École de Bonnard

owl flowers dec 2017 (2)

All the artists I’ve wanted to study from are — to put it crudely — dead guys. When I was a youth I studied with Degas (though I never met the man).  Later on I studied rather extensively with Van Gogh.  I did study with Diebenkorn too, who was an artist of my time (he was born the same year as my mother) but by the time I began studying with him, he was gone as well.

Now I attend Bonnard’s classes.  I meet him via books mostly, sometimes in a painting hanging at the National Gallery of Art or the Phillips Collection.  He didn’t ever want to be a teacher (so far as I know) but he has consented to let me become his student anyway.  (Like what is he going to do to stop me?)

I was teaching some myself a while back.  But now I’m a student again.  I think the student role suits me better.  I don’t say I’m a good student because I do whatever I please.  But Monsieur Bonnard doesn’t seem to mind.

Anyway all the posts for a while are diaries of my schooling.  I have a project.  Step by step I search after the answers to the pictorial problems that arise.  I love it.  And this blog helps me stay on track. If you want to study in the École de Bonnard, too, do join me.  The more the merrier.

The acrylic painting above is one of the versions of the motif I’m currently working on under Bonnard’s pleasantly permissive, ethereal, heavenly supervision.

(Oh, but note, I stole the figs from Frans Snyders.)  Steal figs here:



Meanwhile, the student’s path toward learning is not always easy or straight.

A blogger pal Dr Andrea Dinardo of the University of Windsor has an inspiring TED talk on the topic of resilience.  You can find it here:

Free yourself.

notes to another painter

I have been trying to say many of these same things too. So it’s strange and wonderful to 3194434943_1_8_IB5WE2JU

read your essay and find my thoughts expressed in another voice, another circumstance. Empathy connects us to the desires and troubles of other people. However, you should carry through with the ideas and plans of your narrative. Visual art is, after all, fundamentally about seeing.  We have to go back to the hand drawing the line that the eyes follow.

Meanwhile it is “hard to judge how the painting will be received,” but you only thought you were worried about how other people will judge it: you didn’t realize it was your own judgment holding you back. So how do you press on to realize the things you have glimpsed?  What else is there but persistent trying, always going back, always recapitulation, always and again.  You must simply never give up.  And more than that you must have an endless supply of hope.  If you turn the hope to desire and longing, you will find determination.


Drawing is a gamble. You must have a “gambling addiction,” always telling yourself (while you hold the pencil in your hand and are actually drawing lines) that this time you will get it. And if this time it doesn’t work, that’s where the gambling comes in, and the addiction — you tell yourself — ah! but next time. You commence drawing again.  Degas said you must draw a thing ten times, a hundred times. He was a great gambler. Yes, indeed. Degas was a gamblin’ man.

degas notebook sketches

And sometimes people don’t get it. You work very long and think deeply upon a picture and it just falls flat with “the audience.” Ever had that happen? Yet you still have to be brave and show your ideas to people. The reactions should not, I agree, cause you to bend toward trends. Paint for yourself first — that’s your most true and authentic audience. But in giving other people a chance to see your painting you can learn a great deal. Other people see different things in it. And these differences can be revealing and wonderful, and possibly terrible also, but nothing can be done to escape the terrible.

Also people get used to pictures. After an image is familiar, we actually learn to see it better. When the large aspects are assimilated, we’re more atuned to the nuances. Letting people see your work gets them acclimated so that later they can notice the finer points.


I think if one learns something new that is an amazing reward for work. I know that drawing has connected me to reality, to the light that glances across my path.


What am I saying! Of course, we have “let” people see our work! But you know what I mean.  I’m talking about the secret things. Yes, even those.

They see them now, don’t they …