Archive for June, 2016

The Dawn Light

June 9, 2016

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This world has many rings, like Saturn, and we live now on the outmost of them all.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

On the second morning of my island sojourn, I started painting the power plant visible across the Lagoon. I did not return to it until this morning, because the light was not the same. Whereas I started painting it in soft, ethereal light, the second and third mornings it showed in bold relief, and it just wasn’t the same. On this morning, I am trying to capture it in those soft hues once again, engulfed in a lavender sky and calm waters.

This is my last day to be alone before the workshop arrives. I am really looking forward to working with five other plein air painters for a couple of days, and sharing the experience of this enchanting environment.

Thanks for reading.
I paint in order to learn.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Turning a Couple of Corners

June 8, 2016

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Nature strews her nuts and flowers broadcast, and never collects them into heaps. This was the soil it grew in, and this the hour it bloomed in; if sun, wind, and rain came here to cherish and expand the flower, shall not we come here to pluck it?

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

After napping this afternoon, I awoke to a sun-splashed island, and a renewed energy to paint en plein air. Reading the above text from Thoreau inspired me as I was looking across this field of wildflowers, grasses, and cacti. In the past, I have been frequently flummoxed as I looked at a complicated world before me, and wondered how to select from the variety of stimuli to form a composition for a painting. The words of Thoreau really did come through for me today, and I delighted in this experience. This is the first time I managed to get the textures of the Lagoon to look the way I wanted them to look, and I accomplished it by scraping with an exacto knife while the wash was still wet. The layers of grasses and flowers provided their usual challenge, but I kept applying layers of masking, and finally got what I was after.

The sun has gotten low, and I have lost my light for painting, so I will have to wait until tomorrow to resume where I have left off. But in the meantime, I am loving the winds coming out of the east, and the words of Thoreau are washing over my soul.

Words fail me when I try to record my love for this environment, and appreciation for those who have made it possible for me to come out here again. After a year’s time, I feel that my plein air paintings of this location have matured, and I cannot wait to compare this current portfolio with last year’s.

Thanks always for reading and showing interest in what I do.

I paint in order to learn.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Studying the Waters

June 8, 2016

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The afternoon winds from the east have intensified, making the back porch of my living quarters very comfortable. I have moved my studio back here, and decided not to leave this spot until sunset. Readings from Henry David Thoreau have been so soothing, and looking out across the Lagoon and it’s changing colors has inspired me to try something new.

I laid down a series of washes across the Lagoon, alternating teals and greys and sea greens. Once I got the area good and wet, I took out the X-acto knife and began my lateral scratchings, and believe I have finally captured the textures of the water’s surface all right.

Now I am masking foreground flowers and cacti, and getting ready to lay in layers and layers of dry brush. I am feeling like a mad scientist in the laboratory, and am really enjoying this!

Thanks for reading.

One of Those Sleepy, Overcast Days

June 8, 2016

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Waking at 3 a.m. guaranteed that this day would begin sluggishly, especially with the dark overcast skies. Shortly after lunch, I threw in the towel, stretched out on the bank, and sleep over to me quickly. 90 minutes later, I awoke feeling refreshed and immediately finished up this pair of still lifes that had been languishing.

The sun is back out, the light is bright, and I am in the mood to stare into the landscape once again.

An Overcast Morning on the Island

June 8, 2016

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Chaucer had eminently the habits of a literary man and a scholar. There were never any times so stirring that there were not to be found some sedentary still.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

I awoke to an overcast morning today, and decided that maybe I should concentrate on still life subjects, since the landscape is subdued under diffused light. This particular still life is almost completed, and I have begun another, focused on the carcass of a blue crab.

It dawned on me that plein air painting does not mean fairweather painting. The French Impressionists painted under overcast skies as well as sunlit. So, looking across the lagoon at a boat anchored under heavy skies, I decided to give this one a start.

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The humidity factor is slowing down the drying time of water colors, so I am not able to crank them out as quickly this morning as I have the past couple of days. But still the painting is very relaxing, and I am enjoying immensely this daily experience in such a perfect paradise..

Thanks for reading.

Closing Out the Second Day

June 7, 2016

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“Behind every man’s busy-ness there should be a level of undisturbed serenity and industry, as within the reef encircling a coral isle there is always an expanse of still water, where the depositions are going on which will finally raise it above the surface.”

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

The day has been amazing, with plenty of opportunities for painting reading and journaling.

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Looking back over what I have been able to accomplish today, it appears that I have been busy, but I haven’t felt that way at all. The time and the pace were so leisurely, that I felt as though I were a child at play, rather than a worker trying to accomplish specific tasks. I guess, to draw from Thoreau’s metaphor, my life today has been the still waters behind the reef.

Thanks for reading.

Captain Many-Hands

June 7, 2016

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My second day on the Laguna Madre has brought laughter to my soul. I have felt all day as though I were a man of leisure, yet I see a huge body of work emerging, and I am also finding plenty of time to read Emerson and write in my journal. I’m calling myself Captain Many Hands, because I keep moving from one task to the next – masking on one painting, drawing on another, stretching paper for another, pulling staples from another– I have all of these watercolor sketches going on at the same time, and I am absolutely loving every minute of it all!  I have felt much more stressed as a school teacher, because of multitasking, and the feeling that none of it is getting done properly. Yet here I am on the island, with no schedule, no deadlines, no expectations from others, and I am getting a huge body of work done, and feeling very fulfilled. I just wish I could know this feeling in my everyday job.

I took a break to blog and speak my mind. Now I am going to get back to what I have been enjoying. And I thank you for reading.

Day Two on the Laguna Madre

June 7, 2016

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Rising at 6 to A Beautiful Dawn on the Lagoon, I was filled with such an exhilaration that I could not wait to shower, dress, and resume painting. I now have 7 watercolors in progress, and am posting the first one that is getting close to a finish. I still want to do some texturing work around the lower border and in pencil write a journal entry across the top. Before leaving on this trip, I finished reading my book Robert Motherwell: 100 Years, and was so excited to read his comments about the tensions between spontaneity and revision and painting. Motherwell has testified that he began his paintings with a series of mistakes, and then returned later to revise them, hoping that a finished painting would emerge. When I read those words, I knew that I wanted to apply this to the cord grasses that I tried to paint a year ago when I was here. Last night I began with plenty of splattering and chaotic brush work and masking. Today, I returned to the paintings, and stripping off the masking, began working on the details and refined elements. The second painting still needs work, but this first one is close enough to finishing that I am glad to post the picture of it.

Thanks for reading. The hours spent on this island so far have been beautiful beyond description.

The Fatigue Factor

June 6, 2016

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Before my friends pulled away in the boat, I had stretched five sheets of watercolor paper and laid them out in the sun to dry. I set to work immediately on two compositions as I looked southward toward the horizon. I found the cloudy skies intriguing and worked carefully on them with an assortment of brushes, Q-tips and a misting bottle. Once I got to the land textures, however,   I found it tougher sledding, and began to crumple under the weight of a couple of factors – high temperatures and humidity from all the recent rainfall, along with yesterday’s 8-hour drive thanks to Texas I-35 from Temple to Salado which is always choked by construction (even on Sunday) and allowed me to crawl in bumper-to – bumper-to traffic for 90 of those minutes. They call that progress.

At this point it seems best not to fight fatigue. Finding a cool breeze between the buildings, I’ve decided to cozy up with a volume of Emerson essays I brought with me.
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Last summer when I was here, a swallow was sitting on a nest of five eggs. She’s back this year, with babies! Every time I walk near, they stretch their little necks in my direction to get fed.
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Taking a break from reading and painting, I strolled the length of the island, refreshing my senses and memories from a year ago.
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Working on five different compositions on this first day has worn me out. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll finish all these, or start new ones – glad I don’t have to decide that one tonight.

Emerson has provided delicious company throughout this quiet, idyllic day. I read for the first time his essay “Society and Solitude”. I loved his observation that the creative individual, when collaborating with others, becomes a “fraction”. Tonight I’m turning to his “Essays: First Series” to read his work titled “Art”.

I plan to retire when it gets dark, just as I did last year. I’m already tired to the bone.

Thanks for reading.

Phase Two Begins Now

June 6, 2016

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At 12:12 pm, the boat filled with my friends pulled away, and my second round of plein air painting on this island in the Texas Laguna Madre now begins. I have been given another week, and as the boat pulled into the open waters this morning and throttled us toward my destination, I felt tears of warmth and gratitude for this second opportunity. The quiet here as I now write this is beyond description.

I’ll post more information as the paintings happen . . . Thanks for reading.