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 …
Made another honey jar drawing this morning, of which this above is a detail. I was wondering if perhaps I was carrying my honey jar research a little too far. How many drawings of this set up do I need to make? Yet I find that I enjoy looking at this same motif again and again. Moreover, more surprising, I learn something new with each drawing I make. When a simple meditation upon a honey jar can yield so much perception, you have to wonder about the character of the life we live. There is so much to see, hear, taste, touch, do and remember in life. So much to learn — all the time, every day.
I want to do another dark pond like the Agenor’s Friends painting I did years ago. (I miss Agenor, what a great fish.) So I have begun making a few little “dark pond” drawings.
I began this one in watercolor. I shall have to go forward with it, I suppose, though I hate to lose the white of the paper. But it can hardly be a dark pond if it isn’t dark.
This is an early drawing I did for Agenor. And it became this — eventually.
As I say, I have been missing Agenor. He was Bonnard’s fish, though, not mine. Wish I could find a picture of Bonnard’s painting on the internet, but I am the victim of my own enthusiasm for him. Each search I do on “Agenor” and Bonnard brings up my own stuff.
Climbing the stairs I notice how the sight of the skylight above quickens my steps, that seeing the daylight makes me eager to mount another flight, even several flights to the top and the light. There’s something in the bright spirit that takes you through the slogs and hesitations and weary moments.
Pictures have different stages in their making. The blank page has its light expanse fillable with possibility, ready for rapid ideas quickly found. The middle part of picture making is for making corrections, finding subtler distinctions, for burrowing deep into the thing, for seeing its richer meanings, and can be a place where “real” discoveries are made. There are those aspects that you did not foresee, and the stage of persistent going forward leads eventually to insightful relatedness among the pieces of thought.
The end has a sense of having come the distance, and how one gets sometimes a new vigor at the end of a race with a sharp taste for new races. Another project around another corner. Whatever you have just learned has opened up other doors, and now one sees the possibility of trying these hypotheses. Restless desire to quit a project can come judiciously at its conclusion bringing yankering for the next path. Elastic process of energy and tautening and new energy with curiosity and anticipation. Like running or dancing, feeling a bracing sense of joy as a new task appears.