Archive for August, 2013

It is Easy to Repeat, but Hard to Originate

August 8, 2013
Archer City Hudson Beginning

Archer City Hudson Beginning

It is easy to repeat, but hard to originate, . . . we may easily multiply the forms of the outward; but to give the within outwardness, that is not easy.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, February 2, 1841

The Abstract Expressionist painters of the 1940’s and 50’s despaired of Thoreau’s sentiment posted above. Abandoning visual subject matter in order to focus on painting expressively their feelings and emotions, they wrote and spoke of the difficulty of expressing the inward, when they had no external props.  Having been an abstract painter in my earlier years, I knew that difficulty then, as I know it now.  However, returning to recognizable subject matter has not gotten me off the hook where expression is concerned.  I recognize the difficulty of being “orginal” when I paint representationally.  In fact, to borrow from one contemporary painter’s published remarks, this style of art tends to make artists of my caliber “dinosaurs.”

But the issue I address here goes beyond style or classification.  I am speaking of inward expression.  I realize that when I paint objects representationally, my work could be viewed as illustration, and my artistry could be assessed in terms of skill or technique.  Edward Hopper wondered if viewers looking upon his work would feel the emotions he felt while creating the work.  I believe that as he got older, he stopped worrying about it and just continued to paint.  I think that is where I am emotionally as well.  But, since I am blogging, and some are reading, I will say this again–I am painting things that hold my attention, things that draw me in, because they are assoicated with warm, Proustian, primal memories from my childhood that I love to re-visit.   I miss the curvilinear, full-bodied automobiles from my childhood.  I most notably miss the Hudson.  When Sal Paradise asked Dean Moriarty how he got from the west coast to the east so fast, Dean answered: “Ah, man, that Hudson goes!”  Ever since I read Kerouac’s On the Road, I haven’t been able to pass an abandoned filling station without envisioning those anti-heroes pulling a Hudson up to the pumps, and dashing inside to steal cigarettes while the attendant pumped their gas to send them back out onto the road.

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.

Prolific

August 7, 2013
Beginning of an Archer City, Texas Gas Station

Beginning of an Archer City, Texas Gas Station

“He’s like a source, you know.  It’s like somebody struck a rock and water flowed out.  You know, he’s just so prolific.”

James Taylor, speaking about Neil Young

“Urge and urge and urge–always the procreant urge of the world.”

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

I have laid aside my large watercolor of the Coca-Cola sign and vintage gate for the time being, and decided to begin a new piece today.  My output tends to be much better when I have several pieces generated simultaneously, and lately I have gotten away from that.  Years ago, at a hotel conference, gallery owner Jason Horejs seized my attention when, addressing the group of artists, asked the question: “Just how prolific are you?  How many works do you generate in a year?  That is all a gallery owner wants to know.”  By that time I was lucky to put out ten-to-fifteen watercolors a year, blaming my full-time job as a school teacher for my not being more prolific.  Since that day, I have averaged over a hundred watercolors a year, and feel much happier about my growth as an artist.  I have always been inspired by the flood of work that poured out of creative persons of the twentieth century, particularly Neil Young and Pablo Picasso.  Those men never seemed to quit.  I have always wished to know that spirit of drivenness.

I have been looking at photos taken about a month ago of an abandoned service station in Archer City, Texas, a composition I have already done once as a quick 8 x 10″ piece.   Going back through my archives, I also pulled a photo I took of a restored Hudson at an auto show several years back in Weatherford, Texas.  I just finished reading Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They’re Not What You Think) by John Leland.  My imagination soared as I recalled Dean Moriarty saying “Oh man, that Hudon goes!”.  Since I read that line several years back, I’ve wanted to paint a Hudson from that era.  So, here is my beginning.

I took the gas station photo on a scalding hot, 100-plus-degree day.  Looking at the photo, I decided not to put in the pasty white sky often found on such days, but a somewhat darker, stormier one, a sky that I hope would set off better the dead trees mixed with the live ones, as well as the crepe myrtle tree rising behind the  building.

The Hudson is going to be bright green, and I’m looking forward to rendering it.  All in good time.  I’ve lost my light for the day so must content myself now with reading and waiting for tomorrow’s light to return.  I think I hear Thoreau’s Journal whispering as a muse to me, from the dark corner of my studio.

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.

 

The Struggles Latent in Finishing a Painting

August 4, 2013
Coca-Cola Sign and Gate Nearly Finished

Coca-Cola Sign and Gate Nearly Finished

When a reporter asked [Jack Kerouac] how he was able to finish so many novels, since he  never finished anything elsehe gave a jazzman’s answer.  “I don’t finish,” he said.  “I just write it continuously.  Sooner or later you reach the point in a book where you feel everybody’s bored, and you bring it around somehow and end it.  That’s deep form.”

John Leland, Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They’re Not What You Think)

For several days, I have stared at this large watercolor on my drafting table, while pursuing domestic chores.  Today being Sunday, I thought I would take a shot at finishing it, and I believe I’m getting quite close.  I never know when to say a watercolor is done, except to acknowledge the point where anything I do no longer improves the work’s overall appearance.  I then choose to sign it and let it go.  I’m close with this one.