Wheat or Weed?

It was cool outside and a bit windy. I would have taken a long shot of these wonderful plants, pictured below, if there was one to take. Alas, my field of wheat was restricted to a small patch of dirt surrounded by concrete curbs, in a parking lot.

Photograph: Wheat or Weeds?

Wheat or Weeds?


Matisse used patterns of swirls and vine-like curves in the paintings I’ve been reading about. At the moment I’m not clear about his use of these complex ornamentations, but my impression is that, like the late compositions of Paul Klee, the eye of the viewer isn’t given much of a resting place. Somehow (I have read), Matisse uses the these decorative figures in combination with other attributes of the scene he is depicting, to change the nature of pictorial space.

My watercolor below contains several swirling ornamentations without the complexity of a Moorish screen, but which may very well illustrate an arabesque in its meaning associated with dance.

Watercolor: Abstract - Arabesques

12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Harp Music

I have a lot of Celtic Harp music. I used to love playing Irish fiddle tunes with other musicians. When I listen to Irish music, I can barely keep my fingers still. I think I put them to good use as I listened to harp music the other day. With a dip pen in my hand, my pen followed along with the embellishments of the music.  The water coloring came later, and was more deliberate.

Watercolor: Abstract - Harp Music

Harp Music
11″x15″ Bristol

Reading about Matisse

I’ve been trying to slog through some books about Henri Matisse lately.

It’s a bit of a tough go, reading art catalogs. First of all, many of them are enormous; the kind that, were I to read one in bed, I would be at great risk for concussion if I dozed off. Secondly, the reader is required to flip to the Plate Section where the art reproductions are kept, to understand the biographer’s descriptions of the paintings.

Persistence can be rewarding though. Gradually the fog clears and a new way of looking at the world through the artist’s eyes, is revealed.

I’m not at the fog-free stage yet as regards Matisse. The study below incorporates some of my knowledge about Matisse’s work at this point.

Watercolor: Abstract - After Matisse

After Matisse
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Before Going Away

I was very, very nervous the night before I was to go away to college for the first time. Even though this was more than 45 years ago, I still remember how agitated I was.

I had a recording of some of Bach’s organ music. The pieces that helped me the most were Toccata And Fugue In D Minor (before I saw the silent Lon Chaney version of The Phantom of the Opera) and Passacaglia And Fugue In C Minor.  I turned up the volume so that the bass notes vibrated my body. I hummed the low notes along with the organ. This was very soothing and helped me to breathe.

Watercolor: Abstract - Comfort Music

Comfort Before Going Away
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

I listened to this same record as I inked and painted the composition above. My approach to representation was to treat the music as it were a collection of parallel lines, each with its own rhythm and pitch, treating the paper as if it was a musical score. This treatment is very unsophisticated. Painters such as Paul Klee and Vasilly Kandinsky, who had deep understanding of music, were able somehow to translate musical concepts such as harmony, counterpoint, fugue to the visual domain with more than just a collection of vibrating lines.

That music-to-vision connection eludes me for the moment.

Early Music Exposure

I’ve mentioned before that both my parents loved music. Dad let my older brother Mike* play on the piano and I’m sure they played classical music records all the time when he was around. For a time Mike responded. I’m told he could hum entire movements from symphonies. By the time I came on the scene, Mike didn’t do that any more.

Mike never had speech, but somehow he could repeat tunes for a while. I understand that Mike still likes to listen to the radio even today in his group home. There are no reports that he sings along, though.

Dad with Mike, at the Piano

* Mike is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal

Jazz Club

I continue converting my vinyl records to digital form. Today I listened to several as I let my dip pen wander over the paper. I penned the composition below while listening to jazz.

Watercolor and Ink: Jazz Club

Jazz Club
9″x12″ Bristol 2-ply

I began by inking my recollection of the tracings my records made on the computer screen as their analog character changed to digital. The closely-packed lines represent the higher frequency melodic lines. I added slow sinusoidal-type waves for the bass frequencies. I let the pen wander randomly as I listened to the music.

I was lucky to find that it did not take much tweaking of the random lines to render the musician. I added the keyboard, violin head and double bass after the fact.

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