Birch St., Bangor Maine
This another post about a lost painting. Parts of it are quite lovely, but the situation has been lost and “the center cannot hold”. For some odd reason I feel better about these failed efforts if they can make one last blog post on their way out. I grow zinnias, french marigolds and cosmos every summer; perhaps I’ll even find the green globe vase and try again.
Land O’ Lakes Iris and Sunflowers 18 x 24 pastel 2006
The “one that got away” series is all about work on its way to the dumpster. I have one more chance to record the remains, and this is it. “Land O’ Lakes” was my first pastel after a long period of working in oils. My schedule does not allow long stretches of time to set aside for painting and I was continually grousing about dry paint, dry canvases and ruined brushes. My husband, and fellow painter, suggested I try a medium that was dry to start with and eliminate the problem at the root. I love living with another painter – it would have taken me another year to figure that out.
“Land O’ Lakes” was named for its resemblance to the actual lakes and not the butter. I have another yellow iris called “Evening Sky” – it’s very confusing. That pale blue translucence makes a beautiful flower but a very difficult drawing. And there are other problems: the composition is large and sprawling, the figures complex and the color range much too close for my inexperience. Also pastel is very fragile, even on the very forgiving surface of the Ampersand board. You’ll notice the turquoise vase is looks flat and unconvincing because I added layers of chalk to get it right. Doesn’t work, does it?
Another day, another drawing to Strawberry Hill.
Fortunately, I live with someone who can code, heck, someone who speaks DOS. Not that he needed much of his expertise to show me how to link the small image above to a larger version. It was actually pretty easy with WordPress. Go ahead, try it out – this little 9″ x 12″ drawing can be seen almost full size, with all it’s marks and faults in evidence. Yikes.
Still life painting is a wonderful way to interact with objects. The fruit, or flowers, or dead birds and whatnot are certainly vital – a way of demonstrating the passage of time and fleeting nature of existence. The vase, the plate and the Mason jar represent the inert – rocks and earth – and provide contrast to petals and feathers. I use old things; dishes with chips and huge antique sugar bowls with brown spots and worn handles, slumped glass and pewter. The willoware plate in this drawing is so old the decals have flowed together to mute the edges of the pattern. It has endured a century of casual use and outlived all its set-mates to end up in a painting – fragile yet enduring.
Hansa Roses, 18 x 24, pastel on board.
Apricots on a Green Plate
Small paintings are really hard. I had no idea. I have a feeling I wasn’t a very good painter the last time I tried to go 9 x 12 inches, and with some increase in ability comes the need for enough space to swing the arm from the shoulder – get some muscle into it. I have some plums set up next, on the same size board, so that when I start an 18 x 24 drawing next week it will feel huge.
Berries in a Dish, 9″ x 12″, pastel on board
This will be a series of (at least) three small panels. I started out with the motive that I would study the more complicated passages in some of my new set-ups (blackberries are not to be approached for the first time without a dry run) but the drawings took on a life of their own. The largest size panel I work on is 18″ x 24″, which is plenty large for my studio space. If I went any bigger no one would be able to get into the bathroom. Still, 9″ x 12″ feels tiny and has required a change of technique – a broadening of my marks. Odd that such a small space must be filled with ever larger areas.
Next up, apricots on a green plate.
I produce about 24 drawings a year. They don’t all turn out well, which is neither surprising nor heartbreaking. This piece is a dud. The composition was dramatic with beautiful color and familiar material – I’ve drawn a lot of nasturtiums over the years – but the final product failed the “can this leave the house?” test, so it went to the Strawberry Hill Transfer Station rather than the gallery.
In order to pass the test, the painting must be entirely “meant”. van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” passes the test – every passage is approached with the same degree of confidence and finish. The viewer doesn’t doubt the wall behind or the surface (a table?) beneath the vase and flowers. The painter didn’t piddle off in the corner, where he wasn’t sure how to indicate a further room. A great painting might be drawn badly (Velasquez drives me nuts) but the passage is carried through like a knife though water – we are unfazed by any discrepancy.
Tonight I have a small crystal bowl full of huge purple blackberries to start on; we’ll see where it ends up.
Blackware with Portfolio, pastel on board, 18 x 24 inches