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As Lynn continues to bring books home, here's a great one for anyone who enjoys working with watercolors:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0894807633/qid=961774564/sr=1-6/002-9482601-9634421

Sara Midda's South of France Sketchbook has hundreds of thumbnail watercolors, sometimes over a dozen on a page, and all hand-lettered text. The sketches, mostly no more than a square inch, are deceptively simple--the colors are allowed to run through wet fields and the desired effect, light or shadow or age, is achieved in the overlap. It looks so easy in this one. There are little watercolors of buildings, of espresso cups, of food plates. It's a smallish book, but it had me fascinated for a couple of hours last night. A great book for jumpstarting ideas.

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Last night, I was laboring on another water lotus. Lynn has not greeted my lotuses all week with any kind of enthusiasm. (The first one I was working on, she looked over my shoulder and said, "I have some bigger brushes..." About as welcome a comment as when you go out and buy a shirt at the store and your sig ot sees it and says, "Did they have any other colors?")

But I have ignored this subtle criticism thus far, and I sketched a few earlier this week, and all of them looked tiny and labored. I am doing them on postcards, and just using small parts of the card, so I can do many studies.

Finally last night, Lynn apparently could take it no more. She sat down next to me with the biggest watercolor brush she has and used it like a broom on a postcard. She didn't care about streaking the vermillion or using it sparingly or the cream of the lotus's interior. In about twenty seconds, there was a wild lotus, most of its edges running off the paper, about forty times bigger than any lotus I've done to date, and about forty times more red.

Then she held up her large, bright, wild, urgent lotus in one hand, and one of my small, muted, precise, quiet blooms in another, and then posed as if talking to a class.

Showing the two options to everyone in the imaginary room but me, she asked with a laugh, "So. Who would you rather be?"

I felt humiliated, and by the entire class. Postscript: the art instructors I have had were always trying to get me to make everything bigger. Lotuses are immense flowers, there is nothing smallish about t. I've blown a week of leisure.

jeanpaulsartre
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jps said:
I felt humiliated, and by the entire class. Postscript: the art instructors I have had were always trying to get me to make everything bigger. Lotuses are immense flowers, there is nothing smallish about t. I've blown a week of leisure.

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.

Rick
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Just this morning, and I swear I am not making this up, I moved some things around on the corkboard in my studio. As I did, I re-looked at a little watercolor jps sent me some time ago. There are roses, or better, the suggestion of roses, in it. Only one has a stem - tiny, thin and precise. I thought to myself how I could never in a million years make a mark like that (even with a pen - let alone a brush), and how lovely I thought it was. So small, so delicate, so minimal.

Gesture is beautiful, but so is precision. Maybe not everyone in class would have wanted to be the same lotus.

Mitten
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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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There are roses, or better, the suggestion of roses, in it. Only one has a stem - tiny, thin and precise.

I just took a look at it myself--a color copy of it anyway. It is right in the dead center of the painting. The rose appears to sprout from the baseboard of the floor, meekly. It's no accident, though it was hurried enough to be one. I was thinking of the subtle flower of hope at the bottom of Picasso's Guernica, and wanted to make it a meek yet strong visual element, perhaps the strongest.

That painting was painted very quickly and yet it captures something. There's nothing really studied except the sensibility of sitting in the room and knowing that there are all these things inside and outside of it. The roses as they drift out of the room become the central fact, and the one rose in the middle which is identifiable as such is the prompt. You are just sitting there, and yet there are roses outside, and all the light refractions off of all the glass, and all the different modular planes (this is a modern room, after all), and there's enough window that the outside comes in, and enjoying thought of the spiral of the rose garden, even though indoors.

That view is also precisely where I sit when I have painted most of the Lotuses. It's very probably the wrong place to paint them. But I also found that plein air front and center at Echo Park Lake to be the wrong position, too. After all, all I do there is look at Lotuses, and the act of looking at Lotuses in Echo Park does not represent even half of my relationship to Lotuses.

That was a nice inclusion, and thank you. It made me realize that I need a more total approach, like the one in the painting I sent you. Lotuses represent a lot of things to me, not the least of which is the long standing concept of lotus-eating. Maybe the chief problem has been environment. I may need to situate myself in a space (or at least a mindspace) where more of what Lotuses represent to me is more manifest. That's a vurrry helpful first step. Trick of course was helpful too in making me state what I thought was going wrong.

jeanpaulsartre
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Only one has a stem - tiny, thin and precise. I
thought to myself how I could never in a million years make a mark like that
(even with a pen - let alone a brush), and how lovely I thought it was. So small,
so delicate, so minimal.



Show it,pls,Mitt

K...
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jps said in part:
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).

In reply to my:
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.

First, I did not mean that women as a gender has some ordained capability for beauty not present in a man. But that is the small point, really.

It might not be obvious, but we seem to be saying the same thing. I guess my mistake in communication was in choosing the word study. I certainly study many things, but the way I study the subject of my original post is quite different than the way I study those other things. I think you describe it better by use of the phrase "tap the geist." I definitely did not mean to imply anything mechanical. Far from it. More often than not, I feel more like an artist than a technician when I am studying my favorite beautiful and delicious flower.

Rick
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Sartre,

I didn't know you painted. That's awesome!

Don't feel too bad...I have a sense that Lynn was attempting to help by offering the larger brushes she felt would be better tools for what you were trying to accomplish. When you didn't understand what she was trying to tell you she got frustrated and decided to demonstrate visually...but I will agree she might have been a bit gentler about it.

You have NOT wasted a week. As one who paints I can tell you that failed efforts are the foundation of the ones that later work; there is no getting to what you want without those "wasted" efforts.

You are correct about study not necessarily leading to better art. I am currently working on a little painting of an abandoned house that has fascinated me since I was five years old. It is not a long-studied piece and will not be a realistic painting, but it will say what I want it to, about the inherent energy I find in certain places...hard to explain but when I paint it it'll come through.

If you want to loosen up your art and get out of analytical mode (a problem I face constantly) there are a lot of ways to do it. Working large helps and that is why everyone keeps pushing you to do so; but I do understand how it can feel like you're just cutting more rope to hang yourself with. So try this: get a large pad of inexpensive paper, and a box of crayons (or some other material that you know you won't take very seriously).

Start again, with large strokes. Look at the entire form of the thing, the weight of it, where the shadow falls; look at it whole and consider those large shapes, and just keep your hand moving. Think about the fragrance, about the curve of it, about whatever but not about precision.

While you are doing this it will be really, really helpful to put on some music that puts your left brain to sleep and helps you think in terms of color, connection, image (this is why I love Morphine). You will know what music it is that you need. Use it: it is one of the best tools you have.

Do this and you may suddenly find that all the analytical studying of form that you did, actually DOES pay off in ways you wouldn't ever have expected. You have absorbed the shapes and forms into your mind over the past week, and they will show up ON THEIR OWN now, because it can't be helped. I repeat, you have not wasted your time. You've created a foundation.

I am going to leave off now and follow my own advice. Been busy doing everything but working on my stuff.

Tracie

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I didn't know you painted. That's awesome!

It's dilettantish. I like to paint, but I am not a painter. I write for keeps, but I merely dabble in water colors. I really started with watercolors in college, just to find out a little more about Winslow Homer, whom I studied quite a bit. But I like to paint over-precious little pieces, and almost always send a watercolor postcard as a thankyou note if I have occasion to do so. Fortunately I don't find myself saying thank you very much.

BTW there's a big Martin Johnson Heade show in LA right now. Heade was a great painter; I think so anyway. And I had a prof who loved Heade, more than Homer and Eakins, so I got a lot of Heade. You think moody landscapes with haystacks when you think of Heade, but he also painted floral scenes, probably in fact about 70% of the time.

Thanks for the advice on how to take it less seriously. I'll follow none of it, but thank you. If you are painting an old house and trying to capture its geist, I hope you'll take a peek at some of the small watercolors of buildings in the South of France book.

jeanpaulsartre
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"Thanks for the advice on how to take it less seriously. I'll follow none of it, but thank you."

Had to smile when I saw that, for I too have always failed to follow anyone's recommendations. The mark of a truly creative soul, perhaps. However I have found that the advice of others often serves as a starting point for developing my own tactics, so perhaps it is not as useless as it seems.

I haven't seen the South of France book (and I haven't figured out how to get my email program to let me do italics, either, and it's irritating me a lot).

I know of Heade from my days in Atlanta. Atlanta College of art is literally next door to the High Museum, and they had a few of his works on display there at the time. They were all jungle scenes with orchids and hummingbirds and such, no haystacks, I don't know about those at all. Some of them I liked; one looked so perfectly pretty it made my teeth hurt; at the time (five years ago) I wasn't impressed but I have found that the more I paint the more I respect the abilities of a person who can do what he did. It ain't easy.

Since you like plants, I have a book of my own to recommend. The title is Jim Dine: Flowers and Plants. You think of Dine and picture big hearts and bathrobes, and if you're like me you don't much care. But this book is stunning, full of the most beautiful drawings and paintings, carefully studied but they have an amazing kind of energy.

Tracie
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From the poem:
A woman-made language would
have as many synonyms for pink/light-filled/holy as
the Eskimo does
for snow. Speechless, you
shift the flashlight
from hand to hand, flickering. An orgy
of candles. Lourdes in mid-August.


Interesting, and probably at the base of my original reply to jps' first post in this thread, is the fact that I just finished reading Tom Robbins' newest novel, where the hero knows how to say the word vagina in (I think he claims) 107 languages.

The hero is a CIA angel and the plot concerns the activities that proceed the Church revealing the third and final prophecy of Fatima. This book was obviously written over the past few years. Odd that today, the Church is finally sharing that last detail. Anyone have some news? When will the Pope be shot?

I know the New York Times hated Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, but I loved it, as I have most of Robbins' books. He knows how to use language.

Rick
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Speechless, you shift the flashlight from hand to hand, flickering.

Brought to mind the movie "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" - Rachel Ward to Film Noir Detective Steve Martin - "You do know how to call, don't you? You just put your finger in the hole and make little circles".

But I guess this little ditty doesn't play anymore with modern phones...
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A woman-made language would
have as many synonyms for pink/light-filled/holy as
the Eskimo does
for snow.


Language can be made by either men or women. I'll bet all these fine English words were first coined by women:

crevass
flux
karat
patience
sponge bath
tickle
yes

jeanpaulsartre
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I'll bet all these fine English words were first coined by women:

You forgot the one that we hear the most frequently:

NO!
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