A: In the morning before I start working on a pastel painting, I read for roughly half an hour. Usually I read something art-related; for example, see the books that are quoted on Wednesdays in “Pearls from artists” on this blog.
As I’m reading, I look across at the painting on my easel and soon something becomes apparent, some annoying thing that needs immediate attention. That’s where I will begin. As I’m looking, of course, I’m thinking and the solution to a technical problem becomes obvious. Before I know it, I’m up and working, slowly improving the painting as I go.
A: I would be at loose ends if I finished a pastel painting and didn’t have another one immediately available to work on. It’s one reason I always have two paintings in progress. Another is that when I get stuck on some technical problem, I can switch to the other painting. Works in progress tend to interact and play off of each other. As I am working on a second painting, solutions to problems I had on the first quickly become apparent.
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
In Amsterdam I saw a striking still life painted by Rembrandt van Rijn suspended above a glass case that contained the same objects that he used as a model for the picture. The contrast between what felt like a drab collection of random objects in the case and the stunning luminescent painting that seemed imbued with nothing less than intense energy and life gave me pause and clarified something I had been thinking about. I had been thinking about the power of art to transform the frustrations and irritations of daily life into a realm of grace and to embody, through arrangement, composition, light, color and shade, nothing less than the secret elixir of life itself.
We encounter daily frustrations, irritations, and obstacles. Perhaps we feel hampered and limited by our hit-and-miss upbringing, our apparent limitations and our imperfect ongoing circumstances. And yet Rembrandt’s still life painting demonstrates that it is within our power to transform the random, the everyday, the frustrating and the prosaic into an arrangement instilled with grace and poetry. Is it the arrangement of these objects that lends such a spiritual quality to the painting? Is it the sensation of light captured upon canvas? How did Rembrandt transform the quotidian into an uplifting vision of life?
Anne Bogart in What’s the Story: Essays about art, theater, and storytelling