Making Senses

Yesterday I had some fun depicting my feeling of being squeezed. Today I added to this with another watercolor sketch. This one imagines the same three senses as in The Squeeze (seeing, hearing and smelling), but there is a hidden message. Some of you, who have been following me for a while may be able to guess.

Watercolor: Abstract - Line Drawings

Making Senses
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

A hint for all: Think of graffiti writing.

The Squeeze

I was in the studio the other morning. I was trying to think like Joan Miró, which is ridiculous because I have no I idea how or what he thought. He grew up in a rural area and farm life was very important to him. My background is not even close.  So I embarked on a different tack. I started thinking about what was going on with me.

The best I could come up with was that I was feeling squeezed.

I drew a three-fingered fist, a foot of some kind coming out of the bottom and the rest of the senses emerging from the top.  I was reminded of Miró’s work and gave the unblinking eye the constellations upon which to gaze. (Miró painted a 23 paintings in his Constellation Series.)

Watercolor: Abstract - Surrealism

The Squeeze
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


I think Mom would have liked this one, although it is a far cry from the painting I gave her just a year ago for her 90th birthday. She would have been 91 today, if she hadn’t died. See today’s other post (Mom’s Birthday) for Dave’s (my younger brother) piano rendition of Happy Birthday.

Mom really liked ‘modern art’. She took me to a Hans Hoffmann show at the Museum of Modern Art in the 1960s. She loved his work and I assured her that I could do just as well. “Mommy, give me a paint brush and I can do that,” I said, according to her. She also said that I called his piece entitled Magnum Opus, ‘magnum ups’, or ‘magnum oops’. I wish I could confirm which one it was, but those days are over.  I miss not being able to check up on facts from my childhood that only my parents and I remembered.  Now, it is what I say it was, even if I’m wrong. This is insignificant in the scheme of things, but it means that the facts of my life could be turning into fiction even before my own demise.  Unsettling.

In keeping with the amorphousness of life on the far end, I offer the following watercolor sketch.

Watercolor: Abstract - Free Form Shape with Ovals

When Amoebas Attack
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper

Don’t know if Mom would have been crazy about the title, or even this post. She didn’t dwell. She lived more in the moment than I do. She did have an opinion about aging. She said, “Getting old stinks.”  I’m going to have to brace myself.

Killer B

Another free-form abstract today. I have been trying to disengage my mind from my pen point and let it wander around on its own (the pen point, that is). I can do that for a while after which my mind takes over and tries to make some sense of what I have already drawn. The first recognizable form I produce acts as a seed for the narrative of the rest of the design.

Here is today’s design:

Watercolor: Abstract - Killer B

Killer B
9″s12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

The form of the ‘B’ looks angry. I think it doesn’t like being surrounded by the yellow-brown form.

That is all I’m going to say about this study. Draw your own conclusions. I am interested in hearing them.

Two Jacks and Three Mikes

Today, I continue with my abstract designs. I saw a video bit about a series of Miró prints that inspired me. He used some of his plates repeatedly on the same paper. In between prints, he would rotate the plate by 180 degrees. He got some very interesting results, especially when using another color for the second print.

This reminded me of a deck of playing cards, where the Jacks, Queens and Kings are printed upside down so no matter how you hold the card you will see what you have. I tried the same thing with today’s abstract: I used the icons I developed for my brother Mike and me, and up-ended them on opposite sides of the paper.

Watercolor: Abstract - Freeform with 4 Icons and Full Face

Two Jacks and Three Mikes
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

My icon is upright on the right-hand side of the paper. The zig-zag lines represent my mustache (an added improvement to the original icon). The same image is upside down on the left side. Mike’s icon is on the top and bottom of the paper. You can follow the line from the unpainted loop, which represent his nostril, to his exaggerated bottom lip at one end to the other side that ends in a flourish, that represents his eye.

In between my two icons, and overlapping Mike’s icons, is a tilted oval, showing a slit-like eye looking at an elongated figure that spans the face, down to the chin. Mike is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal and often used to slap himself on the the head or hold his hand to his face and hit his elbow to his chest. The figure next to, and overlapping the oval of Mike’s face represents his hand, in a stereotypical posture that Mike used to assume.

I like all the imagery in this study, but I’m not sure how much it translates to the viewer.

Abstract – Bird of Paradise

I love drawing free form designs with my new oil-based pen with a fine point. I feel like I’m making a sketch for a coloring book, when I’m making my patterns. People come into the store where I work and ask for ‘adult coloring books’. My knee-jerk reaction is to tell them, “This is NOT that kind of store.” Then I realize that these little old ladies are looking for actual coloring books that are for adults and not children. Times have certainly changed.

Today I concentrated on making a pattern that did not include any representations of my brother or me, as I have done in past abstracts (Abstract – Barrier, Abstract Portraits #1, Abstract Portraits #2). I tried to make my pattern convex, that is curving away from the edges of the paper instead of bulging toward them. I did not succeed at this, but I did generate the banana-shaped object that dominates the central diagonal. After much pondering, I decided that this shape should be the long axis of a head of a bird.  The rest is history!

I give you, the Bird of Paradise:

Watercolor: Abstract - Bird of Paradise

Abstract – Bird of Paradise


Abstract Portraits #2

Today’s piece is a companion to yesterday’s.  A little more information about my process: I drew the design first. Since I drew the lines with a permanent oil pen, I was free to wash the entire paper with watercolor. I chose an earth color, to copy the backgrounds in some of the paintings in Miró’s Constellation Series.  I read later that Miró used a technique called ‘oil wash’ before he drew anything. He would use the appearance of the wash, on the grainy paper to determine the ‘constellations’ he would draw.

Watercolor: Abstract - 4 Portraits and Violin #2

Portrait – Groundhog’s Day 2
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

I included my own iconography in this painting, just as I did yesterday. My face is on the right, with a tilted oval outline of a head superimposed thereon. My brother Mike‘s icon is on the far left, with another tilted head impinging on it. If I were to characterize the theme of this painting, it would be ‘connection’. Since my I have never been able to communicate with Mike, who is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal, I tried to depict some kind of connection between us.

Abstract Portraits #1

I continue in my attempt to emulate Joan Miró‘s style of painting. However, the more I do so, the more futile and empty the process seems. Miró developed his art at the beginning of his life, which lasted 90 years; he was surrounded by the likes of Picasso, Matisse and other artists of the early and mid-20th century. In addition to being a painter, he was a sculptor and print maker. He was passionate about his Catalan roots; he developed his own process to make art that was unique to him.

I have had a long-standing urge to depict my brother Michael, who is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. I began two portraits with free-form curves and lines, inspired by Miró’s Constellation Series, a remarkable set of seemingly free-form works, filled with icons and fantastic creatures.  I included ovals for two faces and the icons I developed for my brother and me. Since music was an integral part of my childhood, I used the outline of a violin as a bridge. Mike hummed music as a child.

Watercolor: Abstract - 4 Portraits and Violin

Portrait Groundhog’s Day 1
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

The free-form line drawings were inspired by Miró as well as Paul Klee, who suggested that the artist ‘take the pencil point for a walk’. The content, however was inspired by my own drive to ‘make visible’ (the duty of an artist according to Klee) the relationship between my brother and me.

Abstract – Barrier

Again, I tried my hand at applying the style of Miró‘s Constellation Series to my own work. What I love about this series is the density of icons and outlines of preposterous beings.  I started reading my catalog of the 1993 Miró exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York to get a sense of the origin of his creativity.  What I have learned was that Miró was driven to establish his own vision.

The Constellation Series was painted from 1940-41, during his dark experiences of World War II. With more reading I hope to understand much more about Miró, especially this series. For now I am just looking at the surface features of these paintings to see how I can modify them to tell my own story.

Here is today’s attempt:

Watercolor: Abstract - Barrier

Abstract 020116 – Barrier
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block



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