The Nightingale’s Song

Revisiting an earlier start on a Texas Coast Bait Shop

Revisiting an earlier start on a Texas Coast Bait Shop

A given arrangement of colors, lights, and shadows produces an impression.  This is what we might call the music of the painting.  Often you are seized by that magical harmony before you even know what the subject of a painting is, as when you enter a cathedral and are too far away from the painting to make it out clearly.

Paul Gauguin, Miscellaneous Things” from The Writings of a Savage

This afternoon, I returned to a watercolor abandoned a few months ago.  I abandoned it because it started out badly.  The reason I chose the composition was because I was enchanted with the abundance of blue tones I found on site when I took the photograph.  And I was confident that I could solve the overall blue composition.  But the painting went south in a hurry, and I tossed it aside in disgust.

Oftentimes, I’ll look at a discarded work repeatedly as months go by, and sometimes I’ll give the composition a second chance.  This is one of those times.  Taking my lead from Paul Gauguin, I am trying to bring out the “music” in the subject that so captured my fancy last November when I was on the coast.  I am more pleased with how the painting is shaping up today, and think I’ll stay with it some more.  Sometimes I find a way to rescue a painting that starts out badly.  Maybe this will happen again.  At any rate, I’m not attached to it, so we’ll see what happens.

Yesterday, while reading Gauguin’s journals (I’m nearly 200 pages into them now, and astounded at his erudition and vision), I came across his criticism of the French Impressionists for relying on the eye more than the intellect.  In the final analysis, he dismissed much of their work as merely “the song of the nightingale.”  This prompted me to revisit Hans Christian Andersen’s 1844 story “The Nightingale.”  As I read, I sighed at the thought that in my studio, my works of art are strewn about, and outside my window, the nightingale of Art sings a sublime music that lifts my soul to another level, much like in the Andersen fable.  For years in my study of art history, I have distinguished Art from works of art.  Our landscape is strewn with works of art, and all those creators had one thing in common: they were striving to create Art.  We fashion singing nightingales, but are always moved at the song of the real one just outside the window.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


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