In a site called “Hold this Thought” Tom Livingston (Between Silence and Light) quotes architect Louis Kahn:
Architect Louis Kahn’s writings about daylight resonate with me. Here he talks about the nature of a room and its natural light:
“The room is not only the beginning of architecture: it is an extension of self. If you think about it, you realize that you don’t say the same thing in a small room that you say in a large room. If I were to speak in a great hall, I would have to pick one person who smiles at me in order to be able to speak at all.
Also marvelous in a room is the light that comes through the windows of that room and that belongs to the room. The sun does not realize how wonderful it is until after a room is made. A man’s creation, the making of a room, is nothing short of a miracle. Just think, that a man can claim a slice of the sun.”
I’m rather addicted to painting plein air, but the weather in western Oregon is more like eastern Kansas (ie snow, ice, slush, ugh!) right now. So I’ve been painting from my windows, which frame various neighborhood views and foliage. But the Kahn quote also gets me to thinking about the nature of rooms, which I haven’t painted.
This is the unprepossessing set-up in my kitchen. The reason for painting in the kitchen, in spite of the traffic and the high window, is that the best tree in the vicinity faces the sink. It is a continual source of happiness to me — to be cleansing the cutlery while gazing at the ancient face of the huge cherry, with all its anciliary objects — squirrels, hanging plants, pots on the fence that leans against it.
Above is the first version, Cherry Tree Trunk with Pots, 5″ x 5,” oil on board, that I began with.
Here’sa larger version of the cherry tree with pots:
Cherry Tree with Pots, 18 x 24, oil on board.
This second was painted an hour or two later than the first. Already the snow had started to melt.
I painted other things from inside:
Firethorn off Front Porch, 5 x 5, oil on board
Holly and Hydrangea, 5 x 5, oil on board
Two Pots and Forsythia, 12 x 16, oil on board
(The sizes on the various paintings may be somewhat inaccurate)
But now I’m thinking I should include the inside with the outside. Not like this, although it definitely has charm — I am suspicious of charm, you know, so I won’t be painting this particular wintry scene:
Actually, I did paint this last area, the approach to our back door, the “garden room”, from a different window, but the painting has some annoying problems, which I may or may not be able to fix.
But as I think about it, I’m starting to see other ways the interior could be, not just a frame or a warm place to paint from, but an intrinsic, perhaps meaningful, part of the whole. Right now I’m looking directly at three large windows that frame the front porch. Inside, scattered around the room that acts as my textile studio and the living room when we need it is the easel I’ve been using to paint the out-of-doors, the palette on a folding table, a stereo/tuner/Cd player and a music keyboard, three cone-shaped “Christmas” trees made from filbert shells wrapped in yarn and sitting on a kind of low table that can be dismantled and hidden away, big old records and smaller CDs, a chair with canvases stacked on it, another chair pushed cattywampus out of the way, a sewing machine and a large quilted art work on the design wall, waiting to be cut up. It’s the detritus of the season mixed with the detritus of my art work mixed with the things I soothe myself with, like music, while I’m working. No books or even magazines are in sight — they are all here beside me, near the computer, or beside the dining room table where we spend most of our communal life, or upstairs, piled beside my bed and in bookcases that line the hallway. The view outside is of the firethorn, now freed of its snow piles and an unprepossessing parking lot and condo across the street. None of this is “pretty” or in “good taste” but all of it is evidence that I am here, and that adventures of various sorts. visual, aural, physical, are waiting.
There’s no way to photograph all that I’ve described in words — the light from outside blinds the camera to what’s inside and the camera angles leave out much of the debris. But I can see both out and in with relative clarity, a clarity that comes from intimate knowledge as much as from sight.
In a book about a prominent Portland architect, A.E. Doyle, the author remarks that the tours of Europe taken by early Portland artists (say around 1905) were not about knowledge but about acquiring “good taste.” My living-room-cum-textile-now-painting studio is not about good taste; I guess it’s about acquiring knowledge, knowledge that can only be gained by working in, around, through, and with it. Maybe I should try painting it.
Or, perhaps I should work on still lifes, made up of some of the detritus.
Probably not. The thaw is coming and perhaps my buddy Jane will call and we’ll find another parking garage to haunt. But the inside of the room, the “claiming of a slice of the sun” — well, it’s enticing.
How about your enticements? What draws and repels you to make art at this season, in your space, in your time?