Grief

I recently posted about aging (Diminishment) and disability (Comfort Zone). Some reduction of faculties are gradual and can be tolerated I imagine, much as one gets used to the shock of jumping into a pool of cold water. Although frightening, this aspect of the human condition is often a topic that people in older age groups can talk about amongst themselves: “My doctor gave me [this medication] for that condition,” and “Yes, but my doc says I should be doing [more exercise, less exercise, more anti-oxidants, etc, etc.].”  Inter-age conversations are more in the realm of platitudes such as: Getting old is not for sissies; or my favorite [from my mother]: Getting old stinks.

I see the prospect of losing either sight of hearing as more like jumping into a pool where there is no water at all: Terrifying.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

My watercolor Comfort Zone was a depiction of a blind person unaware of a dangerous obstacle in her path. The subtitle was a little flippant: Madge is About to Get the Point. But there is nothing humorous about the dangers that confront many disabled people.

Today’s study focuses on the reaction of Madge’s husband after she hurt herself. Grief and sadness for his injured partner are hard to describe in words.

Perhaps grief and sadness are within the spectrum of feelings caregivers and family members have for their charges. As the brother of a severely low functioning, autistic and nonverbal individual, I have experienced these emotions to different degrees. I can’t imagine what it must be like to care for a person who understands a just little bit of the world around them, but not enough to be able to protect him or herself against hurt.

Watercolor - Abstract Face and Free Form Body Embracing Triangle in Grief

Grief
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

This study is about the caregiver rather than the injured party. Grief is not restricted to the one facing the loss.

Process:

I must have been ruminating on this idea for a couple of days. Last night I dreamed about the form of the grieving husband. Paul Klee would have been proud of me because the outline was one continuous line. I borrowed Madge’s form from Comfort Zone.

To indicate the hotness of grief, I used alizarine crimson for the face; French ultramarine painted the coolness of the outside of the arms enveloping Madge’s head which was colored with English yellow.

Comment:

Although I did not include the rest of Madge’s body, I think she is alive and well and that her husband will take good care of her. If he can just stop crying.

Abstract Habits

These days, when I sit down to paint, I usually wet the entire paper, choose a color and then apply it with a wide brush.  I usually make an arc and, based on the color and variations of that arc, I choose another color (complementary or more closely-related) and paint another swath, either adjacent to or in spatial contrast to the first. I enjoy the color interactions enhanced by the wet paper and the different ways each pigment spreads to form secondary colors or, as the paper dries, the tendencies of the colors to coexist side by side.

Lately, my abstracts resemble cross sections of the human brain.  I understand that this might be due to my fascination with this most complex organ, but perhaps it is my habit that governs the same-ness of these studies. I do have a number of related studies that I call my ‘brain series’ (Brain TeasersCompartmentalizationMemory FadesUntitledBrain Abstract, Head Butt) that I can’t seem to break away from.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

I felt as if I have been neglecting the orange section of my palette, so I began today’s study with an arc of perinone orange flanked by cadmium orange pure and warm orange (Daler Rowney). I outlined these colors with a lemon yellow. I emphasized the roundness of the central arcs by painting the corners of the picture plane with a Winsor red.

I used the edge of a dry wide brush to form radial lines that appeared to meet at the center of the concentric arc construction. This is not visible in the final form of the study, since I painted ultramarine blue-colored wedge shapes between these lines. These shapes were painted on a thoroughly wet surface as was the central purple blot and the purple outline of the arc structure.

Watercolor Study - Purple and Yellow Arcs + 4 Blue Wedges Outside Orange and Purple Center

Abstract 91714
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Although this looks like a brain to me, I can also see it as part of a grapefruit that has been left in the fridge too long. I hope others can apply their own meanings to this abstract.

Comfort Zone

Today’s watercolor experiment:

Inspiration:

I was still thinking about aging and diminishment of faculties as I was trying to decide what to paint today. The visual sense is very important to me so I view the loss of sight as a very scary, dangerous prospect.

I though of Paul Klee‘s drawings. I don’t remember any specific ones, but rather that some of his figures were composed of triangles. Triangles also played a role in Edward Abbott’s Flatland, a book about a 2-dimensional world. In this world, all geometric shapes presented themselves as lines, for this is how they would look if one looked at them from the edge of the paper. For example, if a circle moved toward you, it would appear as a line that would get progressively bigger as it approached. However, if you were approached by a triangle, you would see the same thing but there would be no warning before you were stabbed by its point. And lines? Forget about it. In Abbott’s world, lines had to waggle back and forth so no one would be run through, mistaking them from points.

The watercolor sketch below is more about disability than it is aging, although one is more prone to disability the older one gets (according to my doctor).

Watercolor Sketch - Triangular Person with White Cane Approaching a Sharp Point

Comfort Zone (10″x15″ 140# Watercolor Paper)

Process:

I usually use a high quality watercolor paper in the form of a block. That all the paper is glued together on its edge to prevent buckling when soaked with water, makes it quite easy to use. Today I used a single sheet of oversized paper. I had to tape it down on all sides as a way to minimize warping from application of watercolor washes or glazes. I was disappointed by the way this particular type of paper accepted color. The size of the picture made it difficult to photograph with my available lighting.

Masking tape masked out the triangular shapes of the figure and the arm. Latex masking fluid did the trick for the white-tipped cane. I used no masking for the red triangle.

I used pen and ink to outline the shapes of the figure and to emphasize the dividing line between the comfort and caution zones.

Colors:

I used three different washes in the zone of comfort (the area in which the figure is standing): Prussian blue, quinacridone purple and permanent mauve. For the remainder of the foreground I used English yellow, a nice orange-toned yellow.  The red triangle was colored with Winsor red.

Comment:

I call this composition, Comfort Zone with the subtitle Madge is About to Get the Point. One can see that Madge is trying to use her other senses to compensate. Her nose is up in the air, trying to sniff out any danger, her ear is listening for the tapping of the white cane and her toe is poised carefully in the air as if she is about to take a baby step forward.  However, there is nothing to alert her to the danger right in front of her.

Diminishment

I don’t think of myself as old. I think of myself as a person who has been young for a very, very long time. Except for a couple of things. The other day I was just walking along and I was stopped in my tracks by my ankle. And pain. When I limped to the doc, he said, “It doesn’t take much to cause an injury at our age.” Funny. He’s about 20 years younger than me. He probably got a very high grade in ‘Bedside Manner’ at medical school.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

Inspiration:

The idea of fragility and temporary condition of good health came home to roost the other day, big time, when a loved one got some terrifying news at the doctor’s office. There is chance that this person could lose vision. As a visual person myself, I can’t think of anything that would diminish my lust for life more than loss of vision.

The watercolor below is my attempt to imagine what it might be like to have severely reduced vision.

Watercolor Sketch - Representation of Diminished Vision

Diminishment
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Process:

I began by washing the top and bottom of the paper with quinacridone purple and quinacridone, leaving the middle strip unpainted, as if the eyelids were nearly closed. I used my flesh color mix (cadmium red deep, yellow ochre and titanium white) to paint over the darkened background to suggest the faces that I lightly sketched in pencil. I used quinacridone nickel for the hair. The final wash was Prussian blue, that I laid on as a heavy tint. I did not apply the Prussian blue to the faces.

Comment:

I have not read descriptions of the type of diminished vision caused by the condition the doctor mentioned. I imagined what it might be like if one could only see clearly in a thin horizontal strip, with the rest of the visual field darkened.

Diminishment is a terrifying prospect indeed.

Neuro Dream

My dreams have been a bit odd lately, even by my standards. The other night I dreamed that I had an MRI scan and that I was deficient in elemental gold and silver in the region of the caudate and putamen, central gray-matter structures deep inside the brain. The treatment (obviously) was to infuse gold and silver dust through the nasal passages so it could be absorbed and transported to the appropriate region.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

My watercolor study today originated with a dream, but fits quite nicely into my ‘brain series’ of watercolors (Brain Teasers, Compartmentalization, Memory Fades, Untitled, Brain AbstractHead Butt).

Watercolor Sketch - View of Brain as Imagined in Dream

Neuro Dream
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Process:

My first thought was to squeeze a silhouette of a head into the confines of the picture plane, with the nose right up against the frame. I made a rough drawing just a couple of lines for the nose and mouth, and sketched an outline of the brain. I did have to refer to my neuroanatomy atlas to properly place the caudate/putamen within the sagittal cross section of the whole brain.

The nose is key in the dream, as this is the route of administration of the silver and gold.  Of course, one would need a funnel to pipe the silver and gold into the nose. Through a miraculous (read – dreamlike) process, these precious elements make their way to exactly where they are needed, which I represent by outlining the gold and silver colors with black.

Colors:

I used my mixture for flesh tone (cadmium red deep, yellow ochre and titanium white) for the skin tones of the nose and mouth and for the brain stem and caudate/putamen. Spectrum yellow gouache colors the funnel and the ventricles (the space at the center of the central nervous system), starting at the lower right part of the canvas, and the region around the central pink structure (caudate/putamen). The latter area looks green because it was washed with viridian, a transparent green which I used to wash the entire expanse of the brain, except the central flesh-colored area.

I used gobs of imitation gold and silver gouache to illustrate the administration of these life saving elements to my brain.

Comment:

My dreams frequently tell me what I already know. Who couldn’t use an infusion of silver and gold, through the nose or by any other means of administration?

Watercolor Glory

I took this picture in a parking lot the other day.

Digital Photo - Morning Glory

Morning Glory
Digital Phone Photograph

I love the transition from white to pink to purple to blue. I am particularly fond of the color change from blue to purple.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

In a previous experiment I journaled my verbal thoughts as I went about painting: from initial idea to the point at which I stopped painting.   Today’s process was a little different.

Process:

I had the flower in mind as I started painting, but I concentrated on the color transition. Below is the first stage of my painting, in which I made a transition from white at the center to blue at the edges, with quinacridone purple in between.

Watercolor Study - Morning Glory Step 1

Morning Glory Stage 1

The suggestion of the flower petals was an afterthought, as you can see from the residual blue wash surrounding the blue/purple mix.  I did not refer back to the original photograph.

I was struck by the 5-sided star emerging in parallel rays from the gray ring at the center of flower. Two of the rays are almost hidden in shadow. Inside the gray ring is a white luminescent shape that is the very center of the flower.

For the second stage of this study, I used a narrow, stiff sponge, called an ‘elephant ear’, slightly wetted, to remove paint to make the lighter shades of color that form the rays.

Watercolor Study - Morning Glory Step 2

Morning Glory Stage 2

Also, at this point I re-enforced the dark blue of shadows.

Finally, I touched up the shadows of the flowers and painted a background of quinacridone gold, using a wet brush on dry paper. Referring back to the photograph, I noticed green in the background. I painted over the gold with Hooker’s green, lopping off some of the edges of the flower to conform, more or less, to the shape seen in the photograph.

Watercolor Study - Morning Glory Flower

Morning Glory Watercolor Study
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Comment:

I didn’t have much of a verbal conversation with myself in this experiment. I mainly painted from one goal to another. For instance, in one painting episode I would concentrate on the tones of shadows; another episode would see me concentrating on shapes, and so on.

As this method resulted in a complete painting, I think it is the best way for me to proceed.

Sharing

I don’t know how old Arthur is. I thought I was a better parent than that, but I guess I’m not. It may be because it is so hard to tell from which point to start. Do I start counting the time from when his seed split? When the root started? When the stem sprouted?  When I planted him? Funny, that last bit. When one plants a person, it is the end. With a tree, it is the beginning.

Those of you who haven’t been following my blog for too long, Arthur is my pet avocado tree. I set his pit (aka stone) atop a water-filled glass jar some time ago, just like junior. We almost had a disaster when I first planted him in inappropriate dirt, but he has been thriving ever since I potted him in a clay pot with potting soil.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

For several weeks I noticed that Arthur had company in his pot. I thought it was a weed, but I tend to live and let live, so I did not extract the new life from A’s pot. I was surprised to find that this ‘weed’ was an errant seed of a plant that grew in a neighboring pot. Today, the new flowering plant (as yet unnamed) is almost as tall as Arthur. They seem to like each other.

Watercolor Sketch - Avocado and Flower Plants in Same Pot

Arthur and Friend
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Process:

I used an HB and a 2B pencil to sketch Arthur and his buddy. I also used my phone to take reference photos. After I was satisfied with the sketch, I washed most of the background with a variety of greens (thalo yellow green, viridian, Hooker’s green). I did not wash the left side where the flowers were to be. The dark areas of the broad green leaves were important, so I used the Hooker’s green where I had penciled in the shadows. For the places where the sun provided illumination, I used cadmium yellow pale.

Some of the leaves showed a tinge of red. For those areas, I used quinacridone nickel, an earth tone, but one with a hint of red.

I used a light green (the thalo yellow green) for the leaves of the flowering plant. I played around with the reds of the flowers, experimenting with Winsor red, permanent alizarin crimson, rose madder and even a bit of quinacridone purple. I used aurolian yellow to stripe the flowers.

I filled in the space around the flowering plant with a light green to merge with the rest of the background.

I’m happy that Author and Flowering Plant are sharing. I hope they are too.

 

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