Stand Down, Poppystan!

Alas, my failed attempt at depicting a simple field of poppies has raised some ire, not the least of which is mine. My design was seemingly simple: a green field below, sky above and a look downward on a field of poppies. I unwittingly, and independently reproduced the flag of Poppystan. I hereby apologize to all Poppystanians and beg forgiveness.

Back to the books

Clearly I need to hit the books and learn a bit more about design. On the positive side of things, it is comforting to know that Paul Klee, world renown artist, musician and teacher in the early part of the 20th century, once said, “Let us… think not of form but of the act of forming.” (Paul Klee Notebooks, edited by Jürg Spiller. Volume II: The Nature of Nature, translated from the German by Heinz Norden (p. 67). Overlook Press 1973) 

I might be ok on that front.

Before I get on to today’s experiments, it is certainly worth while to see what else Klee has to say about the act of forming. He begins one section of his Notebook by describing the reaction of sawdust on a thin plank of wood to a violin bow drawn across its edge. A pattern appears in the sawdust because the bow caused the plank to vibrate. He goes on to say,

“There is resonance inside the particles, immanent within them. Their oscillations range from the very simplest to composite modes. Inexorable law must express itself throughout. The bow can have no pity. Every expression of function must be cogently justified. Only then will that which is in the beginning, that which mediates and that which is at the end, belong together intimately. And nowhere will the dubious be able to obtrude, for every part fits ineluctably into the next.

Only in this way can it be done. One must not leap in at random, least of all at the tail end. One must get in at the ground floor. That alone will avoid regality, and the entire growth process will then function without interruption.”  (same reference as above, pg. 66)

I’m ok with this. I’ll get in on the ground floor. The only problem is that I only have a little bit of an idea where to go from there.  What worries me is Klee’s very next passage:

“Wherever there are gaps or crude tears, however, nonsense always emerges as such, in various guises. Dead forms, creaking noise, moans, breaks, monstrosities. Or, when not quite so bad: Infertility, barrenness, pseudo existence, casual false-fronts, belonging to nothing. Things without growth. Eyes without function. Unnaturalness, surpassingly fair, Aestheticism, Formalism.

Whatever rests on the foundations of life, on the other hand, is good, when new formation and preservation each find themselves in the other.”

And yet, despite the possibility that the work I just completed is a monstrosity, I now proceed to public display of today’s study.

Today’s experiment:

My object in this study was to minimize the flag-like overall appearance of my field of poppies.

Watercolor Sketch - Poppy Field Evolution 1

Poppy Field Evolution 1

I really had fun with this after a planted a couple of red drops in the yellow field. The yellow drops on the blue field provided an almost photographic negative image of the yellow field.  The best fun was the clear water drips at the interface between the blue and yellow.  I could think think of a dozen stories about underground creatures burping up poppies or undersea creatures.

I thought that maybe I unleashed some of the vibrations from the watercolor paper.

I should have left well enough alone. The glazing I applied in the next step was not kind to this piece.

Watercolor Sketch - Poppy Field Evolution

Poppy Field Evolution
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

I don’t mind the fact that some of the poppies smeared or that the water blooms were dulled. I do mind the line I left just below the lowest point of the yellow-blue interface.

With the pale blue sky, which is not really visible in the picture, the rounded contour of the yellow and the concavity of the blue field, at least it doesn’t look like the Poppystan flag any more.

Thank goodness.


7 thoughts on “Stand Down, Poppystan!

    • Thank you FF. I really loved watching the water blooms as they happened, so in that regard it is a success, although temporal. Maybe I should make a motion picture of the next one. I’m glad it turned out bright and cheery in its final form.


      • A motion picture of the effect would be cool. I’ve never seen it done, and the thought of attempting it terrifies me. I’m really new to watercolor being mainly an acrylic person.


        • I can understand the terror, believe me. The worst that can happen is that you get a big puddle of water. Here are some ideas to minimize the scope of any mishap: 1) don’t get the most expensive paper to start; 2) have lots of paper towels handy – i like the Viva ones, since they are really absorbent; 3) experiment with the amount of water, when you using ‘wet-on-wet’ techniques. If you pre-wet the paper, wait until there is just a sheen on it and you can see some of the paper grain. Drop in some colors to see how they spread.
          Let me know how it goes…
          good luck,


  1. It’s a very grown up picture. First and second. The least lack of concentration for me and the creaking moans and nonsense leak in. Imagination in action is one thing. Imagining what is too much, before it happens, is another. Living in the future always distracts me.


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