095:365 Memory of an African Violet

095:365 Memory of an African Violet

“Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depths of some devine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.”
― Alfred Tennyson

Today nostalgia washes over me, both happiness and sadness. The double edged sword of being in the place one grew up is that there are so many people and places that one knows intimately. One knows how to get around but one also knows what has been around.

This is a memory of a drawing I used to do as a child. A one liner of muscle memory and imagination that nobody but me remembers. Today felt like that somehow.

090:365 White & Purple Crocus

090:365 White & Purple Crocus

When I was a kid, I loved oil pastels. I’d draw bright flowers, beautiful hillsides, and starry nights. There were drawings I’d do over and over, never exactly the same, but following the same formal constraints. Hill just so, sun or moon with these pastel-marks.

As a grown artist, I look back on those drawings with both fondness and chagrin.

Inspiration White & Purple Crocus

On the one hand, they were familiar forms that helped me perfect my technique. Drafts, as it were, that developed into skill with mark-making, composition, and iconography.

On the other, they like banal over-studied forms that stopped investigating new meaning.

We artists must constantly balance the need to investigate new horizons with the desire to connect with our audience. Many of the wild drawings I did in Madrid, which to me are emotional investigative storms on A3 paper, seem like decorative art to the viewer, while my repeated drawings of Gracie, with different techniques and stories, seem like developed work to the viewer.

It is necessary to repeat. It is necessary to connect. It is necessary to delve.

These necessities are why there are multiple strains of work that show up as I continue through this project.

None of this is really about the crocus drawing above. It represents another investigation into macro perspective beauty through the medium of paper and pastel instead of camera and pixels. It is not the end of developing technique.

One reason I like doing macro-photography is because it satisfies my need to delve and look at abstract form while still remaining approachable to the viewer, and it is fun to repeat the technique and change the angle to fit in with my body of work because it involves looking so close that there are always new things to see.

Spring flowers are so pretty. Took a bunch of photos today of what’s sprouting in the yard. Expect more flowers, banal though they may be.

089:365 Amaryllis Bud

089:365 Amaryllis Bud

This entry is being written a day late. This is the drawing that I meant to do yesterday but didn’t do until tonight.

In a private lesson, we’ve been looking at famous artists. We started with Van Gogh, whose sunflowers are bright and shiny, though they don’t bloom until Summer or Autumn. Then last week and this, we’ve been looking at Georgia O’Keeffe whose beautiful fields of varied color create abstracted floral forms. Her work is somewhat less approachable for Young Learners, but with the segue of looking first at Van Gogh’s recognizable, if distorted images, her work makes a good entry into looking at color blending, mixing, and theory.

Working with these drawings as well as reading through the collected letters I mentioned a day or two ago, I find inspiration in how O’Keeffe looked at the world. In photo, macro is one of my favorite ways of looking, and so perhaps now is time to explore the beauty of macro more extensively in these drawings.

Years ago, I made an attempt at drawing an amaryllis as it began growing, but the results were far from satisfactory. This more abstract version feels nicer, but because of my current focus on O’Keeffe’s work, it also feels somewhat derivative. Hopefully, derivative or not, you the viewer find some beauty in these marks on paper.

Inspiration Amaryllis Bud

086:365 The BIG Smokestack

086:365 The BIG Smokestack

When I was in pre-school, a time most people probably don’t remember, there are few things I remember. One of them was that I loved when the carpool/volunteer-for-the-day-at-the-co-op-nursery would drive by the BIG smokestack instead of going through campus.

It used to be that the bottom of the smokestack for the U-M physical plant used to be exposed. It produces hot-water, some electricity, and heat for the university to keep it somewhat isolated from the “grid” and whatever else a “Physical Plant” for a university should do. The details are fuzzy.

Today we went around to various places in Ann Arbor to take pictures of various improvements and disimprovements before the trees get leaves. We could see a wider swath of downtown from the park at the top of Sunset, and we took some pictures to share with our out-of-town acquaintances who remember the A2 of my childhood at newest, but don’t know how many more buildings have taken root on the skyline.

The BIG smokestack was the one sign that Ann Arbor was a big city when I was a kid. I remember walking there past the Power Center (where I scraped my knees) to see the base of the smokestack. We could actually walk up and touch it. Though it was a little too far for my 4 year-old self, and I remember after the time I scraped my knees, we didn’t do it again. It has been covered for a long time, but now, instead of a simple shanty at its base, there is an enormous building, and they built a commons.

So much has changed that sometimes, perhaps because of my long absences from Ann Arbor, I can’t remember what was where the Taubman Biomedical Chemistry Building, or the Potato-Chip in townie speak, is. It was nothing that fancy, though there was a building there.

Change can be good, and I think that much of the space in downtown and on campus is being used to a much livelier degree. Ann Arbor feels alive now. Maybe it always did, and I’ve finally been away long enough to feel like it is a great place.

On a day like today, which Angelinos would take in full winter get-ups, Ann Arborites were running in short-shorts. There is something to be said for seasons. The human body can take hot and cold. Change is good. Spring is here!