exuberant moment

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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.

 

 

 

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more fish & frog

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Yesterday evening I worked more on the oil study for my painting in the works.  Earlier versions of this oil study and of a watercolor of the same motif appear in earlier posts. The painting is 9 x 12 on Arches oil paper.

The idea for the particular colors in the cloth came from the watercolor version I did earlier. I liked the colors there and decided to use them here as well.

Now I need to transfer these ideas to the mysterious big painting in the works.

Green fish vase & frog tea pot

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After working on a watercolor version of the two objects, I decided to do some more painting on a little oil study I made on paper. I made dramatic changes to the fish vase, and sometime soon I’ll have to work on the frog tea pot also.

All these recent pictures are studies for a painting — a large still life — that’s in the works.

Here’s a detail of the fish’s face and a similar passage from today’s watercolor.

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.

again, the fish vase

 

101_8955 (2)Today I’m making an oil study of the fish vase and have just begun indicating the object that’s beside it — the frog tea pot.  An earlier post showed the fish vase in watercolor and again in oil pastel.  This time I’m using oil paint.  Each medium helps one think about visual features in different ways.

All that plus they say that practice makes perfect.

I like looking at the changing lights across the surface of the vase.

An earlier version of this oil study looked like this:

fish vase oil

More of Froggie

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I worked a little more on the frog-on-the-shelf painting.  The frog is beginning to look more there. And I tidied up the edge of the shelf where a bit of paper over-hangs and confuses things. I don’t know how long I’ll work on the painting, which is a little oil study on paper. I’m beginning to get interested in it, am enjoying going into its small spaces.  And I like watching the light make subtle changes among the actual objects.

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The Eiffel Tower, the blue bottle, the shell, the yellow vase — I ignored all of them today. I had only a little time in which to work, having taken up the picture again near the end of the period when the light is right.  The vase behind the frog which has the songbird design on it needs to twist so that the object recedes in space.  And the sea shell is little more than a gear drive shape at the edge.  If I continue working, all these things will need their turn.  But today was devoted to Froggie and his edges — to all the passages that press against him.

While working and watching, I began getting caught up in the aspect of figurines on display. In yesterday’s post I remarked that two of the objects have associations with my mother. The whole idea of figurines also takes me back to memories of my paternal grandmother.  I hadn’t realized it until today’s session.  Grandma must have had frog figurines.  She had all sorts of little objects of that sort.  They sat in rows in her living room window.  They were exactly the kind of thing to fascinate a small child, such as I was way back when.

The shelf of things looks wonderful in the natural light of the room. I took a photo which I’ve doctored enough to render the things visible.  The squash from today’s other work sits on the shelf under Frog & Company.

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Note to self: fighting & the beginning

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A really wonderful painting with minimal technique is something to be sought (if technique is construed as “knowing the means of doing a thing”).  The problem with the beginning is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Usually you don’t know what you do know either.

Generally people think of the beginning as being where the rookie is. What is less often noted is that anyone can be at the beginning in some context. Artists who do the same thing over and over, having mastered it (whatever It is), are arguably no longer at the beginning. They have achieved a mastery in the sense of being able to predictably repeat past performances at a similar level of difficulty with no loss in quality.

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But if you’re the sort of person who wants to be doing something new because you distrust sameness then the beginning is a place you can enter again.  It’s harder, though, than one might suppose. I can become a beginner if I adopt certain kinds of subjects that I have never portrayed. That might be great if these things were things that I want to paint. But lots of things that I never did consist of things that I never wanted to do. Doing those things now wouldn’t represent growth, it would just be stupid.

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So instead the challenge about doing something new relates to doing something that you want to do but have never done before, and more particularly doing something that’s difficult to achieve even at one’s present level of skill so that the challenge really puts you out of the comfort zone.  And THEN, not using one’s present knowledge to just think oneself logically through the technical problems, but rather using one’s ignorance itself as a tool so that you can dig, grab, flail your way along.

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I think I would rather struggle with a new thing than to use what I already know to render the new thing into some homogenized facsimile of what I already know.  Innovation — seeking and striving to get it — is more about immersion in a new experience than it is like coping by using all the old skills on new ideas. I don’t want to prettify the new thing with the contours of the familiar old things.

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Pierre Bonnard self-portrait

 

I want to confront the new thing in all its new-to-me-ness and fight my way through it just like I fought with subjects when I was a young artist.  Is that why Bonnard portrays himself as a pugilist in the series of late self-portraits made in the bathroom mirror?  Well, I don’t know. Bonnard’s intention and his thoughts across a hundred years is not available to me. But I want to find subjects that are hard in ways that formerly would send me to the fainting couch except that instead of retreating to the couch I want to stand and fight.

lattice ptg

Art doesn’t have to be a fight.  I’m not saying that. Art can be refined, easy-going.  It can be a long walk. I’m just saying that if it’s a long walk, I want to walk somewhere I’ve never been before. I am looking for new experience, even in the things I’ve done again and again. I want to experience them in some innocence. I want to be overwhelmed by them. I don’t want to know what I’m doing. I want to figure something out as I go.

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odds & ends

Draw everything.

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You can’t of course. But why not just pretend that you can. There may not even be an everything to draw (philosophically speaking).  Who is to say how much stuff there is in even a corner of a still life. All that notwithstanding, when you tell yourself that maybe you’ll just sit down and draw everything now — you free yourself from the need to first draw this, and then draw that, and find the center of interest, and make sure to get the half-tones, and blah, blah, blah.

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This is a really neat still life. It’s a visual forest that a person’s eyes can wander around in for hours. It has twists and turns. It has passages of light and shade. It’s abundant in RED. There’s the black vase, too, with its patterns on the surface and its depths and reflections in the black — with the window reflection that takes you outside if you peer into it really deeply!

In the carnival glass compotier, as I was drawing, I saw a patch of white and wondered what it was. Looking closer I saw that it was the inverted, distorted reflection of the white creamer! In every centimeter there’s a wonder to behold. In such a visual jungle one cannot possibly draw everything and yet if you are, like me, too thrilled to choose, and must draw a bit of this and a bit of that, then you find splendors in every direction. Oh, to an ant it’s a palace of ineffable grandeur and beauty! (Well, that’s if ants’ sensibilities include enjoyment of the scenery.)

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I’ll tell you a secret, though I buy the best artist materials I can afford for the works that I plan for sale, I also adore working with very cheap and common things — expressly because they are ubiquitous in our society. I bought this notebook at RiteAid.  It’s cover caught my eye one day as I was leaving the pharmacy.

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You can see how it has the busy bright design that I like.  I’ve been drawing with Bic Cristal in this notebook this morning — that would be the world’s cheapest and absolutely most wonderful and expressive pen — ever!

My parents were survivors of the Great Depression and instilled in me (without their realizing) a great love for the common tools that are abundantly available. In regard to drawing, when I pick up simple dime store tools and draw, I feel like I’ll always be able to draw come what may. I sit here in the corner of a room like an oriental pasha with my wealth of colors and thrift store treasures, exploring the seemingly infinite reach of my territory!

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I have long admired the fishes on the Chinese tea pot and I decided to zero in on one of them at the risk of having the shape of the pot go somewhat crazy on me. If you care about the pot’s shape, you draw that first, but if you care about the fish — sooner or later you have to make a wild lunge for the fish, pen in hand.  If that puts the proportions out of whack, so be it.

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After several drawings, I decided to draw with watercolor. It is similarly scattershot. But the brightness of the whole I find satisfying.

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I’ve have drawn all afternoon en plein indoors sitting beside my still life table.

One more.  This one in oil pastel.

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I drew this one very fast and began with the reflection of the window because it had been so beautiful, really pearlescent! But the light changed so fast and I wasn’t actually able to observe the effect that had brought me in. Still it’s interesting that the whole drawing began with that reflection, like the axis of a wheel.

late night sea shells

Sea shells on the shelf, say that several

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times quickly. When I finished drawing my late night owl of the previous post, I turned my attention to the sea shells with the ceramic bird. I have an oil pastel that I work on when the light is right, and this pen drawing, made from a different angle, in different light keeps me thinking about the forms.

 

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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