I love going to the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art). It's about three blocks from my apartment and I try to get there every week.
I don't go for a long time each time. Usually just about an hour. I poke around and look at the things that are grabbing my attention on that particular day. I often only visit a single exhibit. I just need one really exciting spark and I consider the visit an enormous success! On this particular day I paid a visit to one of my favorite paintings.
Portrait of Joseph Roulin by Vincent VanGogh. I've always called it "The Postman" -- as it is a painting of a friend of VanGogh's who was a Postman. But its real title is "Portrait of Joseph Roulin." It's a lovely painting and the background has always fascinated me.
In some ways I feel that VanGogh's background deeply influenced the background of this painting I did several months ago:
I know you're scratching your head because the two paintings seem to have nothing in common. But my intention is for the background to tell a story. I remember painting this and thinking about how I wanted the background to be something more than simply a piece of draped cloth or a stucco wall. The pie graphs and the writing say to me that she's a thinker and a planner. That as quietly patient as she seems sitting there, there is some tumultuous thinking going on inside.
I tend to want to tell the viewer things as I paint. So I write words on my art. I'm trying to learn how to just let the painting speak for itself and I feel like the backgrounds are a key to this. It's an idea that I want to explore more of as I continue to paint.
But let's get back to that gorgeous background. This time at MoMA I found myself compelled to sketch it.
Sketching is not something I'm good at, but I'm practicing and getting better. It is so important. This week I watched this video from Milton Glaser:
He is the author of the book Drawing is Thinking. And in the video he says that he doesn't think he's ever really seen anything that he hasn't drawn. I think that is so true. It is shockingly amazing to me how much more you see of an object or a person when you try to draw them. That's why I drew the background. It helped me to clarify what was going on.
And then on Sunday I painted this painting:
You can see in this instance that I lifted the background pretty directly from VanGogh.
I'm not sure what the next step is for me and the painting of Mr. Roulin. But I know that it continues to inspire me.
Tomorrow I'm going to share some photos of this painting in progress!
Thanks for stopping by!