Archive for January, 2015

Trying to Keep the Book Open

January 5, 2015
Three Watercolors in Progress

Three Watercolors in Progress

When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature. He becomes interesting to other people. He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and he opens ways for a better understanding. Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book, he opens it, shows there are still more pages possible.  

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Alas, today I returned to the classroom for a mandatory teacher work day, preceding the spring semester.  Before I entered the room, I knew I would have too many details to tend and not be able to pick up a brush. But I did carry my work-in-progress to school in a portfolio and suspended three watercolor projects on my blackboard so I could look up from my computer and books from time to time and view them from a distance. The largest on the right measures 16 x 20″, and I sat close enough so I could see the overall composition of each and try to assess where to go next, when I have time to work on them further. I still have much to prepare for A. P. Art History, Philosophy, A.V.I.D. and Logic and don’t really know when I’ll be painting again.  I sincerely hope to get back after these watercolors by the time the weekend arrives.  Already I miss the communion with the subjects, and really am trying, in the spirit of Robert Henri, to keep my own book open to new changes and experiences.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am never really alone.

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Measure Twice, Cut Once

January 3, 2015
Poring Over the Still Life on a Saturday Morning

Poring Over the Still Life on a Saturday Morning

My Center of Focus Recently

My Center of Focus Recently

I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only.  Why, the owner does not know it for many years when a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got all the cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed milk.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

My life will change drastically with the opening of the Spring semester next week.  Today has found me drifting about my house and studio with no deadlines, no appointments, and a wonderful sense of a “clockless” lifestyle.  Much of my time in the garage studio (and my, is it cold out there today!) has been spent staring at the apples and galvanized pail and screen door that I have arranged for a still life in watercolor.  The pail was given me by a dear friend long after it had outlived its usefulness (the bottom is completely rusted out), and the apples are going to provide a bright, stark contrast once I lay in the colors, hoping I can match their brightness.  If any of you are wondering about the microphone base on the right, that is compliments of my “southern engineer” training–it prevents the screen door from crashing over on top of me.  The door is sitting atop an antique table so I can get a better angle on it from my drafting table.

Experimenting with the Masquepen

Experimenting with the Masquepen

I’ve removed the masquing fluid from the screen behind the pail.  Of course, the masqued areas are too white, but I’ll find ways to tone them down.  Since I used plenty of warm colors mixing the “stew” I’ll probably need only to drag a wet brush over the entire area to allow neutral colors to fill in the white lines.  If that is not enough to tone it down, then I’ll continue to apply washes of neutral color to remove as many of the lines as necessary.  The table top is another kind of challenge, and it’s going to take quite awhile for me to find out if my experiment will work.  I toned the table a light tan color, let it dry, then dragged masquing fluid all over the surface to simulate the ugly scratches that have accumulated on this surface over the years.  Pictured is only the first wash and masquing over the wash.  Currently I’ve already applied a darker wash, let it dry, then masked some more scratches.  I plan to continue layering washes and masquing.  Once I peel everything off, I’ll see what I have, and hopefully be close to the simulated textures of a damaged table top.  Then I’ll find ways to tweak it. I still haven’t decided on how to create the galvanized textures on the side of this pail, but it’s good to know that I have no deadlines in place here.  I’ll take it one step at a time, measuring twice and cutting once.

Another Piece of my Garage Studio

Another Piece of my Garage Studio

When I get tired of looking at my current arrangement, I need only to look to the right at the still life I have nearly finished of the fly fishing ensemble.  This is turning out to be a serene day in the studio.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Late Night Experiments in the Studio

January 3, 2015
Laying Down the First Washes Late at Night

Laying Down the First Washes Late at Night

As the rain continues to drench north central Texas, I find myself enjoying the quiet of the studio, save for the pelting of the rain against the garage door. After spending considerable time drawing and re-drawing the composition of galvanized pail, apples and screen door, I then worked on the tedious task of screen wire texture by dragging a masquepen along a straightedge propped above the paper with erasers, first vertically, then horizontally after the vertical strokes had time to dry.  Drying time for the masquing took a long time tonight with the humidity factor present in the cold, damp garage.  Once the fluid was dry to the touch, I mixed a stew of Winsor Green, Alizarin Crimson, Winsor Red, Cadmium Red Medium, Winsor Blue (Red Shade), Winsor Violet and Transparent Yellow to create the warm dark wash I then flooded over the masqued screen wire.  Next, I added Permanent Rose to the stew I had mixed and laid in the shadow beneath the pail. Finally, I mixed Cadmium Orange into the existing stew to create the inside rusted tone of the pail.  All this work turned my paper surface into a lake, so I realized I would not be able to continue work on this until morning.  Before I turned out the lights in the garage, I noticed to my astonishment a very unusual separation of warm and cool colors taking place in the shadow beneath the pail. Working for only my second time on hot-pressed paper, I’m finding all kinds of surprises on the surface of this paper.  The experiments are proving to be very interesting, early in this compositional study.

For years, I’ve lacked the guts to pursue still life in watercolor, though I gazed worshipfully at the drybrush renderings of arcane objects in the Andrew Wyeth ouevre.  A couple of winters ago, I took a stab at a couple of large still lifes, and since then have tried my hand at a few more.  I cannot describe my feelings when I contemplate these objects, each with its own history, its own plethora of memories.  Though I’m trying to learn the technical means to render them on paper, I just cannot stop gazing at them and thinking of what they’ve contributed to our lives.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never really alone.

A Beautiful Mind

January 2, 2015
Cold Rainy Night in the Garage Studio

Cold Rainy Night in the Garage Studio

What truly is logic? Who decides reason? My quest has taken me to the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional, and back. I have made the most important discovery of my career – the most important discovery of my life.

John Nash accepting the Nobel Prize in the film “A Beautiful Life”

This afternoon, while looking through Andrew Wyeth books, I finally decided I wanted to work on a still life of apples and a pail I was given over the Christmas holidays.  I started experiencing those mid-afternoon drowsy spells stemming from my erratic sleeping patterns over the past few days, so I took a catnap, then rose and went to the garage and began setting up the arrangement.

My New Still Life Set Up

My New Still Life Set Up

As soon as I set to work on rendering the pail, I realized I needed some scaffolding help, so I took out my triangle, flex ruler and metal ruler, and then went to work drafting the framework of this bucket on its side, tilted slightly downward from the horizontal plane.  Suddenly, my mind drifted to that movie “A Beautiful Mind”, starring Russell Crowe, and I knew I needed to go back into the house to watch portions of it.  Of course, I was moved emotionally, again.  The beauty of that man’s quest for mathematical structure and a way to apply it to an original theory I find very attractive.

Returning to the studio, I worked into the cold night, enjoying the communion with the objects before me, my thoughts of John Nash and his contributions, and images of Andrew Wyeth drybrush watercolor sketches strewn across the table beside me.  I realized I was in the perfect environment tonight.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Pondering New Directions in Watercolor

January 2, 2015
A Dark, Rainy Friday Made for Books and Reflective Thought

A Dark, Rainy Friday Made for Books and Reflective Thought

There are men charged with the duty of examining the construction of the plants, animals and soils which are the instruments of the great orchestra.  These men are called professors.  Each selects one instrument and spends his life taking it apart and describing its strings and sounding boards.  This process of dismemberment is called research.  The place for dismemberment is called a university.

A professor may pluck the strings of his own instrument, but never that of another, and if he listens for music he must never admit it to his fellows or to his students.  For all are restrainted by an ironbound taboo which decrees that the construction of instruments is the domain of science, while the detection of harmony is the domain of poets.

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

How delightful to be finished with my holiday travels, home again, and still possess time for quiet reflection before returning to school next week.  Today (Friday) is dark and rainy and well-suited for staying indoors.  The coffee pot is full, the books are stacked high, Mozart is playing on the stereo, and I’m grazing from a number of ideological pastures as I figure out what to do next with my time.  Today I have watched again the film “A Beautiful Mind,” and have felt so inspired at the thought of John Nash wrestling with the implications of a new idea.  The film has spurred me to dig deeper into journals and art books in a quest for some kind of direction in my artistic pursuits.  While re-reading one of my favorite books, Wyeth at Kuerners, I suddenly saw in my mind’s eye the subject that I want to try next.  I’m waiting for it to get dark outside so I can work in my garage studio, relying on spotlighting effects rather than the natural light flooding through the windows of the door.

The Aldo Leopold quote posted above I culled from a journal I kept during the final quarter of 2013.  I enjoy perusing old journals, especially at this age when I seem to forget about 90% of what I’ve written in prior years that I thought so important then.  I was delighted to find Leopold tagging on to the same idea I published yesterday,separating Art from works of art.  For most of my life, I have attempted to make art, and always realized that my creations pointed toward Art but never seemed to cross the threshold.  And when it comes to assessing the strength of various works of art, I always seem to find myself tongue-tied.  Currently I’m working on this idea of how we as artists break works of art into their component elements of design, analyze techniques applied, and ultimately conclude that the composition is always more, much more than its parts.

Many of my ideas about art parallel my views on education.  Since I’ll be returning to school next week, my mind is full of these ideas as well, especially my view that education, like art, cannot be distilled into a few basic principles.  Education is an art, not a toolbox of techniques.  The assessment of a quality education (to me) cannot be divined from a sheet of statistics, cannot be discovered by analyzing data, and cannot be disseminated by training a group of teachers to follow a lesson plan template.  As an educator, I have no gimmicks, no magic tricks.  I study hard. collect myriads of words and ideas, assemble and arrange them and then communicate them to listeners.  Sometimes what I pass on is “caught” much as one would catch the measles.  As to the art arena, my watercolors are the same thing–an assemblage of objects, techniques, moods and ideas that sometimes work.  And in ways that I still do not understand, certain paintings of mine will reach viewers, will draw them in.  I’m eternally grateful for those encounters, though I have no idea how these things happen.

Looking Over my Recent History of Work, Trying to Determime What to Try Next

Looking Over my Recent History of Work, Trying to Determime What to Try Next

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Opening the New Year and Avoiding the Measuring Worm

January 1, 2015
Back Home, and Ready to Work Again

Back Home, and Ready to Work Again

He comes over from London and he sees a good picture and takes a pencil out of his pocket and you watch him measuring it on the pencil with his thumb.  Sighting on it and measuring it and seeing exactly how it is done.  Then he goes back to London and does it and it doesn’t come out right.  He’s missed what it’s all about.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

The words posted above are Hemingway’s recollection of Gertrude Stein’s description of the painter Wyndham Lewis.  She always referred to him as “the measuring worm” because he seemed to believe that art could be quantified by the correct arrangement of techniques.  From her perspective, Lewis was always assessing other painters’ works in terms of design elements, beleiving that if he copied those elements he would create the same quality of paintings.

These words have remained at the forefront of my thoughts during the past couple of weeks as I have enjoyed the holiday season.  My travels took me to Austin, Texas, across Oklahoma, and all over Missouri.  Returning home briefly I then took another New Year holiday to east Texas, enjoying the company of the best of friends.  All the while, I thought about art, worked in my sketchbook and journal, read many texts, and continued pondering the magic of Art.  After this respite, I feel that I am no closer to describing what takes a work of art to the sublime heights of Art.  And I am no longer confident that I will ever reach that summit where I could speak clearly about the essence of Art any more than I could describe the essence of Religion.  But I love the endeavor, and this evening, finally enjoying the quiet of my own home and listening to the music of Anita Baker, I took out this watercolor sketch begun a few days ago in Missouri and tried to push it a little further.  Bending over the wet surface and watching the reds, greens and yellows floating in the layers of water, I got excited all over again, watching the pigments emerge into the semblance of an image of fresh apples.  Yes, the composition is quite small, but very intoxicating to me tonight.

I’m ready to lay this aside and return to reading texts from Hemingway, Wilder and Henri.  I feel the stirring of muses and hope I can put some things into my journal that will breathe new life into my art endeavors.

Thanks always for reading.  I have so much I would love to share about this recent holiday vacation.  I’ve been in remote areas where I could not access Internet, but time away from the blog has helped recharge my batteries.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

2014 in review

January 1, 2015

I am preparing to open 2015 with a new series of blog posts.  I have been travelling and offline since December 22 and am more than ready to get back to this exercise.  Tonight, returning home, I was pleased to find the following when getting back online.  I appreciate so much the feedback we get back from WordPress.com of our year in review.  The stats are always informative for me.  Thanks all of you who helped me have a successful year in the blogosphere.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 47,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 17 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.