Monday, May 31, 2021

Failed Experiments Happen - Visions Still Working Better than Reality

So last week I decided I wanted to make some kind of stylized treatment of leaves - I have been observing the central axes of both individual leaves and boughs of leaves. A set of leaves strewn along a branch tends to radiate outwards at various angles to the branch or twig they're on. The leaf bunches themselves tend to deviate from the horizontal so they can present more surface to sunlight, I suppose. I think there's some kind of fractal pattern involved here but I haven't been able to discern it yet.

oil pastel drawing of spiky leaves

So I used the oil pastels again. This makes the second time they've defeated my attempts to create something aesthetically defensible. Also I really didn't achieve any simplified but interesting "formula" - a formula was what I was going for, though I hate to admit it - for the leaf patterns themselves. As you can see, what I ended up with is as ugly as hell. I signed it anyway because one has to admit the failures as well as the triumphs.

The lesson I learned from this is that the foliage of a healthy tree in summer is basically amorphous. Going for a linear interpretation was probably doomed to failure, unless I want to commit to actually drawing every individual leaf and filling in light green for sunlit patches and darker or lower-chroma bits for leaves in shadow. This is basically impossible.

Pencil drawing of queen on dock in front of house

Real or Imaginary - Can't Seem to Integrate the Two

I'm still dealing with the tension I feel between my imaginary, "visionary" (in a minor sense - I'm not Teresa of Avila) - images and my need to depict external reality. I really want to become an Expressionist, but I keep coming up Surrealist. Here's the latest half-asleep dream vision. Might make a painting out of it some day.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Sun and Shadow Produce Serenity

So yesterday it was a beautiful spring evening, warm but not hot, with a blue sky with subtle little clouds. About 45 minutes before sunset we were sitting in the fast food parking lot waiting for our takeout and I happened to look across the street. The gas station there had that industrial plain concrete block look, and a shadow was being cast on part of the concrete canopy above the gas pumps. The sight of the light and shadow, distributed in a simple geometric pattern, caused me to feel a little lifting sensation, and a slight warmth from within. It was the most prosaic scene imaginable but it made me happy to just look at it. I was reminded of a story about Max Ernst; supposedly, when someone asked him what his favorite activity was, he replied "Seeing." Just so.

I think that's what keeps me trying to make pictures of scenes that move me. I want to show other people the beauty of ordinary scenes. Edward Hopper succeeded at doing this like no other artist I've ever seen; everybody knows "The Nighthawks" but his "Sun in an Empty Room" is even more powerful in how it affects me viscerally. This reproduction is from Wikiart Visual Arts Encylopedia at

Looking at it is kind of a meditation, but one I don't get bored and twitchy at like I do with most "conventional" meditation. It puts me in The Zone, a kind of trance-like state that is peaceful and takes me out of myself. I should live so long I could ever do anything this good. I'll keep trying.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Another Example of Comic Surrealism

So yesterday I drew this picture based on a vision I'd seen while going to sleep the previous night. I saw one image that I liked and, being aware that these fleeting apparitions are easily lost, I used words to fix it in my mind so I'd remember it the next day, when I was conscious again. I (silently) repeated "Mont St-Michel, surounded by candy-colored swath with pink and blue puddles underneath." This was what the vision most closely resembled. I continued repeating "Mont St.-Michel, candy-colored surround, pink and blue puddles." I guess I got about 5 or 6 repetitions in before I dropped off.

Aaaaand it worked! As is usually the case with this phenomenon, when I started realizing it (also see my previous post) other elements suggested themselves to round out the tangible manifestation of the vision. Thus was born "Mont St.-Michel as Birthday Cake." The relationship between my nighttime vision and the waking rendering of it - perhaps I should say a version of it - is unclear. I'm fine with that. In fact I have a sort of superstitious fear that if I tried to find out what that relationship is I'd lose the visions forever. But looking at my own drawing I see I've depicted a typical American blonde naïvely using something she knows nothing about to create an entertainment, one that will be completely gone in a day or two.

Let me be clear: I mean no disrespect. The blonde is harmless and so is her cake. It's just that we white Americans are like children playing dress-up in regard to our collective Eurocentric cultural heritage, or what's left of it. (While I believe this describes most of us, there are those who use that heritage to justify viciousness, as we know to our sorrow.) So my beliefs - that's not the right word, but it's the only one I can think of to use for this - have manifested themselves as a picture. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, "Mont St.-Michel as Birthday Cake" shows us an aspect of ourselves.

About the medium, cheap colored pencils: they suck. I wanted to just sketch something quickly, but simple black drawing pencils wouldn't do, the colors in the vision were significant. But cheap colored pencils are low in actual pigment and they don't blend well so the values I was trying for are pretty washed out and dull. But I didn't want to waste my good stuff - Prismacolor pencils - on this "quick sketch." So of course I ended up spending hours on the blessed thing, and being pretty unsatisfied with the end result. One thing that did work is the wallpaper; I wanted to make it ugly. That was SO easy. And I finally got around to incorporating one of the things I like best about the work of the second-generation Impressionists Pierre Bonnard and Eduard Vuillard - to wit, the background as continuous texture that's nearly as interesting as the subject itself.

The more I do stuff like this the more I'm convinced I've invented a new genre - Comic Surrealism. Just wait until you see what I come up with next.

What is art, and what do you care anyway?

YES, damnit, it IS SO art!

The other night I struggled with a moral dilemma. An ad for came through my Facebook feed - this is a company that ...