filling in the blanks

basket of oranges

Going through some things in storage, I think I may have found some more oranges to include in The Big Painting.  I had drawn a half circle near the bottom of the painting just like Bonnard without knowing what would go there, if anything.  It was previsionary perhaps because soon after I stumbled upon the ancient picture above, a little basket of oranges that I painted many, many years ago.

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Seems like a contender!  We’ll see …

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boring boredom

study for table items 1

In chronicling the creation of “the Big Painting” (eventually it’s going to get a name) I earnestly wish to portray the process accurately.  Much of the work on this project is really fun.  I love doing studies, for instance.  All the individual drawings of things using Neopastels I find enjoyable. All this observation has a direct bearing on the outcome. The sense of anticipation spurs me onward.  It gives me practice portraying the forms.  It provides very creative, spirited forms of rehearsal.  I love getting to know the objects, seeing and recording effects of color and form.

But not every facet of decision making is bright.  Perhaps the hardest element so far has been trying to figure out where the objects will go.  I hesitate to begin drawing the objects on the actual canvas because I want to limit the amount of pentimenti.  After all, there’s already the outlines of a different motif on the canvas (originally it was going to be a large koi painting).  I can make some changes after the painting begins, but clearly there’s little benefit in having to do a lot of repainting or over-painting.

study for table items 2

Solving the problem of the objects takes different forms.  I have in previous posts shared color studies that included two or more of the objects in relationship.  That helps.  But I’m also trying to envision the whole and I don’t have an actual scene to which I can refer.  I have set up, as best I can, a few facsimiles.  But some of the solution has to be imagined.  So I make some drawings like the one above.

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They are “thinking out loud” drawings.  Sometimes I enjoy doing this sort of drawing.  Sometimes I don’t.  Since I am so flummoxed about the disposition of these still life items, I have found the compositional drawings less fun to make. These particular sketches are made imaginatively.  I’m not looking at the real objects, I’m looking at a mental idea of the table.  They reflect my indecision.

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Indeed, they’re kind of boring.  But I chide myself that I have not made more of them.  So the point is that sometimes some aspects of art are just that — boring.  However, it’s like doing your homework in school.  You just have to do it.  Sometimes it feels like it’s going nowhere, but you have to do it anyway.

When you find that by surprise — at some happy future moment — you are somewhere again, well, I think the boring stuff will deserve some credit for having got you there.

Here’s one of the several make-shift set ups, below:

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If you’re just landing on the blog now, the chronicle of The Big Painting begins approximately here:

teapot with flowers

teapot study

I made another drawing of the black teapot that sits on the horizon of the still life table.  I decided that maybe the ellipse does matter after all so I redrew it to better match the appearance of the blue compotier.

I included a shadow.  Things are going to have cast shadows similar to the ones that objects have in Bonnard’s painting though not all the objects have shadows yet in the various studies.  The question of the shadows and what they shall look like is another piece of the big puzzle.

finding the positions

teapot position

It’s time to figure out where the other objects in the painting are going to go.  Since I don’t have an actual still life, I cannot just look at the motif and arrange things there in the set up.  Instead my painting develops from drawings — some that I make from actual objects and some that proceed from photographs since certain objects in the painting are not things that I own — like the Limoges vase and the porcelain basket.

I have to guess how large to draw things.  And some of the decision is based also on a deliberation about how big I want the thing to be.  Because I love the frog teapot so much I have placed it at the very bottom of the picture where if all goes well it will be especially visible to inspection.  Otherwise, my decisions are just hunches.  “Maybe this would look good here … maybe that over there.”

Not included, but in the works are at least a couple more objects: a ceramic figurine of a bird, a second much smaller vase with flowers and perhaps a Chinese teacup holding some tea.  I’m still figuring things out.

in the dark

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Nothing is one color.  Nothing looks the same all the time.  Memory and thought sometimes seem to still things — to solidify them.  But the things themselves are always changing.

You can make the light even when you paint to give yourself more painting time.  It’s a very practical thing to do: to paint in artificial light.  But the painting once it’s finished will be seen in all kinds of light.  And it will look different in the morning, and it will look different at night.

trying to see into the future

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On the studio floor putting the one canvas atop the other helps me visualize how the bouquet would look in its vase and also anticipates how much space this arrangement will take up in the painting for which these are studies.

They come out bigger than I expected.  So I’m not sure what I’ll do about that, whether I use this motif anyway or maybe make it a little smaller.  The vase is a little farther away than other objects on the table.  I am unsure how much smaller that would make it appear. Will have to wing it, perhaps.

Anyway, I thought this arrangement turned out interesting.

rearranging the new flowers

picture and reference limoges 2

I’ve been tweaking the arrangement.  Now I’m ready to begin painting.  Because the big painting is in the next room, I forgot that the background for the flowers isn’t green, it’s orange.  So I slipped the closest thing I’ve got to orange paper behind the flowers to simulate (somewhat) that background.  I’ve been tweaking a lot actually as I remember this and that thing.  I also spread out the flowers.  The earlier version just wasn’t working.

I changed my mind

new vase Limoges pale (2)

I found a new Limoges vase online, and I’ve decided to use it instead of the pale white one with roses.  I just like this jaunty vase with handles better.  So I made a study of it using Neopastels and I’ll be using it to replace the main vase of the picture.

I have also decided to investigate using a second smaller vase to be sitting on the table a little closer in the foreground.  More on that development later.  I have an actual glass vase that I’ll use with real flowers.

Before I canned the white vase I made a little painted study of it, below right.