Archive for November, 2012

More Stockyards Work, Sign Added, More Details, Etc.

November 30, 2012
Watercolor of Fort Worth Stockyards

Watercolor of Fort Worth Stockyards

I finally got the background billboard blocked in, worked some more on the longhorns to the left, finished the hooves of all the right-hand livestock, and laid down some more street shadows.  I have an early-morning appointment, so I need to retire for the night.  But I am now confident that I can finish this up later Saturday.  No doubt my readers would enjoy seeing something besides longhorns every time they open my blog.  I’m getting a little weary of the composition myself.  Here’s to a weekend filled with art, literature and good things . . .

Thanks always for reading.


Friday Night in the Man Cave, Watercoloring the Cattledrive, Still

November 30, 2012
Fort Worth Stockyards Cattle Drive

Fort Worth Stockyards Cattle Drive

I am not crazy about 72-degree November evenings, but I’m glad the weekend arrived.  I am nestled into my garage Man Cave, and really in the mood to push this Fort Worth Stockyards Cattle Drive to a conclusion.  I had no idea how many weeks this thing would take to see to its conclusion.  Tonight I worked on the hooves of this lead horse, and am waiting for the paint to dry and set up so I can go back into the street and deepen the colors and details.  I need to work some shadows onto the horse’s legs as well.  Two other riders await completion as well, and I need to decide what to do with that large billboard sign stretched across the top right border of this composition.  All in all, though, I can see the finish line.  Maybe I’ll cross it tonight.  Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading.

Tonight Shakespeare Collides with Watercolor Activity

November 28, 2012

Cattle Drive at Fort Worth Stockyards

As I draw near the close of an exhausting week, I must confess that it has been harder to enter the studio.  A dear friend of mine recently fell, breaking a leg and wrist, and I have been distracted, trying to assist some of her family and close friends with basic tasks and visitation.  Today I spent the entire afternoon out of town, visiting in the hospital, and returned tonight to the daily school tasks.  I did manage to pull out this cattle drive watercolor and work on it for about an hour.  But frankly, my eyes are tired, and my discernment powers seem considerable compromised at this point.  I would hate to lower its quality at this late stage of the process, but a few misplaced strokes or the addition of colors that don’t work.  It’s really hard to focus on the rendering of the details of the horses and riders.  I think I’m going to put it on the easel and gaze at it from time to time, make some notes and hope for a stronger effort tomorrow.

As a first-time senior English teacher, I am encouraged by my students’ efforts today to give Shakespeare a chance.  They seemed to enjoy Act I of Macbeth, working quietly over the text, writing out answers to key questions and participating in dialogue.  So, I think I’ll relax in a comfortable chair here in my man cave tonight, with my Shakespeare volume open on my lap, a journal on my side table, and pore alternately over the bard’s text and my cattle drive painting, taking notes on both and hoping for a stronger work performance tomorrow.  I really want to wrap up this painting, earnestly hoping that by tomorrow or Friday I can call it a fait accompli.

Thanks for reading and for all the encouragement you’ve given lately, my dear friends.

Trying to Finish the Lucky Strike Cigarette Case

November 27, 2012

Lucky Strike Watercolor Nearing Completion?

Well, I decided to go ahead and fling this out on the blog before heading to bed.  It is midnight here, and the studio has been nice and quiet.  Unfortunately, I was tied up with school grading and preparations for most of this night, but thanks to a pot of coffee and some enthusiasm, I chose to resume work on this a couple of hours ago.  I’m glad I did.  No doubt I’ll feel some of the effects tomorrow, but Philosophy and Art History are subjects I love to teach, and tomorrow’s topics hold my interest more than most.

I’m still trying to solve the wooden surface of the antique table, with all its scratches and damage.  I’ve never been comfortable simulating wood grains in watercolor, and frankly have no clue as to what I’m doing.  So far, I like what’s emerging, and am surprised to find it going as well as it is.  I am using only primary colors as I try to render all the nuances and tones of the wood.

Time for bed now.  Thanks for reading.

A Restless Monday Evening in the Man Cave

November 26, 2012

Lucky Strike Watercolor in Progress

Sleeping Shih-tzus at my Feet

My word, what an evening this is shaping up to be!  I had to take a late-afternoon nap, because my cat woke me throughout last night, craving attention.  I returned to school from holiday today with one eye half-open, and tried very hard to navigate my students through Advanced Placement Art History (Romanesque architecture) and English IV (Shakespeare).  Now I sit in my man cave with a stack of Philosophy Journals to finish reading and evaluating and the need to prepare them for a roundtable dialogue in the morning on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. 

At my feet are a pair of sleeping Shih-tzus.  They ought to be named Yin and Yang, if you are able to tell that they slumber against each other, and one is blonde, the other dark grey.  A cute, adorable pair they are.  They have spent most of this weekend with me, sleeping at my feet as I study or pursue watercolor in my garage Man Cave.

I am finding it extremely difficult to settle into tonight’s work, though I know that (thanks to the late nap) I will have many hours of quality time to pursue what I must.  And what I must do is finish these journals and dialogue, then get back to the Lucky Strike watercolor.  But, as so often happens about one hour after rising from sleep, my mind takes off.  I suffer like Moses, from the Saul Bellows novel Herzog, explaining his problem to his physician: “My thoughts are shooting out all over the place.”  Currently, I cannot stop thinking about Shakespeare and this compulsion I have to create a collage of his portrait and his works, to write in my journal, to continue reading in my own Thoreau Journal as well as Walden, and alas, I just re-read T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and have so much I want to think through and write about that text.  And yes, I really REALLY want to return to painting tonight.  Funny–as my mind frantically and restlessly darts down all these corridors, I have Yanni’s “Out of Silence” cassette playing on my Man Cave stereo.  What a contrast!  His music so lilting, so serene, so aglow, and here I am, wanting to do a dozen things at once.  I laugh when I recall the scene from Amadeus when Mozart is trying on three different powdered wigs, and concludes that all of them are lovely, and “I wish I had three heads!”  Sometimes, I wish there were three or four or six of me sitting at this drafting table, pursuing all these interests that consume me at once.  I have been complimented from time to time by friends, students and associates who call me a “Renaissance Man.”  I cannot really own that.  I think of a Renaissance Man as multi-talented.  As for myself, I am multi-interested to the point of feeling that I have attention deficit disorder, and perhaps would have been diagnosed with that as  an elementary student, had there been such diagnosticians in the schools in my day.

O.K.  I just realized that I have not even prepared dinner yet.  I forgot (how pathetic is that?).  Perhaps a good meal will settle me down, even me out, and I will get to pursue an evening of bliss in the man cave, with my pair of Shih-tzus, cat, my paintings, my books, my journals and all the good things that keep me company this evening.

Thanks for reading.

A Meditation on the Seasons of Creativity

November 25, 2012

Christmas Card Workspace in the Man Cave

Good morning from the “bedroom’ studio of Arlington, Texas.  I confess that I have posted a year-old photo of what I was creating during the Thanksgiving Break last year.  I plan to return to the “Man Cave” studio later in the day to paint.  Currently, I am propped in bed with coffee, two slumbering Shih-tzu dogs, one cat and a large pile of volumes and journal.   And life is pensive but serene.  My breathing is slower and easier.

Let me open by saying I am not sure where this blog entry will take me this time.  It may be a stream-of-consciousness, with little-to-no-editing, but I’ll take my chances.  I am in bed with a large volume of Henry David Thoreau journals (the Harvard volumes 1-7, 1837-1855 are in one immense tome) and reading pensively his entry of June 20, 1844:

If we only see clearly enough how mean our lives are, they will be splendid enough.  Let us remember not to strive upwards too long, but sometimes drop plumb down the other way, and wallow in meanness.  From the deepest pit we may see the stars, if not the sun.  Let us have the presence of mind enough to sink when we can’t swim. . . .

When the heavens are obscured to us, and nothing noble or heroic appears, but we are oppressed by imperfection and shortcoming on all hands, we are apt to suck our thumbs and decry our fates.  As if nothing were to be done in cloudy weather, or, if heaven were not accessible by the upper road, men would not find out a lower.  Sometimes I feel so cheap that I am inspired, and could write a poem about it,–but straightway I cannot, for I am no longer mean.  Let me know that I am ailing, and I am well.  We should not always beat off the impression of trivialness, but make haste to welcome and cherish it.  Water the weed till it blossoms; with cultivation it will bear fruit.”

I love reading words of wisdom that address our cycles of creativity and un-creativity, our highs and lows, our energy and our inertia.  When I was younger, I was frustrated by those times of famine, when I was not “on” creatively.  I think I was “saved” by essays of Emerson and poems of Whitman that addressed those cycles as natural.  (most notably Emerson’s “The American Scholar” and Whitman’s “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life”).  We inhale, we exhale.  We intake, we exhaust.  We inspire, we expire.  Emerson wrote that it comes into us as life, it comes out of us as truth.

I could describe my current moment as low, as lethargic, as uninspired, as inert.  But the reality is, I am taking in sublime thoughts from Thoreau, from Emerson, from Whitman . . . and I am pushing them back out, distilled by my ever-emerging philosophy.  Sitting up in bed, surrounded by an untidy house and slumbering critters, I am setting a course for today’s navigation (the Hebrew word translated “wisdom” is chochma–“the helmsman, or art of steering.”  I am plotting a course with mandatory stops in Romanesque Europe (A. P. Art History for tomorrow) and Act I of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (English IV).  Beyond those towns, who knows?  Maybe a return to my watercolors (I think I hear the longhorns shuffling around in the garage, they must be getting restless).  But whatever occurs along my way, I am anticipating another good journey today.

Thanks for reading.

Returning to Work on a Lucky Strike Watercolor

November 24, 2012

Lucky Strike Cigarette Tin

Last summer, I took a detour from my usual watercolor subjects and painted still lifes of my antique Lucky Strike cigarette tin and my Maxwell House coffee tin.  I rendered the subjects in the best detail of which I was capable, but left the backgrounds white, undecided as to what direction to take with them.  Last week, I began arranging the cigarette tin on various table surfaces and in front of different antique doors.  I also experimented with lighting effects.  Finally I decided on this antique table surface and an extremely dark background.  I’m finding the surface textures of the table top to be quite a challenge, especially the damage and scratches which I have not yet even attempted.  I do enjoy solving problems and taking watercolor in new directions.  This one is turning out to be quite enjoyable.

Thanks for reading.

Returning to the Long Horn Cattledrive Watercolor

November 24, 2012

Fort Worth Stockyards

I did manage to get in some quality studio time as this Saturday came and went.  I returned to the man cave this evening (my garage) and pulled out this full-size, 22 x 28″ watercolor of the Fort Worth Stockyards that I began quite some time ago.  My recent distractions with still life and plein air experiments have taken me away from two large studio pieces (I also have a Trinidad, Colorado scene also in progress–22 x 28″).

I decided this evening to darken the foreground street colors and the background foliage colors in order to make the subjects pop a little more effectively.  I also put quite a bit more time in on the white horse to the left.  Still, there are so many details to tend.  I keep feeling that the conclusion to this composition draws further and further away from my reach.  Hopefully, I can lay this one to rest next week.  It is time to finish it and move on (something I seem to have problems with recently in my increasing number of unfinished watercolors!).   Speaking of which . . . I have another blog to post of a Lucky Strike composition begun last summer and abandoned.  Time to turn my attention to that now.

Thanks for reading.

Painting en Plein Air in my Back Yard

November 24, 2012

Plein Air Watercolor in the Back Yard

Having returned from a two-day camping trip late last night, I tried to sleep in today (Saturday), but the Texas sun was so bright coming through the bedroom window that I could not.  I took an early phone call, and while stepping out into my back yard and talking on the phone, I looked up through the branches of one of my larger trees, and was astonished at the sight of the stark shadows across the bark, thrown by one tree bough onto another.  I loved the sight of the turning leaves as well, and the crystal clarity of the warm morning sun on the rugged tree bark.  I had to set up the easel and give it a try.

This is a small study (about 8 x 10″) and I was shocked to realize that after 21 minutes, I had done about all I could with it.  So, here it is!  I honestly don’t feel that I am working quickly.  There certainly was no rush today.  But after laying down a wash, drybrushing over it, and then penciling over all of that, I feel that I have done all I can without overworking the watercolor.  I still like the transparency of the medium, and don’t with to turn out “heavy” compositions.

Thanks for reading.

Friday’s Plein Air Attempt at Lake Whitney

November 24, 2012

Lake Whitney Tree

Happy Holidays!  I have some catching up to do.  I tried to upload my plein air experiments while camping over the holidays, using my BlackBerry.  I followed all prompts and hit “Publish.”  Nothing happened.  I’ve come to expect that from BlackBerry.  So, let’s try this from the lap top.

I was invited to spend Thanksgiving time with beautiful friends and family at some campgrounds in Lake Whitney.  I was picked up Thanksgiving morning, and returned home late Friday night.  The food, companionship and conversations were all truly delicious, and there was so much space for reading, journaling and plein air watercoloring.

I slept in the bed of a pickup truck Thanksgiving night as the temperatures dropped into the low fifties.  It wasn’t a bad experience at all, the blow-up mattress supported me and the down comforter kept me cozy and warm.   The night sounds were soulful, the deer were out everywhere and the moon shining off the lake was affirming and serene.

Cold north winds blew in by morning, and never went away.  I was awakened at 6:57 to a steaming cup of coffee, and used it to the best of my ability to drive away the chill.  Finally, I took up residence inside the tack room of a horse trailer, with the door open so I could see out across the park.  I was reading (trying still to finish) Rollo May’s My Quest for Beauty, but I kept getting distracted at the sight of the morning sun shining off the bark of this tree in front of my open door.  Finally, I thought “Why not?”  I took out my watercolor tablet, Winsor & Newton watercolor field  box and worked on this tree, laying down washes of Winsor Red, Transparent Yellow and Winsor Blue (Green Shade).  I then dyrbrushed over the drying wash with mixtures of Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson, along with the primary colors previously mentioned.  I kept trying to work in shadows and grooves in the bark.  Finally, I took out an HB pencil and began drawing the bark, occasionally enhancing the texture with Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils (Warm Grey VI and Dark Sepia).  This is the result of the sketch.  I absolutely loved working on it, and would have gone further, but the sun retreated behind the clouds and did not come out the rest of the day.  So, it was back to Rollo May and writing in my journal.  I brought along my copy of Thoreau’s Walden and re-read the final chapter of it.  The day was splendid beyond description.

Thanks for reading.