Archive for January, 2016

Laguna Madre Work in Progress

January 18, 2016

image

Motherwell’s attitude to spontaneity was always complex, painting and then painting out, modulating the first impulse, correcting, so that the initial freedom yields to a shaping spirit which is more formal and architectonic.

Bernard Jacobson, Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant

My reading of this excellent book on Motherwell has been feeding my impulse to paint, so the day has been spent running back and forth between the reading chair and the drafting table. I’ve enjoyed the same rhythm about which he testified, as I have poured, spattered and rubbed paint spontaneously across this page, then revised with masquing, drawing and line painting, a constant back-and-forth between spontaneity and control.

 

Late Night Reading and another Tree Study

January 17, 2016

image

They went through me like an arrow, and from that moment I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Robert Motherwell, upon seeing for the first time Henri Matisse’s paintings

This delicious Sunday night has been spent before the fireplace, reading more than forty pages from this new Motherwell book I just received. I posted his observation above of what happened when he was in his early twenties and saw paintings by Matisse in the home of one of Gertrude Stein’s brothers in Palo Alto, California. His testimony echoes what I felt when I saw my first Andrew Wyeth book in my ninth-grade art class. What a rush to recall that moment.

I closed the book and returned to my drafting table to experiment some more with the rendering of winter trees in pencil. I purchased a sketch book in an antique store last month, and am enjoying the qualities of the aged, darkened paper in the book. I’m still cutting lines into the surface of the paper with a ballpoint pen that has run out of ink, then dragging a 9B pencil over the creases. In addition to the soft pencil and dry ballpoint, I just just used a No. 2 pencil manufactured by Papermate–a Mirado classic. I have fallen in love with these, and find them in Albertson’s grocery stores and H-E-B stores as well. For the really fine and light lines, I use a 6H pencil, and from time to time I drag a blending stump through the pencil work. I’m still not sure what I’m doing, but loving the experiment.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Another beginning to a Laguna Madre painting

January 17, 2016

image

A series can be thought of as one problem, constantly reworked and unfinishable, or as a set of different and finished solutions to the same problem, the two sides of [Motherwell’s] philosophical pursuit of variousness.

Bernard Jacobson, Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant

My drawing and painting have been curtailed for the past twenty-four hours, mostly because Amazon delivered to me the book I just quoted above. For hours I have been sitting and soaking the pages of this text, enriched beyond description. I like the way different scholars approach the issue of Motherwell’s series paintings, most notably his Elegies and his Open works–each series comprising more than two hundred paintings. Motherwell once remarked that he continually tried to depict the same subject because he never felt he got it right, and mused that that could have been the reason for Cézanne’s obsession with Mont Sainte-Victoire.

I have a different reason for the Laguna Madre works–my one-man-show opens in about a month and a half, and I still would like to try a few more angles of the subject. The one I started today is of the field station where I spent my nights.

Finally Breaking Through

January 16, 2016

image

In recent days, I have tried to find another gear, editing earlier attempts of paintings of the Texas Laguna Madre, where I spent six days last summer as artist-in-residence. My major one-man-show opens at the Art Center in Corpus Christi at the beginning of March, so there are still some new works to be framed, and several scattered pieces that had been begun badly and tossed aside. The one pictured above is one of them. This painting started out so badly that I nearly discarded it a couple of times. This morning, looking at it over a cup of coffee, I determined to make one last run at it, and what I did worked (I believe). At any rate, I have now signed it and plan to deliver it for the show as well.

cactus among the flowers

An Artful, 3-day Weekend

January 15, 2016

image

I begin a painting with a series of mistakes. The painting comes out of the correction of mistakes by feeling.

Robert Motherwell

Good evening. I’m posting a new drawing from today, because the painting I have worked on the past three days is a disaster. I’m trying to find some measure of consolation from the Motherwell quote that he began paintings with a series of mistakes–that has not been my way, but it certainly is how this recent work is going. Maybe tomorrow I will find a way to correct it (and then post it!).

A three-day weekend greets me and the timing couldn’t be better. Winter weather may be settling into my area tomorrow. The logs are stacked, the fireplace is ready, and I’ll light the fire if the temperatures get back down to where they belong this time of year (above 60 degrees today, unbelievable).  The bottle of cabernet sauvignon has been opened and I’m ready to pour my first glass while watching a movie on Georgia O’Keeffe that I just acquired (Joan Allen, Jeremy Irons).

Thanks for reading. I hope I’ll have some decent art to post over the weekend. For what it’s worth, I did enjoy the tree drawing of this day.

Into the Labyrinthe

January 14, 2016

image
“The beginning and end of all literary activity is the reproduction of the world that surrounds me by means of the world that is in me, all things being grasped, related, recreated, molded, and reconstructed in a personal form and original matter.

Goethe

This Goethe quote was carried about in the wallet of the great American painter Edward Hopper. It was surging in my mind this evening as I carved out another drawing of the trees in my back yard, using my previous drawings and one watercolor as a model. For the past couple of days, my mind has been absorbed with the creative minds of Robert Motherwell, Edward Hopper, James Joyce and now Goethe. I am passionate about art and ideas, and nightly I am conflicted over whether I should read, write, make art or just sit before the fireplace quietly and just think. There doesn’t seem time for all the above.

That wasn’t intended as a complaint; I’m deeply grateful for the abundance of life.

Thanks for reading.

I make art to help me think.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Serene Moment

January 13, 2016

image

“Sometimes my hand, almost my fingertips begin to shiver and this affects the quality of the lead pencil on the paper. It becomes dark and light, dark and light. The thing begins to move. The drawing begins to pull itself out of the blank piece of paper.”

Andrew Wyeth

How satisfying to have all the grading and administrative wingnuts for tomorrow’s classes done well before bedtime. I got to sit at the drafting table for awhile tonight and take another stab at a tree drawing, this time on some soft, aging paper on a sketchbook I purchased in an antique store recently. The effects were quite different than before, as I experimented with the pencils in the soft, yellowed surface of this old paper. Finally, a tree emerged once again from the void.

Motherwell and the Dynamics of Black

January 13, 2016

image

Having finished the watercolor above, I spent some more time this evening reading from the reflections of Robert Motherwell. When I began this  composition with a few sweeping arcs from the lower right corner, I was surprised to see a generic Motherwell composition emerge, black on white. Once I began the actual painting, I immediately grappled with all the varying tones of the trunk, boughs and branches. I did not want this reduced to a silhouette. For Motherwell, black was just as much a color as lemon yellow or vermillion, he often said. As I continued work on this piece, I came to the same conclusion, and became intrigued with all the dynamics of the tree colors (which to most people’s eyes, are not colors at all).

The Occasional Epiphany

January 13, 2016

image

An artist has to be a long-distance runner, and the thing I’m most proud of is my most recent work is as fresh as the first.

Robert Motherwell

Opening this new year with a burst of artwork has been most satisfying. I’m happy that I’ve completed thirteen new works in the past twelve days. Some of it has been a thrill to create.  Some of it.  I’ve known most of my life that inspiration isn’t a constant. I apprecicate the comment from the poet Wallace Stevens: “It is not every day that the world arranges itself into a poem.” And I like even more the answer from Sigmund Freud: “When inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it.”

Harold Bloom has urged, “No man, no woman, can live in a continuous secular epiphany.” I understand that. I suppose that is why I regard myself as a grinder when it comes to making art and teaching classes daily. Sometimes I just have to lean into it, because it is my job, or because it won’t make itself.  But I’m happy when something gets accomplished.

The watercolor posted above is my first attempt ever to paint a winter tree and spare no detail in rendering the spidery network of limbs. I still find this very challenging, and have learned a great deal from this one 9 x 12″ attempt, but there is still so much left to solve. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Motherwell and the Dynamics of Black

January 12, 2016

image

Having finished the watercolor above, I spent some more time this evening reading from the reflections of Robert Motherwell. When I began this  composition with a few sweeping arcs from the lower right corner, I was surprised to see a generic Motherwell composition emerge, black on white. Once I began the actual painting, I immediately grappled with all the varying tones of the trunk, boughs and branches. I did not want this reduced to a silhouette. For Motherwell, black was just as much a color as lemon yellow or vermillion, he often said. As I continued work on this piece, I came to the same conclusion, and became intrigued with all the dynamics of the tree colors (which to most people’s eyes, are not colors at all).