February 1, 2009

Camellias and Ivy in a Terry Gess Vase

My sojourn into the gentle art of still life painting continues with a study of camellias and ivy in a ceramic vase. The ceramic vase was made by North Carolina potter Terry Gess. Terry Gess not only has an amazing flair for creating vessels with great form but with an eye for their eventual use as receptacles for blossoms and plants. When we visited his studio, I was struck by how he would hold a vessel in his hands and describe the botanical items he anticipated filling them with.
"This is a shallow bowl for narcissus" he told us, as he held a wood fired piece with short legs and a delicate waving form. This particular piece had simple dark brown on tan brush marks. Terry Gess’ sensitivity for design as a complement to nature was evinced by his understated decoration - simple brush strokes of iron oxide reminiscent of Japanese masters like Hamada.
The vessel that I painted with the camellias and ivy has almost a pod-like shape with a narrow wedge of an opening. The design is such that blossoms placed inside arrange themselves in an informal row without falling behind or in front of each other. This was helpful for pushing the ivy out and over the edge of the vase so that it could flow easily into a splayed composition.
This was a joy to paint on a cold winter’s day.

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