It started out in the usual way, the way other paintings had: I set up a still life with flowers.
Late spring/early summer flowers that I picked from my garden -- peonies, rhododendron blooms, and Siberian iris -- were the subject. I put them in a simple glass vase, and set it all on a cloth, on a table. I did a drawing in paint on the canvas and then a grisaille (working with just one neutral blue/grey color, I showed the darks, lights, and middle tones and created a three-dimensional effect on the canvas). I was off to a good, very familiar start. Me and my flowers in front of me.
Then, things moved onto a new track. I had to stop painting in my Pine Plains studio and spend a couple of days in New York City. When I returned, my lovely arrangement of flowers was dead. Yes, dead, no life in any of the flowers. I could have decided at that point to wipe out what I had and start a new piece from scratch, with a new still life arrangement in front of me. Yes, there were new flowers in the garden for picking. But I liked the drawing and I liked the grisaille and what it told me about what a final product in many colors of paint would look like. So, I decided to stay with the canvas I had begun. To continue the painting meant not painting what I saw in front of me, those flowers were not there anymore. Instead of painting real material objects as I typically do, I turned to painting what I remember seeing and paint how I remember feeling as I saw what I saw. Not being one to keep things simple, as I pondered this choice, I realized I had come up against the big question of staying a figurative realistic painter or moving into the realm of abstract painting. Oh my. Was this to be a serious attempt at an abstract painting, while it was just me, the easel, and the paints and brushes.?
Not quite. With the goal of turning what I had on the canvas into a painting to share with others, I felt I needed some friends around. I covered a work table with the images of paintings by two of my favorite painters of flowers, Manet and Nicolas de Stael. For those moments when my work was going in a realistic or figurative direction, I thought I could look over and get a nod from Manet. For my more abstract moments, I could rely on a smile from de Stael. Here is some of what inspired me.