Since the Bazille show is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, I’m getting ready to study several of the beautiful flower paintings featured in the exhibit. It’s great good fortune for me that these works are visiting now because doing large flower compositions has been one of my ambitions for a long time. I knew of the early Impressionist flower compositions from books but I haven’t been able to see any of the actual paintings until now.
Above is a flower painting I did many years ago. And below is Bazille’s grande machine of flowers currently in the exhibit.
And here they are side by side (magic of the internet):
I painted the seashell and bottle together because I like the shapes of each. That’s why I bought the bottle (another of the thrift store hauls) and why I collect the seashells. I love their shapes and colors. Looking at their surfaces fascinates me. I like the color blue. I like the folds in a cloth. I like the random things that end up being the edges of the painting when you paint without a plan.
This is a little picture — only 9 x 12 inches — painted on Arches oil paper, which is a wonderful surface, enjoyable for the artist.
I began doing still lifes in a random way, choosing the object I wanted particularly to portray and letting the rest of the picture arrange itself according to the dimensions of the format, and now I love the randomness of it. The edges become a new area of exploration.
Some people climb mountains or dream astronaut dreams — I explore the edges of the painting — far more sedentary, much safer physically, but still wonderful — I assure you!
How does one express this love of the edges? Or of the spaces between things? Do you believe me when I tell you that they are marvelous territories?! And while I rhapsodize the edges, do not suppose that I oppose the middle — I like painting’s interior too.
I started with the red. Because — red! Just putting the paint down straight from the tube, I enjoy seeing it so beautiful, luminous. This is why I love painting — because color transmits wonder just in itself, even before you do anything.
I’m making a painted version of the pastel still life with flowers, the one with the red cloth. It’s one of my favorites from among the group of pastel still lifes that I did in the fall. I’m thinking that I may do painted versions of my three favorites. Time will tell. Certainly I had to paint the ruby red one.
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.)
When an artist paint things, she always hopes that others will understand the thing the way she understands it. The little seashell painting (9 x 12 inches in size) catches a mood for me (who am far from the sea) of water, waves and wind. The conch is a tropical animal and even the warmth of a faraway place comes to me when I portray the shells.
The nervous brushstrokes are the way I experience drawing the object whose forms are so incredibly lovely and complicated. I love following all the passages of color than I can manage to imitate. I am always longing to imitate all of it, everything that I see, and I don’t know if that is possible. But the longing is an end in itself. I cherish the longing that the beauty of the seashell evokes.
I only learned about Wenzel Hablik a couple weeks ago. His painting is on the cover of a book my daughter has been reading. Soon after I happened upon a video in French about an exhibit at the Musee d’Orsay called “Beyond the Stars. The Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kandinsky” and there was a curator standing in front of his painting, talking about it.
I had no idea it was so huge! My painting is pretty big too. Mine above, his below.
Indeed, he’s got something in common with a lot of things I have painted but I’d never heard of him until very recently. It’s always fun to discover things like this — things I love that I didn’t know I loved until now. More of mine below.
Sitting in front of Childe Hassam’s painting “Tanagra, the Builders” at the Museum of American Art, I made a drawing in oil pastel. It measures 12 x 16 inches. This is the largest drawing I’ve made there to date.
I’ve been studying the painting each time I visit the museum. And Childe Hassam is my new hero. The painting is huge. My drawing is a portion of it.
It’s like the joke about the Dalai Lama ordering a pizza: “Make me one with everything.”
The picture above is a detail of a detail. I copied a portion of Paul Cezanne’s Chateau Noir at the National Gallery of Art. (I posted that one recently.) This picture is a detail of that drawing (which portrays a detail of Cezanne’s painting).
Already this post is turning into Russian nesting dolls.
Anyway. I like looking at details of pictures (including — I don’t mind telling you — my own pictures). And for those who want to do abstract painting, you could find motifs for the abstractions by enlarging a small bit of some representational image.
What I like about the parts, though, is the way they reiterate whatever good things are happening in the whole. At least in a really well organized picture the parts will be doing on a smaller scale whatever the composition is doing on the large scale. It seems to me that this is true in the works of all the great masters.
So the lesson is — actually I’m not sure what the lesson is. Just be a great artist. There you go. Easy peasy.