Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Fingers portrait and why not? Done with ink, watercolor, white gouache, and then finally some smudged Pierre Noire, on tan BFK Rives paper. The "negative space" is kind of a smile, isn't it? Hadn't noticed that.

BFK, by the way, stands for
Blanchet Frères et Kleber, the original manufacturers of the 'Rives' paper, at a mill in Rives near Grenoble, France.

Speaking of France, I have been studying (not reading, but actually studying) the old and respected book about Cézanne by Erle Loran, an art professor at UC Berkeley, entitled
Cézanne's Composition: Analysis of His Form with Diagrams and Photographs of His Motifs. It was written in 1963 and lately re-printed.

The term 'motifs' in the title refer to photos of the actual places and scenes in France that
Cézanne used as subjects. One of Professor Loran's excellent analytic diagrams is reproduced below, from page 77. (It's his diagram of La table de cuisine, now at the Musée d'Orsay.)

I have learned two new and interesting things from the book so far. First, that Professor Loran is convinced that Cézanne himself did NOT construct his compositions using the same kind of analysis or forward planning that the professor uncovers. He goes to great lengths in the introductory material to 'prove' that Cézanne had no systematic/academic understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of composition.

It was all pure instinct, according to the fine professor.

And second, for
Cézanne, the choice of initial subject matter had little to do with the success of the painting, as measured by Professor Loran's analyses. So really, all the parts in the book that are devoted to discussion of the original 'motifs' are pretty moot, in my opinion. Cézanne wantonly re-arranged what he saw in front of him to meet the needs of his picture. He made a timeless masterpiece out of a picture of some old rocks in a quarry.

What this also says to me is that you need not and ought not to wait for your surroundings to provide you with exciting or inspiring subject matter. You can learn and grow and get satisfaction and enjoy the heck outta just drawing a door handle or a chair leg.

And so there it is.

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