Welcoming 2019

January 1, 2019

20170527_1436486034852067296088498.jpg

The passions are a kind of thirst, inexorable and intense, for certain feelings or felt states. To find or invent ‘objects’ (which are, more strictly speaking, relational structures) whose felt quality satisfies the passions,- that for me is the activity of the artist, an activity which does not cease even in sleep. No wonder the artist is constantly placing and displacing, relating and rupturing relations; his task is to find a complex of qualities whose feeling is just right – veering toward the unknown and chaos, yet ordered and related in order to be apprehended.

–Robert Motherwell

What an exhilaration to awake to a 19-degree winter morning on New Year’s Day 2019! With no appointments on the books, I felt a soothing calm as the day presented itself with leisure and books. Reading passages from Abstract Expressionist artist Robert Motherwell put me in the frame of mind to explore drawing with renewed vigor. He defined drawing as a method for organizing space on a two-dimensional plane.

The first day of the new year often witnesses a different trajectory in my art. Currently I am working on commissions, and will begin posting them, but I also laid down a New Year resolution that I would draw more. So . . . a few years ago, I drew one winter tree per day for the month of January, then matted each 5 x 7″ drawing, framed a few, and sold a large quantity of them. This year, I’m not thinking about the sale, only the hope to improve with the careful discipline and repetition of drawing. My intention is to spend January with a focus on drawing nature.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Preparing for Return to Palestine

September 25, 2020
Studio Eidolons early Friday Morning

Then, one morning, he got up with a violent thirst for work.

Emile Zola, The Masterpiece

That sentence describes every day of this past week. Entering the studio, I swan-dove into a pile of books, reading for inspiration, and then moved over to one of the drafting tables to resume work on a large watercolor. At this point I don’t feel comfortable showing the 18 x 24″ because the bison in the herd are the size of dimes and so little has been done to the surrounding landscape; the only decent part of the composition is the precision I have laid into the broken windmill towering over the scene.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I return to the Redlands Hotel in Palestine to spend the day and evening working in the Gallery. I have been away such a long time and feel enthusiastic about rearranging the art work in the gallery and beginning a new watercolor composition featuring bison (larger than dimes). The creative eros has been surging all week and I see no reason why it should not spill over into the weekend.

Today will be spent packing and making arrangements for my travel tomorrow. I’m happy to send this note out to my readers, and truly hope I’ll get to see my Palestine friends tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Rainy Day in Studio Eidolons: a mix of reading and painting

September 22, 2020

The question about Being in Heidegger’s sense means to release “Dasein the way one weighs anchor to sail out, liberated, to the open sea.” It is a sad irony of the history of philosophical effect that Heidegger’s question about Being has very largely lost this liberating, lightening aspect, and that, if anything, it has tended to intimidate and cramp thinking. It would be important to relax this cramp.

Rüdiger Safranski, Martin Heidegger: Between Good Evil

Beginning of an 18 x 24″ watercolor including bison herd

The commencement of the autumn equinox brought 60-degree temperatures and rain this morning. I enjoy the dim, gray light coming in through my Studio Eidolons windows–it seemed to make the coffee taste better and the music I was listening to sweeter.

First watercolor of bison in my sketchbook
Second bison attempt in sketchbook

For a number of years I have admired the watercolor sketchbook discipline of fellow blogger Corey Aber https://coreyaber.com/ while resisting the practice myself. Call it pigheadedness–many times when I thought I was watercolor sketching, I finished with something I deemed worth matting and sometimes even framing. I feared that if I bought a watercolor sketchbook I would tear out most of the pages, thus ending with a torn-up, tattered book remnant. Just before we left for Colorado and Utah, I decided to purchase such a sketchbook anyway, and I now see the value I was too short-sighted to acknowledge before. When working on something unfamiliar (like the bison above), I can be loose and experimental, not worrying about losing a painting. When I approach the actual painting, I acknowledge that I am usually too tight to loosen up and try something new. The sketchbook has given me new tool, and I love flipping through its pages now. The book offers me a visual diary.

The painting I am attempting now is an 18 x 24″ composition. I have stretched 90 lb. cold press D’Arches paper on stretcher bars and yesterday began the tedious task of drawing carefully the windmill in the water. I have also begun work on the forest on the horizon. I have yet to begin sketching in the herd of bison. Below I’ll post the reference photo I took last week while viewing this vista in southern Utah:

As always, I alternate reading with painting. In recent years, I walk away from the painting frequently throughout the day not only to allow it to dry, but to give myself a chance to put fresh eyes on it when I return. Sometimes the reading feeds directly into what I am trying to create visually; other times it simply stimulates my imagination.

What I do when letting the watercolor dry out

A few days ago I took up Heidegger’s Being and Time, a volume I purchased in October 2000 and started reading at least a dozen times before quitting after about a dozen pages. This time I have absorbed the first thirty, thanks to an introduction by William Blattner and a series of 28 podcasts by philosophy professor Hubert Dreyfus. For over a decade I have loved the later writings of Heidegger following his historic “turn”. He laid aside his traditional, analytical approach to embrace a more poetic one. At this time, I am working on his most famous work, which unfortunately for me, is very dense and analytical. Nevertheless, with the help of mentors, I hope I will stay with the task, believing that there is value to uncover in these writings.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Return to Studio Eidolon, but Remembering Bryce Canyon

September 18, 2020

Such is the effort of creation that goes into the work of art! Such was the agonising effort he had to make, the blood and tears it cost him to create living flesh to produce the breath of life! Everlastingly struggling with the Real and being repeatedly conquered like Jacob fighting with the Angel!

Emile Zola, The Masterpiece

Most readers are convinced that Zola was describing the anxieties of painter Paul Cezanne when he wrote this novel. I am enjoying the reading of this and will be sorry when the story ends. I certainly know those artistic anxieties, more from my past than my present. I find it hard to explain, but am convinced that in my later years I am more preoccupied with art theory, yet less upset with perceived shortcomings or failures; I just love the process of creating.

We are safely back home after vacationing in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. On our third day home, I am still lost in daydreams and recollections of what we experienced. My last blog recounted the day’s adventures at Zion National Park, but I have yet to record the events of the following day, in Bryce Canyon National Park.

Sandi decided to participate in a ride down to the floor of the canyon. After we parted ways at the corral, I hiked to the rim of the canyon, then circled round till I found the horse trail that I knew the party would take. Once they arrived, I managed to shoot plenty of photos as they trooped by, and my favorite is this one of Sandi on a handsome mule named Clyde.

Once the riding party was out of site, I commenced working from my plein air easel, and was astonished at the violence of the winds blasting across the top of the canyon. My clip for holding open my sketchbook was attached to my journal in the truck parked far away, so I attempted to sketch in watercolor the site below with my right hand, and used my entire leftt arm to hold the book open, my open hand resting on the brushes trying to blow out of the tray and into the canyon below.

As I worked, fighting against the wind trying to blow my supplies away, a gentle Asian soul approached me and, watching calmly with great interest, began asking questions of what I was doing. I always love visiting with people when I am out painting, and this was no exception. However, being distracted by the blowing winds, I was not aware that the gentleman actually was filming me with the intention of posting on social media. Had I known that, perhaps I would have shown more composure and lest distractedness. He indeed asked permission to film, but I honestly thought the howling wind was discouraging his efforts, and was under the impression that he gave up, though he stayed and visited with me awhile and took my business card, thanking me for my time. I soon forgot about the encounter, as I visited with over a dozen people during that brief stretch of attempted painting.

Late last night, while I was home, the gentleman’s kind email arrived, with the YouTube link, and I gladly post it for you now with the disclaimer that his camera work was much more composed than I!

After painting awhile (or trying to!), I returned to the truck and let our dog Patches out for a stroll. Then I set up his portable pen under the shade of the evergreens, and had intended to spend about half an hour with him before putting him back into the truck and returning to the canyon to paint. But he was so darned affectionate, choosing to jump into my lap and remain rather than lie on his blanket in the pen. So . . . I waited for Sandi to return from her ride before packing my gear back to the canyon for round two.

Here are the two sketches I attempted in the raging winds atop Bryce Canyon.

My biggest adjustment returning to Arlington, Texas has been the temperatures. As I write this, we are sitting this afternoon at 88 degrees with intolerable humidity. On the morning of our return, it was 50 degrees in Albuquerque. Stepping outside in this Texas weather now makes me wish for the 34 degrees and foot-deep snow I enjoyed last week in Colorado!

As I continue to look over photos and sketches from our trip, I took my first shot today at sketching a bison I photographed outside Zion National Park.

I haven’t yet decided on my next major project, but anticipate that something will happen soon. For the time being, Sandi and I are going to re-visit the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth-a site we haven’t seen in way too many months.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Enraptured at Zion National Park

September 12, 2020
Plein Air Watercolor Sketching as Evening Approaches

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.

Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight, does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

Sandi and I rolled into Utah yesterday evening, checked into our hotel in Kanab, and after a restful night’s sleep made two trips to Zion National Park, one in the morning, and again in the later afternoon.

As afternoon stretched into evening, we parked in the eastern part of the canyon and I got out to paint. As I was setting up my easel and staring in wonder at the rocky hillside in front of me, I detected movement. Unable to make out the shape, I used my smartphone camera to go full zoom, and saw what it was: a desert bighorn sheep. Solitary. Stopping to look back at me. I took about a dozen photos as he contined to ascend the rocky slope, pausing frequently to look back at me. I then felt Emerson’s sentiment–I was perceived, accepted, embraced. It was OK that I was in the park. My heart melted as I watched the sheep till he disappeared into the shadows of one of the crags of the rocky landscape. I only wish I had a better camera than my phone to capture his image.

Desert Bighorn Sheep

I was so moved at the sight of the bighorn that I found it difficult to shift gears and paint. I also found it difficult selecting a small piece of the enormous canyon landscape that enveloped me. But I finally began, tentatively, trying to figure out color, texture, contrast, and the accents of the undulating lines flowing across the face of the canyon walls.

First Attempt as the Evening Light began to Fade

As I waited for the first to dry, I took out another sketchbook and did a pencil sketch of the same subject. After the painting dried, I flipped to the next page of my diary and began afresh, this time with a little more confidence.

Second Attempt, before the Light Evaporated

After all these years of plein air sketching, I still find myself grasping for the right words to describe the sublimity of the act of painting on location. The evening was delicious as I stared at the rocky facade, made selections of color, brush, pencil and technique and forged ahead with the task, all the while savoring the sounds of laughing and chattering children in the distance, hiking with their parents and asking a myriad of questions. It was a perfect world. Once I finished the second sketch, Sandi rejoined me after her walk and together we strolled about the terrain where we were positioned, and enjoyed the cool air as the evening began to darken.

Leaving Zion on our return trip, we approached for the third time a pasture where a herd of buffalo gathered. The preceding three times, a dozen cars were pulled over and tourists lined the fence, taking pictures. This time no one had stopped and I decided I needed a closer look.

The cloud of lingering dust was what attracted my attention and made me want to pull over and watch awhile. But when I saw the cow and calf come toward me, enter the pond and drink, I felt my heart melt again, just as I felt when gazing at the bighorn so far away. I took dozens of photos of the pair, then directed my attention back to the herd. I have done very little painting of animals in my past, but I am going to have to give buffalo a try, especially after this heartwarming moment of watching them in the cool of the evening.

Today was totally enchanting. I have never before visited Utah and am so happy to be here for awhile, and grateful for this chance to share with you some of today’s best moments.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Snow Rhapsody on the Stream

September 10, 2020
South Fork of the Rio Grande

The river was clear and smoothly fast in the early morning.
Down about two hundred yards were three logs all the way across the stream. They made the water smooth and deep above them. As Nick watched, a mink crossed the river on the logs and went into the swamp. Nick was excited. He was excited by the early morning and the river.

Ernest Hemingway, “The Big Two-Hearted River”

Riverbend Resort has been my favorite Colorado haunt since our friends the Darrs introduced us to this place twenty years ago. The South Fork of the Rio Grande cuts through the resort, and I decided to rent a tent spot for $30 so I could fish on this private stretch of water that I have come to know so well.

With temperatures hovering at 34 degrees and the one-foot snowfall thawing enough to make trudging through the meadows easier, I pulled on sufficient winter gear to enter the stream and not suffer chills with the icy winds coming down the gorge.

Rhapsody in the Stream

After working the waters for nearly two hours, I only encountered a small brown trout for five seconds before he shook free of the fly. Copper Johns have always been the trouts’ nymph of choice, and I was advised that they were still doing the trick this time of year in these parts. But I was having near-zero luck this time.

Nevertheless, the waters were beautiful as was the fallen snow all around, and I felt a serenity I always cherish when wading a mountain stream. The solitude was rich; I only enountered one other fly fisherman who hailed me from the shore as he was trudging back to his cabin, having caught only one small rainbow. Temperatures continued to hold steady in the mid-thirties, but I felt no discomfort. In the third hour, I finally reached my favorite hole–an enormous shelf of rock the size of a pickup truck slanting into the water, the darkness beneath making my pulse quicken.

My first cast into the shadow of the rock was greeted by a fourteen-inch rainbow whose aerobatics entertained me for about half a minute. By the time I had him within three feet of my net, he broke free and was gone. Still, watching his antics sent thrills throughout my being, and I knew there had to be more action where that originated.

After missing another trio of strikes near the rock, I finally hooked and netted a small brown and took a moment to admire the beautiful bronzes, golds and scarlets that played along his flank as he lay on the rocks. I wasn’t fishing for food today, and was glad to see him dart into the depths once I released him.

All at once the heavens opened and the air was filled with enormous snow flakes. This is the first time I ever stood in the midst of a mountain stream with a snow shower falling all over me and plopping all over the stream. I’ve been surprised before by sudden thunderstorms, always exiting the waters as quickly as possible, but this was different–the enormous flakes fell hard and thick all around me, and the sight was gorgeous. I wanted to take out my phone and shoot pictures, but the waters suddenly rippled in several areas at once as the trout were rising with a vengeance. Because I was using a nymph, I held little hope of landing any of these surface feeders, but I suddenly saw a good-sized brown rolling in the water just underneath the lip of that enormous rock outcropping. I dropped the nymph upstream and watched the grasshopper I used as a strike indicator drift along the shadow of the rock. Suddenly the hopper was gone and I saw the bright flash of gold beneath the surface. A minute later, he was in the net, all fourteen inches of him.

After a quick photo I lowered him back into the water and he was off like a shot. All I could think of was the Hemingway short story (a portion posted above) that I’ve loved since high school. And I laughed at recalling the prosaic line “Nick was happy.” That’s all I could say. Dave was happy. And exhausted. As I turned to leave the stream, grateful for such a day and thinking nothing better could possibly happen, a bird suddenly visited me. He landed on my fly rod and remained perched there. After a few frozen moments of our staring at one another, I reached into my pouch, fished out my phone, flipped to the camera mode, aimed, and caught his picture. He stayed another thirty seconds before deciding to move on. I couldn’t believe it: a bird suddenly perching on my flyrod as I waded toward shore. And staying awhile as I stood still, holding the rod as steady as possible.

Bird on the Flyrod

Two summers ago, while here at Riverbend Resort, I was watercoloring on the porch of my cabin and was visited by a bird who perched on the painting I was working on en plein air. He also remained to be photographed for warm memories. My friends laughed at the encounter, calling me Saint Francis.

Bird on the Painting

In the morning we continue our Odyssey as we venture into Utah. Thanks for reading. This has been a heart-warming day for me.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Plein Air Painting in the Fading Mountain Light

September 9, 2020

I began a third plein air watercolor sketch, but the light over the San Juan mountains is fading fast. So, with gratitude for the lovely experiences of this day, I’ll retire inside for the night, coffee and a good book.

Thanks for reading.

A Second Plein Air Sketch

September 9, 2020

With temperatures rising to 37 degrees, I decided to step outside and attempt a second watercolor sketch of this wonderful snow-covered Mountain right outside this Campground. It proved to be a wonderful Zen moment, with snow melting and constantly falling off the porch roof and splattering across my painting as I worked. I focused on the second Canon of Xie He’s principles, focusing on the bone method of brush work.

Snowbound September 9, 2020

September 9, 2020
View from the Cabin Porch, South Fork, CO

When the early morning light quietly

grows above the mountains . . .

            The world’s darkening never reaches

            to the light of Being.

            We are too late for the gods and too

                        early for Being. Being’s poem,

                        just begun, is man.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

We decided we had had too much of the Texas triple-digit daily temperatures, so we put together a plan for a one-week Odyssey to Colorado and Utah. Two days before departure, we saw the winter storm warnings for Colorado, but decided to soldier on. Spending the first night in Amarillo, we noticed temperatures dropping to 59 degrees. By the time we cleared Walsenburg, Colorado, snow began dumping on us and the temperatures dropped to 32 degrees. South Fork greeted us one hour later with no snow and a surprising 57 degree afternoon, but that changed at nightfall. At 7 p.m., the electricity for the city failed, and did not resume till 1:30 a.m. Fortunately the cabin was well-insulated and sleeping was never a problem. Morning greeted us with a foot of snow, and it continues to fall, expecting to continue till noon Thursday. Today is Wednesday. The first thing I did when rising this morning was read “Snowbound” by John Greenleaf Whittier. After that, I read the Heidegger poem, then went outside to photograph the breath-taking mountain vista shrouded in mist above.

28 degrees isn’t so bad if you’re sufficiently bundled. So I set up my plein air easel on the front porch and gazed at that lovely mountain scene, deciding to give it a try in my watercolor sketchbook diary.

View from Inside the Cabin
Sandi captured this photo of me working on the sketch

This is only my second watercolor sketch in the diary. I purchased it last week, deciding to bite the bullet and see if I could do some decent watercolor experiments and keep them in a bound book. In the past I’ve attempted many sketches that ended up worthy of framing, so I feared that I would merely tear up a sketchbook. Now I’ve decided that I will work freely in this book, and if something is suitable for framing, tough luck; I will keep the sketchbook intact and enjoy flipping through its pages.

Even when my watercolor attempts don’t pan out, I have a luxurious time painting, loving every moment. This mountain view really sent me to another world, watching the mist descend over the crown of the mountain, all the time trying to capture the colors and textures I saw evolving. Thanks to a small spray mist bottle, I was able to continue dissolving the paint at the top of the mountain while continuing my work down the slope. This is only a 5 x 7″ attempt, but I’m happy with how it came out and will gladly keep it in the book. I’m still amazed that I was able to paint en plein air outdoors in 28-degree weather.

Thanks for reading. Our first full day here in Colorado is proving an eventful odyssey, and we’re happy and safe.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Odyssey Driven

September 5, 2020
Returning to Work on Homer’s Odyssey

Tell me, Muse of the man of many devices, driven far astray . .

Saturday in the Studio Eidolons finds me chasing multiple interests. We’ve decided to put together another road odyssey with the change in weather approaching. Sometimes I think we have that inborn compulsion of geese taking flight when weather warnings are in the air. After laying it aside for quite a few months, I’ve re-opened the Greek text of Homer’s Odyssey and am once again immersed in his epic.

Putting a Few Finishing Touches to the Bomber Lure

After only two days, I seem to be nearing completion of the Bomber lure. The background took much more time than rendering the actual subject itself.

I completed a quick watercolor sketch for the first time in a watercolor diary I purchased last week. I plan on taking this sketchbook on my journey soon to see how many pages I can fill as we travel.

5 x 7″ watercolor sketch

The Arlington Gallery that carries my work (Show Me the Monet) has decided to sponsor Watercolor Wednesday, offering 3-hour watercolor classes 2-5:00 every Wednesday. I am scheduled to teach on alternating weeks. I have posted my next two classes, September 16 and 30 on my professional Facebook page. Cost is $55 and classes are limited to six participants. If you are interested in signing up, phone (817) 468-5263. September 16 will focus on painting a railroad boxcar similar to the one above, and on the 30th we’ll paint a wooden trestle located here in Arlington, Texas.

September 16 subject
September 30 subject

The morning is nearly over and I have promised myself more quality time in Studio Eidolons. Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Digging up Bones in Studio Eidolons

September 4, 2020

At such times there is a song going on within us, a song to which we listen. It fills us with surprise. We marvel at it. We would continue to hear it. But few are capable of holding themselves in the state of listening to their own song. Intellectuality steps in and as the song within us is of the utmost sensitiveness, it retires in the presence of the cold, material intellect. It is aristocratic and will not associate itself with the commonplace–and we fall back and become our ordinary selves. Yet we live in the memory of these songs which in moments of intellectual inadvertence have been possible to us. They are the pinnacles of our experience and it is the desire to express these intimate sensations, this song from within, which motivates the masters of all art.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I awoke this Friday morning with that song of Robert Henri vibrating within me. As soon as the morning coffee was finished, I entered Studio Eidolons and resumed work on a pair of sketches begun yesterday and the day before–a Bomber lure on 8 x 10″ paper and an old boxcar in my recently purchased 5.5 x 8″ watercolor sketchbook (For years I have sworn I would keep a watercolor sketchbook and FINALLY begin my first practice piece). After all these decades, maybe I will keep a sketchbook faithfully. I have yet to do so.

While going back and forth between the two drafting tables, suddenly the “canyon fever” returned to me. Digging through my lateral file drawers, I finally came across nine canyon watercolor sketches, nearly all of them executed en plein air but none of them completed. I have now decided to put fresh eyes on these bones just now dug up to see if I can bring any of them to their conclusions. In the store room, I still have nine unfinished pieces from Sedona, over a year old now. Possibilities right now seem endless, and it’s an exciting time to paint once again.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.