more blast from the past

Vase de Fleurs

I painted this still life in the first studio that I ever had outside my house.  The room had very dim interior light and huge ceilings.  The vault of air above my head was enchanting.  The room was badly lit and people coming by to say hello often asked me why I was sitting in the dark.  But my still life and the canvas were lit well enough.  I loved the diffuse light of that quirky place.

The painting became the DNA for several pictures.  Over the years I’ve made versions of the idea.  They all bear some resemblance to their parent and yet each one has its own identity too.

incremental change

Think about creating a walkway in a garden,

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a path made with pebbles. Instead of dumping the bag of rocks into the path and pushing them around with a rake, you move them around pebble by pebble. Well, clearly I cannot do that — am not that crazy. But the changes to the picture seem like shifting pebbles around in a path.

I posted this before, and I have worked on it a little more. This is the larger version of the motif.  It’s on blue paper. The other smaller one is on brown paper.  I wonder if the changes are even visible to the spectator. More increments are necessary, I think, before the changes really take hold. I’m not ready to let this go, and yet the differences between where it is now and where it needs to be are slight.

I had posted details of the other drawing. Here are a few of the same passages from this drawing.

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It corresponds to this detail from the other version (below).

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And the central portion of the large picture:

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And the slightly smaller one (below):

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The one helps me think about the other.

One quality I love about pastel (both oil pastel and dry pastel) is the ease with which you can drag color over top of existing layers. The slight change in the surface, like rearranging pebbles in a garden path, makes the thing more tactile — and (somehow) seems (to me) to make it more real.

A garden scene of floating world with trees above and clouds below is not different from a herd of koi seen rushing through the water, the planes of water shifting as the koi move through. One is like the other. I often think that I am continually painting the same picture over and over, whether it is koi or landscape or flowers or something else.

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Why is a koi not just like a cloud?

my most definitive Gabrielle

I was drawing blogosphere Australian poet friend Gabrielle Bryden during her rainy days away from her blog, and this drawing was the culmination of several I made which, if you are my devoted reader, you have already encountered in the previous two posts!

Of the several this one, I think, most resembles the source photo (found here).  And I like it because it’s more realistic.  But I also like it because … because … well, just because.

Why ask why.

All the drawings were made in a small Moleskin notebook using my beloved blue ball point pens.

variations on a Gabrielle theme

I drew blogosphere friend Gabrielle Bryden during her rainy day sabbatical in far away Australia.  While her blog was quiet, I made some little portrait drawings based upon a youthful photo she posted.

Though they were all drawn using the same photo, each one is a little bit different from the others.   These differences that occur, these variations, are what I call “invention.”  Obviously there’s an element of error involved in the variations since if I was just drawing the image directly, every version would look just like the others, and all the versions would be copies of the photo!

Sometimes those kinds of differences trouble artists who are chasing a realistic effect, and they used to bother me too!  But I came to realize that if the drawing is good then the differences from the source don’t matter.  Moreover, all these changes lead to different ways of seeing and understanding the image.

So though there’s one photo I don’t have only one Gabrielle, I have several!  And each is a bit different from the others.

Self Portrait-ing

It’s hard to really know people, and that fact, I think, applies as much to oneself as to others.  It’s hard to know who you are, and it’s sensible and not narcissistic to occasionally inquire into the nature of one’s self.

The means of mirror gazing are many.  For artists the self-portrait is one means. 

Naturally just as one witnesses different aspects of other people, just in that way it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to discover that one finds different facets to oneself.

And you can portray yourself in different ways.  And why not deliberately seek to know these other aspects of the self?  Or if one only stumbles upon them, that too is knowledge….

Variations on a theme

I take walks and pass the same scenes and never tire of looking at an interesting place.

It could be that I’m an exceedingly lazy person, but I don’t think so.  Not that I don’t think I’m a lazy person.  I do.  But I don’t think that’s the cause of this phenomenon:  that I walk all over the park and find that it has many beautiful views, and yet  find myself only wanting to draw the same motif again and again. 

Each of these drawings looks very different to me.  It could be that I cannot draw.  But it’s not that I think I cannot draw.  I can draw.  It’s just that the formal garden has so many facets to its vegetative personality.

And this one above I drew from memory.  It is more vague than the others.  Not that my memory is any more vague than anyone elses.  It’s just that memory is by nature hazy and thus creative — making of the same scene, many scenes.

And this version above I drew in a notebook, and that’s why it looks curved in the photo.  I’m not saying I couldn’t have straightened out the curve.  No, I’m telling you that a team of fifty crack photographers couldn’t have gotten this darned uncooperative notebook to stop folding shut everytime I tried to take the picture …. (Sorry, a little off topic.)

And this last one, I can’t tell you what it’s story is.  In the blur of versions I’ve completely forgotten what circumstances surround the making of this drawing.  I’m not saying that I’m forgetful, I’m just saying ….

I need to make some more variations.