Monday, March 23, 2009

Two Arts

I’m a painter as well as a perfumista. I’m no art-world phenomenon, by any means. I just like to draw and paint, have been schooled, have exhibited some and sold a little.

My grandmother and a noisy and bohemian great-aunt, whom I adored, were artists, too. They worked in watercolor. As I began to paint and study, I very quickly learned that watercolor gets no respect. It’s for amateurs. Old ladies. (Sound familiar?) So, off I veered, into acrylics, then pastel, then oil, where the big boys play. I got reasonably proficient in all of these, and actually got pretty good at drawing the figure (rather useless, here in the Bible belt, where the nude figure is difficult to exhibit. Many shows won’t take them, especially if there is a school nearby, aaarrrgh!) but I digress. Oil and acrylic; you mix and layer, slather it on with a knife. Make that thick, textured surface. Stepping all over yourself; now, that’s the ticket – or it was, when I was learning.

Then, I went through a dry period. A book I read about dealing with such things said, “Return to what you love.” And I realized that what I loved – really loved – was pushing watercolor pigment around on the paper, watching it granulate, running the colors together to make new ones that were layered, not actually mixed, therefore luminous. I began using a pointed brush and working back into the color with water. The paintings were abstract, small and detailed.

I haven’t painted that much this last year; I’ve been busy studying perfume. So, last week, when I began to return to painting, I was surprised to discover that my style has changed. I’m content with “suggest” as opposed to “bludgeon”. As I painted, and the work seemed to paint itself without any conscious help from me (the true joy of this art, IMO) I began to wonder if all I’d learned in the world of scent might be the reason for the difference. That my preferences really have been leaning toward the light-handed, more modern, lately – the Ellenas particularly, but also the simpler Rosines, the best of which have a crystalline quality, and the greens. I didn’t expect this to appear in my painting, but it has.

I think back to all the reading I’ve done on perfumery. Ellena’s work in particular has been described as being very like watercolor. Done with a limited palette. Luminous. Ethereal.

This is something you have to pass through, I guess. From the over- to the understated, which presumes more taste in whoever is viewing (or smelling, or hearing, your work). Which also, of course, consigns you to the cognoscenti, but, hey, aren't we there already?

The watercolor painting, by me, is titled "Interior Landscape, Alaska." All rights reserved.


Perfumeshrine said...

Love your thoughts on this! (and you're not bad with the brush either and my father is a painter ~and architect~, so I know how disparaging an artist can be over one's own work).
Actually watercolours are really hard to do well! They set all too quickly, not allowing too much maneuvering around and you can never just "speck it on" and start over like one can do with oil. Therefore no contempt from me in the least. Instead...admiration. (and yes, I like Ellena's work too!)

Old Gargoyle said...

Your blog caught my eye, because not many Americans list "Local Hero" (set in Scotland) as one of their favorite movies, as it is one of mine.

Because of your interest in perfume, may I suggest the unusual 2007 movie, "Perfume," starring Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman?

Vida said...

AWESOME post, darlin! Your work is fun to read and now to view! Thanks!

Trish/pikake said...

Really, really beautiful work. I am so glad you posted it. How interesting and lovely to see the influence on your perfume studies in your creative work. Please post more!

Lucy said...

Very beautiful shades and layers -- I am in the same boat, just getting back to painting again and also find that it may be influenced by my foray into perfume. I have those wonderful Turner watercolor studies for the Burning of the Houses of Parliment up around my desk at my day job. They keep me sane.

Anonymous said...

Hello OG --

"Local Hero" had a sort of elegaic luminosity, like the Aurora Borealis which was a metaphor for...oh, forget it. It's early here. It was one of the few films David Putnam got made before Hollywood kicked him out on his, uh, arse. I loved it, have it on disc and still watch it occasionally.

I adore Alan Rickman's work; did you see "An Awfully Big Adventure?" Another sleeper, but definitely not for everybody.

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll look for it.

Olfacta said...

Oops, that last comment was from me, not "Anonymous." Don't know what happened there. Google Blogger gets its, er, knickers in a wad sometimes.

Olfacta said...

Hello Vida --

Thank you! Good to hear from you!

Olfacta said...

Hi T/P -- Thanks! I'm thinking about doing an album of my work on my Facebook page and will let you know if I do.

You won the Rosines samples, didn't you? How did you like them?

Good to hear from you!

Olfacta said...

Hi Lucy -- I think you'll find it has. A very unexpected synthesis for me. And the Turners -- he's still the master of the medium; odd that he still is! Of course there is that guy who does the freakish animals on huge supports, but I can't remember his name. His work is almost Bosch-like. And of course all the critics ask him, "why do you work in watercolor? As if no one serious ever would.

BitterGrace said...

Beautiful painting. The parallels between your perfume taste and painting style make a lot of sense to me. I think if we stay alive to our senses, our tastes naturally evolve, and so do our modes of expression. I find the same principle applies to my writing and reading, as well as my preferences in art and perfume.

Oh, True Apothecary said...

Beautiful! Watercolor paintings are my favorite. I have several "originals" from an aunt who was going to throw them out because they were watercolors. Imagine my horror! Although I tend to "paint" with a heavier brush while composing perfume, I do have a few personal blends which are more watercolors than oils ~ soft, ethereal, sparkly ~ well, as if seen, or smelled, through clear, clean water. Love this post.

Olfacta said...

Hi M -- thanks! I guess I just didn't expect the change. Nice to surprise yourself though.

Olfacta said...

Hi OTH --

Mixing/layering pigment or composing perfume, both are a joy. I've been tinkering around with my "Notes" kit (a little). Ultimately everything does come down to the building blocks, the molecules.

lady jicky said...

I think you are too hard on yourself. I love that watercolour and to do mountains with the sense of distance is not easy. Your colour selection is so moody and yet calm at the same time! If it was a perfume .... diorella. What do you think?
I know how you feel about "oh you JUST do watercolour" , I get it with pastel , which is what I do. I go to a class every friday and most there paint in oil (real painting! ) and we do not have a watercolourist but if we did she would get what I get.
Well, with pastel and watercolour we only get a few chances to correct a work - those old oil people can paint over all the year long!
So - we are kind of clever don't ya think? He, he.

Trish/pikake said...

The Rosines are lovely! Thanks again :-)

Olfacta said...

Hi LJ --

Thanks! I was big into pastels for a while. Have you tried the sanded papers, like the Wallis? They're fabulous, hold layers & layers, and you can even underpaint in watercolor without taking out the "tooth." I'm sure I'll be foraying back into pastel, especially with figures. For some reason, oil just takes me forever and cleaning up even longer. You can "fix" your mistakes but sometimes those "mistakes" take the work off into a different direction, don't you think?

Hmmm...Diorella. I have a little bit of the vintage. Will try it and see. When we were actually in Alaska, I wore CDG Kyoto.

Good to talk to another painter here!

March said...

What a lovely post. I thought I commented and see I didn't. Watercolors certainly don't get the respect they deserve, for the reasons you cite -- I suppose anything that can be tried out with a pad, a brush and a few colors is for "dabblers." Which is ridiculous. Art snobs make me crazy.

Anyway, it was interesting to read about the parallels in the development of your new style and your perfume interests. Thanks for sharing them.

lady jicky said...

I found I painted very thickly in oil and it too Forever to dry! LOL

I have tried the sanded papers but it rips through your pastels and I just did not like the feel or look of it for me - I am a "old Mien Tientes" (spelling is wrong ) girl from way back! Boring but I love that paper.
What "did it" in the end with oils for me was the cleaning up and my hands started to break out. I was sore and they looked shocking -- so the oils went!
I feel Diorella because I live in Australia and when it gets very hot - scents like Diorella are the only things I can wear-- its a cool scent to me and your lovely watercolour is so cool looking . That s why I thought they match. I do love your perfume/painting idea!
Now - here is a question --- what scent do you think Mona Lisa would wear today?
I am going with a big spicy one like Oleg Casini's "Casini".
What do you think?

Olfacta said...

Hi LJ -- Wow, the Mona Lisa. What a question! As I recall, she was a minor aristocrat? Some semi-nobleman's wife? A strong perfume oil,then, or a chypre -- these were made even in antiquity. But something tells me that Leonardo would not have allowed any distractions in the studio; maybe she would have disobeyed him, therefore the enigmatic smile.

As far as a modern scent, an Amourage? Maybe like Jubilation 25? Some expensive modern chypre.