I have been wondering about these leaves. Clearly the scale of the leaves and the scale of the moth are at odds with each other. But I felt from the outset that the leaves should be that way — that they should fracture the surface. And my intuition told me it should be those leaves, too, because the color is right — even though the color is false because I artificially altered the colors of the photograph and now I don’t even remember what kinds of leaves they were.
But the clearest sign I have that the leaves are the right leaves is that parts of the most recent dream comes back while I draw. I don’t recall the dream exactly, but moments of it come into thought where I seem to see the images in peripheral vision. Then the memories scatter as dreams often do.
The dream tone is there. The emotion functions like a rope that you can use to pull yourself back into the outer margins of the dream even though, of course, you’re wide awake.
So if these leaves can evoke the dream tone, then something about them must be right. They don’t have any logic. These leaves have nothing to do with this kind of moth — not in real life. But in terms of some kind of symbolism their convergence makes sense. I’m going to go with that. A picture can have a logic all its own.
I want it to have logic. I want it to cohere. But it has to happen on its proper terms. I don’t feel that I choose those conditions. Somehow I found them and I just recorded them.
The difficulty one encounters in trying to paint dreams is that often you cannot remember them. Dream memory is exceptionally fugitive. That feature of itself draws in a certain scientific interest (for those who study dreams) because it’s so startlingly different from ordinary perception. While you will most probably forget what you did this morning over the course of a few days, you are most unlikely to forget it seconds after it happens. But how often has one awakened from a dream only to see it seem to disintegrate even as one watches?
Some dreams last in memory and others don’t. Even what distinguishes the one sort of dream from the other is unknown. But while dreams cannot be counted on to furnish stable material for art, the process that one’s mind uses to dream is most probably accessible — to some extent — in a waking state.
I’m searching for some random things to include in certain pictures that are in the works. I say the things are random, but I only mean that they’re random in the way that dream elements often seem to come in bizarre forms. And one thing clearly connects to another as though by some great law of causality. But when you tell the dream to someone, it seems to make no sense at all. I am putting things into pictures just because, and wondering afterwards if the stream of consciousness leads somewhere.
Your dreams, O years, how they penetrate through me! (I know not whether I sleep or wake.) — Walt Whitman, Years of the Modern
I put some of my feelings into a bundle arranged in different colors, placed them into a glass of cool fresh water, set them upon the table, then stood and gazed at them to begin learning who I am and what I want.
The two paintings separated by slightly over twenty years are similar. The subjects are essentially the same. A vase of flowers sits on the table. Surrounding each bouquet are light airy background colors. Whatever you see is there because I put it there. I arranged the flowers and then painted them. How the two works differ reveals not only what I learned in the intervening years, it reveals differences in the way I think in past and present. We know it doesn’t reveal anything about the flowers because the flowers don’t change.
What’s the difference between a white background and a pale blue one? What about the introduction of blue and orange together — those chromatic opposites — what is the meaning of that? Or the emotional effect? How does it make you feel to look at a bunch of daisies sitting on a table? What are the connotations of daisies. They mean something different from roses. Why? Nature has given them radically different forms. The rose has depths. One remembers so many different experiences of flowers by smelling them, holding them, watching them grow, by receiving or giving them as gifts.
Do the details take you deeper into the feelings? Are the details more elaborate emotional landscapes? Shouldn’t we bring things closer for inspection? Closer is more.
These things that reveal our lives to us are so important. For me it’s art, for others, it is something else. Give some thought to the things that connect you to your past and to who you are inside.
Even seeing the differences when you’re the spectator tells something about the two image ideas. The differences in your feelings when you look at different scenes can tell you much about yourself if you watch and listen to the thoughts and feelings.
The drawing sheet was 18 x 24 inches large. As you can see the shell took up much of that space, but the real shell is not — no queen conch could be — that large. It would be a monster of a queen conch that was that large.
So what is the shell that’s larger than life size? It’s like a dream of a seashell.
I had so much fun drawing this shell. Seeing the photograph brings back the memory so vividly. It was a blast. I had to enlarge the thought while I was drawing and I loved it. I had never drawn any of the shells large before. I’ve never done it since.
But seeing this drawing now, I cannot wait to draw it large again. For now, though, I have other tasks because I am reorganizing my life. And I am tidying my home — just as Marie Kondo said I should.
Cleaning house is a psychological event. I have already had more than one reunion with a long lost item. I am discovering while reading Marie Kondo’s book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” that many things that fill my house can easily be tossed. I haven’t used them in years. I don’t need them. I’ll never use them. Time to release such things back into the wild.
But I am also finding many things that were merely hidden under the crush of stuff. Retrieving these items is archaeology. Rediscovering these hidden items gives me access to other parts of my memory. They are like windows opening onto my past life.
And so cleaning house is a bit like dreaming.
I never know exactly what I will find. I open a door and an image is waiting there.
I am welcoming many long interred ideas back into my life. And it is changing me.
The Little Bouquet is little not because the flowers were small, but because the image is small. Scale in art offers an often uncelebrated emotional factor to an image. Small things affect us differently than large ones do. Small pictures sometimes convey a greater sense of intimacy that comes from the way that small things can be held in our hands, are seen in miniature, are made more jewel-like perhaps or more precious-seeming.
In this picture the smallness of things seemed to suggest a philosophical idea — that the small, though often over-looked thing, can be a receptacle and a source of great meaning. A simple vase of flowers reminds us of the ever flowing passage of time. The beauty of all transience can call us back to reverence for life, can remind us of our need to savor the present. These lovely flowers might have been connected to any of life’s celebrations as they sit in quietude upon a table gleaming in the light.
I saw it as a microcosm of time, a moment when Nature and humanity gathered together. The passage of all loved things was once like this, a glimmering moment of light and life.
Little Bouquet of Flowers is a pastel painting on textured paper measuring 11 1/2 x 10 1/4 inches.
There are many wonderful drawing challenges on the internet that give people ideas. Many drawing challenges serve to inspire. They may prompt you to draw things you never thought of drawing.
I have thought that — from time to time — I’d like to post some drawing challenges of my own. Some are kind of advanced challenges. But they are fun. They are tasks I give to myself to stretch my skill level. Yet I hope that artists working at all levels of drawing skill will consider giving them a try because … because you just never know what will happen. There’s always a potential for invention in trying new things. And in any case, drawing isn’t dangerous. How can you possibly go wrong?
The purpose of this particular advanced drawing challenge is not to produce a drawing to hang in a frame, though that outcome may arrive, but instead to devise ways to stretch your visual skills. It’s really more about process than product.
This challenge has two parts. Each can be fairly difficult, but for sure the difficulty of the second part depends upon the difficulty of the first part.
For the first part, you simply draw something. What do you usually draw, or often draw? Choose something familiar — or something that you can observe keenly, intensely. What you’ll do is to draw the thing or the scene very carefully and fastidiously, observing as much information as you can and recording it in whatever way you approve. You may find it helpful to use lots of contours, lots of linear elements to describe forms, but it isn’t strictly necessary. So just do whatever you do. And you might also want to redraw this motif you’ve selected a few times, two or three times perhaps. For this challenge repetitions are good.
Anyone who has learned to play a musical instrument will know what I mean.
For the second part, you go away from your motif and redraw it from memory. The goal is to capture as much information as you possibly can based on everything you know and remember about the subject. One way to help this along is to remember how you drew and remind yourself what you drew. Counting may help if there are a certain number of somethings that apply. Remembering a “seating arrangement” may help. What was here? What was over there? What was sitting next to the such-n-such?
You can prod yourself to recall not merely the details of the scene you observed but the kinetic, physical memory associated with the act of drawing, remembering both what you drew, and how you drew, and the order in which you drew it.
Some artists say that memory drawing is really difficult for them. I met one very astonishingly skillful artist who said she only drew from the motif, never from memory, that she “didn’t know how to draw from memory.” I suspect she was being too modest. But memory drawing is a skill to possess like any other skill in art. One way to develop it is to remember your previous drawings which is very different from remembering the appearance of the things themselves. Sometimes the memory of the things is fugitive but the physical memory of your hands will often be much more sure.
This is a very generalized description of a potentially very amorphous, imaginative, flexible and possibly also very complicated task. The latter quality is good if you like complication (I do) but not essential. Tailor things to suit your own preferences. I offer it — such as it is — as a challenge to try. I’ve used it drawing seashells and a few other things. You can apply it to any subject. It can, for instance, be a good way to study old masters: first copy the image, once or twice (or more) and then draw the memory of the copying.
It’s like drawing a map of part of your interior mind. What better typography to travel through ….
A certain kind of day you step out the door. The first thing you see is thrilling. Intense blue sky, brilliant light, a tree casting shadows across the ground richly green. Speckled lights and patches of shadow are equally strong and distinct shapes like positions on a chessboard. Balmy air envelopes you.
I remember I heard the sounds of birds and insects together. In the random distance someone’s far away percussive shout catches my momentary attention and disappears. I turn and look in that direction. A father yelling instructions to his kids, or a roofer shouting to his crew. The words inaudible are like the sounds of birds, too.
The entire tableau revives an insistent alert as you stand there: all this is real! You are alive — isn’t it thrilling! This is the present. You have awakened a second time today. This time it’s more urgent and sensory.
Sometimes you recover a sensation that you had as a child — that belief that everything is new — which I guess children feel because THEY are new. My daughter at a certain age used to ask me, “Am I still brand new?” And I said, “yes, of course you are.”
Whatever the causes, at virtually any age in life, one sometimes stumbles into the moment of glad awakening. It’s then you stride into the present. You step inside it. It was always there but you’d forgotten to notice. Now you’ve found it again, the lost present, where had I left it? Oh, here it is. Right in front of me! Silly me.
I vow not to lose it again.
When the light is brighter, when smells travel through the nose deep into the brain, becoming elements of a waking dream, movement seems quicker. Do birds fly through the sky with such clean speed this way always? I’ll make a point to notice this again!
I’m suddenly aware of gravity. I notice the earth pulling me toward it. I can feel my feet inside my shoes.
I remember my father’s voice. I know that my mother is inside the house. And here is Everything Else. I felt this way just a few days ago when the weather was uncommonly balmy.
I have been thinking about thinking, reading about thinking too. Can’t say exactly what I learned though because I was watching thoughts move, and they mostly seem to flow like water. They go by so quickly that it’s hard to catch one before it’s gone.
But then there’s another one. Have you ever had a bunch of good ideas, and you watched them and thought “wow” those are neat. And yet afterwards you couldn’t have told anyone what they were.
Sometimes ideas scatter like a flock of birds. Truly I don’t quite think they were my ideas, but were migrating electrons that appeared in my head, danced in wave after wave like fire flies and then as mysteriously disappeared.
And the afterwards is like the memory of a lovely summer night in which flower bloom aromas drifted upon the air. How I would like to put them into a vase of blue with light shining through and keep them.