I have a little to say about these:
I just spent about a week painting these gladioli. My wife Charlotte bought them when we were in Minneapolis (the place with the hideous carpets). They were so beautiful I took a picture and vowed to try to find the discipline to actually paint them. I surprised myself and did.
From the start, I wanted to use Schiele's approach, as in his painting of a sunflower:
It has two qualities that I like - an almost autistic sense of detail, and a white background which flattens the object and emphasizes its overall shape. You can do a lot worse than ripping off Schiele for your first flower painting...
But while we're talking about shape, let me explain something. When I was very little, some psychologist-type gave me an image a lot like this to copy:
I remember there was a piano with a dark glossy wooden surface in the room - it was at a party at somebody's house. The psychologist-type timed my reproduction of the image. Apparently the speed was off the charts. I came here not to brag, but to explain: I tried to explain to this individual that I had, in my opinion, cheated.
My idea of the "legitimate" mode of reproducing the image was to conceptualize it as representing a rope, and to understand and draw the rope, with its layering over and under itself. I didn't do that, since obviously time was an issue. So I devised a shortcut - I drew each closed shape, like this, for example:
Having reduced the problem to individual shapes, I could draw each one, keeping them more or less in proper relation with one another, and not bother with the higher-level integration of the image. The image integrated itself, as long as the sub-shapes were accurate.
A long time later, I was thinking about how I'm more of a form artist than a color artist. I think I've discussed that here, and its neurological underpinnings. I see things in terms of structure first, which is expressed in gradations of light and dark. It's a constant struggle for me to represent the colors of things.
So while I was thinking about this form/color issue, I remembered that celtic knot test from when I was little. Suddenly, I realized that form itself is a derivative expression of what kind of representationalist I am. I'm a *shape* representationalist.
That is, I am still deploying the same cheat today. On my first visual sweep and sketching-in of any object, I automatically break the object down into two-dimensional shapes, which I represent in more-or-less-accurate relation to one another. Then the image integrates itself.
For a long time, I had to struggle against a kind of fragmentation of the overall body in my depictions of complete figures. Each part would look fairly right, but when you looked at the body as a whole, it didn't quite fit together:
This is a weakness specific to my mode of breaking down and rebuilding a complex form for the purposes of depiction. I had to specifically tackle and overcome this weakness over time:
You can see why. This form of analysis is based on total integration of the figure into between one and four fundamental lines and curves. Teachers love this because it's "high energy" and also because it teaches you to do the broad forms first, and go to details later.
I naturally do details first, and broad forms later. One outcome is that I tend to get the broad forms wrong. But I've counter-trained myself to modify and get these forms good-enough:
I simply refuse to draw based on a fundamental cognition that is alien to how my visual analysis wants to operate.
What I am describing here is not meant to imply that this shape-analysis is right or wrong. It's right for me, because it's how I think. And it's valuable for me to know this about myself, because it allows me to understand what I'm doing, and some of my strengths and weaknesses, and some of the ways I can use both my strengths and weaknesses to generate interesting work:
Coming back to where we started, I hope it's clearer now why I would find the outline of the gladioli to be perhaps the most interesting thing about them:
I think the part of this that's useful for people who aren't me is that it's a good example of a question that's very handy to try to answer. No doubt each of you is an expert at something. And the question is this - what kind of expert are you? If you can identify the individual way that you are tackling your work in your field, you can understand how your cognitive and methodological quirks inform and deform your work, and you can understand and improve your work by recognizing the deep forces influencing its formation.
Practical notes: those last three drawings are from the Piera Pregnancy Project. I will have more to say about that soon.
And the nude on light brown paper - that will be showing with The Great Nude at the Governor's Island Art Fair, starting September 4. They were good enough to invite me to participate; I have four drawings there.
Have a great weekend, folks.