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If you want to understand flowers, I suggest one of two things; Grow a vagina or spend more time studying one (or two or whatever.) A more beautiful flower is hard to find.

Disagree. Entirely. For starters, I would find most dispiriting a universe in which gender were the key determinant of who gets an advantage in understanding beauty.

And from here it's an art v. science debate, Trick, and nothing personal. I don't think studying it much more is going to be very fruitful.

I don't know if I've made it clear, but I have studied the Lotus at considerable length, even as though it were good erotic text. I have passed by the ones in Echo Park every early summer for years. There's a Lotus festival every summer the second week of July here, and I ordinarily attend, and I stop often in the weeks before and after the festival to look at the flowers' progress. And more recently, I have also intently looked at the Japanese book about painting them, which Lynn brought home a couple of weeks ago.

Lynn, on the other hand, the one among us with the better flower, I doubt has ever looked closely at a Lotus closely in her life. She was surprised, for instance, to discover through my paintings that water lotuses typically have immensely big and wide conic pistils, because these are usually hidden in the Japanese paintings (or they are painted alone when they are greenish brown and the petals have all fallen off) and she never has, I think, looked at them much in person, either. When they start rising out of the water in May she sees the growth in total, and does not stop much to look at the flowers individually.

I think the careful and even labored study of flowers, or even understanding them, while helpful in determining what they should generally look like, does not guarantee any kind of success in painting them. For in successful painting there is necessarily a large element of artistry, which is quite a separate thing from study. If a flower to be painted has a particular kind of beauty, it perhaps benefits from a good and even studious acquaintance, but only up to a point; it also needs somehow to tap the geist of all that is laying latent in it (which I have missed to date, precisely because I have been too analytical). I think perhaps thus far I have brought way too much understanding and study to the effort. In a painting, it's the occasionally imprecise and nonanalytic movement/dance of the hand and brush, not the precise input/output of the mind and tongue, that is ultimately saddled with the final responsibility of communicating the thing represented, the feel and flavor and scent of it, and the final responsibility of communicating any and all artistry inherent therein.

Finally, If what you're saying on the other hand is, "Why paint it at all, why not just enjoy it?"--well I can tell you that, too. Once I went to a museum exhibit here in LA in which just about every florist in town (and there are damn good ones) was invited to assemble floral works and put them before museum paintings. Sometimes the floral work was a mere floral representation of the painting, and sometimes there was a bouquet in the painting which was mimicked precisely in the actual arrangement provided by the paintings.

This exhibit--it was almost painful to see. The paintings were more interesting than the actual flowers, almost without exception. The flowers could not compete. Art had done something to flowers that floral arrangers, with the "real" stuff, could not accomplish.

You don't want to go around criticizing God's finest work, and thinking it pales to what humans can accomplish. And in truth there was nothing to criticize, except the idea, perhaps, of the too-sharp juxtaposition. But maybe the ultimate finest work of God is human artistry--I think so, so that's why I occasionally hope to take the raw material of beauty and mess with it myself.

jeanpaulsartre
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