daisy bouquet

100_9669 (3)

I painted the flowers in simple patterns, graphic in character — really more a way of drawing with color than of painting.  But the jar (actually a drinking glass) packed tightly with the flower’s stems attracted much of my attention.  I was consciously emulating the late flower paintings of Edouard Manet, one of which is in the National Gallery of Art in Washington and which I knew well.  I was aware of his other late flower paintings from books.

The white iris, however, that is still Van Gogh’s teaching.  My teachers were the Impressionist painters and Van Gogh.

They were good teachers.


Musings on confidence, 3

I am discussing ideas from Mona Brookes’s inestimable book “Drawing with Children.”  The first part of the discussion can be found HERE.

Her third sentence for gauging one’s confidence is the easiest to treat.  It is this: “Drawing is simply for pleasure and has no practical use.”

Before we counter by innumerating all the purely practical or not-so-artistic uses for drawing, let’s contemplate the implications of what’s being implied about pleasure by condensing the sentence this way: “Pleasure has no practical use.”

Well, only if you plan to spend your life being miserable.

Should life be drudgery?  Raise your hand if you think so ….  I’m not seeing many hands raised.  You mean you guys want to have fun??  Hey, me too!

Drawing isn’t always pleasurable, but whenever it is I say “Yea!”  So here’s to pleasure.  Let’s party.  Start drawing.

Du Bonheur/Of Happiness

“Bonheur. Tirer du bonheur de soi-même, d’une belle journée de travail, de l’éclaircie qu’elle a pu apporter dans le brouillard qui nous entoure.”

Happiness.  Derive happiness from yourself, from a good day’s work, from the clearing that it makes in the fog that surrounds us.  — Henri Matisse quoted here

The koi raises its face up to the light and air from the inky darkness, from the fish-filled spaces of under-water.  Dear kind kindred face of living creature sharing this present time, living in it fully, having a reality known clearly to God, being.

The inky-ness of the water, of the paper, of the depiction — is difficult to get at that mystery adequately.

Back to the Koi Pond (happy again)

I got back to work today after a detour of over a week spent doing life’s unglamorous, necessary chores.  Fittingly I dove into the koi pond again, ever my refuge.  Here’s what I was able (joyfully, indulgently) to do during a day’s session.

My fish swim into the pond from left to right.  Here they come now.

Before long the pond is full and almost everybody’s arrived.

The koi begin to separate into individual identities.

And as I left the pond today, the water was becoming a darker blue, some koi were getting their spots and stripes, and a reflection or two waved over the surface of the water.  During my next visit to the pond, I’ll layer colors one over another through the whole pond,  filling out fish personalities, peering into the pond’s entire watery warp and weft.

It’s good to be back.

Variations on a theme

I take walks and pass the same scenes and never tire of looking at an interesting place.

It could be that I’m an exceedingly lazy person, but I don’t think so.  Not that I don’t think I’m a lazy person.  I do.  But I don’t think that’s the cause of this phenomenon:  that I walk all over the park and find that it has many beautiful views, and yet  find myself only wanting to draw the same motif again and again. 

Each of these drawings looks very different to me.  It could be that I cannot draw.  But it’s not that I think I cannot draw.  I can draw.  It’s just that the formal garden has so many facets to its vegetative personality.

And this one above I drew from memory.  It is more vague than the others.  Not that my memory is any more vague than anyone elses.  It’s just that memory is by nature hazy and thus creative — making of the same scene, many scenes.

And this version above I drew in a notebook, and that’s why it looks curved in the photo.  I’m not saying I couldn’t have straightened out the curve.  No, I’m telling you that a team of fifty crack photographers couldn’t have gotten this darned uncooperative notebook to stop folding shut everytime I tried to take the picture …. (Sorry, a little off topic.)

And this last one, I can’t tell you what it’s story is.  In the blur of versions I’ve completely forgotten what circumstances surround the making of this drawing.  I’m not saying that I’m forgetful, I’m just saying ….

I need to make some more variations.

Looking for “Naked Women on Boats”

naked woman on a boat

It’s amusing and instructive to see what kinds of searches people are performing that lead them to one’s blog.  One of my recent search list items included “naked women on boats.”  So, I can only surmise that the visitor was somewhat disappointed with my blog. 

If he ever stumbles back this way, however, may I recommend Bill Jones’s On Painting.  Now then, Bill does a lot of women, and one’ll find plenty of nudity. (Bill would love this last sentence.)  However, he’s less reliable as a source of maritime art, but perhaps viewers are willing to overlook a little fault of that sort.  As for me, I once did a brief little gig with boats, however mine lacked naked women. 

Though it’s a little off topic, if I were lost at sea on a boat, and if I were naked, I would try to put some clothes on — if at all possible — while seeking rescue  because being ever so slightly past middle-age-ish, being naked on a boat might discourage the Coast Guard from doing the rescue!

Well, anyway, others searched for sea shells and elephant drawings.  I’m guessing they were more satisfied with the results.  And somebody wanted to find Pierre Bonnard, so they probably were gladened to locate another fan of the great French painter.  Bonnard is such a fine, great painter.  And he even painted naked women, and he also painted boats.  But never, to my knowledge, together.  Alas, for art!

Wonderful Down Town DC

Washington studio 2

Most of my fish I catch  from the pond of my suburban Maryland studio, but for a big drawing I decided to visit my much neglected studio (in my secret undisclosed fortified bunker — and you think I’m kidding!)  in the Nation’s Capital which I share with another artist, the owner of the lovely still life on the left.  Today Washington DC was partly cloudy and humid with a temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit at noon.   The breeze coming through my windows was magical.   The light was exceptional.   And I was a very, very happy artist.  Spent my day just doing my thing, drawing my fish.

Hope you had a great day, too, wherever you are, whatever you do.

Colored Pencils (Shell fossil)

Colored pencils are something that you love for themselves.  Even before you draw.  They look so great sitting there colorfully arrayed, row upon row, in their neat little box. Traveling has awaked my appreciation of this studio in a box. 

Of course you have to think a little differently when you’re making your picture with these.  Everything becomes a line.  You cannot work the masses of an image with the big dollop of color.  Or, let’s say, you can dollop, but you’ll do it with lines.  You can scribble a mass, you can rub the color into a continuous tone, but you will have massed it particle by particle.

So, of course hatching is what you do.  I love hatching.  You can lay line beside line in a wonderfully monotonous way.  It’s hypnotic — like mowing the lawn or washing the dishes, except more colorful.

This subject lent itself to colored pencils as it seemed to have been composed of lines itself!  Lines of calcium threaded together, in three dimensional contours, that rolling in upon each other formed — poof! — a fossil shell.

The legislators of my state have managed our lovely Maryland so marvelously that they have hardly anything to do now, and so they’ve gone way beyond state flowers and state birds.  We’ve got a state fossil.  And it’s at the top of the post.

[Top of the post:  Maryland’s State Fossil: Ecphora gardnerae gardnerae by Aletha Kuschan]

Finding Treasure

What I’ve discovered about fortunes and getting them is that, just as in wise fairy tales, the fortune is always located right under one’s nose.  It is in managing one’s surroundings that one finds one’s purpose.  Mind you, I’m not arguing against travel or change.  I’m just asserting, as Dorothy did in the Wizard of Oz, while clicking her heels, that “there’s no place like home.”

Recognize that the seeds of even the wildest ambition begin humbly at your own front door.  Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson became an astrophysicist in potential at age 9 in the most brightly lit city in the world, home to just “12 stars.”   So it turns out all the stars he needed were found in books and in the Hayden Planetariun.

I have a secret house in one of the mid-Atlantic states that has a secret closet.  I have a secret garden, too.  And at the Arboretum and Botanic gardens, I own great and vast estates. 

Look beneath the soles of your feet.  Search the clouds over your head.  Look to your right and to your left.  Your treasure is right before your eyes, and has been there all along.