Watercolour Prelude #2

I am stuck in a hotel in Jakarta, no paint nor easel and I also forgot my sketchbook at home. So I trolled around for photos on my laptop and found this watercolour:

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After a dark day. Watercolour (approx 28 x 21 cm)

This is the sister painting of my first attempt at oil painting in many years, which I first wrote about in this post. The accompanying oil painting and source photo is below. You can see I struggled more to get that great red in the oil painting right, and did not succeed very well, to be honest.

My approach to watercolours is to paint in many layers, which allows me to control the depth and colour. With oil, I need to be more courageous, and in my first painting below, I did not do what the teachers said I should: “put it down and leave it alone!”. I also think in both paintings my drawing is not right – some angles are a bit out. Much to learn, but that yellow afternoon paint, thick on the warm wall – it is just given, something to behold.

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The source photo:

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It has been a rather trying day. A black day in some ways, as Tomas Transtromer would say in the words of Robert Bly. I never cease to be amazed at the power of poetry and art to comfort one and make the dark something of value – a fruitful dark. Take a look at this beautiful comparison by Rebecca Snow of two translations of one of Tomas Transtromer’s poems – one that applies particularly to dark days.

I remember vividly being on guard duty, alone, now about 27 years ago. In the pitch black of night, bored and with a hopeful longing. Pacing up and down in a guard bunker, a T.S Eliot poem I had to memorize in high school carried me through the night:

You tossed a blanket from the bed,
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;

12 thoughts on “Watercolour Prelude #2

  1. I love the reds and oranges in the watercolor. Warmth and comfort after a difficult day feels good, and the green plants add a healing effect, I think. I also love the T. S. Eliot poem. Thank you for sharing the pictures and the poetry.

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  2. I love the oil version of this particularly. I remember it from the earlier posting and found it very striking then. You’re an engineer … I don’t know what kind of engineering, but the first thing I notice about the “mistake” in the drawing is that the angle in the photo of the chair arm is almost perpendicular to the picture’s edge. In both your versions, though, it slants downward dramatically.

    That tells me something. When something is so clear, and you have changed it — not once, but twice. The change matters. I don’t call that a mistake. Indeed, I find the wc and the oil painting more appealing than the photo. That you transformed the photo into that oil painting is really marvelous. It’s imbued with such a sense of mystery, poetry. Somehow I am thinking that an engineer doesn’t get mixed up about something so fundamental as the degree of an angle, and also that happily the subconscious can over-ride the information we “know” very readily when it needs to. You heeded your visual instincts and produced this mysterious image. Love the colors too. What a transformation from the photo.

    Since you are without tools, might be a time to draw with pen on whatever scraps of paper are lying about. Just a thought …

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    1. Many thanks for your thoughtful comment. I have to say, my drawing is normally not too bad and yet I got that angle wrong twice, like you say! Thanks so much for your inspirational encouragement, you are very kind. I hope you have a great day in the USA, I am about an hour away from bedtime.

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  3. These words – With oil, I need to be more courageous, and in my first painting below, I did not do what the teachers said I should: “put it down and leave it alone!”. – sound so much like the writing process, too. Write what you’re afraid of and then set it aside for a while to let it “set” and then go back to it ready to see it and read it anew.

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    1. Thanks Susanne. That is an new/interesting perspective to me (the relation to writing), but makes perfect sense. If you gnaw on it too much before it has “set” it turns to mush. Have a great day!

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