The River Calls to Me

July 25, 2016

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River Bluff photographed by Wayne White http://www.doubledacres.com/

Everything flows; nothing remains.

Heraclitus of Ephesus

Cooling rains have darkened Missouri this Monday morning for a spell. Over coffee, I’m enjoying a quiet space before I pack and drive ninety minutes to join two high school comrades for a fishing excursion on the Gasconade River. Reports of smallmouth bass activity are encouraging, and I am ready to leave civilization for awhile once again. The rhythm of advance and retreat has punctuated my spiritual pulse throughout the life cycles between society and wilderness, public and private. From my early years in the ministry and later years in education, I have recalled with interest the traffic patterns of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Mark, a life of advance and retreat between the Galilean villages and the wilderness. Every time his public ministry heated up with intensity, a pericope follows recording his withdrawal into solitude. Likewise my vacation stretch over the past week has vacillated between a roomful of relatives or friends and my withdrawal into quiet solitude.

My imagination wanders down many corridors as I contemplate that pregnant passage from Heraclitus, as he viewed the essence of reality as a river–always flowing, changing, and never remaining fixed.  Later, Parmenides would counter with his worldview of Being as a static, eternal essence, with change existing only as an illusion. My personal view sees both extremes, like that bluff pictured above, holding steadfast as a river flows past it. The older I get, the more initrigued I become with life, looking over my own past, as well as studying the history of our magnificent globe, pondering the changes while at the same time seeking some kind of bedrock, some fixed point, some kind of an anchor.  I think we all do that.  Every time I retreat to a vacation and abandon my personal day-to-day work schedule, I think on the myriad of details that flow by around the clock, and muse over what matters, what remains fixed in my consciousness and desire.  Moments like this are the best portions of a vacation, to me.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Working on a Manuscript

July 24, 2016

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What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?—it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye.  But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

During this dog-day July heat in St. Louis, I’ve spent some time reworking a manuscript I began last year.  I’m releasing the Introduction as it currently stands.  I have six chapters written, but I continue to revise.  I find great pleasure in that.  And I hope someone can find pleasure in reading the following:

A Week on the Laguna Madre

INTRODUCTION

 Cleansing the Eye:

Recollections from a Grateful Artist-in-Residence

“Gauguin returned from his first Tahitian sojourn in 1893 with enough canvases and carvings to constitute a one-man show; but he knew that the strangeness of his Tahitian imagery would require some stage-managing if it was to be a success. He had in mind the idea of producing a book that would introduce and explain his imagery to a Parisian audience.” [1]

How do I introduce myself as quickly as possible and then get out of the way?  I am aware that I am writing a book about what is flowing through my mind, but I hope, Dear Reader, that I am also creating a space into which you may enter, explore and discover deeper layers of yourself as well.  I have never believed that quality reading is a passive exercise; you the reader create your own world as you read my words and interact with this text.  Upon completion and release of this book, I will not go forth into the rest of my life, wondering whether or not I am remembered; I just want to make a contribution.  I want someone’s life to improve because they spent time with me in this work.

So, what exactly am I?  An unfrustrated public school teacher who has had the pleasure (for the most part) of doing as he pleased for more than a quarter of a century.  Like many others, my career did not go in the direction I had intended, but I have found immeasurable pleasures in what I have encountered.  And now, my only real issue is figuring how to make a gift of the knowledge and experiences that have enriched me throughout these years.  My lifestyle, in this worldly sojourn, has been to absorb knowledge, Faustlike, and imbed these observations in lesson plans, lectures and paintings, hoping always that others could receive something significant from the encounters.  I never expected others to see the world my way, but always hoped to deal an ace worth picking up and inserting into someone else’s poker hand.

Why did Henry David Thoreau go to Walden Woods?  My perspective has been this: he received a vaunted Harvard degree, and with it a skill set, an academic toolbox.  But early in life, he reached the conviction that all knowledge he had received up to that point was secondary.  All the divines whom he had read received their truths directly from nature, he from their books and lectures.  He had lived out Emerson’s complaint that opened Nature in 1836:

The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes.  Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?  Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?  Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe?  The sun shines to-day also.  There is more wool and flax in the fields.  There are new lands, new men, new thoughts.  Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.[2]

Travelling to Walden Pond to live for over two years, Thoreau decided it was time to learn directly from nature, to find out what he could learn from her, and then to publish those results to the world.

And hence I find myself this day at the Laguna Madre.  This is a gift.  My education over my past sixty-plus years has been a gift, but nearly all of it secondary.  Now, for the first time, I hope to scoop primary experience and pass it on to other outstretched hands.  Hopefully, by the end of this sojourn I will echo Nietzsche’s words that I have become weary of my wisdom as a bee that has gathered too much honey, needing hands outstretched to receive it.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan- like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.[3]

My conviction has always been grounded in the notion that solitude is the studio for creativity.  I myself have never found fulfilment in collaborative projects in the visual arts, nor have I found my inspiration in the vortex of think tanks.  The school of solitude is where I have always mined my ideas for painting.  Anthony Storr has argued:

The creative person is constantly seeking to discover himself, to remodel his own identity, and to find meaning in the universe through what he creates.  He finds this a valuable integrating process which, like meditation or prayer, has little to do with other people, but which has its own separate validity.  His most significant moments are those in which he attains some new insight, or makes some new discovery; and these moments are chiefly, if not invariably, those in which he is alone.[4]

“Alone” is the key word that describes my life, though I have been in relationships throughout most of my years.  Space has always been required for my own thinking, writing and creating.  This was true in public school, the university, graduate school, the ministry, and all my subsequent years devoted to the classrooms and lecture halls.  I still look back with gratitude at those times spent in library study carrels, in my own study, under trees, beside flowing streams, in hotel rooms and lobbies, coffee bars and book stores, in roadside parks and staring through a windshield while driving across the country.  My private study cubicle has been wherever I could pause, alone, and pull out a journal or laptop or sketchbook, and pour out my thoughts on the pages.  And throughout my years, I have looked at those file drawers filled with stuffed manila folders, those computer files filled with data, the over one hundred volumes of handwritten journals on my bookshelf—and wondered how to distill those memories and research efforts into some kind of a book, my life, my philosophy, my love.  Volumes and volumes, pages and pages, layers and layers of themes and threads seeking some kind of resolution, some kind of synthesis, some kind of understandable “story” for others to read and use as desired.  My clusters of recorded ideas have milled about over the decades, as actors on a stage waiting for a director.

As shared in the opening of this chapter, Gauguin returned from his island excursion with a stack of canvases and sought a way to “stage-manage” his public exhibition. So I too returned from the Laguna Madre with nineteen plein air watercolors, with a plan to show them in two exhibitions, conduct a series of watercolor workshops, deliver some public addresses, and attempt to relay to my audiences what I gleaned from this peak experience.  Today as I edit these pages, I have added three more workshops to the list and am preparing to return to the island for a second week of solitude.  And so, this book will be my first effort, since my doctoral dissertation, to engage in an extended essay, synthesizing the ideas that have meant so much to me over the years and found a way to crystalize while sojourning on a small spoil island in the Texas Laguna Madre.

When Hemingway accepted his Nobel Prize, he declared that “writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”  I would propose the word “solitary.”  The existential theologian Paul Tillich, in a sermon titled “Loneliness and Solitude,” emphasized that loneliness is the cross of humankind, and solitude the glory.  I don’t feel lonely when I make art, though I am alone, solitary.  I find those moments soothing.  When the boat pulled away from the dock that first Sunday morning on June 6, 2015, and I waved good-bye to my new friends, watching as they diminished in size on the horizon, the first thing I noticed was that the island was quiet, very quiet.  And I could feel myself beaming inwardly.  I was in an unspoiled paradise, though standing on a spoil island.  It was time to go to work.  Jack Kerouace said it best:

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?—it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye.  But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.[5]

                [1] Wayne Andersen, “Introduction” in Paul Gauguin, The Writings of a Savage, ed. Daniel Guérin (New York: Paragon House, 1974), p. X.

                [2] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, in Emerson: Essays & Poems ed. Joel Porte et al., (New York: Penguin, 1983), p. 7.

                [3] Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience, ed. Michael Meyer (New York: Penguin, 1983), p. 135.

[4]Anthony Storr, Solitude: A Return to Self (New York: The Free Press, 1988), p. xiv.

                [5] Jack Kerouac, On the Road (New York: Penguin, 1955), p. 156.

Musing Across the Miles

July 24, 2016

Shell 11921 Shell Station from New Cambria, Missouri

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Early Watercolor Attempt

When the vessel is full and fixed, uniform throughout; there is neither vessel nor contents: nothing to pour in, nothing can pour out. With this degree of fusion, the vessel can no longer serve its function of temporary container, and the contents become unacceptable because of the growing staleness of their permanence.

Peter London, Drawing Closer to Nature

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:13

This splendorous Sunday morning has filled me with a desire to pour out the last few weeks of my summer life. My blog posting has stalled, but daily enchantments have unfolded in the most fascinating manner. My friend Stacy and I were browsing Half Price Books a few weeks back, and the Peter London book caught me off guard.  I had never heard of the author, and the book was in the art section of the store. When I sat at a table with it, my pulse quickened as I read his opening words:

Suppose Genesis misspoke.

We never left Eden.

Nature, just as it is, is Eden,

And we are still there.

We remain in our first, our only, our exquisite home.

And we behave otherwise.

We must awaken to where we are,

And thus who we are.

Having just returned from a week in Colorado where I refueled my spirits in plein air painting and fly fishing, I embraced this book, and it has been a soul-stirring companion ever since. I opened this blog with his musings over what happens when an artist becomes stagnated, and the words recalled the Jeremiah text that I had tucked into my soul since university days over forty years ago. When I look back over my recent art activity, I know I have been prolific, but the content of my work was emanating a staleness to me, and I have been pondering ways to get the streams flowing again. Prolific is better than being blocked, but when you reach a point that you feel you are doing little more than whipping out art pieces for the trade, satisfaction wanes.  Moving waters inspire me, filling me with ideas about life and its effervescence. But just because I am making stacks of art doesn’t guarantee a freshness in the product. I love this book because he extends what I love the most from Emerson, Thoreau and Dillard.  I just cannot seem to find enough of these kinds of texts.

My dear friend Linda from high school days alerted me on facebook weeks ago about this restored Shell gas station from New Cambria, Missouri, dating back to 1921.  I knew I would be returning to Missouri for another vacation before school resumed in the fall, so I tucked the station into my memory, and decided to find it once I set out on my trek across the Midwest.

Locating the site did not prove easy, and thanks to my friend Mark sending the Google Map coordinates, I finally caught sight of the station, far to the south of highway 36, with no road leading to it.  The exit from the highway is a driveway leading to the house of the lady who owns the station, and the only reason I finally walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell was due to the experience I had trying to access the old highway 36 that actually reaches the station.  To get there, one much navigate a stetch of old blacktop road strewn with wrecked cars, wrecked residences, and a large sign reading:

IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU ARE IN RANGE

How does a Texas watercolorist wishing to photograph a landmark convince a community of idiots that he means no harm? I am infuriated to this day at the thought that someone may have been aiming a rifle at me as I navigated that waste land, trying to find my way to the station. Finally, I turned back and drove up to the house above the property, just off the main highway, and reluctantly rang the doorbell.  To my relief, I encountered a beautiful soul who was gracious and willing to lead the way as we drove our vehicles over the rough terrain descending several hundred yards into the valley where the station is nestled.

Since I’ve been at my parents’ house, I’ve made some attempts to watercolor this station.  It’s bloody hot outside, and using their carport as a studio has its advantages with the sounds of the outdoors fueling my imagination, but the heat index makes long sessions prohibitive.  Hence, not much has been done yet.  I may have to wait and get this work back into my own studio back home.

flowers tree

During an Austin weekend, I sat outside and sketched part of a large tree in front of me.  But again, heat prohibited me from staying with it for very long.

flowers easel

On this Missouri vacation, I found some very cool shady mornings last week and tried my hand at some lovely cone flowers.  As the sun climbed late into the morning, termperatures convinced me to stop.  The painting above was my first attempt, and I enjoyed the layers of masquing to get the layers of flowers and stems I enjoyed viewing. The painting below I tried on the second consecutive morning, again finding the shade trees to provide a temporary respite.  This summer is brutal in Missouri as well as Texas.

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 The vacation reading has been restorative to my soul, and for that I am deeply grateful. There are a number of other watercolors I have begun but not yet posted.  I’ll go ahead and post below a train in Eureka Springs, Arkansas with which I also got an early start, but haven’t had the time to return to and work futher:

esrxr

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Sunday Night Ponderings

July 10, 2016

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Power Plant visible from where I stayed this summer on an island in the Laguna Madre

LMFS 3 (2)Assortment of Fire Wheels and other grasses on the island in the Laguna Madre

. . . it’s always been private occasions that make me feel connected to the joys and sorrrows of the world, often in the form of communion with writers and musicians I’ll never meet in person.  Proust called these moments of unity between writer and reader “that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.”

Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Finally, I can relax, late this Sunday night.  Today was an indoor art festival in Fort Worth, held at Stage West Theater.  A Texas summer festival is delightful when held inside an air-conditioned venue. The theater space granted me was perfect for me to set up my work, and we were only open for three hours.  Still, the loading in and out on the same day (only 97 degrees today) has ways of sapping my energy, and of course, the days leading up to festivals still after all these years have ways of rolling anxiety throughout my being.

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But I’m happy with how things went.  I’ve posted two of the plein air watercolors I did recently while at the Laguna Madre Field Station.  They sold today, and I’m always happy when my art finds a home.  I had the time of my life, visiting with patrons and fellow artists, and am much better for the time spent in such good company.  It’s truly been a rewarding experience and I’m grateful to have been included in this event.

I’m happier still to find my calendar for the summer at an end–no more engagements booked before school begins in the fall.  I am juiced to begin my next series of watercolor experiments without interruption, and overjoyed to have some quality reading time before me.  The Susan Cain book I quoted above is overflowing my heart with joy as I read her affirmations concerning the introverted life I’ve known from my beginnings.  How wonderful to read a book that extols the virtues of solitude when I feel that I am bombarded with media messages around the clock arguing for the merits of group think, collaborative learning (I’ve always struggled with this as a public school teacher), staying connected on social media, etc.

From my shelves I am pulling Anthony Storr’s Solitude: A Return to the Self, and I have borrowed a copy of William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age.  These three literary works are speaking to me in the most profound way, and this gift of time and space has arrived at a perfect time, I feel.  More than ever, I am eager to explore new horizons and learn new things as I pursue my art and ideas.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Memories of an Arkansas Vista

July 7, 2016

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There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.

Thomas Merton (quoted in Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

On this quiet Thursday, I completed my second reading of this magnificent Annie Dillard book, and am closing in on completing this watercolor I began yesterday. I am not happy that my Jeep is suffering difficulties, and was taken to the dealership Saturday, and as of today, they still have not even looked at it.  Six days is too long for anyone to be without their sole possession of transportation. Nevertheless, being housebound, I am completing other tasks, that I hope are not “itsy-bitsy” by Merton statndards.

This truck I photographed while traveling across Arkansas last May on my first of two trips out there to conduct watercolor workshops and judge plein air competitions.  The sight of the sun glinting off the corroded steel of the abandoned vehicle, as well as the liveliness of the surrounding landscape, filled my imagination with such delicious satisfaction, that I turned my Jeep around after traveling an extra mile, and returned to this spot, got out, walked as close as I could to the vehicle, and took several photos with my phone.  Only now, two months later, do I get around to painting the scene.  I was not able to get it out of my mind.

Painting over the past two days has yielded a large quantity of satisfaction for me, as I stared very closely at this composition, crawling around in the weeds and foliage, examining the barbed wire, and scrutinizing every square inch of the faded truck.  The only breaks I took were to read more from Annie Dillard and rest my eyes from the visual details of the painting.

Today I am tired, and still waiting for word on the Jeep.  But I’m happy to have finished a book, and am staring across the room at this watercolor to determine what else needs to be done to it, if anything.

Thanks for reading.

Painting by Memory

July 5, 2016

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. . . the physical world as we understand it now is more like the touch-and-go creek world I see than it is like the abiding world of which the mountains seem to speak.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Since returning to my home life from vacation, daily events and appointments have been swirling, and I forced myself back into the studio this morning to try to bring this small watercolor sketch to a close. As I focused on the roiling waters of the South Fork of the Rio Grande that flowed past my cabin porch of last week, I recalled these words I recently read that contrasted my worlds of motion and stillness, rivers and mountains, Heraclitus and Parmenides, Dionysus and Apollo.

Though this is a small sketch, hardly filling an 8 x 10″ mat, it contains the world into which I gazed every day for a week, with coffee and a book or journal open before me. Colorado gave me the priceless gift of space and quiet where I could rest, reflect and restore. Despite the whirlwind about me these days, life is immeasurably better because of the week spent in this tranquil space.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Musing Over the Colorado Stay

July 3, 2016

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Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery.  The surface of mystery is not smooth, any more than the planet is smooth; not even a single hydrogen atom is smooth, let alone a pine.  Nor does it fit together . . . . Mystery itself is as fringed and intricate as the shape of the air in time.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

After a couple of days’ rest from driving 12 hours back to my home from Colorado, I’m feeling refreshed and ready to resume some ideas in watercolor gleaned during my stay in that enchanting, colorful state.  Above is  watercolor I began on my cabin porch of the stream below me, and I ran out of time.  Thanks to some reference photos I took, along with some preliminary sketches, I’m confident to resume work on this and see if I can turn it into a decent painting.  I need to figure out how to shape the foamy portions of the stream that I masqued with that bubbly fluid at the high altitude (I had quite a laugh trying to control the masquepen that bubbled and blurbed all over my paper and fingers as I tried to get it on the paper).  I also need to finish the trees I masqued as well as the highlighted portions of the grasses.

I am nearly finished with my second reading of this magnificent Annie Dillard book as well.  Her ideas have me thinking deeply about the matters I recorded in my own private journal during the week I spent in the mountains of South Fork, Colorado, and one of the many advantages of having summer off from teaching classes is this quality quiet time to think over these things in life that have become so much more precious in recent years.

Thanks f0r reading.

The Long Road Home

July 1, 2016

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I was greeted with a surprise when I began to load the car at 4:30 this morning in the dark. Apparently a bear visited my trash can in the night, and of course it gave me pause, wondering if he could be lurking in the bushes eyeing me as fresh meat!

My initial hour of driving was through the pre-dawn darkness, and deer were seen everywhere on both sides of the highway, so of course I had to navigate slowly and carefully.

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Once the dawn broke, I could relax with my coffee and enjoy letting my thoughts drift as I recounted with Thanksgiving all the wonderful memories of this past week in Colorado.

Before my next Art Fair on July 10th, I have a number of ideas I am anxious to pursue with watercolor studies, thanks to my recent encounters in Colorado, Missouri, and the Texas Laguna Madre.

I also wish to pursue writing, as Annie Dillard has inspired me to wander  down a number of new avenues of thought.  Above all, I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Darrs as we renewed our friendship that had been pushed aside by our busy schedules over a number of years. Hours spent in fascinating conversation awakened me to new pursuits as well.

The 12-hour drive home is going to be a long one, but I am rested and feeling wonderful over the things that have transpired in the past week. Thanks for reading.

Mixing Plein Air Painting and Fishing

June 30, 2016

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Here we find ourselves, suddenly, not in a critical speculation, but in a holy place, and should go very warily and reverently.  We stand before the secret of the world, there where Being passes into Appearance, and Unity into Variety.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet”

Today marks the second time this week I tried to paint en plein air while fishing in a Colorado mountain pond.  This time I clipped a small bell to the end of my rod so I could stare at the landscape and try to paint, merely listening for the occasional strike.  As it turned out, it was a good day for fishing as I managed to land seven rainbows.  The painting was a tad more difficult as I began with the sun drenching everything before me beautifully, then, within thirty minutes, the skies darkened, the landscape lost all highlights and shadows and intensity of color, and the temperatures dropped into the upper thirties.  And then it rained on us.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience of trying to capture what lay before me.

When I began this work, the dead tree in the heart of the composition was almost white against a brilliant forest, and the sagging limbs looked like the ribcage of a skeleton.  So I used my masquepen on it, which is tricky at this altitude–the fluid bubbles out of the steel nib uncontrollably, and I had to scribble fast and loose with it.  Then when it was time to replace the lid by inserting the pin into the nib, that proved difficult because the fluid continued to dribble out of the nib; there was no stopping it.  Then, when the skies darkened, the dead tree all but disappeared into its surroundings, taking on a dull warm gray.  I chose to keep it bright against its background and tried to keep my colors intense, though they were no longer so in the reality that lay before me.  Such are the experiences of doing plein air in the midst of a living environment.

I hope that what I’ve just written hasn’t come across as negative.  The day was beautiful even if the weather and environment didn’t pose still for me.  When I gaze into the glories of mountain scenery I cannot help but wonder what I ever could have done to deserve such a Gift.  Emerson got it right; this was a holy place and I felt nothing short of reverence as I stood enveloped in it. I’ve always said my favorite past times were fishing and plein air painting.  This week has marked the first time I have tried to do both simultaneously.  And it was a joy.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Decompressing After a Satisfying Day

June 29, 2016

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The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

 

When I began plein air painting about seven years ago, the first lesson I had to learn was to abstract from the visible world that overpowered my vision and intimidated me before my easel.  Robert Motherwell wrote that “abstract” comes from a Latin word meaning “to take from”, and that a painter abstracts every time s/he selects an object and reconstructs it on a two-dimensional surface.

When I stepped out of my vehicle at South Fork, Colorado last weekend, I was overwhelmed at the complex beauty of this mountain environment that I have enjoyed for over a decade now. This was the first time I was determined not only to bring along my art supplies, but to give plein air just as much attention as trout fishing.

The first object I selected was a solitary pine tree directly in front of my cabin porch.  I sketched it in pencil the first afternoon I was here, and mosquitoes chewed me up as I worked quickly.  After several subsequent days of sketching forests and mountain bluffs, I returned to this lone pine and gave it my full attention after lunch today with my friends.

Annie Dillard’s references to the “color patch” in her excellent book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek flooded my consciousness this afternoon as I stared at this tree and attempted to capture the colors threading through the bark and the limbs.  Much of what Annie wrote about the “color patch” reminded me of ideas gleaned from Paul Cezanne and Camille Pissarro in the early days of French Impressionism.  The longer I stared at this tree bark the more amused I was at recalling Jasper Johns’s statement that an artist paints things that other people look at but never see.  It was true that I was indeed seeing the bark of a pine tree for the first time up close in concentrated study. I still have so much to learn.

Looking back over this past week, I can honestly say that I have not been as successful fly fishing in the stream as I’ve been in previous years here, but I’m willing to chalk that up to high waters and very fast currents.  I refuse to feel badly about that because I am delighted that I’ve had the finest opportunities for plein air painting, and I’m so glad I took advantage of those opportunities.  I feel I have learned a great deal, just as I did recently while spending a week on the island in the Laguna Madre.  I’m certain that my studio work will improve as a  result.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


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