Archive for July, 2011

Deja Vu–A Second Painting of Cotter Cabin

July 6, 2011

Cotter Cabin Deja Vu

If you have been following my post, you may have read that I “froze up” on my first large painting of this historic cabin in Cotter, Arkansas.  So, I began a second one, and once the juices began flowing, I went back to the original and finished it.  Now I’ve decided to bring closure to this one (though it appears I won’t finish tonight, as much as I wish I could!).  Right now, I’m up-to-my-elbows in it, and very interested.

Today was quite a day.  I rose shortly after sunrise, went to the historic Handley neighborhood and took some digital photos that I think will yield some good watercolor compositions.  By the time 7:30 arrived, I decided to go on into downtown Fort Worth to see how Sundance Square looks in the low-angle morning sunlight.  Choosing to avoid Loop 820 and Interstate 30, I chose to stay on Lancaster, finding it smooth sailing, relatively free of traffic, and conducive therefore for a speed trap.  Yep.  Ticketed for speeding.

Once I got to Sundance Square, I found exquisite yellow sunlight all over the downtown architecture, and focused mostly on Haltom Jewelers, taking about 40 more photos from all angles.  Then I settled into Starbuck’s on Sundance (hadn’t yet had my coffee-fix), opened Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and found myself lost in a swoon.  I cannot get enough of this guy!  The more he spoke of primal sensations taking us back to childhood memories, the more I thought of the Cotter Cabin with its look, its smells, and its reminders of my parents’ roots in Southeast Missouri near the Mississippi River.  The smell of the damp, rotting wood stuck in my throat, even though I was in modern upscale downtown Fort Worth.  I didn’t want to leave.  I don’t know how long I lingered there, reading, writing in my journal, and gazing across scores of years into my primal past.  I couldn’t wait to get back to the house and resume this painting.

So, yesterday it was William Carlos Williams with his Imagism.  Today it was Proust and his “recollections” (Ha Ha–I call my company Recollections 54) as well as William Wordsworth and his “child is father to the man” mantra.  It’s been a fabulous day, traffic ticket notwithstanding.

Thanks for reading.  Maybe I’ll finish this Cotter Cabin Deja Vu tomorrow.

William Carlos Williams and Rural Colorado Mailboxes

July 5, 2011

Colorado Mailboxes

This morning,  my mind has drifted back to the poetry and legacy of William Carlos Williams, whose theory now known as Imagism was laid out in a line from one of his poems: “No ideas but in things.”  Williams chose to remain in the quiet town of Rutherford, New Jersey, where he worked as a physician and created as a poet.  I love this statement from his Autobiography: “All that I have wanted to do was to tell of my life as I went along practicing medicine and at the same time recording my daily search for . . . what?  As a writer, I have been a physician, and as a physician a writer; and as both writer and physician I have served sixty-eight years.”

This small town physician drove from residence to residence throughout his working days, his eyes always taking in images that seemed to contain the stuff of revelation in them–a red wheelbarrow, shards from a broken green bottle, a housewife stooping outside her front door to pick up milk bottles–all of these images were recorded on prescription pads, and long after nightfall would grow into poems.

For several years I have wanted to do with watercolor vignettes what Williams did with small poems–record objects that I take in during the day that strike some kind of chord of recognition from my past.  So, with this current posting, I began by sorting through my plein air sketches from the past, and stopped with this tree top in my neighbor’s yard that I painted from my garage studio view early one morning.  Turning to my digital library, I pulled up this pair of rural Colorado mailboxes that I photographed last summer as my wife and I stopped alongside the highway to admire a railroad bridge and the deep gorge cut between two mountain ranges.  After photographing the bridge a dozen times, I turned and my attention immediately fastened on this pair of mailboxes.  I probably looked like a stooge,  shooting pictures of old mailboxes when all the natural beauty of the Colorado mountains lay sprawled before us.

Twice in my life, I have lived in an isolated rural setting, and depended on a mailbox much like these to keep me in contact with the civilized world.  In 1973, I worked for a summer at J. P. Coleman State Park near Iuka, Mississippi.  The postmaster arranged for me to use an abandoned mailbox along one of the county roads, but it required a 3-mile walk for me to reach it from the interior of the State Park where I resided.  I daily made that 3-mile walk.  I was a college student on summer vacation and was blessed with a plethora of “writing” college friends that led to “something in the box” almost daily.

In 1986 I lived in rural Whitesboro, Texas,  on a Farm Market road seventeen miles out from the nearest city.  Again, the mailbox kept me in touch with my remote friends and working associates.  While living there, I spent many afternoons in the shade of the front porch, watching the mailbox down the dirt road and the approaching mail truck to see if the driver was going to stop.  Letters, packages, anything left was a “connection” with my working world beyond the horizon.

Although the sight of rural mailboxes has held my attention for years, it is only now that I pause to paint a pair.  I’ve selected another photograph from my Arkansas odyssey of last year, and am considering a small watercolor sketch of that one as well.

Thanks for reading.

Eureka Springs Railroad Environment

July 4, 2011

Eureka Springs RxR

The 4th of July has turned out to be a decent day for painting.  Once my thermometer reached 106, I decided it was time to get out of the garage and retreat to my indoor studio (I cannot bear the dim light of the indoors, once I’ve indulged in plein air, nevertheless I’m not inviting heat stroke either).  It’s nice to work in an air conditioned place now.

I began this small 11 x 14″ piece on the last day of class with my Eureka Springs School of the Arts group.  It was Friday morning, and I felt a heaviness, knowing I was going to leave Eureka Springs and all its beauty that day, yet anxious in my heart to get on to the next appointment.  I felt that great things were just ahead.

Once I took out this piece today, I realized that the antique steam engine really needed a set of wheels.  So I fortunately had a reference photo taken on location, and set to work today trying to finish out the bottom of this composition.  I’m glad to bring closure to this work.  Again, I have too many conflicting feelings co-mingled, as this painting takes me back to the end of Eureka Springs and the transition back to life as I know it today.  It has not been an easy shift, and I’m still working to get my feet back underneath me.

I have filled out an application for the 2012 academic year at Eureka Springs School of the Arts, and hope I can return to this remarkable mountain town next summer.  This quaint Victorian mountain town is a plein air artist’s dream.

Thanks always for reading.

Colorado Dizziness! Durango-Silverton Railroad Watercolor Finished!

July 4, 2011

Durango Silverton RxR finished

This 4th of July finds me somewhere between Vincent Van Gogh’s steam locomotive and Andy Warhol’s factory.  I’m possessed with an energy to kick out some art work on an assembly line.  I frequently allow a number of watercolor partial attempts to accumulate in my studio–some that I regarded as “finished enough” en plein air and others that just started out badly and I abandoned them but did not throw them away–just threw them aside.

Now and then a day comes along like this one, where I choose to line up the unfinished pieces and resolve to bring them to their conclusions, sign them, blog them and move on.

This painting began during the Art in the Park festival in Kennedale, Texas.  During a slow moment in sales and traffic I sat on my stool and began this work, using a small reference photo (3 x 5″).  I never thought anything significant would come of it–just passing time (festivals can become rather long when the sales taper off).  In the months following (this began in April), I took the sketch out now and then and “diddled” with it.  I thought it was finished last week, but then saw some more things in it that bothered me.  Now I’m satisfied.

I long for the next time I get to board the Durango-Silverton.  My wife and I are thinking seriously about a trip to Colorado when the Aspens start to turn.  We’ll see.

Oh well, I have another railroad composition awaiting-one that started badly.  We’ll see if anything positive can come out of that.

Thanks for reading, and happy 4th of July.

Finished the Cotter Cabin. Time to Move On

July 4, 2011

Historic Cabin, Cotter, Arkansas

To those of you who have followed my blog, this picture may look no different than the one posted late last night.  Exactly the reason for me to sign it and leave it alone.  I have worked an additional 90 minutes on it this morning, but once I realize that each stroke I add does not radically improve the overall composition, and indeed may diminish it, it is time to let it go.  Perhaps I held on to this painting too long because it reminded me of things in my life that I need to let go.  So, there it is.  Ironically, I have another of the same size started, but I have decided for the moment not to pursue it.  Time to look at something else.

The morning of the 4th of July has started early for me.  I’ve chosen to paint in the garage because of the wonderful light, though I’ve been shirtless for an hour and am still mopping my brow frequently with my gym towel.  But I do love the light.  Funny–I’m not a guy who takes sun well, and doesn’t particularly like it.  Yet when I watercolor outdoors, I find a way to tolerate it.  Granted I would not enjoy pulling weeds or painting the siding of my house in this climate.

I am listening with my whole being as the VCR plays behind me “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”  That book by James Joyce touched my life at the very core when I read it back in the late 80’s.   I really need to read it again, but I’m hung up in Proust right now, hoping to finish him this summer.  Joyce and Proust both put me in touch with the important elements of my upbringing, and with summer vacation present, I have tried to spend more time pondering those matters.  Unfortunately I let other elements intrude, and they managed to keep me away from my quality reading and painting.  Perhaps Independence Day will be doubly poignant for me if I allow it to mark the first day of my return to what matters.  All I need to determine at this point is–what matters?!

Anyway, for the moment, painting matters.  And having said that, I have a couple of unfinished works at my side that need tending, so I will pursue those.  With some good fortune, I’ll be posting them in the hours ahead.

Thanks for reading, and I hope your 4th of July brings good things your way.  I’m happy to be painting this morning while my wife rides.  The garage studio space is working, for the moment.

Still Working on the Historic Cotter Cabin

July 3, 2011

Historic Cabin in Cotter, Arkansas

I’ve lost a few days of quality painting.  Sometimes life takes a lousy turn, and mine is no exception.  I’m glad I’m out of school for the summer, but hate to waste opportunities because I cannot seem to get myself back to work emotionally.

Having said that, I did return to this one this afternoon, and have stayed rather steadily with it throughout the evening.  I hope to finish it tomorrow, and truly celebrate Independence Day.  I have a second watercolor of this same subject also in progress.  I started it because this one was getting rather tight, and I was fumbling with my next move.  Then other personal things clouded my painting activities and both paintings got abandoned.  At any rate, I’m resolved to work through the emotional baggage and get something creative accomplished.  Perhaps I can finish this one tomorrow, and the other on the following day.  I’ll try.  I have other projects waiting in the wings and would like to move ahead with them.

I’m happy with how the chair emerged in this work, and am getting more satisfied with the table.  I found the stone steps an absolute delight to work with, thanks largely to the practice I got in a few weeks ago when I painted that limestone bluff in Eureka Springs.  I had no idea that that activity would prove so helpful with this current painting.  Now that the masking has been removed, the flowers are showing beneath the cabin, and out front as well.  I’m seeing a few elements emerge that are beginning to please me with this painting.

Thanks for reading.