In the marvelous open air

Rearranged my schedule today to take advantage of the amazing weather. Beautiful, clear, low humidity, mosquitoes somewhere else visiting relatives, only beautiful clouds above — I decided to make some drawings from life of the most local neighboring trees using the latest box of neocolor1 crayons.

The colors I’ve been putting into my paintings from memory and imagination were in full force, and I got a chance to study them directly.

Such a glorious day! Hope yours was wonderful too, wherever you are.


teapot with flowers

teapot study

I made another drawing of the black teapot that sits on the horizon of the still life table.  I decided that maybe the ellipse does matter after all so I redrew it to better match the appearance of the blue compotier.

I included a shadow.  Things are going to have cast shadows similar to the ones that objects have in Bonnard’s painting though not all the objects have shadows yet in the various studies.  The question of the shadows and what they shall look like is another piece of the big puzzle.

late night studying

study for the painting

I made some drawings using Sennelier oil pastels and Neopastels to continue getting acquainted with my still life objects and with one potential arrangement of them for the table in the Big Painting.  I just drew them as they appeared in an actual still life set up, which is slightly different from how they’ll appear in the painting.  But being descriptive helps me get to know the things better.  So I need some of that.

The blue field behind the objects now won’t appear in the Big Painting where they will be surrounded by the striped cloth on all sides.

study for the painting two

Still figuring out the separation of the seashell from the flowers through which it’s seen — though that will be different in the final arrangement too where the seashell, if I include it, will be a little farther back and maybe seen slightly more from above …?  Decisions, decisions.


finding the positions

teapot position

It’s time to figure out where the other objects in the painting are going to go.  Since I don’t have an actual still life, I cannot just look at the motif and arrange things there in the set up.  Instead my painting develops from drawings — some that I make from actual objects and some that proceed from photographs since certain objects in the painting are not things that I own — like the Limoges vase and the porcelain basket.

I have to guess how large to draw things.  And some of the decision is based also on a deliberation about how big I want the thing to be.  Because I love the frog teapot so much I have placed it at the very bottom of the picture where if all goes well it will be especially visible to inspection.  Otherwise, my decisions are just hunches.  “Maybe this would look good here … maybe that over there.”

Not included, but in the works are at least a couple more objects: a ceramic figurine of a bird, a second much smaller vase with flowers and perhaps a Chinese teacup holding some tea.  I’m still figuring things out.

pond drawing three!

underpainting drawings pond with lilies 1

Not really a drawing — I had so much fun making the scribble drawings for the painting that I decided to continue the process on the painting itself.  It will all get covered up.  It is, nonetheless, an energetic way to begin.  I used acrylic medium to thin down the paint, to capture more of the character of the “ball point pen lines”. The canvas is 20 x 24 inches.

walk like an Egyptian

flowers acrylic 16x20 one

The earliest depictions of flowers dates back to the Old Kingdom (~2500 BCE) and the earliest evidence of the collecting of flowers in bouquets is demonstrated in the archeological finds of ancient vases.  It’s a motif that’s been around a long time in art.  And it’s still going strong.

I painted this 16 x 20 inch bouquet yesterday using acrylic paints, a medium that I haven’t used in a long time.  Taking it up again is a blast.  I love it.

So you should walk like an Egyptian, think like an Egyptian and paint flowers like an Egyptian.  You can even listen to the song while you’re painting.  Ay oh whey oh.

Taste testing

I am taking various objects out, setting them up on the table beside me and drawing them swiftly with oil pastels.  It helps me think ahead to painting — though later on I intend to do exactly the same with painting:  to set up a small still life and simply have at it.   Lots of little rehearsals let me scatter my force in a beneficial way.

Sometimes I just cannot quite make up my mind, and on such occasions who wants to commit to a large project?  And sometimes my schedule is all broken up into bits, and what am I to do with these bits of time?  I want to keep working on my art, so I adjust my work to things that fit inside these smaller chunks of time.

I got a couple new rice bowls recently.  Still have not got round to even describing the design, having been lured away instead by the overall color patterns among the objects.  There are so many ways of thinking about what you see, and at one time or another I hope to sample them all.

Life is a banquet table.

Dance of the Koi

The koi live in a pond and never go anywhere.  For “Saturday night out” the koi just swim around and visit all their usual friends.  Yet the permutations of koi patterning seem endless.  They are always arranging themselves into new and lively forms.

They are like a dance company that has a gazillion imaginative ideas.  Indeed, show me the choreographer who can match the impressive spectacles of the wonderful koi.

Not knowing

I got a bouquet of flowers and discovered that I have forgotten how to draw real flowers after so many occasions of drawing their fake counterparts.  Interesting thing is that the flowers are not wilting nor are they in any way uncooperative.  Therefore I surmise that I have not really forgotten how to draw them.  Instead I have forgotten something more fundamental.

It’s a wonderful befuddlement.  Sometimes after all these years, I really surprise myself.  It’s difficult to come at old experiences in a new way. But here I am turned ingenue of flowers just like that!  Poof!  Voila!

After some desultory efforts, among which is the version posted here (the above is a detail), I re-considered that when I don’t know how to do something I can nonetheless  immediately begin taking it apart.  I know how to learn now. Do some little sketch — on a napkin, with whatever pen happens to be lying about. Draw it very small.  Or scribble away on a regular sized sheet and just put down whatever linear-visual thoughts pop  into my head.  Visual wondering has its own free association.  Had Freud owned a paint brush, he’d have known this.

I also decided that just having the flowers there is one way of beginning to walk a path back into transient subject matter.  I can look at it, think about it, remember it, pout when they begin to fade (which gives one a healthy sense of urgency).  I guess I re-discovered that all the solutions don’t have to announce themselves upon the first decision to begin a new thing.  I can wade into this circumstance.

I don’t know how any other artists out there think about their art.  But the hesitancy of drawing is not something I want to shy away from.  To look at the thing, not knowing what to do, brings me back to a beginning that I celebrate.  I feel like I am confronting something wonderful for the first time — again!  To throw down lines where I think they belong and correct them soon after, leaving the old lines there, records thoughts as they make passage through my brain.  It is as though one recreates the reality of the flowers in one’s mind, through one’s hand, over the course of time spent thinking and having trial of this and that.

I want to have this newness.  Sometimes you even get a good picture from it.  But even the newness all stripped bare of success has its marvel.  And that’s the place I’m at right now, feeling marvel-ous.

grateful wanderer through the big outdoors

Finally!  I began my much longed for return to drawing en plein air.  I spent much of the late winter doing landscape indoors from photos and have longed to encounter Mother Nature again face to face.  Mother Nature can be very capricious when she spies an artist drawing in the landscape, but she was so kind to me today!

Nonetheless, it wasn’t slugging about with a backpack over hills and dales — not for me.  No, it was more like a delightfully pensive walk with a few tools round the sparsely visited park.  And the one above I did while sitting in my car having lunch.