Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ethics and Smell

Well this one was a hard one to title. Should it include 'smellovision'? Was 'ethics' too strong?

For the last week or so there has been an overpowering smell in my studio, which is a room in our house. My first reaction was that it smelled sweet like lilacs. But my wife thought it smelled more like the sickening sweetness of the spray that professional exterminators use. Because it reappeared as strongly as ever from day to day I wondered if our new cat had decided to spray near the door to my studio. Not just spray but spray with his own unique sweet smell. Those are the more reasonable explanations we came up with. Among the others: had our neighbors, with whom we have a common wall, spilled a bottle of perfume? Were they burning incense 24 hours a day?

It was driving my wife and I nuts but especially me since it was concentrated in my studio. Then today I went to water some 20+ year old plants that I have, and have properly neglected for years. One thing I've learned with houseplants is that they thrive on neglect. No chance of overwatering if you forget that they are even there!

As I looked up at one of the plants I found a foot long flower in full bloom! No wonder it smelled floral to me. This plant is really old, bought when I paid more attention to house plants, which was at least 20 years ago. I thought it was a 'corn plant.' So I looked it up on the web: 'dracaena frangrans', with the fragans noting fragrant! But this plant is 20 years old at the youngest. Why did it decide to bloom now for the very first time?

When I showed it to my wife she remembered a plant that had to be removed from her office because the smell was so strong. Exact same plant! Is it 'The Year of the Flowering Corn Plant?'

Well there you have the 'smell' of my title. What about ethics? Well I feel like I really need to get to work on some more developed paintings and maybe drawings. But I'd like to do some more ambitious works on better paper. I got up earlier today and thought I might do so this morning.

But then there was this once in twenty plus years flower staring me in the face. And I've been saying that I wanted to work more from life, especially with watercolor. It almost seemed unethical to pass up a chance to draw from life something that I'd seen only once in twenty years.

You see the results. I'm more or less happy with them. It's sure better than the horrible flowers that I drew from life with watercolor pencils this spring. I did sketch this out first, but then did a fairly loose watercolor. I'm starting to accomplish a goal of mine: paint whatever I see from life that is interesting to me in watercolor on the spot. That's what I did today! My ambitious painting/drawing will have to wait. I'm sure I've gained more confidence in my watercolor skills by doing this instead.


Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Great story :) I love your greens and leaf shapes.

Ken Januski said...

Hi Pam,

I'm glad you enjoyed the story. The smell is so overpowering it's hard to believe that it's natural. But I guess that's why it's called dracaena 'fragans.' I was driving myself nuts trying to figure out just where it was coming from. I turned on our air cleaner each day for 8 hours and it didn't make a dent in the smell. I was absolutely shocked when I happened to look at the 7-8 foot plant today and see the large flower right at eye level!

Glad you like the are as well. It's nice to finally be getting comfortable with watercolor.

Chatters said...

Hi Ken

Great story, made me smile. I love this this painting. Your watercolours are getting stronger and stronger. Working from life is certainly paying off. I'm trying to set myself goals to do the same.


Ken Januski said...

Glad you enjoyed it Amanda. I'm happy that I decided to document the whole story in paint and in writing! Makes it all the more enjoyable.

Thanks for your comments on my watercolors and good luck with your own. I've found that persistence and a time limitation of 15-30 minutes have really been helpful for me. I think with such a short time limit you don't worry about whether it's good or bad. You just do it and then see what you think afterward.