Archive for January, 2010

A Surprise from my Files, January 21, 2010

January 21, 2010

Snowy Bourbon, Missouri with Railroad

A real surprise greeted me this evening as I looked through my old digital files of watercolors done in years past.  A few days ago, on January 17, I posted the right half of this painting, not knowing that the left half still existed in my files.  When I began converting my watercolors to 5 x 7″ greeting cards several years ago, I cropped this panorama composition so it would fit nicely on the standard-sized card, and completely forgot about the left hand of the composition.  The story of this subject is told in my January 17 blog, about my Christmas season surprise to see this beautiful snowscape in Bourbon, Missouri, early one morning as I was returning to Texas after a holiday visit with my St. Louis family.  This left-hand portion I did, trying to copy Edward Hopper’s oils and watercolors of railroad crossings and the embankments that partially obscure residential dwellings and small businesses.  I was trying to capture some of that when I worked out this composition.

A Proust Moment, January 20, 2010

January 20, 2010

Abandoned gas station near Callisburg, Texas

I believe this watercolor was my first (of many, many attempts) time to combine several different photo images into one composition.  The building is outside of Callisburg, Texas, and I drove past it numerous times in the mid-1980’s when I was pastoring a country church in that vicinity.  The building was completely stripped of signage, so I added various signs of Mobilgas, cafe, and motor oil and feed store logos.  The truck I took from a photo that an art student gave me years earlier.  I tried to dock the truck under the awning like it belonged there.  It was interesting trying to put a truck in a location such as this and make it look right.  The drybrush technique of course was my attempt to try the Andrew Wyeth “look.”

I’m fascinated with Marcel Proust’s work and how he writes of those primal memories that are stirred within us by a certain touch, smell, taste, or visual stimulus.  When I see abandoned filling stations such as this, I still hear the cables ringing when the wheels of vehicles pass over them.  I hear the gas pumps ringing as the numbers spin, telling the dollars owed and gallons dispensed.  I smell the oil and grease, the tires, the grime–all of it.  And I can’t drive past a vintage gas station without looking long and hard, and more often than not–pulling over to take a picture or grab a quick sketch.

Re-Visiting My First Gallery Sale, January 19, 2010

January 19, 2010

Union, Missouri

This watercolor means a great deal to me.  It was the first work I ever sold through a gallery.  The buyer was returning to her native Germany, and told the gallery director that the house reminded her of farm homes in the “Old Country.”  I photographed the old house when I was returning to Texas from a visit with family in St. Louis.  As I stood on the property, assuming the place was abandoned, I heard a dog suddenly bark in the distance, then I heard a door slam, and immediately an old pickup truck emerged from behind the house.  Fearing I was about to be chased off the property, I left in a hurry.

This was one of my first serious attempts at Andrew Wyeth’s drybrush technique.  I still remember how painstaking I was, when I tried to render the wood grains on the old siding of the house.  The tall weeds were also filling me with anxiety as I attempted to render them.  The siding and the weeds were first attempts.

My Studio under the Trees, January 18, 2010

January 18, 2010

Fox Hunt

I’m hesitant to post a work-in-progress, especially if the content is unrecognizable.  Nevertheless, I wish to keep the blog active by posting at least once a day.  And this present work finds me in unfamiliar waters.  It is a poured watercolor, the first one I have ever tried.  Almost no brushwork is present, as instead I have spritzed the paper with a spray water bottle after masking certain areas, and then have poured watercolors straight out of a bowl, then working with tissue paper, additional spritzes, and tilting the page around to move the pigments all over the page.

The subject is a fox hunt, though the viewer probably cannot make out the ghostly traces of several equestrians following a pack of hounds.  I think this work shows potential.

It was a beautiful day in Texas, with temperatures in the high 60’s and the sun bright all day.  I spent the afternoon at Lyndon Acres in Burleson, where my wife stables her horse and spent some quality time today riding.  I set up my
“studio under the trees” and had a fabulous time experimenting with this new technique (new for me, anyway).

Christmas Season in Bourbon, Missouri, January 17, 2010

January 18, 2010

Bourbon, Missouri train scene

After finishing two watercolors yesterday, I resumed work today on a fox hunt composition I started last fall but never completed.  I’ll post it when it’s finished (or nearer than it is now).  From my old collection, here is an important holiday memory.  I was returning from St. Louis during the Christmas holidays, early in the morning, driving through a beautiful snow, listening to Mozart on the tape deck.  Suddenly I saw this beautiful railroad embankment with snow all over its sides, bending gracefully into the horizon.  Using an old 35mm camera, I photographed the scene, and as soon as I got home, worked out this watercolor composition and added a train.

Finished Jazz at the Bistro, St. Louis, January 16, 2010

January 16, 2010

Jazz at the Bistro, St. Louis

I finished my second watercolor today.  This image was posted several days ago, when it was nearly complete.  Both watercolors finished today have been “in progress” for a couple of months now.  Too many interruptions and holiday-related events impeded my progress on them.  Delighted to be past them now, and ready for a new and fresh composition.  Maybe tomorrow . . .

A Second Look at Winfield, Missouri, January 16, 2010

January 16, 2010

Closing Hour at Winfield, Missouri

(Now at the Weiler House Gallery of Fine Art.  Price $400)

Glad to have this one finally finished.  It is my second watercolor of this abandoned store–the last one was more frontal (posted earlier in the blog).  The blog posted earlier today has all the information on this location, so I won’t repeat it here.  I still have a soft spot in my memory for small town stores,  and hate it every time they shut down and yield to yet another 7-11, or any convenience store for that matter.  These stores were convenient enough in their own day, and would still be today, as far as I’m concerned.

Back in the Watercolor Studio, January 16, 2010

January 16, 2010

Watercolor nearing finish in studio

(Painting now finished, on sale at the Weiler House Fine Arts Gallery–$400)

It’s terrific, having this Saturday free to return to watercolor, I’ve missed it so.  This work in progress was posted a few weeks ago.  Though it might not be readily apparent, much detail has been added throughout this day.  I know, the Devil is in the details, but I just love it so, whittling away at small areas that few viewers are going to see–blistered paint on wood, decaying wood grains, lichen on the concrete, subtle changes in the shadow colors.  I just get lost in all of that.

This abandoned store is in the town of Winfield, Missouri, a Mississippi riverfront town on Highway 79 northwest of St. Louis.  I was following this winding road back to my old college stomping grounds, in Kirksville, Missouri.  It had been decades since I last traveled this route.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Ghosts of memories past drifted across my conscious, Proust-like, as the day unrolled.  I photographed this store just an hour or so after the sun rose, and really wished to stop on the spot to do some watercolor sketches, but I decided instead to trust my digital camera, and my own interest to return to the subject later.  After all, Kirksville was still over 200 miles away via meandering state highways through farm country.  I knew I would be driving most of the day, because of the constant stoppages for photographing potential watercolor sites–and I did get out of the Jeep twice to do sketchbook work rapidly in pencil.  All the while, my tension between lingering and moving on echoed the words of Robert Frost–“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.  But I have promises to keep.  And miles to go before I sleep.”

I really hope I can get this painting finished by tonight.  I have several others waiting, and I’m interested in all of them at the same time–so scatter-brained this day!

A Walden Pond Remembrance–January 15, 2010

January 15, 2010

Dexter, Texas (Ghost Town)

It looks as though tomorrow I can pursue new work, and stop posting these old watercolors from my past.  This one is of a cabin in Dexter, Texas (now a desolate relic of a town–probably a ghost town).  From the time I photographed the cabin (around 1986), I was smitten at its resemblance of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond.  I didn’t get to visit that historic site until the mid 1990’s, but the replica cabins I’ve seen at the Pond and at the Concord Historical Society match this as to size.  Only difference of course is Thoreau had only one door at the end, and a window on both sides.

A couple of year ago, I returned to the Dexter site, and was saddened to see only one wall still standing of this cabin, and completely overgrown with trees and underbrush.  It was not even approachable.  Nature always reclaims what isn’t overrun by people.

I was proud of the painting from the time I executed it.  Thrilled that the drybrush on the woodwork of the building “worked” as did the torn-up roofing.  I was pleased with the blistered wood around the door frame and window sash, and the way the horizon trees washed out in the distance.  These were several “firsts” for me, and though I do these kinds of techniques now without fear, I seem to lack the spontaneity that appears in this painting, and of course I no longer no the profound serendipitous delight of seeing something new emerge beneath my brush.  While I was in visiting family in St. Louis, I was surprised to receive a check in the mail from the Hillsboro Gallery with the notification that this painting had sold.  I called the love of my life (now my wife) and told her the great news over the phone.  Then when I returned home to Texas, and went to her place to visit, I was gratified to see this hanging over her fireplace–a secret sale!  Now it is in our home, belongs to her, and I’m still delighted that it is where I can see it any time, every day.

Busy, busy day–January 14, 2010

January 14, 2010


Incredibly busy day–first round of Final Exams at the high school.  Almost forgot to blog.  But I hope to keep the daily streak alive.  This watercolor was done from a photograph I took one summer in Luckenbach Texas.  I was amused that chickens ran loose all over the small settlement, and had a tendency to “hang out” around the parked Harleys.  So I created a whimsical watercolor of the subject and titled it “Harley Chicks” (visible on my website  I followed it up later with this one.  I had photographed a portly man about to climb off his parked machine, and thought I would add this large pig to the composition and give it an appropriate title.  Sometimes I create work tongue-in-cheek.  Although tongue-in-cheek for me usually doesn’t translate to successful business–both original watercolors remain unsold.  Oh well.