Is Narration a Component Abstract Painting?

I’ve always thought that to ‘abstract’ something, one condenses it into its essence. Caricaturists do this all the time when they present recognizable portraits of their subjects with prominent  features exaggerated. Most artists try to tell the truth as they see it. Visual artists do so by using color and form that represent the essence of scenes or moods they wish to portray.

Could a process of abstraction be used to create a narrative composition?  I don’t think that expression of an idea needs to follow restrictive rules of the grammar needed to tell a story. However, the concept of communication is clear: a message sent should be the same message received and understood by the receiver.  The beauty of abstract artistic expression is, it doesn’t matter if the message received is the same as the message sent. The creative artist provokes thought in the observer.

Yesterday I referred to Joan Miró’s painting The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers as a narrative. The title certainly tells a story. I hope to decipher this painting. I am sure there are symbols of a bird and two lovers. I will rejoice when I recognize Miró’s pictorial version of the unknown, which the bird reveals to its human companions.

Through my readings about Miró, I understand he did not consider himself an abstract artist. If this is true, then Miró must have used some sort of pictorial grammar in this work.

I am striving to create a narrative of some of my life’s experience in pictorial form and boil it down to a shorthand that is possible for others to decipher.

Here is another attempt:

Watercolor and Pen and Ink Sketch - Abstract After Miró

Narrative After Miró
9″x6″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


Free Form – After Miro

One of Miró’s works that has obsessed me of late is The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers.  Its title alone is fascinating.

The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers Joan Miró

The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers
Joan Miró

It combines line drawing with shapes, which when studied, reveal the narrative. Even without study, the arrangement of the dark shapes is appealing.  The design holds together without knowing Miró’s iconography, if he had one. One first notices the eyes that stare and then the thin outlines of the heads in which they reside.

My study below, does not have a narrative. I tried to construct a pleasing arrangement of  some of the iconic shapes that I have developed over the past several months (see Under Observation and Three Cancer Killers – Portrait).  I think I’m on the right track. A narrative title would help organize the composition and allow me to simplify and add layers of complexity as appropriate.

Watercolor Pen and Ink Study: Free Form ala Miró

Free Form After Miro
9″x6″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Watching a Scary Movie

When I was a kid I had several methods of coping with scary movies on TV. The first was to hide behind the couch and peek out. The second, depicted below, was to put my hands over my face and look through my fingers.  Dad offered to turn off the movie if it was so scary, but I told him not to.

Watercolor: Abstract Portrait - Child Watching Scary Movie

Watching a Scary Movie
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

I’m not sure why I thought of this particular image today.  It could be related to the situation at home (Brain Cancer, Palliative Care, After and Before, Three Cancer Killers – Portrait) which involves a very scary illness and the impulse to hide, but the compulsion to engage.

Three Cancer Killers – Portrait

I came up with a sketch for the three weapons we are using to combat lung cancer. It is a schematic and, as such, clearly indicates each agent and its route of administration.

Sketch: Abstract Expressionist Portrait of Cancer Killers

Three Cancer Killers
9″x6″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

My watercolor is a transcription of the sketch, with little modification.

Watercolor: Abstract Expressionist Portrait of Cancer Killers

Three Cancer Killers
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

The three modes include whole brain radiation; a pill that works on the genetic composition of the specific cancer (xalkori = crizotinib); and cannabinoids.

At this point I am have a lot of confidence in this three-pronged approach. We shall see.

Home Care

Hospitals are places where one can get really sick. Nursing facilities are touch and go – like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. It could take hours to go to the bathroom; nursing staff can make mistakes on medications; neighbors could have annoying hacking coughs, etc.

Home, surrounded by loved ones, is the place to be.

It’s not all a bowl of cherries, however.

Watercolor: Home Care Text

Serenity of Home Care
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


After a long hospital stay, one anticipates the arrival of a loved one back home. I couldn’t think of a subtle way to represent this so I opted for the obvious, as corny as it is. Home is certainly where the heart belongs.

So be it.

Watercolor: Abstract Expressionism

Home From Hospital
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Caregiver’s Much Needed Rest

Caregiving is hard work.  I saw it first hand when I was growing up with my older brother Mike. He is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. He needed help with everything and had to be watched constantly. If you weren’t careful, he would take the food from your plate.

However, there is a difference between taking caring of someone who has never been able to care for himself and caring for a vital person who suddenly is in great jeopardy and becomes helpless.

In all cases, there is a point of exhaustion that each caregiver experiences.

The portrait below represents a caregiver getting a much needed rest.

Watercolor: Abstract Portrait

Caregiver Resting
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

After and Before

More about Radiation

I thought I would try redeeming myself from yesterday’s portrait. Today’s ‘After and Before’ refers the the effects after and before (reading the portrait left to right) radiation to the entire brain.

Of course the treatment is supposed to kill cancer cells, while leaving the non-cancerous cells alone. The bad thing is, the body’s immune system rushes to defend against the radiation, and causes swelling – not only inside the brain, which is a real problem – but of the face as well. Anti-inflammatories must be administered because, when the brain swells, encased as it is in the non-expandable skull, additional damage may occur.

Hopefully, after radiation treatment, all faculties that have been compromised get back to normal. I’m not sure that is true in all cases, however.  More hopefully, the radiation will kill off the cancer cells for good.

Watercolor: Portrait Before and After Radiation

After and Before


The portrait below is not what I hoped it would be. It is indeed quick and dirty, but it represents the aftermath of whole-brain radiation.

There is some planning that goes into focusing the radiation beam, but it is not a surgically precise procedure. Redness, swelling, sweating and tiredness are part of the effects.

Watercolor: Portrait Grotesque

Post Radiation Portrait
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Palliative Care – Dream

Yesterday I expressed my difficulties dealing with decisions that must be made when one prepares an advanced healthcare directive.

I saw this sign in the hospital today.

Photograph: Hospital 'This Way Out' Sign

I wish it were that easy.


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