January 28, 2009

Pairs, Pears

There was something warm and inviting about three red and yellow pears in a Jeri Burdick earthenware bowl. The warm yellow ivory of the pears stood in contrast to the cool bluish white vessel. The stem of the center pear seemed to echo the short brown lines decorating the bowl’s surface. I often paint things like that - visual equivalents to homophones. So after looking at this unpretentious bowl with three pears in it for some time as the little scene rested by the window, I decided to paint it.
I have been painting with companion artists and thought that I would take this simple still life to one of them to see if she felt similarly moved by it. She ended up painting another still life set up instead of this restrained one but still enjoyed the Zen-like simplicity of it. When painting the bowl I noticed the turquoise foot and that it was different from the rest all surrounding colors. I thought of the Chinese art principle of guest and host in painting colors. Unlike western painting, where a color is moved around the canvas, insinuating itself into other colors, Chinese painting divides colors into large masses of black or monochromatic colors and small focal points of intense colors. It is called guest and host because the host is represented by the bright spot on the page and the guests the large areas of muted, darker areas serving as a supporting cast of colors. In this case the turquoise patch is host of the painting.
Painting fruit can be useful if one paints quickly enough to eat the still life. I was a little late in getting to one of the pears and found that it was somewhat desiccated. The others were fine. I joked to my companion that under IRS regulations we can only deduct 50% of the cost of meals out of town as working artists, but 100% of studio props used for still life paintings. We are therefore obliged to eat our props whenever possible in order to fall into the higher deduction bracket.

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