Archive for February, 2010

Second day on the fly fishing watercolor, February 21, 2010

February 21, 2010

Fly Fishing Beaver's Bend, Broken Bow, Oklahoma

I got to put in a little bit of time in the studio this afternoon, and late tonight.  This composition is from a photograph my wife took of me, wading some swift waters at Beavers Bend State Park near Broken Bow, Oklahoma.  Right after she took the photograph, I hooked a handsome rainbow trout.  Too bad we didn’t get a shot of that!  At any rate, I’m interested now in pursuing some fly fishing watercolors, and have quite a few photos of myself in the act, thanks to my wife’s patience and dedication with the camera!

I haven’t yet started on the bank, that will include plenty of fallen timber and rocks.  I also need to put some much deeper, dark colors in some of the woods, and find a way to make the fall colors stand out in bolder relief.  I still haven’t figured out how to separate the deep pools from the comparatively shallow runs in the stream, and also have to solve the problem of rocks appearing below the surface.  All in good time.  Too bad I have to get up at 5:00 and teach some morning classes at the high school, followed by an afternoon class at the college.  Perhaps I’ll return to this tomorrow evening (I hope!).

Thanks for reading.

Another poured watercolor attempt, February 20, 2010

February 20, 2010

Fly Fishing

I spent the duration of this day writing a Unitarian sermon for delivery in the morning.  Finally finished the manuscript around 8:30 tonight and decided to get after a new watercolor (I’ve had the “itch” the entire day).  I have only one completed fly fishing watercolor to my credit (on my website   I don’t particularly like it, because it is too pale and too controlled, as far as I’m concerned.  Aside from a forest on the left background that I think approaches Wyeth’s drybrush technique, I generally dislike the piece.

I have another fly fishing composition started, that has been disastrous so far and is currently buried in my stack of “works in progress” (I haven’t touched it in over a year–maybe I’ll get it out again soon).

This one is barely an hour old.  It’s going very slowly, because it is smaller than my “fox hunt” painting, and this is on a watercolor block, so the pigments are drying very, very slowly.  At least the fox hunt was stretched over canvas stretchers, and that leads to much quicker drying.  I’m really antsy to get to the dark green pigments to lace around the fall foliage in the background, but I’m wondering if the reds and yellows will dry before I can get to it later tonight.  I’m also anxious to put some deeper blues and greens into the water–again the yellows just won’t dry.  Patience!  At least I did a little bit of drybrush rendering on the fly fisherman before the pouring began.

Hopefully, I’ll pursue a series of fly fishing watercolors, as well as fox hunts.  Too bad I work so many hours at school throughout the week, and have this occasional weekend sermon responsibility.  I think I’ll be able to return to the studio tomorrow afternoon, however.

Thanks for reading.

Finished my first “poured piece.” February 19, 2010

February 19, 2010

Jennifer in the Hunt

Glad to sign off on this one finally.  Thanks to all of you who have continually offered encouragement and affirmation.  I feel very satisfied with this.  The only finishing touches I added were myriads of branches and limbs in the foreground corners, along with dropped in colors to suggest sparse leaves and blossoms.  I’m happy with the way the alternating warm and cool colors created this sense of mood.  This is my first attempt at poured watercolor, and I’m already looking forward to my next try.  I think I’ve opened a new dynamic after years of pursuing the same trademark style.  We’ll see where it leads.

Thank you very much for reading.

Closing in on the Finish, February 18, 2010

February 18, 2010

Jennifer in the Hunt

This painting has had an incredibly long gestation period.  I can say that about my more successful watercolors, and hope I’ll be able to say it about this once it’s complete.  From my website ( there are a number of works that took months to complete, even years when the work would lay dormant for several months, untouched.  This is especially true of “Blues on the Corner.”

Jennifer Stewart is the one who created and maintains my website.  Two of her horses are in this composition, and her husband took the photograph (which incidentally has been published–thankfully, he has given me permission to paint from this published photograph).

Those of you who have followed my blog know that this is only about the fourth or fifth time I’ve painted a horse, and the first time ever that I have painted hounds.  All of this gave me pause, to say the least, and the reasons for this lengthy “gestation” process include anxieties, quitting, spending weeks and months staring at it, painting-stopping-staring-pondering, second-guessing, doubting  . . .  I think you know what I mean.  I could never have pushed this painting out quickly.  It contains too many firsts, and the more improvement I saw in the process of creating this, the more I hesitated to take the next step–you know, the paralysis that stems from the fear of blowing it.”  After all these years, it’s funny (or pathetic) to see how timid and tendentious I can be with watercolor.

So.  Today I went with my wife to Lyndon Acres in Burleson, Texas.  She stables her horse there, and was in the mood for a ride.  I set up my studio under the trees and poured watercolor all over the top two corners to enrich the dark greens of the foliage, being careful to apply plenty of masking fluid before the pouring.  After I got it home this evening, I peeled off all the masking fluid, picked up the brush, and restored the feathery foliage to the dark green areas.

My last step tonight, before posting this and heading to bed, was to pour deep plum colors all over the lower right corner (after applying plenty of masking fluid).  I have sprinkled heavy quantities of salt into the drying pigment, and I’ll find out in the morning how that worked out (I like what it did to the lower left corner lavender wash).

Anyway . . . thank you for reading, and I hope you’re getting as much fun out of this as I am.  I think I could be just a few days away from finishing it (if I don’t get interrupted.  Arrrgh!  The daily life cycle of a schoolteacher).

Can we salvage a coffee-damaged work? February 17, 2010

February 17, 2010

Cahill Methodist Coffee Church

I have painted this Cahill United Methodist Church several times.  It is located south of Fort Worth, Texas, east of Interstate 35W, near the town of Joshua, Texas.  The back section of the church has been published on the cover of a fiction novel (more information on my website of this painting and book–

While working on the initial stages of this painting, in the studio behind the Upstairs Gallery in Arlington, Texas, I knocked over my cup of coffee and splattered it all over the right side of this composition.  You can clearly see the coffee stains on the right side of the church and grounds, as well as the streams of coffee  shooting up through the sky.  The only reason I didn’t just throw it away was because of the single tree I had rendered to the left.  I thought this was the closest I ever got to Andrew Wyeth-type “perfection” in rendering tree bark and the stark figure of a tree in winter.  I just hated to toss the painting.

This afternoon, with the sun lovely and the temperatures moderate, I went to Lyndon Acres to watch my wife ride her horse, and I began chipping away at this church, rendering the details of the facade and trying to give it some overall shape.  I’m still not sure what to do about all the coffee stains, but meanwhile I’m enjoying the watercolor experience, and learning as I apply some new techniques and color theories.

Thanks for reading . . .  it’s been a fabulous day for painting outdoors.

Sorry about the disappearance, readers! February 16, 2010

February 16, 2010

Decatur, Texas panorama

I never intended to break my New Year Resolution of an art blog-a-day.  However, I never intended to go without electricity for 3 days.  A Texas snowstorm of 9.5 inches knocked out the electricity and I had to move into a hotel.  No Internet (except for BlackBerry), no studio for painting, and hence, no blogging.  But I’m back now.

It has been a sublime evening, returning to my  studio after my first day back in school.  Though I have had to balance painting time with A.P. Art History preparation (Southeast Asia before 1200), I did manage to get several hours of uninterrupted watercolor work done.  I’ve been working to resurrect a painting-gone-bad, that I started in mid-summer 2009.  This began as a plein air experience in Decatur, Texas.  I aborted after about an hour of drawing and watercolor sketching, because a rainstorm had drenched the area that morning, and a strong sun drove the humidity index up to the point that my hand was sweating all over the composition.  I didn’t much like what I saw when I got it back home, so I set it aside, and made a few furtive stabs at it with the brush in the ensuing months.

Tonight I have added a second sign, darkened the side of the cafe, and have begun to render awnings, doorways and storefront windows in greater detail.  I still have three gas pumps to paint in red, and plenty of foliage to finish, as well as the petrified wood exterior of the defunct Texaco station.  Plenty of work remains, but I do like (for the first time) the way this is shaping up.

I have been playing two Andy Warhol DVDs I purchased at the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum last weekend (during my dry spell without electricity).  There is a wonderful show of Warhol’s final decade there, and I didn’t want to leave it.  I always enjoy playing Warhol documentaries while I work in the studio (the Factory!).  I now have four of them, and they usually run non-stop while I’m in the creativity zone.  I am inspired to produce when I hear of his workaholic lifestyle in the Factory.  I feel a kinship with him, and am sad that we lost him while he was just getting back to the brush.

Thanks for reading, and I apologize for the gap in the blog.  Hopefully there won’t be any more interruptions in 2010.

Kat Under a Hot Tin Roof, February 11, 2010

February 11, 2010

Kat Under a Hot Tin Roof

Isn’t it funny how we as artists practice the “dance of avoidance” (Ted Orland, Creative Authenticity) when we have all the time in the world to practice our craft?  Why do we do that?  Why do I do that?  I got sick last week, the doctor ordered me to stay home for four days and recuperate, and what did I do?  I worked harder on my lesson plans, anticipating my return to the classroom.  I’ve taught 22 years!  I don’t have to re-invent the wheel for public school!

Now, north Texas is expecting up to 8 inches of snow.  Tomorrow’s (Friday) classes are already canceled, and Monday is President’s Day.  So–I’ve just inherited another 4-day weekend.  I’ll get to know myself a little better this time, perhaps, and have something to show for the hiatus before I get back into the classroom next Tuesday.  Right now, I’m just sitting, chilling, and rhapsodizing on the huge, HUGE snowflakes filling the sky outside my study window, and recalling–Oh yeah!  a blog for today!  So, here goes. . .

I’ve had the privilege of playing acoustic guitar and singing in a band for a number of years now.  I have posted a watercolor of Kat Duke, one of our most amazing charter band members.  Kat is a gifted, soulful song writer, acoustic guitar player and vocalist (my how dusky and sultry her alto voice is!).  She and I began pulling people aside back in 2004 to play together, and, next thing we knew, we were a band with gigs on the calendar.  Through the years, band members came and went, but Kat always remained steadfast.

Finally in January 2008 Kat decided to pursue her long deferred dream of moving to the Pacific Northwest and living out the life of a folk singer.  She boarded a plane for Seattle, and we were all saddened to lose her, yet proud of her brave step into the future.  Before she departed, I secretly created this watercolor of her.  The pose came from a photo I took of her playing my guitar in my art booth at a festival at Kessler Park in Oak Cliff, Dallas.  I created the brick wall from my imagination, and added graffiti of all the band members who had played with her since 2004, and a logo of the band that she and I stayed with the longest–Interchangeable Parts.

Anytime I want to hear Kat’s voice, I only have to look at this painting.  And it all comes back . . .

Bluesville USA–Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago, February 10, 2010

February 10, 2010

Here is the third and final watercolor submitted to the juried exhibition of the Arlington Visual Arts Association.  The Blues are my passion, and I think Buddy Guy is the greatest living Blues guitarist and performer today.  It has been my pleasure to see him perform countless times, and finally, when I visited the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008, I made my way south of my hotel to visit his celebrated Legends nightclub.  My wife and I had flown in from our home in Arlington, Texas the night before, and as we entered his establishment, we asked the manager if Buddy Guy ever “hung out” in his own club.  His answer was, “Yeah, every night that he’s in town.”  Of course we had to know if he was in town.  We were in Chicago for a three-day stay.  “No, he’s performing a three-night venue in Houston.”  Oh well.  Still it was a great club, and the music we heard all three nights was Chicago Blues at its steamiest.

I photographed his club from every angle possible, finding it especially difficult from this perspective posted, with the constant obstruction of traffic lights, passing traffic, etc.  But I liked this angle, and gave it my best try.  I was intimidated by all the teals, as that is my least “cooperative” watercolor, so it seems.  I also struggled with the teals in an earlier blog post–the one of my St. Louis Jazz at the Bistro.  I found the neon-lit signs against dark windows very challenging, but was satisfied with how they came out.  I have tried neon a few more times in my more recent Waxahachie, Texas courthouse square paintings.  My attempts at capturing mildewed and stained concrete again took me back to the Andrew Wyeth coffee table books in my collection.  I spent a great deal of time looking at his drybrush renderings of the concrete buildings at Kuerner’s Farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.  Wyeth has constantly “taken me back to school” when it comes to solving problems in drybrush renderings.  Finally, I had to try my hand at that vertical corner sign surrounded with light bulbs, featuring the illustration of a young Buddy Guy.  Lettering is my Achilles heel, and there was plenty of it to fight in this sign.  I’ll have to keep chipping away at the lettering issues because I love signage in watercolors, just as I do when I’m out looking at old commercial buildings downtown.

I miss Chicago, and look forward hopefully to spending more days in that Windy City.  It features one of my favorite art museums, my favorite musical genre, and the entire downtown is an architectural wonder to me.

Vaughn Boulevard Relic, February 9, 2010

February 9, 2010

Vaughn Boulevard Relic

Still making too little headway on my new watercolors.  I would love to post them when they get a bit more “substance.”  As this evening draws to a close, I now post a second watercolor I entered last night in the Arlington Visual Art Association regional show about to open.  I title this “Vaughn Boulevard Relic.”  This defunct theater is located in the decaying Polytechnic Heights neighborhood in southeast Fort Worth, Texas, just east of Martin Luther King/U.S. 287 on Vaughn Blvd.  I pass this sad theater facade in the evenings while en route to the night classes I teach at Texas Wesleyan University.  Throughout the years, I have laughed at the stories passed on my former patrons of this theater.  They tell of an elderly female proprietor in a cotton dress with flashlight who threw out the “talkers” nightly.  I have sold quite a number of signed and numbered giclee prints of this, along with smaller, inexpensive ones, and scores of 5 x 7″ greeting cards with the image and the story on the back.  Most of the buyers are those from the neighborhood who remember the experience of attending shows here for 24 cents.  They even recall the prices of soda and popcorn, and of course, the experience of the elderly usherette.

Two years ago, while selling out of my booth at Fort Worth’s Jazz by the Boulevard, a lady came by and purchased one of the limited editions, recalling this theater from her teenage years.  I asked her if she ever got thrown out by the old lady with the flashlight and the cotton dress, and she gave me a curious look, saying “No.  I never saw such a person there, nor did I ever see that happen.”  While she was paying by credit card, another patron walked up, saw the print in her hand and exclaimed: “The Poly Theater!  I went there as a child!”  The buyer said, “So did I.  I was just telling this artist.”  The newcomer then asked: “Did you ever get thrown out by that mean old lady with the flashlight?”  The moment was too good not to re-tell.

I have done two studies of this theater.  Both are posted on my website.  What delights me about this one is my retreat into some earlier techniques I had picked up from the Andrew Wyeth drybrush studies.  I always liked the way he left the perimeter of his watercolors blank or faded out.  I also like how Wyeth rendered his focal areas with the sharpest detail, but as he moved further away from the area, he let the watercolor fade out, leaving only the pencil structure to stand alone.  I have tried that on quite a few watercolors, and personally like this effect more than the more traditional compositions where I take everything to the borders.  I guess I like this Wyeth effect more because (to me) it echoes the fact that the eye can only focus on one element at a time, while the surrounding elements are present, but out of focus.  I like to sharpen only part of my composition, and let the rest of it drift out of focus and finally into the white void.

The Dimming of a New Mexico Day, February 8, 2010

February 8, 2010

The Dimming of a New Mexico Day

I’m excited to have a few new watercolors in progress–they’re just not far enough along to post for viewers yet.  As a rule in 2010, I have not been posting finished works already on my website.  But I’m making an exception because this evening I entered three watercolors in the Arlington Visual Arts 34th Annual Regional Juried Art Exhibit.  This is one of them.

Two summers ago, I finished a 3,000-mile plus road odyssey beginning in Texas and going through Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and finally New Mexico where I connected with my wife who had been vacationing with her daughter.  As we drove back toward Texas together, I was mesmerized by the quality of the New Mexico sunlight, especially during a gathering storm late one afternoon.  This abandoned structure was just ablaze with light in the field, and I could not stop staring at it.  We drove up close, and I got up and walked all around it, photographing it from every conceivable angle, all the time intoxicated by that light.

Watercolor has always intrigued me because of the reflective possibilities of light reflecting off the bright paper through transparent layers of wash.   I read in a book long ago (and wish I had documented it!) “the paper is the atmosphere in which the watercolor breathes.”  That thought has been a consuming passion with me as I have experimented with colored washes in the watercolor world.  With this particular painting, I was spending a great deal of time looking at Edward Hopper paintings and noting his extreme contrasts between sunlight and shade.  I kept layering pigments into the shadows, trying to get this painting to “pop” with that same kind of Edward Hopper contrast.