Into the Interior

August 28, 2015

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Thoughout this first week of tempestuous school activity, an interior island calm has resided in my depths, and now in the waning light of Friday afternoon I pause in gratitude for that Presence that has convinced me that things are good.

With no appointments for awhile to spur me to response, I have enjoyed an afternoon and evening of exploring this new watercolor composition.

Thanks for reading.

Re-exploring the Laguna Madre

August 27, 2015

imageThursday evening has offered me a luxurious gift–I was ready for tomorrow’s classes by early afternoon, and had time to paint in the studio with quality light coming through my windows. All day throughout my classes I envisioned this painting I began, knowing what I wanted to do next with it. I love Andrew Wyeth’s description of his drybrush watercolor process as similar to weaving a tapestry–he said if you drybrushed on white paper, the painting would be too harsh, too abrupt. He preferred to lay down a light wash, then drybrush over the top of it when it dried, then lay down a wash over the top, apply more drybrush, etc. I have done this repeatedly in rendering the weatherbeaten sides of buildings, and have made a few forays into landscape with the technique. But this will be the first time working on a larger piece (20 x 24″) that is exclusively landscape, with no props such as architecture to take the eye away from the land textures. I am continually layering drybrush and wash, one atop the other, and the land is starting to take on a richer complexity and texture.

The layout of the island where I stayed last June on the Laguna Madre becomes more fascinating to me in these months following, as I look at photos I took, sketches I did on location, and study closely the textures and colors of the various plant life and sand colors. This time, I am really trying hard to match the colors as best I can. Of course, I want to make a pretty painting, but I want this watercolor to be truer to the colors I saw on location, and the process is requiring plenty of experimenting and scrutiny. And I love the process.

I am hesitant to toss this photo up on the blog for two reasons: 1) I have gotten further along, but it is now dark, and my photography of my large watercolors under artificial light is awful, 2) the painting is coming along like a jigsaw puzzle, as my plan is to develop that serpentine line of ground textures from the foreground to the lagoon. Currently there is still a great deal of white paper surface that has not yet been touched, and there is no quick way for me to get that done. All in good time.

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.

Early Morning Sketches and Thoughts

August 26, 2015

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Rising at 5:30 instead of 5:00, I thought I would skip the drawing exercises and just go straight to breakfast. Apparently, I have already established some kind of a habit, because halfway through breakfast I absent-mindedly reached for the pencil and sketch pad.

Before falling asleep last night, I wondered about how to render the  grass patterns on my most recent island painting in progress. I figured this morning that if I concentrated on black and white, and just worked on value studies across the land masses, that I might have some kind of breakthrough. So, this is my first attempt to render grass, clusters of weeds, and wildflowers with just blacks, whites and grays.

Thank you for reading, and spending part of the morning with me.

Late Night Sketching

August 25, 2015

imageBefore retiring to bed tonight, I had this compulsion to sketch a little more, experimenting with tree bark textures. The left trunk was already posted earlier; the right one has now been added.

The watercolor activity is coming slowly. This is a larger piece than what I’ve worked on most of this summer, and I am trying to work out a scheme where I can build a serpentine line of terrain from the lower left corner ultimately to the lagoon in the distance.

Watercolor Study of the Texas Laguna Madre

Watercolor Study of the Texas Laguna Madre

Thanks again for reading.

Drawing as a Means Of Decompression

August 25, 2015

imageHaving finished my first full cycle of high school classes, I feel like the quarterback facing 2nd and 4. I believe I can make the first down. Monday featured three 90-minute classes of Advanced Placement and Regular Art History classes. Today was two A.V.I.D. classes and one Philosophy (each one 90 minutes). Having taken the summer off from teaching, I can honestly report that I am totally trashed-out and exhausted, but believe I will hit my stride pretty soon. Yesterday and today, I managed to kick out the planning for the following day, leaving myself some afternoon and evening hours for watercoloring and drawing.

Above is a sketch I just attempted of a tree trunk, using several grades of pencil along with a blending stump and that dried-out ballpoint pen for impressions in the paper. I’m trying to find a way to simulate the graininess of the bark and somehow make the tree stand apart from a background. I’m still experimenting, but just love the feelings that accompany drawing for pleasure, or in this case, decompression following frenetic daily schedules.

Thanks for reading.

Pre-dawn Moments with the Muses

August 25, 2015

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I who sail now in a boat, have I not sailed in a thought?
Henry David Thoreau, Journal

Rising at 5 a.m., one hour before my scheduled time, proved to be extremely difficult. I fought off every urge to return to my bed to get one more hour of sleep. Though I did not feel great physically, I really believed down deep that it was important to have at least an hour to myself before entering the classroom. Thirty minutes passed before I finally found my footing in the Journals of Thoreau. Every time I awaken with that feeling of uncertainty about what I am doing with my life, I find an affirmation in the writings of a great soul, on this occasion, Thoreau:

The hardest material obeys the same law with the most fluid. Trees are but rivers of sap and woody fibre flowing from the atmosphere and emptying into the earth by their trunks as their roots flow upward to the surface. And in the heavens there are rivers of stars and milky ways. There are rivers of rock on the surface and rivers of ore in the bowels of the earth. And thoughts flow and circulate and seasons lapse as tributaries of the current year.

As I lingered over his words, I thought of my own life as a river that flowed eventually south into the Texas Laguna Madre, settled there awhile, and then reversed its course back to the metroplex where I now try to share my vision while down there. The river is a marvelous metaphor for the life of the mind. How many times could we describe our individual selves as rivers of ideas, each of us pushed on our unique course by a passionate heart that pumps that energy throughout our bodies? Or better still, could each of us not represent a single tributary, branching from the same source and pushing on our individual odysseys? Meandering rivers. Splintering tributaries. All of us beautiful in our own way. For about half an hour this morning, I enjoyed the flow.

Taking up the pencil, I decided to push my experiment a little further down the river. I am still exploring the possibilities of indenting the paper surface with a dried-up ballpoint pen as a stylus, and then rubbing soft graphite and blending stumps over the top, to see if I can render the semblance of grass and flower patterns. I posted this morning’s example above.

Just before leaving for school, I took last night’s painting outdoors, peeled off the masquing and brushed away the grains of salt to see what lay beneath the mess:

Lower Left Corner of Watercolor in Progress

Lower Left Corner of Watercolor in Progress

I believe that with a little tweaking, I can turn this blob of color into a bed of firewheels and assorted wildflowers from the Texas Laguna Madre.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

l’;l’

The Quiet of the Evening

August 24, 2015

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Our life is frittered away by detail.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The first day of school was largely successful. Of course, I rose at 5 a.m., because I always have trouble sleeping the night before day one. By the time the day was done, I was totally exhausted, which came as no surprise.

I put in a number of hours this evening, working out details for tomorrow’s classes. But then, I brought it all to a halt. I have resolved that I will no longer allow my life to be frittered away by minutia. I worked out the broad assignments for tomorrow, and then decided to give the rest of the evening back to myself.

I have posted a portion of the lower left hand corner of my large watercolor. This portion measures about 8 by 8 inches. There is a good deal of masking underneath the wet surface that I will not be able to remove until tomorrow when it’s dry.

And now I read and write in my journal with genuine pleasure, as I await sleep to take over. It has been a good day, thank you so much for reading.
I paint in order to learn.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Tearing Off and Beginning Again

August 23, 2015

imageTo fend off the crowd, Stoics believed, it was essential to cultivate inner self-sufficiency, and Seneca returns to this notion over and over. Learn to be content within yourself, to trust your own instincts and ideas. Those who achieve this autonomy, he argues, are best able to enjoy and make the most of their outward lives. They thrive in the crowd because they’re not dependent on it. 

William Powers, Hamlet’s Blackberry

Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at anytime and be yourself.

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

The photo above was taken early Saturday morning in the back of my darkened classroom, and it became a sacred space for me. Nearly three months of summer solitude and quiet are about to end as I enter the public classroom arena in the morning and write the first page of a new chapter for all of us. I’m choosing the title above because I have torn off and discarded a number of teaching points I have grown to love over the years, replacing them with some new ones.

This latest book I’m reading Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age has seized my attention and held it like no other in recent years. Not only am I appreciative that the author got my attention of how social media can drive one’s personal agenda, I am glad now to seek a more satisfying lifestyle that balances my quiet solitude with the demands of a social business schedule. The summer has furnished an excellent training ground for the quiet side of my life, and tomorrow I’ll find out just how successful I am at balancing the tumult of daily school with the quiet of my study. I find such attractive sweetness in the lives of Emerson, Thoreau, Annie Dillard and Aldo Leopold because I imagine them to have found ways to balance their quiet inwardness with the demands of business. I see them as very positive role models for anyone who wishes to pursue creative exploits.

I did fight for some painting time in the studio this day before school begins. Here is a 20 x 24″ beginning of the same Laguna Madre painting that I completed a couple of days ago. I want to explore the serpentine countour of land in the foreground as I did in that very small watercolor.

Sketchbook/Journal Experimenting

Sketchbook/Journal Experimenting

This morning, while reading something completely unrelated, my mind drifted to drawing, and I’m glad I closed the book and let the imagination run. This is not something I’ve been taught or read in any art manual–I have always balked at drawing landscapes in pencil, because I could not solve the problem of lightly colored grasses against darker backgrounds. I had solved that issue in watercolor through masquing, but could not think of a way to render light grass blades against darker ones in pencil. Recalling that I could impress shapes into paper with a hard pencil (6H or 8H) and then skate over it with a soft lead pencil, I wondered if I could take a ballpoint pen that had run dry, and use it to press lines of grass into the paper, and then drag a soft pencil over the top of it. The sketchbook/journal page above shows my first attempts. Turning to another sketchbook, I then worked more deliberately and got closer to where I want to go:

Combining stylus indentions with soft graphite drawing

Combining stylus indentions with soft graphite drawing

To get this effect, I used an empty ballpoint pen for the impressions into the paper, then skated over it with a 6B pencil and rubbed some of it out with a paper blending stump. Finally, I drew in darker grasses, first in 6B, followed by a #2 pencil and then finally a 6H. I’m getting closer to what I want to accomplish.  Too bad I have to break this off and return my attention to tomorrow’s first day of classes.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Meaningful and Needed Gap Between Responsibilities

August 21, 2015

imageMoving into my final weekend of the summer, I was tortured as I attempted to prepare my classes for Monday while looking up from time to time at this small watercolor I began weeks ago and laid aside. And so this evening, I decided to move on a recent idea–creating a serpentine line of grasses, foliage and beach debris, connecting the dark green area on the lower left ultimately to the horizon line of the lagoon. The process was enjoyable, as I combined masquing with drybrush, pencil and blotting to create this meandering line of terrain. Though I did not get out any of his works, the drybrush watercolor sketches of Andrew Wyeth were my inspiration, as they have been since before I started the Artist-in-Residence last June. I suppose what I am saying is that I had the “essence” of Wyeth’s compositions in my visual memory as I worked on this piece this evening.

The painting time has been delicious, and I’m appreciative for that space. Now it is time to return to classroom preparations. Monday is approaching quickly.

Thanks for reading. I hope to have time, space and a quality idea to post on the blog tomorrow or sometime this weekend.

I paint in order to explore.

I journal when I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Conflicted, as Usual

August 21, 2015
Trying to Get Day One Prepared

Thrashing my Way through Preparations for Monday

I force my mind to become self-absorbed and not let outside things distract it. There can be absolute bedlam without so long as there is no commotion within.

Seneca

I shun father and mother and wife and brother when my genius calls me.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

In Arlington, I am seated in the rear of my classroom, hammering out Advanced Placement Art History teaching points for Monday’s first day of school. Meanwhile in Corpus Christi, my new friends are assembling a one-man show of my watercolors from the Laguna Madre Artist-in-Residence experience last June. The show will be held in the university library the last three weeks in October. A larger show will follow next March in the Art Center of Corpus Christi. Focusing on my job here is demanding a Stoic resolve.

But that is what life contains-conflicts. Always. Currently, I am wrapping up a week of meetings, and my time would have been much better spent organizing the teaching points for my five subjects. But that point is never considered by those in charge of setting up these calendars. I suppose it is the state legislature that believes they are developing us as professionals by requiring long hours of sitting through meetings that penetrate our classroom efforts as effectively as a spider does water.

As I thrash out this new curriculum for Advanced Placement Art History, mandated by the College Board, I find my eye drifting to this watercolor in front of me that I began several weeks ago, and forgot to finish. The hiatus turned out to be good, I believe, because when I looked at it this morning while packing my books, I suddenly got a compositional idea I am anxious to apply–a serpentine line of grasses, foliage and coastal debris beginning with the wildflowers in the lower left foreground, and arriving eventually on the horizon line. Right now, that is all I really want to explore. But . . . I have a job to do, and I cannot put it off any longer.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this day holds great surprises for you.

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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