I enjoy each new issue of Missouri Conservationist, a monthly magazine free to residents of our state. The magazine features articles on outdoor activities, beautiful full color photos of scenic places to visit, and lots of helpful information for those who love nature. I’m inspired by every issue I receive.
Among the regular features in the magazine is a little game called What Is It? Typically a very up-close photo of some natural bit of flora or fauna is shown — making it all but impossible to recognize — and a few pages later the answer is revealed.
Today I’m playing my own artistic version of “What Is It?” by posting not an up-close look at a recently completely practice piece, but a photo of the completed 5 x 7 canvas panel. I’m betting that you won’t be able to guess what it is.
To me, it looks somewhat like some oddly-shaped sailboat, but it has nothing to do with sailing the seas. Maybe I’m a bit tired right now, but I keep thinking of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. With enough imagination — and this is my year for imagination — I suppose this strange thing could almost be mistaken for shoe with a sail, headed off toward the moon.
But, no. It’s neither a ship, nor a shoe, and I’m guessing you still probably have no idea.
As a bit of a hint, let me show you another little practice piece I finished on the same morning. This one is perhaps a bit more recognizable.
Yes, it’s a window. It’s a window that bears some resemblance to the kitchen window beside my easel, and yes, those are curtains and window blinds. Please note, I made no attempt to actually paint the blinds. It was the fabric of the curtains I was interested in.
There is a little table sitting beneath the window. The curtains extend past the top of the table, so that’s why they’re separating as they are.
I had enough to think about in simply painting the curtains, so I left out the table. It makes the curtains look even wonkier than they otherwise might, but so be it.
In the past, I’ve worked on drawing fabric and clothing with graphite. Painting fabric, however, is entirely new. It’s part of my preparatory exercises for the eventual still life paintings I’ll be trying this year. I hope with practice that I’ll be able to improve on the skill — which presently seems to be non-existent.
So, now, maybe you’ve guessed about that first painting. Maybe you’ve at least figured out that it’s a cloth of some sort. Yes, It was a wash cloth I draped over something on the table and attempted to paint. Not good. But, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?
The same goes for that sorry-looking window with its ugly curtains and crooked blinds. No, the window doesn’t actually look like this, but, again, you’ve got to start somewhere.
These were two little projects that really pushed me past my limits, so it’s not surprising that they’re childish and simple. But they’re part of that art of learning to see, exercises in looking closely and then trying to describe in paint what something is, what shape it has, where the lights and shadows are. I plan to do more of these little exercises with drapes and fabrics and tablecloths and maybe even an old paint rag or two. I do have a few of those around.
What it means is that you might be seeing a lot of very strange things here in the future, and some of them probably won’t be recognizable, but, I’ll say it again. You’ve got to start somewhere if you want to get anywhere at all.