Archive for June, 2012

A Day in the Country–Plein Air Watercolor in Arkansas

June 19, 2012

Plein Air on the Farm

Today our class was invited onto the property of an expansive farm about 30 minutes outside of Eureka Springs.  There we delighted in painting barns, livestock, farm machinery and shade trees in abundance.  We had the time of our lives, and were not ready to quit.  I had to deliver a gallery talk at 4:00 back at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.  I am posting some pictures of my students in action.

barn study

Watching the students make decisions about color combinations en plein air, to me, was gratifying.

Arranging a still life inside the barn

This student, an art teacher from Missouri, arranged a still life inside the barn (thus avoiding a sun that got intense during the afternoon).

Totally engaged in the enterprise

This student worked out a complex composition involving the barn as well as a tractor parked out front.

A Long Walk from the Barn

This fellow set up about a hundred yards down the driveway from the rest of us, but viewing his work was worth the walk.  He established a low-angle shot of the barn with its fencing, and turned out a splendid piece.

Watch out for that Bull

This artist actually painted the bull into his composition, along with the barn.  I couldn’t believe the beast stood there long enough, watching, posing, for the painting!

A Place in the Shade

This artist managed to kick out two paintings in one day.  Amazing energy.

And Finally, Lunch at Sparky’s

I am really going to miss this group.  They are such fun together!

Thanks for reading.

The Quiet Waters of Henry David Thoreau

June 19, 2012

The Journal of Henry D. Thoreau

It has been a satisfying, cool Arkansas morning that began at 5:00 for me.  After tending to the basic morning tasks, I was afforded the luxury of sitting on the back deck as the sun rose, and chose to linger awhile over The Journal of Henry D. Thoreau.  In 90 minutes, I will meet my plein air watercolor class for the second time, out in the remote countryside this time.  And the words I came across in this morning’s reading are not profound, but nevertheless became oracular for me, setting the tone for what we are preparing ourselves to encounter:

Nature never makes haste; her systems revolve at an even pace. . . . Why then, should man hasten as if anything less than eternity were allotted for the least deed? . . . The wise man is restful, never restless or impatient.  He each moment abides where he is, as some walkers actually rest the whole body at each step, while others never relax the muscles of the leg till the accumulated fatigue obliges them to stop short.

And then, a word from Thoreau for the plein air painter . . .

Nature will bear the closest inspection.  She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.

This has been a most welcome rest.  Now I am ready to move through this day at a slower, more even pace.

Thanks for reading.

Another Eureka Springs Plein Air Post

June 18, 2012

Spring Street Plein Air Setup

Good evening, once more.  I just wanted to post this photo of the early evening attempt I made of a plein air watercolor sketch.  This town is just sublime, the weather is mild in the late afternoon/evenings, and the air smells so fresh.  I just wanted the sun to hang back for another hour or two, so I could enjoy the light on the side of the hill.  I cannot wait to get tomorrow under way.

O.K., to bed.  5:00 will come early.  Thanks for reading.

Another Quick Plein Air Watercolor Sketch in the Eureka Springs Evening

June 18, 2012

Evening View from Spring Street

I was pretty wiped out when Day One of class was over.  Arriving at my lodgings at 4:30, I set a 45-minute alarm and dropped off into a quick nap.  A damned robo-call about our “election-year crisis” woke me after only 20 minutes.  So, I rose, made a quick dinner, then dashed to my Jeep to retrieve easel, watercolor block and back pack.  It took me less than five minutes of walking to settle in on this gorgeous house tucked into the trees high above Spring Street.  I set up my easel in front of the Post Office and went to work.  I forgot to time myself, but it “felt” like a 45-minute dash–I worked as quickly as possible, surprised at how long the evening sun lingered on the crest of that mountain.

I love the “side show” effect of this tourist town of Eureka Springs!  So many passersby will stop and chat, always apologizing for interrupting.  But they’re not interrupting, I continue to chip away at the watercolor while chatting it up, answering their questions, asking some of my own.  About 50% of the people who stop to chat are actually locals, out for their evening stroll.  I really think there is real treasure in this Victorian town.  I love the architecture, the general friendliness of the locals, and just the smell of the fresh air here.  And the plein air potential is off the charts.  At any given hour of the day, the sun will be in the right part of the sky to cut apart highlights and shadows on some architectural structure, somewhere.  And the clarity of the light is intoxicating.

Well, it is only 8:21.  I’ve had a nap (sort of).  And now I think I hear Thoreau whispering in the evening breeze.  Time to open his Journal and listen for awhile.

Thanks so much for reading.  I appreciate all of you.

Day One of Eureka Springs Plein Air Watercolor Class

June 18, 2012

Eureka Springs School of the Arts

The first day of the Plein Air watercolor class is in the books.  Since orientation was at the campus (involving all four courses meeting together), my class stayed in the studio for this first day so I could distribute the necessary materials, give a mini-lecture and then do some demonstrations of various watercolor techniques.  The students then turned their attention to the trees and mountains across the road from the campus, choosing either to go outside and paint, or stay inside the air conditioned studio and paint, looking out the huge plate glass windows onto the dramatic landscape.  It was a very hot and humid day (and we’re promised more of the same throughout the week), so a good number of them stayed indoors.  Tomorrow will be different as we travel to the outskirts of town to the site of a rustic barn surrounded by cattle.  Then we’ll find out how well suited everyone is to the painting on-site.

My students are delightful beyond description.  One of them said that plein air was French for “painting with the bugs.”  We’ll certainly find that out tomorrow.  Today, the students experimented with washes, dry brush, masking, pouring and salting techniques.  Many of them were trying this for the first time, and it is was so rewarding to see the light of enthusiasm flash over their countenances when they witnessed something good coming out of the end of their own brushes.

I am rather drained from the nine-hour day.  I’m going to cool off for awhile, and (hopefully) get out while there is still light and create my own plen air sketch.

Thanks for reading.

Getting in Some Quick Watercolor Sketching at Eureka Springs

June 17, 2012

30-minute watercolor sketch

I thought I would go ahead and post this “effort” to catch the last thirty minutes of light in this fabulous Arkansas mountain town.  After rising at 5:00 and driving seven hours to get to this place, I laid my weary body on one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever encountered.  But for some reason, countless friends began “popping” me with emails, texts, Facebook messages, and so on.  The BlackBerry would not shut up, and didn’t want to turn it off!  It was cool, hearing from so many people whom I appreciate.  I loved every word.

So . . . I got back up, went out on the back deck, and tried to capture what I could of this rustic structure across  the gorge that yawns beneath my temporary residence.  It felt good, trying to sketch fast in watercolor, and though I didn’t get what I want on paper, I nevertheless had the time of my life trying.  Across the way, a bar has a live band playing blues.  As I painted, I heard their rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Ramblin’ on my Mind.”  I loved it!  They played all kinds of wonderful Delta Blues classics, as I continued to sketch and listen in delight.

I think I’ll take a long, sweaty walk through the historic district now, and then call it an early night.  I need to greet my 8:00 students in the morning with the best I can call up.  I appreciate so much this opportunity to do this again.  Below, I’m posting a photo of the gorgeous Anderson Suite of the Twilight Terrace where it is my pleasure to reside this week.  What a lovely, lovely place.

Thanks for reading.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Twilight Terrace

Anderson Suite, Twilight Terrace

Lingering over a Courthouse Watercolor Experiment

June 16, 2012

Tarrant County Courthouse

What a whirlwind of a day!  It began at 5:00 this morning, in the quiet of my man cave, pondering words from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau.  From there I had the quiet privilege of bending over this Tarrant County courthouse watercolor that I began only a few days ago.  Then I had the privilege of teaching a two-hour watercolor lesson in my studio.   Next came some computer work, helping a friend digitize his watercolor and format it to fit onto a greeting card.  From there it was mad dashes to an art supply store, a frame shop (twice), a gallery (twice), a grocery store, a tire center to get mine rotated, a gas station, laundry, packing, gathering my art supplies and gear, and now here I am, at nearly 7 p.m., needing to get some sleep as I plan to rise before dawn and hit the road for the seven-hour drive to the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

One item I was unable to cross off my agenda was finishing this courthouse watercolor.  I had fervently hoped to finish it during the morning hours, and if not, to have time and energy to complete it tonight.  That will not happen.  I will just have to let it sit and compost for a week before I can take it up again.  For the next week, I will trade in studio work for plein air work (a trade I am always happy to make).

So, until tomorrow dear friends, the next words you read from me will be coming from Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Thanks for reading.

I journal because I am alone;

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The Dawn with Henry David Thoreau

June 16, 2012

Tarrant County Courthouse

Rising at 5 a.m. on a summer Saturday morning might seem odd, but this kind of day demanded it.  I have dozens of “annoying” errands to complete before I leave in 24 hours for Eureka Springs, and I have this courthouse watercolor I would really like to complete.  So, there it is.

Mornings that begin in watercolor are better than mornings that do not.  But I chose to begin this morning with Henry David Thoreau.  I’m reading from his Journals, and was greeted with this word this morning:

The atmosphere of morning gives a healthy hue to our prospects. . . .  We enjoy a diurnal reprieve in the beginning of each day’s creation.

And so, I’m ready to go after this courthouse, and it is my hope to finish it today–I do not want to leave it dangling for a week while I’m away in Eureka Springs.  Before I close, another gem from Thoreau’s Walden:

It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do.  To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.

Thanks for reading.

I journal because I am alone;

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Thoreau Wins Out Over Picasso in the Studio Tonight

June 14, 2012

Close up of the Tarrant County Courthouse Cupola

This has been a day filled with reward, and I’m feeling grateful for the gifts.  I’m growing weary of the close, tight work this courthouse cupola is demanding at this moment.  An hour ago, I felt a kinship with Picasso who spent late, late nights in the studio, sometimes toiling till daylight, always spinning out new creations.  But my eyes are starting to fail me, and my back is getting tired of hunching over the drafting table.

Besides, this beautiful volume of Thoreau Journals has been sitting at my elbow, and I think it’s time that I drink from his waters.  With a little reluctance, I’ll turn off Alabama Live and listen to the night sounds outside my open garage door.  I haven’t done much quality journaling on this day, and I think it’s time to get some good things on the page.

Thanks for all of you who follow me on this blog.  It has been a rewarding spread of days lately.  Talk to you tomorrow!

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Another Satisfying Night of Watercoloring in the Man Cave

June 14, 2012

Painting the Cupola in the Man Cave at Night

What a delicious evening!  Texas temperatures are tolerable now.  Two of my dearest friends dropped by for a visit while I was in the man cave.  I would that they had stayed the entire night, I had such fun with them, conversing and laughing over so many areas.  Now that they’ve departed, I’m re-directing my attention to this Tarrant County courthouse cupola.  The colors are presenting quite a challenge, as I continue to work the reds, yellows and violets.  I just love watching the pigments floating around in the pools of water I keep dropping onto the paper.  I have Alabama Live on the stereo again.  Lord, can those men sing!  I just feel chills all up and down my spine when they burst out with those harmonies.  I have had the privilege and intimacy of playing in several bands over the past few years, and always lusted for that kind of vocal alchemy.  Maybe one day . . .

Now that the weekend has officially begun for me, I’m thrilled for this time to paint in the man cave.  In 48 hours I’ll be nosing my Jeep toward the Ozark Mountains of northwestern Arkansas.  It’s unlikely that I’ll have this courthouse finished before I leave, and I regret that to an extent, but I can hardly wait to begin my next plein air adventure in that exquisite Arkansas town.  I have been informed of my lodgings arrangement, and am so thrilled with the accommodations again, they are so good to me up there.  My nine watercolor students I have already spoken to on the phone, and they sound like a bunch of live wires.  I think we’re going to do an exciting work together, and cannot wait to form new friendships.

I have memories of this afternoon’s conversations with Janet Z. Capua drifting in and out of my consciousness as I work tonight.  What a treasure her friendship has become.  I dream of one day inspiring just half of the people she touches with her creative spirit.  I think I understand now why so many beat a pathway to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s door in Concord during those years that New England Transcendentalism flowered.  It has never been easy for me, finding a constellation of creative minds all working out of the same venue like I see over there in south Fort Worth.  They have quite a sublime work going on there.  I’m just proud to know them.

Well, back to the watercolor.  How nice not to have to worry about English IV in the morning.  Thanks for reading.