Not sure whose drawing this is, but isn’t it grand? I’m painting my flowers today so here’s something aspirational I post to encourage a fine flower mood. Hope you’re enjoying a fine flower mood wherever you are, whatever you do ….
We got to Addison Ripley Gallery a second time to see the Wolf Kahn exhibit before its last day Saturday, January 13. Kahn is 90 years old.
His beautiful, intense, evocative color so deftly handled is a joy to behold. It’s wonderful inspiration for me particularly now when I’m painting landscapes. The small but powerful painting above is one of our favorites.
I saw the exhibit the first time just after Christmas. The link is here:
January is a natural time for making plans. A whole year’s calendar sits there all open and full of possibility. I’ve been reading a lot about goal setting during the last year and so my “new year’s resolution” this year is to be more consistently resolved! I have always enjoyed making plans but I never realized that there’s a real art to planning itself.
I’ve been reading books by Brian Tracy, the best of which, in my opinion, are “Maximum Achievement,” “Goals!” and “Eat that Frog.” And I just read Tony Robbins’ book “Awaken the Giant Within” which is full of wisdom. Some of his stories are a little dated now, but the ideas are pristine.
The first element of goal setting is self-examination. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want from art at this phase of my life. I look back at some of my earliest heroes, artists like Claude Monet (above). I want to figure out how to emulate my heroes. So, for instance, I’d like to master large landscape painting.
As the goal books will tell you, big plans need to be parsed into smaller, doable, trackable chunks. For that reason I’m doing a gazillion small landscape paintings, and I’m approaching them in many different ways. I’m using acrylic paint because it dries quickly but I know that much of what I learn from free-wheeling acrylic painting can be translated into oil also. And I’m going to translate it.
There are many other facets to my particular plans and I won’t bore readers with the details. Each person has different goals and every project needs to be thought through in its individual paths.
I just want to share some of my enthusiasm for the beginning of another year. It’s a blank canvas. It is full of possibility. You have many choices about how to paint your year. And I encourage you to embark on the new year with joy.
So, eat that frog! You can even paint that frog. If you’re an artist, you can have your frog and paint your frog and eat it too!
(You’ll have to read Brian Tracy’s brilliant book, though, if you want to get the joke!)
I was saying in the previous post that my current still life is in part an attempt to emulate Pierre Bonnard’s painting. His way of placing objects, his uses of arbitrary colors — altered, enhanced colors — the ambiguities of his art are all things that I notice and wonder about.
My painting — even without a still life set up to look at — is still perhaps more grounded in actual appearances than his. I’m not sure what I want from him. Or what I want from myself. I’m figuring it out.
Here’s how the painting looked yesterday in the studio.
I put all the flower bouquets into simple settings at the time. Now I put them into complicated settings, with lots of color and patterned cloths. But I like these simpler works, and I did do something like this one when I was painting flowers with pastel last autumn.
The one on the right was painted sometime in the early 1990s, while the one on the left was painted last autumn. They are not so far apart in design — though they are decades apart in years. Thus it goes to show that my youthful self is still residing inside my head. That’s how I’m interpreting the similarity — that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Now the blue cloth has an ochre colored, hand thrown, North Carolina pottery vase sitting on its pale, cheerful color against a white wall and the bouquet has grown enormous. Daisies, carnations, chrysanthemums and lilacs are all massed together. And the green leaves of the lilac provide a leafy accent to the big assembly of flowers.
I recall that when I began doing the large bouquets, like this one, my chief concern was how I would ever paint so many flowers in the short time allotted for alla prima painting. It was no use trying to paint them the next day because they all shifted and fidgeted as the hours passed.
But somehow I seemed to have gotten them all into the picture. Let me tell you, though, the pressure was on ….
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.
A few days ago (April 2nd) I posted a large preparatory drawing that I have used to rehearse a large painting that’s in the works. The drawing is 50 x 42.5 inches large. One challenge an artist faces making large works is photographing them. In my case there isn’t enough natural light available in the room where I work to get a good photograph. Doing photography outdoors, of course, introduces its own challenges (not the least of which is how to drag the drawing and its huge heavy drawing support outside).
Well, I got the drawing and its heavy support outside. But then I had to locate a place with indirect light because the first and easiest location for my photo shoot produced the image seen below. Very charming, but not descriptive of the drawing.
The photo did however prompt a wonderful idea: the photograph with its “clouds” was so lovely.
Why not make those effects part of the drawing itself?
And I have since altered the drawing (new version at the top of the post) to introduce some of these lights that remind me of cloud reflections floating over the koi pond. The over-exposed sections of light, made more dramatic in contrast to various shadows, are not real clouds, but they’re close enough to push the picture in that direction, and do note that these effects were still natural ones.
These were lights and shadows I found in nature. I’m still imitating nature here.
Certainly it’s possible to continue a process of this sort, I’ve taken the reworked drawing outdoors again and repeated this process.
New lights and shadows in new locations on the reworked drawing.
Portraying Nature is a complex endeavor. Nature is everywhere. It’s in your head as well as “out there.” Time is a part of Nature too.
The stages are part of the lovely game of painting. Taking the picture into this direction is, granted, not the same thing as making a faithful representation of the motif en plein air. But it is nevertheless a kind of naturalism and a kind of fidelity too.