starting the day

flower of the black cloth oil pastel

I draw now in the morning while I’m having coffee.  The light has been perfect.  The days are mild and overcast lately.  The studio light is diffuse.  I like sitting in the dim gloom with my coffee, looking at the still life table and making small drawings of various details such as this flower on a dark cloth above.

I have reestablished an old set up with the idea of finishing a small painting that I began a couple years ago.  It’s an idle thing — a way of getting warmed up for other projects — to make these drawings,  to pull out an small old unfinished painting.

page with frog figurine and flowers

The old painting has a frog figurine in it and I’ve decided that frogs are important to me.  So perhaps the frog figurine parallels the meanings of the frog teapot (whatever meanings those are).

I drew the frog teapot and blue jay figurine again recently with coffee, drawing very fast.  It’s better to draw than not to draw so “make a fast drawing,” I tell myself.

blue jay & frog teapot sketch

I never did quite figure out the arrangement of the things for the big painting, but the project cannot wait any longer so I have concocted a way of muddling the things in — hazy at first — and later I will bring them more into focus after I see how much space each one takes up.

So, I’ll soon be returning to “the big painting.”  I wonder how long it will take to complete it once I get started again….


looking out the window

Different times of day, different angle, but it’s the same window. In both cases I made a fast drawing.  I figured, “Why not?”

One is early morning (left) and the other is at twilight. The curtain on the right is only barely visible in the morning version.

amazing how active tulips are

tulip study 1The tulip I picked from the yard this morning has moved around while I’ve been painting and observing it.  Apparently “still life” is terminology that tulips don’t understand. I don’t mind the flower moving around.  It’s just a little strange to observe.

  Flowers are not these placid, exemplars of stillness that one supposes.  They fidget.

They merely do so on a time scale unfamiliar to human perception.  Drawing helps reveal it.  Cezanne asked, “Does an apple move?”  Well, friend, he never would have asked that question concerning a tulip.  Believe me, they move.

tulip drawing

Hold on a minute, I was certain the contour was over here ….

morning people

window drawing.jpgA morning person, I’m learning to become one.

My dog Lucy deserves most the credit. Lucy is an early riser, ascribing to the old saying of Benjamin Franklin, “Early to rise, early to eat.”  Oh, wait ….

Anyway, Lucy claims that’s what he meant no matter what he actually said.

I was looking out the window at the spring, this being the studio window which overlooks the back yard, the window that hasn’t been cleaned since whenever I last wrote about cleaning it.  (I can relax knowing that no one is likely to ever look that up.)  It’s an exceedingly messy window, much in need of repair. Here’s where the squirrel came to munch on the internet access cable.  Here’s where each year, generation after generation of spiders makes a home between layers of glass because, apparently, whole civilizations of bugs also make residence between the window proper and the storm window frame.

So looking out at the view I’m confronted with abundant visual complexity. A chronicler of days could find an entire magnum opus with this view alone.  For outside I see the lovely spring composed of new green, and I see pale overcast sky, and bare branches reaching up in every direction ready to leaf, and new leaves from the early strivers of the tree domain.

  The architecture of the window is there to confuse the geometrically perplexed (such as myself). But there are other subtler features too.

The glass (very dusty dirty and spider webby) catches reflections.  It dulls over the passages of color lying behind it.  Some areas of the tree trunk nearest the window (remind me that I need to cut that down) are affected by this grey veil of dullness, that softens passages of the elegant tree trunk form, leaving other parts full rich in tree trunk darkness. The warm/cool changes in all these passages are mind boggling.

So I draw it with morning coffee, fully aware that I cannot depict these many perceptions.  Even sorting out which to attempt and which to exclude puts my caffeine addicted brain to task.  It’s mostly for the loveliness of beholding and the idleness of contemplation that I decided to draw this scene.  It was here.  I have coffee to drink.  So why not?

Does it count as plein air landscape when you’re sitting inside looking out the window?

(En plein intérieur)

morning coffee drawing

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Today’s morning coffee drawing is a watercolor.  I don’t know whether I’ll work on it more today or not. I drank all the coffee, and I need to begin today’s session with the big painting for which this is another practice.

Before I began the watercolor, I drew the two things a little in a notebook where many of the ideas for the painting develop.

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I am redrawing the same features again and again.  It’s like music that I’m striving to learn.  The objects are the music.

In a careless drawing like the one above, you can really think aloud.  The contour of the green fish vase goes right through the frog tea pot.  And the tea pot’s spout was originally about a half inch to the left.  I simply put the lines down where they seem to go.  This drawing records random thoughts about lines and their positions and about passages of light and dark, though the tones don’t conform to the scene overall — that would mean too much drawing.  I’d run out of ink.  My wrist would be killing me!

I got the frog’s face in one of these studies.  I think this is the first time the frog’s face has materialized so clearly.  Hopefully everything will appear at last — in the painting for which these are the rehearsals.

unimpeded thought

The morning coffee drawing was supposed to be about “unimpeded thought.”  I had been learning about free-association as a means of invention in writing.  Ray Bradbury had said that “we’ve become so conditioned to worry about grammar, word choice, and punctuation that we deny ourselves the luxury of unimpeded thought.”  So I was asking myself what would be comparable in drawing?  The trip to Unimpeded Thought sounds like just the destination I’ve been looking for:  forget these adverts for world cruises to all the tropical paradises.  Just put me on the slow boat to Unimpeded Thought.  Hey, I like luxury as much as the next person.

Only problem is that I’m not sure how to get there.

Have to contemplate it some more ….

In the interim I sought to remove all mental barriers between me and my still life objects, they who pose so nicely for me day and night.

Morning Coffee Still Life

Morning comes with all that brilliant light.  Everything looks clear.  How lovely the light is in the morning, crystalline, warm.  Morning coffee at hand, a blue ball point pen, and things to draw.  The white paper is a light too.  I want to put a line around each thing, and I’m glad there’s a lot of things too.

Foliage abstraction

For today’s morning coffee drawing I looked out the window and drew the dense confusing foliage of a beautiful, but enigmatic tree.  When presented with something like the dense confusion of masses of leaves, you do well to simply let yourself go.  I let the pen trace the edges of what I thought I saw.  I wasn’t concerned about its ever looking like a tree.  Honestly it doesn’t really “look like a tree” even in real life.  It’s simply a wall of green.

Of course I know it’s a little wood out there so it doesn’t need to “look” like mine or anyone else’s idea of a tree among trees.  However in drawing one sometimes wants the stuff to “look like” what it is.  Were I too insistent upon that goal in this instance, I suppose I would just never draw this wood because it IS a confusing mass of leaves.  Period.  That is the reality.  There is no beautifully differentiated sense of lovely trees hanging out with other trees.  If you were a bird zooming down looking for a branch to light upon, you’d better have terrific navigating skills.  Cause it’s a jungle out there.

So sometimes in drawing you let yourself enter the jungle of lines.  You just wander around scratching at this and that.  Watch the light pour over things and pretend you’re taking a photon’s journey.  This didn’t need to be anything more than a meditation upon tangled green confusion.

And that’s what it is.  Oh, and the coffee was great.

Today’s morning coffee drawing

This morning I draped my favorite cloth — the one with the pattern of big roses — over a chair and began drawing in a 9 x 12 notebook with a Uniball pen.

The drawing featured above was actually from my second cup of coffee.  For the first cup I made a smaller drawing of the same drapery.

Some mornings you have to wake up gradually.