Sharing some favorite pairings with you on this lovely Friday morning:
Artwork – “Evocation of Butterflies” by Odilon Redon
Music – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Recomposed by Max Richter
More Redon to revel in as you listen
As I’ve been experimenting with styles, I’ve been mixing watercolor with collage and ink, and having a lot of fun with it. The first one I tried was a bouquet with butterflies, in homage to Odilon Redon. I wanted to capture the richness of his oils in watercolor by adding texture, crumbled tissue paper. using white and colored tissue paper. First I painted the flowers and butterflies watercolor, and then tore off larger swaths of crumbled white tissue to paste over larger areas. Then added smaller bits of colored tissue where needed on some of the petals and leaves and butterfly wings. When that dried, I added more detail with water watercolor paint and pencils. I was pleased with the results. I don’t think the photo here does it justice. Although you can make out some of the texture.
I followed a similar method on the painting of the blue oak tree. This is from a photo I took of an old oak tree., one of my favorites. It’s featured as the heading of my Facebook page. I’ve always loved the way the branches of some oaks look like octopus arms, and I was striving for that look. You can see some of the texture from the tissue here along the branches and also in the foliage background. I hadn’t planned on adding the white dove. That came later after I completed the painting and just didn’t feel satisfied. Something was missing. That’s when I drew a small dove on white paper and glued to a tree branch. Then I pasted my white tissue over it and around it to help it blend in more. That seemed to be just what it needed..
The last one here isn’t a collage, although it almost looks like it is. I was aiming for a playful, abstracted look, using the intense colors you find in a marina setting and focusing on the “dancing lights” reflected on the water. When I was finished painting, I outlined the boats and dock with black ink to help the images “pop” even more. I used to do that as a child when I colored, outlining the images in black. I always thought they looked better that way.
I’ve found I like working with collage and ink and the way they enhance my paintings. I imagine I’ll be experimenting more with this technique as I continue playing with watercolor.
I’ve long had a thing about the colors blue and gold, especially in combination. Something about them soothes and excites me. I created a Pinterest page of nothing but images of blue and gold. I go there to feel enriched, refreshed. To simply bask in the feelings these colors evoke. Depth and richness, serenity and empowerment.
Blue is the color of the sea and the sky, or sleep and twilight. In color psychology it represents mystery, depth, intuition. It also symbolizes intelligence, inspiration, wisdom and spirituality, even the Virgin Mary. One source considers blue as “beneficial to the mind and body.” It is associated with peace and tranquility.
The color gold is associated with “illumination, love, compassion, courage, passion, magic, and wisdom.” It symbolizes self-purification, humankind’s quest to perfect, illuminate and refine ourselves. In Christian art it is often used to convey divine love.
Together, I think they symbolize the creative spirit, with all the mystery and intuition, passion and empowerment that implies.
Sometimes I find myself dreaming of images in blue and gold, and that’s where these last two paintings come from. Both were inspired in part by paintings of Odilon Redon, his blue poppies, his lady in blue, as shown above.
But in my dream, the poppies were dancing, lighter than air, in a deep blue bowl, partial and incomplete. As if blown away by, or evaporating into, the light.
My blue lady, deep in meditation, became sphinx-like, swathed in swirling spirals of blue and gold.
The blue I used is my favorite, Daniel Smith’s French Aquamarine, which I used straight from the tube with only enough water to allow it to flow. Applied that way it has such a velvety texture it makes you want to touch it.
The gold is Smith’s Quinacridone Deep Gold, another favorite, which I mellowed with Cadmium Yellow Light.
The poppies are framed now at the end of my hallway. I named it, appropriately enough, “Dancing Poppies in a Blue Bowl.” Although sometimes I just think of it as “blown away.” I like the lightness of the poppies, the weight of the bowl, the way the whole piece is in motion.
The other, “Meditation in Blue and Gold,” is leaning on a bookshelf in my study. When I glance at her she instills in me that sense of peace and inspiration and love essential to any creative task.
Not long after I finished those first three watercolors paintings I shared last week, I was inspired to try to capture something of the style and subject matter of some of my favorite artists.
I fell in love with the paintings of Odilon Redon and especially his paintings of boats. It’s not surprising, given my own love affair with the sea and boats and sailing. There was something so iconic about his images. His seas capturing the deep unconscious, his amazing skies, and the boats themselves, so graceful and buoyant, evocative of vast journeys into the subconscious, the unknown. I had to try my hand at that.
I created studies of two pieces, the one above in the header, and the one below. They aren’t copies. The colors are different, the composition. But if you know Redon’s work, you definitely know who inspired these.
The drawings themselves were simple, the people harder, but capturing some of his techniques, done in oil, with watercolor was a challenge, and the part I actually enjoyed the most. I wanted my paintings to have the richness of oils, to have that “primitive” look, and to look “old.” The blue sail one was my first and easier to paint for some reason. Here’s the original I painted.
I ended up toning down some of the gold at the bottom and the colorful reflections at the right in the final version. Now I’m not sure I should have done so.
The gold one was more of a challenge. It’s a study of his painting called “The Yellow Sail, Final Journey, Guardians of the Soul”. I love that title! It was challenging capturing the “souls” in the boat and those little bits of light floating away (the souls moving heavenward?) which I translated into butterflies (he paints lots of butterflies in his works). And that sea. I wanted blue/green, rather than his gold, but getting the right color, and getting a reflection of the sunset in the water, that was difficult. I reworked it too much in some places, but I think that added to the “primitive, old” look.
I think I’ve succeeded to some degree in what I wanted to do. Enough to want to frame these and put on my wall in more prominent places, our foyer. They just got back from the framers. But they looked a little lost in the bigger frames I’d ordered and wide matting, so I trimmed it down and put them into smaller frames. Here they are lined up on the couch. We’ll hang them on the wall later today.
I was especially pleased that my husband liked these as much as I do, even more than my paintings of our tropical travels. He likes the other study I did below as much. No, even more so. It is in our bedroom over a dresser where we see it each morning when we wake. I’m so lucky to have a husband who has the same taste in art and who loves my work (or me, least) enough to want to show it off.
I love the way her images, mostly women and girls, seem to appear out of thin air, or melt into it. That sense of oneness with one’s surroundings really speaks to me. Then of course the iconic image of Madonna and Child, mother and infant, is so heady with the evocation of unconditional love and acceptance, of nurturing and birth and creation, of life itself, that it’s hard for me to resist wanting to capture some of that.
And I think I did. At least enough to want to wake to it each morning. What do you think?
I’ve become fascinated by the paintings of Redon (1840-1916), a French artist and Symbolist working mostly in charcoal, pastel, and oil. I included one of his paintings in my last post called “La Barque.” I even went so far as to paint a study of it in watercolor as a way to loosen up my own work and let imagination and feeling help free me from an over-reliance on realism.
Many of his paintings feature boats, the sea, and underwater images, which no doubt is why I first gravitated to his work. But I think his musical compositions, his richly saturated colors, and his turn toward the poetic–the mystical and mythical–also drew me. Even perhaps his interest in Eastern philosophy, in Buddha and Hinduism, the indeterminate and invisible. In all these ways he is an artist that speaks to my heart.
Many of his paintings are dream-like. They evoke reality rather than depict it. On his painting entitled “Underwater Vision,” he wrote: “You will feel the poetry of the sands, the charms of the air of the imperceptible line. While I recognize the necessity for a basis of observed reality… true art lies in a reality that is felt.”
His earlier work, mostly in charcoal and lithograph, was dark and sometimes seemed demonic (a spider with a human head, for instance.) But later they became full of light. One art historian says that Redon began to want his works to portray “the triumph of light over darkness.”
Redon wrote: “My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined.”
Here are a few of his works that inspire me and show a range of his subjects.