Intimate Objects

Intimate Objects (Charcoal and Watercolour on Paper)

This is an old still life, done probably 10 years ago, using the same technique of combining charcoal and watercolour on Hot Press watercolour paper as shown in my earlier post 

This is a very private picture to me – it lives in a box I seldom open. I think I have used this razor for more than 15 years now. The green cup and bowl were hand made and glazed by my mother in law.

Every morning when I shave is the time I come to myself – “Are you really awake? Are you present and alive here right now? If you were shaving now on the morning before your execution, and then heard that you got a miraculous reprieve – would the remainder of this ordinary day feel different for you?”.

These are my intimate objects. On my better days, I use them with care. When I do that, I can feel – with every move of the razor – the universe move slightly:

The Position of the Sparrow (last verse)
Because the whole is part, there's not a whole,
Anywhere, that is not part.
And all those happenings a billion years ago,
Are happening now, all around us: time.
Indeed this morning the sparrow hopped about
In that nebulous whirlpool
A million light years hence.
And since the morning is void,
Anything can be. Since mornings
A billion years from now are nothingness,
We can behold them.
The sparrow stirs,
The universe moves slightly.

Shinkichi Takahashi, translated by Lucien Stryk in 
Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breezes Enter

Thanks to all who have encouraged me with likes and comments. A special thanks to those who follow my blog . I wish you happiness and contentment.

17 thoughts on “Intimate Objects

  1. You are killing me with these images… a good way, that is. There is something about your charcoal and watercolor paintings that stirs me. I really appreciate the idea of painting intimate or objects dear to the heart. I am trying to get my hand around why the watercolor and charcoal seems to resonate within me….well, actually how you handle the two mediums and your choice of subjects. Do you feel the difference? I love your oil work but there is something about the images of late. Sounds like I am going in circles repeating myself!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Margaret. I have to say, I am in a bit of a quandary – I cannot help admitting that I the charcoal and watercolor comes so much more natural to me. Compared to working in oil, it feels like I am dancing instead of crawling as I work. But that may just be my lack of experience in oils! I recently did an oil painting based on a charcoal sketch, and it came out OK but took 1 to 2 hours of anxiety and doubt for a small, mediocre outcome. The next day, I did the same in watercolor worked over in colored charcoal (mainly black). The outcome moved me so much I almost did not sleep for a night – I kept thinking about it.

      In any event, I have resolved to concentrate a bit more on charcoal and watercolor again. If I get an image that I really like and that I think will translate well into oils, I will try it just to keep my skills up.

      Thanks again for your interest and support, it really keeps me motivated and going!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm….sounds like you have a medium that helps you move naturally into that area of aristic expression while working in oil is a struggle. I know that feeling…..How exciting indeed! 🙂 I will be off in the corner cheering you on. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pretty pretty colors and who would have thunk a still life of a razor and soap could be so interesting to look at. I Think it is a really fun painting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting discussion about oils. I wonder if there’s a way to use oils that doesn’t seem like you’re using oils. Maybe you can trick yourself into luxuriating in painting — a no worries, contemplative, letting go meditation. I love oil painting and it’s the first medium I ever used, and I fell in love with it from that early time. (I love the smell of linseed oil!)

    But there have been subjects that I do in other media (in my case oil pastel, dry pastel or crayon drawings) which I have difficulty transferring into oil. When I have approached the subject with drawing and marks, then the transition to oil feels very awkward for me. I go ahead and paint in oil anyway, but I am also striving to fool myself into “just painting,” not imposing on the picture the expectations that I learned while using the other media. In other words, I want to find the oil version — the one to which oils are uniquely suited — these beautiful, responsive, sweet-smelling, expressive oil paints that I love — to just get my mind into painting-mode and let the other, the linear mark-making, passages of dust across the paper thing fall away. For the session.

    It’s like music. I love jazz and I love classical music. When I’m listening to Brahms — I want to be all Brahms. And when its Miles, it’s like Brahms doesn’t exist. These are things that are so strong that they need to be understood on their own terms.

    And like music, you just get inside the thing. Why worry? Some artists call it “pushing paint around.” It’s the most fabulous thing ever. It can be very serious and yet can involve a letting go — both at the same time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Aletha, thanks for your very constructive comment. I have often over the years decided to give up on oil painting, but I just cannot bear the idea that I just “gave up”. So I keep on going at it and hope to do so till I die!

      I have come to the same conclusion as you suggest in your comment. For one, I have decided only to restrict myself to fairly small canvasses for now – nothing bigger than about 10 x 12 inches. As you suggested in an earlier comment also, I am trying to find the “recipe” that leads to the spontaneous outcomes that sometimes seem to just happen.

      In two occasions now, I have done paintings over old canvasses using the paint I had left over on my palette from a “serious painting” session. And the results were always better than those of the serious session just before, even though I was more tired etc. You suggested that I find what is present when such a painting “just happens”. I can report back, at this stage, I observed the following:

      1. I am not stingy with paint (I am after all, trying to use up the left overs as quick as possible)
      2. I am using less expensive oily medium, and a bit more cheap turpentine. This makes the paint less slick and the outline of the painting goes down quick and fairly lean, so painting fat into it later does not cause a mess.
      3. I am painting in very rough, playful strokes initially. Rather than filling in a block as one would color in, I am putting down strokes. I keep doing this – roughly and dynamically – until the concept or main area of interest emerges to my satisfaction.

      That’s it so far. I find with each painting I learn something. With oils, as with watercolor, there is a very complex dynamic between the medium and the paint. I was always amazed how the brain works, how I somehow knew – without thinking – just when a watercolor wash was dry enough to drag a brush over it to create a soft edge, knowing somehow also how much moisture was on the brush by just dabbing lightly on a tissue. This only comes after hundreds of paintings, and it perhaps essential to become a master.

      I think in oils this dynamic is perhaps even more complex, although more forgiving, than with watercolor. In oils, there is also the dynamic of white – how mixing it into color changes not just the value but also the temperature, opacity, etc (I know! – you have strong views on this!).

      Anyway – the bottom line I guess is that I am going to keep on trying. When I am at painting #300, we can check back on this! On, there is an interview with Stuart Shills in which he says: “I tell my young students that the only difference between us is that I have made more paintings but please don’t think that I really have any idea what I’m doing”.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m going to hazard one little suggestion. You have, clearly, a lot of things that you do that demonstrate your commitment to learning and you’re researching information from some highly esteemed artists such as Stuart Shills. I’ve no doubt that these forms of research and your determination will lead toward and to the kind of painting that you want to be doing, the kind of painting that is uniquely suited to your intellect and emotion. That’s all well in hand.

        I think you owe it to yourself to acknowledge this work that you’ve done.

        I have a young friend who is — well, first off quite young — and so he cannot have this sort of experience as yet because not enough time has lapsed. But the seriousness of his ambition is giving him a bit of trouble. He wants to be a writer and has a dogged case of so-called writer’s block. I majored in English once upon a time, and I like to give advice (perhaps you didn’t know),

        However, I could see that the advice he needs right now is not strictly literary. He knows perfectly well that he has to work at learning grammar, learning about the structure of the English language, learn to hear the sounds of words which are like what colors are to the artist. He reads widely and does a lot of research (is a far better student than I ever was at his age). He has made copious notes and diagrammed the plots of stories. He reads about other writers of the past and present, how they began and so forth. But something consistently holds him back from simply sitting down and beginning to write. His mother had said something to me about his disappointment and when I saw him I sounded him out a little, and he was quite forth-coming about his anxieties — seemed to like having an audience to listen to his thoughts and scruples so much so that he seemed not to mind telling me his whole story so to speak, notwithstanding the age difference — plus I made sure to say little and listen much because usually people already know the answers to their troubles in situations like this, but need to work out the specific paths — and that takes time. And in one’s youth, one can believe that one has acres of time ….

        I did make one or two specific suggestions. So I said that perhaps he should time his work. Sit down to a session of pre-determined length. Writing, being very different from painting, I said “assign yourself an hour.” That’s plenty. Set an alarm and tell yourself that you’ll write for one hour. Anyone can endure that much of an onerous task. What’s an hour? And since you’re so sure that the results will be hideous, make sure that you have a trash can near by. Put it where you can see it. And console yourself that the hour’s writing will go by more quickly than you suppose — it might even seem to fly by — and the comforting presence of the trash can (make sure you can see it — place it where it’s plainly visible) will remind you that you can take the paper afterwards and chuck it if it disappoints.

        So he said he’d do that. In an off hand way, I also asked him what he usually wears. I got an odd look for that question, but being his mother’s friend and a young person he felt like he had to answer my questions politely. I said, “do you dress pretty much the way you’re dressed now?” (He was wearing a polo shirt and pair of jeans.) He said, “Yeah, I guess I do.”

        I said, “well, just for this one session what do you suppose you could change about your appearance?” I was thinking that if he wears shoes, maybe he should leave them off. Or with a polo shirt, perhaps he should add a tie. Or maybe he should wear a suit? Instead of jeans, maybe put on shorts or pajamas. Or wear a hat. But just for one hour while the alarm is measuring out a smallish hour and the trash can is clearly and comfortingly in view, change just one tiny little thing about yourself. Doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it is a smallish change and is something tangible — something that you’ll notice, something that you’ll feel at first and afterwards will forget about.

        And he gave me a very bizarre look (is now wondering, I think, about what other sorts of nut cases compose the group that his mother calls her friends). But he laughed and assured me he’ll do it. He says he has a hat with a saying stitched across it — some sports joke — he tried to explain the joke but I’m hopelessly out of touch with sports and pop culture. Anyway, he says to me that he’ll try the experiment and wear the hat, etc. and that he’d let me know how it goes though I should not get my hopes up.

        And I said don’t bother about reporting back to me because I feel very certain that the writer’s block is only temporary and something about his relaxed posture as he listened made me feel pretty sure that I’m right.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Wow…..this is an amazing perspective, I think that I will refer back to this a few times….even write it as a note to self. I have never read this perspective, ever and it makes such good sense to me. Thank you Aletha….I received so much from this comment of yours, even though I don’t paint in oils, it still makes sense to me personally.

      Liked by 1 person

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