A painting a day, begin phase 2: #13, Valley of the Gourd

If you’re following all my daily paintings, you might want to catch up before reading about the latest one.

Partway through the first phase of this project — after several installments and when it became quite obvious that I would need more than one sheet to get me through our remaining time in Boston — I told Erik that I was enjoying myself, but wondered if it was too limiting that all my paintings were fairly realistic still lifes.

“I feel I should also be practicing greater freedom of expression,” I said, “or abstraction, or… something crazier than just representing things as they are.” I had tacked my partially-finished sheet up on the wall and we stood looking at it together.


“You know what you could do for the second sheet?” he said. “You could paint exactly what you’ve painted the first time.”

“But I don’t have the things anymore,” I said. The crabapples were rapidly deteriorating, the carrots and turnips had gone to nourish our bodies, and the leaves lasted only a day.

“Yeah. You’d have to paint from the paintings. But not making copies. You could take one thing you liked about the first version, maybe a color… or you could focus on just one part of, say, this gourd, or you could just paint the way it makes you feel.”

“How meta!” I said. “I like it. I don’t know if I can do it, but it’s a worth a try.”

I don’t consider myself a serious representational artist — I am always taking liberties with proportions, and I rarely use a ruler even when the real-life lines are straight — but I just seem to go that direction these days. Even when I used to draw only from imagination, my work was always more decorative than abstract. So I am not very experienced with drawing or painting in a truly free way. I don’t have a good sense of where to start. But I like the idea of breaking out of close allegiance to reality, and so, this second sheet of paper will be dedicated to reworkings of the paintings on my first sheet. What will that look like? Your guess is as good as mine!

Here’s my first attempt: a 40-minute re-envisioning of The People’s Republic of Gourd. I felt that piece was overworked and the colors muddy, so I tried to simplify it:


Even though it’s very simple, I still feel the colors didn’t come out clean enough. But I rather like it, all the same. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the first and second gourd (as always, click to enlarge):


And here’s the second sheet in-progress, with the first sheet propped up for reference, and a peek at tomorrow’s installment: