Unintended Consequences

The study I planned for today was another rendition of my ‘Break’ watercolor. Yesterday’s painting was a realization of the important visual aspects of the photograph I took during my break at work the other day. There was much more drama in that composition than in the original painting, which I thought was just a transcription from the medium of photography to that of watercolor.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

I wanted to boil down yesterday’s composition to its very basics, to abstract its essential elements.

I let each stage of the study dry on its own without use of a hair dryer, which I normally use when I am in a hurry. During the drying time, I started reading a book that I have had for years, but never cracked open. Even though my father was the physicist in the family, the book, Who Got Einstein’s Office? was inscribed, “return to D Davis”, my mother. Interesting.   Even more interesting was the main topic, which was the establishment of the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, New Jersey where Einstein worked from the 1930s until his death in 1955.

How is the Einstein’s Office book relevant to my silly painting? 

The founders of the Institute for Advanced Study based their institution on the Platonic principles. “…for Plato the true objects of knowledge are not the transient and changing entities that we can see and touch, but something else entirely, something that Plato thought was ultimately more real, things he called Forms.”*

There you have it. I was trying to get to the unseen truth about the scene I photographed the other day.


I used the same visual elements that (I assume) induced me to snap the photograph in my abstraction process: horizontal layering; shadowing in the foreground; overhanging foliage, the lighter colored rectangle representing a sheet of discarded cardboard and the white planks of the otherwise dark fence.

The colors I used were not remarkable, except I left the ‘white planks’ unpainted.

So here it is: the truth about my Break Time:

Watercolor: 'Break' Painting Abstracted

Unintended Consequences
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Could it be that, in the Postmodern sense, the truth about my break from work is… a piano? Say it ain’t so.

That reminds me of the story about a man seeking the meaning of life.

This troubled man gave up his Wall Street job, began to meditate, joined a yoga sect and worked his way to the priesthood. During this whole venture, he never understood the answer that started him on his quest. Finally, he made a pilgrimage to the monastery where his yogi, the supreme guru lived and arranged an audience. “You may ask me one question, my son,” the guru said as they faced each other sitting in the lotus position. The searcher asked, “What is the meaning of life, master?” To which the master replied, “Life is but a bowl of cherries.”  The questioner was so shocked, he jumped up. “Life is a bowl of cherries, master?” he said with disbelief?  The yogi looked up, equally shocked and said, “You mean it isn’t?”

* Regis, Ed Who Got Einstein’s Office? Addison Wesley, 1987

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