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October 13, 2018


Oh, excellent!

From what I've seen of your work, one medium supports another, but there is always a reverent embrace of the natural world (even when you draw a still life of objects. I especially like the translucent quality of watercolour and paused for a while to think of your term "unforgiving".

The awareness of time left calls us both to new forms and to the return of old ones; if we are lucky we bring a lifetime of experience to the old.

I know nothing about painting. On top of this I suffered from an incapacity to pick and relate colours when this was required for graphic arts projects associated with the magazines I edited. Thus I am free to play the innocent.

I'm guessing but aren't a majority of the world's painting masterpieces done in oils? And if so, might this be a contributory reason for your switch back?

When I took up singing lessons nearly three years ago the first work I was presented with (at my first lesson, too!) was O Isis und Osiris from Magic Flute. Luckily I'd heard the opera several times and I wasn't starting entirely from scratch. Even so, after two or three attempts I broke down in tears. To be taking instruction from a score directly attributable to Mozart changed my whole attitude towards music: a sense of privilege (with concomitant obligations) awaited and I've applied myself as best I can ever since. Progress, however miniscule, has been a recurring celebration

Your paintings will, of course, copy no one's. They will be your own. But oil is a tradition as well as a medium. On this demanding substance huge, influential achievements have been founded. Faced with encompassing the nose on a subject's face might you remind youself of how a certain Dutchman tackled this same feature - over and over, in fact, and using the same medium - with spectacular results? Or is this mere fancy on my part?

My ignorance isn't entirely all-embracing. The texture of the hilll (mountain?) dominating the View of Cefalu is familiar to me. It's a style you've made your own. And that's another thing...

So happy for you! Returning to something you love is a marvelous feeling.

Thanks, Dale.

Duchesse, thanks for commenting, and yes, you're right, one medium does inform another and I've always felt it was good to move around in them. Watercolor *is* unforgiving: you have one shot, you can't erase or correct, and overworking results in a muddy mess. The luminous transparency we both like in finished works is a product of speed, deftness, skill, experience, confidence, high-quality paper and pigments, and a large dose of good luck! The thing is, a failed watercolor represents a few hours at most and the investment of a sheet of paper, while a failed oil painting means days and weeks of work and much greater investment in materials. But because oil is more forgiving, and allows reworking and built-up layers, I'm less likely to abandon a painting, but to try to bring it to completion: hence the struggle I alluded to. Maybe I'll write more about this in a subsequent post!

Robbie, that Dutchman's nose is a touchstone, so to speak! Thanks for your comments here. Yes, most of the world's masterpieces historically were done in oil, but that isn't necessarily the case now, since high-quality acrylics have been available. I'm just a purist and I really enjoy both the feeling of painting in oils and the quality of the surface and colors one can achieve with them - I still don't feel this is equaled by any other medium. What you say about being part of a tradition also matters to me - and that tradition of excellence and striving spurs me on to try my best, just as you pursue music. I feel infinitely fortunate to be able to be an artist in my later years; I worked hard to be able to have time now to devote to it and I want to be serious about it.

Thanks, Pascale! So true.

Yes! I always loved your work in every medium, but here, even on the computer screen, I can feel the power of life-giving joy in your brush strokes, the way rock and sea cradle the city.

Dear Beth, I'm moved and excited for you and longing to see what you direction your work moves in.

Thanks, Maria! I'm glad if some of the emotion comes across in these little images on the screen!

Jean, thank you. I'm anxious to see what happens too, and I know I'm often inspired by the works of female artists that you post. I try to hold onto that inspiration rather than being angry at how underrepresented and unrecognized women artists have been throughout history -- it's awful, and a deliberate erasure, frankly. I'm glad we're living at a time when this is less the case, and where at least sharing work and encouraging our fellow artists, female and male, can take place across all borders

Wonderful. I'm glad you're painting again. These images are vivid and alive, testament to the contentment you describe here.

Looking forward to seeing more!

Beautiful, Beth. You inspire me, now as always.

I love the painting of Cefalu rocks and cacti, full of light, a limited palette, silvery, intense and focused. Very happy that you're recapturimg enthusiasm for painting, Beth. Oils, acrylics, watercolour, drawings, prints, clay, ceramic, fabric etc. all the media have their idiosyncracies, their rules, histories and challenges, but what matters is how one feels when using a specificr medium, whether it suits what one is trying to convey via an art form. I think of media like musical instruments or languages. Is painting in oil more like speaking French than English? Playing piano or flute? Not taking metaphors too far, my concern at present is to eliminate, narrow down the choics, of media as well as style and content.
Wish you weren't so far away! Sorry I missed your birthday, my warmest thoughts floating out to you.

Love this whole conversation—you put the mediums in the balance with mind and heart and will and time as the counterweights and Natalie adds purpose. Which is why you blog as well as paint. Oh yes. And I rad. Love this morning!


If not now, when is always a good question. Loved this post.

Natalie, thank you so much, I agree with your sentiments about narrowing down the choices, it feels necessary to me too. And thank you for liking the Cefalu rocks and cacti painting - I like it much better than the other one, there's something about its intensity and sense of enclosure, surrounded by the sea, that conveys how I felt about that particular place. I too wish we could just meet up for coffee!

Vivian, thanks -- you do much more than read.

Marly, well, yes, it is the perennial question but becomes rather more urgent with each year! Thanks.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.