Simple Gifts

Autumn Leaf (A3) mixed media

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free…

I sometimes think that the Autumn, knowing what’s coming over the next few months, gives up little gifts as a kind of consolation. Winter’s coming, and where I live it’ll be grey and soupy. Sorry about that, sighs the Autumn, here’s a damaged quince, here’s a leaf containing more shades of red and green than you can name, here’s a late flowering rose.

Last Sunday – after a delightful, celebratory evening with a friend – I walked down to a nearby petrol station to buy a newspaper and a croissant (surprisingly good, believe me). On my way home, the wind blew a dried and twisted leaf in my path. The thing about following most creative journeys is that simple things can mean a great deal: the rotting fruit that I posted last week, for example, and now this leaf – a colour chart of Autumn shades. Almost anything can inspire, it seems.

I took it home and used it as a starting point, painting the colours much brighter than in nature and using broad brush strokes of watercolour. Only after the basic shape of the leaf was laid down did I draw the curling edges of the leaf in ink and add all the rest of the embellishments it now contains.

The leaf – my simple gift from a passing gust of wind – now sits on the table, growing ever more brittle and slowly losing shade after shade. If I had a German-speaking cleaner, no doubt (s)he would ask, “Ist das Kunst oder kann das weg (Is that art or can it be thrown away)?” The inspiration for this remark is said to be the famous incident around the Fettecke (Grease Corner) by Joseph Beuys. It consisted of 5 kg of butter installed in the corner of a room. On the day before a visit from a VIP, a janitor removed and disposed of it. As the result of a court case, the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia had to pay 40,000 DM in compensation to the owner.

So beware what you throw away. It might just be art after all.


39 thoughts on “Simple Gifts

  1. It’s lovely. I like the rough edges and the way the ink doesn’t follow the lines of the paint. Gives it an energy, a liveness it wouldn’t have otherwise. I have a hard time with simple in my art. I need to practice it more often. Also loves the story about the butter installation.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You, Mr. M. R., have exceeded yourself in the “generosity of gift giving spirit” in that you have given us all, so many of us, your creative presence. (😉) Your gifts…so welcomed and so graciously received. Thank you and…you’re welcome.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Simplicity in the subject matter and shape, with a riot of colour. Gorgeous. I’m in Australia and watching spring bloom, with my Walking Irises just flowering for a single day. I must try to capture one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your stories are so interesting. I love how you see art in the ordinary. That is a rare gift you have, Michael. I love your painting. The pen over the splashes of watercolor works very well. (I might steel your idea when I start a new painting in art class on Wednesday. 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel the same way about fall. I also think that is why it smells so good, too. You have captured the colors and textures of fall very beautifully here. Your painting is becoming increasingly free and lovely.


  6. Pingback: Consolation is where pain is allowed to be | From guestwriters

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