west river, providence, ri

The Wanskuck neighborhood of Providence outside Providence Bicycle. I was there having a bike rack attached so that I might better be able to bike around town with still life material-pies, in particular, are difficult- and art supplies.  Apparently there is an actual “pie rack” for bikes though I have not yet located such a thing.

The shop is located in a mill building on the West River.  According to wikipedia it is “the only named tributary of the Moshassuck River”.  It doesn’t appear to be related to the Woonasquatucket River. But there- I got to write its name which is what I really wanted to do.

Addendum by Robert MacMahon: 

The West River flows from North Providence into Providence and merges with a stream that flows out of Canada Pond (it’s the pond along RT 146 in Providence) just below Branch Avenue.  The West River flows under Charles Street near the Home Depot and eventually merges with the Moshassuck River near the State House. The Moshassuck then flows a very short distance through Capital Center and merges with the Woonasquatucket River near the Citizens Bank building.  The merger of the Moshassuck and the Woonasquatucket marks the official beginning of the Providence River.

The Moshassasuck River runs north from the Citizens Bank building through the North Burial Ground into Pawtucket where it once was connected to the Blackstone River.  You probably know that the Moshassuck in providence was once part of the Blackstone Canal that ran from Providence to Worcester during the early part of the 19th century.  It was built to provide a cheap way to get goods from the middle of Massachusetts to Providence where the goods could be shipped out of the Providence port.  If you have biked along the Blackstone bike path in Lincoln, you have biked along the Blackstone Canal.  Well that canal ran all the way to Providence to the spot where the Moshassuck River flow near the Citizens Bank building.  The canal only lasted about 10 years or so.  It was done in by the emergence of the railroad.  The best present day view of the Moshassuck as a canal in Providence is in the North Burial Ground. 

crazy mess, trying to synthesize ideas

watercolor composition sketch

This is a rough sketch in which I am attempting to patch together visual ideas of various garden and summer memories from this year and last, using various reference photos and sketches and fueled by the waves of positive feeling I get when looking at certain Bonnard and Vuillard landscape and interior paintings.

Being in Paris this May working side by side with E. in a more in depth way than we have before gave me a new sense of creative possibility.  This developed from the experience of seeing what E. observed and how she translated it to the page or panel.   I was right there with her to see all of the same “reference material” (sights we observed together, people , colors, shapes that caught our  interest, actual photographs that she and I took, sketches she and I made, paintings we saw together and discussed) and then see how she synthesized and edited that various information to create a visual idea for the page/panel.

Another example: in the alpine garden at le Jardin des Plantes  I saw how E moved elements in front of her around in her composition rather than painting things how they appeared from her point of view as though she were translating from a viewfinder.  But other times it was more complex, she would knit together many elements from our experience.  And I did too! Sitting at the kitchen table in our little apartment in the St. Germain I mixed both of our sketches and photo references and inspirations from paintings we’d seen to make my own.

Interesting to me is the fact that I can hear myself advising my students to pick and choose the things in their field of vision and include them in a composition even if they wouldn’t be seen through a viewfinder from that point of view.  But when making my own pictures I tend limit my references and my point of view.  So the idea of combining different points of view, places, people and things feels radically new.

This sketch, the fact that it is a contemplation for a larger painting and a new way of working, also reflects the influence of one of my students who works on large-scale projects.  Week after week she tackles projects that would terrify me with their emotional freight, pictorial complexity and combined references. Yet another experience that is changing my sense of possibility.

It is terrifying though because of the increased number of choices and options, my beloved “good angel of certainty” is gone, but it is worth it.