Posts Tagged ‘colors


purple vs. violet (place your bets here)

i tend to be more like the french pourpre.


you have no idea what you’re talking about.


i’m lavender.


oh shut up, you boys are dullards.  i am the true purple.


bits & pieces (new york city)

i lived in nyc for the month of august in 1988 while i subbed for the director of our sister gallery in soho–sonnabend and castelli were just around the corner; this then before the gallery exodus to chelsea (where next, don’t you wonder?)  i stayed in a studio apartment in the 60s between lexington and park and took the subway to work everyday.  m. came out for a week and we had some great adventures.  i learned a lot about talking to new yorkers (they’re tough on the outside and pretty mushy on the inside…you just need to stand up to them and not let them push you around and everything will be just fine after that.)

this photo is not from then, more likely it’s 1976 or ’77.  it’s a westside photo, probably in the mid-70s between columbus and central park west, i can’t tell if i’m facing east or west and it appears to be either early in the day or as the sun is setting, it looks like a winter day and the colors are the ones that i always see new york in when i’m there, even in the summer.  i don’t know why i’ve held onto it for so long, it could be that it reminds me of my trips to new york during the ’70s and how i thought i was having fun, when it would have been obvious to any stranger looking at me that i was not.

the car in the right foreground reminds me that i do not look good in mustard yellow or any yellow for that matter, although there are times when i wish i could wear it–when i see a particularly interesting shirt or scarf or jacket, but it only comes in mustard or bright yellow–i have to walk away.


working title (ph 77, 43″ x 56″, 1937)

when i inserted this image, i imagined writing about its composition & its colors & its forms & the aesthetics of the late 1930s when it was painted & what was going on in the life of the artist (clyfford still–whom, you may know, i love for all of the above reasons, but mostly because his work pierces my gut — & my heart & head.   however, that statement could be true about _____ & _____________ or even ____________, because i have a weakness for them all.  i suffer from stendahl syndrome whenever i am in their presence; i swear i swoon.)

the more i look at this image with its bent-over-double-with-work men & their sinewy arms & big hands/feet; the defeat of their position & the pain on their faces, the oppressive darkness of the sky pushing them closer to the earth, burying them with its intensity & finality, the more i appreciate the abstract qualities of the image, where its essence & soul are hidden.

if i may direct your attention to the top of the painting for a moment, you will notice that the paint is applied in sharp, stabbing strokes, cross-hatched as if the artist were trying to etch his memory into the canvas (& a remarkable homage to those great print-makers, rembrandt & dürer,) but this application of the paint defines the painting (& the mood.)

the composition as a result is all stark angles, highlighted as it is by still’s choice of palette (& a palette that followed him throughout his life); those simmering reds & bold yellows — shirt & wheat — contrapuntal to the blues & blacks of the foreboding sky (a bruise really.)  the harvesters’ faces are studies in repetitive design (all angles on the one hand & that smushed, ground pigment of the other–a heel in the sod,) tortured as they are, one in profile, the other turned toward you (the anguish of an edvard munch subject) reflecting their resignation, exhaustion (if this painting were animated, the next frame would be them tipping over & falling to the ground as it opened its maw to swallow them whole; dust to dust, ashes to ashes.)

the great depression.  the great depression on the northern plains.  the great depression was never spoken of in my family.  when i asked what those times were like, there would be grunts of “hard work, dusty, trying, unpleasant,” from those who were adults then (grandparents) & “hard work, dusty, trying, unpleasant” from those who were but children (my mother, my uncles.)  take away:  you grew up quick then, because you had to fight to stay alive & it didn’t matter whether you were child or adult–although i see some happiness in photos from those days, i don’t ever recall any mention of happiness from those days.

draw your own conclusions. (but let me help you, that’s my job as i see it):  this painting then, although not of my family, or even my family’s struggles during the 1930s (although my mother & her brother were farmed out, farming is perhaps too genteel a word for ranch life in northeastern wyoming, oh there may have been a vegetable garden, but there weren’t fields of wheat to be harvested) represents to me what the depression era was to them.  & today, i feel it may represent our future (or even our present.)


thoughts on composition (& other structures)

when you study the meaning of composition in a course on art & how it is made, you are instructed to look for lines, shapes, colors, the rule of three (and the rule of odds), the golden mean, horizon lines & how they are arranged; the organization but not the subject.  it seems to me to be so calculated as if there were some secret handshake amongst artists  (an evil cabal) that only they know about.  & perhaps that is true in a way; artists do inhabit a world separate from other people (when i use the word ‘artist’ i mean those with something to say–although as you may know from reading this blog, i do support beauty for its own sake, but beauty for its own sake is a calculated risk as opposed to art that actually confronts your own preconceived notions of whatever emotion or intellectual topic may be displayed before you, making you dig deeper, explore further, contemplate the differences between what you are looking at & what you are feeling.)

in a discussion about composition you must also consider chance.  the photo that i took yesterday at the flea market with the camera in my cell phone surprised me with its perfect design; together in shapes (parasol, hips, heads, tents,) lines, colors (that orange sherbet!), & contrast (cold blues, whites & hot orange.)

the shadow lines in the lower left force the perspective along with the movement of the three figures in the fore-to-mid-ground, but the photo’s composition was done on the fly with a tiny screen & while i was in motion walking behind them.   i have not enhanced or manipulated the photo in any way it just came together surprising me with its perfection (to my eye, of course, you may be looking at it & saying “robert, it’s out of focus, & you can’t see the subject’s faces & what does it mean?”)

but i look at it & think about the random quality of life, how sometimes it comes together in unexpected ways that are beautiful & unusual & breath-taking & how those moments completely surprise you later when you’ve a moment to reflect on the chances that life presents you, but only if you’re looking (how aware of you are of your environment.)  it’s something each of us has inside of us if we’ll only pay attention to its siren call.

& isn’t that the key to composition?  taking a chance & being aware of what it is you’re doing?    seeing & being–open your heart & open your mind.   (too ‘new-age’ for you?  trust me, it’s all true.)  let your emotions & your intellect have a conversation & composition (the actual structure of life) will come to you when you least expect it.    artists know this & you do too, if you’ll let it be.


pinwheels (time passes by)

time passed me by today.  it went on & i didn’t.  a jogger ran toward me, but no time elapsed from when i first saw him & when his running shoes whooshed (their sound) past me.    a man walking his dog across the street (a little pomeranian, his nails click click click on the sidewalk) went down & came back, but it could have been at the same time, meeting himself coming & going (without realizing it).  today, time passed me by.

time passed me by today.  colors shot at me like arrows (st. sebastian) hitting their mark (my pupils, my brain) without pain, without sorrow. every color was saturated with meaning (sirens, loreleis, harpies, all called out to me),  today i listened, but time passed me by.

time passed me by today.  i walked down one side of the street, crossed over midway down the block, & went back to where i had started.  i stopped along the way (the dogs snuffling in the grass–each blade requiring their undivided attention), but time passed me by.  it was refreshing to have not missed it.


things i thought about while watering the garden

this rose color is particularly unique.  if you glance at it, you see it as red, but it’s not, it’s loaded with orange & just a dusting of violet/lavender (depending upon the light) which makes me think it is a beacon of color at the edge of a garden bed WARNING that you must be careful, mustn’t get too close, must pay attention to it (although it’s a small rose compared to the others that we’ve cultivated (even the potted ones.)  doesn’t it look like a mexican folklorical dancer’s dress with its ruffle-y petals & cute little turned up skirt?

this ground cover grows underneath the rose pictured above–it has taken years for it to spill over the brick border into the spaces between the patio pavers (i wonder if we’ll still live here when it has traveled the ten feet to the back door) it could be another eternity (i’m not sure how many i have in me.)

my mother died on may 25, 1982 just one month before her 66th birthday.  obviously devastated by her passing, although i had had some preparation (via my step-father & she) they tried to guide me to the eventuality/finality of it, but i was resistant & didn’t fully understand — how could she leave me?  she loved roses & every time one blooms i think of all the roses that have come before & may come after & how much i would like to have had time to share them with her (& so much else.)   every time one of my peers/friends/associates/acquaintances mentions their mother a little part of me cringes at the incongruity of life, it has no conscience & jealousy flares one last time, a dying ember in the grate.

sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy (sappy happy stupid song) there’s a little hanging of french glazed ceramic wall pockets on the atrium fence facing west which i’ve had the worst time getting something/anything to grow in, but finally stuck some broken off pieces of geranium in them et voila! they’ve taken hold along with some self-seeded lobelia from at least two if not three years ago & i couldn’t be happier with their sunny disposition & the happiness factor has tripled (bingo!)

the cymbidium orchids are so perfect they couldn’t possibly be real (unlike life with its imperfections & sudden losses & its serendipitous nature, all those things are only important to humans, it matters not to the rest of the natural world; fate has no part in the life of plants/other animals/rocks.  why should it for us?)

m. looked at this photo & said “what is that?” & just as quickly said “oh, that little air orchid.”  & unfortunately, it is the fate of this orchid (on its 5′ tall stem–because it never stops blooming, just reaching higher & higher, but the blossoms are so tiny & its cymbidium cousins, so gaudy in comparison, steal one’s attention that it does go unnoticed, except for the hummingbirds which are drawn to these delicacies & ignore the cymbidiums entirely, which might be a life lesson if one is paying attention.

…coming soon, my favorite rose one of my favorite roses (like children, you would never let them know who your favorite is — although you may have one — imagine the life of despair that one child might suffer if they knew) will be bursting into bloom.  it stands nearly 6′ tall (maybe taller) & is loaded with buds (a clock is ticking somewhere)

a veil on a hat adds an aura of mystery, a scrim in the theater reveals subtext & hidden agendas, a thin wash of white across a color field obscures the truth.  artists reveal their own truths, it is as they see it.

i try not to anthropomorphize but it seems to be human nature to force our emotions & thoughts on other life forms as if it would make us feel better, but i can’t not think this tree fern is happy, sparkling with water & sunshine & bobbing under the weight of the shower stream of water i’m brushing it with while i fumble with my other hand trying to turn on the camera, set it to macro & capture a fleeting drop of water (it makes me happy though)

at the end of the garden & the watering cycle (all the way around the house) a surprising bloom of iris hot yellow under the pinks & creams of two rose bushes, sunshine (a note on the sun:  have you noticed how flat the sun looks when wisps of fog float across it–a white disk/dot hanging in the sky?)



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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