Thursday, February 17, 2011

splash, locus, cashpoint

Posted by Picasa Watercolours are lovely to play with despite the reputation they have for being a difficult medium. You are always told that you have can not change your mind as with oils. You have to use the white  paper as an indication of  light. Once committed to a shade you can never go back to something lighter. All that is true.  But there are other approaches. Based on my pleasure in making drawings out of the stains left by tea cups fat stains and ink blots on note pads, the other day I  decide, on a whim, to push the watercolour paint from a tube over a page - several pages in fact - with  a brush and let it dry. Over the next few days  I see on this particular page  the outline of a chicken in a flurry of feathers. I add a touch here and a touch  there with a finer brush. And the result I find not unpleasing. More to come there I think.

As I walk through the Grove this morning, these words come unbidden into my mind: "The locus of a point is the path traced out by that point as it moves to fulfil a certain condition." I was made to write  them down in a geometry lesson when I was about 10. The exercise book was pink. The maths master was called Mr Straker. He was a chain smoker with long, yellow fingers. He didn't smoke during lessons, and always threw his fag end through the window before the lesson began. I have never been sure of what the words mean (though Wikipedia, which I now refer to, seems to confirm that they have a purpose). The  words have nevertheless remained with me as a sort of spell. It occurs to me, as I walk on this morning, that I am  myself moving, and have for 70 years or so, been moving on the locus of a point to fulfil a certain condition. It's quite a thought.

While waiting at a cash point the man in front of me barks "hello" into the grotto from where your money emerges. Does he think that there is a human person behind  the screen? No of course he doesn't. He is multi - tasking. He is combining the insertion of his cash card into the slot and his key tapping, with the use  of  a mobile telephone. Or so I suppose. You never know. I don't like to look too closely at people drawing money from a cashpoint, which sometimes seems like intruding during the performance of an intimate, natural function.


The Crow said...

Your chicken seems to be dancing a fandango, a dance I know absolutely nothing about, but the name of which seems to fit the chicken's attitude. A pleasure to behold.

You might enjoy visiting this blog, Plutarch:

Sara said...

Your chicken reminds me of the illustrations seen in Roald Dahl's books, Quentin Blake.

I like your sudden memory of your maths. So funny how things like that stay with us. I remember how, after one French lesson I set myself the task of learning all the endings of the 'ir' verbs on the way home. I made it into a little chant that I repeated all the way home "I S, I S, I T, I S S O N S, I S S E Z, I S S E N T" I don't remember much French but I still remember that after 25 years.

CC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CC said...

Outdid yourself today.
Love, love, love your dancing chicken
and also your 2 amusing anecdotes and observations.
And watercolor isn't nearly as scary as they say. And you CAN change colors and do all
sorts of unexpected things to high quality
100% rag watercolor paper. Been abusing it for years! ; ~ )

Plutarch said...

Thank you, Crow. I'll chase that up.

Sara That's an unusual mnemonic. It seems to make its own curious sense.

Thank you for your encouragement CC. I'll keep experimenting. I have always found a sponge useful to absorb surplus moisture.

Lucy said...

'La peinture a l'huile
Est plus difficile
Mais beaucoup plus beau
Que la peinture a l'eau.'

So sang my former neighbour to me, from time to time, only of course he sang it with the requisite accents which I am too lazy to get the character map out for, and he may also, of course, have meant house painting, which was usually the context in which he sang it.

But I think watercolour is really more beautiful. I think perhaps you can't get to the point of being able to see blank paper as highlights, overlay washes etc until you have done sufficient playing and pushing of it around to be quite at ease with it, which I never have.

Your intimate functioning at the cash point reminded me of poor Henry III ( as related in the Montaigne book) being assassinated while granting an audience whilst on the toilet (which in turn reminded me of 'The discreet charm of the bourgeouisie'...)

Teachers often used to smoke like chimneys in the old days, didn't they?

Plutarch said...

Lucy There is a an important exhibition of British watercolours at The Tate at the moment. It extends from botanical drawings to contemporary abstracts. Apart from liking the medium in it own right, I also find it attractive because of its convenience - you don't need a studio and lots of paraphanalia. Victorian travellers took avantage of this portability feature, off course, when there were no cameras.

Thanks for the song. I have always thought that watercolour was more difficult than oils, though.

Barrett Bonden said...

Right from the beginning I knew I'd be no good at painting. There was, for instance, the small matter of knowing where to start; writing was far easier, top left-hand corner and thank goodness for that. With oil the mere matter of transferring paint from brush to canvas was an immediate problem: oil preferred the brush. In the back of my mind I had this idea that if this form of expression ever tempted me I could always go for water colour. And then Mrs BB started to paint and I realised water colour was worst of all, a dynamic process conducted against the clock without any option for "rubbing out."

Mind you maths has its own little difficulties. The definition of a line says it has length but not width, thus sidestepping the point that without width it would be invisible. But then maths is so grand, so potent, so definitive it can afford to ignore the differences between visible and invisible.

I assume a point has location but neither length, width, nor, for that matter, height. So it too is invisible. However, when it moves "to fulfil that certain condition" it creates, say, a line or a circle. But that too is invisible. When a human equipped with eyes seeks to complain, maths brushes this off as a little local difficulty. A bit like religion. We require a mathematician to intercede on our behalf and "make the rough places plain." Goodness, I could go on and on.