stealing figs

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One of my flower paintings has a bowl of figs in it.  I confess I didn’t grow these figs or even purchase them.  I stole them.

And you can steal some too even if you live very far away from the source.  I got them from the bowl that you can find below.  They’re Snyder’s figs.

And this isn’t the first time I’ve stole them.  I go back and steal them several times.  The drawing above is the first stage of the most recent theft — it’s as far as I got at night before bedtime.

If you want to steal some too, get them here — there’s a zoom at the link’s end.


empty bowl

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Even an empty bowl has something in it — it’s got air inside it, hanging there from rim to rim.  And light particles attach themselves to the air and gleam and glimmer inside it.  I’m not sure how one’s suppose to handle the topic visually, but I mix different pearlescent tints of white and hope for the best!

It should not be confused with real air though! — not according to the great painter Edgar Degas for he told us “l’air qu’on voit dans les tableaux des maitres n’est pas l’air respirable.”  [The air one sees in the paintings of the great masters is not the air we breathe.]

I guess that’s true of those figs I stole from ol’ man Snyders (more about that in a future post).  They’re only for looking at — you can’t eat them.

Oh, my darling Clementine!

Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling, Clementine!

In the wake of my couple hours at the museum, I return to my still life plans with renewed enthusiasm.  I’m not sure why, but I always accept the gift of pleasure when it comes and try not to ask too many questions.  Something about copying the other guy’s still life objects (in this case figs belonging to Frans Snyders) jazzed up my experience of the colors, shapes and lines of my own set up.  I made these drawings last night — wanted to do something while that good feeling was still mentally vivid.  And I decided to approach my still life in the same way I had done at the museum:  I made some fast pencil drawings first.

Drawing the bright orange Clementines with pencil turns into a nice meditation upon tonal strength.  Without the umph of orange dazzling chroma, you have to find other means for deciding how to be emphatic.  I learned a new appreciation for nuances of dark and the wonder of figuring out where and how much gets you some magic (I’m still figuring).

I don’t really need to make the pencil drawings to do the color version, but making them helps nonetheless.  Having made the pencil version, I already know something about my subject.  We’ve already shaken hands and gotten beyond the formalities and are well on our way to the beginnings of a wonderful friendship.

(Just for the record, I didn’t actually sing the song while I was working, but it does make a clever post title.)

A change of pace

I’ve been in such a rut lately.  A friend of mine said I should reconnect with my roots and my old loves, so I went to the National Gallery of Art in Washington today.  Decided to draw still life since that’s what I’m working on in my own painting.  Found this Frans Snyders painting, Still life with Grapes and Game.  Besides the grapes and the game, it also features a tray of figs.  That’s what I drew.  You can see them on the left-hand side of the painting.

I only had two hours to look at paintings and also to make my little drawings now that Washington has upped the cost of its metered parking to new heights.  The Mint stamps only so many quarters, you know.  Anyway, before I made my oil pastel version, I drew it with pencil.

In both versions, I was not especially concerned with how Snyders painted his subject (though of course that’s a very interesting matter).  Instead, I drew the figs just as though they were real figs, putting my colors down in ways that suited my thoughts and making little attempt to describe Snyders’s thoughts and techniques.

It’s tricky being in a museum drawing this way.  So many factors enter in that people typically don’t think about in regard to art.  For instance, my left hand started going numb on me from balancing the pastel tray under my notebook.  And my purse and coat started weighing heavily on my shoulders.  (Could I be getting old?!  NO!)  Still, people ought to know that my hand was going numb while I was working and that my shoulders started to ache!  Hey, brownie points, please!

Alas, there goes my violin career.  Anyway, I feel that looking at this painting — even though I wasn’t thinking about Frans Snyders’s techniques — helped free up something in my brain as regards my own pictures.  Time will tell.  (And I’ve got to get back to the museum more often.)