Archive for February, 2011

Nostalgic Christmas Dining on Route 66 at the Spencer’s Grill

February 3, 2011

Nostalgic Christmas Dining on Route 66 at the Spencer's Grill

This one is going to be fun!  Spencer’s Grill, along historic route 66 in Kirkwood, Missouri, was a visual landmark for me, even before I was old enough to read.  This 1947 diner, with its 1948 sign, was featured on a billboard in Fenton, Missouri, adjacent to the Meramec River bridge on Highway 30.  As a small child, I admired the maroon-and-gold signage complete with vintage clock.  Once I was old enough to enter the diner on my own, I discovered a scene reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s painting “Night Hawks,” complete with stainless steel kitchen and the aromas of old-fashioned cooking.  Every summer and Christmas, when I re-visit St. Louis, I stop into the Spencer’s Grill, usually for breakfast which includes scrapple, of all things!

I began this work last month, then stalled as I continued work on a couple of other large watercolor compositions, and of course, the constant juggling of high school and college teaching schedules.  Yesterday I discovered water damage in the midst of the painting (sloppy me–always leaving a damp towel on my work).  I have just about restored all the “bleeding” areas that weren’t supposed to be there, and I pledge to be more careful now as this thing slowly takes shape.  I still have plenty of pencil work to do, as I’ve decided now to extend the composition to the bottom and to the right.  And of course, there is still plenty of signage to detail, traffic to block in, and shadows to lay down.  But I am finding real joy in this.

Texas has canceled school three days in a row, an extremely rare feat–in fact I don’t recall three consecutive cancellation days in my near-25 years of teaching.  At any rate, it has allowed me to focus more on my painting, and for that I am grateful.

Thank you for reading.  I’ll try to be more faithful with daily blogging . . .  Wish me luck on this one!

Winter Watercolor progressing, February 2, 2011

February 1, 2011

Labadie, Missouri snowscape

I posted the information to this watercolor on the previous post.  I’ve been picking at this watercolor most of this day.  I’m thrilled to have my first one-man show this coming September, and have found another gear to pursue watercolor with larger compositions.  This one measures 12 x 18″. I’m trying to solve the dry brush problems of winter foliage.  I’m not sure how to finish this one out, so I believe I’ll turn my attention to the other two paintings for a little while.  Luck for me, school has been canceled tomorrow as well (two days in a row).  The snow and ice have not been too heavy in this part of  Texas, but the falling temperatures have kept them in place, making travel hazardous.  It is 14 degrees as I write this, at 9:00 p.m.  I’m lucky to have a couple of days in a warm studio!

Thanks for reading.

The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep, February 1, 2011

February 1, 2011

Labadie, Missouri Snowscape

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

I have always felt dreamy when hearing these Robert Frost words from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”  For any of you who have followed my blog, you have seen this composition before: while Christmas vacationing in Missouri, I paused at the back door of the apartment we stayed in while visiting with Wayne White on his Double D Acres ranch.  Seeing the lovely woods shrouded in snow, I had to capture them quickly in drybrush watercolor, on a block measuring 8 x 10″.  As soon as I returned to Texas, a dear friend purchased the small sketch, but I could not forget the scene.  Hence I pulled my digital photo of it, printed off an 8 x 10″, and went quickly to work on this 12 x 18″ composition.  I have a good feeling about this one, though it has come along very slowly, which I guess isn’t a bad thing.  Sometimes a long gestation period works with my paintings.

The interruptions have meant plenty of “down time” for this piece: I have two other large watercolors in progress (already posted on this blog).  I have also spent time in L.A. on school business (sketches from there already posted as well).  I’m also teaching two college courses at night, in addition to my “day job” at the high school.  Hence I have had problems getting back to this one.  So why is today different?

Well, this morning we were awakened by a 5:15 phone call that school was canceled for the day.  Looking outside at the solid sheet of ice that covered everything in my neighborhood, I was seized with delight, made coffee and returned to bed with an excellent book:  Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. While enjoying this remarkable book, my BlackBerry tinkled a Facebook message and what did I find? A former student’s photograph of her lovely little daughter watercoloring in the living room, titled “The artist in residence: snowy day watercolors.”  That was enough!  I returned to my studio, since piled high with books and journals, cleared a path for my art work, and resumed work on this piece.

Always I am amazed when I pore over an Andrew Wyeth snowy drybrush piece.  Naturally, as I tinker with this one of my own, brushing, dragging, salting, spattering and drawing, I will ruminate over his magnificent contribution and how much it has enriched me since the first time I saw his work in 1968 as a curious, yet awkward high school freshman Art I student.  Thank you, Mr. Wyeth.  I miss you, and will always treasure your Chadds Ford and Cushing meditations.