Revisiting Edward Hopper and Victorian Architecture
Spring Break has afforded quality watercolor time, and it is only Tuesday evening. Daylight Saving Time has given me more quality outdoor light in the afternoon/evening as well. The garage studio environment has been sublime for painting, reading, journaling and blogging. I moved my antiquated stereo into the garage and am now enjoying a turntable that I haven’t played in a couple of years. Currently, I’m enjoying a pirated double-LP recording of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Live at the Los Angeles Forum 6-26-1970. Standing in waiting is a large stack of blues LPs–Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lonnie Johnson, Brownie McGhee, B. B. King, Son House, John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson.
The pictures posted above are my attempt to paint a Victorian mansion I have admired for years, situated high atop a hill in Weatherford, Texas, along Highway 180. A couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday, I was en route to the Brazos River near Possum Kingdom to do some fly fishing for recently-stocked rainbow trout. The sun was strong that morning, and as I drove past this mansion, I had to pull over, turn around, return, get out and shoot some photos of it. Finally I’m getting around to attempting my first watercolor on full-size paper (about 30 x 22″) with nearly 2/3 of the composition being hillside. I’m flying blind here–don’t have any idea what I’m going to do with all this grass! However, the mansion is coming along satisfactorily, and if I decide the grass isn’t working out, I can always take this to the paper cutter! That should relieve some of the pressure I feel.
T. S. Eliot has been my companion for the day. I’ve been spending plenty of time in “The Waste Land,” and am now reading the Eliot chapter in Howard Gardner’s Creating Minds. I’m fascinated with this poet, and am pleased that I can learn from his creative endeavor, even if he struggled over language the way I do over drawing. I just finished reading a letter he wrote to his brother, explaining that he chose to write fewer pieces, concentrating on perfection and making each completed piece an “event” rather than being merely “prolific” and publishing pieces everywhere. My goal in 2010 was to be prolific, as I have averaged less than twenty watercolors per year. I completed nearly one hundred in 2010. This year however, with my first ever one-man-show scheduled for September, I am concentrating on fewer and larger compositions, attempting to make every complete painting worthy of framing. I know that is plenty to expect, but nevertheless, I am trying for quality over productivity this year.
And I’m certainly pushing some boundaries. One of Edward Hopper’s neighboring artists commented that Hopper planned out each of his oils completely before he even started the composition. The neighbor thought that was “a terrible way to paint, because you aren’t discovering anything.” The critic went on to express admiration for Hopper’s watercolors “because in them you seem him experimenting all the time.” I’m trying to keep this thought before me, and push each new piece I begin in a direction not familiar to me. I don’t want to settle into any kind of “hack work,” pushing out watercolors for the trade. So . . . with this Victorian set high atop a hill, I try to complete my first Victorian in entirety (all my previous works are only partial studies of Victorian buildings, never completed), and I also try to devote some attention to a large plot of cultivated property. We’ll see how it goes . . .
Thanks for reading.