Archive for December, 2012

Leaning into the New Year with Renewed Watercolor Resolve

December 29, 2012
Still Life in the Man Cave

Still Life in the Man Cave

Art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass.

–Walter Pater, Studies in the History of the Renaissance

I have returned from my St. Louis Christmas vacation, spent with Mom, Dad and siblings.  I was privileged to have my son accompany me from Austin on the trip to and from as well.  The white Christmas was beautiful, travel was safe, and I’m glad to be back in my Man Cave for the next chapter.  I’m caught rather flatfooted, realizing it is already December 29, and I have yet to record a single New Year Resolution in my private journal.  I take those seriously every year, and for the life of me cannot figure out why I have yet to think these through.  Perhaps later today.

I have been in the Man Cave since about 8:30 this morning, when it was 23 degrees outside.  Now, at 10:00, it has warmed up to 33, and with layers of  clothing along with a space heater, I am making out quite nicely here.  I have posted a photo taken last night of my drafting table, tilted and positioned in front of the still life that I began assembling before I left for St. Louis.  I am choosing to work on a 28 x 22″ composition, and am thrilled to the bone to be attempting this.  Throughout yesterday evening and this morning I have drawn, erased, re-drawn, erased, re-drawn, constantly working to get the proportions and details right.  I firmly believe that the success of this large watercolor is going to depend on the strength of the drawing, and I am determined not to do it halfway.  So, I continue to revise, often feeling like Willem de Kooning, who didn’t hesitate to scrape off three hours’ worth of painting and start over.

I am nearly finished with Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, and am enthralled with his work ethic and discussions of the discipline of writing.  Those remarks are giving me the impetus I need to push ahead in my studio and crank out the paintings, believing in what I do.  The objects I have selected for this arrangement all have Proustian “ghosts” lingering about them.  I’m not ever sure if I’m on the same page as the Imagist writers and their philosophy “No Ideas but in Things,” but I certainly feel an inner compulsion to go after this still life arrangement.  I have checked out two more Andrew Wyeth volumes from our local public library as well.  I know there is much gold to be mined there as well.

There are two or three additional watercolor compositions I have churning about in my head, so I could very well be starting some additional works before this day comes to a close.  Once I actually start pushing watercolor pigments around on this enormous paper before me, I’ll certainly be posting those pictures as well.  I’m excited to be back on task.

Thanks for reading.

Christmas Vacation, Quiet Reflection, an Evolving Man Cave and Plans for a New Watercolor

December 23, 2012
The Reflective Side of the Man Cave

The Reflective Side of the Man Cave

Merry Christmas early, to anyone reading this.  Yesterday began my Christmas vacation from teaching school.  Very little got accomplished, I’m sad to say, but I did manage to roll up my sleeves during some down time and re-arrange my Man Cave while the temperatures were still mild in the garage.  I brought home five more vintage doors from my school classroom and re-installed them in the Cave, to close it off as a room separate from my Jeep.  All the steamer trunks and suitcases filled with watercolors, cards and prints are safely back home as well, where they belong.

Pictured above is my new seating area for reading, writing, thinking–something I have just gotten underway during this break.  Those moments can only get better as the days progress and I get used to the reality of not rising for classes every weekday morning in the pre-dawn.  I am ready to spend more time in Hemingway, Pound and Eliot.

Setting Up the Next Still Life

Setting Up the Next Still Life

Pictured above is the opposite side of my Man Cave.  This I also began yesterday, and am still tinkering with the arrangement and lighting today.  “No Ideas But in Things,” wrote William Carlos Williams.   These things are charged with personal history for me, and I plan on spending much quality time re-visiting and absorbing those ideas.  I am inspired to attempt a full-size watercolor sheet (22 x 28″) for this composition.  I have been too afraid for years to go after something of this magnitude, but as any recent blog readers will know, I have spent some time whittling away at still life objects in watercolor on a smaller scale, and I think it’s time to graduate to something larger and more focused.  Below I am posting the 22 x 28″ Andrew Wyeth watercolor that has fueled my imagination since I first saw the illustration as a freshman in high school, in Art I.  I will always be indebted to Mr. Scucchi, my Art I teacher, who believed in me enough to lay his massive Houghton-Mifflin Andrew Wyeth volume in front of me to peruse one day.  This particular watercolor of the interior of the house better known from Wyeth’s Chistina’s World was painted after the deaths of Christina and her brother, when this property was put up for sale, and Wyeth knew he was taking his last look at it.

The still life I have set up is an attempt to portray the belongings of one recently deceased as well, the residual property recording the decades of his life and the ideas/things enclosing his daily domestic domain.

http://planetalbany.typepad.com/.a/6a010536214f60970b0134867af004970c-800wi

Andrew Wyeth, Alvaro and Christina, watercolor 1968

Thanks for reading.

Watercolor Sketch of Kerosene Lantern

December 21, 2012
Vintage Kerosene Lantern

Vintage Kerosene Lantern

Sandi was sweet enough to purchase for me this aged kerosene lantern last weekend while we were antiquing.  I couldn’t wait to set it up in front of my old Barq’s Rootbeer sign and take a shot at a drybrush watercolor sketch of it.  When I was in ninth grade, my Art I teacher set up a still life of about twenty objects, giving us charcoal and full-size sheets of paper on which to draw it.  Once I got over the terror of drawing out such a large and complex composition, my eye went to the kerosene lantern as a focal point, and everything else had to find its proper place around it.  I have wanted such a vintage lantern ever since, and am happy now to have one in my studio.  This lantern will be making several more appearances in the future.

School ended today for the holidays.  I was happy to get all my grades finalized, load up my art and get out.  There were two hours of daylight left, so I took the flyrod to Chisholm Park in Hurst, Texas, where trout were released yesterday.  There was no wind and it was so soothing to be out there in the open, flycasting, and watching all the rainbow trout taunt me as I worked so hard to seduce them.  They were rising all around my fly, and did not take it a single time!  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience, my breathing changed, my heart rate slowed down, and I knew I was in a different zone.  Better luck next time, perhaps.

Thanks for reading.

Plein Air Watercolor of a Neighbor’s Trees in the Fall

December 20, 2012
Plein Air Autumn Landscape

Plein Air Autumn Landscape

My intention this evening was to paint well into the night, enjoying the dropping temperatures, and the ambiance of my Man Cave studio.  Instead I was blessed with a couple of visits from artist friends that I never get to see enough of.  I could not have planned a better evening.  Great conversation ensued, and I’m now inspired more than I was a few hours ago.  I’m confident that this will carry over into tomorrow after school, so I’ll just let this night go.

But before I retire, here is a sketch I chose to finish up after my company left.  I started this plein air sketch of my neighbor’s trees just as the leaves were turning several weeks back.  This view I enjoyed from my garage.  I never got around to finishing it after removing the masquing a long time ago.  So, tonight, I laid in some more washes to take away from the starkness of the previously masqued areas, and then drew in some more trunks and branches.

Tomorrow offers more opportunity as I close out the semester and return to the studio.

Thanks for reading.

Vintage Flyrod Watercolor Nearly Finished

December 20, 2012
Vintage Flyrod and Pepsi Crate

Vintage Flyrod and Pepsi Crate

After photographing this and preparing it for the blog, I realized that I still have some work left before I can call it complete.  There is a section of the rod butt that I still haven’t finished.  I spent a little time this evening, deepening the colors of the crate and adding the fly line and a pair of flies to the foreground, along with a few shadows.  Oh well, I’m nearly finished with it.  It’s been fun.

Tomorrow is the last day of school, and I am ready to sail into the holidays.  I hope to get some more watercolor sketches under way.

Thanks for reading.

No Ideas But in Things

December 19, 2012
Vintage Coffee Tin and Suitcase

Vintage Coffee Tin and Suitcase

I believe it was Garrison Keillor who warned that when mining for deep truths, we should be careful not to come up with a handful of horse hockey.  So, with reservation, I confess that I am still muddling about with Imagism, a movement in poetry traced back to 1912, involving Ezra Pound, H. D., William Carlos Williams, T. S. Eliot and a host of other literary heavyweights.  This group of writers was interested in approaching objects directly with language, cutting unnecessary words and ornamentation.  I have much of that on my mind as I work at watercoloring these still lifes of late.  I also have Andy Warhol and the Pop culture all over me as well:  “A thing is a thing.”

I listen seriously as Andrew Wyeth testifies that one can talk too much about one’s art instead of just doing it and exploring it.  But I am earnestly in search of a theory, a reason.  It’s not enough for me just to say: “I make art in order to remember.”  Sure,, nostalgia is in my work, and the objects I select to paint resonate with my past.

I’m nearly finished with this still life posted above.  I can’t say I’m too happy with the finished results, but I did enjoy gazing at these objects over the past couple of afternoons, and I enjoyed the process of trying to solve problems in capturing and recording them in watercolor on paper.  I’m not sorry I tried.

Tomorrow is the first day of final exams.  I just finished typing up all mine to give to the classes, and I’m seriously considering a good night’s sleep and an early arrival at school in the morning.  So I guess I’ll shut down the studio for another night.

Thanks for reading.

Digging Deeper into the Drybrush of the Vintage Flyrod

December 18, 2012
Study of Bamboo Flyrod and Pflueger Reel with Pepsi Crate

Study of Bamboo Flyrod and Pflueger Reel with Pepsi Crate

Spending the evening in the Man Cave, while listening to the  documentary of The Real World of Andrew Wyeth, I felt my interest in this subject intensify.  I really want to dig deeply into the details of this crate, flyrod and reel.  Too often when I introduce my watercolor composition with pale washes and a few specific details, I feel a premature satisfaction as the image develops before me.  I have to ask myself if I am ready to stop, to leave it as a quick sketch, or if I want to push further, deeper into the subject.  No such debate arose this time.  I really want to work this one as far as I can.  After weeks of poring over Andrew Wyeth drybrush images, I have this itch to explore still life objects up close and personal, to see if I can develop some techniques, to see if I can find a better way to present my subjects in this wonderful medium.

I chose to stop at this point, take the picture and post it.  As Hemingway pointed out, it is easier to resume work the next day if you stop while you’re still “hot”, if you cease at the height of your interest.  It’s good to know what is coming next.  I am ready to spool off some fly line and put one or two flies in the foreground, then work on the shadows around the base of this crate and reel.  I can see already what I want to do.  So I’ll put it to bed for the night and plan on returning to it after school tomorrow.

Time to pick up the Hemingway biography once again.  Thanks for reading.

A Butternut Coffee Christmas

December 18, 2012
Butternut Coffee Tin and Vintage Suitcase Watercolor

Butternut Coffee Tin and Vintage Suitcase Watercolor

The afternoons are getting rather long.  I finish teaching daily at 12:20, but am staying in my classroom (which I’ve converted into a “rustic gallery” for selling my art) until 4:00 daily.  The four-hour afternoons have been given to reading Hemingway and experimenting in watercolor sketches of various still life arrangements.

During Christmas 2001, I got this notion of creating a series of watercolor Christmas cards, calling the series “A Heritage Coffee Christmas.”  I went to antique stores and purchased vintage coffee cans, so I could see the logos and color schemes, and created a series of 5 x 7″ cards of barns at winter time, surrounded by evergreens and sporting advertising billboards of these various coffee companies.  I thought the watercolors were good in that day, but that was 2001.  I will post my Butternut Christmas card below.

I noticed my pile of vintage coffee cans in the back of my room, hanging out with my books, and realized they had been back there eleven years with nothing to do.  So, I selected the Butternut can, put it in front of one of my ragged vintage suitcases, and began this sketch.  Today is my second afternoon to fiddle with it.  I have no idea what is going to emerge, but I’m enjoying what I see, so far.  The composition measures about 8 x 10″ and I’m using a cheap Strathmore watercolor sketchbook I found lying among my supplies.

Thanks for reading.

"Heritage Coffee" Christmas Card

“Heritage Coffee” Christmas Card

Watercoloring a Custom Bamboo Flyrod with Thougths of Hemingway

December 17, 2012
Vintage Fly Fishing

Vintage Fly Fishing

Soon I’ll be posting new images of watercolor sketches and drybrush attempts done over the weekend involving kerosene lanterns, vintage suitcases and coffee cans.  Tonight in the Man Cave I have chosen to focus on this vintage fly rod I began sketching last week.  A Colorado man gave this gift to me years ago.  He was an amazing Renaissance man–fishing guide, horseman, farrier and story-teller.  His equestrian ranch and bed-and-breakfast businesses took him completely away from fly fishing, so I he gave me two custom bamboo rods made for his father and him back in the 1940’s, along with an assortment of fiberglass fly rods and vintage reels.  I leaned one of his rigs against this Pepsi case and immediately got lost in all the dynamics of it.

Reading the Hemingway biography over the weekend by Carlos Baker has also been enlightening.  I am amazed at the theories spun by Hemingway in the company of Ezra Pound and Sherwood Anderson.  Reading those while perusing drybrush illustrations by Andrew Wyeth, and then turning to the sketchbook and watercolor field box has had my head spinning for several days.  As I posted earlier, rainbow trout are already being stocked near where I live here in Texas.  It looks as though I may have to wait until Saturday or Sunday, but I have my own fly fishing gear, waders and boots packed, and I’m ready to get out there.  But until then, I’ll keep chipping away at this 8 x 10″ watercolor and see what emerges.  I’m already excited over the possibilities.

Only four more days of school left until we leave for the holidays.  I really hope I have a surge in watercolor interest when there is the time to pursue it then.

Thanks for reading.

A Still Life Experiment in my Classroom

December 13, 2012
Lingering Memories

Lingering Memories

I have been lingering at my school until 4:00 daily, attempting to sell watercolors, prints and custom greeting cards out of my “Rustic Gallery” classroom at Martin High School.  Day-before-yesterday, I looked at this vintage Barq’s Root Beer sign I bought years ago in San Angelo, and thought I might try a quick watercolor sketch of it and a coffee mug on my desk.  I found a cheap watercolor sketchbook and reluctantly put it to work (I swear by D’Arches paper on a watercolor block).  I’m glad that I can whip out these kinds of sketches away from the studio.  I’m really spoiled by this hand-sized Winsor & Newton field box that I keep with me at all times.  All I needed was that box and this cheap tablet and I was good to go.

The sketch is 8 x 10″, quick and crude, but I found plenty of enjoyment in the afternoon school hours, whittling away at this composition.  I already have an idea for another one tomorrow. I haven’t made any more headway on my “image” theory that combines Hemingway with Pound and Wyeth, but I’m still mulling it over.  I’ll let you know if something credible takes shape.

Thanks for reading.