What Comes from Silence

My most recent oil painting was based on the watercolour shown below. The oil painting turned out very different and I plan to post it tomorrow. Tonight I briefly focus on the watercolour:

Invented Still Life (Feb 2016, approx A4 size)

The painting does not quite carry the dark and mysterious mood I was after, but tonight as I took the photograph I saw again – and felt fondness at – the subtle purples and blues in the shadow areas. The image below shows some of this in detail:

The subtle gradations in colour, with the granulation of ultramarine in the paper, is one of the very special charms of watercolour – nothing compares with it:


For many years I have been drawn to the idea of a shelf – with an object like a jar – in some abandoned old house, dark shadows slowly lengthening as late afternoon shafts of sunlight scan the room. Who lived there? Where are they now? Alive? Why did they leave these belongings? This painting stems from that idea and the emotion that I have of it. I sketched out the concept in a few thumbnails, picked the best and painted it.

I am drawn toward the energy, the idea, of absolute stillness as the light slowly changes. In his four quartets, T.S Eliot masterfully described this nuance of existence:

…Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now…

I leave you with a poem by Wendell Berry that I feel also captures this idea of an age gone by, slow organic living, patience – and stillness:

How to Be a Poet

(to remind myself)
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
Wendell Berry – Given: Poems. Source for this poem: Poetry Foundation
Thanks so much to all who commented on my last post, and for all who have encouraged me with likes. A special thanks to all who are following my blog.

11 thoughts on “What Comes from Silence

      1. I learned how striking a single, solitary item in a still lif could be from studying Thomas Aquinas Daly’s paintings (you can google his site). If I look at his watercolor still life paintings, I marvel at the simplicity and especially how he paints a beautiful background color to precisely compliment the focal point.

        Liked by 1 person

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