I got this far and stopped. For one thing, I had to get to bed. It was late. But I felt that something special had begun to happen. I have to get back to this drawing, but I stopped at the threshold of the moment when I first saw whatever magic it is that I long for.
Looking at it this morning, it looks familiar to me in a new way. When I first drew this motif large, I had stopped in a similar place.
I have drawn these guys before several times. And I am getting at something. I don’t know what it is. But big or small, it intrigues me.
I had done a large practice drawing (above). I had done a small practice drawing (below).
I had got this far with a large one.
Then there was another large version.
And now I revisit it again. I never get tired of repeating these same motifs. And just making the lines holds a fascination for me that I cannot describe.
Doing this motif now small again, nearly the same size as the reference photo, drawing all these little blues lines, and watching the fish emerge — it has such a quiet beguiling charm over me. The lines themselves are so mesmerizing.
Who invented the ballpoint pen? Oh, I would embrace you — whoever you are — that you have brought me such joy! God bless you …
Whenever the pond is crowded exciting things happen in between the fish. I wish I could capture the full impact of all that takes place, but there’s just so much going on. That’s why I have to make so many drawings because the amount of information to learn is staggering.
In between just two fish the color changes will shift like magic in the water from one fish to the other, or the water and light will hide part of a fin and reveal part of a fin like an exotic aquatic fan carried by the kabuki fish-dancer, or the reflections or the shadows will float upon the water and be strung like jewels in a necklace —
— or, that little razor sharp line of light that circles all the floating dark patches — that light alone is worth two thousand drawings, if I had only the stamina to make them.
I am making so many drawings of the koi. Sometimes I wonder if it makes sense to draw the same motifs so many times, and yet I am always encountering some aspect of the image that is new. And beyond the koi is the water. Even as I find that I have learned much about the koi, I know so little about the water. And it is always different, always moving and forming new shapes.
And what about the light? The light is there also — pouring over the things, scooting round the surfaces, reflecting from points, being absorbed in shadows.
And what about myself? What do I know about the gestures I make? Why do I begin here and not there? Why choose this color and not that one?
There’s just so much. And considered that way, how could you possibly make too many drawings?
I have a notebook that I’m filling up with pen drawings. Usually I crop drawings to eliminate the extraneous edges, but when you’re dealing with a notebook, to crop the picture is to ignore the notebook itself, and that I think eliminates a significant part of the charm. An artist’s drawing notebook, like other books, participates in a mystique of opening and closing. You enter another world, as it may be, in opening a book. Closing it, you leave. A book is rather like a door that way.
I like the area of space in the unused page, the way that previous drawings bleed through and appear like ghosts. They blur the edges of separation between the pictorial things and remind the observer that everything exhibited is ultimately just lines of ink on a sheet of paper.
I have several vases in the notebook now. Each drawing is a little world. And the notebook, therefore, is what? Door to a miniature alternate flower universe.
Have begun another still life with a vase, and between painting episodes, I sometimes draw to collect my thoughts in a more compact way. When you redraw something many times, sometimes you make corrections. But sometimes you draw it the same way again and again. This doing it the same way repeatedly, always arriving at consistent results, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got it “right.” Sometimes you get it “wrong” and with each repetition you get it perfectly “wrong” in the same exact ways, and this intriguing fact demonstrates that your mind constructs the scene a certain persistent way. One might say that in such a case the artist is not only drawing the subject “wrong” but seeing and perceiving it thoroughly “wrong” as well!
Get it “wrong” enough times and perhaps you stumble into some very deep self-knowledge …?
Now then, if for some unfathomable reason you cannot appreciate your inner errors, if you felt you truly must “correct” your mistakes, you’d need not merely to engage in further repetitions, you’d have to “correct” your very thoughts themselves (assuming a true correction can be discovered). One would need a means for conceiving the image in an entirely new way.
That could be so superfabulously wonderful — a form of invention that’s different from the invention of the “mistakes” — and I definitely counsel in favor of such plucky newness of perception. Personally I favor any form of going forward, whether its new mistakes, new versions of the old mistakes, or new versions of something that leads to getting it “right.” But whatever one does, it must be acknowledged that the repetitions themselves were a necessary part, for it was the repetitions — especially their stubborn consistency — that reveals that something was drawn “wrong” in the first place. It’s this having one path that suggests the possibility of other paths.
As to deciphering what is “right” — ah, that’s a whole other question for other meditations.
Regular readers know that I have certain motifs that I do over and over. Happily in art, redoing the same things over and over demonstrates an artist’s artistic health (rather than the opposite). One of my compulsions that I may have neglected to display finds an iteration above. The landscape is based upon a favorite published photograph that, for some reason, I like to draw and redraw more times than I can keep track. It’s not my published photo, either. It’s someone else’s. Perhaps I have alterred it sufficiently well to beat a court case should the photo’s owner ever magically recognize the source of the drawing. Well, they say that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and I have flattered this photographer (whoever he is) A LOT.
It used to be part of the artist’s career path — particularly in 19th century France — to first study law, then abandon that in a bohemian moment to take up painting. Given the impulse one feels to make copies of other peoples’ work, perhaps we should bring that career trajectory back. However, though I am not a lawyer, I do believe I could persuade a jury that the photographer only owns his image and not the scenery itself — and truly it is the scenery that I have explored — and transformed.
Well, enough about lawyers. The salient point here is that sometimes you feel a deep attraction to a thing. I cannot tell you what intrigues me about this favorite scene. And distorting it and changing it interests me even more than merely drawing it.
But why ask why! Sometimes you must just give way to these impulses. Feel the pull of the thing, and let it captivate you.
You can’t see my crown yet, but I’m gonna be the Pochade Queen. I am on a mission. Been doing as many small landscape paintings as I can each day. Paint faster than I can think, do it, put it aside, begin another, later go back to the earlier ones, paint some more, and on and on. It is like swimming laps. Or like playing scales and seeking a mellow tone. Or like walking and thinking — thinking hard about stuff while staring at the ground, the grass and the little rocks passing by your feet in a miniature world at ant level. It is so automatic and dreamlike. Why isn’t work always like this forever?
Our weather is different. But I will paint autumn in winter perhaps as now I paint summer in the fall. I paint from drawings. There are there to guide and yet also there to evoke memories.
The light falls upon these rocks and makes them glad. The air is still yet buzzing with insects. The quiet is overwhelming the senses. The solitude is vast. Such great and spacious days!
You can’t see my crown yet, but it’ll be there. When I’m the “pochade queen” and have painted me a hundred little corners of the earth.
A secret bunker studio should have a secret garden. I visit my garden a lot and I portray some its many secret faces. It’s rather like the garden in a fine rare dream I had once — ah, the unconscious, master narrator! — and perhaps sometime I should relate that dream someday. But another time.
For now, my garden will have to depend upon its own secret mystique.
I spent the morning today and yesterday drawing in the conifer garden. After so much rain, days and days of rain, it was wonderful to sit in the sun and to observe the sun. Today felt like spring, so beautiful and mild.
I made a bunch of drawings.
After drawing I went back to my studio and did some fast paintings based upon the drawing.
It feels like the warm season should be beginning, not ending. That’s how persuasive the sun was today. But it won’t last long. And I’m trying to get outdoors in front of the motif while I can.
We will of course have plenty of sunny days ahead — but not warm ones. And my little fingers will get frozen, and all my landscapes will look like this little grisaille I did.
These flowers, unlike the ones I mentioned in my previous post, are not shy. Moreover they comprise another “junk painting” that I’m doing. And junk paintings are definitely not shy. This picture appears over top a canvas that I painted and rapidly learned to hate. The subject of the underpainting was totally different. But the materials were swell — oil primed linen on sturdy stretchers. So I turned the thing sideways and discovered that it became the perfect format for the development of a junk painting based upon a beloved junk drawing: a marriage made in heaven, surely.
I love my junk drawing. So far the junk painting looks different from its source, stiffer though bolder; and perhaps it will strike out its own path, yet it’s near enough to the junk drawing to have me feeling giddy and light-hearted about wielding the paint brush. You really have to set your sights on delight sometimes. Seriousness is important, but we cannot live in that place all the time.
Meanwhile the source for both the junk painting-in-progress and the junk drawing holds some sway over the process.
They each carry memories of this drawing. And this drawing in turn was based upon another painting of the same subject. I am incorrigibly addicted to redoing the same motifs …