imaginary light

imaginary landscape 1

A place, a quiet land.  If you go there, you find resonating silence.   I imagine being poised for something.

The morning begins.  Or perhaps the day ends?  Can you tell the sunrise from the sunset at that horizon moment?  Or is some context necessary.  Do we know the meaning only relative to our own internal clocks?  To our awakening or our soon arriving sleep? Or is there some absolute physics of aspects that defines beginnings relative to endings?

A small study of thick paint and bright arbitrary colors seeks to ponder these weighty entropic questions in its small colorful way.

around the pond again

Going through my drawing stash I found

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another pond. It was among a group of drawings that I started and didn’t finish.  I’m taking it up again and here it is in medias res — not as much at the beginning, but not complete either.

Something about the loopy shapes of distant trees and foliage fascinates me.  They are subjects I go after again and again. I want to have the sense of their shapes being very clear, very distinct, as though you could reach out to them and grasp them, which of course you cannot do in either a drawing or with distant trees — but it’s an imaginative gesture.

I also like the scribble as a way of indicating the randomness of nature. The scribble of thought and hand parallels Nature’s scribble of plants growing willy nilly here and there. Things are in front of other things, leaves of grass, fonds of plant, wave and meet your eye as an infinitude of layers. I like to think of the piling up of layers of pigment as a simulacrum of these things.  Chemicals imitating molecules.

Or something.

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.

certain shapes & places

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Certain places mesmerize me. I go back to them again and again — figuratively, imaginatively.  I don’t even have to be there. Sometime about the motif, the shapes, the colors I see and the ones I imagine have a hold on me.

This drawing measures about 20 x 25 inches. It’s one of several versions of this motif that I’ve done. There’s at least four versions of different sizes. I was going through stacks of oil pastel drawings and found this one unfinished and resumed working on it. I’ll probably fiddle with it a bit more before I frame it.

The cropped horizon puts the sky on the bottom of the picture.  I’m thinking about the oval contours of the masses of foliage and the contours of clouds and the confusion where the things meet their reflections, enchanted by the world that floats on the rippled surface of water.

Wide open spaces

landscape from c 1996

When the sky touches the land at some distant point ahead that you see afar off, then you know you have space enough to dream.

There’s so many ways to move through a landscape: through the air or on the ground, taking the path that goes under the tall deep green trees, or along that horizontal plain that escapes like an arrow to some unknown locale just beyond the range of vision. What lies over the hills of a dream? Where does the light lead? How green is the greenest green of life?

And what about the ball of light inside the clouds?

Something to think about

Willard Metcalf The North Country 1923 Met Mus of Art

I am finishing landscape drawings today, and I need some inspiration.  Some picture to look at to help me think about those last steps in my own pictures.  I want something that captures the feeling of nature, the light, the air — that’s translated it all into pigment and kept the gritty directness of it.

So this scene by Willard Metcalf, “The North Country, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is going to be my “picture on the wall” today — on the wall in my mind.  And whenever I need a breather, I think I shall go and breathe this air.

Another visit down Memory Lane

I was going through one of my big boxes of stuff and found a little booklet called “Landscape Painting in Oils,” by Leonard Richmond published by Pittman Publishing in 1962.  I was only seven years old in 1962 and not yet painting, so I’m guessing that I acquired the book (however I acquired it) somewhat later.  Certainly by the time I was in high school I was attempting landscapes that had a bit of the feel of Richmond’s work — so, possibly he was among my “early influences”??

Be that as it may, everyone has had that experience of the sudden rush back through time.  Whatever opens the door to the past brings with it a set of ineffably wonderful related memories.  For a second, it was like being young again — like breathing the air of my childhood:  Mom in the kitchen fixing supper, Dad with his head under the hood of a car in the back yard, and my cat somewhere nearby available for petting.

I had stored the book with the page open to the image above, thus I infer that it was something of a favorite at the time, much later on, when I packed the big box of stuff.

Richmond died in 1965.  An internet site selling one of his posters describes him as “a British graphic artist and poster designer. He studied at the Taunton School of Art and the Chelsea School of Art.”  He was born in 1889.


In my “getting back to work” phase, I have been doing a bit of this and that.  Here’s a bit of this.  After a session during which I resumed work on a large koi painting that I had abandoned months ago, I picked up this small landscape above, which I had initially painted very fast and I gave it a second going-over.  I’ve been away from my work for a while, and thus I use this and that to get my head back into the game.

I am browsing and nibbling at art.

Going Vertical

The format of the picture sometimes just seems to be there.  It isn’t typically the subject of very much scrutiny.  But I have been doing landscape so often in a horizontal format, that I wondered if it was time to think about vertical life.  The tall trees seem even taller when you let the sides of the picture reinforce their vertical stretch.

I like tall trees.  I like anything that inclines my mind upward.  For someone who so frequently paints the koi, I am actually (it may surprise you to learn) a very skyward inclining person. 

Of course even the koi pond reflects the sky, you know.  I’m on a campaign to get people to look up!

Dark Trees Dreamings

Arching branches and dark shadows on the ground and in the air, veiled skeins of amorphous shade.  The geometry of the topography of trees mapped out in sentinel positions, each one staking a meaning.  So many meanings planted, growing in a mind’s forest around which a wanderer in wakeful dreaming pleasantness muses upon so admirable a stand of trees significant, though of what am not quite sure.