Habitual Delight

In between times, it’s good to have something that regularly provides delight, and for me it’s the koi.  I have to take breaks from them sometimes and draw other things, but then they are so delightful to revisit, and I strike out in search of some new thought to find in the old pond.  It’s part of the rhythm of work, like waking from sleep, like pauses during the day, like holidays in the calendar year.  Things that predictably recur and new things that surprise. 

When I first began doing art, I never would have guessed I’d draw so many pictures of koi.  But they are my “abstraction,” my excuse for dealings in pure color and pure line.


My fish need a bigger pond

Last week I began another koi drawing.  I do these drawings as same-size studies for paintings, as forms of exploration, as ends-in-themselves, and I do them because it’s fun.  But my little secret bunker studio is too small to accomodate my growing koi pond of imagination.  Two of the large drawings are in storage, one pinned on top of the other.  The third is hanging high on the wall so I can use it as a reference for a painting in progress, and the newest koi drawing occupies the only available wall space remaining.

One of these days I’m going to exhibit these guys together in one — very large — room.  And it will be a challenge getting them framed since drawings go under glass.  It’s going to be one big sheet of special glass to cover drawings that are 40ish or 50ish inches high and 60 inches wide.  And though the glass used to frame pictures is designed to cut down on glare, it’s probably impossible to have a sheet of glass that size that doesn’t reflect back some of the light to the spectator.  So the drawing in exhibit will never have quite the same punch as the drawings have when they are simply pinned to the wall.  The artist’s private delight.

I have wondered about whether crayon on paper was such a good choice given these difficulties.  But the beauty of the medium is just too wonderful to forego.  Moreover, these crayon drawings reproduce remarkably well, perhaps better than any other medium I’ve ever used.  And the fun quotient is inestimable.  I love to draw anyway, but scribbling with crayons evokes deep stored joys going back to childhood and even stretching back through archetypal evolution to the dim beginnings of human existence.  Through these drawings I tap my inner cave-person and do something like my own Lascaux cave painting act.

And I discovered that I like my inner cave-person.

Return of the Dundee Jar

My little white jar of Dundee Marmelade has returned.  Don’t know why I love it so.  Love is just that way.  Fickle, you know.  When I cast about for something to draw, sooner or later my eyes land upon the little jar, and I feel it beckoning.  Smooth and white like porceline, heavy with marmelade, subtle in its whites that softly reflect every adjacent object in muted tones, I just cannot resist.  And the name “Dundee” printed so magestically, confidently.  It was the constant object of my admiration today.

The ways of drawing cylinders is something that every art student encounters eventually.  Some rules of perspective provide a recipe for a cylinder that will always receed properly, whose top will form just the right oblique oval to tell how a little jar stands with respect to God and gravity, that will make it seem as properly symmetrical as in truth it is. 

But do the eyes see this symmetry?  Or, at least can we question whether we see it all the time in its rationality?  We have two eyes, and each one sees something slightly different, and between the two of them a highly inquisitive and perceptive viewer can detect the deflections of thought between right and left and this way and that.  Perhaps unconsciously we note the discrepencies between our two eyes and catch glimpses of the irregular cylinder presented in stereo to competing optic nerves?

I like to think that my cylinders are not incorrect, just lovingly observed twice.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this jar, but these drawings are like casting actors for roles.  These are the auditions.

And finally, below, we see the jar as it is — in itself — not in character but in ordinary life.


flower sketch one

My days have been so hectic of late, but today was a welcome contrast.  What  a lovely, quiet day of hours spent idling and lolling about.  The autumn air was unseasonably warm.   Had coffee in the kitchen beside the golden light of our little lamp.  Lazy tropical thoughts in my head.  After a bit, I took my coffee to the big window.  Had my notebook in my lap.  View of the trees beside me, leaves of changing colors, kind breezes coming through the open window, comforting humidity.  I had a long talk on the phone with my mom, and while we talked I sketched some flowers in the notebook. 

I love my notebook!  Spent long, lazy minutes doodling with it in my lap, talking with my mom, traveling back through time. 

Getting ready for making a shift to still life.  Still life.  It’s been my all-purpose aspiration these days!  Stillness, sweetness, not having to rush about so much!  One of those things that art does (it serves many aims, comes in many guises) is render things still.  Someone has said that the defect of painting is that it’s flat and it doesn’t move.   And for me that’s all the charm!  Let motion pictures charm the hectic world.  I crave stillness!  I get all the dizzy motion I want looking at inanimate objects.  “Does an apple move?” Cezanne asked.  Well, it did for him as his nervous, searching lines attest.    The contours around flowers can be very hard to pin down.  One would think the bouquets are dancing a ballet.

flower sketch two

flower sketch three

I like to draw things over and over.  If I paint these flowers, I’ll have drawn them a dozen times in advance.  These are artificial flowers, of course.  But there’s ways of playing around with drawing  when working from life too —  and lots of artifice involved in making things that are “real.”  My fake flowers make such demands on me that I’m scared of real ones.  And if you’ve ever seen one of those time-lapsed pictures of flowers, you discover that flowers are actually very weird and scary — one is wise to think twice about being alone in a room with a vase of tulips!

flower sketch four

The last have-at-it today needed crayons (of course).  Rather unapologetically I did not “finish” my sketch!  And there’s a whole bunch more unfinished drawings coming right behind these!

flower sketch detail

Lastly, I must include a detail of my unfinished drawing.  On a lazy day, one simply cannot neglect enjoying the laissez-faire of scribbled lines.  All my leisure lies suspended in these lines:  heedless, lazy, indulgent, contented, grateful! — on a quiet Sunday.

The whole fish we caught

fish darker

In the previous post I showed just the eye.  Here is the entire fish.  We caught him on paper about ten years ago.  We caught him and now he just swims in this one spot forever.  Immortal fish.

Testing, testing, testing

camera test fish eye

Got to test the camera once in a while.  I was trying to see how up-close I could get and still keep it in focus.  I love magnification.  Love to see the texture of the paper and the pigment dragged across the paper’s ragged surfaces.  And regarding the fish one draws, one cannot but love the eye that gazes back at you.

Teapot’s encore


I was thinking about how I used to  get so lost in looking at objects when I first started drawing, many years ago in my youth.  I did not then always start in a logical place.  Sometimes I just started with the first sensation of color or line that caught my attention. 

Sometimes my drawings were way out of proportion when I did not consider the whole object but instead fastened my gaze on one part — and then jumped to the next part that caught my notice — and then the next — and so on, like a grasshopper holding a crayon.

I was thinking this morning how delightful it would be to draw that way again.  To go where delight leads and let the lines fall where they may.

Naturally with my teapot sitting right there, it became the star of my rejuvenated experiment.
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Rocks and Potatoes

Back in May, I posted a still life I made many years ago of a cabbage and potatoes.  This drawing is its distant cousin. 

I drew this from a photograph, and like the lake of two posts ago, I find it provides a good practice for some drawing outdoors that I’m hoping to do — en plein air.  But it also has the same basic forms as the earlier still life.  Indeed, I was thinking of getting some potatoes and inventing a landscape from a still life perhaps?

One of the wonderful things about drawing is the way it lets you take imaginative journies.  I can vicariously visit the rocky outcropping by drawing it from a photo.  And I can travel there even with some potatoes too?  I don’t necessarily need a travel agent to find a locale that’s very bucolic and peaceful where I can bask in the warmth of the sun.

Mirror of Water

The water is a mirror, the first mirror. Narcissist might have bent over this glass. When water is very still, you can’t tell where the surface is. You can wonder if it’s a few inches away or several feet. I saw a pond like that once — in the middle of the forest — so still that its depths seemed only eternally to elude my touch, and it seemed also to resonate silence, an anechoic chamber of liquid rationality.  This place was still.  This place was so quiet.

I have some favorite things that I like to draw, this pond is one of them. I’ve drawn and redrawn it many times. I play it like a tune softly on the piano, noodle around with it, and its music is all rests and no notes. It’s not even a real drawing in the usual sense, but is just me making marks along the page, tossing virtual pebbles into the water, skipping them and waiting for ripples that never happen, that never come, for no echoes sound in this pond that is eternally still.

The clouds float by above and below, forever. Water vapor above, liquid water below. Mirror of light. The air will always seem to vibrate with an aqua-blue vibe. The marks, the restless marks, caught my nervous energy and fix it into a picture where I can look back and see Nature meeting me.  For we’re here in this place, this grand and stunning place, and Nature waits upon us to notice.