Above is the crazy intermediate stage of a painting that just keeps getting more and more complicated. It’s the polar opposite of the floral still life I last posted. And it’s got 1,728 square inches of burgeoning hyperactivity. And I’m taking a wee little break from it just now. For a day or two …
I’m drawing the moth today — preparations for a painting that’s in the works. But my thoughts keep returning to this landscape painting above that I began perhaps two years ago and which I return to from time to time — and which I need to finish fairly soon.
It will have a lattice across the middle to represent the chain link fence. At long last it will have many other minor additions of dot or color.
Something about drawing the veins of the leaves reminds me of the small passages of the garden painting and of the ways that I seem to re-enter the garden whenever I work on it — as though the flowers were still there, as though the blueberries were still being prepared for planting, as though time were standing still back one morning years ago and the shaded leaves still bent under the weight of the dew.
One seems to have a sense of the future, but you can’t really know what the future will be. The future one imagines is not the future that arrives. And the past that you relive is not the same as the past that occurred. The present — even the present shifts — even as you live inside it.
I set up still lifes for everything. Having a still life doesn’t mean that you have to depict it literally, either. You can use it as a platform for generating ideas. It gives you something to look at and think about. I simulate that process here by arranging some photos of a lattice (part of a baby gate) placed in front of a cloth decorated with a chain grid pattern. I altered the colors as much as my primitive photo edit program will allow.
Of course, by drawing something like this, I can alter the colors in any way I please. My “programming” is more variable.
WordPress’s photo format lets me further alter them by creating a composition made of square tiles.
This other photo below was edited through resizing, stretching one side while leaving the other side alone.
Fences keep things out and keep things in. The apertures of the chain link fence let many things in — to say nothing of all the things that fly over it. Animals and people are kept out or let in. Birds and insects don’t know there’s even a fence. For the bird or the insect, it’s a perch. For the spider it’s a place to build the web.
Lattice fences hold a fascination for me. I don’t know why. But I note that many other things that I want to put into the painting have lattices in them also — fish scales, owl feathers, cicada wings, dragonfly wings, a spider’s web, leaves (okay, that one’s a stretch — but Pierre Bonnard — ask him about little leafy squares), wave patterns ….
I had done the lattice before without awareness of the many connections, as the chain link fence in this drawing which is also a drawing for a painting that is “in the works.”
The lattice is the ultimate in negative space. Half the fun is that you can paint the thing and the space inside it too. I see the whole picture as a matrix and a veil in front of the eyes, a reality one creates like the dreamer of Ursula Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven.
Still riffing on the idea featured in yesterday’s posts, I made a compositional drawing while listening to a cello recital last night. Because I was at a concert, I pursued the drawing in terms of filling in most of the white page (except for the passage that would be light colored in a painting). It was mesmerizing to darken all those little squares while the music carried my thoughts into itself. But this drawing is not definite.
I don’t know what the composition should be. I am figuring it out. Yesterday’s posts were about a section of foliage in the picture. Last night’s drawing during the concert was a way of imagining the whole.
Let it never be said that I lack a work ethic. I have made several versions of the foliage imagery. I enjoy going over it again and again. It’s incredibly scribbly. Many little bits of leaf, many pieces of light and shadow — and yet also many ways of thinking about the organization of the large forms.
I did this drawing using Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencil. Then put a bit of watercolor over that.
I have lost count how many variations this is. I love this motif, but it’s just a part. I need to figure out how it will relate to the other sections of the idea. I haven’t even made the first compositional drawing yet.
It’s just one part of an idea. Each time I draw, each time I write, I get a few more bits of the idea. It’s like lucid dreaming.
Scribbling out the idea … it’s like sight reading in music. I’m not sure how the music sounds yet. I haven’t actually heard it. I’m reading the parts, getting figures in my head. First I have to find out what is there. Later I will look for interpretation. First comes practice. At some future juncture my hands will go straight to the notes. You must assimilate the music. It has to go from the page to the interior of your head. You have to hear it a while, get a feeling for the whole, discover its anticipations, its revelations.
There’s a beginning, a middle and an end. I don’t even know what the beginning is. I compose the visual music at the same time that I learn it.
I was at the U S Arboretum a few years ago when they were giving away old books. Most of them treated obscure topics. I found one book that I thought I could use for making sketches. It sat in the back of my car for a long time. When I cleaned my car, it migrated indoors. It sat in one spot, then another. After I started reading Marie Kondo’s book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” I figured it was destined for the trash pile. Something stayed my hand. This morning it “struck joy,” to use Kondo’s phrase. And I’m drawing one of the third or forth foliage studies I’ve made so far for a project that crept into my head last night.
This book feels kind of perfect for what I’m doing. I have felt so excited that I wanted to write about it and I haven’t even finished the first drawing yet. But it is so perfect. We are definitely striking joy this morning.
The book is so perfect that even the panels in it, the lines drawn on every page are as though designed to help me figure my foliage studies out. The text is minimal and offers simply some random extra texture on a related theme: flowering plants.
The Big Tidy Campaign of 2017 is on-going. It will be a while before I complete my household transformations. I continue with my regular work during interludes — and while my muscles rest from the exertions of much moving stuff about ….
I remember such a long time ago. I was a high school student who had fallen in love with a much, much older guy — this guy above, the artist Duccio di Buoninsegna who painted this picture of Jesus calling Andrew and Peter.
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
For me the calling I heard was to become a fisher, a fisher of pictures. When I catch people, I catch them through art. Drawing and painting have become the bait I use to catch people. When I catch them, it’s to say “Look! Look! The world that God made is filled with marvelous things! Let’s look at them and think about them together.” Okay, maybe I don’t say it in quite that goofy way but that’s the basic sentiment nonetheless.
Let’s pay attention to what we see because we are surrounded by marvels.
In my youth I fell in love with “the Italian primitives” at the National Gallery of Art. I started my journey in Gallery No 1, and it was shock and awe from thence onwards. I had no idea how to do any of the things I saw, not drawing, not mixing color, not painting. But I felt instinctively that it was the thing for me. Somehow I would learn.
Little did I know how lasting the influence of the first loves would be. Little did I know how much just Duccio di Buoninsegna’s painting alone would affect me. Decades later I am mesmerized by lattices such as the one in his painting, the net that holds the fish. I paint them in different ways than he did, but they occupy lots of space in my cranium.
Even a fish’s body has a lattice incorporated in it.
So, artists and art lovers, let yourself fall in love with art — and see where it will take you.