Archive for April, 2012

Saint Ignatius Watercolor in Progress

April 19, 2012

Saint Ignatius Academy

It has been awhile since I posted this entire watercolor in progress (28 x 22″).  I’m lost in the size of it, and today have only worked on a few square inches along the top story windows to the right.  Even I myself don’t see the forest for the trees, as I work on those windows, and completely ignore everything happening down below.  I’ve determined that when I next approach this (tonight or early tomorrow morning) I’m going to see about balancing the mansard roof green tiles with the green landscaping below, and make some decisions about reds or pinks to complement.  I always have trouble balancing out my compositions, especially when they are monstrously large and complex as this one is.

Before I close this out, I have to say that Muddy Waters has been a phenomenal studio partner this evening.  I’m listening to vinyl and enjoying my old turntable.  Tonight I have been playing his Fathers and Sons album, featuring Muddy along with Otis Spann, Michael Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Sam Lay and Buddy Miles.  I had never before paid much attention to his “Mean Disposition” but it really go hold of me this afternoon, and I cannot seem to play it and listen to it enough.  Anyway, nice to have Blues music playing while I crawl all over the side of this magnificent Catholic structure.

Thanks for reading.  I’m going to take a break before returning to this.

Return to William Wordsworth and the Tintern Abbey Feeling

April 19, 2012

Closeup study of Saint Ignatius Academy

Good evening from the garage studio.  The skies are darkening, and the suburban sounds are quieting as the neighborhood settles into another balmy spring night.  I’m finally refreshed after taking a power nap today.  I should feel guilty about those, but cannot.  I don’t sleep well at night, rise at 6:00, and today the Kimbell Art Museum field trip with the Martin High School Art Club sucked all the energy out of me.  The students were the very best–I’m always proud to be associated with them in public places.  This is my third museum tour with them during this past year, and always they have shown wonderful, mature decorum in the art venues.  As far as “energy sucking” I must admit that I cannot casually look at art in a museum.  I feel as though I have read a stack of volumes in a university library by the time I emerge.  Our museum docent today was first rate, and of course the Clark collection of French Impressionist and Barbizon School paintings just took my breath away.  Now I wish I could take off a year and try to learn landscape painting in watercolor, studying Pissarro, Monet and Sisley.  What an epiphany today was.

I managed to crawl back into my garage studio shortly after 6:00 this evening, and have just now paused to photograph, step back and look at today’s work (which started this morning shortly after 6:00 a.m.–I already posted that) and reflect.

I wish I could do for Saint Ignatius Academy of Fort Worth what Joseph Mallord William Turner did for Tintern Abbey in 1794.  Tintern Abbey was a Gothic church rebuilt in the 13th and 14th centuries, but then fell into ruins after the 1530’s when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.  William Wordsworth in 1798 was moved to write that beautiful poem “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” as he felt the overwhelming sense of presence and recollection while standing among those ruins.  If you have followed my blog and website ( you understand that this is the kind of thing I try to do in watercolor with our 1950’s America–recover a sense of recollection while standing in the presence of these relics of our own landscape.

I believe this Saint Ignatius structure was erected around 1886 (I’ll have to go back and re-check my notes on this).  As I worked on those upper story windows this morning in the pre-dawn darkness, I mused over the Jesuit scholars that perhaps sat behind those windows in the pre-dawn, lingering over manuscripts and preparing notes for classes.  I was of course reminded of my own seminary studies in the 1970’s and all those times I had to pull “all-nighters” just to stay caught up with the daily assignments and deadlines.  I still recall having to set clocks for 3 and 4:00 a.m. just to translate Hebrew for an 8:00 class.  I worked as a welder till 10:00 or midnight the night before, and the schedule was absolutely numbing.  But I do look back on it now with a serene sense (that I certainly did not hold then!).

I guess my next step is to tackle the pale green tiles of the mansard roof.  I already gave the ones to the extreme right a shot.  I’m not sure how I’m going to balance them with other colors I’ve chosen.  Perhaps I’ll shift my lavenders to a pale rose and see if that better complements the greens on the roof.  So many decisions.

Thanks for reading.


Saint Ignatius in the Pre-Dawn

April 19, 2012

Saint Ignatius in the Morning

Good morning!  I entered my garage studio at 6:05 and went directly to work on the portion of this watercolor posted above (about 25% of the overall composition).  It didn’t take me long to get lost in the upper-story right window.  Most of my pre-dawn was spent there and on the perimeter (fire escape, chimney and rusticated exterior of the building overall).  I’m still having fits with the fire escape shadows.  I have wanted them to have a purplish cast from the start, but so far I am not satisfied with the colors coming out, and I’ve altered them several times already.  Oh well.

My companions (aside from my cat, Kramer) have been Robert Johnson and Lonnie Johnson.  I enjoy playing vinyl when I’m listening to Blues music.  Robert has held my attention most of the morning with Kind Hearted Woman BLues and Rambling On My Mind.  The guitar work astounds me every time I listen to him.  Lonnie, on the other hand, lends quite an interesting jazz strain to his guitar that I find mesmerizing as well.

It’s 8:02, and I still have to shower and dress for today’s Field Trip.  I have to arrive in front of my school by 9:00.

Thanks for reading.  I plan to return this afternoon and push this watercolor further down the path.  I’m finally getting a rhythm back, and can’t wait to resume work on it.

Return to the Watercolor Studio

April 18, 2012

Late night in the studio

I kept my promise to myself, and re-entered my garage studio tonight, after much tidying and re-adjusting of my furniture.  Unfortunately, I load my art festival gear in and out of this same garage, and drafting tables and work benches end up getting covered in trunks and crates.

As I worked, clearing and re-arranging my studio, I had great company–Robert Johnson spinning on the turntable.  I bought his Robert Johnson: King of the Delta Blues Singers on vinyl several years back, and absolutely love playing it in the garage at night.  My last two Humanities class sessions at Martin High School have focused on the life of Robert Johnson, so I have had his music in my ears for about four days now.  It wasn’t until tonight, while alone in my work and my thoughts, that I realized how unspeakably sad some of his pieces are:  Love in Vain and Malted Milk. For a traveling troubadour, he undoubtedly was acquainted with profound sadness.  It upsets me further to think of his untimely homicide at age 27.  I wonder how much more our Mozarts and Robert Johnsons had within them that was never brought to birth.  Of course, my mind also goes to artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Frederic Bazille and Umberto Boccioni, all dead just as they were hitting their stride.  Sometimes I look at my own 57 years, and am bothered that I have been granted such a long stretch, and didn’t have enough interest to pursue this art until much time was spent (wasted) along the way.  But, I suppose it’s human for us to look back on our past with regrets.  How many of us, after all, did all of it right?

After setting up my watercolor work station, I returned to work on this daunting fire escape, shadows and windows on the side of Saint Ignatius Academy in south Fort Worth.  I had to re-draw much of the angles that I got wrong the first time.  I hate re-doing mistakes as it slows down the painting process, which is painstaking enough without it.  Now I feel as though I have gone ten rounds in the ring.

Tomorrow I don’t have to appear at school until 9:00 a.m. as I will leave with the Art Club for a Kimbell Art Museum field trip.  I’m leaning seriously toward setting an early alarm and getting into the studio, rather than sleeping in.  My daily habit is to rise at 6:00 in order to make my first 7:35 class.  Fatigue has settled into me, and I think I should approach this painting first thing in the pre-dawn morning.

Thanks for reading.  I certainly hope to have progress to report tomorrow.



April 18, 2012

Leading Workshop at Star Harbor



These are the immortal words carved over a side entrance to the Saint Louis Art Museum.  That message has remained with me for three decades, and most especially the past five years, as I’ve sought to carve out a space for myself in the sphere of art.

I feel dry as dust today.  I’m posting a photo of my last sublime art endeavor–associating with the eighteen eager watercolorists of Star Harbor.  I cannot describe how sorely I miss them this day, and have indeed for the past week.  Since those two days we spent, exploring the dynamics of watercolor, I have been submerged in number-crunching in preparation for filing my Income Tax (made the deadline) and then the six-week grading period ended at my high school, and of course, I was behind in that task.  I made that deadline also, shortly before midnight last night.  Today has been that sick, 4-classes in 4-classrooms schedule at my day job, with no planning period in which to stop and breathe.  I have endured this sick schedule for almost an entire school year now–one that I am more than ready to forget.

I had an art business engagement in Plano, Texas this evening, but have decided now to let that one go.  I’m exhausted to the bone, and need to give my body the rest it needs this afternoon, and (hopefully) return to my neglected studio later tonight.  My need to paint has not been adequately served for much too long.  It is time for me to “cultivate my garden,” as Voltaire would have it.  Hopefully, in the sanctity of the studio, I can get my groove back (Stella?).  I could very well  be posting to this blog later tonight, if I manage to do what I intend.

Thanks, all of you, who read me faithfully.  I’m sorry I’ve had nothing to say for days, but taxes and grading are not interesting enough to write about, as far as I’m concerned–hardly worthy of blog space.  I am confident that I’ll be posting quality stuff soon.

A Second Attempt, Painting the Azaleas en Plein Air

April 14, 2012

Azaleas at Dallas Arboretum, 2nd attempt

After taking my time to focus on my subject en plein air for 90 minutes, I then shifted gears and kicked out this one in 30 minutes.  I just wanted to see if I could capture a nice watercolor sketch in a short span of time, having already worked through it once slowly and methodically.  I cannot say I enjoyed the second attempt more than the first, but I am pleased with how this one came out.  For years I have wrestled with green colors in nature, never satisfied with my own mixture of them when trying to render foliage.  I’m more satisfied with this pair of paintings I did today.  Maybe I’ll change my mind tomorrow, but currently I’m quite happy with these, and looking forward to the next plein air experiment.

Thanks for reading.

Watercoloring Azaleas at the Dallas Arboretum

April 14, 2012

Azaleas at the Dallas Arboretum

Though I’m still sleep-deprived, I was honored to be included in the Art Club field trip from Martin High School, where I teach art history.  We boarded a bus shortly after 8:00 this morning and headed to the Dallas Arboretum, where we had three hours designated for painting en plein air.  I had seized the opportunity last month, during Spring Break, to paint some azaleas out here.  I went to a spot near where I painted last month and spent about 90 minutes on this composition, taking my time, and really enjoying the richness of color and shadow, as well as the network of tree limbs spreading over the top of all this.

Fifteen students from Martin also scattered about the arboretum, taking photographs and making art.  It was such a pleasure to spend this day with them.  After the arboretum excursion, we journeyed northward to the Rachofsky House and studied the portrait exhibit currently housed there.  It was a beautiful day for being outside and perusing a quality museum.

Thanks for reading.

Star Harbor Workshop Demonstration

April 13, 2012

Star Harbor Workshop Demonstration

Good evening.  I’m still exhausted to the bone.  I just completed a two-day workshop that was off-the-charts, exceeding all expectations for me.  I am still amazed at the talent, the enthusiasm, the growth and all-around good will that I experienced among these watercolor enthusiasts.  I pledge to you readers that I will have much more to share about this, when I am more awake!  However, I must rise early tomorrow (Saturday), board a school bus, and accompany the Martin High School art club to the Rachofsky House and to the Dallas Arboretum, for a day of museum study and plein air art.  After two days of four-hour round-trip travel and workshops, I am still drained of energy and right now must get some sleep.  So . . . I will be writing you very soon, hopefully tomorrow night when I finish the art club field trip.  There is so much to catch up and report over these recent days.

Pictured above is today’s studio demonstration.  I resumed work on the Saint Ignatius Academy that I haven’t touched for about three weeks, and am really looking forward to getting up-to-my-elbows in this painting again.  It was a pleasure working on it today, and answering questions from the workshop participants.  After a day of plein air yesterday, we chose to stay indoors today and work in a studio atmosphere.  The conversations were first-rate, and I appreciated each and every artist who engaged in our shared activity today.  I miss them already.

Thanks for reading.

Star Harbor Watercolor Society Workshop

April 12, 2012

Star Harbor Watercolor Society Workshop

I’m exhausted, but I wanted to post at least one picture from the first day of our workshop at Star Harbor Watercolor Society.  Eighteen participants showed up early this morning, eager to begin painting.  I found their company and questions very stimulating, and their enthusiasm contagious.  We spent the entire day, experimenting in plein air techniques.  Tomorrow we plan to divide our day between plein air and studio time.  I cannot wait to get back to them.

Thanks for reading.

Dry Brush Watercolor Study of a Pine Tree in Star Harbor, Texas

April 6, 2012

Star Harbor Pine

On the first night of my three-day weekend, I found sleep very difficult.  So, today I’m fatigued, though I did make the two-hour drive south into Star Harbor to meet two leaders of the watercolor society there: Judy Ellis and Rosalie Babler.  We had a nice meeting, and they then took me around Star Harbor and Malakoff to scout potential plein air sites to take our workshop participants to next week when we do our two-day plein air workshop.  The facility where this society meets is extraordinary–connected to City Hall.  I am inside there now, blogging this post.

After a brief lunch following our excursion, I found myself quite sleepy from last night’s aborted rest and today’s drive (still have the return ahead of me).  So instead of embarking on a full-bore plein air painting, I decided to settle on a tree that still vexes me to this day–the pine.  There is a beautiful golf course adjoining City Hall, and a majestic row of pines.  So, I selected the closest one and did this posted drybrush sketch of it.  I find if challenging, trying to capture the texture and reddish coloration on the tree bark, as well as the particular color and general directional flow of the clusters of pine needles.  I’ve also always found the twisting, curling limbs fascinating to view.  So, I tried my hand at all three of these, combining Winsor and Newton pigments, various water-soluble graphite pencils and the X-acto knife.  Some of this I like, the rest of it I could do without.  It’s going to take me a long time, I fear, to capture the essence of the pine.  But, fatigue notwithstanding, I did very much enjoy focusing on this one tree.

Funny connection–all the while I worked on this pine study, I thought of Andrew Wyeth and his masterful drybrush renderings of pine trees.  And thoughts of him led my mind to Laura Hartman, a delightful former student of mine (from back in the mid-90’s) who now works for DuPont, learning the craft of art preservation.  She has seen many of Wyeth’s works up close and personal, from the conservationist standpoint.  Just as I was finishing up this piece, I got a message from her on Facebook.  Funny that she saw my post and commented.

Thanks for reading, especially you, Laura!