Archive for June, 2013

Day One of the Star Harbor Watercolor Workshop

June 13, 2013
Star Harbor Watercolor Workshop painting Still Life

Star Harbor Watercolor Workshop painting Still Life

I think the real artists are too busy with just being and growing and acting (on canvas or however) like themselves to worry about the end.  The end will be what it will be.  The object is intense living, fulfillment; the great happiness in creation.  People sometimes  phrase about the joy of work.  It is only in creative work that joy may be found.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Rising at 6:00 this morning, I was wide awake immediately, feeling an appointment with destiny.  The Star Harbor Watercolor Society hosted me a little over a year ago for a two-day workshop, and I never forgot the camaraderie I instantly knew among that circle of artists.  Last year we focused on plein air painting.  This year we decided to pursue still life composition and painting with a Proustian feel for the memories incited by the antique objects we examined.  I opened this morning with a demonstration–a quick watercolor sketch of an antique door knob (posted below).  We then busied ourselves, arranging a host of objects I brought down to Star Harbor in my Jeep this morning, and sharing our own stories about the ideas we found in them.

Demonstration Watercolor Sketch of Antique Doorknob

Demonstration Watercolor Sketch of Antique Doorknob

Today was a good day spent with those who find joy in the act of watercoloring.  Each participant worked diligently on the still life drawing before turning to the watercolors to render the compositions.  I was delighted to see strong drawings emerge, as I always believe that the real strength of a watercolor is in the drawing.  I almost never see a good drawing yield to a bad watercolor.  Not only did I enjoy watching the drawings emerge; I was gratified to note that these artists enjoyed the process and didn’t seem hung up on the end results of their paintings.  I can hardly wait to return for day two tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

West Texas Watercolor Excursions

June 12, 2013
Coca-Cola Ghost Sign in Lubbock Texas

Coca-Cola Ghost Sign in Lubbock, Texas

Drawing and color are not separate at all; insofar as you paint you draw.  When the color harmonizes, the more exact the drawing becomes.  When the color achieves richness, the form attains its plenitude.

Paul Cezanne

I responded to an invitation to journey to Lubbock, Texas this weekend, and celebrated the end of the school year by drawing, painting, reading, journaling, antiquing, and conversing with a kindred creative spirit.  I posted my earlier attempts of a watercolor sketch of this ghost sign on one of the main drags of Lubbock.  I’m still not quite finished with it, as there are a number of accents I still wish to put in–brick details, more power lines, and window detailing.  I’m still not quite satisfied with the Coca-Cola logo or the tree in front.  But I’ve laid it aside for now.  I have two workshops to conduct in the next ten days, and it’s time to switch gears.

My friend planted this idea of traveling northward to Amarillo Palo Duro Canyon for some plein air activity.  So, I opted to stay an extra day and spend Monday in the canyon.  The temperatures reached 105 degrees, and I was astounded to find out that I could not work wet-in-wet!  Impossible!  The high winds felt like a hair dryer, and the water dried on the paper as fast as I could apply it.  No matter how wet the wash, as soon as I put the brush into the palette to reload, the “puddle” on the watercolor block had disappeared.  This was indeed a different kind of experience for me.  Both sketches posted below were done very quickly, as I knew it was unwise to be out in the direct sun under such harsh conditions, and it was difficult, keeping my left hand on the easel at all times, knowing the canyon winds were trying to turn it into a kite.

Amarillo Palo Duro Canyon in late afternoon

Amarillo Palo Duro Canyon in late afternoon

I keep thinking I may re-work this composition, and try to detail the trees and rock textures better.  It was hard making those kind of decisions under intense sunlight.

Amarillo Palo Duro Canyon in Early Evening

Amarillo Palo Duro Canyon in Early Evening

I was abe to stand more in shadow as I worked on this bluff in early evening.  But the winds worsened, and I could not let go of the easel for fear it would fly out over the canyon and descend somewhere into its depths.  I may return to this in the next week or two, look at the photos I took, and see about adding more texture to the rocky facade.  I would not have traded this pair of plein air attempts in the canyon for anything, even if the heat was intense and unpleasant.  I was fascinated at the dynamics of the rocky facades with the winds chasing the cloud shadows across the craggy faces.  I felt that French Impressionist plein air tension, with Claude Monet on the one hand captivated by the fleeting effects of light playing off surfaces, and Paul Cezanne on the other extreme, contemplating the eternal form beneath the changing light.  It was Cezanne who said he wanted to make of Impressionism something enduring, like the art of museums.

Thanks for reading.  I’m not sure how effectively I’ll be posting during the workshops, or how accessible Internet services will be in either place.  But I promise to store up the photos, the memories, the stories, and bring them online as soon as I can.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Watercoloring in the Quiet Morning

June 10, 2013
Continuing the Ghost Sign

Continuing the Ghost Sign

I have no sympathy with the belief that art is the restricted province of those who paint, sculpt, make music and verse.  I hope we will come to an understanding that the material used is only incidental, that there is artist in every man; and that to him the possibility of development and of expression and the happines of creation is as much a right and as much a duty to himself, as to any of those who work in the espeically ticketed ways.

After all, the object is not to make art, but to be in the wonderful state which makes art inevitable.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I awoke at 6:51 this morning, without an alarm, and I had to rise from my bed, because I had Robert Henri on my mind, and felt that I needed to keep an appointment with him.  Long ago, I had developed a daily habit of keeping some kind of a “morning watch,” a time in which I read from my Bible, kept a journal, and tried to prepare myself to live the day to the fullest.  I still maintain that “watch” much in the same way Immanuel Kant devoted the first hour of his morning to sitting in his chair and contemplating.  I always have the journal out, and something significant to read.  And Henri has been my muse of late, stirring me in the same manner that he did “The Eight” when they gathered in his studio apartment at 806 Walnut St. in downtown Philadelphia at the close of the nineteenth century.  He read to them from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, from Emerson, from any creative spirit he thought could ignite the artistic fires in his disciples.  And now, as I read this collection of his letters, addresses and private musings, I feel my own fires rekindling.

It did not take me long to lay the Henri volume down, pick up the brush, and return to this ghost sign that I found and photographed day before yesterday.  The quiet and sweetness of the morning has provided the perfect sanctuary for me to pore over this composition, think thoughts of art, philosophy, literature, life, and wonder what exactly this new day, this new gift, could reveal.  I so love the summer holiday from school (though I will resume teaching summer school very quickly).  Time evaporated yesterday, as I stood with my fly rod, looking into those waters, and recalling the words of Thoreau: “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.”

I am indeed on the same page as Henri, concerning the artist.  I believe everyone has that potential to live the artful life, to think the artful thoughts, and make constructions that are unique to his/her inner life, and to express them, whether in visual art, music, journaling, blogging, or conversing artfully with the friends around.  I believe everyone has the artist within, and that that artist deserves feeding, nurturing.  This blog is part of my outlet.  But my intake today has been the words of Henri, and the visual stimulation of this commercial building standing mute with its layers of memories enfolded.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Fly Fishing, Sketching, Musing

June 9, 2013
Largemouth Bass Taken Just at Dark

Largemouth Bass Taken Just at Dark

It is useless to study technique in advance of having a motive.  Instead of establishing a vast stock of technical tricks, it would be far wiser to develop creative power by constant search for means particular to a motive already in mind, by studying and developing just that technique which you feel the immediate need of, and which alone will serve you for the idea or the emotion which has moved you to expression.  

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Another fabulous day for art, thinking, fly fishing and other matters.  I returned to the same pond I visited last night, cast about in the late afternoon with no success, and decided to give the pond a rest.  While walking about, I was startled to find this nest of eggs at the water’s edge.   I have no idea what kind of eggs they were, no mother showed up in anguish as I bent over and photographed them.  But they were beautiful in the setting western sun.

Eggs at the water's edge

Eggs at the water’s edge

Coming across an overturned boat, I sat upon it and drew my Henri book out of my backpack and read the above passage, pausing to reflect and write in my journal.  I am well past the edge of looking for “tricks” to amuse people about watercolor.  I like the spirit of Henri, seeking a motive to paint, and trying to adjust “tricks” and techniques to support the motive.  As I sat on the boat, admiring it’s abused exterior, I was seized with the idea of putting my gear on the boat and taking some pictures.  I’ll post one of them.  I will not post the pencil sketch I made of the composition; it was absolutely ghastly.  My drawing/sketching skills have taken a real hit lately.  I need more practice at that.

Overturned boat with my reading and fly fishing paraphernalia

Overturned boat with my reading and fly fishing paraphernalia

After my unsuccessful sketch of the composition posted above, I re-rigged my fly rod and returned to the water.  I was more aggressive in working the submerged structures, and it took me little time to contribute three flies to the pond, snagging them on underground debris.  With my fourth fly, I managed to skirt some submerged logs, and was excited to watch the water behind the fly suddenly rise in a series of waves.  Here he comes!  Slam!  The largemouth bass nearly yanked the flyrod out of my hands, even though I knew he was striking.  He was heavy indeed, and weighed in at nearly three pounds.  I took the quick photograph then returned him to the water, let him live to fight another day.

Darkness descended and it was time to gather my gear and call it another day.  Tomorrow my plan is to return to the ghost sign Coca-Cola sketch I began this morning.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Sketching a Ghost Sign

June 9, 2013
Coca Cola Ghost Sign

Coca Cola Ghost Sign

The artist, who is not a materialist, sees more than the incident.  He puts in his work, whether conscioulsy or not, a record of sensibilities, and his work bridges time and space, bringing us together.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I found a ghost sign yesterday afternoon, photographed it in the afternoon sun, and decided after putting away the windmill that I would try and sketch it out.  I’m working on that Fluid Watercolor block, trying to remind myself that I am sketching, not painting (such a hard thing for me to do in watercolor–I really need to loosen up and learn some things!).

I always find it hard to break in, to “dirty up” a new toy.  When I won Best of Show the other night, I was presented not only with a handsome check, but a Winsor & Newton lightweight sketcher’s box.  I went wild, just looking at it!  Now, two days later, I finally work up the nerve to open it and use it, dirtying up the palettes inside, and using pigments I’ve never before used.

For the underlying brick wash, I’ve combined Scarlet Lake and Viridian (two pigments I don’t recall ever using before).  Once it’s dry, I’ll begin working brick textures over it.  I’ve already screwed up the “o” in “Cola” (I always screw up the Coca-Cola script, though I just love looking at it!).  But there is a large tree spreading its canopy beneath this ghost sign, so no doubt I’ll thrust some branches and foliage up over that second “o”.  I just have to keep reminding myself–this is only a sketch, learn to sketch, don’t try to make every watercolor endeavor frameable.

I love the Robert Henri sentiment posted above.  I cannot explain the “Proustian” sentiment I feel stirring within when I view advertising billboards remembered from my youth.  I am truly not a materialist.  No doubt I try to apply all the academic training I can recall to every artistic endeavor I engage.  But it is feelings beneath that I am truly after, and every time a viewer of my work feels those stirrings, I feel that I have accomplished my task.

Thanks for reading.  I’m having fun.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Finished My Third Windmill Watercolor Sketch

June 9, 2013
Windmill Watercolor Sketch Number 3

Windmill Watercolor Sketch Number 3

The wisdom and the mistakes of the past are ours to build on, and the picture painted yesterday, now hanging on the wall, is alreadyof the past and is a part of our heritage.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I relaxed behind a fly rod yesterday evening, enjoying the scintillating breezes of an unseasonably cool evening.  This morning, my first waking thought was the watercolor brush.  I’m still experimenting with a commission I’ve offered of a windmill.  The image sent me is a Google image.  I’m doing the best I can from the photo.  I have been tipped off of where I could travel to paint windmills on sight, but it’s a pretty good drive from where I am and there are other things I’m involved in.  So, meanwhile, I keep trying to solve the problems of a dynamic watercolor sky stretched out over a neutral subject.  I’m enjoying very much the drybrush experiments I’ve been putting in the brush.  The photo submitted is just a silhouette of prairie grasses, but I don’t want to paint a silhouette.  And I’m always fascinated with the challenge of drybrushing terrain.  The dynamics of the sky are still proving to be my biggest challenge.  I’m finished with this third sketch, but certainly not finished with my subject.  And, in the spirit of Robert Henri, I’ve spent considerable time this past week looking at my prior attempts of the windmill beside my current one, constrasting, evaluating, recording in the journal, all the time trying to find the grail.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

First Day of Summer Vacation. Time for Fly Fishing

June 9, 2013
Landed Bass at an Undisclosed Location

Landed Bass at an Undisclosed Location

Eugene Delacroix and Henri Matisse spoke of travel as a means for “cleansing the eye.”  I spent the first day of my summer vacation traveling, antiquing (acquired a fabulous relic for a new watercolor composition), and fly fishing on the private property of a gracious host.  By the time I got on location, there was only about thirty minutes of light remaining.  It was enough to land a pair of largemouth black bass, and this second one (pictured) turned out to be quite a battle for my five-weight fly rod.  He tried to get into the brush several times, and actually broke my 5x tippet right at the edge of the pond, but fortunately his head was far enough out of the water that I could retrieve him before he withdrew.  I kept him only long enough to photograph, then returned him to his safe environment.  It was a delicious first day out of school, and a delicious evening fly fishing. True gifts for my wearied soul.

Thanks for reading.

Plein Air Workshop with David Tripp

June 8, 2013

Plein Air Workshop with David Tripp.

Yesterday, not knowing how to post this video, I posted the link.  I hope, this time, that the actual video is loaded for anyone interested to view.  The Eureka Springs School of the Arts was gracious enough to put it together, and I’m extremely proud to share it.

Eureka Springs School of the Arts (http://essa-art.org/) has provided for me the most perfect plein air workshop environment I have ever known.  This is the fourth year I’ve been afforded the chance to teach the five-day workshop which  is scheduled to begin one week from Monday, June 17.  We still have availability, and if anyone reading this has any interest in painting a mountain Victorian town replete with 19th-century architecture, cliffs, flowerbeds, quaint store facades, and the most lovely sunlight available, then please sign up and come spend a week with me.  I guarantee an experience you’ll never forget.

Best of Show, Desoto Art League

June 7, 2013
Best of Show, Desoto Art League

Best of Show, Desoto Art League

My “Trinidad, Colorado Morning” just took Best of Show at the 2013 Desoto Art League Annual Art Show.  I was shell-shocked.  The quality of the works surrounding me was overwhelming.  They gave awards in the categories of Photography, Dry Media, Watercolor, Mixed Media, Oil & Acrylic, and 3-Dimensional art.  All the categories were so top-heavy in quality, that I didn’t feel much surprised to be passed over for all the places in watercolor.  I had no idea Best of Show had been set aside for me.  I’m quite numb tonight.

Thanks for reading.

New Video Advertising My Plein Air Workshop at Eureka Springs School of the Arts

June 7, 2013

http://animoto.com/play/nJMrjlJBDPsiQFEYrBN5FQ

Eureka Springs School of the Arts has just released this promotional video of my scheduled one-week plein air watercolor workshop beginning June 17.