How does it happen that a painter notices red pears in the local grocery market? Then without looking at the price, she grins widely, grabs a handful and comments “they are for a painting!” How does this happen? What did she see in those pears that was more enticing than say the lemons or the oranges or that green skin of the avocado? Nothing. She picked up an assortment of these as well. But it was the red pears that she knew where going to be the main attraction.
Back home she arranges them this way…
and then that way
She settles on “that way.”
You see, she was caught up in some ideas about “seeing” and realism in a conversation that was hosted by artist and colleague Lena Levin on her G+ profile. Partly because of this conversation, the painter kept thinking as she was painting – what am I seeing? What is the influence of what I have seen before? Where are my mental shortcuts? She has no answers but starts and continues to paint.
As is common, there is no drawing to guide her brush. Her eyes must be her guide, along with her experience which is where the problem lies. It is in her experience that the mental shortcuts are developed and her eyes and brush stop noticing and actually “seeing” what is before her. She is even, in her noticing, not looking for details but rather relationships between light, shadow, colour and to-a-lesser-degree form. The painter understand that our brains construct images from rapidly gathered information from small areas that the mechanism of the eye scan and then the optic nerve delivers to the brain for translation and construction of a visual image. However, there is more information that is gather from the painter’s other senses that also assists in these constructed images. To name just a few bits of other sensor influence, there is the smell of the orange and linseed oil, the feel of the fabric and the planks of the wood floor with her bare feet and the sound of water dripping from the eaves. Then too there is all the previous data gathered about what a bowl of fruit looks like. There are all the bowls of fruit ever noticed and seen – both in real-time and in photographs and paintings. There are all the rules and breaking of rules about composition, about the actual process of painting as well as those about noticing, really noticing what she is seeing. Of all of this information, what will be the resulting rendering of THIS still life?
Well, the painter did not get very far before she decides to enhance what she is seeing. She adds a lemon on the bottom right. Yes, she says to herself, it should be there. And so it is.
What could be the harm of adding one imagined lemon? I mean really. It is only a little bit of yellow right?
The painter chooses to ignore that her noticing had resulted in imagining a whole lemon.
She determinedly continued to focus on the bowl of fruit. In fact, she focused so hard that the red pears began to tumble forward out of the painting.
This is about the exact point where the still life painting made a notable separation from its visual reference. It is that blue curving line on the left at about the middle of the painting that did it. Then, without any ability of the painter to rest the brush, another blue line of motion appeared on the bottom right. She knew then that even the slight visual impressions of the paintings in the background would go. They would be replaced by the gold fabric and the light leftover from the blue in the sky of one of these paintings as an easy reference for the light coming in from the skylight and the window behind the still life set up. This was now a deliberate mental shortcut.
Memory and imagination had conquered the physical evidence of what the eyes were actually seeing.
The intention of the painting had clearly become focused on the illusion of red pears falling out of the bowl – a focus that intends to encourage the viewer to hold out their hands and try to catch the fruit before it tumbled out of the painting. The painting is set aside until later in the evening and then, with a few edits that lead the painter’s work through to the next morning, it comes to rest.
TUMBLING RED PEARS 20 x 16 inch oil on canvas
It won’t be released just yet as the painting still needs to sit for its final photo shoot once the paint is dry.
Now we can ask the painter – did you know you were going to paint these red pears tumbling out of a canvas when you saw them in the grocery store?
The painter blinks, slightly confused and unable to answer as she comes out of her painting trance – her deep practice of noticing what she sees, a seeing that uses all of her sense, a seeing that is disrupted by her memory and is enhanced by her imagination. At this moment all she can remember, all she can “see” is tumbling red pears – the ones she imagined, the ones she painted on the canvas. This is her painting of reality.
When have you most acutely recognized that you were “seeing” more by your imagination than with your eyes?
Before I leave us, I want to thank everyone who shared last week’s Art Studio Spring Thaw Event post. Your ongoing support is what warms my heart and also grows the global awareness of my paintings and my photography. Without your efforts my ability to financially sustain my studio practice would be gravely hampered. So thank you, Thank you and THANK YOU!
Also, I am lighting a small candle each evening to focus energy on a peaceful resolution in the Ukraine. My mantra is – use your words. Listen and talk it out rather than bully and fight it out. My focus is calming energy sent to Russia’s leadership with this message. However, it isn’t narrowly directed and I disperse it as a blanket over all global decision-makers and citizens. You are most welcome to join me in this practice. I am an artist yes, but I am also more than that. I am a human-being and I desire to live in peace and I desire this for all of us. This, like the effect of full sensory “seeing” in this painting, is a tangible practice in attempting to render my desired reality.
© 2014 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.
Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.
Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch
From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada
For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com