November 3, 2018

Descanso Garden, Enchanted Forest of Lights 2018, October 27, 2018
Descanso Garden light vignette, October 27, 2018 (watercolor and Inktense pencil on watercolor paper)

If you’ve read many of my previous blog entries you might realize that I don’t usually post photos of where I am. But I posted this one for a couple reasons. First, I thought it interesting to see the actual objects/plants that inspired the actual piece of art. I also think that putting the actual art somewhere in the actual scene gives the viewer some kind of indication of scale. I like that. Second, urban sketchers commonly post photos of where they are with a finished painting or sketch so you can compare the real view with the made up one. I know this sounds like I’m repeating myself, but I need to add here that many of the urban sketcher posts I see come from people all over the world. And I think they secretly want us to be jealous that they are sitting in a café in Florence drinking another heavenly cappuccino from a ceramic cup and saucer with tiny spoon, waiting for a train in Osaka, or looking out over a tranquil scene in Bali. And those of us looking at the art are not. Finally, I wanted to share the connection we feel, as artists, to the places we are inspired to paint. I walked all over the Descanso Garden last Saturday, looking for the perfect spot that would share something about the holiday light show they are getting ready to present.

It took me a while to find this spot and I was getting pretty anxious by the time I finally sat down on a bench and started mixing my pots of color. As I have said, the minute I walk onto a prospective painting location my internal timer gets set to 10 minutes. And I really find myself hurrying about because the drive to paint is greater than my overall patience to wait to start painting. For this one I was really trying to think of a composition that would capture something without repeating the string of stars in the rose garden from last week’s post. I was taken by the rather perfect light spheres, but also wanted to show off the beauty of the garden as well. There must be 100 of these spheres lying around all over the garden. It was as though a couple giants had been playing night golf and forgot to pick up the random balls they had left behind. Finally, I saw this vignette of the slightly violet-colored light sphere nestled in with a chartreuse coleus with delicate lavender spiky blossoms and the vertical lines of a flowering cherry. I don’t know, maybe it has a kind of “Ikebana” feel to it. Maybe not.

A final story seemed to come to me when I realized that I had chosen a “linear” man-made light next to the organic shapes of a particularly lovely chartreuse coleus with diagonal irregular lines of the flowering cherry. I was reminded of a comment made by an instructor in a “materials for painting” class when I was at UC Berkeley. One afternoon, after we had finished an assigned project, it was time for us to place our work on a chalk tray for critique. (I don’t remember what materials we were exploring. I think it might have been acrylic paints. Not very exciting…) I remember one student’s work for some reason. She had painted a piece of pie with an ice cube on top with water running down the sides. I think I remember the art because it was pretty funny and so was she. Anyway, I don’t remember what he said about her piece of pie, but when he got to mine he made a grand comment, not about my masterful use of the targeted painting material, but about the composition. He said that I had created nice interest in my art by juxtaposing a linear shape (or something with a definite man made bent) with something more organic or something from nature. The painting was of an overstuffed chair that looked like it had been pushed into the corner of a room. And the texture of the material that covered the chair looked like fabric covered in huge yellow, green and red flowers with black outline. I remember being impressed with myself for being so brilliant, but showing such brilliance wasn’t intentional. I think I just nodded with agreement that he had understood my work on a different level apart from using a particular assigned painting material. And it wasn’t some random piece of strange pie on a Styrofoam plate. What a laugh, right?

And that’s the point here. I often wonder if some of the things we see in a painting were intended or just a happy accident that somehow worked brilliantly. If you are an artist I think you know what I mean. Do we let on that it wasn’t intentional? Or do we nod, humbly and knowingly, like our brilliance was finally discovered by the masses? Of course it could be worse and have the opposite effect where we try something and it doesn’t work. Then and you might find yourself saying that you meant it to look that way. And we convince ourselves that we are pleased with the effect, but somehow these are not the right “masses” and they just don’t get it.

Finishing this up just now I am already planning next week’s post. But there are actually possible two bits of art with stories I might tell—one about a piece of pumpkin art that went terribly wrong in so many ways and another about a piece I did last evening. I had planned on doing a sketch of some of the altars and people at a Day of the Dead Celebration in Pasadena. However, I couldn’t find a parking space and found myself back at my beloved Norton Simon Museum, just down Colorado. And there is quite a story of me sitting out front, sketching some of the “zombie-like” statues out there as the sun went down. (I hate zombies…) So, now I have to decide which one comes next. I guess we will all wait and see which one bubbles up first in my brain first, as long as zombies haven’t gotten to my brain first. Stay tuned…

A note about the dark of the moon, November 7

You are suppose to plant your bulbs at the dark of the moon. I thought the New Moon was tomorrow and had planned to put my paperwhites in the ground then. But I guess it’s not until Wed. Wish I hadn’t looked that up just now. I wonder if the flowers will mind if I am a few days early?

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