To get back into the thought world of the flower wall painting, I’ve decided to make studies of various sections of it. Here’s a study for the clump of hydrangea flowers made using Neopastel (Caran d’Ache) on a sheet from a 14 x 17 Strathmore 400 series pad.
Here’s the whole painting as it looks at present.
The large flower wall has been thoroughly blocked in, and now I have to bring the individual parts into greater clarity. At the same time I don’t want to spoil the element of abstraction, the aspect of the painting that suggests forms. I want to suggest more than to describe, though my natural way of thinking is descriptive.
I learning to look at the painting itself more to gain a sense of how to go forward. I waver between the pull of the motif and the needs of the picture to stand on its own.
I love to draw. And I find that drawing helps me figure things out. For me, drawing represents one of the most direct forms of thought. So drawing the large forms of the landscape helps me rehearse an image prior to painting. I don’t always draw the scene first, but I often do and I always enjoy doing so.
For the garden picture I made three preparatory drawings, one which I’ve already posted. Each of the drawings are like line readings and with each I feel that I know the motif better — just as an actor learns the character’s lines.
It’s with the spare drawing above, though, that I felt I most understood the image. I wanted to be able to render it down to its essentials. And that makes me feel really prepared to cut loose when I start painting.
I sometimes make drawings after the painting is underway because in episodes of being away from the painting sometimes I feel that I lose the thread a little and drawing helps me get back into the world of the picture. I pick up the thread again.
Even the spare lines take me back into the world of the picture again too — not only into the painting, but in this case back into the garden.
The painting and a link back to the first preparatory drawing is located here:
This garden measures 34 x 28 inches. It’s more difficult to photograph properly than usual because the canvas itself is out of square slightly and then the camera adds its own curve distortion. But these photographs are ones I’m using for tracking. Later I will rephotograph all the paintings using a better camera.
Anyway, hopefully this painting makes sense of its reference drawing that I posted last week. The relationship between drawing and painting is much clearer now. The drawing was very abstract; this painting is still very abstract (and may remain so – I’m not sure), but things begin to emerge from the roiling curved forms. I am really pleased with the painting. Sometimes a picture will start to delight you as you are painting and this one went that way.
There’s a line near the top that runs the picture’s length horizontally. That marks the boundary that conforms to the reference photo I used. The picture is in the same ratio as the photograph inside that boundary. The bit of canvas above it is invention. I left the line up to this point so that I could more easily make drawing changes to the main part of the image. But I can cover the line up now because I know that none of the changes I’m likely to make going forward will profit by knowing where that boundary falls.
The preparatory drawing that I posted previously can be found here:
First brush with the idea featured in the previous post appears in this drawing — in this crazy, wacky little drawing. Eventually it will be a largish painting. But first it begins as lines and thoughts.
I read through the forms using a ball point pen in the previous post, and here I’ve rehearsed the forms in color using Caran d’Ache Neopastels (oil pastel). The drawing measures 18 x 11 inches. Didn’t color everything. It’s just a dress rehearsal, still thinking out loud.
The drawing that I chronicle here continues to gain more stuff. I say “more moth,” but it’s really more leaves — though aspects of the moth evolves as well. I see the edges of the moth in relation to the leaves, and it’s necessary to get the leaves in there so that everything can be altered later as necessary. You can’t know what you want to change until it’s there to see.
This 32 x 24 inch drawing is preparatory for a painting. The painting is larger and includes another element not present in this study. I have a second more careful preparatory drawing that’s in the works as well. These are the rehearsals.
A polyphemus moth in real life is large, easily 4 inches across. This moth, of course, is much larger — though not as large as Mothra. And it won’t be transporting any Japanese girls anywhere. Nor is it likely to fight Godzilla — or King Kong — or anybody else. It’s a peaceful moth. The leaves in the picture are metaphors, and I wish I could tell you what they stand for metaphorically — I really wish I could. But I haven’t a clue.
Sometimes the artist is the last to know. I just paint what I’m supposed to paint. It was my idea. But my own brain is very hush-hush and “need to know” about the topic. The conscious me who writes this blog doesn’t possess a high enough security clearance to be granted access to the Top Secret information …. so there you go.
Once all the leaf stuff is in this version of the picture, I can start moving leaves around. It is as self-help guru Brian Tracy wrote, “anything worth doing well is worth doing badly at first.” Not that I judge my moth and its leaves as bad. Quite the contrary, I like them. But a rehearsal might go really well too. It’s still a rehearsal.
I need my practice moths so that my more deliberate moth can sail through its pictorial night and accomplish its symbolical purposes. And if I do it right, who knows? My brain might even tell me what it all means.
I’m drawing the moth today — preparations for a painting that’s in the works. But my thoughts keep returning to this landscape painting above that I began perhaps two years ago and which I return to from time to time — and which I need to finish fairly soon.
It will have a lattice across the middle to represent the chain link fence. At long last it will have many other minor additions of dot or color.
Something about drawing the veins of the leaves reminds me of the small passages of the garden painting and of the ways that I seem to re-enter the garden whenever I work on it — as though the flowers were still there, as though the blueberries were still being prepared for planting, as though time were standing still back one morning years ago and the shaded leaves still bent under the weight of the dew.
One seems to have a sense of the future, but you can’t really know what the future will be. The future one imagines is not the future that arrives. And the past that you relive is not the same as the past that occurred. The present — even the present shifts — even as you live inside it.
I just learned that my pastel “Pickle Jar of Flowers” has been selected for inclusion in the upcoming “Mark” exhibit at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia.
Here’s how the gallery describes the exhibit:
Pencil marks, painting strokes, woodcuts, or a dynamic editorial eye are all marks artists use to create their works. Mark-making has been associated with conventional pen, pencil, and paper, but artists make marks on ceramics, plates, fabric, and film, with tools ranging from sticks to scrapers to pixels. Artists can also be marked with memories, conditions, or experiences that shape how their artwork is made. Specific tools, techniques, and the artist’s physicality are embedded in every work of art. This exhibit will show the viewer how the artist’s mark can be the most important element in transforming the ‘blank canvas’ into an image. Artists are also encouraged to provide a brief statement about their ‘mark’. The curator is Charles Jean-Pierre.
The exhibit will be on view from September 5th through October 1st with a reception taking place on Thursday September 14th from 6:30-9:30 pm.
A print of the painting is available for purchase here:
The crepe myrtles are blooming right now. All over the region they are in fullest flower, some trees are covered with blossoms. I have always loved them from my earliest childhood. My mind connects them to the many journeys to North Carolina to visit my Grandmother back when parts of North Carolina were still rural and wild. I remember the heat and an enormous landscape, a quiet that overflowed with insect noise.
We all have different sources of nostalgia, but I think that sometimes in art we communicate the nostalgia inside the painting — even if your summers had radically different referents — perhaps you can feel the nostalgia as a force in itself and find in a picture something that returns you to a place of special meaning in your heart.
I painted this landscape a couple years ago. And it’s today’s featured work for my new website at Fine Art America where reproductions of some of my pictures are sold.
This picture pairs well with another crepe myrtles painting, both have similar bright colors and energy. One is vertical, one is horizontal.
I keep seeing wonderful crepe myrtles on my trips through the region. I have got to find time to portray them again. Just drawing the shapes of the forms takes me back to a dreamtime of my past.