making progress

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I have been away from my blog while deeply entrenched in a project to reorganize my whole house and studio.  It’s been quite an adventure, has provided a massive physical workout, and I’m still not done.

However, I am so much closer to my goal and that fact makes me feel marvelous.  I was inspired in part by Maria Kondo’s insightful book “the life-changing magic of tidying up.”  Her advice comes in handy as I plow through decades of possessions.

For now though, for today, I’m taking a bit of a breather.  I decided to fiddle faddle around with an old watercolor of koi.  It’s been over a month since I’ve done any painting so I’ve earned a little art time.  Once I get the first phase of my project completed, though, I’ll be able to use my still life table in ways I never before dreamed!

 

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repetitions for a mythological garden

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Let it never be said that I lack a work ethic.  I have made several versions of the foliage imagery.  I enjoy going over it again and again.  It’s incredibly scribbly.  Many little bits of leaf, many pieces of light and shadow — and yet also many ways of thinking about the organization of the large forms.

I did this drawing using Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencil.  Then put a bit of watercolor over that.

I have lost count how many variations this is.  I love this motif, but it’s just a part.  I need to figure out how it will relate to the other sections of the idea.  I haven’t even made the first compositional drawing yet.

It’s just one part of an idea.  Each time I draw, each time I write, I get a few more bits of the idea. It’s like lucid dreaming.

watercolor updated

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I like switching back and forth between media, letting each one suggest things peculiar to its material character.

 

 

blue bottle

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I have made additions to the watercolor of the blue bottle. And I’m having trouble with the paper, one that I bought for another purpose (an inexpensive student grade paper I meant to use as an experimental surface for pastel grounds).  As a watercolor paper, its purported use, it becomes a cantankerously unpredictable.  The colors don’t sink into the paper, but instead seem to float on top of the paper (which has to have been sized with something).

Anyway, I kept painting on the drawing just because.  It’s practice for the oil painting that’s in the works. However,  for the future watercolor studies,  I’ll be using a different paper.  No point in going to all the trouble with the study when the surface is so unreliable. No point in fighting with the paper.

The earlier version is below:

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Began thinking about the blue vase on the patterned cloth that will feature in the still life I’m working on.  Made a first pass in watercolor just to think about the shapes and colors.

green fish vase

The green fish vase,

fish vase wc (2)something that I found at the thrift shop, is a favorite object for me.  I have been drawing it today in watercolor and oil pastel, making drawings for a painting. Green Fish Vase (I should call it GFV for short) has a prominent place in a still life I’m developing.  These drawings are for practice and joy.

Both drawings are totally sloppy.  I have been throwing color at this thing aggressively. I am thinking about shapes and colors, and I’m very untidy about it.

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Both drawings are a little vague on the right hand side because in the painting something else will be sitting in front of Green Fish Vase.  So the contour I draw here won’t actually find its way into the painting. But I like knowing the object well. The drawings are not just about the view in the painting.  They are about this wonderful, clunky, imaginative vase of green glass in the shape of a fish.

The second drawing completes the notebook of the post prior. It uses the last sheet of paper.

UPDATE:

I’m beginning an oil study today, June 25.

 

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Yellow and Orange

When you paint as much blue as I do

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sometimes you need some yellow and orange. The koi pictures that feature so prominently in my life and studio make one need strong warm colors from time to time as a foil to the watery blue reflections of sky that dominate those works. Since I have an ancient squash that’s been sitting on the kitchen shelf for longer than I’m willing to admit, and as I don’t think I’m interested in cooking it anymore, I decided that it’s perfectly suited to the still life table where it sits very nicely.

squash and shell oil

I painted it with watercolor in the picture on top, and afterwards decided to have a go at it with oil paint too. For the oils I paired it with one of the sea shells.

The light comes in from the window facing south at the backyard and also from an east facing window that bounces light from the neighbor’s light colored house, filtered through the leaves of shrubs I need to prune.  I have a bright yellow plastic table cloth that I bought for a dollar at the grocery store, purchased for its brilliant color and assembled together the items and ambient light all make for much bright yellow wending warmth.

So, there they are — today’s immersions in a foil to blue.  The balance of the color reproduction is off.  The pictures are cooler and more lemon shaded (especially in the cloth) than gets captured here. But I learned long ago that the camera sees things a little differently than our eyes do.  And the reproduction catches the general sense, and hence is as we say “close enough for jazz.”

 

 

morning coffee drawings

rose wc

I have neglected my flower project so this morning I decided to resume thinking about the project by doing some studies of flowers. The flowers on this watercolor page are actually two different vignettes from the artificial flowers I have in my studio still life. They will probably none of them find their way into the painting that’s in the works, but they help get me into flower-thinking-mode.

And the mode is important too.

Just now as I was on the porch photographing the watercolor page, I was surprised to note that there was still water puddled here and there. Don’t know if it’s visible in the photo or not.

I was also very mindful of the humongous spider that I see in that same location at night.  I think he’s strictly nocturnal so I don’t anticipate encountering him in the daylight.  At least I hope not!  He’s very big, very scary (for the arachnophobic). and besides that I’m worried I might trip over him.

Seriously.  He’s big.

Anyway, in episodes of coffee sipping when I waited for passages of the watercolor to dry, I made a quick oil pastel of the same central rose. I’m looking at a volume on Sargent lately and I marvel at how much the man was always painting or drawing something. Little vignettes, random sketches, you name it. The lesson for me is this: be often drawing.  Look all around you, and draw what you see.  It’s that simple sometimes.

rose oil pastel

odds & ends

Draw everything.

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You can’t of course. But why not just pretend that you can. There may not even be an everything to draw (philosophically speaking).  Who is to say how much stuff there is in even a corner of a still life. All that notwithstanding, when you tell yourself that maybe you’ll just sit down and draw everything now — you free yourself from the need to first draw this, and then draw that, and find the center of interest, and make sure to get the half-tones, and blah, blah, blah.

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This is a really neat still life. It’s a visual forest that a person’s eyes can wander around in for hours. It has twists and turns. It has passages of light and shade. It’s abundant in RED. There’s the black vase, too, with its patterns on the surface and its depths and reflections in the black — with the window reflection that takes you outside if you peer into it really deeply!

In the carnival glass compotier, as I was drawing, I saw a patch of white and wondered what it was. Looking closer I saw that it was the inverted, distorted reflection of the white creamer! In every centimeter there’s a wonder to behold. In such a visual jungle one cannot possibly draw everything and yet if you are, like me, too thrilled to choose, and must draw a bit of this and a bit of that, then you find splendors in every direction. Oh, to an ant it’s a palace of ineffable grandeur and beauty! (Well, that’s if ants’ sensibilities include enjoyment of the scenery.)

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I’ll tell you a secret, though I buy the best artist materials I can afford for the works that I plan for sale, I also adore working with very cheap and common things — expressly because they are ubiquitous in our society. I bought this notebook at RiteAid.  It’s cover caught my eye one day as I was leaving the pharmacy.

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You can see how it has the busy bright design that I like.  I’ve been drawing with Bic Cristal in this notebook this morning — that would be the world’s cheapest and absolutely most wonderful and expressive pen — ever!

My parents were survivors of the Great Depression and instilled in me (without their realizing) a great love for the common tools that are abundantly available. In regard to drawing, when I pick up simple dime store tools and draw, I feel like I’ll always be able to draw come what may. I sit here in the corner of a room like an oriental pasha with my wealth of colors and thrift store treasures, exploring the seemingly infinite reach of my territory!

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I have long admired the fishes on the Chinese tea pot and I decided to zero in on one of them at the risk of having the shape of the pot go somewhat crazy on me. If you care about the pot’s shape, you draw that first, but if you care about the fish — sooner or later you have to make a wild lunge for the fish, pen in hand.  If that puts the proportions out of whack, so be it.

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After several drawings, I decided to draw with watercolor. It is similarly scattershot. But the brightness of the whole I find satisfying.

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I’ve have drawn all afternoon en plein indoors sitting beside my still life table.

One more.  This one in oil pastel.

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I drew this one very fast and began with the reflection of the window because it had been so beautiful, really pearlescent! But the light changed so fast and I wasn’t actually able to observe the effect that had brought me in. Still it’s interesting that the whole drawing began with that reflection, like the axis of a wheel.

watercolor & me

Seeing other artists’ watercolors

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puts me into a watercolor mood — that and the late springtime heat.  I would love to dive into the pond with the koi. I’d also love to paint in watercolor again.  I need to clean the studio (again). The watercolor palette is buried somewhere under the pile of things. I need an archeologist to help me excavate!

Here’s a detail.

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These are more things that I found by visiting my facebook page to hunt down the owl.  See, what you find when you go looking for an owl!

Koi understanding and understanding Koi

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My desire to achieve a better understanding continues.  I am redrawing the koi, going one fish at a time, and I’ve decided to build a pond in this fashion, fish by fish.

You’d think that a “perfectionist” would finish each drawing but in seeking koi understanding I discover that parts of the image reel me in more than others. Who is doing the fishing here?

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My fishies mesmerize me.  I draw only so much of a fish and then I move on. I haven’t a clue what I’m after. I feel a tug on the line, pull, discover there’s a fish there, toss him into the bucket, and toss the line out again.  It’s like that.

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It’s kind of a wavey, ripplely, floaty blur.  I sit there fish-eyed.  The room’s the bucket. The room is full of fish.

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I have no idea what I’m doing.  But something is happening.  And there’s an awful lot of fish around here.  As to the one that got away ….

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None of them gets away!  Indeed, some of them just get bigger and bigger!

My fishies mesmerize me.