Archive for April, 2013

Some Early Afternoon Watercoloring in the Man Cave

April 26, 2013
Painting in the Man Cave

Painting in the Man Cave

When one becomes totally absorbed in the painting, the painting has a relation to one which is extremely complicated and, I think, quite profound.

Barnett Newman

I echo the sentiments of Newman.  I cannot explain why “robin’s egg” blue has always held my attention, but from my earliest childhood memories, it was my favorite color, and I found myself staring at it, whether it was a chamber pot at my grandparents’ farm, a nest of robin eggs, a particular coffee mug on the grandparents’ table, the metal dipper that hung from their pump handle–I loved that color.  About ten years ago when I saw this pail, I knew I had to have it because of its color.

All day at school today, while leading discussions in philosophy over the writings of Nietzsche, or lecturing art history classes on the life and work of Willem De Kooning, my mind’s eye stayed on this “blue pail” painting lying on the drafting table in my Man Cave back home.  And alas, I had over two hours’ worth of appointments to tie me up after school.

Finally I got home and got to lay down some darker glazes on the background of this piece, darkened the insides of the pail, and took a shot at putting the grooves in the surface of the Coca-Cola crate, and then laying in the colors and script on the side of the crate.

I have a few more interruptions pending, but hope to return to the studio later this evening to see if I can kick this watercolor a little further down the road, so to speak.  There are plein air invitations pending for tomorrow, so I need to see how much studio time I can get put in over this weekend.

Thanks for reading.

Striving After an Andrew-Wyeth Kind of Drybrush Watercolor

April 25, 2013
Working on a Wyeth-style Still Life in the Man Cave

Working on a Wyeth-style Still Life in the Man Cave

Trying to Emulate Andrew Wyeth wtih a Watercolor Still Life

Trying to Emulate Andrew Wyeth with a Watercolor Still Life

I paint so I’ll have something to look at.

Barnett Newman

Since high school, I have loved looking at Andrew Wyeth’s drybrush watercolor sketches and pencil drawings of a World War I German helmet inverted and filled with pine cones.  Some years back, I purchased this pail from a friend who deals in antiques, filled it with pine cones, and tried two small watercolors of it at the foot of a tree.  Neither painting satisfied me (apparently not the buyers either–I still have both of them).  But since I’ve set up the studio in garage and started spending more time in it, I have gazed at this pail of cones sitting in front of this dark door, and often wondered why I was not trying to paint it more seriously.

Last night I sketched it out and laid down a few basic washes, but was too sleepy to go any further.  Coming home from school this afternoon, I had more energy and went after it with more focus  I did much more drawing, and tried to put some detail into the pine cones as well as deepen and layer the washes on the door behind.  I still have a long way to go, but at least I feel that I have this one underway now.

Thanks for reading.

I paint to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Stretching My Watercolor into a New Direction

April 24, 2013
Beginning a New Still Life

Beginning a New Still Life

You know, the real world, this so-called real world is just something you put up with, like everybody else.  I’m in my element when I’m a little bit out of this world; then I’m in the real world–I’m on the beam.  Because when I’m falling, I’m doing all right; when I’m slipping, I say: “Hey, this is interesting!”  It’s when I’m standing upright that bothers me: I’m not doing so good, I’m stiff.  As a matter of fact, I’m really slipping most of the time, into that glimpse.   I’m like a slipping glimpser.

It seems that you have to be rather innocent; if you are too advanced or learned, you won’t be able to paint.  I mean, didn’t Baudelaire say you have to be a little stupid to sit around writing poetry all the time, no?

Willem De Kooning

I was fortunate to spend four hours in a TAKS testing room today, followed by three afternoon classes.  Again, I came home, wiped out.  But I’ve been poring over some Andrew Wyeth books filled with drybrush illustrations.  Taking the De Kooning dictum seriously, I decided that I wanted to launch into another direction, and I broke my own rule about not painting when fatigued.  I at least set up another still life in my Man Cave, drew out the composition, and laid down some broad washes to get a sense of what I want to do next. I want to go after another Andrew Wyeth “look” of a dramatically darkened composition with something catching the light in the midst. I have had this antique pail of pine cones sitting at my feet for over a year, and have painted them twice outdoors, beneath the trunk of a tree, but now I wish to place them at the bottom of a darkened door, and see if I can make something attractive out of them.

I am barely underway.  Once again, I’m having trouble darkening this bright white D’Arches watercolor paper.  It’s going to require some working and re-working.

I’m exhausted to the bone and need to retire to bed early so I can be somewhat fresh to go after another horrid testing day tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

Afternoon Drybrush Study of Screen Door and Companion

April 23, 2013
Drybrush Watercolor Study of Pair of Doors

Drybrush Watercolor Study of Pair of Doors

I was confronted for the first time, I suppose, really with the thing that I did, whereas up until that moment I was able to remove myself from the act of painting, or from the painting itself.  The painting was something that I was making, whereas somehow for the first time with this painting, the painting itself had a life of its own in a way that I don’t think the others did, as much.

Barnett Newman, April 1965 Interview

Wow.  I am breathless right now.  This 8 x 10″ drybrush I began several days ago, having only about 45 minutes to begin it before I lost the light.  Today after school, being tired of the cafe piece I had been working on, I decided to set up the easel in front of my pair of doors and resume this, though the light was rather poor.  Didn’t matter–I decided to focus on the wood textures of the door on the right, and see if I could find a way to solve the screen door on the left.

I don’t know how to say this, except to say that I felt that this composition painted itself.  I felt that I put out very little effort, puzzled very little, hesitated almost not at all.  Next thing I knew, I was stopping.  I believe I worked on it only about an hour, certainly not any longer.  And suddenly, it looked “finished.”  Maybe tomorrow I’ll change my mind and push it further.  But I’m stopping for now and just looking at it.

I posted the Barnett Newman quote, because that is what I experienced this afternoon in the Man Cave.  It doesn’t come along very often.  I felt as though the picture was painting itself before my very eyes, and all I had to do was watch it happen.  Amazing.

I have so many Proustian memories of the screen door growing up–my grandparents’ houses, the country store I frequented when visiting grandparents.  How I loved the slap of the door slamming shut (it always angered my Dad when I let it “thwap” loudly like that). Perhaps later I’ll write more about those memories.

But for now, I’m pretty wiped out–the state-mandated testing at school today (with no relief break during the four hours, thank you very much), followed by regular classes in the afternoon, pretty much sucked the best out of me, and I’m surprised I had anything left to come home and paint today.  Glad I did.

And thank you for reading.

The Fatigue Factor in Painting

April 22, 2013
Cafe Still Life in my Studio

Cafe Still Life in my Studio

Watercolor Still LIfe

Watercolor Still LIfe

I was an insomniac again last night, not falling asleep till nearly 3 a.m.  Up at 6:00 to get to school.  Tomorrow begins the TAKS testing, and I will need plenty of sleep (and intestinal fortitude) to endure that.

My rule is never to work on an art piece when I’m fatigued.  I came home and did some things to this.  Added more pieces to the checkered table-cloth, reworked the postage, stained the envelope some more, added the handwritten address, darkened the spectacles case, manipulated the shadows further.  Then I got sleepy and decided it was time to lay down the brush before I did something I would regret.

I tried to read further from the Steinbeck biography I’ve recently opened, but could only get about half a dozen pages under my belt before nodding off.

So, I will throw  in the towel and get some sleep.  My sincere hope is that I can go after this with renewed energy, and maybe even finish it tomorrow.  I’m already thinking ahead to three more compositions I want to go after, and that makes it kind of hard to stay devoted to this one.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Falls the Shadow of the Night

April 21, 2013
Studying the Shadows

Studying the Shadows

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

            Between the desire

And the spasm

Between the potency

And the existence

Between the essence

And the descent

Falls the Shadow

                        For Thine is the Kingdom

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

Funny how the mind works, how words arrive in the still of the night.  I was poring over this watercolor that has held my fascination for a couple of days, wondering what to do next.  And, for the first time, I noticed the shadows beneath the spectacles, weaving serpentine-like around the case and the envelope underneath.  I started laying in the shadows, looking at the warm areas and the cool areas, trying to match warm and cool neutral colors, watching them flow along the wet trail I had initiated with my pointed brush.  I got lost in the shadows, and suddenly these words from T. S. Eliot, that I hadn’t read in months, or even thought about, rose in my consciousness.  I liked the feelings that came with them.  And I’m fascinated with that idea of what exactly falls betwixt the idea and the act of creation, whether it be a watercolor, a short story, a poem, a song–anything that we can call “creation.”  The interval between the idea and the process of actualizing that idea is what stirs my blood.

Thanks for reading.

 

Sunday Morning Silence in the Man Cave

April 21, 2013
Entrance to my Man Cave

Entrance to my Man Cave

Sunday Morning work on the Cafe Still-Life

Sunday Morning Work on the Cafe Still-Life

Diners originated in Providence, Rhode Island, in the 1870s.  A newspaper salesman named Walter Scott noticed a need for after-hours food service for workers on the late shift and anyone else obliged or inclined for whatever reason to stay out after 8 P.M., when all the restaurants in Providence would close.  Having hitched a wooden wagon to a horse named Patient Dick, he roved the town through the night selling what would become and remain basic diner fare: sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, pie, and coffee, all homemade, all priced at a nickel.  Competition–larger wagons, wagons that stayed in one place, and wagons with indoor seating (mainly stools) in case of rain–soon followed, and spread from town to town in the Northeast.  In 1891, Charles Palmer of Worcester, Massachusetts, found it worthwhile to patent a wagon with a kitchen and dining area designed for mass production.

By the 1920s, diners had evolved into self-contained restaurants, factory-made and measured for easy delivery to whatever location the buyer thought would be profitable.

Gordon Theisen, Staying Up Much Too Late: Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and the Dark Side of the American Psyche

I was stricken with insomnia last night (probably too much coffee!), not able to fall asleep till about 3:00.  Television and great books kept me occupied.  Sleeping till 8:00, I’ve felt sluggish this entire day, but nevertheless enjoyed yet another caraf of coffee, excellent reading from Hemingway and Steinbeck, and plenty of noodling on this small 8 x 10″ painting.  I’m not making very fast progress now, as I’m feeling pretty timid about the clean lines of the spectacles, and have worked hard not to make them look sketchy and “organic.”  I struggle with precision in watercolor, and feel that the discipline is important for me.  The pattern on the tablecloth also has to follow a strict design.  I enjoyed working on the canceled postage and postmark on the envelope.  Still working on staining the envelope.  I thought that would be easy and mindless.  It isn’t!  Plenty of surprises on this composition, all of them fascinating to me.

I couldn’t have dialed up a better Sunday. The light and the silence have been so soothing, so affirming.  The reading and painting were smooth. I felt as though my pulse slowed down a bit.  The coming work week will be spastic, with state standardized testing dominating the days (always a questionable use of the school time, certainly not a boon for education).  My hope is that I can put it behind me each evening and let the studio envelope me as it has recently.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Working on the Cafe Theme, Late at Night

April 20, 2013
Cafe Still Life at Night

Cafe Still Life at Night

To mean something, anything, art must provide a specific sense of where you are and where you have been, of your particular take on the larger history of which you, willingly or not, form a part.

Gordon Theisen, Staying Up Much Too Late: Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and the Dark Side of the American Psyche

I am driven to paint daily.  When a day goes by and I am not en plein air or in my Man Cave, I feel something was taken away from me, like missing a meal, or getting shorted on a decent night’s rest.  As I say repeatedly, I paint to remember.  Whether I use a word like “nostalgia” or “Proustian” to describe my sentiments, I just merely want to work on images that have played an integral role in my life’s composition.  “No ideas but in things” writes William Carlos Williams.

I turned 59 today, and all those closest to me had their beautiful ways of sending me the warmest, most loving sentiments.  I love and appreciate all of you, thank you so much.  During this exquisite day, I’ve had the opportunity to paint in a beautiful park setting, kicking out a pair of watercolor sketches.  And during that time outdoors, it finally dawned on me what I want to do with my next series of cafe still-lifes.  And this delicious day and night afforded me plenty of silence and space to work and play over this piece that slowly emerges beneath my gaze, like a developing photograph in a dark room.

This composition that I’m toiling over now (and loving the scrutiny and problem-solving) truly resonates with me.  The setting is a cafe, where someone has opened a letter while relaxing over coffee.  The spectacles I recovered from the estate of one deceased about twenty years ago.  The letter, postmarked 1962 was given me by a dear friend who deals in antiques and always has the objects I request for these kinds of compositions.  The diner mug I found in an antique store two days ago.  And the pillow case, also found in the antique store, will have to serve as my cafe tablecloth.

These days, I love the emails and text messages I receive from those I love.  And in the days of yesteryear I loved receiving the letters in the mail (I really love the handwritten letters that I still receive occasionally in these current days).   Communication has always been our lifeline, and coffee in the cafes has always been my spiritual life’s blood.  I wish I could find the right words to describe what a sanctuary the cafe has become for me in recent years, and how precious the moments are when I can sit with coffee and re-read something sent from someone who matters.

So, as  I linger over this piece in the days and nights ahead, I just wanted to let anyone out there who reads me know, that this is a personal composition for me.  And I have the desire now, the genuine compulsion, to work on a series of cafe still-lifes depicting these quiet, pondering moments harbored in quiet contemplative American lives these days and nights.

Thanks for reading.

I paint to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Magnificent Plein-Air Day of Watercoloring

April 20, 2013
Plein Air Watercolor Sketch #1

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch #1

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch #2

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch #2

This morning, my painting buddy Chris and I piled our equipment into my Jeep around 8:30 and motored south to Ennis, Texas, to Love Park.  We found a large gathering of plein air painters from the north Texas area that we are fortunate to join from time to time in these excursions.  The day was sun-washed, about 60 degrees, with pleasant winds.  Bluebonnets infested the area, and most of the oil painters were standing completely enveloped in them as they painted their surroundings.

I chose a spot across the road from them, that had more cedars than bluebonnets, and I made two attempts at watercolor sketching these subjects.  Pines and cedars have always flummoxed me in watercolor (and still do).  I spent the entire morning, and early afternoon, staring at one single cedar, half in shadow, with a scattering of bluebonnets beneath.  I admired the view blissfully, and worked very hard, trying to match up the reddish-green tints that clothe the cedar.  I tried Quinachridone, Permanent Rose, Winsor Red and Cadmium Red.  I mixed in some Transparent Yellow, and occasionally Cadmium Yellow.  Nothing seemed to work in the final analysis.  I also studied hard the separation of shadows and mid-tones in the mass of the cedar, and enjoyed all the nuances I saw in those middle tones, the primarily warm colors, and the cools in the shadows.  I worked on those as well.

The bluebonnets–well, this was my second attempt in about four years with those.  I never can seem to make them “pop” out of their environment of green on my paper the way they do on earth.  I don’t have a clue yet what that secret is.  They looked pretty good against the white paper, but disappeared as I floated light, subtle greens around them to give them a “home.”  I guess I’ll have to work on that problem another day.

It was a very pleasant experience, the plein air sketching today.  I met some fabulous new friends that I look forward to seeing again.  We plan to gather at PrairieFest in Fort Worth on April 27 for another day of plein air bliss.

Thanks for reading.

I paint to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone. 

A Delicious Afternoon in the Man Cave, Sketching, Watercoloring, Reading, Journaling, Pondering

April 19, 2013
Beginnings of a cafe still-life

Beginnings of a Cafe Still-Life

Only through art can we get outside of ourselves and know another’s view of the universe which is not the same as ours and see landscapes which would otherwise have remained unknown to us like the landscapes of the moon.  Thanks to art, instead of seeing a single world, our own, we see it multiply until we have before us as many worlds as there are original artists.

Marcel Proust

I emerged from school to face my weekend with a heart full of gladness.  The 67-degree sunshine and soothing breeze made for a heavenly afternoon in the Man Cave, and I immediately went back to the work I barely commenced late last night–a diner’s mug on a checkered cloth, with vintage spectacles and an old envelope.  All I accomplished last night were laying down the shadows, wet-on-wet. This afternoon I got after some color blocks on the fabric, some further modeling and glazing on the mug (including some of reflected pinks of the cloth on the side of the mug), and a little bit of work on the spectacles.

Once the painting got overly wet, I decided to settle into the comfy chair for some reading in the Hemingway biography.  But the Cave was darkened by the positioning of my doors (trying to control the lamp source on the still-life), and I suddenly got an idea for some reading light.  Yesterday, while browsing the antique store, I found something I had wanted for ten years but could never find–an old vintage “farmhouse-style” screen door!  Price was $37.  I loaded it in the Jeep and brought it to the cave.  It had been propped behind some still life objects for a future composition, but today I decided to use it functionally–I spread my doors and inserted the screen between them to let in the light and the breeze.

Once I sat with the Hemingway biography in my lap, and felt that first caress of the breeze coming through, I laughed out loud, remembering the Seinfeld episode when Kramer installed the screen door on his apartment entrance, and sat outside in the hall with a garden hose, watering plants!

Interior of Man Cave. looking out screen door
Interior of Man Cave. looking out screen door
Standing Outside the Man Cave, looking in the screen door

Standing Outside the Man Cave, looking in the screen door

Quick Attempt to Sketch the Man Cave Doors

Quick Attempt to Sketch the Man Cave Doors

After reading the Hemingway biography for a stretch of time, I then turned to my Journal and recorded some of the highlights of this day, especially some new ideas planted recently by my high school students (at my age, they still astound me with their insight and creative ways of looking at the world).  I then returned to work a little further on the table cloth patterns of my new cafe painting.  Then, taking a stretch break, I stepped outside the Cave and was surprised by the sight of the western sun on my screen door and the adjoining one.  I quickly installed a porcelain doorknob, set up my plein air easel, and went to work as quickly as possible, like a man possessed, before I lost the sunset light (about 15 minutes).  I absolutely loved getting into the wood surfaces of the doors along with their knobs, handles, keyholes, etc.  Once the light faded, I decided to call it quits on this one, and perhaps will return to it at the same time tomorrow evening, or Sunday evening.

I cannot describe my disposition this afternoon, except to say I was quite “scattered”.  I wanted to paint everything, draw everything (I left out the detail that I also worked out some pencil sketches of the diner’s mug because I was having some problems “solving” it’s form.  I didn’t bother posting those photographs, because I feel I’ve already loaded plenty into this post).  It was a delightful afternoon, divided between two paintings, some sketches, excellent reading, as well as some thinking and journaling.  All the best things were here for me this day.

Rapid Watercolor Sketch of the Door knob

Rapid Watercolor Sketch of the Door knob (about 15 minutes)

I have an invitation to go on a plein air excursion with friends this weekend, and I’m seriously considering it.  I’ve waited all winter for this opportunity, and have had only one such encounter.  I’m ready once again to get outside and into the light.

This has been a beautiful afternoon and evening.  Thank you for sharing in it with me.  And thank you always for caring enough to read me.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.