#O140-1: The Will Surrenders

A week or two ago I spent a weekend exploring some color combinations that I have not tried before. I came across this light yellow green and it really grabbed me as a soft background color with a restful, meditative feel to it.

I subsequently played my way through two paintings. The one below is an imagined still life – think of it as an abstract that looks like a still life! The other is a reworked landscape.


The landscape below was painted over one of my earlier favorites. You can still see the road in the foreground (mainly untouched), and traces of the hill on the left also come through.


I have just started reading Fernando Pesoa’s Book of Disquiet. In the foreword I find this quote from the book. I wonder if this applies to my painting sometimes…”my paintings are my cowardice”. Stupendous life rolls forth.

I’m astounded whenever I finish something. Astounded and distressed. My perfectionist instinct should inhibit me from finishing; it should inhibit me from even beginning. But I get distracted and start doing something. What I achieve is not the product of an act of my will but of my will’s surrender. I begin because I don’t have the strength to think; I finish because I don’t have the courage to quit. This book is my cowardice.

One of my much loves poems by Ezra Pound, which I quoted already in an earlier post:

And the Days are Not Full Enough
And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass. 

Ezra Pound

Thanks for visiting my blog!

#O71: After Bischoff

In the last week I focused on broadening my color horizons; my strategy is build confidence by making some copies of master artists whose use of color I admire. I chose the beautiful Canna Lily still life by Franz Bischoff. You can see the real thing here (I just did not have the guts to put it next to mine!)

Because the WordPress ‘featured image’ is often distorted, I put a frame around it in the above version. Below it is larger size without a frame.


I am always weary of copying the works of others – even when it is a deceased master. The fear is always there that I will stifle my own creative voice. But I was encouraged to venture into this area by Juliette Aristides’s Lessons in Classical Painting, in which she advocates the copying of master paintings.

I have to say, I was surprised by how much I learnt in this exercise. Aristides’s book notes that warm colors like yellow, orange and red are at their brightest right out of the tube. Adding white will only dull them down. So I duly put down the yellow and red in my copy without any white.

On the under-painting the yellows and reds looked dull – not very bright like the original at all. I thought I had a disaster on my hands. But the moment I put down the dull green and dark next to it, it popped right out of the painting. That is the relative nature of color perception!

I went on and finished the painting over several sessions, and in the end I used almost no white at all in this painting – only a small amount in the final session to cool and push back the background in some areas.

I learnt so much in this exercise. I hope I have the energy to make a few more copies. Will my creative voice be adversely affected? Carlson says the following about your unique creative voice:

Style or method in painting is like your personal handwriting; you thought little about it when you were forming your first crude letters in school. We all use the same alphabet, and one man’s letters are legible to another; and yet how vastly different in general appearance! The style of your handwriting was dictated by some latent and unconscious quality within you, and even your present style will gradually change, with the years of practice in writing, or in painting, with the ripening of character.

Today and yesterday, rain and sun followed in short succession all the time. Light and shadow dancing the day away. What a mysterious, stupendous experience this life is. Walt Whitman sensed it:

To You
Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams,
I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your feet and hands,
Even now your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners,
troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you,
Your true soul and body appear before me.
They stand forth out of affairs, out of commerce, shops, work,
farms, clothes, the house, buying, selling, eating, drinking,
suffering, dying.
Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to your ear.
I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you.

Thanks for visiting!

#O65: The Enemy

It is spring, and some cherry blossoms are out. Almost November.

William Stafford wrote:

A piccolo played, then a drum.
Feet began to come—a part
of the music. Here came a horse,
clippety clop, away.

My mother said, “Don’t run—
the army is after someone
other than us. If you stay
you’ll learn our enemy.”

Then he came, the speaker. He stood
in the square. He told us who
to hate. I watched my mother’s face,
its quiet. “That’s him,” she said.

Stafford, William. 
Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford 
(Kindle Locations 375-381). Graywolf Press. Kindle Edition.


#P9: Stone Threshold

#P9: The Stone Threshold (Pastel on Fabriano Paper)

At last again some time in the studio, and I managed to finish this still life this evening. The source photo is below – one of a whole series I took last Sunday in a brief but glorious moment of sunshine entering my little studio.

This is done on heavy Hot Press Fabriano Watercolor paper. I started off with a loose watercolor painting which had strong color but was not highly finished or detailed. Then I worked into that with my little pastel set. The source photo is shown below.


I found a poem of apples and thresholds:

A child is born
into a great landscape
Half a century later
he's nothing but a dead soldier
This was the man
we saw appear
and then set on the ground
a heavy sack of applies
two or three of which rolled out
around amonth a world's sounds
where the birst sang
on the stone threshold.

Jean Follain, trans. Bernard Waldrop,
in Modern European Poetry

Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content.

Charcoal Still Life

Charcoal-Still-Life (2)
Charcoal and Chalk Still Life (approx A3 size)

This is an invented still life in charcoal and chalk. It is a happy outcome of a play session in which I basically start with a shape in mind, in shadow and light, and drew away. The reflections in the foreground were not planned but stole the show. Continue reading “Charcoal Still Life”

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.

#62: Shadows Point

#62: Shadows Point (Watercolour and Charcoal on Paper 34 x 23.5 cm)
#62: Shadows Point (Watercolour and Charcoal on Paper 34 x 23.5 cm)

This is my second recent attempt at combining watercolour and charcoal. This is based on an actual still life and light situation I observed late last Sunday in a rare ray of sunshine in our New Zealand winter. The source photo and first stage photos are shown below. Continue reading “#62: Shadows Point”

#57: Small Still Life

#57: Still Life with Shelf (Oil on Canvas Panel 8 x 6 inches)
#57: Still Life with Shelf (Oil on Canvas Panel 8 x 6 inches)

A small invented still life I did last weekend. I wanted to try something with a larger negative background space and just a small positive space within it. The underpainting and thumbnail is shown below. Continue reading “#57: Small Still Life”

#55: The Shy One

#55: The Shy One (Oil on Canvas Panel, 10 x 8 inches)
#55: The Shy One (Oil on Canvas Panel, 10 x 8 inches)

This is the finished version of the underpainting I posted earlier. It is an invented still life and am quite happy with this. I feel it is the type of small, intimate painting that could end up on a bookshelf and be something precious to someone. Continue reading “#55: The Shy One”

#53: Still Life with Onions

#53: Still Life with Onions (Oil on Canvas Panel, 34 x 23 cm)
#53: Still Life with Onions (Oil on Canvas Panel, 34 x 23 cm)

This is the completed version of my earlier painting #53. This is one of the few paintings that I finished without feeling the start was better than the finished painting. Continue reading “#53: Still Life with Onions”