I have been painting exclusively with acrylic paint lately and I have fallen in love with the medium as never before. The medium seems different to me now — more full of possibility than I ever realized. And the painting above, in particular, has made me crazy with joy. I cannot explain it. I don’t know that it would affect anyone else similarly, but for me it’s like a path leading in a wonderful new direction.
It’s a small painting, measuring just 20 x 16 inches.
Maybe it’s because it seems to move (somewhat) in the direction of my old hero Pierre Bonnard. But there’s more to it than that — reasons that are impossible to put into words. It reminds me of my childhood … somehow. But it also looks like “the future.” It’s as though I knew what “the future” is — and it has a hint of this — whatever this is.
It’s something to do with the yellow. I know that. It’s like sunlight in landscape. This is still life, but landscape is there too. Crazy talk. The exact color scheme is impossible to capture in photography (as is always true in art). I am not sure whether it’s even finished. The still life is still on the table so I can work on it some more. It doesn’t matter. It’s just my painting, the one that for mysterious reasons makes me so glad.
Not really this blue, but I cannot ever get the color correct. Mentally average all the various photos in your mind and maybe that will be somewhat like the actual canvas …
Anyway, I am taking pictures of the painting at various junctures just to remind myself how it has proceeded. I am SO GLAD that I have been keeping a chronicle of this painting (bloggers, cherish your blogs) because it helps me put many things into perspective: so for instance, it’s nice knowing that I began work sometime in May. This being the last day of July — and of course I took a break from the canvas while sorting out various ideas through drawings — I’d say that’s not bad for time management. I give myself a “gold star”!
Bonnard’s painting has a lattice design along the two far edges and I have indicated something like that on this canvas. I’m not really sure how this will go because his painting includes various things omitted from mine — most notably a spectral Marthe. Thus if I have a lattice pattern, it will be even less clear what it references than in Bonnard’s original. Perhaps it’s a design in wall paper? Anyway, I LOVE lattice patterns and have used them often in my art. I probably get the enthusiasm for lattices from Bonnard’s art (where they are everywhere — even in the foliage). So, I’m all for including it, but I have to figure out the how and why of it a bit more.
He also has patterns in the very topmost part of those edge sections, and I haven’t quite figured out what I’ll do yet. Even something like the stripes in the cloth is not straight forward. Oh, how I wish I could see his actual painting again! (It’s been 20 years.) Color changes all along the path of each stripe are possible things to fiddle around with so revisiting even just that one feature will be exciting. And changes to one element affect the everything else.
Frog teapot and the blue jay figurine need to be made really present. Ditto for the other objects. Lots of painting ahead. The whole scene visible through the window is as yet undetermined. But oh how I enjoy this….
The bars framing the flowers on either side are products of Pierre Bonnard’s painting that I’m emulating. They have no other referent. They’re part of the structure of the window in the Villa Castellamare so I either make stuff up (which may happen) or I follow Bonnard’s lead. In his painting the two beams are different colors due to alterations in light. For the present I’m doing what he did so that the left beam is ochre colored and the right is bluish. (It’s been a long time since I saw the actual painting so I have no idea what the real colors are and book illustrations always exaggerate.)
Anyway it makes me wonder what Bonnard was thinking. Because the foreground things in my painting are all different from his — especially the flowers — I’ll have to adapt all the Bonnard elements to go with my changes. All that happens later.
For now I had to decide whether the ochre creeps up and the blue creeps down — and I decided that they do.
The objects on the table would appear — I think — at slightly varying angles. In Bonnard’s painting La salle à manger sur le jardin which this painting emulates, one comes upon the table as though standing in the room so that objects on the table are slightly below you. In my painting, by contrast, the compotier and certain various other objects are not really sitting on the same plane. And I guess I shouldn’t write that in my blog post because perhaps some observers wouldn’t notice unless one draws attention to it.
I am not being literal, though, about the objects. The compotier has to be seen slightly from above or it looks wrong. In contrast I think seeing the bottom level of objects in profile just somehow feels right. So I’m going with my artistic intuition rather than attempting to assemble these things in true space.
When you walk into a room you look around, and you move through the space yourself. This painting is large enough that it benefits from having a mobile quality. So the objects sit in ways that perhaps relate to their being noticed at different points in time.
Below, my painting in progress on the left and its mentor by Pierre Bonnard on the right.
Fairfield Porter clearly liked all the same artists as I like — Bonnard, Matisse and Vuillard. It was fun happening upon this bright image that uses the same theme that I am also presently exploring: the still life in an interior before a window. Seeing this painting made me feel like I was getting a thumbs up from a great artist of my parents’ generation.
Il s’agit de noter aussitôt que possible ce qui vous a frappé. Si l’on a dans la suite une simple couleur comme point de départ, on compose toute une peinture autour. La couleur a une logique aussi exacte que celle de la forme. Il ne faut pas lâcher, avant d’avoir réussi à rendre l’impression première.
It’s important to notice as soon as possible whatever shakes you up. If one takes a single color as a point of departure, you can compose an entire painting around it. Color has a logic that is as exact as the logic of form. You must not let go until you have succeeded in rendering the first impression.
So that’s what we learned in Monsieur Bonnard’s class today. And I have to compose my whole painting around even one color perhaps — one amazing color that has shaken me to my foundations.
I’ve been painting a study of the flowers that will go into the big painting I’m working on — the painting that I’m doing in emulation of Bonnard’s “Dining Room overlooking the Garden.” As often happens, though, while I’m in the process of painting a motif in a certain manner I begin thinking about other ways that I might use instead. It can lead to doubt and dissatisfaction.
So many little hindrances can crop up. For instance, I find it hard even to see the picture sometimes. I thought it was my imagination but then I take a photo and discover that the camera is also having difficulting “seeing” the painting. Oil paint when it’s wet can become shiny enough to affect your awareness of tonality. Thus parts of the picture that are dark look lighter than they should. It’s one example that I use to make a point about psychology. I’ve been painting a long time, but I still find myself affected by this distraction. Duh! I have to pinch myself as it were. “The painting will look different in a day or so after it begins to dry.”
You have to make sure that you don’t let little things knock you off course. Because the painting that I’m doing the study for is really large, I remind myself that each of the studies provides me with information that I need. And information of itself is neutral. If it were to happen that I decided I didn’t like my study, I can always paint another one. Or I can use the study, but alter it in various ways when I adapt it to the larger work.
I ask myself how much more energy I will have for this task when I learn how to banish all the negative thoughts that creep in.
I was beginning to think that the forms in the bouquet lack dimension, or that they seem loopy the way they’re painted. That’s an even more insidious idea that I must cast out of my brain. I remind myself — “HELLO, self! Remember the whole idea has been to emulate Bonnard. Loopy! It goes with the territory.”
For some crazy reason when Bonnard paints forms in a “loopy” way, I love it. Then when I do it — when I do it successfully — I feel many doubts.
This too is another bump in the road. It’s important to keep going with an idea and see where it leads. If I get critical too early in the process, I succeed in doing nothing except erecting obstacles in my own path. Clearly that makes no sense at all!
At any rate I have stayed the course. I carry on with the still life, with the studies, and I’m advancing work on the large painting by gathering this information. However, I ask myself how much more energy I will have for this task when I learn how to banish all the negative thoughts that creep in. They are unnecessary friction. Yes, I’m still “moving” but I’d move more smoothly without the friction.
So far my painting follows the structure set forth in Bonnard’s picture which I emulate. And notwithstanding my window shopping, I seem to be using his window — at least for the present. The horizontal and vertical elements of Bonnard’s window are an essential component of his painting’s structure. Of course, the real structure of mine is as yet unresolved. I’m looking for it, and I’m hardly even started.
I made the study above a year or two ago with the aim of using it in a variation on the motif of flowers on a table sitting in front of a window. I recall that the light was changing rapidly and I just decided impulsively to see if I could make a fast drawing with oil pastels. Some element of the colors still beckons and those sinewy lines of the tree that’s up against the house. The tension between the squares of the window panes and the curvy trees and the colors, they all hint at something. I don’t know what.
For much art, getting the perspective right is significant for the sake of realism. In Bonnard’s art the flying off askew of perpendicular and horizontal lines obeys a visual physics all its own. You don’t get there by constructing perspective lines or by assiduously drawing the architecture as it is. You have to find the lines through sensibility the way that ants follow pheromone trails.
I was having trouble drawing a door many years ago. Just couldn’t figure it out. So I poured through my Bonnard books until I found a door of his. Simply looking at his image showed me the solutions I needed. They weren’t elements of perspective. They were ideas about what to describe and what to forget about. My door is as wobbly as his, but it serves its pictorial purpose — it’s a passage way into the pictorial outdoors — or from realm to realm.
He was talking about the landscape but his observations can apply equally to an interior. Anyway, there’s a landscape in this interior — the one that’s visible, that will be visible, through the window. Color is what this picture’s about.
Il a dit: Par temps beau mais froid, il y a du violet dans les gris et du vermillon dans les ombres orangées.
He said: Beautiful weather though cold, there’s violet in the grays and vermilion in the orange tinted shadows.
The painting comes along slowly. I make studies of particular objects to figure out what they’re going to look like. Not all the things have locations yet. I’m setting the table.
I need to get some more flowers so that I have some for the new painting. When I get them, it’s going to be wonderful making another painted study. While I was looking for something else I found these above by Bonnard. Found them at a wonderful site, link below.
I discovered the flowers while I was searching online for a painting from the book “Pierre Bonnard: Observing Nature,” the exhibition catalog for a 2003 show that took place in Australia. The painting is “The Green Path and Canal,” c 1919. Somehow looking at the picture made me wonder if the view through the window (in my painting) should be a storm. Bonnard’s painting is very dark and ominous looking. We’ve been having lots of storms lately. Summer storms can be so incredibly beautiful for color. Then there’s the further heightening of contrast between indoor and outdoor, warm and cool, man and nature.
It’s not that I want to imitate the picture that I cannot show you here. It’s just the source for an idea that popped into my head, which I’m not even sure I’ll use at long last. An idea about blue-green and darkness.
I’m putting violet around the edges of the picture.