recasting the past

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I would chide myself for not finishing things except that there’s also this upside to procrastination: I look through my stacks of drawings and rediscover them, take them up again, and complete them from the vantage point of a different place in time.  I found this drawing in a stack.  It’s 22 x 16.5 inches.  This picture depicts the same motif as one that I posted a few days ago. Everything’s a bit different in this one. Lines shake a little more. A color might be punched up a bit more. Also the paper color and texture are very different, and these differences affect everything else in the picture.

Oil pastel is a sensitive medium. You can do quite a lot of dragging color over previous colors and the combination of marks produces a dynamism.  It also allows colors to mix optically so you actually get different color effects than you would if you tried to mix the pigments into each other as you would with paint. You can see in the details that follow how textural oil pastel can be.

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I’m not using a “technique” when I do these marks. They are instead all decisions, responses to something that I’m seeing. I am drawing with the sticks and so the marks are drawing “ideas.”  For instance, in this detail there was a limb hanging out over the water and it separates from the background by its slightly brighter aspect.  I put down a light line, some marks for the leaves on the branch, and a dark line that marks the limb’s separation from the background.

It’s all abstracted and simplified in relation to the thing I’m looking at, but these are decisions.  They are specific, nonetheless. And a gazillion specific decisions adds up to lots of marking in the drawing.  And I find it really wonderful to think about the scene in these ways.  See this, put it there.  See something else, there it goes.

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It can make you feel very connected to the place. Here’s the same passage in a different orientation. I saw ripples in the water so I put down the ripples. I saw bits of lighter green so I just drag them across the darker green. The layers of pigment pile up in ways that imitate the density and confusion of light that comes from the scene.

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Up close the passages are very abstract.

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If when observing parts of the picture using a camera, they seem to be well composed, then it suggests that the process of thought going into the small elements of the picture are mimicking the compositional choices you make when you work on the whole.  The relationship between whole and part ought to be in harmony.  Any one of these details ought to seem like it’s the natural child of the parent image.

I like this version better than the one I posted a few days ago.  So, learning from the experience working on this one, I’ll return to the slightly larger format and carry it further some more too.

On the whole, I’m quite content that I never finished these when I first began them. Finishing them now is working out really well. I don’t know how exactly to use time in painting, but when events conspire toward a good outcome — I’m glad for it.


Wide open spaces

landscape from c 1996

When the sky touches the land at some distant point ahead that you see afar off, then you know you have space enough to dream.

There’s so many ways to move through a landscape: through the air or on the ground, taking the path that goes under the tall deep green trees, or along that horizontal plain that escapes like an arrow to some unknown locale just beyond the range of vision. What lies over the hills of a dream? Where does the light lead? How green is the greenest green of life?

And what about the ball of light inside the clouds?

Meet today’s cabbage

I will be the master of cabbages — someday.  Now, there’s the spirit!  Right-oh! 

Or is it just whistling in the cabbage patch?  It will have to be for others to judge.  However I can say this on my behalf:  I persevere.  Another cabbage showed up at the residence and has stood for its portrait, and this one is the darndest frilly thing, the most stuck-up conceited cabbage, all dressed up, all decked out, difficult to draw, show-offy vegetable with an attitude I ever met.

When faced with grand madame cabbage you have to take things apart a little.  So I did several scribbly drawings in the most carefree manner (let Ms. Cabbage chill while I doodle). 

These are just quick-thinking little thingys made using my favorite pen (bit of a comfort tool in that).

They are very abstract, but my brain knows what’s what and it helps to lay down the main ideas of this overly complicated bundle of leaves.  I don’t know if I’ll know what these lines describe whenever I peek back into my notebook years hence.  But I know what they mean now.  And they are rehearsal time for the bigger drawing.  So they are most helpful.

Here she is, below, Her Cabbageness in person.

Caffeine for after the late night

After having painted trees until the wee hours, I need a boost!

The surface of the tea in the cup, a smooth darkness, dark with specular highlights, a round dark and fragrant mirror, and the reflections shimmer when the surface moves each time you lift to drink.  Meditative thought-inducing dark drink.  A dark strong tea like mahogany, a strong tea for wakefulness, for resolute motion, to forestall sleep, for a bold thought, and deliberate and fruitful nostalgia.

Ah, still more green!  The landscape pervades all ….