Archive for October, 2016

A Place Far Away

October 31, 2016

Note:  I’ll never have the artistic eye of photographer Cindy Sherman, but I do know how to take selfies with a 10-second timer on my phone.  I was alone for the weekend, and the silence was beyond description.

selfie

I don’t really have studios. I wander around people’s attics, out in fields, in cellars, anyplace I find that invites me.

Andrew Wyeth

Since my ninth grade year, I have read of Andrew Wyeth’s focused painting adventures as a guest at Kuerner’s farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and at the Olson house in Cushing, Maine.  Throughout my life I have been drawn to his subject matter because it took me back to own primal childhood memories of life on my grandparents’ farms in rural southeast Missouri.  One of my most cherished memories was Marlin’s store, located in rural Jackson, Missouri, next door to McLain’s Chapel and across the road from an abandoned schoolhouse. The Marlin family lived in the rear of the store, and always I have been fascinated with stories associated with business owners living behind their store or filling station.

As these memories lingered with me, I always envied Wyeth for having loving friends who opened their doors to him in that way.  Well, I have recently been on the receiving end of that kind of friendship.  A very dear couple living in rural Texas has invited me onto their property in time past, and this weekend they invited me to spend a weekend living in the back of their restored general store.  I felt tears when I first entered the front doors and saw the kind of environment that always greeted me as a small boy inside Marlin’s.

menns

With deep-seated joy, I resided in the back of this store from Friday night till Sunday afternoon.  The entire time was given to painting what I could see inside and outside the building, along with reading, thinking and journaling.

interior-selfie-3

(Another Selfie)

menns-painting

fog

tree

Both mornings were enveloped in dense fog till around 10:00, and then the sun came out and washed the landscape in beautiful color.  Besides the interior watercolor sketch, I attempted two plein air sketches, the first in the fog and the second in the clear.

I cannot describe the beauty and serenity of the quiet countryside that was my home for the weekend, nor can I express the depths of my gratitude to my friends for extending to me this delightful invitation.  My life has been enriched beyond description.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

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Plein Air Haven

October 29, 2016

I am relaxing this weekend in a very remote location, and it has been difficult obtaining a signal to post on the blog. As I am able, I will post photos of my new paintings, and write more about them when I return home.

Thanks for reading.

Eidolons

October 26, 2016

oklahoma

Watercolor of Abandoned Oklahoma Tire Shop

Ever the dim beginning;

Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle;

Ever the summit, and the merge at last (to surely start again) Eidólons! Eidólons!

Ever the mutable!

Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering;

Ever the ateliers, the factories divine,

Issuing Eidólons!

Walt Whiman, “Eidólons” in Leaves of Grass

Today, as my mind drifts across the empty spaces of our American landscape, I chose to post a watercolor I did last year about this time of an abandoned tire shop I passed in Oklahoma while en route to St. Louis for Thanksgiving holidays.  I am working my way back into the watercolor studio, selecting subjects to paint, and already have a splendid list of subjects to tackle this coming weekend.  I call my business Recollections 54 (www.recollections54.com) because 1954 is my birth year, and the subjects I enjoy painting the most are those from the 1950’s American landscape that I knew as a child–businesses and homes no longer inhabited, but which thrived in the days of my growing up.

Every time I cross paths with a site such as the one posted above (needless to say, I turned my vehicle around in the highway several miles down the road so I could return for a closer look and a series of photographs), I am filled with the dual feelings of loss and presence. Loss because the site is devoid of life.  Only the husk remains of the building that once teemed with industry.  Presence because the shell of the building is still charged with memories and stories worth telling.  When I stand in a place like this, I can still smell the rubber of the tires and hear the sharp hiss of the compressor.  I hear the mallets clanging on the iron, commingled with voices of laughter and profanity.  If I were a poet, I would transform these memories into verse.  If I were a musician, I would sing out my tribute.  But as an artist, I try to capture the essence of this environment with an image that I hope conveys the feelings that flood my soul in times such as these.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Autumn Return to the Cave

October 25, 2016

man-cave

First Night back in the Man Cave Studio

The man who is forever acquiring technique with the idea that sometime he may have something to express, will never have the technique of the thing he wishes to express.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

clutter-3

Studio Drawing and Debris

clutter-2

More Studio Art and Debris . . .

clutter-1s

. . . and even MORE STUDIO DRAWING AND DEBRIS!!!  (guess it is time to tidy up!)

trees

Sketchbook Pages from my recent Festival

tree-bentOne of my Preferred Sketches

tree

Experiment with a Variety of Pencils

The fall routine of school has overtaken me to the point that I cannot seem to find quality time for painting, and scant time for sketching.  I have however managed to participate in a major art festival and have another coming up quickly.  In addition to a few tree sketches, opportunity has also presented itself to do some serious museum study, as the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth has just opened up a major Monet exhibit featuring his early works.  Three visits to that exhibit have put me back in the mood to fight for studio time.

fw-modern

Relaxing at the Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth after seeing the Monet exhibit at the Kimbell

With the fall temperatures dropping ever so slightly (Texas is so screwed up, with temperatures reaching the mid-80s daily as we close out October), I have managed to re-enter my garage and clear out two years’ worth of debris that filled in my Man Cave to the point where I could no longer work in it.  Tonight I sat down for the first time with charcoals and worked on some sketches of a woven fishing creel that I picked up a couple of years back in an antique store.  The surge of artistic desire returned, and I have now planned a weekend of plein air painting, thanks to this precious garage/studio time.

This evening, I have much on my heart for which I am thankful.  The school year is off to a better-than-usual start, and aside from some bureaucratic debris that crowds the schedule more often than it should, I can at least say that I am enjoying my students immensely, and I love the subjects I am teaching.  The same may be said for my college class.

I am also happy to feel the sentiments expressed above by Robert Henri.  For years throughout my artistic endeavors, I have fretted over technique, always thinking I had too few tools in my toolbox. At my current age, I now am convinced that making art (for me anyway) is much more centered on the feelings and emotions swirling about my subjects than on the techniques I employ in trying to render them.  Tonight in the Man Cave, I didn’t worry about how the creel was looking on my paper.  Rather, I reveled in the feel of the cold charcoal between my fingers, the smooth surface against my hand, the sound of the charcoal dragging across the rough paper, and the haunting words emerging from the Robert Frost documentary that was playing in the background as I sketched.

I am sixty-two years of age, happy to be closing out my third decade of classroom encounters, and extremely grateful that I still have the strength to pursue this daily and still draw sustenance from the educational dynamics.  I still thirst for knowledge as much or more than I did in graduate school days, read prodigiously, and cannot scribble enough pages in my personal journal.  I am now sketching with the pencil more than I ever have before in life, and finding abundant joy in this as well.  Once the weather cools some more, I will enter the countryside and watercolor en plein air, and experience the rush that that activity has always brought me in the past.

This evening I read with great pleasure Walt Whitman’s poem “Eidólons” from his Leaves of Grass collection.  In true Platonic fashion, he argued that behind every physical fact and wish we pursue, there lingers that spiritual perfection, always more than what we seek to attain.  This led me to think of all the phantoms I chased throughout all my life, all the disillusionments I suffered when I felt I had failed in reaching my ultimate goal.  A person could waste an entire lifetime seeking those things that remain out of reach, or worse still, attain to something, only to discover that it diminished once possessed.  When that happens, a person often gives chase to yet another eidólon.

At this stage of living, I am extremely grateful for health, for employment, for a home, and for time to explore and enjoy the arts and scholarship.  I’m happy that a school pays me to learn, pays me to share what I learn, and affirms my attempts at creation.  Life is good.

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.

A coming out party for my new art

October 15, 2016

I am taking this opportunity before the show opens to post all my recent watercolors that are going on public display for the first time. Edom Festival of the Arts is a great venue for doing this. We open in 45 minutes and I’m grateful to have some quiet sit-down time before the crowds arrive. Our forecast calls for lovely festival weather.

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. 

Edom Festival of the Arts 

October 14, 2016

Before dropping off to sleep early tonight, I decided to post a couple of photos of my nearly-finished booth. I’m in space #35, adjacent to the iconic red barn I enjoy gazing at while out here. 

I plan to rise early tomorrow to fine tune my booth.

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. 

Another One of Those Andy Warhol Nights

October 13, 2016

The night hours grow long when I find myself preparing inventory for yet another art festival. In the morning I will leave for Edom to set up for the annual Edom Festival of the Arts. I find a measure of reward, looking through the paintings I’ve done over the last several months, and then formatting and printing them for greeting cards and prints. The visual delights usually offset the agony of shortened nights of sleep.

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. 

Art at Every Juncture 

October 12, 2016

“Art is life, an expression of life, an expression of the artist and an interpretation of life.”

Robert Henri

The predawn finds me in a local Starbucks, sipping my favorite brew and poring over this beautiful volume just purchased, Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In.

One of my precious students purchased yesterday one of my collages that hung over my teaching station as part of a trio. I chose to enter our building early this morning to fill the gap on the wall with another of my pieces, though it doesn’t fit the genre of the group. 

Traveling down the street to a local cafe, I now enjoy some quiet reading, and appreciate the testimony of Henri. In a couple of days, I’ll take my seat among kindred spirits at Edom Festival of the Arts and enjoy the miles of a community that lives to make art.

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 Past Worth Remembering

October 11, 2016

waynes-bluff

Wayne’s Bluff

high-ridge-bluff-2

David’s Bluff

number three (2)

Ron and Dian’s Bluff

And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.”

Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

Preparing for the upcoming Edom Festival of the Arts has put me in a satisfying frame of mind. Sorting through stacks of watercolors has floated abundant memories toward the surface of a resistant consciousness–resistant mostly due to fall semester industry.  Most of these memories have been most welcome–memories spanning the splendid summer of 2016.

Pulling three watercolors of bluffs from the stack, I have chosen to name the first one after a friend of mine known since the second grade.  Wayne and I have recently re-connected, thanks to Facebook, and have spent some quality time on Missouri rivers kayaking and fishing. I miss him during the months I live in Texas, as he still resides near my home town in Missouri.

The second bluff I have given my own name.  The memory of that post-Thanksgiving morning of 2015 when I was driving through the rain still stays with me.  The memory is mostly comforting.  At any rate, I enjoy looking at this composition as the location is only about four miles from where I lived throughout my youth.

The final painting I did en plein air while vacationing with my friends Ron and Dian Darr in South Fork, Colorado.  I worked on three paintings in this genre outside their travel trailer as we ate and visited together.  Every time I look at this painting, I recall how delicious times are when spent in conversation with these two kindred spirits.

When I sit in my booth in Edom this weekend, I’ll be looking at these works, feeling gratitude for the generous hand life has extended to me.

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.

Preparing for the Big Game

October 11, 2016

edom-festival-entrance

Leonardo is the Hamlet of art history, whom each of us must recreate for himself . . . 

Kenneth Clark, Leonardo da Vinci: An Account of his Development as an Artist

My distracted personality has been tested of late, with time divided between reading several excellent books, completing watercolors, grading papers for school, and preparing inventory for my biggest art show this year: Edom Festival of the Arts, to be held this next weekend, October 15-16 in Edom, Texas.

In recent weeks, I have managed to complete several works which are now being framed or matted professionally for their first public viewing:

claude

Summer Shell (Claude, Texas)

loco (2)

Rounding the Bend (Eureka Springs, Arkansas)

brookfield-gas

Resting in the Heat (Brookfield, Missouri)

arkansas-truck

Arkansas Repose

lexington-pumps

Sleepers (Lexington, Texas)

bucket-of-apples

Autumn at the Back Door

The gas pumps and bucket of apples I had completed long ago and tucked into my portfolio, completely forgetting about them till they were rediscovered yesterday.

Because of yesterday’s school holiday, and Friday’s travel time to east Texas for setup, I have only a three-day week at my school, which in many ways will make it much busier. Once the weekend arrives however, and my booth is set up, I intend to enjoy the October weather of rural east Texas, as well as the crowds that fill the rolling pastureland where the festival is held. Though the location is rural and remote, thousands of patrons pour in from Dallas, Plano, McKinney and several populous cities from the metroplex.

edom-2

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone