I begin a painting with a series of mistakes.
For I have known them all already, known them all:–
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons
T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
I am like a feather floating in the atmosphere; on every side is depth unfathomable.
Henry David Thoreau, Journal, February 21, 1842
With joy and serenity, I return to the blog after a prolonged absence, combining travel with injury. An unexpected opportunity sprung up to travel to Kerrville and see the marvelous show of Dinah Bowman before it came down. Dinah has provided a wonderful wind at my back to help me set sail more vigorously in the past years. She accepted work from me in her gallery in Portland, Texas (Bowman Design and Framing), thanks to the introduction provided by her framer Mike Catlin, a former student of mine. She has also sponsored two watercolor workshops for me to conduct in her area, and then was the prime mover to land me in this recent Artist in Residence work in the Texas Laguna Madre. Below are a couple of photos from her show that closed last weekend, along with the link to her website: http://www.bowmandesignandframing.com/
Before I left for Kerrville early Saturday morning, I managed to wrench my lower back (a perennial problem) and I knew I was in trouble before I began the five-hour drive. I loved every minute of my time with Dinah and Dick, but suffered miserably from back issues. Driving back home Sunday only made things worse, hence no blog yesterday either. Now, after plenty of medication, I am functioning somewhat and really glad to return to my own studio.
While I was at the Laguna Madre, the media came and visited me on the fourth day, and I am still warmed by every memory of that visit. Capt. Jay Tarkington waded out into the lagoon and brought back a specimen he pulled up from the bottom, presenting it to me as a gift. They call it the Mermaid’s Winecup because of the delicate cup shapes of the algae. I have already attempted two watercolor sketches of it, but am trying now to work larger and in more detail. I drew this specimen carefully this morning, and then spent a great deal of time masquing it so I can lay in a deep, dark background to make the light-green winecups and neutal stalks stand out more clearly. My intention is to pour the background–something I haven’t done for years and am looking forward to exploring again. The project has taken a lot of time already. First I had to soak and stretch the paper on the canvas stretchers, let it dry, then draw meticulously with pencil the entire specimen, then masque it (and the masquing took just as much time as the actual drawing). Now I need to let it dry thoroughly before soaking the paper and pouring colors onto the background.
This is going to take the entire day. Already it is 1:14 p.m. and I began this in the mid-morning. The masquing has dried, so I’ve soaked the paper and poured from a bowl Transparent Yellow from my WInsor & Newton pigments. I salted the edges as soon as the wet turned into damp, and now I wait for the puddles to dry before I apply the second layer (and at this moment, I have no clue what color that will be). I don’t like to push it with a hair dryer, and natural drying takes forever, but I’m enjoying my reading of Robert Motherwell: The East Hampton Years, 1944-1952. I am also writing a great deal in my journal today, and yesterday, I began indexing my journals, using Excel. That project will take years to complete, if I ever complete it, because I have over 130 volumes, and I am about 1/3 the way through my first volume. But I’m a patient man.
As the hour stretches into the late afternoon, I finally find the paper dry enough to work on a second poured layer. Using a spritz bottle, I sprinkle water, and adding water to a small squirt of Winsor Violet (Winsor & Newton) in a shallow bowl, I add water and pour it in places around the bottom portion of the watercolor. The spritz bottle I used for some additional acceleration, and sprinkled more salt around the damp areas. Now I need to let this sit and dry some more. Meanwhile, Motherwell reading and journal writing is keeping me content.
My third poured color is Olive Green from the Luma Liquid Watercolor series. After a full day of drawing, masquing, pouring, drying, etc. I’m probably finished with this until tomorrow morning. I need to make sure the surface is bone dry before stripping off all the masquing, otherwise, damp colors will be smeared into the white protected areas. Tomorrow I hope to do a good job detailing the algae and host shell to which it is anchored. The colors and patterns I see emerging from this background alone are so fascinating to my eyes that I just want to crawl inside this composition and explore possibilities awhile.
Thanks for reading.
I paint in order to remember.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself I am not alone.