My devout wish: that my every working day might begin and end, as a good omen, with the light, gay painting of a flower.
Joseph Stella, My Painting, 1946
A New Year and my resolutions are resolutely nil…but it is perhaps a time to reflect on one year of my “back to basics” drawing. According to my Flickr account I seem to have made 465 sketches and drawings for Pencil and Leaf this year..and more of course if I had kept all the screwed up bits of paper I have thrown in the bin. A critic once said that Francis Bacon had kept too much of his less than inspired work..so perhaps I should really cull these by half …at least.
But some of these drawings are more than scratchy bits of graphite of paper they are memories of my time here, that is the aspect of the drawings that I am reluctant to erase.
But I have to move my work along a bit along a little bit. I have some projects and plans that will involve more work and time spent on each individual piece so the blog may not be quite so frequent for a while.. quality, rather than quantity, I hope and some more experimentation as well.
The question ?.. which direction to go…I could continue the pencil work, I am sure I will, but I think I have to abandon the cheap cartridge paper for the detailed drawings and get more serious about them. I will also be making some much quicker colour studies just to keep my hand in every day if possible. The research, while delightful, takes up many (welcome) hours and is the perfect excuse not to face the drawing board with its uncertain outcomes and ever present possibility of complete failure. It will have to be curtailed somewhat. I was listening to a programme where writers were discussing their craft..their fears are very similar, their hours are similar and it is just as possible to get artists block as it is writer’s block.
So for some inspiration I am spending this week looking at a few artists who have taken their work beyond the photographic but had their roots in careful observed drawing from nature. Mondrian for example. I have to thank my elderly, tweed suited, but fully enlightened, school art mistress for showing me Piet Mondrian’s tree abstractions. I remember being completely fascinated by the abstraction process and began to understand how creating a personal vocabulary in painting is a process of study and practice, of reflection and revision, of elimination and refining, and perhaps mostly of single mindedness.. a quality I am lacking! I am endlessly seduced by “other possibilities”
Here are Mondrian’s well known tree paintings which chart his steps from representational to abstraction..quite a journey.. ‘I want to come as close as possible to the truth, and abstract everything from that until I reach the foundation … of things’
As I am here in the USA I have looked more at American based painters;Georgia O’Keeffe, whose sketchbooks I saw in Santa Fe, with detailed and beautiful studies of plants and flowers in pencil and watercolour.“I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.”
She made studies, like these banana flowers and the cactus;
which would lead to the large simplified forms and to abstraction.
Also the wonderfully mysterious paintings of Charles Burchfield who worked in “any one of three different ways. I go out and paint directly from a subject-or use a subject to improvise; or I work, and then bring the work into the studio and complete it; or, I sketch, and then do the whole picture in the studio.”
He made carefully observed botanical studies like this ….
… leading to remarkable pictures like these.
And lastly today the author of my opening quote Jospeph Stella, probably better known as a Futurist and for his paintings of Brooklyn Bridge,who was another artist who used observations of the natural world to develop a personal language of symbolism. He made exquisitely detailed drawings in silverpoint and was recording this beautiful lupin ….
as well as working on these..
There are many more examples and I will be looking at some more this coming week, as well as getting down to some work. I am fascinated by artist’s sketches and what they then go on to develop. Who knows where I will be this time next year and I am going to try to keep Joseph Stella’s wish in mind ..