — things I love that I didn’t know I loved until now. More of mine below.
Stars, water and kois have a lot in common!
Sometimes I want drawing to be my idleness. If I just draw, without expectation, choosing something I want to look at, to think about the vision with the pen making lines as I watch, that can be an unhurried, lazy drawing.
I decided that spending some time with pictures I love could be a good way to use this idle approach. I found Odilon Redon’s “Mystical Conversation” in a book and have made this little exploratory drawing of it. As you can see, it’s a good picture to relax with. Sometimes idleness can bring with it great freedom.
The more things change, the more they stay the same — a good saying for artists who are practicing in the way that Degas advised them to do: “you must redo the same thing ten times, a hundred times.”
I made this little koi pastel above so that I could be often practicing the colors and positions of the koi fishes. It measures about 12 1/2 x 11 inches. It’s practice for a painting measuring 40 x 60 inches.
These are guppies for the big pond.
I have redrawn this motif again and again. Sometimes it transforms.
The Convergence shows a group of koi racing across the surface from left to right. When The Convergence hangs together with Racing Koi (below) as pendants, the koi fishes seem to be racing toward each other. In The Convergence brilliantly orange-colored fishes predominate and their complementary color contrasts brightly with the serene blue of the water. The fishes’ forms are modeled and dimensional. Some of their features are clear, and one senses the round slippery, firm shapes of the powerfully moving fish as they push through the water, as they companionably shove into each other. Koi are “brocaded carp,” specially bred fish noted for their beautiful color patterns and strong hues. In this picture the brightest colored fishes have accidentally gathered together, filling the center with vivid red-orange. A linear energy runs throughout their movements. Dark reflections in the water create lines that also parallel the strong contours of the kois’ bodies with energy that is vibrant and yet somehow soothing.
Converging Koi is a pastel painted on Canson Touch Mi-Teintes paper measuring 28.75 x 20.75 inches.
The companion picture Racing Koi, featured in the last post, is below.