Rippling Commission

The first time Jamie and Andy Hoffman
commissioned a painting, giving me more or less free rein, the result was View from a Garching Window. When they returned for a new painting recently, they mentioned that they particularly enjoyed looking at the Japanese maple in their yard, pictured a scene with watery reflections, and would prefer that the palette be filled with blues and greens, but encouraged me, above all, to take their suggestions wherever my imagination led me. An artist could not ask for finer friends or a more liberating prompt!

My first instinct when beginning Maple Ripples [above] was to contemplate the characteristics of a Japanese maple-- the long, delicate leaves and the elegantly curving trunk. The Hoffman maple, specifically, has a double trunk that arches into an ellipse. It occurred to me that my abstract style would not allow for the details of every leaf, but that I could depict a few curling leaves at the corners of the canvas like rippling reflections and suggest the boldness and mystery of the tree, its essence, with a dramatic angular flare of leaf-like shapes over the trunks. I recalled from an article about the art of bonsai that the tree was often placed off to the side of its pot because the center symbolizes the meeting place between heaven an earth-- a place which should be left unoccupied. Though the center of my painting has been occupied by abstractions for aesthetic reasons, the basic notion of placing the tree far off-center remains. The Chinese advice to internalize a scene before painting it, not worrying so much about depicting it as it looks but about grasping its spirit in one's strokes, also came to the forefront of my thoughts.

In all, I wanted to present Jamie and Andy with a painting that was at once soothing and dramatic. . . a boldly harmonious balance of organic wonder, the abstraction that has become something of a signature for me, and a suggestion of Eastern philosophy. It is still drying at present, but I greatly look forward to sending it off to be enjoyed in its new home by the end of the week!


Lisa Fulton said...

The painting is beautiful - it looks both strong and sensitive.

jamieghoffman said...

You nailed it! The "essence" of a Japanese maple, indeed, in abstract form. I am utterly thrilled with the Eastern currents emanating from the painting! Did you intend for some of the whirling limb-like elements to resemble bamboo? Divided into sections by dramatic black lines, to me they scream bamboo. I love the reflections as well. Viewing this painting is like being in a Japanese garden. No, actually it’s like dreaming about being in a Japanese garden. It’s soothing, and it’s fantastic!

I was lamenting this dry weather we’ve been having, but then it occurred to me that it’s probably aiding the drying process. It seems the cup is half full…

Christina Wegman said...

Lisa-- many thanks! I often try to explain "strong and sensitive" to my piano students. . . I am glad to hear from you that the painting has managed to achieve both!

Jamie-- We've been wavering so erratically between humid and dry that I hope the paint won't crack before it has time to cure. It seems alright so far, but I'm watching it carefully! I did indeed want to create dreamy bamboo-like/tea garden elements in the piece. . . I figured your family would appreciate them as much as I do!