pictorial physics

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Turn the pear upright and it’s shaped like a pitcher.

I’m probably not alone in finding the shape appealing — merely as a shape.  Perhaps it’s the way it relates to gravity.  Pears and pitchers offer subliminal reminders of gravity.  Weighty things get pulled down toward the earth’s surface.

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Different objects manifest the same effects, participate in the same beauty.

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Shadows pull us down to earth too.  Shadows are wonderful.


empty bowl

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Even an empty bowl has something in it — it’s got air inside it, hanging there from rim to rim.  And light particles attach themselves to the air and gleam and glimmer inside it.  I’m not sure how one’s suppose to handle the topic visually, but I mix different pearlescent tints of white and hope for the best!

It should not be confused with real air though! — not according to the great painter Edgar Degas for he told us “l’air qu’on voit dans les tableaux des maitres n’est pas l’air respirable.”  [The air one sees in the paintings of the great masters is not the air we breathe.]

I guess that’s true of those figs I stole from ol’ man Snyders (more about that in a future post).  They’re only for looking at — you can’t eat them.


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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.

I like paint

I like paint.  I just do.  I love the smell of oil paint when I walk into the room.  I love looking at colors before they even become anything.  Colors evoke such rich thoughts and feelings.  And the textures of paint are so fabulous.  Everything about paint is wonderful.  Wow.  It’s just so neat, so superduperfabulouswonderful.

Looking backwards, going forward

I have been thinking a lot about beginnings — thinking back to the time when my desire to paint was brand new.  After thirty years I bought a new paint box — a compact box, with a sturdy handle and clean new surfaces.  After thirty years’ practicality I thought it was an innocent enough gesture.  Let myself feel young, left my artist’s heart feel brand new.

I have four dozen of small panels.  I’m ready to explore my own household, survey its common objects and do inventory.  To be an anthropologist of my own life strikes me as a very worthy goal.  What ordinary things are lying about for my inspection?

I want light, shadows, colors, edges and some in-between-ness of things.

At the top is a painting I made long ago — can be exemplary for me — I painted a leaf from my yard and a farmer’s apple.  The tree that made the leaf is gone now and a garden has taken its place.

ébauching the ébauche

The ébauche is the first fast sketch when you cover up the canvas, when you put things into their places.  It’s a “point and shoot,” direct from the hip kind of painting.  I guess every artist loves that aspect, the part where you mould reality, when you allow yourself to respond to what you see with minimal intervention between thought and execution or between feeling and intention.  Indulgent, I can not wait to finish one picture before beginning another.  Instead I have lined my canvases up,  a regular “Monet,” me and I move from one idea to another– then make the circuit again as though playing the child’s game of musical chairs. 


And when the music stops, one of the pictures will be done, and it’s time to put on some more music.

Messages in a bottle

My companion, my mom,  had to write in her diary and I drew bottles while she did.  It can be disconcerting what to write.  Why should I write that?  What does it matter?  But, it’s the truth I said.  What does it matter what I had for dinner?  Because it’s the texture of your life, I said.  (I guess I can be really annoying, but remember I majored in English.)

While she wrote, I drew bottle tops.  Why bottle tops?  What do they matter?  They’re just there.  But, let me tell you, those bottles were (are) so incredibly beautiful, and I never noticed until I started drawing them just because they’re there.  It is reality we’re observing.  It is light curving toward us, bending, reflecting, distorting, refracting, scattering, hiding — doing all the things light does to objects in the universe.

Why draw ordinary things?  Because they are true, because they are there.  (And so are we.)

How I wish I could have brought you the beauties in our bottles, but it eluded me.  I guess you’ll have to draw your own bottles.  Meanwhile, this is all of the beauty I could catch.

In the clouds


A giddy sensation of photons.  The clouds are soft.  Variations of white, shades and regions of white.  Edges that blend into cyan sky, edges rimmed in pale pearl blue-grey or edges of fine, filtered, pale spun gold.  Around the clouds blueness of blue — a theatre of air, a bowl of quickening molecules, like beads of life rounding, spinning out time, thought, creation, presence, sentience — rolling and rolling round the rims of the bowl.

Sentences.  The clouds float across the regions of airy blue like words on a bright living page, a god vocabulary, scrambling and unscrambling in grammar that resists translation.

One looks and then you step into the sky.  You thought walk yourself up there.  Not with feet, but with imaginating. 

It was totally silent and joyful.  I was alone, but not lonely.  My whole self filled the sky, yet I was small.  Quite small, like a bird, I was there, but I was not weighed by things as on earth.  I was air, too.

Fluid.  Look and delight.

When I was eight, we celebrated my birthday.  I was the hero.  My friends laughed and smiled, squeeled and clapped their hands.  At my party we ate ice cream and cake.  Our jaunty cardboard party hats shimmered like rainbows this way and that with our waving our heads.  I feel the band under my chin.  My cake was white with pink and blue swirls of icing.  Sweet pink roses and rich pale green leaves.  Doric swirls and corinthian cake architecture of white on white.  The spoons of brilliant pink plastic!  The spoons were half the size of real spoons as we were half the size of real people.  Decorated paper napkins.  A flat horizon stretching along the broad expanse of the table.  Happy children, we!

Light came streaming through the windows.  The air filled with our laughter.  We ate cake and ice creams and filled the room with bright noise and child light. 

My cake — oh, my cake like clouds.  We ate the sweet clouds.

Now this sky of endless blue from horizon to zenith and back — and around and the air is an upside down dish filled with sweet clouds.

You all know that the clouds will soon probably swim and turn into fish. 

Look down.  The air is filled with fish that fly through the water on their strong wings, pushing themselves through the denser molecules with strong muscles.    I thought maybe I was painting fish, but they were perhaps a flock of birds instead?  Or does it matter?  Fish or fowl?

No.  Listen to reason. 

Calm yourself.  These are clouds.  Look they are quite clearly, quite comfortingly bright white soft clouds, air dust, spun thought, whisps, whisps ….

Did you forget something?

God’s thoughts are not your thoughts.  And his ways are not your ways, says the Lord.

Look.  Some of God’s thoughts are bright molecular air with spaces between the spaces.

Thoughts up Close

When you look at the details of a picture, you see how its illusion is created.  The image above is a detail of one section of the flower bouquet.  It zooms in on the flower patterns of the cloth that’s piled up against the vase of flowers.  From this vantage, much of the expression of three dimensions is lost to sight.  The shadows and the lights appear to exist on the same plane.  In the detail, one realizes how much the third dimension of this particular drawing was created by the motif as a whole since without the whole motif we cannot see distinctions of figure and ground.

These “textile” flowers are as impressionistic as were the “real” flowers in the vase.  Both are abstractions: shapes that appear in masses whose details consist of lines, hatchings and scribbles.  So, for instance I began some of the flowers of the textile’s pattern as rough, smeared shapes of red crayon.  And afterwards I went back into that red with lighter or darker shades to begin the process of imitating the tonal differences within the flower.  The irony is that is so doing one makes a “picture of a picture” since another artist designed the textile that I use in my still life.

The character of the drawing materials is hard to conceal, and I made no effort to hide it.  The visibility of the drawing is what attracts me to the use of crayons.  But it makes the illusion of the subject harder to achieve.  The tonal qualities of light passing over objects — the light and shadow of the cloth and its folds, or the diffusion of light around the contours of the vase, or the contrasts of light and shade amid the masses of flowers and leaves — all these effects have to be created through either hatchings or smudges and are refined by careful positioning of light or dark or warm or cool tones.

The visual qualities that pass before your eyes, the numbers of choices available to sight, are staggering in potential complexity.  From among all these possibilities one chooses a path that is your rendering of the picture.

It’s as though you confront a vast field thick with flowers and wild plants.  You see a prospect you want to reach, and you ponder what direction to take through the brush to reach your destination.  If you follow something you learned from an old master, it’s as if you have found a path that you can walk for a distance.  And when that path wears away and returns to the full wilderness of the meadow, from that point onwards you must walk your own path.

And this fact is not a difficulty.  It is freedom.

A Real Mountain

The folds of the cloth in the previous post have become a true mountain here.  You could almost just invent a landscape from start to finish by laying out some heavy cloth on a table, letting it pile into a crest, watching the daylight from a near by window carve out its fissures and cliffs while changing the colors a little to something stony and grey.

The forms of nature bear resemblances that are more than just skin deep.  In the mountain as well as the drapery, what the artist really draws is gravity and light!

[Top of the post:  Mountain of Imagination, by Aletha Kuschan]