a center of interest

sea shellWhat is the most transformative thing you can do?

I am running around in circles.  I love clutter in the still life. The chaos of things that pour off the edge of the picture, the uncertainty about where the object will be cropped, the intricacy of the spaces between things, the patterns of a cloth, the light that changes.

But I need a more sure path to the goals I have about this house.  The house is the tool that allows me to begin the new paintings. The new ones …

The house is the motif, but I need the house to be orderly and spacious and as empty as possible.  The paintings can be cluttered.  The house needs to be Spartan.

The conch lives in an orderly house.  The seashell is a Spartan house.

that’s dark back there

seashells on the shelf

House cleaning changes have exposed these still life items once again, which were formerly behind a humongous, large board that held a large drawing.  Now that I can see them again, I want to draw them again.  I had begun by merely storing them, but discovered they make a nice still life in that arrangement — until the clutter had hidden them, buried beneath the layers of good intentions, as sealed away as a mummy in King Tut’s tomb.

I feel like an archaeologist.  House keeping does that to you when you have neglected it for too long.

There’s a kind of drawing where you just talk to yourself.  People learning to draw get hemmed in, sometimes, in believing that the drawing has to represent the whole whatever-it-is.  But I always sought my advice from the old masters and in their drawings, the old masters often studied certain qualities of a scene while ignoring others. Drawing was frequently used as a tool rather than as an end in itself.  It’s purpose was to gather visual information for paintings.  Some drawings are very fragmentary.

And I seek to do that here. Except this drawing is more fundamental still. I haven’t seen the still life in a while. I look at it and feel rushed. It’s as though I need to draw all of it quickly.  So I tell myself what shapes things are (or seem to be).  I realize that the first contours get the proportions wrong, I draw over top them.  I realize that the sizes of the shells don’t match up relative to each other.  More drawing over. I look at the light/dark pattern — “how can I simplify it?”

I tell myself, “it’s dark back there.”  Do I have to describe in minute detail how dark exactly?  Of course not.

seashells on shelf photo
A scene impossible to photograph in the available light, and one’s eyes see much more light dark variety in the objects and their background  — the photo exaggerates the differences in tonality.

 

It’s just one drawing.  It’s a mood as much as a drawing.  I feel in such a rush.  Been reading a book on mindfulness too.  So, okay, I am noticing that I feel in a rush.  So I hurried.  Maybe the shells will move.  Maybe the big drawing will jump back in front of the still life and obscure it again.  I have so many things to do. Hurry, hurry, hurry.

Whatever.  If life seems to rush you along, as an artist, then just draw faster. Not always, not everyday, but simply now that you feel rushed.  It gets you to draw fast — which is a useful tool also.  Draw fast before everything changes!

Sometimes the voice says “this is in front of that.”  “The pointy end of the shell sticks out about this far.”  “It lines up with the other shell’s bottom edge, here.”  Listening to myself think, I slow down a little.

Later you can draw slowly.  Once you calm down.

dreaming the rooms of a house

studio view 2 big tidy

Of the pictures I posted of my studio, I find that I love this one the most.  So I come back to it.  While I am reorganizing the house, I sometimes feel overwhelmed.  There’s much work to do — in all the rooms, and I have so many chores indoors and outdoors.  It’s spring.  Plants outdoors are growing like mad. Of course I’d like to be focused exclusively on drawing and painting.

I am often wishing my work were done, but wishing doesn’t walk the dog.  However wishing is not without effect.  I have gone through various phases of wishing, and I have imagined the rooms being completed each a certain way.  The sensation of entering each imagined room has a poignancy that real action lacks.  I walk into dream rooms. The visual thoughts associated with the dream rooms give me ideas for actual things.  But an imaginary completed room takes different forms inside different moments of wishfulness. It’s never just one way.  The actual room will at last have furniture arranged in one pattern and not another.  The dream rooms are more flexible.

I want to see the finished product, but the episodes of imagining the task one way verses another are fairly interesting.  I pause to consider them.

The whole house has become the motif and I arrange it like a still life table.

I change my mind periodically. I am wondering what do I want? And when will it be complete?

The picture above has something in it that I love.  I strive to tease out that something. Just looking at the picture brings a glad feeling I cannot quite describe.  Something about the light, the colors. I see freedom of motion in it.  A room is not just a room, it’s a puzzle.  It’s a message in code.  It’s telling me something about directions I might take.  I’m deciphering it.

Indeed, I may get the project finished faster than I think but decoding and reading the message may take much longer.  Deciphering is a very complex task.

three roses

rose 2a

I found three studies of roses in storage. We enter the time of roses.  Soon we’ll see them blooming everywhere along our walks.

And I have flower paintings awaiting me.  Finding these little studies whets my appetite for more flowers, for drawing flowers, for composing them in still lifes, for putting them into paintings.

I will have a window

studio view 3 big tidy window

Actually I will have two windows!  This one has stuff (not pictured) in front of it now.  But I will have a window that I can sit in front of — that I can look through — windows for dreaming — windows for drawing — windows for arranging the light in still life.

Ah!  I will have a room with a view.

the other side of the room

studio view 2 big tidy

This side of the room will stay the same — but it will be much less cluttered — except for the still life table — I love that clutter!!  There’s a book cabinet not pictured that has to be relocated.  It is ginormous.  Ai yi yi.  Will deal with that in time … all in good time.

Eventually I will have nails in the wall above to hold the still life drapery.  Goodness, this wall needs painting.  (Will think about that later too.)

You can see the little owl peeking out from under the table.  He’ll have a starring role in an upcoming picture.  So that’s some glad news.

I become the little choo choo that could, I’m “thinking I can” all along the way ….

staying motivated

studio view 1 big tidy

If you started reading a couple days ago you know that I’m reorganizing my studio.  More than that I’m reorganizing my whole house — perhaps my whole life.  I started reading Marie Kondo’s book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” because I knew I could use some help motivating myself to do this rather large and necessary task.  I have become a real self-help book aficionado.

We live in marvelous times.  No matter what the challenge, someone has probably written a book about doing it.

Live blogging the thoughts I have as I go through these changes helps me dream about where I want to be when the task is complete — not just where the stuff will be — where I want me to be.  Mentally, physically, spiritually.

I find ideas and dreams along the way.  Pictures that were behind other pictures in the stack see the light again. They suggest innovations.  It’s a wonderful, wonderful process, house-cleaning is.  But it’s a lot of work too and sometimes the destination seems so far off.  It’s important to stay motivated.  All this stuff pictured above has to be moved!

Along the way the rest of life needs attention.  Dishes must still be washed, dogs must be hugged, groceries purchased, lawns mowed ….

 

psychological weather

It’s dark and gloomy outdoors.

100_3480 (2)

It’s partly cloudy indoors.  I have these marvelous plans, but I must be patient about realizing them.  The weather itself makes one lethargic.  A dog is whining again — not the big dog.  Now it’s the little dog. The big dog is asleep.

I could fall asleep.  It is great sleeping weather.  It’s a chore staying awake. It’s one of those grey wet days when Nature persuades you — nearly — that this is what eternity looks like.  I could swear that time has slowed down.  Physicists should study this phenomenon to learn whether time creeps by more slowly on dismal, damp, grey days.

Well, they would if they could, I guess.  But any physicist brought into this situation would feel the effects himself.  Sleeping physicists can tell you nothing.

So whence motivation? Where does energy come from?  It’s a rabbit.  And you pull it out of a hat.

peter 1988

dark fishes

dark fish

The subterranean aspects of house cleaning take you into the dark waters where sometimes dark fishes swim unseen in the murk.  Okay, I guess that’s a mixed metaphor unless I have a koi pond in the house — oh wait — I do.   I do have a koi pond in the house.  I have many koi ponds in the house.  I should count them sometime. But as I was saying …

House cleaning is like dreaming, and certain images — when you find them behind this or that item dredged up from the general disorder — take on renewed significance.  I know that as I sift through things, I will find used ideas, and some new-to-me ideas — even though they are really my ideas — and yet my old ideas are like hand-me-downs from my past self to Present Tense Me.

Well, anyway suffice it to say that house cleaning is such a creative endeavor that you wonder why you don’t do it more often — except for the realization that it was the separation in time that gives the old ideas their new power.

House cleaning is an amazing experience.  Try it.  Marie Kondo says we will be transformed.

 

Degas’s advice for housewives: dix fois at least

photo-bouquet-in-progress-on-easel-may-8 (4)Degas’s advice for painters works for tidying too.  Indeed, it will be instrumental to the success of the Big Tidy Campaign of 2017 as my first exertions have quickly revealed.

If I want more of the above and less of the below, I am going to have to move various things around …

10298744_10202869274911986_5114479906752496614_n (2)

… maybe ten times — but surely not one hundred times —  in order to have space to do the reorganization.  For one has to move this to get to that, but then THAT needs to return temporarily to its first place while I deal with a new THIS.

It’s complicated.

“Il faut refaire dix fois, cent fois le même sujet.”  You must redo — ten times, one hundred times — the same subject.

Listen, Degas.  (écoute, Degas).  Ten times will be quite enough!