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Same song, different verse.  They are the same orange and lemon sitting on the same cloth, in the same relationships, portrayed a little differently from one painting to another.

The variations offer endless possibility.

I love painting the same things in slightly different ways.  It’s like jazz.  You learn the tune and then you discover something inside it that’s new each time.

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into the small passages with color ideas

two oranges (2)

Drawing two oranges on the still life table this morning using oil pastel, looking for color changes and for ideas about how to complicate the passage of the Big Painting that has the two oranges in the foreground.

I had it on my “to do” list to make a study and I think I’ll make some more.  I am just looking at color passages, exaggerating some of them, thinking about my pal Bonnard.


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Some random moments from The Big Painting, passages seen up close.  Nearly all of these things will be covered up in more paint.  But then I’ll take close ups of those too …

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It’s fun for me looking at the surface.  I hope it’s fun for the spectator too.  Many things are abstract seen up close.

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There’s lots of color contrast in this painting, both in the painting as a whole and in the smaller sections.

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The flowers will get more stuff done to them, but these flowers will probably never be anything other than painted flowers with details of paint but not details of botany.

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I am contemplating a plate.  It may go at the bottom.  Not sure.  Right now it exists only as a broken arc.  Blue jay’s tail is visible on the left.

(almost) live blogging the Big Painting

studio assistant and other assistants tail

Junior studio assistant gives me a meaningful look while senior studio assistant (mostly unseen) smacks junior assistant with her tail.  (This happens a lot.)

big painting compotier going in

The blue compotier is starting to go in.

big painting flowers going in

The flowers also are starting to go in.  I use music stands to hold my studies.  It’s very convenient — and musical! — I feel like I’m playing the score while I paint.

All these study drawings and paintings are very useful.  I’ll be making more of them as the painting goes forward.  As more of the picture gets painted I’ll know what further information I need from the objects.

Any excuse to draw the frog teapot will do ….

a longing at the center of things

studio on june 21

Even as I struggle to sort out where the still life objects will go, I realize there is still a way to get back into the painting:  I can work on the flowers.  They are the longing at the center of the whole.

If I find that I really need simply to paint, I can do that.  I can paint the flowers. I can also work more on the landscape seen through the window.

But I must be careful because even these distant features are influenced by the still life that will sit below — they are influenced and they will exert an influence.  The whole painting has to operate together as one comprehensive spectacle.

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.

details across the wide canvas

figurine and frog teapot smaller use (4)

Sorting through the studies for the painting, I find bits that particularly intrigue me.  One of these bits is that passage where a portion of the blue jay figurine is visible through the handle of the frog teapot.  I love passages like that in art and in life.  When I was drawing it — strange as it may seem — I thought this particular passage was so marvelous — in the actual things.

detail of figurine drawing resized (2)

Such passages as possibilities in a canvas measuring 60 x 48 inches are somewhat staggering to contemplate (122 x 152 cm).  But it doesn’t bother me.  It’s not goading like the question of what things mean is goading.  It’s a grand opportunity for pleasure.  It’s like ranging through a large meadow every square foot of which is filled with wild flowers.  The potentials for pleasure are immense.

I think I am basically an abstract painter at heart.  I just need things about which to be abstract.  Perhaps there’s a measure of abstraction in the things also — or in their meanings — in meaning generally.  Maybe meaning can be more flexible and capacious than I realize.

a bigger bouquet

flower study 2

I got more flowers and added them to the existing bunch.  And I started a second study.  This one measures 24 x 18.  I omitted the vase this time.  In this study I’m just focused on the flowers themselves.  But I keep adding new blooms to the group and some of what I painted reflects the bouquet the way it looked before the new additions.  So it’s confusing.

But the main thing is that I’m looking at these flowers and painting them.  I’ll keep painting flowers.  When these wear out, I’ll get some more and paint those.  I must sort these flowers out because even though I’m emulating Bonnard’s big dining room picture, La Salle à manger sur le Jardin, it has no flowers so  I am already striking out on my own path.  Paintings can change quickly.  I started with Bonnard’s idea, but just the inclusion of the bouquet begins to nudge the whole motif into a different direction.

This flower direction is a good one to travel.  The flowers exert some pull upon me.  They suit my temperament, and I spend hours staring at them, describing their forms and colors with bits of paint.


assembling the ideas – bit by bit

studio view 1

I set aside work on the large painting to begin some studies of flowers.  Since the vase of flowers will play such a prominent role in the picture, it’s a feature that I want to get sorted out early.  So I bought some more grocery store flowers and have begun making studies.  The one above has an indication of the striped cloth on the table and the pale colored Limoges vase that I found on the internet.  It’s the first of several practice paintings that I’m making.  I’m not sure yet what the flower arrangement will look like.  Indeed, I keep changing the still life — adding flowers as I happen to find new ones when I’m out shopping.

The study for the previous painting sits on the easel next to the new flowers.  I still haven’t finished the previous painting.  But I set it aside to let the paint dry.  In between tasks, I’ll go back to it.