I had the notion to paint something this morning but as I sat outside drinking coffee in the cool crisp air, the brilliant blue cloudless sky going on forever, I hadn't a notion of exactly what.
Last night I read the first hundred or so pages of the 900-plus page biography Van Gogh: The life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, so maybe my mind was open to the idea of making something more expressive and simpler than most of the work I've done so far. I also knew that I wanted to paint a bigger canvas. The largest canvasses I've used before now have been 16x20"(41x51cm) and this one has 50% more surface area than those (it's 20x24"(51x61cm)).
After I set it on the easel, I ran through the ideas that have been percolating lately: a painting based on an aerial photo of a colorful Mexican town, a copy of an early Fauvist work by André Breton, a self-portrait of me in my studio, and a few others. I went so far as to play with my camera, trying but failing to set up a photo for the self-portrait. Frustrated, I grabbed a very small canvas and decided to just dash off a tiny painting of something - anything! But, I needed more coffee so into the kitchen I went.
And there it was, that little green apple.
The idea of painting small disappeared as I quickly set the apple in my shadowbox. After a few minutes work selecting and rejecting different fabrics for the background, I settled on the blue and red you see here. I loosely sketched the apple on to the canvas using a colored pencil and then nearly threw the paint at it. I want it to look alive.
Life doesn't stand still for us the way that photographs can make it seem. Everything around us is constantly changing - some of it rapidly, some of it more slowly. When we look at something, our eyes do a little dance, trying to make sense of that motion. Take a look around you now, notice how your gaze bounces and bounces from one thing to the next, sizing up everything in relation to everything else. It's how we know how big or small, fat or thin, near or far the outside stuff is to us.
From chaos we construct order. That's the notion I decided to paint.