Scribbling out the idea … it’s like sight reading in music. I’m not sure how the music sounds yet. I haven’t actually heard it. I’m reading the parts, getting figures in my head. First I have to find out what is there. Later I will look for interpretation. First comes practice. At some future juncture my hands will go straight to the notes. You must assimilate the music. It has to go from the page to the interior of your head. You have to hear it a while, get a feeling for the whole, discover its anticipations, its revelations.
There’s a beginning, a middle and an end. I don’t even know what the beginning is. I compose the visual music at the same time that I learn it.
I found three studies of roses in storage. We enter the time of roses. Soon we’ll see them blooming everywhere along our walks.
And I have flower paintings awaiting me. Finding these little studies whets my appetite for more flowers, for drawing flowers, for composing them in still lifes, for putting them into paintings.
Idle moment waiting in the car in the rain. I drew a little tree sketch in my pocket notebook. It was something to do. I like trees, love observing them in all kinds of weather. Drawing the tree was helping to keep me awake. It can be difficult staying alert during long periods of rain. Letting my eyes wander among the beautiful shapes made by the boughs of the tree was a pleasant venture.
It relates to other projects — even to other kinds of trees. I have a painting currently on hold that the little sketch helps me think about. I do paintings in waves of activity. Usually I start something, take it along a certain degree, then I put it aside. For me the interlude of separation appears to be a necessary part of the process of completing the picture. I used to chide myself for not finishing things. I didn’t realize that I needed the passage of respite from the image. I finish the pictures, but it takes longer than I had supposed. Now that I know this, I have a whole different relationship to the task.
When the colors are beautiful simply as colors, when it’s a silky blue and a pale green the color of early spring, I find that I like looking at the colors for themselves alone. They are their own raison d’être. Big expanses of pure color gives the artist delight, something that you hope to share with the spectator. The lines and forms of the objects build upon that foundation. I wanted the vase of flowers to rise upwards like a bold tree, a symbol of life.
I make lots of studies for pictures. This one rehearses the motif for a large painting. This crayon drawing (made with Caran d’Ache Neocolors) measures 24 x 36 inches. (The related painting measures 30 x 48 inches.)
The tulip I picked from the yard this morning has moved around while I’ve been painting and observing it. Apparently “still life” is terminology that tulips don’t understand. I don’t mind the flower moving around. It’s just a little strange to observe.
Flowers are not these placid, exemplars of stillness that one supposes. They fidget.
They merely do so on a time scale unfamiliar to human perception. Drawing helps reveal it. Cezanne asked, “Does an apple move?” Well, friend, he never would have asked that question concerning a tulip. Believe me, they move.
Hold on a minute, I was certain the contour was over here ….
A morning person, I’m learning to become one.
My dog Lucy deserves most the credit. Lucy is an early riser, ascribing to the old saying of Benjamin Franklin, “Early to rise, early to eat.” Oh, wait ….
Anyway, Lucy claims that’s what he meant no matter what he actually said.
I was looking out the window at the spring, this being the studio window which overlooks the back yard, the window that hasn’t been cleaned since whenever I last wrote about cleaning it. (I can relax knowing that no one is likely to ever look that up.) It’s an exceedingly messy window, much in need of repair. Here’s where the squirrel came to munch on the internet access cable. Here’s where each year, generation after generation of spiders makes a home between layers of glass because, apparently, whole civilizations of bugs also make residence between the window proper and the storm window frame.
So looking out at the view I’m confronted with abundant visual complexity. A chronicler of days could find an entire magnum opus with this view alone. For outside I see the lovely spring composed of new green, and I see pale overcast sky, and bare branches reaching up in every direction ready to leaf, and new leaves from the early strivers of the tree domain.
The architecture of the window is there to confuse the geometrically perplexed (such as myself). But there are other subtler features too.
The glass (very dusty dirty and spider webby) catches reflections. It dulls over the passages of color lying behind it. Some areas of the tree trunk nearest the window (remind me that I need to cut that down) are affected by this grey veil of dullness, that softens passages of the elegant tree trunk form, leaving other parts full rich in tree trunk darkness. The warm/cool changes in all these passages are mind boggling.
So I draw it with morning coffee, fully aware that I cannot depict these many perceptions. Even sorting out which to attempt and which to exclude puts my caffeine addicted brain to task. It’s mostly for the loveliness of beholding and the idleness of contemplation that I decided to draw this scene. It was here. I have coffee to drink. So why not?
Does it count as plein air landscape when you’re sitting inside looking out the window?
(En plein intérieur)
I was rummaging through an old notebook and found this drawing. And I add it now to my idea(s) about a still life painting that’s in the works. I can’t use this angle for the picture I’m planning, but I like the idea and so I note that it might work well in another, future version of the motif.
Thus it joins this drawing.
And this one.
And joins the idea catalog for this motif below which is still just an idea in the mind so far.
It’s a good thing I have this blog to help me keep track of this stuff.
Yesterday evening I worked more on the oil study for my painting in the works. Earlier versions of this oil study and of a watercolor of the same motif appear in earlier posts. The painting is 9 x 12 on Arches oil paper.
The idea for the particular colors in the cloth came from the watercolor version I did earlier. I liked the colors there and decided to use them here as well.
Now I need to transfer these ideas to the mysterious big painting in the works.
After working on a watercolor version of the two objects, I decided to do some more painting on a little oil study I made on paper. I made dramatic changes to the fish vase, and sometime soon I’ll have to work on the frog tea pot also.
All these recent pictures are studies for a painting — a large still life — that’s in the works.
Here’s a detail of the fish’s face and a similar passage from today’s watercolor.
I worked some more on today’s “morning coffee drawing. While the features are a little lopsided, the frog and flowers appear on the frog tea pot’s surfaces. And the fish vase gets darker. And I begin thinking about the pattern on the cloth a little. I posted an earlier version of the drawing already — the “morning coffee part.” Coffee was long over as I continued working on this watercolor into the afternoon.
I’m getting well acquainted with my still life objects.
I like looking at the accidental features of the watercolor marks in details such as these. And they suggest ideas for ways of portraying these objects in the large oil painting for which this watercolor is a study.
I think I might switch now to the oil study I began for the painting, and work more on the fish vase and frog tea pot in it — let some of the watercolor ideas spill into the oil study. This is how I left the oil study. Clearly there’s plenty more things that I can do with it.
I like switching back and forth between media, letting each one suggest things peculiar to its material character.