color in its habitat

large seashell

A year or so ago, I forget when it was, I decided to do the seashells larger than life.  It was a distinct departure for me because previously I had always portrayed them apparent size or life size.  But I had some pastels I wanted to experiment with and a yen to work large and the seashells were all sitting right in front of me so the synergy all lead toward a large seashell.

Those experimental drawings I made are sitting where I can see them and have been prompting me to have a new whack at the motif.  Hence the drawing above.  Looking at the set up that inspired the first large seashell, you can tell that I was seeing the seashells from above them.  Given a certain artistic ambiguity that particular fact doesn’t completely register in the drawing itself.

Kuschan sea shell in pastel large studio view

However for the drawing I began last week, the shell sits on a shelf at eye level and fits into the representational scheme of “things seen on a ledge.”  It also takes up much more of the paper than the first one did.  The first large seashell drawing I made was on an 18 x 24 inch sheet.  This drawing measures 19.5 x 25.5 inches.  The seashell itself is about ten inches long.  So the drawing portrays it about twice life size. This latest drawing is the start; it will be interesting to see where it leads.

Here’s an in situ view of the shell in progress.

seashell on easel

It’s a rainy dark day today so I won’t be working on this seashell. It’s my natural light shell and sits recessed on the shelf so that it’s dark even in daylight.  But I have a nighttime seashell that I work on too. Ironically the nighttime seashell is brighter than the daytime seashell because I draw in it artificial light.

Actually I draw in the dark a lot.  I love drawing in low light.  But when I began doing en plein air drawing again, the first shock was seeing how bright the sticks look in the sunlight!  I usually never see them that bright when I’m working.

People have often commented on the bright colors in my artwork (I love color) but would be surprised to know how often I work in low light conditions where the actual colors aren’t fully visible.  Nevertheless, I know what I’m doing (I think) because the pictures come out with a balanced effect.  But I don’t always see what I’m doing.

It seems like a very natural way to work, in my view, because color changes all the time anyway.  All the time, all day long, as the light changes, so does color.  Therefore you might as well just chase color in the wild — in its natural habitat — and get used to it. The chase is where you feel the adventure!

Kuschan sea shell  in pastel large 18 x 24

 

 

the wise old owl at midnight

I drew the owl late last night.

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In dark owl time I drew him darkly to begin thinking about his wise place under the flowers in the large still life in front of the window at twilight. These are not the colors of the picture. They are the colors of the corner of the room at that comfortable hour. For the quiet nocturnal enjoyment of drawing inky shadows, I arranged him in a mantel of blues and blacks far removed from the light and airy pictorial table under flowers.

But this drawing is for getting better acquainted with the owl, not for figuring out the specifics of the painting — which is still a plan for a painting, not an actual painting.

I took some photos of the set up, back when it existed. It’s long since been disassembled. The camera distorts all the relationships between objects so that they don’t conform at all to the large cartoon I made for the painting. But the mind distorts things, too.

And yesterday I added the window behind the flowers using the blue pastel made at twilight, added it in a pen drawing, the first version of the altered idea.

The idea of the owl in that sketch is fuzzy and scribbly. The scribble version by its incompleteness can offer suggestions of ways to go forward with the idea. Indeed that is the chief virtue of scribbles, their openness to suggestion, the ways that they reveal possible paths without insisting on any singular interpretation.

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And now it’s sunny outdoors, a lovely bright and warm spring day.

UPDATE: In response to Judith’s comment I’ve included a close up of the owl in the drawing (the ability we have now to enlarge digital photographs this way is marvelous).

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The owl is an inch high in the actual drawing. You can see if you look closely that his body was longer at one point and that I just indicated his face and the holes for the candle light in his body by a few marks then sort of scratched over the whole to make him dark. The whole concept is gestural and quick.

There’s a kind of drawing where you just record your ideas and you don’t fuss over them. Imagine how many drawings one can make in a day — when there are no worries. And if you are, nonetheless, being specific about the thoughts then the drawing still records a lot of information. Think of it as like taking notes.  It’s not a kind of drawing to submit to “critiques” (you would never invite someone to critique the notes you take at a meeting, would you?) and yet sometimes such drawings will turn out to have a delight all their own.