The Red Cloth & the Big Bouquet of Flowers

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A complex ensemble of varied objects sits on a table decorated by a large bouquet.  The table cloth is brilliant red.  The flowers are of many types: lilies, daisies, carnations, roses.  A couple of winter gourds, a queen conch seashell, and a blue pedestal glass filled with smaller seashells sits beside the flowers.  Behind them a cloth of pale blues and silver adds a sky-like element.  And off to the far right a deep red-orange cloth peeks out framed by some hanging purple flowers from a vase sitting outside the picture frame.

The complexity of a scene like this one gives the artist many sources of intrigue.  I love exploring the shapes of many things when they are bunched altogether.  It’s a passion that hopefully transfers to the spectator. In any scene of things, many wonderful visual features are always present.  One of the aims of visual art is to provoke us to look more deeply into the appearances of the world.  Every corner of the universe is filled with splendor.  And splendor can begin with the simple contemplation of even a color.  A brilliant red is a powerful sensation in its own right.  And the shapes of things, the colors of many things, the lines that the mind describes around things are all sources of the most powerful fascination.

The Red Cloth and the Big Bouquet of Flowers  is a pastel painting on sanded paper measuring 18 x 24 inches.

Glass Jar with Flowers

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If a simple glass pickle jar gives you joy, you know you are a joyful person. I found the pickle jar in my mother’s cabinet.  It was one of those things my parents kept out of a desire to give all possessions a second life. Emptied of pickles it became a flower vase.  I cleaned it up after its years of disuse and marveled at how lovely the light is that passes through simple clear glass.  The flower stems randomly distributed in the jar offer beautiful abstractions of dark green.  The glass also reflects and intensifies colors in adjacent objects — the table cloth, the backdrop cloth.  It catches highlights of daylight entering the windows.  It is in short a light catcher.  Whoever wishes to meditate on the meaning of the present tense can gaze into its interior and find passages of beauty to inspect.

The flowers are the heroes of any flower still life: comprised in this instance of carnations and a single large yellow tea rose.  But a clear glass jar also brings strong poetry to the scene.

Glass Jar with Flowers is a small pastel painting on textured paper measuring 14 x 18 inches.

Green Pitcher with Flowers

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Visits to the thrift store are staples of an artist’s still life experience.  I like thrift shops not merely because they are thrifty, but because they are the opposite of trendy.  They preserve the past, and often that past they preserve is a peculiarly ordinary and everyday past.

Finding the green pitcher was one of those wonderful thrift store discoveries that every flea market aficionado loves.

The pitcher has no value in a monetary sense, but it is visually rich.  It’s one of those objects that lends itself to numerable interpretations. Placing it into this still life gave the flowers a new character.  I had been portraying the same hardy flowers over the course of several days (it is amazing how long well-tended cut carnations will stay fresh).

The green becomes a factor.  The green of the pitcher, colored like a grassy lawn, brings its own associations of spring, evoking the sense of a landscape where flowers bloom.  Of course this vase has its own porcelain flowers, too, ones that decorate its waist.  A bright gold-yellow cloth and variegated violet and pale linen-colored cloth behind the flowers create a light-filled scene.

Green Pitcher with Flowers is a pastel painting measuring 15 1/4 x 21 inches.

 

Bouquet of Carnations

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Among the first of a suite of small flower paintings, this simple scene depicts a glass jar filled with flowers sitting on a table top with a gold-green cloth against a backdrop of rosy violet. The principle flower of the group is a large yellow tea rose and surrounding it are carnations of different hues, pale pink, rich red, pale yellow.  The green stems of the flowers create a lively abstraction in the jar’s interior where reflections of light enliven the pattern of light and dark shapes.

Bouquet of Carnations is a pastel painting that measures 13 x 16.5 inches.

Recollected Ocean

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A small queen conch seashell, portrayed life size, sits on a still life table where the surrounding colors recall the sand, sea and ocean air. The elongated shell rests on its side.  A great variety of colors mix to recreate some tropical weather far from the seashell’s sea depths home. A evocative, poetic image of island life that a seashell carries around by virtue of its stunning shape can deposit island longings into the mind of an artist stranded in the suburbs.  And through a picture perhaps the island whimsy reaches even other farther shores.

The center of the shell is a rich and warm orange red, made more vivid by the contrast of nearby tones of pale and dark blue. Marks of the drawing are plainly visible and at the same time the illusion of the picture is strong in an impressionist way, most so when the oil pastel painting is viewed from a little distance.

Recollected Ocean is an oil pastel drawing on tan paper that measures 10 x 7 inches.

Shimmering Surfaces

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The wing of the seashell, like the wing of a bird, evokes a freedom of spirit.  And the intense and varied colors of a seashell’s glassy surface offer visual effects that are stimulating and marvelous to contemplate. I love to look at and to draw seashells.

In this still life all the surfaces become mental territories — dreamlike in their intensity — whose colors vary and vibrate. Next to the queen conch, on the right, sits a blue pedestal bowl whose curves distort the background cloth seen through its glass. Both objects, though without clearly obvious meanings, seem iconic to me when I contemplate them in the still life setting — by their steady presence — by the way their abstract shapes lock together forming strong lines and contrasting edges.

Shimmering Surfaces: Sea Shell is an  oil pastel painting on toned paper that measures 14 x 11 inches.

thoughts, words, but no picture

I believe in opposites (a thing and its foil) as a good principle for learning.

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Updated with a picture: there’s no use crying over Negative Space.

 

My first drawing of the still life naturally focused on the objects. You see the stuff. You draw the contours around the stuff. But I was wondering now if maybe I’d get a better handle on the idea of the painting by looking more closely at the negative spaces. The only problem is that there are no negative spaces to look at — or maybe it’s ALL negative spaces ever since I disassembled the still life.

It’s a small room. Anyway, I didn’t want to be too dependent on the actual still life this time. And I wanted to travel in hero Pierre Bonnard’s shoes a bit.  More about memory.

I guess now’s a good time to look at Bonnard again with the negative spaces particularly in mind.

I just wrote a post about that sort of thing – the spaces between spaces — a day or so ago. That’s probably why I’m thinking about it now. I was looking at the sketch for the still life and wondering how it would be to think about everything that I wasn’t thinking about when I drew it. The task is greatly complicated by the absence of the actual still life!

Nonetheless (never one to be deterred) there are other ways to think about the spaces between things, even when drawing from memory. I can put parts of the still life together temporarily. I can also just have a whack at drawing the stuff between the stuff (even from imagination) and see what new stuff emerges.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

just back from the framer

The still life with flowers

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has got a new frame. I may continue tweaking the image — still figuring that out — but it has its frame so that in all changes going forward they will harmonize with each other.

Here it is below crammed into the studio. Sitting above it is probably the next thing that’ll make the trip to Georgetown Frame Shoppe, the pastel koi.

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Peter did a fabulous job on the corners of this beautiful molding.

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Stuff I love

I love drawing patterns on cloth

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when they recede in depth or when they follow folds in drapery.

I love the picture within a picture, putting something in the still life that has a picture on it, and making this other picture another space in the illusory painted space.

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Another thing I love are the confusing bits of chaos that you see when you look at something through glass.  I like to put bottles in the still life to draw the things seen distorted by the glass, love to draw the fruit in the blue compotier to see the blue alter the colors of the things.

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Also the pattern on a cloth that sits flat on the table top between two objects, to contemplate that space as a special landscape of imagination —

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— the way that pattern looks abstract because it’s partly covered up and is seen from an oblique angle so that’s it’s made twice unfamiliar.  All those kinds of things are fascinating, are wonderful beyond compare.

Sometimes I like the interstices better than the objects. The “negative space” sometimes gets you closer to the perception because when you draw it you are no longer naming the things, but are instead drawing the spaces between the things, seeking to draw parts of the entire veil of light hanging in front of your eyes — seeing it as a veil.

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To dematerialize the objects is part of the goal. A few times (admittedly rarely) I heard painting criticized because it is “flat.”  Also because it’s static (as opposed to a movie). Painting isn’t modern, the critic said, because it’s flat and still. But I love painting precisely because it’s flat and immobile so the mind can enter it and move freely.

The pretended space is wondrous. I like to draw the rim to rim on anything that has a void in its parts, like the opening of a shoe, the interior of a cup.

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I want to create the illusion of the thing on the canvas and the artifice of that delights me. But I also am glad that it is flat because in being flat it has design.  Things are not just things but can connect to each other because some linear relationship that exists only in the mind and on the page begins to pull the things together into a motif.

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“Motif” is a pictorial thing, a picturesque thing, it’s a scenic idea.  Out in the world is raw reality (in whatever form it actually is).  In the mind, on the contrary, are things with names to which meanings attach.  I want to fix the meaning into a shape.

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In the picture, are lines, colors and shapes that can delight the eyes and sometimes puzzle the brain and which pull and tug and affect the emotions in sometimes strange ways.

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the frame, like the edges of the pond

 

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This pastel is almost ready for the frame. Once it receives its several light coats of pastel fixative, off to the frame shop it goes.  After framing it will join its companion painting so that they can be pendants.

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Once both works are framed, the fish can swim toward each other.

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