of course there’s another one

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Seashell, ginger jar and honey pot on a blue cloth: my sort of art heaven.  I had to do another version of the motif because that seems to be who I am.  Edgar Degas hypnotized me when he said “il faut refaire la même chose dix fois, cent fois.” [You must redo the same thing ten times, a hundred times.]  Now I’m like a Degas Robot who redraws stuff ….

Well, there’s worse things that could happen to an artist.  The earlier one which I repost further below was drawn using Neopastels on an 24 x 18 inch page of Strathmore pastel paper.  The one above was made on a 16 x 12 inch sheet of Arches Oil Paper using Sennelier oil pastels. It’s very gooey.  Particularly as the sticks of oil pastel are old.  Lots of impasto in it, as you can see in the detail here:

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And here’s the larger antecedent picture —

ginger jar honey jar and seashell

[The little square in the top middle of the uppermost image is the shadow from the easel hinge.  Oopsie!  Gotta rephotograph that one sometime or other …]


the vase of flowers grows more sure

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Here’s how the painting looks on Friday night.  I put the study on a table beside the easel to make it easier to draw from.  The picture begins to feel more solid after a day of work.  I love painting that vase — and I’m not done yet.  The paint all over the canvas is very thick because I’m covering up parts of the earlier version.  There’s still lots of things to figure out, of course — like the entire bunched up green cloth that takes up the whole bottom half.

Here’s a closer view.  The painting measures 40 x 30 inches.

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What a fun day of painting, working on this picture.  You cannot look at blue and green all day with scattered red and yellow and violet and not be in a terrific mood.

Still quite a ways to go.  But I’m very glad with this stage.

putting the flowers into the vase

studio with flowers may 18

So it’s time to transfer some of the flowers in the newest bouquet, the ones on the aluminum easel, to the painting above it.  The painting on the wooden easel is an intermediary stage between me and the really BIG painting.

I’ve been working on this 24 x 18 inch study for a few days in succession.

Jump flowers, into the picture!

bouquet study may 18

And the flowers of the actual bouquet are now kind of spent.  Some are a little worn and others have gone entirely limp!  But that pretty rose is still firm.  It refuses to open, but it still looks like new.

flowers spent may 18


new bouquet

bouquet night of 5-10

I bought more flowers yesterday, some Sweet Williams, to join the other bouquet I had already.  Again I placed them above the drawing of the Limoges vase.  And I produced the study above, painting until rather late at night.  This is the largest of the studies so far, and I am thinking about doing another study of the same motif.  Here’s the set up below:

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the curve

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For some reason I posed these flowers on a round table.  The blue cloth seems to have been the only still life cloth I owned!  Here it is again.  But I like it.  I must also have liked it a lot then to have used it so frequently.  It reminds me of the blue of the sky.

This time the profusion of flowers was crazy. I was again worried about being able to paint all of them, but evidently I managed.  And I also found a way of becoming mesmerized by the visual activity of the glass’s interior where the stems bunch together.

This was my favorite of the still lifes I painted in that era, and it’s still the favorite I suppose.

recasting the past

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I would chide myself for not finishing things except that there’s also this upside to procrastination: I look through my stacks of drawings and rediscover them, take them up again, and complete them from the vantage point of a different place in time.  I found this drawing in a stack.  It’s 22 x 16.5 inches.  This picture depicts the same motif as one that I posted a few days ago. Everything’s a bit different in this one. Lines shake a little more. A color might be punched up a bit more. Also the paper color and texture are very different, and these differences affect everything else in the picture.

Oil pastel is a sensitive medium. You can do quite a lot of dragging color over previous colors and the combination of marks produces a dynamism.  It also allows colors to mix optically so you actually get different color effects than you would if you tried to mix the pigments into each other as you would with paint. You can see in the details that follow how textural oil pastel can be.

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I’m not using a “technique” when I do these marks. They are instead all decisions, responses to something that I’m seeing. I am drawing with the sticks and so the marks are drawing “ideas.”  For instance, in this detail there was a limb hanging out over the water and it separates from the background by its slightly brighter aspect.  I put down a light line, some marks for the leaves on the branch, and a dark line that marks the limb’s separation from the background.

It’s all abstracted and simplified in relation to the thing I’m looking at, but these are decisions.  They are specific, nonetheless. And a gazillion specific decisions adds up to lots of marking in the drawing.  And I find it really wonderful to think about the scene in these ways.  See this, put it there.  See something else, there it goes.

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It can make you feel very connected to the place. Here’s the same passage in a different orientation. I saw ripples in the water so I put down the ripples. I saw bits of lighter green so I just drag them across the darker green. The layers of pigment pile up in ways that imitate the density and confusion of light that comes from the scene.

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Up close the passages are very abstract.

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If when observing parts of the picture using a camera, they seem to be well composed, then it suggests that the process of thought going into the small elements of the picture are mimicking the compositional choices you make when you work on the whole.  The relationship between whole and part ought to be in harmony.  Any one of these details ought to seem like it’s the natural child of the parent image.

I like this version better than the one I posted a few days ago.  So, learning from the experience working on this one, I’ll return to the slightly larger format and carry it further some more too.

On the whole, I’m quite content that I never finished these when I first began them. Finishing them now is working out really well. I don’t know how exactly to use time in painting, but when events conspire toward a good outcome — I’m glad for it.

a koi drawing

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The central tangle of nervous lines is what I see first. I thought I had done about as much work on these koi as I could, but I now realize that all the dynamism occurs in the center. The upper part of the picture remains uncomposed. I put the field of blue there thinking that the solid color was all that was needed. But the nervous green lines of those central fish require some counterpoint from the other sections of the drawing. I was so mesmerized by the center that I didn’t recognize the problem.

I’ve worked on it some more.

I added a fish’s nose at the upper right, which is a better correspondence with the source photo I use.

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I had to get rid of as much blue as I could with a heavy eraser to be able to apply the orange.

After I added the fish nose, I began working on the opposite side simply to put more stuff there, stuff in this case being contrasting marks of dark and light blues.

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I press the oil pastel deeply into the paper sometimes and it frays away the top of the crayon, creating an impasto.

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Without the context of the rest of the drawing, details become episodes of abstract painting. The criss cross hatching on the right depicts a koi’s scales.

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Here’s the fish with the scales again. Ripples of water roll over the fish and into their open mouths.  The network of gestural lines follows these waves.

Here’s the whole thing again after these most recent changes. I might see more things to add or change after I look at it some more.

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It’s 18 x 24 inches on Strathmore 400 series. Usually colored papers work better for pastels (even for oil pastels), but this is a sheet of ordinary white paper. No doubt the white contributes to the over all luminosity of the drawing.


The Anonymous Marmalade Jar


Some lines in the cloth behind the marmalade jar make the whole composition look akimbo, turning my jam jar into a rhyme or metaphor for a famous leaning tower somewhere across the pond perhaps ….

I have painted this favorite jar before and let the manufacturer’s name appear, which is a fun if somewhat exacting bit of painting.  But today my jar is rendered anonymous and exists as art for art’s sake — or perhaps as marmalade for marmalade’s sake (?).

I mooshed the crayons down into the paper so forcefully (mooshed, for those of you who don’t know is a technical term … ahem) that the crayon is impastoed.  These wax crayons (Caran d’Ache Neopastels) are the next best thing to paint.
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