Watercoloring Arcadia

Returning to Work on the Hermann, Missouri Cityscape

Returning to Work on the Hermann, Missouri Cityscape

Every ship is a romantic object, except that we sail in.  Embark, and the romance quits our vessel and hangs on every other sail in the horizon.  Our life looks trivial, and we shun to record it.  Men seem to have learned of the horizon the art of perpetual retreating and reference.  “Yonder uplands are rich pasturage, and my neighbor has fertile meadow, but my field,” says the querulous farmer, “only holds the world together.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

I return to this Emerson statement every time I catch myself wishing I didn’t live in the suburbs of Arlington, Texas.  As a watercolorist, I have wished I could make my home in the Colorado Rockies, New England, the rolling Midwest–anywhere but in a Texas metroplex choked with streets and suburbs.  I deal with these feelings now as I look through my photo files and pull up the Hermann, Missouri visit last Christmas season.  I have decided to tackle one of the old downtown street scenes again, on a much larger scale than before.

This afternoon, I took a walk through my own suburbs after lunch, trying to regain strength lost during the past week’s illness.  And the longer I walked, the more aware I became of how weak I am currently.  I suppose it’s going to take some more days of walking to retrieve that sense of vitality.  But as I walked, I recalled the Hermann downtown that I loved so much when I strolled it at the end of last year.  Granted, the temperatures were frigid, but the colors were strong, and the winter light so beautiful to my eye.  I don’t pretend to have the French Impressionist skill of capturing atmospheric effects, but at least as I work on this, I can recall the scintillating beauty I knew that day as I walked the town high above the banks of the Missouri River.

At my current age, I realize fully that these notions of mine are Arcadian dreams.  I doubt that Colorado or New England folk would rather be living in Arlington (unless they think there’s pizzass to sharing a city with two professional sports stadiums).  But I also know that living in those regions would not make me any more of an artist than I am at this point.  I’ll continue to relish opportunities to see vistas firsthand and render them en plein air.  But when that is not possible, I still have my photographs and memories for reference.  And the later Edward Hopper painted less from “the fact” and more from his memory and imagination.  It worked for him.  I’m confident it will work for me.

I just love this Hermann, Missouri vista, and felt genuine joy in the waning moments of this afternoon as I worked in my studio.  The fading light slanting through my studio windows fell on this watercolor page and gave me the atmosphere I wanted for working on a winter scene (this afternoon in Arlington was dark and wintry-looking outside though the temperatures remained high).  I picked up the large brush again and enjoyed blocking in large areas of wash.  As for the details, I was in the mood for tedium, for tight, exacting work.  My eyes are finally comfortable with focussing.  It’s seemed such a long time since I’ve been in this zone.  I hope I get some more opportunity tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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2 Responses to “Watercoloring Arcadia”

  1. Bonnie Says:

    So sorry you’ve been ill! It can really take a person down. We both had the flu this past week, and it was a bit tough. (Rather more than a bit, actually!) I’m looking forward to seeing how the new painting evolves.

    Like

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