California Mountains

I have never been to California.

By various means, the landscapes come to me. With enough faith we can move mountains. And sometimes too the mountains just arrive. I cannot begin to tell you how many mountains have wandered into the studio for a sitting.

I’m always glad to see them. I love portraying mountains.


Imagination’s travels

Some places you can only visit through art. Forests are not pink or violet. And yet sometimes one feels they ought to be. We do not love Nature any the less when we dress her up to suit our occasional fancy for color.

Dreams are occurrences of nature too. We are parts of nature also. Our imaginations arise as a force of nature.


I’m in a drawing mood today and in a mood for dreams. Vicariously I go back through bits of the past and visit also (who knows?) bits of future too. With snow still on the ground, I enter the spring and even the summer. The birds are making noise and insects congregate in clouds. The air is mild. The sun scatters light through leaves and sunlight prints leaf shadows across the lawn.

I draw by pencil, my transport is color.

boring boredom

study for table items 1

In chronicling the creation of “the Big Painting” (eventually it’s going to get a name) I earnestly wish to portray the process accurately.  Much of the work on this project is really fun.  I love doing studies, for instance.  All the individual drawings of things using Neopastels I find enjoyable. All this observation has a direct bearing on the outcome. The sense of anticipation spurs me onward.  It gives me practice portraying the forms.  It provides very creative, spirited forms of rehearsal.  I love getting to know the objects, seeing and recording effects of color and form.

But not every facet of decision making is bright.  Perhaps the hardest element so far has been trying to figure out where the objects will go.  I hesitate to begin drawing the objects on the actual canvas because I want to limit the amount of pentimenti.  After all, there’s already the outlines of a different motif on the canvas (originally it was going to be a large koi painting).  I can make some changes after the painting begins, but clearly there’s little benefit in having to do a lot of repainting or over-painting.

study for table items 2

Solving the problem of the objects takes different forms.  I have in previous posts shared color studies that included two or more of the objects in relationship.  That helps.  But I’m also trying to envision the whole and I don’t have an actual scene to which I can refer.  I have set up, as best I can, a few facsimiles.  But some of the solution has to be imagined.  So I make some drawings like the one above.

study for table items 3

They are “thinking out loud” drawings.  Sometimes I enjoy doing this sort of drawing.  Sometimes I don’t.  Since I am so flummoxed about the disposition of these still life items, I have found the compositional drawings less fun to make. These particular sketches are made imaginatively.  I’m not looking at the real objects, I’m looking at a mental idea of the table.  They reflect my indecision.

study for table items 4

Indeed, they’re kind of boring.  But I chide myself that I have not made more of them.  So the point is that sometimes some aspects of art are just that — boring.  However, it’s like doing your homework in school.  You just have to do it.  Sometimes it feels like it’s going nowhere, but you have to do it anyway.

When you find that by surprise — at some happy future moment — you are somewhere again, well, I think the boring stuff will deserve some credit for having got you there.

Here’s one of the several make-shift set ups, below:

study for table items photo (3)

If you’re just landing on the blog now, the chronicle of The Big Painting begins approximately here:

getting creative

limoge vase drawing with real flowers (2)

The painting that I’m working on develops through a composite process.  I don’t have an actual still life set up to paint.  Instead I make studies of individual objects and put them into a pictorial composition that is partly invented and partly based upon real still lifes past and future.  So, for instance I don’t know exactly what the bouquet of flowers will look like that will sit on a table in the picture.  I have begun auditioning flowers for the various roles.

I got these grocery store flowers and will be painting a little study of them.  I decided to put one of the Limoges vase drawings in front of the actual flowers to get a better sense of how the flowers would appear when arranged in the vase.  The Limoges vase drawings are based on a photograph I found on the internet from an auction site.

more flowers will arrive

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I have to find more flowers for the bouquet.  I go in search of pictorial flowers.  I look for them in the pictorial gardens.  And a lot of things are beginning to bloom now that spring is here — even pictorial things.

Under the bright pictorial sun, with my face toward the pictorial wind, I walk through the pictorial field to pick flowers that I can bring back to my still life.


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I have a list of things to work on and I was supposed to be working my list.  But then I got an idea about this motif, and it seemed like something that I should do instead.

Sometimes I seem to be dreaming while awake.

This is a beginning of something or other.  Not sure where it’s going — only that it’s light.

figuring things out

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Some of the landscapes I’ve been painting are just scenes without any special significance.  And this landscape began that way.  However, as I keep tinkering with it, the scene begins to suggest something to me.  I don’t know what it is.  A memory?  Some hidden meaning?

While I was tinkering, I made a drawing.

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The little yellow tree used to take up more space, as in the drawing.  But I decided to make it smaller.  And somehow that works better.  But I don’t know why.  Not in terms of naturalism, but just as meaning.  Or so it seems.

preparatory preparations

drawing for garden no2

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.

drawing for garden no3

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:

tangled blue lines untangling thoughts

drawing for garden

It’s another blue ball point pen drawing which I’ve made to help me figure out the big shapes of a new landscape painting that’s in the works.  I love drawing this way. It totally suits me.  It’s wonderful when you have a form that fits your thoughts and emotions to a tee.  With the pen, I figure out how to think about the scene.  With a pen I can walk around in my own imagination.