Archive for May, 2017

Reflections Over another Good Day of Painting

May 14, 2017

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One Last Waxahachie Plein Air Watercolor

Here’s a quote that I think will interest you–“Great painting like Bach’s music, in texture closely woven, subdued like the early Gobelin tapestries, no emphasis, no climaxes, no beginnings or endings, merely resumptions and transitions, a design so sustained that there is no effort in starting and every casual statement is equally great.”

But of course such depth presupposes another mode of feeling. One has to be Bach before one can paint in his power and richness. Depth of style can only spring from a deepening of our emotional life. 

Letter from NC Wyeth to his son Andrew, February 16, 1944

Today grew into a hot 91-degree afternoon in Waxahachie. Returning to the spot that I occupied yesterday, I was delighted to find “Spider”, my new musician friend, there again, playing his guitar and harmonica, and keeping me company and inspired as the temperatures climbed.

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Though I continued to withdraw further and further into the shade, there was no wind where we were positioned, so I continued to feel hotter and fainter as the day wore on. But still, I could not stop hearing those words from NC Wyeth that I’ve posted above–words I read before setting up my easel and making a second start on this ground-level series of arches and portals of the Ellis County courthouse. Like the allusion to a Bach composition, I had no particular starting or ending point or even a focal point as I worked all over this composition before me, sometimes drawing, sometimes measuring, sometimes splashing, sometimes washing, sometimes drybrushing, sometimes scraping–everything I did to this painting felt right, and I loved the intimate connection I felt with the gigantic architectural wonder rising high over my head across the street. I thought of another NC Wyeth quote:

A great truth is like a mountain that one walks around, and the changes of its contour as one moves his position only emphasize and revivify its majesty.

After about three hours of working this composition, with a lunch break in the midst. I decided to sign it and call it finished.

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Romanesque Redivivus

When 5:00 arrived, signalling the end of Paint Historic Waxahachie, I returned to the Art on the Square gallery to gather up my paintings on display, and then learned that despite a slow day of traffic (only about thirty patrons came into the gallery today), the painting above, “Romanesque Redivivus” was purchased this afternoon. That brought me great joy. Three paintings sold and one honorable mention made this show a good experience for me. Now I can perhaps find some rest over the next two weeks before I set up for the three-day Art on the Greene art festival in Arlington.

Thanks for reading. It’s been another excellent day.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Closing Out the Plein Air Event

May 14, 2017

I slept in on Mother’s day, knowing the gallery would not open until noon or later, and knowing I needed to catch up on some lost sleep.

I managed to arrive in Waxahachie by 11 a.m., set up in the same place I did yesterday, and gave this courthouse portal one more attempt. I have chosen to stop at this point.

Sitting in the shade, and reading from the letters of NC Wyeth, I came across this passage that gives me pause:

“My main impression of practically all painting today is that the grand mass of painters have nothing to say but take great pains in saying it.”

This has been an issue with me since the very first day, years ago,when I began this blog experiment. I seldom know what to say about my painting, or about my theories. I give it my best shot every time, but it does bother me to think that I could be throwing out empty words, and guilty of NC’s condemnation. The only thing I can assure my readers of is this: I am always thinking about my art, wondering if my message is conveyed through the images or through the words. At any rate, if my words don’t make sense, then I hope my paintings are good enough to view. And conversely, if my paintings are subpar, then I hope that at least my words have something to say! Sorry if that sounded catty; I take my art and my ideas seriously, and will go to every length to make them worthy of an audience.

Thanks always for reading!

Another Plein Air Attempt of the Courthouse Portal

May 14, 2017

The paint out at Waxahachie ends at 5 today. I am exhausted, but decided I would try one more painting today. Once again I have attempted to paint the arched portal entries to the courthouse, and am taking a break now to enjoy some shade and reading.

Loving the Work Itself

May 13, 2017

The week has been, to me, a singular mixture of ineffable sadness and inspiration–two moods that often happen together. But there is a persistent melancholy which I seem unable to shake off.

To circumvent these feelings I have devoted most of my spare time to reading, especially at night when sleep eludes me.–Thoreau, Goethe, Emerson, Tolstoy–all have struck me, as always, with incisive vitality and freshness. My ruminations have again been vividly stirred.

These great men forever radiate a sharp sense of that profound requirement of the artist, to fully understand that consequences of what he creates are unimportant. “Let the motive for action be in the action itself and not in the event.”

I know from my own experience that when I create with any degree of strength and beauty I have had no thought of consequences. Anyone who creates for effect—to score a hit–does not know what he is missing!

N. C. Wyeth letter to his son Andrew, February 16, 1944, a year before his death

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My entire day in Waxahachie was spent in this rapturous spot

The 40-minute drive through the country on this 63-degree morning was drenched with scintillating sunlight and excellent vibes. Artists were requested to paint on the courthouse square from 9:00-to-noon, then sell their work from their easels from 1-to-3:00. As it turned out, not many artists showed up for this event, but I was in place by 8:30, parking adjacent to the spot I had selected where I knew the sun’s angle on the courthouse would be favorable for me throughout the day.

With thirty minutes to spare before beginning, I sat in the shade on a stone bench and opened my book The Wyeths, which contains the complete correspondence of N. C. Wyeth. For years I have been enthralled with N. C.’s breadth of reading and thought throughout his years, and was excited when I found out his correspondence was available to read. When I read this morning his closing letters to his son, I was stirred to find that he read the same men that I read with profound pleasure. And I loved his manifesto which matches mine–making art has reward in itself, even if no one comes to look at it or purchase it. I was thrilled to know that this entire day was a gift, and I could do with it whatever I wished.

The courthouse clock struck 9:00, and I approached my easel with a plan–to knock out three watercolor sketches of the same subject in three hours’ time. I selected a 5 x 7″ picture plane, knowing I had three mats and picture frames in the Jeep that would accommodate them if they were worth framing.

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Candid Photo taken by my friend Pamela Brocato.  Thanks, Pam!

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In progress watercolor sketches

I drew the first courthouse cupola, then laid in the wet sky. I then turned to number 2 and repeated the process, then again with number 3.  Returning to the first one, I then painted the top part of the cupola, then moved to the other two. Returning to number 1, I fleshed out the bottom part of my building composition, then repeated with the other two. At 11:15, I despaired of finishing by noon, and set out to work fast and furiously and spontaneously on the tree cover, moving quickly from one to the next to the next. Finally, I put in whatever remaining details on the three buildings I had time to do.  At 11:55 I stopped, took the pieces into Art on the Square, the gallery at 113 W. Franklin St., inserted them into their 8 x 10″ frames and hung them with the rest of my work.

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I have priced the three paintings at $65 each framed in the 8 x 10″ frame, or $50 with only the mat. They will hang in the Art on the Square gallery until tomorrow at 5 p.m.

Making art is a solitary activity, and I don’t believe I have every complained about that. Solitude contains its own rewards, and when I feel that I have entered the “zone”, there is no such sentiment as “loneliness” in my soul. But today, I was definitely not alone. My phone jangled all day with well-wishers, online observers and all kinds of good words. Then companions began to drift in and out of my area the entire day, and it was sublime!

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Drew Minshew, alias “Spider”

A fellow about my age took his seat on the bench in the courtyard behind me and commenced playing his acoustic guitar, harmonica and singing. I seldom hear such talented musicians playing out in public like this, purely for their own enjoyment. This man was professional, and he sang and played the songs that resonate with me from my past–“Dust in the Wind,” “Turn the Page,” “Tears in Heaven,” and many, many more. He stayed until noon, as I did, playing till his fingers got sore. We exchanged business cards, and I intend to hear him perform. He stays busy with gigs. I think I enjoyed him the most, because he gets the same thrill from making music that I do from making art–the joy is in the process.

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Spider and Skeeter

Skeeter Murley, a long-time friend and watercolor enthusiast of mine, surprised me by dropping by. He had work to do in nearby Midlothian, and decided to swing by Waxahachie, knowing this Paint Historic Waxahachie was in progress. Skeeter has a job that takes him on the road too much for him to paint as much as he wishes. Hopefully, he’ll find a way around that soon.  His skill is phenomenal, and I’m proud to belong to the same Society of Watercolor Artists as he.

Cheryl Rose

Cheryl Rose and Me

I have known Cheryl Rose for decades, as we both worked in the Arlington Independent School District. She has retired, and I look forward to joining her ranks in a few weeks. She surprised me with a text that she was coming to town. Cheryl lives in Arlington, and made the 40-minute trek alone, finding no one available to make the trip with her. She came to town to peruse our gallery as well as the antique stores around the square. Cheryl has been a wonderful patron, picking up my limited editions, but today she decided to purchase an orginal.  Thank you, Cheryl!

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“Odysseus on the Rail,” now in the Cheryl Rose collection

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Cheryl Rose took this photo

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. . . and this one as well!  Thanks!

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Pamela Brocato and “Annabelle”

Pamela Brocato is one of the beautiful artistic spirits I gather with on Tuesday evenings for our “artists cafe” in north Arlington. She is a graphics design artist and pastelist, who also works long hours, travels extensively for her job, and struggles to find quality time to make art. But she is a delight in art-related conversations, and when she is in town, she joins our cafe and inspires us. She surprised me with a visit as well, and her adorable Pomeranian is as soft as a cat and just as quiet! The dog never made a sound the entire time Pam visited together at my easel. Pam also surprised me with some fabulous pics and I have to post those as well (she took the photo I posted near the top of this blog as well).

pam brocato photo of me

As the afternoon grew hot and I began to feel my energy fading, I decided I might try one more shot at the courthouse, this time at the ground level.

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Ground Level Portal of Ellis County Courthouse

I worked fast on this one, as I was growing tired and the sun finally found me where I had earlier enjoyed the shade. It was time to call it a day and head back to the house.

This day has been fulfilling on so many levels. I’m happy that I ground out four watercolors, and happier that I met a new friend, and familiar friends cared enough to make the journey to spend time with me.  Thanks to all my friends, and thanks to all of you who follow me on this blog.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Saturday morning Plein Air Experiment

May 13, 2017

From 9 to 12 this morning at Waxahachie, artists are gathering to do plein air paintings to sell off the easels from 1 to 3 this afternoon. We are all located on the courthouse Square comma and I am going to try to get three paintings done by noon. So far I have three skies blocked in. I will concentrate my energies once again on the courthouse cupola.

Stay tuned!

Prepping for the Final Weekend in Waxahachie

May 12, 2017

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Honorable Mention at Paint Historic Waxahachie judging

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Sold on opening night of Paint Historic Waxahachie reception

It was a good night.  The courthouse window posted above received an Honorable Mention and a gift certificate of $100 for Jack Richeson & Co. art supplies.  And before the evening was over, my first attempt at the courthouse sold. I drove home happy, thinking about tomorrow’s endeavor.

I will participate in the town square paint-out tomorrow from 9-12:00, followed by the sidewalk art sale from 1-3:00. My plan is to paint at least three 5 x 7″ watercolor vignettes of the courthouse cupola to insert into 8 x 10″ mats and simple frames. We’ll see if they can sell. Meanwhile, I have six additional paintings hanging inside Art on the Square, 113 W. Franklin St. (on the square!) still looking for a home.

If I still have the stamina after 3:00, I plan to retreat to the scenic areas surrounding the town of Waxahachie and focus on some landscape painting. Artists who have registered for Paint Historic Waxahachie can still create new work to sell until 5:00 Sunday. I have blocked off this weekend, hoping to have enough energy to continue painting till it’s over.

Thanks for reading.

Waxahachie Paintings Completed

May 11, 2017

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“Romanesque Redivivus”

The week has been a long grind, but I managed this afternoon to complete painting #7 and titled it “Romanesque Redivivus” since the architectural style is known as Romanesque Revival. I’m too sleepy tonight to record thoughts or musings with any kind of depth or twist, but I did want to show my readers this final painting. All seven paintings are now framed and six of them will be entered into the judging tomorrow. Wish me luck, and thanks for reading!

Seeking Closure

May 11, 2017

I’m taking a moment to post this painting-in-progress outdoors under natural light. This afternoon in Waxahachie I will have to reach a decision on how to close it out and frame it. I’ve decided to enter it into the judging with my earlier paintings.

I’m thinking of creating a serpentine “action line” of dark foliage down the lefthand side of the composition, then along the bottom to connect with the lower right corner.

Thanks for reading. 

Crossing Language Barriers

May 10, 2017

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All good drawing or painting is compositional.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

And so I come to my final night before turning in everything by the competition deadline. Paint Historic Waxahachie will continue until Sunday at 5 p.m., but the judging for the competition takes place Friday afternoon, and all work must be submitted by noon Friday. That means Thursday at 6 p.m. for me, because I cannot leave school in time to get to Waxahachie by noon on Friday.

The painting above will need to be completed and framed by tomorrow evening, so I’ve decided to spend tonight looking it over and making compositional decisions regarding the crowns of trees surrounding the structure underneath. I’m satisfied with how the building has turned out, but am unsure of just how to fill in the foliage around the bottom perimeter. I’m confident I’ll make a decision by the time I pick up the brush tomorrow afternoon.

A wonderful encounter took place on the sidewalk today as I worked on this piece. Three men who work at the Foot Spa near Art on the Square came over and looked at my work, speaking only their own language (Japanese?–I’m still unsure). They gestured to me with thumbs up and smiles and nods and continued talking among themselves as they pored over my work in progress. Finally, the man in the red shirt took out his smart phone, typed Asian characters into his keyboard, and then hit translation. He then showed me his phone–“INK?”  I shook my head and typed “WATERCOLOR” into my phone and showed it to him. Quizzically, he copied “WATERCOLOR” into his own phone, hit the translation key, and then nodded and smiled and gave me a thumbs up.  He then spoke in his language to the other two, and they then nodded and continued to talk.

I felt like I was in the “Dances with Wolves” movie as Kevin Costner tried to discuss “BUFFALO” with the Sioux visiting his campsite. But I felt wonderful.  They hung out with me for about fifteen minutes before returning to work, and we never exchanged words. Yet there was a wonderful connection, thanks to art and phone technology. They watched me paint a little while longer before customers began showing up at their business again.

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My new friends from the Foot Spa

Before retiring for the night, I prepared six 11 x 14″ frames and one 12 x 16″ to take to Waxahachie tomorrow afternoon. The paintings I’ve completed have to be framed for display, competition and sale. Once the deadline passes, I have to option of continuing to make new paintings in hopes of selling them, or I may just collapse into a long overdue rest period. I’m not sure yet what will happen after 6 tomorrow evening. It’s been quite a grind, but I’m happy with all of it, and cannot wait to see my trio of new friends when I return tomorrow.

UPDATE !!!!   Someone named Caryl just read my blog a few minutes after I posted it, and emailed me to say the men are Chinese, and the establishment is Yayas Foot Spa, featuring ancient Chinese foot massage techniques. Thank you, Caryl!

Thanks for reading and following our events.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The French Impressionist Legacy in Waxahachie

May 9, 2017

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. . . to transfer the atmosphere of the artist’s studio to the boulevard.

Sue Roe, the private lives of the impressionists

Despite the physical fatigue factor from daily 40-minute afternoon drives and setting up to paint, I cannot describe how invigorating and inspiring the Waxahachie environment has become during this week of plein air activity.  The enthusiasm of the artists coming and going out of Art on the Square at 113 W. Franklin St. is beyond description. And the residents of this town are so friendly, eager to approach our easels to see what we’re working on, and to offer kind words and express appreciation for us coming to town to paint daily.

The skies turned dark over Waxahachie, threatening rain. I chose to set up my easel under the awning of the businesses on the west side of the town square. Measuring out a 9 x 12″ surface, I began carefully drawing out the details of the Ellis County Courthouse’s complex cupola. I worked slowly, taking several breaks, and got to renew friendships with other plein air artists I haven’t seen for over two years. I’ve missed the recent seasons of Paint Historic Waxahachie, and cannot wait to reconnect with other artitsts I’ve had the pleasure of knowing in this area.

And speaking of reconnecting–I have been unable recently to meet my friends at our weekly “artists cafe” gathering on Tuesday nights.  So . . . this afternoon Kelly Noonan and Elaine Jary brought the cafe to me! They made the 40-minute drive to Waxahachie and we had an evening meal, drinks and rewarding conversation at the College Street Pub on 210 N. College Street. This has become my favorite place to decompress after a long afternoon of painting, and what could be better than chatting with kindred spirits. Thanks, Kelly and Elaine for bringing the Cafe Gerbois back to life in this century!

And thanks to all of you who are following this activity. Thank you for keeping me inspired.

I paint in order to discover. 

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.