Friday, May 5, 2017

Still Life

This painting came from this drawing: 

Painting from a drawing offers freedom and complexity at the same time. Painting from a photograph offers so much detail that you have everything but the kitchen sink, usually, when you hold a photograph in your hand. A photo doesn't teach anyone when to say 'no', quite the opposite---it seems to say "Paint all of me", whereas a drawing has almost nothing in it, relatively speaking---a few lines. It represents something to the person who drew it.  As the photo mutely asks you to neglect its details at your own peril, the drawing mutely asks you, "What do you see when you look at me?" 

Working from a drawing usually implies the gestation of an idea in one's mind, as opposed to the basic record of a  visual that one wants to paint straightaway. Since a drawing gives you much less to work with than a photo, as source material, one finds this shortage of information is a blessing in disguise, as it forces you to use the drawing as a tool, as part of the creative process, rather than having a photo which tempts one to copy it. I wonder now if photographs tend to reinforce 'subject' throughout the process, whereas drawings introduce and reinforce  'idea'. Regardless, it takes a strict person who can work with photographs and keep them as a tool, not relying on them as the mainstay of their process. Creating a drawing to paint from is something everyone should try and practice. Like skiing or rowing, it exercises muscles you didn't know you had. 

Since photographs are easier to come up with than a drawing, their use is ubiquitous, but the drawback is that the unfeeling eye of the camera captures everything with equanimity, the interesting parts and dull parts alike, and this very often slips the artist onto a trajectory of straight replication. Understandable.  This is where a drawing----like a shopping cart with a stubborn wheel---veers  to the other side of creativity and takes you with it. Unless your drawing is photographic in its detail, your emotional eye and hand will have drawn things with a most definite imbalance, capturing those details and gesture which mean something to you and simply ignoring---or disguising---those parts that leave you cold. This focus and manipulation is going be unpredictable with everyone because it is the eye of the individual that is having the final say. 

Painting from a photograph does offer you the opportunity to invent parts of your painting and insert your personal self into the final product, the same as a drawing does---but it's just so easy not to that lots of people forget that part. The photo has so much that you often feel you must put it all in there, or at least 1/2.   Painting from your drawing, on the other hand,  means you are being sparked from the very beginning by something that remains nearly ephemeral ; likewise, you are forced to invent certain parts,  so without really intending it your own free will is dominant throughout----your own free will has become, in fact, the 'subject' of the finished work. For better and for worse. You have become an interpreter, not a human camera. You are putting imagery through the filter of yourself. 

In essence, while I don't see anything wrong with working from photographs  it is something to lament when the same artists who paint from photos see no sense in painting from their own drawings. That is all I'm saying here. I know how much it's helped me. 

  Regarding the painting above, some changes from the drawing were made, and I'm about to do it again with the addition of a bowl of figs. 

I'll post the painting when it's done. 

 The weather today was cool and gray, then sunny in the afternoon. Now as the sun is going down it has gotten incredibly warm, it's strange how that happens just because of the angle of the sun. All day it was pleasant, then at late afternoon it gets so hot. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ocean to Desert and Back Again

Just when I thought living in a sea side town was firmly in my past and not in my future, here I am again. Maybe it took being gone to appreciate the parts of it that had stopped being interesting to me.  Living in the dry hills of a desert was a billion times more interesting and fun than I ever thought it would be----to live a traffic-free California  life is something to consider, and by California-life I refer to good roads and grocery stores that carry everything-----but the intense summer heat, even though somehow it didn't bother me much, still went on for such a long period that it became a bit grim. Temperatures over 100 that persist more than 100 straight days have a way of wearing you down.  And the winter weather was bone chilling in a way I hadn't anticipated, something about the lack of moisture in the air I guess. Friends from Canada and England who came to visit in the winter time were freezing the whole time and looked on the frigid temperature as a betrayal of sorts, a mirage. Deserts are supposed to be warm. That's what they had aimed for when they planned their trip. The Canadians said, "I'm freezing!!"  The visitors from England said, "I'm frightfully cold." 

Also I'm in a different art gallery than when I lived here before, so that's a new change. I'm looking forward to it all. It's nice. Change is good. Also the fish market is close by again so I can keep painting fish. I can go in with the Asian women and pick and choose and smell and touch, than grab what I want with a fishy hand and shove it in a bag and plop down at the cash register. In the desert that was the one thing you couldn't get----a fresh, slippery, floppy fish. I have so many ideas I want to work on !!!!! 

This one is 18"24", they were little shashimo, a type of sardine like fish that has a quantity of roe inside and they are fried up quickly and eaten. As fish they are beauitful to look at and have a pronounced round eye and angled mouth, like tiny barracuda. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Today it has been cold in the morning, raining much of the day so far, but still pretty out the sun comes and goes. 

My work is representational. To try to improve myself I work on abstract compositions periodically. I love it. I don't see the difference between creating that kind of work and representational work, at least not in the way some other people seem to. 

Some artists that I knew were going to an art show that was showing  both representational and abstract paintings. They came back so critical of the abstract pieces, to the point of venom, that I decided to go to the same show to see for myself. The artists had complained about the emptiness of the modern pieces---'a child could do it'---etc., but on seeing the various work myself, I didn't sense that.  It seemed to me that in many cases the artists of the abstract pieces appeared to have put more thought into their work than the representational artists had. It's impossible to say. But sometimes you look at things and think, "Another one." I HATE looking at my own stuff and thinking that!!! But it happens, it happens, and that's life.  Anyway, without knowing any of the artists involved, my cold blooded assessment was that some of the abstract pieces showed some real inspiration and thought, and I didn't see that happening with the the representational things at that particular show. And I walked away with a few ideas about ideas for representational work for myself, that were inspired by the abstract pieces and not the traditional representational pieces that I saw. 

We live in a very good time for artists now, because so much is available to learn. (Yay for the Internet and YouTube and workshops galore) The only trouble is the extremely odd economy, so that now artists are very often making their living from other artists (workshops galore).Even the plein-air group shows, firmly anchored in the representational world, have hit on the profitable idea of often having a drastic size limitation---sometimes insisting on miniatures basically----in order for the exhibition to display the maximum number of paintings....and collect the maximum number of entry fees. The walls are then hung chock-a-block with identically sized paintings, four or five inches in diameter, looking itself like a grid---or like a vast wall-sized piece of abstract art.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Looking from Grouse Island to Quadra, BC


After I took this photo I did some little things to the trees in the upper fourth of the painting, and I touched up the rocks in the foreground. 

I just posted another painting on the blog and made a note about the weather looking close to pouring.  I hope it does rain. 

This painting doesn't really show the scale; I wish I knew exactly the width of this expanse of water, because I've rowed it a million times always wondering how far I was rowing----the rowing goes fast if the tide is slack, but if the tide is running it's a fair amount of labor to cross this short distance. Right around the corner  is a stretch of water called "row and be damned" because you can't row against the tide at all if it's running then. If you ventured just a bit further you are in a section called Seymour Narrows, considered the most treacherous waters in North America. Huge whirlpools appear and disappear, swallowing small boats and capsizing big ones. This little section between grouse island and Quadra island is calmer. 

  See the floating dock in the far distance against the cliff? That brown floating dock is 60 feet long. The two white poles sticking up that look anchored to the cliffs are the pilings that allow the dock to float up and down according to the tide. The slanting ramp will likewise move according to the rising and falling water; if you are on the dock, and you have a heavy load to carry up the ramp, you are always grateful if the tide is high, because it makes that ramp almost level. If you are unlucky and the tide is low when you are heading up the ramp, you just have to bear it and accept the fact that anything is better than going to a gym.

 Grouse Island is a tiny, tiny island with a little house no one lives in, and a dock and a generator, and lots of eagles. Always I've thought it should be called Eagle Island because I've never seen a grouse on it, but there is a nest of bald eagles there and their screams are always rending the air. You can see them all day long, and hear them from morning till night.  The island is the haunt of eagles and mink. Whales go by and blow their plume of spray. Half the island belongs to the owner of the house, and the other half of the island is owned by the crown so no one really goes to Grouse Island. I think the house is for sale now. Every now and then a deer swims across in the fast cold water and gives birth to her fawn on Grouse, because it's so removed.  It's a very wild, pristine,  pretty place to sit and paint; when you walk among the tide pools and on the rocks it's a pleasant experience and also a cautionary tale, as it's clear that if you trip and fall and injure yourself, you're on your own. (In fact I think in years past one of the  owners of Grouse Island died that way, just from a simple fall, and it was a while before anyone figured it out and went over to retrieve his body from the rocks.) The idea of living on an island is romantic, and seems to always lure in another buyer, but winter weather or storms bring everything into sharp focus again, and all the hazards and inconveniance of such a life are hard to work around. Eventually the place is always for sale again. I always thought it would be a good retreat for artists or writers, or something. In good weather its beauty is unreal. 

But this  house shown  isn't the empty house on Grouse---I just re-read this post and it sounds like this painting is of Grouse. It ain't. I just got sidetracked describing the spot where I was sitting. This painting was done ON Grouse, looking back onto Quadra Island. Quadra was a Spanish explorer and the island of Quadra is named for him. About 3000 people live there year round.  This house, and this dock, are on Quadra, but the rocks one sees in the foreground are the tidal rocks of Grouse. I do have paintings of Grouse Island but I want to do some things to them before I post them. 

Still Life of Fish

There is a composer I like a lot named Erik Satie, and it's only this last year that I discovered him. I'd heard some of his compositions before as a background in some movies, but thanks to Pandora it's finally an easy thing to put the composer's names to the pieces of music one's been hearing forever in isolated bits and pieces, always to be left wondering "Who wrote that?" When I looked him up it appeared that he was considered not really a composer in the sense that he created major works, but a bit of an eccentric, with a series of compositions that were interesting but appeared haphazard. When I typed him into Pandora, there is a station just for his work and composers who are similar. It's wonderful to listen to. Before he did those works which play now on Pandora, songs that to me seem so emotional and rather strange, he played in dance halls for his bread and butter, serving up the songs of the day. The composers of the 18th century were probably the greatest ones, but some of the 19th and early 20th century composers are so much the soundtrack of my mind,  I cannot get enough of them. Debussy and Faure especially, and now Satie. They were trying to simplify, simplify. You can hear it in their work and see their influence in composers that came later. I love Pandora for helping me put names and titles to some of the things I've always gotten so much pleasure from. 

Sometimes I look at my own things and think maybe they are a bit strange, too eccentric or something, but the fact is they are what I want to work on. 

It's been terribly hot lately but just today it cooled down and at the moment gray clouds have come over and made everything feel like rain will pour any second. 


This is number one of a quartet of paintings; rather than one long horizontal painting, it was painted in four squares of 14"14" on oil painting paper. I am so crazy about painting on oil painting paper it's hard to express. It's wonderful to work on. In this case the edges of the paper are torn, not cut,  and the paintings will be under glass on a floating type of mat so that the painting itself, the paper, will cast a slight shadow and appear to float slightly in a surrounding matt. It gives a modern aspect which I like a lot. I can't stand, can't even bear to look at, old fashioned frames anymore, particularly the heavy black kind that makes a huge black boxey square on the wall. They're nice in their own way, traditional frames, but...they're just everywhere. And they've been everywhere for so long now. I like floating frames and I like oil paintings under glass sometimes. It cleans up that heaviness that can take over when you have a lot of paintings on a wall. 

This is number two. I'm not good enough with computers to make these photos line up horizontally in a row on this blog page. 

This painting is number 3

This painting is the final one, number 4 

I found this progress photo that shows how they line up, more or less. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Orlando, Unfinished

I don't think this country is civilized any longer. We began uncivilized, the Wild West, perhaps it won't change. I hope the world is changing for the best--- I always thought so, but some of the upheavals that happen now are scary. But one can't walk around afraid, life has to go on in a positive way. 

It's hard to understand the reluctance to implement greater gun control. When the Sandy Hook shooting spree happened, I was painting a still life that day of plates. That's the painting here.  I never finished that painting----every time I looked at it I thought of the news that day, beyond imagining it was so awful, yet the people who live there had to cope with it somehow and still are. I just stuck it in a pile of other paintings that were fails.  After all this time has passed---it's been four or five years---nothing has changed. The same people are able to buy the same weapons and work out their aggressions by murdering their neighbors. There is something deeply, profoundly diseased in a country that condones its own citizens massacring each other on a grand scale. 

Civilization and the work that went into it was meant to create a decent world from a savage one--- where an innocent person could walk out their front door without having their throat cut, could live and work in some kind of safety from casual slaughter.