Of fruit, flowers, and men (some NSFW)

As always, after weeks of immersion in writing, I’m now painting and painting and painting. It’s just different parts of the brain, I always say; I don’t know if that’s neuro-scientifically true, but it’s how it feels. I have a very hard time writing once my brain has gone visual, and during my writing phases, I barely touch my brushes or pencils.

I’ve signed up for more life drawing in the coming months, so you’ll be seeing lots more of that, as well as my usual practice with fruit, vegetables, and flowers.

Click any image to enlarge.

August 12: “to pe ma ar to”

Aug 12 - Tomato pear

August 13: dahlias

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today: another visit to the rose garden

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And last night, I went to my first life-drawing session since last fall in Boston. Whenever I haven’t done any life drawing in awhile, I tend to think I can live without it, but then as soon as I start again it’s like remembering the scent of outdoor air: ah! how was I living without this?

When we were in Kyoto in 2013, I went to a very old stationery shop and bought a scroll. I don’t know what kind of paper it is. I don’t know what it’s meant for. But this scroll has been sitting in cupboards since I bought it, waiting for just the right project. A couple of weeks ago it occurred to me to fill it entirely with life drawings.

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Here are the drawings from last night, spread out and ribboned, because otherwise its length would be too much for the bed:

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Like so many Japanese papers, this one resists my attempts at the kind of slow, painstaking detail involved in the tomato and pear painting at the top of this post. Layering colors mostly makes muddle. So I have to work light, fast, and neither too wet nor too dry. I’m enjoying the challenge.

By the way, I’m working right-to-left with the scroll, per Asian style, but because I’m right-handed, I’m painting each section of scroll from left to right. This back-and-forth is making for some interesting compositions.

Two-minute poses:

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Our model, by the way, is Colin.

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Five-minute poses beginning with the one at left:

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Ten-minute poses:

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Twenty-minute poses:

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And one last ten-minute, to finish the evening:

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10 responses to “Of fruit, flowers, and men (some NSFW)

  1. Yes!

    Switching from writing to working visually is not the easiest transition for me. Well, I can still write a bit when I’m in the visual mode, and I can still doodle some when I’m in writing mode, but I can really only choose one to be thoroughly artful with. The other becomes more of a side dish.

    I suppose they are really two different languages.

    When I was in Korea, my Korean was terrible on Mondays and Tuesdays, but better by Friday if I spoke enough of it during the week. And since I would not speak any Korean on the weekends, Mondays would be hard again.

    In any case, I very much appreciate both your written work as much as your visual work!

    And a bonus, you’ve inspired me to bring out my own paints, which are in some dark corner I’m sure. I don’t have Arches, but I may have a pad somewhere…

    Switching to visual mode… now!

    • Darrée! I love what you’ve said about “side dish” — that’s just how it is. And I hear you on the languages. While we were traveling, after I’d been away from Mandarin-speaking populations for awhile, my Mandarin faded so much it shocked me.

      Ooh, happy painting. 🙂

      • My best friend knows 6 languages, but claims she can only really speak 1 or 2 in a given period. But… I can barely even speak English these days.

        I didn’t quite make it to my “studio” yesterday; I got distracted by food. I guess the downside to viewing beautiful paintings of food is the unwarranted hunger that comes along with it.

        I will try again “tomorrow.”

        • You know, I might be with your best friend on that, although that might also be because I don’t speak any of my languages very well (except English ;b ). I’ve noticed that if I’ve been immersed in French I totally forget how Spanish works, or vice versa!

          Food is a major distraction… as is the internet. 😉

  2. That scroll makes me wish I could touch the paper. I’m also finding I like your two-minute sketches. I think I’m mentioned this before; that I like the ones you do quickly. For some reason they feel more detailed even though they aren’t. I have no idea why this is.

    • The paper does have a lovely feel. I’m having to watch myself to make sure I don’t crease it.

      I like the quick sketches too, and other people have said the same thing. It might be partly the poses; the models can try more dramatic gestures in them (they’re often called “gesture” poses, actually) since they’re not having to hold them for as long. In the longer poses a stoniness often settles over the models that inevitably makes its way into the drawings too.

      • I didn’t realize that about posing but it makes sense. And I think you’re right about the reason for preferring the quicker sketches. They do feel more fluid and relaxed. How would you maintain that in a longer work of art? It fascinates me that the model being tense translates to the painting which sounds silly because of course you’re painting what you see. That leads me to pondering the ‘ethics’ I guess, of painting what you don’t see, as in painting that model relaxed, because then you’re not painting the truth of what is before you. But then do you have to paint the truth or can you paint your interpretation? I love how I’m learning about painting from your blog.

        • Yeah, it’s a constant struggle, that question about how to make the more “polished” work keep the freshness of quick sketches. Same in writing (Virginia Woolf wrote this in her diary too). I haven’t yet found an answer, which is I think partly why I’ve been enjoying painting inanimate objects — I feel they don’t lose as much with time!

          I do want to say, though, that I would not use the word “tense” to describe what happens with the models in longer poses — not because it’s inaccurate but because I think it puts more blame on the models than is warranted. I don’t think it’s so much that they get more tense (though they might) but just that gravity and immobility inevitably generate a kind of bodily fixity; the sense of dynamism just can’t be there. At least not in any model I’ve ever seen. But yes, I still don’t quite know how to look at that fixity and draw something that has more vibrance. (I suppose, also, it’s my own shortcomings; by the end of a three-hour session I’m so tired I start wishing I could lie down like the model!!)

          Thank you for always asking such good questions about painting on my blog, actually. 🙂 I don’t know if I would have gotten tired of talking about all this stuff if I’d gone to art school, but since I never did, I find it all fascinating too!

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