Friday, April 24, 2009

"I become lost ..."

The Cezanne and Beyond exhibit was really wonderful. People told me I'd be more interested in the "and Beyond" part of the exhibit than I thought I would--I wanted to see Cezannes--and they were right.
There were several stellar Charles Demuth paintings there, including one of my favorites, of pears and an overturned bowl, and one I wasn't familiar with, of an orange tree branch, with fruit and flowers, that was heartbreakingingly beautiful. When I browsed the catalogue for the show, I went right to that Demuth, and, disappointingly, the color was off. (I bought a copy anyway.)
The Ellsworth Kelly and Mondrian pieces stood out for me too. In one Mondrian he took the blue-green ginger jar from Still Life with Apples and painted it alone amid a soft grid of his characteristic feathery lines. I like this approach: isolating one defining element.
Instrumental to seeing these paintings as a continuum was the way the show was hung, which was brilliant: each wall made the connections sing. One wall had a Cezanne still life with that chest of drawers he often used and a Jasper Johns canvas: two drawers with actual knobs, all painted with the short brushstrokes one associates with Cezanne, and in the gray-blue Cezanne used in his background.
There was a grouping of large, freestanding flat metal sculptures called "Bathers" by Picasso in the center of the floor. My friend Sue noted that at one point the guard was situated just so, and looked as though he might be a part of the group. It would've made a great photo!
The only dissapointment was that the Sansom Street Oyster House, to which we always decamp after an art exhibit, was closed for--wholly unnecessary and no doubt disastrous--renovations!
(11x15 sheet)

Some tries at this month's Virtual Sketch Date, in progress.
I was inspired by Jeanette at Illustrated Life to crop the reference photo, focusing tightly in on the rhododendron bud.
In the bottom left one I'm trying a technique I learned in my first watercolor class, at Cooper Union (my dad's alma mater): apply successive washes, allowing each to dry thoroughly, yellow through blue, floating the color everywhere that color appears, disregarding edges and objects. For example here the first wash covered everything but the violet buds; the second was, of quinacridone pink, covered everything but the leaves (although it occurs to me I should go in there and overglaze a couple of the leaves with the q pink).
what happens, ideally!, is you get some nice glowing glazes, but also some interesting edges where the glazes overlap, or don't!

Results due tomorrow.

I gather chrysanthemums at the eastern hedgerow
And silently gaze at the southern mountains.
The mountain air is beautiful in the sunset,
And the birds flocking together return home.
Among all these things is a real meaning,
Yet when I try to express it, I become lost in "no words."
--T'ao Ch'ien (fourth century)
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Barbra joan said...

Laura, I'm a big fan of your watercolors, mine pale in comparison, and you are so generous in posting your techniques and other information.
Some artists guard everything,fortunately they are few and far in between. I had a wonderful experience teaching basics of watercolor to the seniors in a community I lived in a few years ago, I'm a senior too and I wanted to share everything I knew. I find that so rewarding. thank you for your beautiful work, it brings a smile to all.
Barbra Joan

Cliff 2007 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cliff 2007 said...


Glad to hear you got to the Cezanne show. I too was delighted to see the Demuths. I went to Lancaster last fall to the little Demuth museum downtown, but was dissapointed that almost none of his watercolors were on display... they were gearing up for the Cezanne show!

I first saw Demuths reproduced in my favorite art book, David Dewey's 'The Watercolor Book.' I was thrilled to see quite a few of them up close and personal.

Some of the works in the Cezanne show were only very weakly related to Cezanne, but overall I liked the show very much.

The thing that appeals to me most about Cezanne is his 'line-i-ness'. In his oils especially, he leaves dark lines around most of the shapes. It is, to me, an emphasis of painting as drawing; it seems, well, so honest. (That is to say, a frank admission of the essentially fictional nature of representative painting.) Art is illusion (in the best sense of the word.)

My big disappointment was the last Cezanne displayed... a little still life of apples (or peaches?) at the very end of the gallery. It was wrapped in bubble wrap! I hate that kind of cheap irony that tries to make a 'statement.' (IMHO).

Now, having written this I recognize the potential of a double standard here: Cezanne's line-i-ness: good, bubble-wrap: bad. I'll have to sort out that contradiction for myself.

Sorry for the missive, but the show did get me thinking!

A Brush with Color said...

I'm so jealous you got to see that Cezanne exhibit. Your description made me feel like I was there, though--thanks for that! I love your paintings here, too--they're wonderful, Laura, and your idea for that left, bottom one is great. I have done that in the past with an underglaze of yellow on flower petals and it turned out really looking nice. I can't wait to see how this winds up looking.

pinkrelish said...

Laura, I will be back and back again...just love your blog!

Bill Evertson said...

Nice description of your method; I always love that :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the description of the glazing method. I really want to try that. I'm sure it can give some really interesting results. I always like the way you describe/analyze your art.

Mineke Reinders said...

Thanks for the exhibition review, wish I could have seen it. Your paintings are wonderful as always. I love the luminosity and subtlety you can achieve with glazing, but I've never been able to muster the patience for it. My attempts at glazing always go dead before I'm half-way through the painting...

Barbara M. said...

Hi Laura,

Great description and thoughts on the Cezanne exhibit, and lovely paintings.
I used to take watercolour lessons from a teacher who taught us to glaze yellow, then orange or red, and then blues where you wanted them. You got some fabulous ambiguous edges that way too. The poem was just perfect for today. A breath of fresh air, like your paintings and your blog. Thanks.

Take care,



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