Archive for June, 2014

Waking to Reminiscences of Emerson

June 15, 2014
Finishing an Abandoned Sketch of the Stage Coach Hotel, Fort Worth Stockyards

Finishing an Abandoned Sketch of the Stage Coach Hotel, Fort Worth Stockyards

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.  Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.  In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majestry.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

The moment I awoke this morning, I had two images in my mind’s eye.  They were beginnings to small watercolor sketches that I began long ago and had tossed aside.  I don’t know why I awoke with them on my mind, but decided to take that seriously.  Emerson’s words continue to abide with me, and I never want to fall back into that notion of insecurity that dismisses my ideas as worthless because they are mine.

The studio has been quiet this Sunday morning, and I have worked slowly, but with a heart of content.  In the background, I have played DVDs on the television that feed creative thought.  The company has been sublime.

My first post is an abandoned 5 x 7″ sketch that I began of the remnants of Fort Worth’s Stage Coach Hotel on North Main, in the Stockyards region.  I started a second one and did a better job (it was larger, too) and sold it immediately.  I had forgotten about this aborted one.  It is nearly finished now.  What I looked at this morning was about 40% of what is posted now.  I’m glad I decided to go back to it in an attempt to salvage it.  I’ll put it in a mat and see what I have.

Second 5 x 7" watercolor sketch of Weatherford's Angel's Nest

Second 5 x 7″ watercolor sketch of Weatherford’s Angel’s Nest

Last night I finished a sketch I had begun of the historic Victorian home in Weatherford, Texas.  There was a second one also waiting in the docks.  So, after piddling around with the Stage Coach Hotel, I turned my attention to this one and added about 60% more work and detail to it. I may be close to finishing this one as well.  I’ll then put it in a white mat and see what I have.

Thanks for reading.  I’m ready to go out and try some more plein air rendering this afternoon.  I’m back in the watercoloring mood, and am glad.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

A Certain Slant of Light

June 14, 2014
Silence of Saturday Morning

Silence of Saturday Morning

There’s a certain Slant of light,

Winter Afternoons – 

That oppresses, like the Heft

Of Cathedral Tunes – 

 

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us – 

We can find no scar,

But internal difference,

Where the Meanings, are – 

.  .  .

Emily Dickinson

This particular Saturday has been a lengthy, pensive one.  Recent events brought me to a state of mind where I thought it best to stay indoors the entire day and devote this space for important, quiet matters.  As I sat at breakfast, the words from Emily Dickinson continued to murmur throughout my soul, again and again.  It was necessary to think on these matters, and I believe her words set me on a fitting course for the day.

Reading Away a Quiet Saturday

Reading Away a Quiet Saturday

Following breakfast, I returned to the pages of Thoreau, and was filled with wonder that a twenty-four year old could write out such incisive thoughts:

A momentous silence reigns always in the woods, and their meaning seems just ripening into expression.  But alas!  they make no haste.  The rush sparrow, Nature’s minstrel of serene hours, sings of an immense leisure and duration.

When I hear a robin sing at sunset, I cannot help contrasting the equanimity of Nature with the bustle and impatience of man.  We return from the lyceum and caucus with such stir and excitement, as if a crisis were at hand; but no natural scene or sound sympathizes with us, for Nature is always silent and unpretending as at the break of day.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, April 25, 1841

Thoreau’s thoughts threw into bold relief the reality of how busy my life had become of late.  I have been out of school a week, but never found the brake to slow things down, until yesterday.  Tuesday I will return to begin summer school, but that is Tuesday–right now, I need to “be still and know.”  Thanks to the morning’s meditations over Thoreau, I managed to relax in the chair well into the afternoon, thinking, writing in the journal, and reading the kinds of things I need to be reading at this moment in my life.

I did return to the drafting table.  Taking out a watercolor sketch I began shortly after Easter, I decided to complete it and make a 5 x 7″ composition, suitable for matting.  This is a Victorian home in Weatherford that has been converted into a popular Bed and Breakfast, The Angel’s Nest:

As for the Edward Hopper study of Marshall’s House, I spent hours this afternoon masquing, applying wash, masquing further, drybrushing, and masquing some more.  This required long stretches of drying (and reading) time.  I also tightened up some of the details on the house, thinking of Andrew Wyeth’s pencil work and precision.  I have now stripped away the masquing and need time to decide how to “clean up” those areas around the masque marks.  There is plenty of time for that later.  For right now, I would like to stop with this one and spend more time looking at it and figuring out what exactly to do next.  I do like the way the contrast is beginning to pop.

Still Experimenting with the Hopper Composition

Still Experimenting with the Hopper Composition

Afternoon has now stretched into evening.   I am not exactly sure what to do next, but thought I would go ahead and release this blog, and thank all of you for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Passing of a Young Legend

June 13, 2014
Dan Regalado

Dan Regalado, Photo Teacher, Arlington Martin High School

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

John Donne, Meditation 17

Arlington Martin High School and the surrounding community just suffered a devastating loss.  Young Dan Regalado, a much- beloved photo teacher, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving his colleague wife and young children, along with a vast network of students, educators and friends.  All of those experiencing this loss know the pain expressed centuries ago by John Donne–the death of another diminishes me.  A part of us has passed with the passing of Dan.  I feel that I met him yesterday, though more than fifteen years have elided during which I was privileged to know and work with him.  I’ll never forget how he relieved my stressful feelings of inadequacy while limping my art history students through the theories and great works of Steichen and Stieglitz.  When days were dark, Dan was always smiling and upbeat.  He had a way of making everyone around him better.

Rest in peace, Dan.  You made this world a better place, and we’ll always be grateful for how you improved us.

 

 

Responding to the Muse on Sundance Square

June 13, 2014
Early Morning Plein Air Attempt of a Monumental Bronze Clock

Early Morning Plein Air Attempt of a Monumental Bronze Clock

In order to make art, we must first make an artful life, a life rich enough and diverse enough to give us fuel.  We must strive to see the beauty in where we are planted.

Julia Cameron, The Sound of Paper

We are not on this earth for long.  Part of what a midlife crisis is about is figuring out what gives you pleasure and doing more of that in the time you have left without asking for permission or a financial or emotional subsidy from anyone else.

Howell Raines, Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis

Last night in downtown Fort Worth was restorative to my weary soul.  I enjoyed the sounds of people milling about Sundance Square, enjoyed my late-night coffee, read my book, and scribbled in my journal with utmost serenity.  Suddenly, I was drowsy and knew it was time to go home and retire.  Passing by the Haltom Jeweler’s clock that I had painted as part of my downtown composition a few years ago, I wondered why I had never sketched the clock en plein air.  It seemed that the Muse whispered that question into my ear, and the matter was settled.  Arriving home near midnight, I set my clock for 6:00 a.m., having checked the Weather Channel app on my phone to note that the morning was expected to be about 71 degrees.

When the alarm sounded, I made quick work of showering, dressing and “breaking my fast” (Thoreau’s favorite expression).  I was on the road by 6:48, and seated beneath this monumental bronze clock by 7:18.  I sketched and painted exactly one hour, and stopped, strolled into Starbuck’s, and enjoyed my morning coffee with this piece lying before me on the table.  I’m not sure if I’ll work further on it–plein air, to me, is strictly for gathering information, learning on the fly.  The experience will remain with me and inform my future work.

I am so grateful that I listened to the muse and followed my bliss this morning.  Sitting at the Starbuck’s table and reading Julia Cameron’s The Sound of Paper, I came across these words:

I am more than my circumstances, more than the cage of my environment.  There is a dignity inherent in making art, a filament of largesse and generosity, a connection to something better and brighter than myself.

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.

 

 

Closing Out a Serene Day with Good Thoughts and Artful Attempts

June 12, 2014
Taking My Time with the Hopper Study

Taking My Time with the Hopper Study

“What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.”

Edward Hopper

Currently, it is 9:52 p.m., and I am enjoying a refreshing night life in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square, next to the fountain where dozens of children are screaming with delight as they get hosed.  Recent rains have dropped the temperatures to the upper 70’s, and it feels quite good.  This is a fitting closure to a good day–I have come into the downtown Fort Worth night with a bag full of books, journal, sketchbook and my laptop.  Tourist season is at high tide, and there are probably 75-100 people milling about the general area where I am seated.  It is all very good.

Fort Worth is taking on the same kind of expansion and improvements as Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann’s 19th-century Paris; from Sundance Square to the museum district, one can see only progress.  Some days I wonder if I’m feeling the same inspiration and scintillation as the French Impressionists as they sketched their rapidly changing environment.  I have serious thoughts of taking out my sketchbook, but frankly, I’m daunted as I am seated immediately beneath the enormous Chisholm Trail mural that overlooks this new-look Sundance Square plaza.

Above this entry, I have posted my start of the watercolor inspired by Edward Hopper’s Marshall’s House from 1932.  Yesterday afternoon was spent doing preliminary tonal sketches of it in my sketchbook.  I chose this model for study because I recently turned on to red pigments during my Waxahachie plein air watercolor experiments.  I have also been curious about experimenting with Q-tips on my cloudy skies.  It has been a few years since I deliberately piled up clouds in my watercolor skies, and I thought it time to return to this practice and see what I can learn.  So–billowing clouds and a bright-red roof on a dilapidated building with plenty of screened-in porch and screen windows and door to study.  Below I am posting a couple of close-ups of large watercolors I did a few years ago of a 1903 structure still standing in Flippin, Arkansas.  I was pleased with how my rusted-out screens turned out in these pieces.

Detail of Large Watercolor of 1903 Cabin

Detail of Large Watercolor of 1903 Cabin

Detail of a Second Large Watercolor of the same 1903 Cabin

Detail of a Second Large Watercolor of the same 1903 Cabin

With the Edward Hopper study, I’m experimenting with graphite in the wet watercolor to see if I can simulate some screen texture.  I’m in no rush with this overall watercolor sketch, as I have already applied several layers of wash over the rooftops and facade over time throughout this day.  Tomorrow I hope to get into some serious pencil drawing over the dried watercolor.  For that, I’ll be taking out a number of Andrew Wyeth drybrush watercolor and pencil studies.

I guess I’ve reported about all I need to on this particular day.  I have the itch now to write in the journal and pursue some good reading from some good books.  Midnight is still a couple of hours away, and I’m feeling quite satisfied.  Sundance Square is a lively, delightful place at night.  I’ve wanted to do this for over a year, and can’t believe I have waited this long.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Finding Water

June 12, 2014
A Rainy Morning in the Studio

A Dark, Rainy Morning in the Studio

Over the years, I have learned that there is a flow of ideas that we as artists can tap into.  The flow of creativity is a constant.  We are the ones who are fickle or fearful.

Julia Cameron, Finding Water

I never know when I sit down, just what I am going to write.  I make no plan; it just comes, and I don’t know where it comes from.

D. H. Lawrence

I guess I use this “Finding Water” title for today’s blog with tongue-in-cheek.   Julia Cameron uses the phrase “finding water” to describe an artist in search of the next idea for expression.  Actually, that phrase does not apply to me this morning, literally or figuratively.  Outside it rains and is dark and delicious.  Inside, I have already”found water” for my next series of paintings.  Though I couldn’t sleep till nearly 4:00 a.m., I found myself rising this morning around 8:00, embracing the dimness of the rainy light filtering through my studio windows, and filling my own interior with steaming cups of coffee, the music of Leonard Cohen, and some new watercolor studies with Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth as my mentors.  I recall that Woody Allen said in an interview that he was never out of ideas for a movie, never blocked.  He always has the next movie or two already in his brain when he is wrapping up his current project.  I believe he has averaged a couple of movies per year for decades now, or at least one a year.  I too have trouble sympathizing with the notion of “blocked artist.”  I know how it is to feel depressed emotionally and to perceive my own attempts as inadequate, but I am never at a dearth for ideas for painting.

Having finished a large watercolor, I am now trying to unscramble a host of images that have been fighting for my attention for weeks now.  Yesterday afternoon, I rolled the dice and sat in a Starbuck’s,  making tonal sketches of Edward Hopper’s watercolor Marshall’s House from 1932.  This morning I decided to give it a try, learn a few things about Hopper’s use of color combinations, and attempt my own finishing details (Hopper, unlike Wyeth, has a paucity of detail in his watercolors and oils).

The moment I began sketching this out on the 300-lb. watercolor paper, I delighted in the scratch of the sharpened pencil across the rough paper surface.

To me, pencil drawing is a very emotional, very quick, very abrupt medium. . . . You must not be afraid of it, though.  Pencil is sort of like fencing or shooting.  You make a thrust at your opponent yet you must be ready to recover into the on-guard position, and when you thrust you must not think that you will miss the mark.  Your opponent may parry, so when you thrust you’ve got to put your heart and soul into it and then, in a split second, withdraw.  This is very much to me like pencil drawing.  You’ve got to dart with a sharp point and hit it.  Either you hit it or miss it, but you must have no hesitation.  

I love the preliminary drawing stage of a watercolor.  But I also love drawing right into the pigment itself, wet or dry.  And now I have enough paint on the surface that I can take up the pencil and add layers of drawing over the planes of color.  This is exciting to me, always.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

The Quiet Seam Between the Noisy Fabrics

June 11, 2014
Wednesday Morning in my Quiet and Tidied Studio

Wednesday Morning in my Quiet and Tidied Studio

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”

Today, Wednesday, was my first day since clearing out the dangling debris of details associated with the end of school and the Paint Historic Waxahachie event.  I slept in, not setting an alarm.  And the full night’s rest was delicious, almost as delicious as an entire morning free of appointments and engagements.  I found the readings from the Journals of Thoreau deeply enriching, along with a collection of poems from T. S. Eliot.  I also happened across some fresh ideas for new watercolors that I am ready to pursue.  Poring over books of illustrations from Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth have added this new fuel to my fire.

Currently I’m working on tonal, compositional sketches of the watercolor I am ready to pursue next.  My photography does a lousy job of posting pencil drawings, so I’ll wait until my actual painting to put up the new images.  But so far, I’m enthused about these new possibilities.  I’m using both Hopper and Wyeth for my models in this new watercolor pursuit.  I’m still finding my own voice somewhere in the seam between those two masters.  And speaking of seams: it’s nice to find this quiet zone between the recent storms of activity and the gathering storm of my new watercolor output.  The rest is doing me some good.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not really alone.

Finding Some Quiet Amidst the Frenetic Work

June 10, 2014
Completion of the Historic Louisiana Home in Watercolor

Completion of the Historic Louisiana Home in Watercolor

It is a great relief when for a few moments in the day we can retire to our chamber and be completely true to ourselves.   It leavens the rest of our hours.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, March 20, 1841

I am posting this image of the watercolor, because I have finished and signed it.  Another chapter closed.  On to the next.  I choose not to post all the details of today, because it was nonstop work, and the only relief from the constant appointments kept was the quiet moment I was allowed to sink in a chair and drink from Thoreau’s Journal.  My oh my, but his still waters ran deep, and while he was so young.  He died at age forty-four, and already I am second-guessing my contribution to life by age sixty.  I am happy to have been enriched by him, and would love to learn more of how to emulate his life’s philosophy.  No matter how my days get filled with appointment details, I am most true to myself when I am quiet and reflective.  This past couple of weeks has been brutal for me because I was always on the go, and I never liked living that way.  Though I have scarcely more than a week off between spring semester and summer school, today and yesterday have already made me feel as though I was on vacation, even though I have accumulated only a few hours of “chair time against countless hours of appointments and painting deadlines.”

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.

 

A Perfect Day in the Atelier

June 9, 2014
Nearing Completion on the Historic Louisiana Home

Nearing Completion on the Historic Louisiana Home

The Sphinx is man’s insatiable and questioning spirit, which still, as of old, stands by the roadside in us and proposes the riddle of life to every passer. . . . They made her devour those who were unable to explain her enigmas, as we are devoured by doubt, and struggle towards the light, as if to be assured of our lives.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, March 7, 1841

Finally, a vacation!  I begin summer school in eight days, so I’ll take this brief respite for all it’s worth.  This morning, early, I rose, found my sacred place, and read from the pages of Thoreau’s Journal (it is my earnest hope that I will read every page of his fourteen volumes before I die–twelve years after I purchased them I am only finishing volume two).  I love this observation and application concerning the Sphinx, especially the existential note of our own self-doubts that devour us.  As a watercolorist, I struggle with these doubts/demons daily.

I had a spectacular day in my home/studio (my answer to the atelier of nineteenth-century Paris).  A watercolorist from east Texas made a long trek to spend a few hours with me, wanting to push her own watercolor technique to the next level.  She came prepped with pages and pages of handwritten questions and theories, which I enjoyed very much.  Our discussions provided opportunity for me to take out stacks of paintings and sketches I have worked on for over a decade, and the two of us explored so much new territory.  It was a day well-spent.

Following the watercolor session I returned to this larger 18 x 24″ Louisiana historic home I’ve worked on for a couple of weeks now.  I am nearing the finish (and have finished the horse’s head, but it’s after dark and I cannot photograph it–this photo was taken earlier today!).

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.

 

 

A Cleansing Interim in the Wilderness

June 7, 2014
Honorable Mention at Paint Historic Waxahachie

Honorable Mention at Paint Historic Waxahachie

I got to spend my Saturday in my classroom, fulfilling my teacher contract in making up for an inclement weather day.  The students went home yesterday, so teachers had the option today of taking a personal business day off, or spending the day in the classroom doing . . . what?  That was my day.  A day in an empty classroom.

But now school is really out (until summer school in about ten days).  I drove south to Waxahachie for the Awards Reception this evening.  I managed an Honorable Mention.  The competition was fierce indeed this year, and I was fortunate to achieve any level of recognition.  I’m proud to get the ribbon, and proud to be listed next to the winners, who were truly outstanding this year.  I’m glad I decided to do that last painting at deadline yesterday, as it was the one that took the ribbon.  I was tired then, and am tired tonight.

Now I have a little over a week to retreat to the wilderness for solitude, reflection, thoughts about what direction to take next in my art.  I will be listening attentively to the art masters that I have been reading recently (Henri, Hopper, Manet, Homer, Wyeth, Delacroix, Gauguin), as well as the philosophical thinkers (Emerson, Tillich, Heidegger).  And I plan to do plenty of writing.  I am ready for new ideas, new visions, new directions.  A few days ago I introduced brighter, more aggressive color into my compositions.  I intend to follow that thread for awhile, and see how I can weave it into the detailed work from my past.  I’m wondering where it is going to take me.

This interim space is a genuine gift for which I am boundlessly grateful.  My students this past year have been lovely beyond description.  But I am ready now for the quiet, ready to sit in a room alone with my thoughts with no deadlines.  There is so much to ponder now, and I need that time and space.   Only good things can come from the retreat.

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.