What do you do when you don’t know where the line is?
Here’s part of the merit in drawing things from new angles. You have to rediscover some of the fundamental qualities. Shouldn’t that heighten one’s powers of observation?
And the merit of doing studies generally is that you create an occasion for just living in the moment visually. If you let yourself escape the need to have things exact, you gain the chance to strive after making them more exact. I let go of the line in order to find it. I let myself be willing to put it down wrong. And each time you do that you increase the chances of getting it right.
But the other way of finding out the line’s location is to draw with masses instead. I make a broad patch of color with some careless swipes of parallel strokes. I estimate how large a swath of color to make. Afterwards if I get a better sense of one line’s relation to another I venture to draw that contour.
I notice certain mistakes. I decide to leave them be. To remove them makes the thought process too fussy. I just draw over things, if it’s possible. And if it’s not I pursue the features that remain.
The relative sizes and interrelationships of all the things are so complex and intriguing. The precise curve of a line can be very beautiful and interesting to chase.
I have other things on my mind sometimes. But drawing is also escape. Or, it’s as much escape as one is likely to get.
It’s a good time for making plans, for setting goals, for dreaming big dreams. A whole beautiful year lies ahead — a huge expanse of time waits to be filled, to be lived.
I hope that your 2017 was good and brings you many rich memories. I hope that your 2018 will be wonderful.
Happy New Year!
The sound inside the seashell tells me that life is always changing. I remember in my youth how much I loved pictures and how I collected them. My art collection began with postcards and posters (of the former I soon had a veritable museum in miniature).
I liked collecting things too — especially leaves and pretty rocks. I still like collecting bits of nature to bring indoors where they can remind me of all things wild. Only later did I begin drawing and then I brought things “inside” by putting them onto paper or canvas. So it is that now I collect seashells that are composed of colors, sometimes made of wax crayon, sometimes composed with the pure pigment of the pastel stick, sometimes made of paint.
And in turn now I offer them for sale as posters so that I have come full circle, having begun as someone who loved the pictures that artists made to being a maker of pictures myself. I can only hope that my pictures will inspire others as I have been inspired.
You can find the seashell above at my page on Fine Art America where it is reproducible in an interesting range of materials, wood, metal, canvas. The image choices for this particular work are kept small so that the picture will be near to its scale in life. Over time I hope to offer a full “seashell collection.”
You can find it here:
What is the most transformative thing you can do?
I am running around in circles. I love clutter in the still life. The chaos of things that pour off the edge of the picture, the uncertainty about where the object will be cropped, the intricacy of the spaces between things, the patterns of a cloth, the light that changes.
But I need a more sure path to the goals I have about this house. The house is the tool that allows me to begin the new paintings. The new ones …
The house is the motif, but I need the house to be orderly and spacious and as empty as possible. The paintings can be cluttered. The house needs to be Spartan.
The conch lives in an orderly house. The seashell is a Spartan house.
Sometimes I make the seashells smaller than life size as here. The very small picture also has its own quality. Small things, ones that you can hold in your hand, seem precious. Sometimes a picture invites you to come closer.
When I visited the Joachim Wtewael exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, I admired the magnificent seashells in his painting of Andromeda. Those are life size. Andromeda puts her foot on one queen conch shell that is life size. But those very same shells appear in his microscopically small paintings too. Those are mind-boggling. I will never be traveling down that path. But it’s fun to see.
The drawing sheet was 18 x 24 inches large. As you can see the shell took up much of that space, but the real shell is not — no queen conch could be — that large. It would be a monster of a queen conch that was that large.
So what is the shell that’s larger than life size? It’s like a dream of a seashell.
I had so much fun drawing this shell. Seeing the photograph brings back the memory so vividly. It was a blast. I had to enlarge the thought while I was drawing and I loved it. I had never drawn any of the shells large before. I’ve never done it since.
But seeing this drawing now, I cannot wait to draw it large again. For now, though, I have other tasks because I am reorganizing my life. And I am tidying my home — just as Marie Kondo said I should.
In a previous post I wrote about making large paintings. When it comes to the seashells small is ideal. And the actual shell sitting in front of its portrayal illustrates some of the sensibility connected to painting things life size. I feel such a longing to have the thing be as actual as possible — which is not always the same as its being “realistic.”
I want to make a picture of the shell. I want the elements of the medium to be visible. Oil pastel is a beautiful substance in its own right. The drawing of the shell, wanting it to look actual, and the use of the oil pastel crayon, wanting to have the textures of the mark present in the picture — these things go together.
Then it’s fun to have the seashell “pose” in front of its portrait just as any sitter might do ….
I painted the seashell and bottle together because I like the shapes of each. That’s why I bought the bottle (another of the thrift store hauls) and why I collect the seashells. I love their shapes and colors. Looking at their surfaces fascinates me. I like the color blue. I like the folds in a cloth. I like the random things that end up being the edges of the painting when you paint without a plan.
This is a little picture — only 9 x 12 inches — painted on Arches oil paper, which is a wonderful surface, enjoyable for the artist.
I began doing still lifes in a random way, choosing the object I wanted particularly to portray and letting the rest of the picture arrange itself according to the dimensions of the format, and now I love the randomness of it. The edges become a new area of exploration.
Some people climb mountains or dream astronaut dreams — I explore the edges of the painting — far more sedentary, much safer physically, but still wonderful — I assure you!
How does one express this love of the edges? Or of the spaces between things? Do you believe me when I tell you that they are marvelous territories?! And while I rhapsodize the edges, do not suppose that I oppose the middle — I like painting’s interior too.
When an artist paint things, she always hopes that others will understand the thing the way she understands it. The little seashell painting (9 x 12 inches in size) catches a mood for me (who am far from the sea) of water, waves and wind. The conch is a tropical animal and even the warmth of a faraway place comes to me when I portray the shells.
The nervous brushstrokes are the way I experience drawing the object whose forms are so incredibly lovely and complicated. I love following all the passages of color than I can manage to imitate. I am always longing to imitate all of it, everything that I see, and I don’t know if that is possible. But the longing is an end in itself. I cherish the longing that the beauty of the seashell evokes.
Part of this picture I love. The central shell has a nice presence. The smaller shell needs adjustment. But it’s been a good painting day.
I need to wipe out the smaller shell and redraw it. But it’s been a good painting day nonetheless.