I have been hanging on to gift type boxes for the last year or so. Simple shapes, with lids and without, different sizes, different materials. I am a bit of a pack rat and I keep a lot of things that I have an affinity for somehow, such as glass bottles, vases, vintage food containers and I even have a good sized collection of plastic soldiers going. I guess I hope that someday I will find how to incorporate them into my work, but I also just like to keep things that I think are cool, or beautiful or that have some kind of meaning for me.
A few years ago I tried and tried to paint colored glass bottles. I loved the bottles so much and I felt more strongly about them than the landscapes. But I couldn't translate the bottles into a good painting. I wasn't ready to do it and it drove me crazy. Chastened, I went back to landscapes, and proceeded to throw myself into those, with some success, I think. But because I am never completely happy with the now, I kept daydreaming about which direction to go in next, even while I was frantically busy with barns and landscapes.
Last week when I realized that I better get back to work, at least a little, I thought it was a good time to experiment. After a long discussion with Doug, who helps me so much with all of this art stuff, I felt that it was time to pull out the boxes and see what happens. In my mind, I kept picturing paintings of simple box forms, in my usual palette and composition. Generally, I try not to do that, but this time I was able to come close to what I was thinking about ahead of time and the two pieces that I posted last week are a good start I think. I did a few more underpaintings on Saturday, including the one above.
However, I am struggling with how lame it feels to paint a still life. This bothers me because I actually like them, we have several still lifes by other artists in our collection and clearly some of the best and most well known art in history has the still life as its subject. When I was working with pastels about five years ago I couldn't stop feeling foolish about focusing on pretty little teacups, flowers and pears. I did them, loved the process and they were nice and still I wondered about their purpose. But I felt that same way about landscapes at first and so maybe the tension of all of that is what holds everything together for me. And after looking through my book about the paintings of Alberto Morandi, whose work I love, I felt a bit reassured about focusing on such simple forms.
Despite all of my over thinking (I might have a bit too much time on my hands right now), it was exhilarating to paint those boxes that I have been collecting. To set them up, do the underpainting and then make whatever changes I wanted. The colors are not true, I have changed the backgrounds, the foregrounds, nearly everything except the space and forms. Which is like my process with landscapes. So I think I will keep going and just see where I go.