Saturday, November 14, 2009


This post was written immediately after our October trip, but held until now...

This piece is much simpler than the last. It came more effortlessly, like a simple sketch. It involves memories of another trip to this same place, several years ago, where a sunlight line of goldenrod near Beacon Heights stuck in my memory.

I realized I hadn't looked at goldenrod closely enough to draw it from memory. So I had to get a stalk. Out on a late afternoon photographing trek with just Dearest (the rest of the family skipped that hike), I forgot about my need because she was finally really getting into her new camera, and getting some results that pleased her. We ended up alone on a dirt road, in a freezing wind, where I'd carried her tri-pod so she could experiment with it for the first time on a late sunset. Everything was blue and purple and darkening all around us, and we were watching the sky change colors over the big shape of Grandfather Mountain on the horizon.

On the way back to the car, in the dark, I found a stalk of goldenrod just as I needed it, on the edge of the road. Like it was being held out to me...

I realized after this composition appeared on the page that the leaves are Dearest and I. We're even holding hands.

This image plays with a few things that tickled me and wanted to get out on the page. One is the long red stems of the maple leaves. Another is the curve within the square that I keep coming back to with the same kind of enjoyment I feel when I see certain curves on Dearest. Another is the simple asymmetry of the goldenrod, different from most other flowers in that regard, and the lovely play of the bent leaves. And then there is the yellow on the French Ultramarine... Like the French Provence fabric we used for the curtains in the brightest room in our house.

Watercolor on 140 lb. hot press Arches. 19 by 19 inches.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Leaf

One of the paintings I did on vacation was a struggle. At first the colors were all over and totally out of control (some might say they're still out of control, but they're now where I want them to be). I hated the composition (it was going to be something completely different than what it is now). This went on for several days. I barged out of our rented house at one point to come up for air, feeling like it's tentacles were around my throat instead of my hands around it. I wanted to run it under the hose - I almost did. I was having a good time. I was feeling very alive.

The leaves on the ground, out there during my break, were amazing. Every one uniquely flawed and with the sweeping lines of their veins and edges accentuated by the changed colors and the movement in the wind. I always notice fallen leaves - I still pick up hands full every autumn. This was nothing new (and it's always new). But this time the leaves echoed with the painting. I carried several back into the house. Then I saw how one should be overlaid on the diabolical mess the page had become to that point. I drew and redrew the leaf to get it how I wanted it in the square, and to get the asymmetry and the veining correct, so it said "Sugar Maple" and not something else. One or two small sections seemed to make sense and I could gradually expand the order into the chaos until the whole thing finally got where I wanted it. The negative and positive spaces got pleasantly crossed and slightly ambiguous, like the flickering light of autumn under trees in the wind.

I was totally lost in the doing of this.

I set it aside, finished, I thought. Then several days later I reversed the negative/positive play of foreground and background of a significant section of it, improving it.

As I remarked later, to Dearest, I could paint more of these, and I know they'd sell (this one will have a higher price on my website than others). But this isn't where I want to spend the time yet. It's nowhere near big enough or interesting enough. I'm still looking for that. I'm still looking for the answer to, "What do you want to paint?"

19 x 19 inches - watercolor and white charcoal on hot press Arches 140 lb.