I set aside work on the large painting to begin some studies of flowers. Since the vase of flowers will play such a prominent role in the picture, it’s a feature that I want to get sorted out early. So I bought some more grocery store flowers and have begun making studies. The one above has an indication of the striped cloth on the table and the pale colored Limoges vase that I found on the internet. It’s the first of several practice paintings that I’m making. I’m not sure yet what the flower arrangement will look like. Indeed, I keep changing the still life — adding flowers as I happen to find new ones when I’m out shopping.
The study for the previous painting sits on the easel next to the new flowers. I still haven’t finished the previous painting. But I set it aside to let the paint dry. In between tasks, I’ll go back to it.
Black can be a particularly challenging color to use. It is very bold and rich. It’s so absolute in value that it’s hard to create an atmospheric effect using it. The black in this painting is mostly composed of dark browns made from burnt sienna and ultramarine blue. It breathes a little. But I want the mystery of the very darkest background. In this painting and in some others, I have explored the sensation of an atmospheric deep shadow.
All the other elements serve some role in striving after that effect. Its size also participates in the experiment. It’s a largish picture, measuring 44 x 34 inches. I want to create a life-sized feeling of the space.
The drawing that I chronicle here continues to gain more stuff. I say “more moth,” but it’s really more leaves — though aspects of the moth evolves as well. I see the edges of the moth in relation to the leaves, and it’s necessary to get the leaves in there so that everything can be altered later as necessary. You can’t know what you want to change until it’s there to see.
This 32 x 24 inch drawing is preparatory for a painting. The painting is larger and includes another element not present in this study. I have a second more careful preparatory drawing that’s in the works as well. These are the rehearsals.
A polyphemus moth in real life is large, easily 4 inches across. This moth, of course, is much larger — though not as large as Mothra. And it won’t be transporting any Japanese girls anywhere. Nor is it likely to fight Godzilla — or King Kong — or anybody else. It’s a peaceful moth. The leaves in the picture are metaphors, and I wish I could tell you what they stand for metaphorically — I really wish I could. But I haven’t a clue.
Sometimes the artist is the last to know. I just paint what I’m supposed to paint. It was my idea. But my own brain is very hush-hush and “need to know” about the topic. The conscious me who writes this blog doesn’t possess a high enough security clearance to be granted access to the Top Secret information …. so there you go.
Once all the leaf stuff is in this version of the picture, I can start moving leaves around. It is as self-help guru Brian Tracy wrote, “anything worth doing well is worth doing badly at first.” Not that I judge my moth and its leaves as bad. Quite the contrary, I like them. But a rehearsal might go really well too. It’s still a rehearsal.
I need my practice moths so that my more deliberate moth can sail through its pictorial night and accomplish its symbolical purposes. And if I do it right, who knows? My brain might even tell me what it all means.
Many times a bouquet of flowers will be arranged as though to get at a perfect order. I arrange the flowers when I paint them. But the random arrangement of weary flowers is lovely too. The flowers bunched along two sides of the vase leaving one green fond striving upward in space alone. That single leaf intersects the purple shadow that descends from the cloth behind the bouquet locking the composition together .
The striped cloth is a marvel to look at. I love to portray it. Its bands describe the shape of the space they occupy like a physics of color. The bands of green along the sides of the gourd running perpendicular to the bands in the cloth are Nature imitating art. Many colors are scattered through this picture and only the precision of their positions gives them balance. In a picture like this one, the only goal is to put each color exactly where it belongs. And then the rest is easy. The picture composes itself. And then the image resembles the things, like a mirror of life.
Striped Cloth with Flowers and Gourd is a pastel painting measuring 18 x 24 inches.