Sunday, March 29, 2009

Salal with Butterfly

Salal with Butterfly - 16 x 16 - oil on canvas (top)
Detail of Butterfly from Salal with Butterfly - ( bottom)
A stress-filled week was followed by a weekend of self-enforced relaxation. Sleeping late, a trip to Portland for art supplies and books, and baking some cookies put me in the mood to try and finish this painting. Try being the operative word. It's by no means finished, nor is it what I originally envisioned--like any painting ever is? But the inspiration came about after reading several issues of Lower Columbia College's literary and arts magazine, The Salal Review.
Allan had to explain what salal is to me. I had no idea. I couldn't even pronounce it correctly. But lo and behold, it's a Northwest plant I've most likely stepped on more than once. So I gathered pictures of salal from my online photo sharing group and created this composition. Adding the butterfly was just, well, me; that is, I love butterflies.
On my art supply run I picked up a dog-eared, sale-rack copy of Hawthorne on Painting, copyright 1938, by the artist's wife Mrs. Hawthorne. The name 'Hawthorne' rang a bell but I have no idea why. Turns out Charles W. Hawthorne founded the Cape Cod School of Art after studying under William Merrit Chase. After reading a few pages I realized why 'Hawthorne' rang a bell. He was one of the inspirations for Susan Sarbach's painting style (and her School of Light and Color), which I've long admired.
Quite simply, Hawthorne describes painting as:
1) 'the mechanics of putting one spot of color next to another---the fundamental thing."
What can be simpler than that? And why is it so gosh darned hard?
I won't bore you with more quips from the book, except for this one, on how to be an artist:
2) "Don't try to be an artist all at once, be very much a student. Be always searching, never settle to do anything you've done before. Always be looking for the unexpected in nature--you can have no formulas for anything; search constantly. Don't learn how to do things, keep on inquiring how."
That's what I hope to accomplish with this painting.
1) J. C. Hawthorne, Hawthorne on Painting, Pitman Publishing Corporation 1938, Dover edition 1960, Charles Webster Hawthorne by Joseph Hawthorne (introduction), xiii
2) same as above, 19
Note: I couldn't find any online reference on how to create a bibliography in a blog post, so I followed the Modern Language Association (MLA) rules for citations.

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