Painting, 2/10/09

One of my Lichtenbergian goals for this year was to begin painting again. My short term goals are a) to explore surface, i.e., abstraction; and b) to do a series of small paintings of a coffee mug.

This was my first effort, from last week sometime. I just wanted to whack one out, to see if I could actually pay attention to what I was seeing.

I chose a coffee mug because of its basic cylindrical shape and lack of surface features. My goal is to learn to observe and to replicate that observation, of shape, shadow, and reflection, and not to get bogged down in textures. Even with the no-features of the mug, I will have enough to be going on with, trust me.

So anyway, this was the first, get-it-out-there object, and it’s not a failure. I got the shadows pretty well, and for a quickie (it took me less than three minutes for the whole thing) it’s not bad in a Museum of Bad Art kind of way.

The problem, my problem, is the handle. I spent part of yesterday afternoon’s voir dire session trying to figure out the topology of a handle. It’s not hard, is it, just a torus intersected by the cylinder. But make that torus of highly glazed, white ceramic, and it’s a little bit tougher to see. There are no edges to speak of, and the actual shape is confounded with shadows and highlights.

That kind of twisty, ribbony kind of shape is the kind of thing our left brains love to assume they “know” what it looks like, and you have to force the left brain to shut up and let the right brain actually observe what’s there. My left brain “knows” that if I draw two ovals offset and connect them (like we used to do in elementary school with two squares to draw a cube, what, you didn’t do that?), it should produce a handle, but the results so far have not been satisfactory for my for-the-moment-semi-photorealistic purposes.

So I have a couple of left-brained plans to work on that. One is to print out a photo of the thing and just trace the shape, reduce it to lines.

It also occurred to me this morning that if I had a mug whose handle was striped, it would help define those fuzzy edges. Then it occurred to me that I could do that myself, and so I did, striping the “edges” of the handle.

Now I can see more clearly where the weird shift is in the loop.

So there’s my project for the next few days, painting-wise.

5 thoughts on “Painting, 2/10/09

  1. I like your description of “the problem of the handle”. Don’t ask me why. I just found it interesting. Maybe its the “engineering intersecting with art”-ness of it.

  2. Just talked to Joel Fetner. He said every country boy knows the essence of a mug handle is in the negative space. Just sayin’.

  3. As the sage David Wilson would say, “You are so right.” I was remiss in not detailing my struggles with that aspect of the problem.

  4. On a totally different note:
    Dale, you say:
    “I chose a coffee mug because of its basic cylindrical shape and lack of surface features.”

    Do you think it might also have something to do with the fact that you have a connection to the coffee mug because it was one of the first pieces you created at GHP? That was the first thought that entered my mind as soon as I saw the painting.

  5. Perhaps, but it’s more likely that the mug already on my drafting table for painting purposes inspired me. Plus, there was an exhibit I referenced a while ago in which the artist painted very mundane still lifes in a very flat manner which has stayed with me.

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