Behind the finished paintings are lots and lots of drawings and sketches and what not. It’s all fun, except for when it’s not. But even when it’s not fun — if not fun in the right now — it’s fun later. I don’t think that has anything to do with art — that’s more about just living. Eckhart Tolle has some interesting ideas on the subject ….
What I mean, though, is that in my paintings I have ideas about what I want, but I don’t always know how to get there. In my indecisive states, I turn to my tools and make lots of trials. Since I often paint from life, it means sitting in front of the things and simply making color/drawing decisions.
Let’s put this here. Could as easily start with it being there, but here seems good. What if it’s this big. Okay, if it’s this big then that thingy is that big. (I think.) I believe it’s this color. Oops, no it’s more a fill-in-the-blank (cooler, darker, lighter, warmer, bluer, etc.) And so on, and so on.
I have begun thinking of them as rehearsals. Sometimes they’re even casting calls. Sometimes an object just isn’t working out … (So sorry, seashell, you’ve been great in other pictures but … um … you’re just not right for this one. Sorry. I’ll call you!)
Anyway, there are many versions of things. They end up in all stages of finish or unfinish. They help me think.
On the weekend past I took a long walk. It was mild when we started out, but it got hot quickly as the sun rose higher. Finally we had to rest under some trees to catch our breath in the heat. I looked in the leaves of grass around me while I rested. I saw a humongous ant, one of those big monster-like ants, a muscle ant. It was gradually heading in my direction patiently traveling on flattened leaves under the grass canopy.
As ants are wont to do it took a meandering path. I was prepared at any moment to get out of its way as it came closer to me. But with much watching it never did get close enough for me to need to move. It seemed as though it would, but then for some cause it turned back upon its path and went back toward the direction from which it had first appeared.
I think I am somewhat ant-like in my travels with my art. I have several projects going at once. I try to be more focused but it never works. Instead I juggle many things. It is part of my ant-nature. That’s just the way it is. Thus I pulled out this drawing above, something I found in the pile, only a sketch when I found it, and began reworking it. It’s a study for a painting. I need to resume that painting too. I have a pile of things to finish.
I travel a meandering path, but somehow things get done.
Going through some things in storage, I think I may have found some more oranges to include in The Big Painting. I had drawn a half circle near the bottom of the painting just like Bonnard without knowing what would go there, if anything. It was previsionary perhaps because soon after I stumbled upon the ancient picture above, a little basket of oranges that I painted many, many years ago.
Seems like a contender! We’ll see …
The craggy, complex surfaces of the seashell are so mesmerizing and beautiful. It’s like a landscape of beautiful mountains. I never tire of drawing the seashells, studying their intricate forms. Master artists the little fellows who build these shell homes.
I decided to turn one of the seashell, ginger jar and honey pot drawings into a painting. And the first elements of the painting are blocked in.
But I have been unsure about aspects of the seashell, and since any excuse will do, I made the drawing at the top of the post as a study. It’s on Canson pastel paper, 16 x 12 inches and is drawn using Neopastels.
The drawing that forms the basis for the new painting is this one:
But I’ve also started drawing another version on the same size sheet (24 x 18 inches) in which the objects slightly smaller.
I work on the second version sometimes late at night. It gradually comes along. But though I felt this desire to do the second version, I knew I still wanted the objects to follow the size of the first drawing. So there are many versions. There’s also the drawing inside my brain, the one that is the neurological composite of the variations!
Another earlier version —
The pictures multiply ….
I am working on a third version of the seashell, ginger jar and honey pot picture. This one’s on 24 x 18 inch Strathmore pastel paper. I have been striving to get the relationships of the objects more accurate in this version. The objects are also slightly smaller than they are in the first version I made of this same size.
I think I like the larger objects better, and it’s probably the version I’ll use when I do the painting. But the relationships in this one are more careful. And it’s still in the works, of course ….
It’s hard for me to break out of a motif. I fall in love with the objects. Like Miles, I fall in love too easily ….
History of the motif below:
Version one: 24 x 18 Neopastel on Strathmore Pastel paper; version two: 16 x 12 Sennelier on Arches Oil paper.
Drawing two oranges on the still life table this morning using oil pastel, looking for color changes and for ideas about how to complicate the passage of the Big Painting that has the two oranges in the foreground.
I had it on my “to do” list to make a study and I think I’ll make some more. I am just looking at color passages, exaggerating some of them, thinking about my pal Bonnard.
I have this little 14 x 11 inch still life that I pulled out of the stack. I’ve already altered it a little to conform to the new drawings that I’ve been making of the motif. Like The Big Painting, I am painting this from drawings. The objects are set up in a still life right here in the studio, but the light has been variable — plus I cannot commit to being in the studio at the right times since The Big Painting is the priority.
But it’s nice to have something else toward which I can turn my thoughts. So here’s the side project. Small, fun, no worries.
Here’s some of the studies so far — all the studies except one are made using Neopastels on various pastel papers:
This one needs some adjustment to the size of the compotier bowl, just visible, that hangs above the frog’s head. Yes, again, frogs!
I love dealing with the edges around things and the spaces between things. I like the “things that are not things” in a picture.
The above drawing proves that I can draw a motif that has no frog in it . See, no frog.
This pastel above (traditional dry pastel) is from an earlier suite of drawings. I found it among some dry pastels and was surprised to encounter my current subject.
And here’s yet another recent drawing that I started and haven’t as yet finished. Then again, does it really need to be finished? I mean, hey, the frog is there …
It’s not an obsession. Really. But I have needed more information for the famous froggie teapot and his side-kick the blue jay figurine so I was doing studies of these two — again — yesterday. I made the little painting first (10 x 8 inches) and later in the night I drew them in oil pastel.
I think I have what I need to work on the Big Painting now, but I won’t know for sure until I’ve started dealing with that element directly. I’m painting the picture from the studies. All the creatures will have eyes in the Big Painting. They don’t have eyes here because it’s too much trouble. How’s that sound for a deeply artistic reason?
The oil pastel is 12 x 9 inches on tan colored Strathmore 500 series charcoal paper.
Junior studio assistant gives me a meaningful look while senior studio assistant (mostly unseen) smacks junior assistant with her tail. (This happens a lot.)
The blue compotier is starting to go in.
The flowers also are starting to go in. I use music stands to hold my studies. It’s very convenient — and musical! — I feel like I’m playing the score while I paint.
All these study drawings and paintings are very useful. I’ll be making more of them as the painting goes forward. As more of the picture gets painted I’ll know what further information I need from the objects.
Any excuse to draw the frog teapot will do ….
Another teapot — this time it’s a swimming koi teapot rather than a frog teapot, but clearly I seem to have a thing about teapots. I’ve been making drawings of the teapot and of a frog figurine (Dr. Freud, please call your office). These items appear in a little fauvist oil painting that I started quickly and never finished several years ago. I found it in the bin and decided to do something with it. So I assembled the players. Unfortunately the creamer was missing. I turned the studio upside down, and I finally located it — eureka — and there it appears in the latest drawing above.
I’ve made three drawings of the set up so far. I’ll no doubt make other drawings since I’ll be painting from the drawings and not from the motif. It’s sort of “en plein air” still life and the light changes rapidly which is why I’ll be working from drawings. We had nearly a week of rain and cloudy weather in the Washington DC region which was perfect for my project. But regular July weather is returning and the light gets very bright in the studio quite early. So now it’s NASA launch-style windows of opportunity that I seek to get that light I want.
The other drawings for the painting follow: