I found some great views of Philadelphia by walking partway across the Ben Franklin Bridge. Here is a section of Old City, contained and wrapped around by the enormous concrete ribbon of the adjoining I-95 highway.
It's been a little over a week since cataract surgery was done on my second eye. Although I'm still adjusting to the changes, the world looks a hundred times more beautiful now.
How I love pen and ink. I like the way I have to incorporate accidents into the overall aim of the drawing- it's difficult to be too perfectionistic with a medium that is unerasable. I always start with a very faint wash, and often end up being surprised at how dark the darks end up being.
This view of Quebec City shows a slice of both the Upper Town (Haute-Ville) and Lower Town (Basse-Ville) as seen from the Saint Lawrence River. You can see here some of the beautifully geometric buildings from the University of Laval's School of Architecture.
At times this was really fun and satisfying to paint, but also very difficult. The patterns in this young woman's hair were wonderful to capture, but overall it sure took a while to get a good balance of light and shadow. The shadowed skin tones needed to be deep enough to keep the backlighting dramatic, but also have a glow from the reflected sun on the waters of the Casco Bay. But now I'm happy with it!
Last month on a business trip, my daughter found this kitten wandering the streets of Atlantic City. I told her that no, he couldn't stay, but since then have become very attached to him. We still haven't named him!
Usually I paint on flat hardboard panels, but this one is on a 3/4" cradled panel, which doesn't necessarily need a frame.
The current theme in my other blog is the cityscape, and posting so many great paintings of various mighty cities has had me eager to paint another city scene. This is a view of the Quebec City neighborhood of Saint-Sauveur, with its church of the same name towering over all.
I like painting interiors that show a peaceful indoor scene as well as a small slice of a wider life glimpsed outside. Here my white studio table and a close up of some Ikea shelving are filled with my ever-present and always patient still life paraphernalia. Out the window is a landscape scene that I tried to make seem as inviting as possible.
I worked on this painting throughout the month of May. At times it was a challenge to keep going, as for a few years now I've been so used to finishing off paintings in 2 or 3 days. I started out feeling so excited, then after a while began to have little dips of boredom, but then would get re-interested. Overall it was much more satisfying for me to work this way.
Of course when a painting takes so long, it's important to spend time carefully planning out the composition. Perhaps next time I'll use fewer horizontals, and I'll spend even more time on preparatory drawings. Here is the sketch I completed before starting the painting:
It's been a wrenching process to get away from the Daily Painting mindset. I often hear a nagging voice in my head asking when I'm going to post something on this blog, but right now I want to paint the best I know how, and I don't think my best work is stuff I complete in a couple days.
I'm going to show you a couple of my older paintings of interiors with still life that I'm using as guides for my current work, although I don't want to replicate the style too closely. These two images are digital files from old slides:
Studio Interior oil on canvas
Studio Table and Plant oil on canvas
I've been doing a lot of drawing, trying to work out ideas for longer-term paintings. I'm in the midst of a painting now that I'm excited about, but I've had a few false starts.
Another thing- I'm chucking my camera for a while. From the working drawing to the painting's end, I'm not relying on any photographs. Not that that's a terrible thing, but I believe working from life gives a painting a more personal feeling.
Here are some current drawings/ideas for paintings:
Here are two drawings of a little studio presence, a blowfish I got in Florida years ago. The first one I completed in about 3 or 4 hours, but the second one took about twice that long.
I recently started an evening job, which has been helping me to feel more free in my work. I've been drawing just for fun lately, not caring so much whether what I'm doing will result in a sale or not (which is a quick way to kill your creativity). I'm not even sure if I should post these as for sale or not!
Whew. At last I'm coming out of a major block against working from life, which started several months ago. I'm not sure if it's because I was getting too used to the convenience of working from images, or the increased possibilities of interesting subject matter, but I sure have been having trouble setting up a still life and feeling like I care.
I love painting vegetables, fruit and flowers, fish and seashells and other typical still life subjects, but I realize that in order to feel strongly enough about these small things to paint from them, I need to really push unusual viewpoints and dynamic lighting- whatever it takes for me to feel like they have something to say. Notice I wrote "they", not "I", because I honestly feel like this beautiful acorn squash is the one talking here.
I find the great photographer Edward Weston's images of vegetables to be especially inspiring. Here are some of his sensual interpretations of common vegetables:
This is part of an unknown city with a major thoroughfare snaking its way to a graceful bridge over an unknown river. I wanted it to seem dream-like.
Every time I begin a graphite drawing I feel vaguely guilty, because most people want to see paintings. I've had this itch, though, to continue my theme of aerial views of various cities, and I can best express what I want to say in graphite.
There is something about a view from a great height that really captures my imagination. Looking down with a birdlike- or even godlike- view of a complex city seems to me to be like being able to contemplate the course your life has taken with sudden clarity. When I draw these kinds of scenes, lines from Jane Hirshfield's poem It Was Like This: You Were Happy always come to my mind. Here the speaker has at last been able to look clearly, but without regret, over her life:
Now it is almost over.
Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.
It does this not in forgiveness— between you, there is nothing to forgive- but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
he sees the bread is finished with transformation.
Meanwhile, my Mom's been encouraging me to paint the more cheerful subject of flowers, so I'm off to the market to have a look.
I've become bored with still life, but I remember the days when I'd spend three or four hours arranging fruit and folds of cloth until I was satisfied with a composition. These days I much prefer to look for satisfying arrangements of things that has happened naturally, or if constructed, without much aesthetic consideration.
I spent a full week on this drawing, and my process was the usual back-and-forth of adding detail upon detail, then erasing and blending to get rid of too much clarity. Too much clarity doesn't give a feeling of atmosphere, and atmosphere = poetic. Sounds a little silly but true.
I know this scene might be thought of as kind of ugly by some, but with the right lighting it becomes gorgeous. Also as usual, the backlight of early morning was the way to go.
This is a painting from a very long time ago, when I used to have patience. I've become so accustomed to following the guidelines of the "Daily Painting Movement" that it's become difficult for me to slow down and give my work the kind of time that it needs.
My intentions are to move away from my four + year habit of finishing a painting in 1-2 days. This isn't really a decision that I felt free to make: I honestly don't think I can continue to work that way anymore without becoming quite unhappy. Now and then I'll work quickly, but most likely it'll be a way to work out an idea for a larger painting.
There isn't anything wrong with "Daily Painting", and there are many painters out there who work that way with awesome results. It's just that I think MY work is better when I slow down. I'm also a naval-gazer by nature, so slowing down and really stewing over a painting is a better fit for me.
Thanks for reading this! I'd love to hear what you think. Here's another older painting, one that I spent more than a month on:
Mirrored Still Life with Shell oil on linen 24"x 30"