It’s been a while since I bought some flowers to draw. I need to do that again. Drawing is a way of getting to know a thing. The drawings that I love best have as their primary purpose the recording of a moment. Flowers are wonderful to look at, to hold, to smell and they are wonderful to draw.
You choose an edge and let your eyes travel around that edge, and your hand records the journey — a trip through the flowers. Drawing is freedom.
I put some of my feelings into a bundle arranged in different colors, placed them into a glass of cool fresh water, set them upon the table, then stood and gazed at them to begin learning who I am and what I want.
The two paintings separated by slightly over twenty years are similar. The subjects are essentially the same. A vase of flowers sits on the table. Surrounding each bouquet are light airy background colors. Whatever you see is there because I put it there. I arranged the flowers and then painted them. How the two works differ reveals not only what I learned in the intervening years, it reveals differences in the way I think in past and present. We know it doesn’t reveal anything about the flowers because the flowers don’t change.
What’s the difference between a white background and a pale blue one? What about the introduction of blue and orange together — those chromatic opposites — what is the meaning of that? Or the emotional effect? How does it make you feel to look at a bunch of daisies sitting on a table? What are the connotations of daisies. They mean something different from roses. Why? Nature has given them radically different forms. The rose has depths. One remembers so many different experiences of flowers by smelling them, holding them, watching them grow, by receiving or giving them as gifts.
Do the details take you deeper into the feelings? Are the details more elaborate emotional landscapes? Shouldn’t we bring things closer for inspection? Closer is more.
These things that reveal our lives to us are so important. For me it’s art, for others, it is something else. Give some thought to the things that connect you to your past and to who you are inside.
Even seeing the differences when you’re the spectator tells something about the two image ideas. The differences in your feelings when you look at different scenes can tell you much about yourself if you watch and listen to the thoughts and feelings.
After I drew the more elaborate Lattice picture during the concert last night (earlier post), the thought popped into my head that “I could put anything anywhere.” It’s just a compositional sketch, after all. Why limit your thinking? To try out different options, I could rearrange the furniture of things that I knew I wanted in the painting. I could do it in the most unencumbered and straightforward way possible.
You just ask yourself questions. I begin (it’s an on-going process) by asking myself questions like: “what if I put the fish here?” “What if I put the owl there?” “What if the fence goes all the way to the bottom?”
“What if the water were flat?” “What if there were some tall grasses on the lower right?”
And so on.
These might resemble the “thumbnail” sketches taught in art school. They could not be further removed. The rearranging of things in the sketches has nothing to do with notions about good design or golden sections or whatever the thumbnail sketches are supposed to help solve.
The little compositional thingies are just visual ways of saying “what if the couch faced the window?” Or “what if we unloaded that stock and bought Company X stocks instead?” Or, “should we get a dog or a cat?” “Compact car or sports car?” “Cupcakes or cookies?”
They are exercises in brainstorming. They are a visual list. They are dream narratives. They are choices.
I set up still lifes for everything. Having a still life doesn’t mean that you have to depict it literally, either. You can use it as a platform for generating ideas. It gives you something to look at and think about. I simulate that process here by arranging some photos of a lattice (part of a baby gate) placed in front of a cloth decorated with a chain grid pattern. I altered the colors as much as my primitive photo edit program will allow.
Of course, by drawing something like this, I can alter the colors in any way I please. My “programming” is more variable.
WordPress’s photo format lets me further alter them by creating a composition made of square tiles.
This other photo below was edited through resizing, stretching one side while leaving the other side alone.
Fences keep things out and keep things in. The apertures of the chain link fence let many things in — to say nothing of all the things that fly over it. Animals and people are kept out or let in. Birds and insects don’t know there’s even a fence. For the bird or the insect, it’s a perch. For the spider it’s a place to build the web.
Lattice fences hold a fascination for me. I don’t know why. But I note that many other things that I want to put into the painting have lattices in them also — fish scales, owl feathers, cicada wings, dragonfly wings, a spider’s web, leaves (okay, that one’s a stretch — but Pierre Bonnard — ask him about little leafy squares), wave patterns ….
I had done the lattice before without awareness of the many connections, as the chain link fence in this drawing which is also a drawing for a painting that is “in the works.”
The lattice is the ultimate in negative space. Half the fun is that you can paint the thing and the space inside it too. I see the whole picture as a matrix and a veil in front of the eyes, a reality one creates like the dreamer of Ursula Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven.
Still riffing on the idea featured in yesterday’s posts, I made a compositional drawing while listening to a cello recital last night. Because I was at a concert, I pursued the drawing in terms of filling in most of the white page (except for the passage that would be light colored in a painting). It was mesmerizing to darken all those little squares while the music carried my thoughts into itself. But this drawing is not definite.
I don’t know what the composition should be. I am figuring it out. Yesterday’s posts were about a section of foliage in the picture. Last night’s drawing during the concert was a way of imagining the whole.
It’s fun to assemble them. One gets ideas from the group also. I look at four different ways I drew the same thing.
A recurring dream … one that I have while awake.
But there’s more to this dream ….
One of the ways that I get ideas for new works is from chance occurrence. While I was looking through image files, I found these two pictures side by side — rather as they appear here. The image on the left is a notebook drawing of the koi. The picture on the right is a scene from an old studio where a large drawing was nearly complete.
Seeing the two works together like this, the one on the left could almost seem to be the same size as the one on the right — and that gives you an idea how it would look enlarged. Making large works is not merely about enlarging small works. The large picture ought to seem as though it is simply “the right size” but seeing this small drawing in this context does suggest that it might look good on a much larger scale.
The process could as easily work the other way. You could see some huge painting in a museum and realize that it offers you a subject that you could do on a smaller scale. The key, whatever the circumstance, is to be open to new ideas.
Why — if a yellow plate with a honey comb and a honey jar sitting on it is like the moon — like a moon in a dark night sky composed of arabesques of leaves and flowers — why is the picture a still life and not a landscape? Why not just paint the moon and the stars?
Of course maybe (it’s entirely possible) the picture is not a moon at night. Maybe a honey jar is just a honey jar, a yellow plate is a yellow plate, a honey comb nothing more significant than itself alone.
I don’t know why I even brought it up. (Someone asked me only yesterday if I ever experience synesthesia. Does this count?)
I just thought it was moon-like in its light.
When photographs of pictures happen by chance to appear side by side, sometimes you discover relationships between images that you didn’t know were there. And so it seems that the Little Collage has some sort of parallel relationship to the Lattice painting that I made many years ago.
Maybe I’m crazy. But I feel as though they share some inner logic, as though they are versions of the same thing.