I have remade the meadow several times. The actual meadow changes continuously so it only makes sense that my pictures of it should also change in various ways. The same meadow has many faces. The actual meadow has so many faces that it would be impossible to record them all. The reality is so rich that it startles the mind to conceive it.
What does happen to the many faces of the meadow? Who sees them? Is there a record somewhere of all that light? All those flowers and bugs and days and hours? All the ways the wind swept the leaves in that ocean of grass?
The picture is a field of colors and lines. Within the framework of whatever size rectangle, there’s an arrangement of layers of paint, brushstrokes, or in a drawing, lines, scratches of pigment, dots, patches, bits.
Another way to think of it is as being like a television screen or a photograph or like the image you see on your computer. Every square inch of the image has maybe hundreds of little dots, depending on the media. These dots mingle and blend to form the colors you see and their precise positions determine what kinds of shapes you see, whether the colors are light or dark, whether the transitions are subtle or stark.
As a painter you do something similar to arrange little dots or squares or bits. You put patches of color down that blend to form whatever the picture depicts.
Or it is like a tapestry and the warp and weft are the precise positions of color.
Painting something with precision means having to find the exact places that these colors and lines should occupy.
And what if one thinks of the reality itself, the reality over there as yet another tapestry whose warp and weft are light and air? You look at that tapestry to paint your own tapestry-simulacrum.
However, of late I’ve searched for the loose idea, the sketch whose virtue lies its evocativeness and have sought the ineluctable, ineffable form whose loose logic is a delight in itself. And to what tapestry does it refer? To an inner tapestry woven in thought, perhaps, or in desire?
“Bonheur. Tirer du bonheur de soi-même, d’une belle journée de travail, de l’éclaircie qu’elle a pu apporter dans le brouillard qui nous entoure.”
Happiness. Derive happiness from yourself, from a good day’s work, from the clearing that it makes in the fog that surrounds us. — Henri Matisse quoted here
The koi raises its face up to the light and air from the inky darkness, from the fish-filled spaces of under-water. Dear kind kindred face of living creature sharing this present time, living in it fully, having a reality known clearly to God, being.
The inky-ness of the water, of the paper, of the depiction — is difficult to get at that mystery adequately.
My companion, my mom, had to write in her diary and I drew bottles while she did. It can be disconcerting what to write. Why should I write that? What does it matter? But, it’s the truth I said. What does it matter what I had for dinner? Because it’s the texture of your life, I said. (I guess I can be really annoying, but remember I majored in English.)
While she wrote, I drew bottle tops. Why bottle tops? What do they matter? They’re just there. But, let me tell you, those bottles were (are) so incredibly beautiful, and I never noticed until I started drawing them just because they’re there. It is reality we’re observing. It is light curving toward us, bending, reflecting, distorting, refracting, scattering, hiding — doing all the things light does to objects in the universe.
Why draw ordinary things? Because they are true, because they are there. (And so are we.)
How I wish I could have brought you the beauties in our bottles, but it eluded me. I guess you’ll have to draw your own bottles. Meanwhile, this is all of the beauty I could catch.
Life is precarious sometimes. Whenever I feel a bit stressed out, I look around. That’s right, I just look around — the way children do. Children have a natural responsiveness to whatever just is. A bored child will start paying attention to whatever is outside the window as the car sails along the road, just because the vista is there. And the “what is” of life is rarely scarey to children. Even in difficulties and privations, a child will find times to play. Beauty and delight are parts of our nature. It takes a lot to shake that up.
So whenever things get dicey, I try to look. To watch, to stare, to look at things without insisting that they mean this or that. I merely take them in. This is the world around me right now. It’s interesting. It has all kinds of crazy details. I like that. And it calms a person right down. We should be more conservative about this: we should appreciate reality — because it is.