Archive for May, 2017

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

courthouse 2

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.

asian friends

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


. . . 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.


Weary in Waxahachie

May 8, 2017

caboose (2)

Waxahachie Depot on South Rogers Street

I am so thrilled, surprised and grateful to see so many following my blog as I make my daily trek to Waxahachie. Today I was more tired than ever, since I was out late last night and rose at 5 this morning to face my classes at school.  As soon as I was free, I made the drive south and managed to finish this caboose composition that I started two days ago and couldn’t seem to manage. I haven’t participated in Paint Historic Waxahachie over the past two years due to scheduling conflicts, and I am finding myself far out of rhythm this go around. It seems that I have to set up two to three times on separate days before I can finish a simple 8 x 10″ painting, and in prior years I was doing them within the hour.

My intention this evening was to complete this painting and then try to start and finish a second one in just one sitting. But I was too sleepy and too out of the mood once this one was finished and hung in the gallery. So, hopefully tonight I will get a decent night’s sleep and find sufficient energy tomorrow evening to start and finish a painting.

Meanwhile, thanks all of you for following me this week.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Grinding Out the Plein Air Enterprise

May 7, 2017


It is necessary to work very continuously and valiantly, and never apologetically. In fact, to be ever on the job so that we may find ourselves there, brush in hand, when the great moment does arrive.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

The words of Henri are timely for me in that I’m finding painting outdoors to be a grind lately. I travel forty minutes to Waxahachie to take part in this Paint Historic Waxahachie event, and after the Friday night carnival activity at my school, I awoke yesterday morning late, and still tired.  Nevertheless, I made the trip and managed to grind out the paintings until nearly dark. I found it necessary to sleep in again today, and thanks to a long sleep, I managed to make the long trip and paint until after 7:00 p.m. again. But I’m feeling it now. Nevertheless, I know for certain that inspiration is not going to strike if I’m sitting at home or at school merely thinking about painting–I have to get out and do it, grind at it, cranking out painting after painting, hoping that something of quality will emerge.  I only hope I keep up the confidence to the point that I can continue to travel to Waxahachie every day after school and keep pushing out paintings.

Approximately fifty artists have already put out a great body of work since the “early bird” special opened April 1.


The Art on the Square Gallery at 113 West Franklin St. in Waxahachie is already filling up to capacity and we still have a week to go. We anticipate a great showing this year, and I am proud to be a part of this team.

Thanks for reading. Time to get some sleep!

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Return to the Plein Air Trail

May 6, 2017


Completed Plein Air Watercolor in Waxahachie, Texas

Art appears in many forms. To some degree every human being is an artist, dependent on the quality of his growth. Art need not be intended. It comes inevitably as the tree from the root, the branch from the trunk, the blossom from the twig. 

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Paint Historic Waxahachie officially opened Friday, but I could not make the trip, as I had school all day, and worked an art booth in our school carnival till 8:00 that night. Sleeping late this morning, I finally made Waxahachie in the early afternoon, and went to work completing paintings on site that I had begun in prior weeks but never felt satisfied that they were concluded. The one posted above required work on the first story window, and the door had not yet been drawn or painted. I also decided to experiment with a pair of new pigments I recently ordered– Daniel Smith’s brand of Quinachridone Gold and Quinachridone Rose. I floated these new colors into the brick facade of this building. I also masqued some tree limbs in the lower left corner and floated dark foliage colors over them. Once I stopped, I realized I had a much better composition than the one I aborted week before last.


Balcony above Smalley’s Law Office

After turning in my watercolor to the Art on the Square Gallery for processing, I resumed work on another composition begun a couple of weeks back. Again I experimented with my two new pigments, and liked the depth of color the bricks were taking on. I also detailed some of the brick facade that had been merely sketched at first, and tried to refine the light yellow banister of the balcony.

I turned in a total of four paintings to the Art on the Square Gallery–the two posted above and the two courthouse portal paintings I worked on Friday and Saturday before the “early bird” plein air session expired. I then journeyed down to the pair of railroad depots that have been restored and picked out an area to compose featuring a bright red M-K-T caboose in front of one of the depots. The drawing went quite well, and the underpainting was doing as I wished it would. As 7:00 p.m. arrived and the sinking sun began to dim my subject, I decided to pack it in and return to it, hopefully tomorrow (Sunday) evening, if the sunlight is strong again.

By 8:00, I realized I hadn’t eaten since lunch time, so I treated myself to one of the best dinners I’ve ever had at the College Street Pub. The night air was pleasant and I found seating available on the back deck beneath the trees. Dinner and journal time were exquisite, and I was so happy that it was Saturday night and there was nowhere I had to be.

The day has been exhausting, but I’m happy that I managed to complete some work in plein air and wanted to take a moment to post and share it. Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Thoughts on Thoreau and Gestalt

May 4, 2017

green belt.jpg

There are many craftsmen who paint pleasantly the surface appearances and are very clever at it. There are always a few who get at and feel the undercurrent, and these simply use the surface appearances selecting them and using them as tools to express the undercurrent, the real life.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

This afternoon and evening were unusual in that I had nowhere to be, and nothing in particular to do–no meeting, no deadline, no mandate. Once the sun began sinking low, and the temperatures lingered around 70 degrees with cool winds blowing, I drove to my favorite local green belt, puchased coffee, and sat on a park bench with my journal, my copy of Henri’s Art Spirit and my own thoughts.

I have often thought about Henry Thoreau’s retreat to Walden Pond, what some scholars refer to as a Gestalt–his attempt to clear out his mental debris from a cluttered life in Concord that would not seem to settle down. I find myself often in that state of mind. I have only eighteen class days remaining before I cap a twenty-eight year tenure in the high school classroom. Retirement is nearly here, and frankly, I’m not sure what I am thinking, or if I am even thinking about it at this time. Yes, I have occupational plans already laid out for the next year, and no, I don’t feel that I am going to miss the high school classroom (certainly not the weekly schedule).  It’s just that I have a very full calendar now, with little time to stop and ponder what this is all about.

Tomorrow, after a full day of teaching, I’ll set up for Martin High School’s first carnival that will run from 4-8:00 p.m. I’ve been asked to set up a booth with my art, so I’ve chosen to sell greeting cards, prints and signed & numbered limited editions, everything running from $5 to 100. I’ve decided to donate 50% of all sales to our A.V.I.D. program with which I’ve been identified the past three years.

Saturday and Sunday will find me in Waxahachie, Texas to kick off the official start of Paint Historic Waxahachie. This plein air event will draw more than fifty painters from as far away as Houston to create as many paintings as possible during the following week. If possible, I will travel to Waxahachie daily after school next week (40-minute commute) to put in my part.  There will be a judging the following Friday, and then all paintings will go on sale through that weekend (May 13-14). So far I’ve managed five small watercolors of historic downtown Waxahachie. I’m not sure how many more I’ll manage this weekend and next week, but I’ll do as many as I am able.

Reading Henri’s work on the park bench this evening reminded me of what I’ve always wished to do–find a way to convey the undercurrents of life that I experience when looking at particular scenes that surround me. I want to know that I have skill to render subjects attractively. But much more, I wish to evoke an emotional response from my viewers, because an emotional impulse is what drives me to paint those particular subjects. The undercurrents of life that give those subjects meaning–those are what drive me to paint and seek an artful life.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to express.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.