Daydreaming In Place

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…If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the daydreamer, the house allows one to dream in place. Thought and experience are not the only things that sanction human values. The values belonging to daydreaming mark humanity to its depths. Daydreaming even has a privilege of autovalorization. It derives direct pleasure from its own being. Therefore the places in which we have experienced daydreaming reconstitute themselves in a new daydream, and it is because our memories of former dwelling-places are relived as daydreams that these dwelling-places of the past remain in us for all time.

Now my aim is clear. I must show that the house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories, and dreams of mankind…

From The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard

I am slowly reading Gaston Bachelard’s work “The Poetics of Space,” a philosophical exploration of home. The role that our spaces play in our lives has been an interest of mine for a long time, perhaps as far back as the first paper I ever remember writing (I think it was in 7th grade) on Frank Lloyd Wright, and I am trying to more deliberately bring this interest (and all my other interests) into sharper focus. The quote above so perfectly captures the importance of home, of the role it plays in humanity, that I couldn’t help but giving a silent Kerouac style “Yes!” while reading it.

One can find this safe place for dreaming in place elsewhere. What can be said about one’s home can extend to the places one frequents (though the home might be the strongest place), to one’s community, to one’s hometown. The coffee shop has become one of those places.

The challenge in painting any space for daydreaming is conveying it as such, giving it life, giving it a little mystery, the opportunity for meaning, or at least implication.

I’ve made some more progress in that direction with my painting this morning. I focused on the window, more or less finishing it off, and emphasizing the blown-out lighting. This helps convey the daydreaming feeling I think. I’ll bring that out further once I get to the facial expression. I’m really just experimenting with what I can do in painting. There are all sorts of tricks to borrow from cinema and photography, and I’ll try to get smarter about that over time. I also am trying this year to do paintings that feel more finished (not polished, though), have more texture and effect to them. I think the three I’ve finished so far, and the two I’m working on now, fit that profile.

Thanks for reading.

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Brubeck, Alessi, and Zeke’s

My dad got me into Brubeck when I was in high school (though it might have had something to do with those Infiniti commercials in the 90’s), and I often listen to him while I’m working. It seemed fitting to put him on while getting a little deeper into the Alessi percolator and bag of Zeke’s coffee. Paul Desmond’s clarinet and alto sax lines go so well with the stroke of a brush. I have found that listening to music while painting helps me stay patient and not overwork areas while they are still wet, which is something I did with the birdhouse over the weekend.

After preliminary composition sketches last week, I wanted to try a basic view of the objects themselves to get a better handle on the shapes and reflections. I worked on a square block of arches, so I went with a vignetted centered composition for now. We’ll see if it should be developed further beyond this sketch. Below are staged photos of progress.

It was interesting to note how the blue changes color in the reflection, taking on some of the aluminum’s color as well, thus muting it a bit. I also liked the raw sienna reflection of the table top outside of the composition infiltrating the picture. Maybe it is all a bit too blotchy and exaggerated to be a finished work, but for tonight, I am pretty satisfied with what I got out of this more in depth sketch.

Thanks for reading.

Stage 1–Drawing and first wash:

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Stage 2:

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Stage 3–Finished sketch:

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Coffee with a shot of structuralism (or is that formalism?)

I am starting to think about a painting of an Alessi espresso percolator and a bag of Zeke’s coffee, a small batch roastery in Baltimore. This is my favorite coffee because it has a wonderful flavor when you drink it, and that flavor lingers afterwards without that harsh, bilious aftertaste. Coffee is an experience drink. The effect is felt long after the cup is empty. Drinking it is a routine, almost ritualistic, that even on a busy day provides a sense of security and optimism when the coffee is good in both taste and aftertaste, or a sense of dread when it is bad. It is the right relationship of taste and aftertaste that make the a good cup of coffee. I wonder if Vladimir Propp has a secret monograph on this subject.

The same idea applies to art and literature. Thinking again of Calvino, some of his stories are most effective while reading (the Nonexistent Knight, The Cloven Viscount, and The Baron in the Trees), while others such as The Castle of Crossed Destinies and Mr. Palomar were more interesting to me as memory artifacts. Invisible Cities is for me his most compelling, complete work of true art. I wonder if some of this relates to the structure used. The best reading experiences were structured like more or less normal chronicles. Mr. Palomar and The Castle of Crossed Destinies are deliberately structural in their focus–it it a core element in the meaning, but the story takes a lesser role. Invisible Cities is also structural in emphasis, but the language and story telling levitate the structure to a comprehensive artistic experience.

In preparation for this coffee painting, I want to look at a few different structures with these two objects, and think about how those structures will work with the quality of lightness in watercolor. Some preliminary sketches are posted below. I would love to hear your thoughts.

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