Archive for March, 2013

Second New Watercolor Card

March 17, 2013
Second Watercolor Card

Second Watercolor Card

This is the second new watercolor card I’ve prepared.  The backside contains the following text:

The quiet neighborhood was shattered by the sharp crack of three crushing blows from the ball-peen hammer that broke open the padlock on the old fisherman’s shed door.  Day-before-yesterday, they found him dead, seated upright in his favorite back-porch metal lawn chair, with a cold cup of coffee and his tattered copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass on the side table.  Beneath the layers of his faded beard, they thought they could detect a slight smile.  His book was opened to “Song of Myself” and he had underlined in pencil: “I am large; I contain multitudes.”  The onlooking friends mused about his eight decades and all that his life had encompassed.

Entering the dim interior of the fishing shack, they looked silently at the tangled pile of gear in the corner, and hesitated to gather it up, as though rudely disrupting the sanctity of a shrine.  There lay the Garcia Mitchell 300 open-faced reel, with which he had landed his 6-lb. largemouth bass while poking about the lily pads in a rowboat one evening on Hunnewell Lake.  He was only a teenager then.  The bait caster was still there–the one he never could seem to get the hang of, trying in vain to cast old wooden bass plugs without backlash.  His Uncle Art would just look on, shake his head, smile, and mumble through the smoke of his Lucky Strike:  ”Cute Kid.”  The Pflueger fly reel and vintage bamboo rod were a gift from an aged farrier in Pine, Colorado, who passed them on as a torch, noting that his fly fishing days were behind him.  The battered suitcase was from college days back in ’42, when he hopped the Frisco passenger train for his monthly cross-the-state visits to his parents back home.  And on that train, he was always served Dining Car Coffee.  And the old knapsack–he never tired of bragging on the day he talked an Athenian merchant out of that tattered leather bag for $12.  On that day, he owned the world.  

The friends stood there silently, their eyes surveying the stack of assorted memories, each item with its own story, clinging to its own fragment of history.  

And now it was time to take down the monument and move on.  New chapters were waiting to be written.

Thanks for reading.

A New Line of Watercolor Greeting Cards Coming out Next Week

March 17, 2013
A New Greeting Card

A New Greeting Card

I’m going to post a series of blogs of new greeting cards (5 x 7″) that I will be bringing out at next week’s art festival (Art on the Greene.  http://www.artonthegreene.com/).  I sell these for $5 each, or $20 for a set of five.  They are blank on the inside.  The cover is posted above.  The backside appears as below:

text inside Texaco Station

Thanks for reading.

One Final Day in the Man Cave Before Returning to School

March 17, 2013
Man Cave Rearranged for Festival Business

Man Cave Rearranged for Festival Business

No man will ever unfold the capacities of his own intellect who does not at least checker his life with solitude.

De Quincey

Tomorrow I return to school with a glad heart and a serene mind.  This week of Spring Break has felt like two, and I am boundlessly grateful for all it brought.  I only departed the homestead for one all-day excursion, which was a beautiful one, and most of the rest has been spent in my Cave.  I do love this garage as a space for painting, working on my art business, reading, writing in my journal, listening to music, and just feeling life circulate through my Being.  I have been surrounded by my art work as I set up a mock booth in the center of the garage.  There is a tremendous art festival coming up next weekend here in Arlington, Texas: Art on the Greene, in the beautiful park between the two stadiums.  (http://www.artonthegreene.com/)  Getting ready for it has modulated further my modular Man Cave, and now the large easel paintings form the wall that turns my drafting tables into a cubicle for reading and writing, as well as matting and packaging my paintings and prints for next week’s show.  I could say that this is Andy Warhol’s Factory, but no one else is here, aside from a cat and pair of small dogs, and I don’t envision Andy Warhol reading books and writing about his interior thoughts.

I have started reading The Cantos of Ezra Pound.  I have tried before, and failed to understand, but am getting great help now from Margaret Dickie’s monograph On the Modernist Long Poem, and am reading Dante’s Divine Comedy alongside him.  Some important ideas are coming to light, and I could be blogging them in the days ahead.  The week has been a venerable literary smorgasbord, to say the least: Hemingway, Joyce, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, T. S. Eliot, e. e. cummings and now Ezra Pound.  They have been great “cave companions”.

I have over a dozen new greeting cards coming out with my watercolor reproductions on the front and texts on the back (blank inside).  I’m busy composing the texts now, so I have to close this blog and get back to work.

Thanks for reading.

An Artful DayThrough the Eyes of a Child

March 15, 2013

After a week of making art, I was given a luxurious opportunity today to leave the studio and enjoy someone else’s art for a change.  A former student of mine invited me to join her family and view art work from the hand of her first-grade daughter, on display in a public venue.  I have had the privilege over the last couple of years to witness this young girl’s artistic explorations, by way of digital images sent to me.  But today I actually beheld her work in the original, along with a host of elementary school pieces in the display.  The freshness and originality of vision just took my breath away.  I had experienced joy before, seeing photos of her creating art work in her home on Saturday mornings, or during inclement weather.  But I was not prepared for what I saw today, and was touched deeply by the flicker of pride lighting her countenance, as she saw her work displayed prominently.

The entire display was magnificent.  Funding for the visual arts in Texas public schools is very slim, and given grudgingly, unlike funding for sports or performing arts.  But these restricted funds have not been able to amputate the spirit, or truncate the effectiveness of dedicated public school elementary art teachers.  Though often relegated to pushing an art cart up and down the corridors, from classroom to classroom, restricting students to once-a-week art sessions, the history and culture of the visual arts is still poured into these young spirits, and it manifests itself in these public displays.  I am a teacher of art history in a public high school, and I know it was no fluke to witness echoes of Matisse, Van Gogh, Warhol, Monet and Kahlo seething on the surfaces of these drawings, paintings and mixed-media endeavors.  These young spirits have been given the opportunity to know firsthand the  fullness and felicity of a well-rounded life that the visual arts make possible.

When I was a boy, I didn’t quite understand the motto carved over one of the portals of the Saint Louis Art Museum:

ART STILL HAS TRVTH

SEEK REFVGE THERE

Now, in my later years, I feel it more than ever before, and this young artistic spirit today renewed that sentiment.  Hats off to her teacher, the other elementary art teachers and willing students of that school district.  May others capture your vision.

Thank you for reading.

Setting up a Mock Booth for the Next Art Festival

March 14, 2013
Garage mock up of Festival Booth

Garage mock up of Festival Booth

A major benefit of this Spring Break has been the leisure to make decisions on my booth setup for a major art festival coming up at the end of next week (Art on the Greene–http://www.artonthegreene.com/).  I set up the 10 x 10″ framework of my Trimline Canopy tent so I could know the exact dimensions of my space, and set up the doors and furniture the way I generally do. Then I spent the day making decisions on which framed paintings to include in the display, where to place them, etc.  I have plenty of matting and packaging to do still, and am glad that I have a week to get that done.  The show promises to be a great one, last year was a spectacular premiere.  I’m honored to be included.

Thanks for reading.

Solitude

March 12, 2013
Inspired by WInslow Homer's "The Whittling Boy"

Inspired by Winslow Homer’s “The Whittling Boy”

We must reserve a little back-shop, all our own, entirely free, wherein to establish our true liberty and principal retreat and solitude.”

Montaigne

I have borrowed (again) from a Winslow homer oil painting, “The Whittling Boy.”  I needed a fishing subject, so I took the jack knife and stick out of his hands, replacing it with a fishing pole.  This could very well be a portrait of myself, holding a cane pole, age eight, fishing one of the holes of Little Indian Creek down the slope from Aunt Bea’s house in rural Jackson, Missouri.  It was there that my father, of Cherokee descent, taught me to fish, and instilled in me the love for the solitude that accompanies it.  I still remember the first time he took me to the creek, threaded a grub worm on my hook, and showed me how to toss the line out into the current.  The bobber immediately went under, and my very first fish was a blue catfish.  I caught ten fish that day, thinking they were all giants, until I noticed all of them swimming comfortably in a single jar filled with water.  We had no stringer with us.  But that was O.K.  I had the privilege of releasing them, watching all of them scurry back to their dark refuge in that waist-deep hole.  I painted this boy in memory of my first time on the creek.

I am happier with the simultaneous contrasts in this composition.  I had struggled with them in the prior work.  I relied on my standby–Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson for the darker areas.  In the mid-tones I tried Winsor Blue (Red Shade) with Transparent Yellow, then glazed Winsor Red over the top, once the colors underneath had dried.  The results were tints of gold and bronze.  I’m going to try this again with a different composition.

It’s been another good Spring Break day for painting.  Thank you for reading.

Cozied in the Man Cave with Winslow Homer and Color Harmonies

March 12, 2013
Attempt to Emulate Winslow Homer

Attempt to Emulate Winslow Homer

Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius; and the uniformity of a work denotes the hand of a single artist.

Edward Gibbon

No one will ever hear me claim to be “self-taught.”  I took art as soon as it was offered in my school (8th grade) and continued to take it until I graduated high school, then obtained my undergraduate degree in art.  Though my professional life has taken several detours, I have always remained a student of the arts.  Watercolor, however, is one medium where no one could seem to help me, though I took classes from accomplished watercolorists in high school and at the university.

My teachers in watercolor have been primarily Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, J. M. W. Turner, and Winslow Homer.  I have pored over more images of theirs and read more biographies and catalogues on their works than of any other artist.  I have been called a professional watercolorist, and I like the sound of that, but frankly, I’m a public school teacher.  That salary puts a roof over my head so I can explore watercolor.  I still feel very much the student, and sometimes feel too timid to be that fearless explorer.

During this week’s Spring Break, I have spent delicious hours in my Man Cave, devouring the watercolors of Homer.  My two favorite books in my possession are Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light (I saw this exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago) and Winslow Homer: Artist and Angler (that show I got to view at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth).

It comes as a surprise to many to learn that Homer “received almost no formal artistic education” (Martha Tedeschi’s opening article in The Color of Light).  Tedeschi testifies that his nearly 700 watercolors, produced between 1873 and 1905, “were also his classroom, a way for him to learn through experimentation.”  I have spent most of today in the classroom of Winslow Homer, trying to absorb all he learned from Michel-Eugene Chevreul’s theory of simultaneous contrasts of color, particularly the reds and greens.

The sketch posted above, an 8 x 10″, is a study of one of Homer’s early oils, titled “Fishing.”  I am astounded at his use of greens and reds, and tried to explore some of those relationships in this sketch.  Some of it worked alright, much of it didn’t, to me.  I’m still trying to solve this puzzle, and am very intrigued by it.  I have tried for several years to pursue plein air watercoloring, and even teach it in the summers at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts (I’ve been invited for my fourth consecutive year, June 17-21).  The greens of nature still leave me spellbound and searching for ways to catch that wonderful dynamic on the white rectangle that lies before me.

I’m working on a second Winslow Homer study, that I’ll try to finish and post later today.

Thanks for reading.

Fly Fishing the White River outside Eureka Springs, Arkansas

March 11, 2013
Tripp Standing in the White River Mist

Tripp Standing in the White River Mist

I was in such a state of mental agitation, in such great confusion that for a time I feared my weak reason would not survive. . . . Now it seems I am better and that I see more clearly the direction my studies are taking.  Will I ever arrive at the goal, so intensely sought and so long pursued?  I am still working from nature, and it seems to me I am making slow progress.

Paul Cezanne (words recorded by Maurice Merleau-Ponty “Cezanne’s Doubt”)

I must say that this is one of the most welcome Spring Breaks I have known in many, many years, and I am barely into it.  I have (so far) pursued a daily regiment that balances household chores with studio time, and have been working on three watercolors over the stretch of a day-and-a-half.  This is the first time I’ve published this one, begun late last night.  The other two were “emulations” of Winslow Homer fishing compositions.  This is from a photo taken by a professional photographer nearly four years ago while he and I were fly fishing the White River outside of Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  His wife was taking my watercolor workshop at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts that week, and he and I were getting into the river as much as possible, outside of class hours.  The river is remarkable as it is frequently shrouded in mists, and I have always been intimidated, trying to capture misty atmospheres in watercolor.  I always thought it would be relatively easy, but for me it’s not–I have tried this painting over and over again, and this is the first attempt that I have dared put on the blog.  The others were shredded and discarded.  I still don’t have what I want, but I am getting better, and think I can share in Cezanne’s exasperation–how much longer do I need?  Will I be given that time?

Thank you for reading.

A Second Attempt to Emulate Winslow Homer

March 10, 2013
Winslow Homer, Second Attempt

Winslow Homer, Second Attempt

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it.  Action has magic, grace, and power in it.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This has been a good Spring Break/Cave Day.  I’m working on a second Winslow Homer composition.  I’ve always been intrigued by his greens, and still haven’t solved that problem.  I love the way you can see the warm soil colors through the tall grasses in his works.  Currently, I’m experimenting with a number of reds (Winsor Red, Permanent Rose, Cadmium Red), to mix with a number of blues (Winsor Blue–Green and Red Shade, Pthalo Turquoise) and Transparent Yellow.  Occasionally I drop in some Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson. So far, none of it is working, but at least I’m eliminating some choices!  In line with Goethe’s remark, I am finding wonderful power in action.  Truly, I’m having a good time as I chip away at portions of this composition, attempting to solve some color combination problems.

Thanks for reading.

Between the Idea and the Reality

March 10, 2013
Winslow Homer Studies

Winslow Homer Studies

Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow

                                    For Thine is the Kingdom

            Between the conception

And the creation

Between the emotion

And the response

Falls the Shadow

                                    Life is very long

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

I suppose what I enjoy the most about art is the creative process.  I have frequently returned to Emerson’s statement when he delivered his “American Scholar” address:

 The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It came to him, short-lived actions; it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry.

When my attention turned to watercoloring fishing subjects, I thought immediately of Winslow Homer and spent some time poring over his magnificent pieces.  When I was in college, I chafed every time an art professor made us copy a masterwork.  I always thought it was plagiarism and demonstrative of a lack of creativity and imagination.  Now I know differently.  In 1400, Cennino Cennini published Il Libro dell’ Arte (The Artist’s Handbook), explaining to his students the difference between imitation and emulation.  I finally realized that we learn an incredible amount of new information by forcing ourselves to focus on every square inch of a master’s composition, especially that of a watercolor.  Somewhere in the midst of the imitation, we find our own voice, our own technique and emulate what it is we enjoy so much from the master.  I have had this privilege when copying Andrew Wyeth drybrush renderings recently, and now have turned to Winslow Homer, especially hoping to learn something new in the area of color composition.

This work in progress is based on his watercolor of a boy whittling.  I chose instead to put a cane pole in his hand, place him on an undercut bank and make him appear as a fisherman.  I am not sure where exactly this is going to lead, as I am still in the “shadow” of T. S. Eliot, “between the idea and the reality.”  But I”m listening, observing, waiting to see where this will take me.

Thanks for reading.  It’s been an O.K. day in the Cave.