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.
My daughter and I set out for Capitol Hill yesterday in the late afternoon, she to walk and me to draw. Someone has a beautiful garden right off East Capitol Street, full of zinnias. I had noticed the flowers on a previous walk. So I tossed the old aluminum easel into the back of the pickup, assembled some oil pastels and off we went.
The mosquitoes didn’t start biting until really near twilight so I wasn’t munched too much. However I was concentrating so much on my drawing — how hard do YOU concentrate on your tasks? — that the whole bottom of my right leg was soaking wet before I realized that the gardener’s sprinkler was reaching my location. Is that concentration or what? Maybe it’s possible to concentrate a bit too much. A little less concentration and I might have avoided the soaking …
That discovery seemed like a good cue to switch motifs.
I drew the yellow ones until the mosquitoes started dining. Then it was clearly time to quit. We took a bit of a walk afterwards for exercise, my daughter and I, and I staked out some more locations to draw.
Capitol Hill residents are assiduous gardeners. There’s many lovely places to choose from — almost too many — it makes the choices harder.
These are drawings I may use in something or other, but I make them just to be outdoors drawing. I have been buying flowers for still life. And I have some lovely fake ones that I use also. Sometimes I take a flower from a photograph or an old master image. It’s fun to mix it up.
If I decide to do dog portraits, Capitol Hill residents are prosperous in that department too. While I was drawing, every manner of canine imaginable was being walked in a kind of impromptu, nightly, canine parade. That would be fun — not sure the owners would have the patience to wait for a full portrait though …
Flowers, on the other hand, are very patient.
I have an idea for a project. On one of my walks I saw a garden that reminded me of my idea, so when I could, I visited the place and made this quick sketch using oil pastel.
Actually it looks nothing like my idea, but ideas are like that — they tend to occur in your head and sometimes bear only fleeting resemblances to particular things that recall them to memory. So this drawing doesn’t look like my idea though it does bear a sketchy resemblance to the actual place I visited.
Nonetheless I trust the drawing to connect me to my idea in ways I cannot fathom. While your hand records the forms, that invisible link etches deeper into the silent mind.
I have decided to go out into the field as often as my schedule permits to make drawings that relate to ideas, ones that have been rattling around in my head. Drawing is a form of research. Even when the drawing doesn’t look like the idea there will be some kinship, some je ne sais quoi that connects to the hidden motives that had called me to the place. If I draw the locale more times, the connection might grow clearer. It was pleasant being there — having to think on my feet, experiencing all the sensations of the motif — not just its look, but the air, the sounds, the breeze, the pull of gravity, the fatigue of standing and passage of time in the changing of the light.
So these are episodes of brainstorming. I make the drawing to call back to the idea, and perhaps it will call me again in echo.
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.
Scribbling out the idea … it’s like sight reading in music. I’m not sure how the music sounds yet. I haven’t actually heard it. I’m reading the parts, getting figures in my head. First I have to find out what is there. Later I will look for interpretation. First comes practice. At some future juncture my hands will go straight to the notes. You must assimilate the music. It has to go from the page to the interior of your head. You have to hear it a while, get a feeling for the whole, discover its anticipations, its revelations.
There’s a beginning, a middle and an end. I don’t even know what the beginning is. I compose the visual music at the same time that I learn it.
I put all the flower bouquets into simple settings at the time. Now I put them into complicated settings, with lots of color and patterned cloths. But I like these simpler works, and I did do something like this one when I was painting flowers with pastel last autumn.
The one on the right was painted sometime in the early 1990s, while the one on the left was painted last autumn. They are not so far apart in design — though they are decades apart in years. Thus it goes to show that my youthful self is still residing inside my head. That’s how I’m interpreting the similarity — that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Obviously I am young at heart. Here is the proof.