well distracted

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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.

moth drawing 1

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.

fun detail

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When I found this old painting again (featured in the previous post), I was greatly surprised to discover that I had painted the pull of the zipper.  There it is in the lower corner and you can even see a bit of the zipper track.

I guess I came under its spell.

the Big Tidy Continues

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The household reorganization continues, and it brings many joys.  Marie Kondo in her book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” recommends that you begin the big toss by starting with the easy things — starting first with clothes.  I did that earlier this week, and it was marvelous to get rid of old items.  I’ve trimmed down to essentials.  Many things are going to the dumpster and many to the thrift store.

But I have also rediscovered many wonderful old things.  Kondo, who is a great appreciator of art, has directed her book toward the non-artist public so she doesn’t address the whole still life question.  Clearly artists face a more than ordinary temptation to hoard stuff.  So I take her basic principles and merely apply them to this other category of things.  But going through the clothes, a few things have now transferred from “clothes” to “still life cloth.”  Some of those transfers are quite just because these are things that truly do “spark joy.”  Now the future joy will no longer be in the wearing but in the spectacle of seeing the colors and patterns behind various still life objects.

Nonetheless, the clutter gradually and steadily recedes.  New spaces and opportunities appear.  These are joyful days.  I reencounter many memories.  I discover new possibilities.

I seem to discard things and get ideas in their stead.  I become rich in ideas.  And I love ideas!  So I am indeed quite rich now.  Isn’t it marvelous?

[At the top of the post, one of the early paintings I encountered again.  I also retrieved the mustard colored cloth (actually a satchel) that appears in it.  The cloth will be making new appearances in the days ahead.]

what more to say

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I was making plans when I painted these just as I am making plans now.  I had forgotten.  The bouquets were experiments in painting.

I was leaving one place — literally leaving — I was quitting my job.  Husband and parents thought it was a bad idea.  I quit anyway.  I suppose they all knew me well enough to suspect that I would do whatever I wanted. And I thank each one now — daddy, momma, husband — in the quiet of my head and heart because they provided a healthy dose of obstacle — not that I viewed their reactions in those terms at the time.  Rather, I see it now.  Seeing the obstacle they manufactured — their gifts — makes me wonder right now about the obstacles that I face right now.  How many of them are gifts in disguise?

I have been the loud proponent of mistakes in art.  Through making mistakes you learn.  Art has the great luxury of affording human beings considerable latitude in mistake making.  In art sometimes the mistake opens a door into new territory.  Screw up a drawing,  learn that exaggeration in art hides expressive possibility.  You learn that lesson not in vague terms as I declare it now in words but in the precise, specific way of a tangible shape in some particular drawing.

Looking back I can see how taking my family’s advice also might have led to a good path. Perhaps I should have heeded them and this path I took was “the mistake.”  It’s difficult to say, really only a matter of interpretation.  Had I taken their advice, I would still have needed to make important changes. I thought back then that I needed to change my outward circumstances.  Now I’m more inclined to see the inward changes as being most needful.

“Six of one and a half dozen of the other.”  One thing I love about my family, especially remembering these events, is that whether I kept the job or left it none of them intended to make a big deal of it for very long.  They thought quitting was a mistake.  All of them thought so.  They said so.  I quit against their advice.  All the lines were redrawn. Life rolled along.

I trust my intuition.  I made the right choice.  And I needed the obstacle gifts they gave.

Anyway, the flower paintings were doors and windows.  I am building a new metaphorical house in thought and I decided to use — to install — these particular portals.  I want to look at a flower world.

Cleaning house has brought me close to the past. I find things that “spark joy,” as Marie Kondo puts it.  I have also found things that evoke regrets and loss.  Where to put things comes later in Kondo’s scheme.  First you discard, later you organize.  Me, I have parts of the past to discard — aspects of my own personality to discard also.  Or, at least I intend to put certain personality features into deep storage.  Impatience or a bad temper might be useful on some exceptionally rare occasion.  I’ll want my impatience and anger then — perhaps.

For now, I reshuffle aspects of my personality and intend to keep only the traits that I really use along with ones that “spark joy.” I write this so blithely.  Naiveté lends charm to certain bold acclamations.  I am building a mental house and hopefully the physical house will conform to it. For sure, the physical house is much easier to clean and arrange.

Facing Things

“Face it” was what he often said.  It was one of his expressions, his way of making something emphatic.

Now with cleaning house, with making this wonderful transformation, this transformation that will lead to yet other new and even more wonderful transformations, I am facing things.  I take a last glance over a certain landscape that was the past. I will always remember.  But life is utterly new now.  And our life is so beautiful and so bright.

I feel a great surge of optimism.  It is like a wave at the beach that almost topples you while you stand, that makes you turn and smile and laugh in the spray, catching the gaze of your companions.  It’s like brilliant sunlight blanketing a field.  It’s like every lovely expansive day that you’ve ever lived.

a drawing is a memory of something

One wonder of drawing in notebooks is the experience you get opening the notebook after a chunk of time has passed and having a day of your past life come rushing back into being.  If there were one reason that stands above all others why artists should indulge the practice of drawing in notebooks, I’d say it was this.  Indeed, the notebook is like a diary except that rather than relying on words it deals in images.

Both diary and drawing have their unique capacity for distilling time.  I don’t praise one above the other.  All I do is exhort people to keep them, one or the other, a record of words or pictures — at least for a season.

It’s like canning peaches.  This is my canning:  only I canned a whole pond and included some ducks too.

journey of the pencil

So you paint the pictures as you might walk through the places, and you notice features and ask yourself questions about this and that as you go.  Your painting is like walking, and you don’t know what the scenery will look like until you come upon it.  The drawing as it unfolds depicts the real landscape, and you are moving through its spaces vicariously by the act of drawing.  And the thoughts along each passage are like footsteps.

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.

The Whole Story

I want to tell the whole story of my art, of your art, of anybody’s art. Whatever I learned, I got there by a particular path.  It wasn’t always a brilliant success.  I’ve made many bad drawings along the way.  (What about you?)  Yet sometimes it happens also to be true that a drawing had a specific purpose, humble though it might have been, that formed a necessary bridge from here to there.

I find old notebooks stashed away that hold strange and mysterious pictures. Sometimes I cannot identify what it was I drew.   Cannot tell up from down.  Don’t know what purpose they served, what thing I sought.  They are things that just float.  Fragments of fragments, unhinged from any goal.

Yet they have a weird sort of charm (for me at least).  They are the refrigerator pictures of my artistic childhood.  I was an adult in making them, but I was only taking baby steps toward whatever destination I had set for myself.  They are visual mumblings.

Some of them, that is.  This one is a brilliant success.

Drawing, talking, remembering

Back in 1986 the National Gallery of Art mounted a beautiful exhibit of Matisse’s paintings from that period when he lived in Nice.  Mom and I saw the show together.  It’s hard to believe that was a quarter century ago!  I was looking through the catalog while talking to her on the phone today.  She didn’t remember our visiting the exhibit, but I reminded her that we did.  We had wandered through that enormous exhibit like two ladies of leisure.  I remember well the lazy way we paused in front of pictures and enjoyed the beautiful colors, the clear light of those paintings, and the feeling of elegance and serenity those paintings evoke.  It was as though peace and calm and quiet orderly life might go on forever.

While I was talking to mom, I made a pen drawing of one of Matisse’s exotic young women.  They look out from the pictures with a dewy youth that is eternal.  Today’s “phone conversation drawing.”