Pingo ergo sum

Finishing the Jadeite Fire King Mug and Percolator

Finishing the Jadeite Fire King Mug and Percolator

The history of literature . . . is a sum of very few ideas and of very few original tales; all the rest being variation of these.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

And so, this afternoon I thought myself clever to spin off the Cartesian dictum cogito ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”) with my own pingo ergo sum (“I paint, therefore I am”).  But . . . not only has this been thought before, it has its own website and established following.  Oh well.  I still feel the ring of authenticity in the statement: I paint, therefore I am.

And so, as I paint in the cave this afternoon, aware of the threatening weather outside (darkening skies, plummeting temperatures and hard-driving rain), I muse over my painting, why I do it, what I am contributing, how much of it is actually distinct in style, or perhaps even new, and then I come back to reality–it is harder now than ever to create something “new” in art.  But that is not why I paint.  I paint to relax, to remember, and to enjoy the exhilaration of watching something emerge from a white rectangular vacuum, beneath the puddle of water before me, much like a photographer in a dark room, only it is I who am creating this picture, not snatching it from the observable world though a lens and transferring it to film.  And if I am ever successful in creating an authentic picture of an old man rising to make his coffee in the morning, amid modest surroundings, then perhaps I can paint in words as well.

The beginning and end of all literary activity is the reproduction of the world that surrounds me by means of the world that is in me, all things being grasped, related, recreated, moulded and reconstructed in a personal form and an original manner.

(quote from Goethe that Edward Hopper carried in his wallet)

My recent interest in still life painting arose when I realized I was spending much of my idle time staring at objects collected that remind me of my upbringing.  Years ago, in an antique store in Fort Worth, Texas, I found and purchased a pair of Jadeite Fire King coffee mugs, my eye delighting in seeing those celadon green colors that used to greet me in the mornings of my childhood.  I went out searching for those mugs in antique stores, because I enjoyed so much the motion picture Pollock, starring Ed Harris, when it was first released.  There are two scenes in the film where the actors are drinking from those mugs in humble kitchens, one in New York City, the other in Springs, Long Island.

The percolator I purchased at an old re-sale shop in Kennedale, Texas.  I wanted to put a percolator on my stove top burner and listen for the percolating sounds that I so enjoyed as a child.  And the aroma of the coffee steaming from that old percolator, wow!  I must admit that I have yet to make a decent-tasting cup of coffee from it, but at least I can enjoy the sounds and the smells!  Proustian.

I am trying to finish this small 8 x 10″ composition.  I’m not sure how to make the mug and percolator emerge except to continue darkening the backgrounds that frame them.  In many ways, I am flying blind as I attempt to solve still-life compositions.  I don’t write this in frustration, but in fascination–it’s a new world, and I’m glad to be ranging about in it.  I wish I could live to be 500, there is so much to learn about watercoloring and composition.  And I’m loving every minute of this.  I cannot regard myself as a frustrated artist at this point.

Thanks for reading.

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One Response to “Pingo ergo sum”

  1. djdfr Says:

    I don’t know what you did, but it pops more today. Darks, you say. that is one of my weak points.


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