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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
I’ve done a certain still life motif many times and ought to know it by heart, and yet I find upon trying to draw it from memory that it becomes vague. I keep wondering how I can train my visual memory, and the only way I can figure to do it is by simple exercise. I make the drawings and see how much I can either remember or invent.
I suppose that’s the key: when memory fails, begin inventing things that might be there. Then if you cannot remember everything at least you have begun building another skill — imagination.
People who routinely draw from imagination may wonder why anyone would find it difficult. But nearly all the drawing I’ve ever done has been done in front of something. I am so habituated to looking at whatever I draw that it is difficult to pull things out of the empty air — or “from the space between my ears” — but the more I do it, the more natural the task becomes.
A painting that portrays koi fish swimming in a pond has lots of possible meanings — particularly for whoever believes (as I do) that the actual fish mean something. But when an artist like me is working on such a theme, and there are many different versions of these fish, what do the differences between one version and another offer in the way of meaning?
Monet had the hay stacks, the water lilies; he studied the changing light from a single vantage point. I study the changing patterns of the fish as they swim. When I deliberately move a fish from here to there because the change seems like it would make the image hold together better, then I am making the fish swim in new patterns. Rather than watching the fish swim, I am moving the fish myself.
Different versions, different patterns portray slices of time. A camera stops the light and a transient moment of a koi dance appears, not otherwise visible to the eye. When I move drawn fish around, tweaking the frozen captured dance to suit my purpose, that’s fiction. But it means something to me. No longer the visual architecture of fish swimming in their watery herd, it’s a floor plan of my mind’s desire.
It’s koi math, koi logic. Or that’s what I tell myself anyway.
What I learned from Henri Matisse: “Look at Nature. Make stuff up.”
It’s not easy drawing from life. Clouds float away. The light changes. Stuff happens. If you attempt to depict everything “exactly” the way you find it you’ll go bonkers. So you look at Nature and make stuff up.
That’s what I did in this one, though I cheated a little, was looking out a window.