Turn the pear upright and it’s shaped like a pitcher.
I’m probably not alone in finding the shape appealing — merely as a shape. Perhaps it’s the way it relates to gravity. Pears and pitchers offer subliminal reminders of gravity. Weighty things get pulled down toward the earth’s surface.
Different objects manifest the same effects, participate in the same beauty.
Shadows pull us down to earth too. Shadows are wonderful.
Still life and physics have much in common except that the still life painter is a naturalist and the physicist, a theorist. I look at things in their wild state and merely record what I observe. The objects all adhere firmly to the table. Shadows fall in the direction opposite the light. The objects, being inanimate, never move about. And they have a stability that is rather marvelous to contemplate since they are so sturdy and compact. Each, while made of differing substances, has a tensile and a compressive power.
Light falls upon the whole of the scene. Its reflection into the eyes of the beholder provides the veil of color that becomes the picture. Some colors are cooler and recede, creating an “atmospheric perspective.” Other colors, warm ones, come forward and seem to greet us. I understand that light is kind of important in the field of physics. It’s very important in my trade too.
All that remains is time. But I did long ago notice that the still life table is like a clock whose color changes tell the hours.
I was so taken with a picture by Frederick Remington, great cowboy painter, that I saw recently in the museum. I was wondering how he managed to capture the horses’ movements. It got me wondering how much of a role memory played in his understanding of equine motion.
The animals I have around me, that I see daily, whose forms I know best, are our dogs Lucy and Zoomie. Zoomie as his name suggests is a creature of motion. Being a terrier, he loves defying gravity. He is often found aloft — if only for brief bursts of time.
When he jumps up, what I principally see are teeth and piercing glances. The teeth rise up from the floor with dog attached. So I tried to remember a bit of it. A far cry from Remington’s masterful portrayal of horses, but a start toward understanding the teeth that fly.
If you want to observe gravity, creating a still life of drapery is a good way to do it. What is holding the cloth up? (It’s tensile strength?) What is pulling it down? Gravity! (I know the answer to that one!)
The tug-o-war between the cloth and the pull of the earth is what you study. Look for a long time. Gravity is a wonderful thing.
The folds of the cloth in the previous post have become a true mountain here. You could almost just invent a landscape from start to finish by laying out some heavy cloth on a table, letting it pile into a crest, watching the daylight from a near by window carve out its fissures and cliffs while changing the colors a little to something stony and grey.
The forms of nature bear resemblances that are more than just skin deep. In the mountain as well as the drapery, what the artist really draws is gravity and light!
[Top of the post: Mountain of Imagination, by Aletha Kuschan]