Morning Light Through my Bedroom Window

Along list of views I have wanted to paint hangs above my head invisible to all except me.  These small color studies have given me a pleasant opportunity to cross off items that have been on the list for years.  Naturally, new items are added on a daily basis.  I doubt my list will ever be short enough that it doesn’t reach high up into the clouds, way beyond the tops of the trees.  That is how it should be.  As long as I can keep crossing older entries off the list, the list will be an inspiration rather than a reminder of what I haven’t yet done.

The practice of making written lists of what I have done rather than what I need to do has been beneficial in all aspects of my daily life, especially painting and drawing.  My new lists reinforce habits that I desire rather than reinforce habits that get in my way of progress.  I rarely forget the never-ending neglected chores and projects.  I don’t really need a list to remind me of them.  What I do forget is the never-ending list of things I have done during the day.  By not remembering those accomplishments I have robbed myself of the satisfaction of completion and commitment to those activities that nourish my heart, my mind and my soul.  With a strong foundation of satisfaction it is easier to tackle a few of those don’t-want-to-do chores that gather together to form a dark cloud above me, blocking out the wonderful long list of views I want to paint, places I want to travel, drawing techniques I want to try.

It isn’t a matter of painting the view successfully, it is a matter of simply showing up on site with paint and palette in hand and giving it a try.

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Garden Rocks on a Sunday Morning in April 5" x 8" oil sketch

Rocks and trees are difficult.  I floundered about creating mixtures that were too purple, too green, too red.  I stuck to my limited palette of Cadmium Yellow Pale, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine Blue, Viridian and Permalba White.  I spent far too long on the tree trunk and the pattern of light on the rocks changed drastically.  The quickly changing conditions forced me to be inventive, eliminating all of the brambles and the weeds behind the trees.  I squinted so hard for so long that my eyes couldn’t focus at all anymore.  Finally I stopped fighting and became playful.  By now I should know that I can start off being playful.  I learn far more and I enjoy myself.

Gray scale image of the above painting

Daffodil on a Sunny April Afternoon, oil on board 5" x 5"

The first three attempts at painting a single daffodil were wiped off the canvas.  The overall shapes were boring and the interplay of shapes was static.  No amount of dabbing and playing with color satisfied my need to see a bit of life reflecting back to me from the canvas.  With nothing left to lose, I allowed myself to play.  I chose a bloom that appeared to be dancing to a different breeze.  Whereas all the other daffodils were following the movement of the sun, this little rebel was moving to its own inner light.

Late Afternoon Daffodils 5" x 8" oil

What a glorious day!  It was already 4 pm, but I had finished the bookkeeping, planted the zinnias in little peat pots, got the falafels dehydrating and posted some of my rambling thoughts on seeing the Picasso and the Avant Garde at the Philadelphia Museum last Sunday.  By 5 pm, the light had changed drastically and I called it finished.

I’m becoming more familiar with my limited palette and my instincts are showing signs of having been reprogrammed, upgraded from the previous version of bad habit overload.

I’ve learned a lovely new word, pochade, a french word meaning rough sketch.  I don’t know why I didn’t know it already.

Oil painting inspired by Vieira da Silva (30" x 40")

In 2004 Nicole and I drove from northern Portugal across Spain to Barcelona where we discovered the paintings of Vieira da Silva.  She achieved a sense of speed through vast space using only a high key palette.  Upon returning to my studio, the impact of seeing her work was reflected in a series of paintings.  The painting illustrated here currently hangs next to my bed.  If all my paintings except for one were to be destroyed, this is the one I would choose to be saved.

Last Sunday, while standing in the center of a large gallery in the Philadelphia Museum of Art staring, as if for the first time, at Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase I experienced short flashes of the painting above as well as the drawing illustrated below.  I had seen Duchamps’ Nude several times before.  Though I liked it, I didn’t feel a close connection with it.  That was prior to my Zakar Art and my Orb Journal Entries.  That was also prior to my recent John Ruskin Exercises.  The moment must have been right, an overlapping of influences that caused a perfect storm within me as I felt myself overwhelmed by Duchamp’s painting.

In hopes of a better understanding of my reaction, I gazed back and forth between Nude Descending a Staircase and the paintings in that gallery, many that I also responded strongly to.  Duchamps painting, in my judgement, far surpassed the others that attempted to depict a degree of form within the broken down shapes of objects.  Duchamps shapes moved freely, connected yet mobile, through an illusion of expansive space.

Figure turning 360 degrees

During the same period of time that I was painting the series inspired by Vieira da Silva, I had returned to the study of anatomy so that I could moved figures through space without being limited by the pose of a model.  Just as I captured the movement of a dancer in the quick strokes of my Zakar Art, I wanted to depict a figure’s movement in a more rendered image that represented a series of positions. I wanted the effect of layering positions atop one another as if one were to layer the photographs of  Edward J. Muybridge.

The John Ruskin exercises have taken me full circle back to my roots, roots that I had not acknowledged.  Though I still don’t see the entire picture, it is becoming clearer.  The Orbs are the link.  The Ruskin exercises have led me back to the orb Journal Drawings, developing another skill to explore further.  I have a long way to go and I’m excited about the journey.  I feel that my diversity is no longer holding me back as I jump from one medium to another and one genre to another.   Through my diversity I am approaching something deeper, closer to my core, that I will soon express through my drawings and paintings.

The drawings below depict this morning’s orb sketch as it developed.  It was drawn with a medium nib, Waterman fountain pen. It could go further, but it won’t.  It’s a beautiful, sunny day and I’m going to paint outdoors.

Red Tin - Oil sketch 5" x 5"

This small, red tin has been with me for as long as I can remember.  I have lived in many places.  The only place that the red tin was not with me is Germany in the late 60’s.  The next painting will reveal what has always been kept inside.

Wicker Sofa and Shadows

After completing this little en plein aire, 5″ x 5″ oil painting sketch I threw away the brushes I used to paint it.  Having carelessly used the sable brushes to scumble on other paintings, I had destroyed their edges.  Little hairs constantly fell out and stuck to the painting.  I found it impossible to paint the tiny wicker sofa with a lousy brush.  I was so frustrated that I didn’t bother to correct the value of the shadow under the sofa to make it a bit lighter.