Painting: Symmetries

This isn’t part of my daily painting project, though it still feels like a continuation to me. I said I would do one painting a day until we left Boston, but now that we’re in Houston (and soon to be in San Jose), I highly doubt a daily painting will still be feasible. But I’ll do as much as I can.

If the Boston apartment was like a library, with at least five tall bookcases packed with books on a great many subjects, the Houston apartment is a little bookmobile (or maybe a bibliobicicleta!), with one small but very well-stocked bookcase next to the couch. Like the true bibliophile that I am, I didn’t register the apartment’s lack of TV, but investigated the bookshelves almost as soon as we arrived, noting with pleasure the Calvin and Hobbes collection and a copy of the Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain workbook. A slim black volume caught my eye with its title, Symmetry, and I decided to flip through. It’s a very compact overview of symmetry in math, science, and art, and I was amazed at how many different forms could be covered within “symmetry”: not just mirrored images, but patterns and 3-D stacking methods and helices. It’s true the mentions of crystallography and chaos theories almost put me to sleep (evidence of true boredom, or just years of school conditioning? who knows?), but there was enough of interest to keep me going. I told Erik, “If I’d had this book when I was a kid, I would have spent hours trying to draw everything in it.”

Somehow, while I was reading, I didn’t feel like drawing, but later I realized I could paint patterns in a quiltlike arrangement, and that sounded like a grand idea! I dug out a piece of paper and got started. No pencil, no preparation, just paints to the page… for three and a half hours.

Here’s a photo with my hand in it, for scale:


Certain types of patterns are a bit tricky without math, I discovered, but overall this was a very enjoyable exercise in layering watercolors and gouache, and thinking of different ways to express symmetry, spirals, or other concepts. Remember when I started the second stage of my daily painting project, I said I have trouble with abstraction? I’m finding that I need a starting point in order to paint abstractly: a subject (as with the painting project), or an idea or inspiration (as with this painting). But then, once I get going, there’s a lot I can do.

A very fun thing about this painting — as my best friend Jackie pointed out, because she was sitting across the table from me during part of the painting process — is it looks equally good from all sides. See for yourself:

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I’ve got Masha’s portrait propped up against one lamp in the apartment, and now this painting propped up against another. I’ve never decorated an apartment so quickly. 🙂