Archive for the ‘Andrew Wyeth’ Category

Working Sometimes from the Fact

November 17, 2016

20161116_100144

I can’t work completely out of my imagination. I must put my foot in a bit of truth; and then I can fly free.

Andrew Wyeth

It was 85 degrees in north Texas yesterday, November 16.  I have been impatiently waiting for fall weather and winter to follow.  One of the reasons is that I enjoy so much gazing at winter trees with their core anatomy on view.  Leaves, like clothing, conceal the tree’s essence, and I regret that living in the southwest, I see the bare trees for such a short span of the year.

I have posted the Andrew Wyeth quote because I feel those same sentiments.  Beginning last winter, I drew trees in pencil, rendering them as accurately as I could see them.  I know that Wyeth and Edward Hopper said that in later years they could work out of their imagination, no longer requiring the “fact” in front of their eyes for scrutiny.  I am not there yet; if I try and draw or paint something that I am not looking at, then it comes out looking like a cartoon or cheap illustration.

The tree above, I guess, is a hybrid.  I began drawing it from life Tuesday evening, as I awaited my artitistic friends for our weekly gathering at the cafe.  I didn’t get very far before they arrived.  So, I finished the drawing yesterday, using my imagination rather than a reference photo.  I’m satisfied with the result, and am now ready to move on to the next tree.  Unfortunately I spend my workdays indoors in an interior room without windows.  So I’ll have to wait . . .

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Preparing for the Next Show

November 14, 2016

9-x-12

Six Paintings en route to Fort Worth Community Arts Center’s 9 x 12 Works on Paper Show

My struggle is to preserve that abstract flash–like something you caught out of the corner of your eye, but in the picture you can look at it directly.  It’s a very elusive thing.

Andrew Wyeth

On my first day returning to work following a lovely weekend of painting and reading, I suddenly discovered I was up against yet another deadline, but I met it.  This afternoon I shipped the six watercolors above to the Fort Worth Community Arts Center at 1300 Gendy.  Their annual 9 x 12 Works on Paper Show features unmatted works 9 x 12″ or smaller put on public view.  Everything is priced at $100.  I managed to do some selling last year, despite having only a picked-over portfolio.  This year I am much happier with what I am sending, and hope some, if not all of these paintings find a home.  At this stage of my life, I am producing a large quantity of work that can no longer hang in my home because every wall of every room is filled.

For any of you readers living in the area, I would love to see you at the artists reception on December 2 from 6 to 9 p.m.  Last year’s reception witnessed a huge turnout, as there were hundreds of works hung spanning multiple galleries.  At least two other shows were also taking place in the same facility.  Usually I only hang around such receptions for an hour or so, but there were so many artists, friends and patrons to see that I ended up staying for the entire reception.

My website has just been updated and I wanted to share that with you: www.recollections54.com.

Tonight has offered me hours of quiet for reading and reflection.  I don’t seem to get enough of those in my own home lately, and I’m grateful for this gift.  I am halfway through an engaging Leonardo da Vinci biography, and hope to write more about it later.

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.

Afterglow of a Wilderness Retreat

November 13, 2016

rocking-chair

That’s me, in a rocker, in a secluded place three hours from my home

It is Sunday evening, and I have just returned from my country sanctuary.  I spent another precious weekend watercoloring inside a general store where I was privileged to reside as a guest. While working and looking around at the grocery items from decades past, I kept hearing in my mind the following script from the motion picture Pollock starring Ed Harris. The painter had just moved to Springs, Long Island to escape the madness of New York City.  The proprietor of the local grocery had this to say to Pollock the first time he shopped in the store:

You're the fella moved into the old Quinn place.

              Morning.

              You moved out from the city?

              I don't blame you.

              In a world where they can split a tiny atom...

              and blow up hundreds of thousands of people...

              there's no telling where it's all gonna lead.

              Best to find a quiet place...

              do what you have to do.


The morning following our presidential election, I returned to work and was surrounded with teachers and students wanting to discuss the election’s outcome.  This was a conversation I did not wish to engage. I took ill, and in the following days called in sick, and by the weekend decided I needed to retreat to the country.  The healing balm offered by this special place and my special friends has far exceeded my expectations in providing needed rest, quiet, recharged spiritual batteries and recalibrated ideas for my future.  I can return to work tomorrow, grateful for the past few days of peace.

thoreau-window

Reading from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau

After an exhausting three-hour drive, I found myself extremely sleepy early Friday night, so I turned in early.  Waking without an alarm at 6:48, I felt refreshed, rose and made breakfast and coffee, hiked to a neighboring pond to fly fish awhile (caught only one bluegill on a popper, but managed to catch an additional seventeen bass by the time the weekend ran its course), then sat at a bedroom reading desk looking out a pair of French doors across a sun-washed pasture.  Turning to the Journals of Thoreau, I read the following:

I require of any lecturer that he will read me a more or less simple and sincere account of his own life, of what he has done and thought,–not so much what he has read or heard of other men’s lives and actions, but some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land,–and if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me,–describing even his outward circumstances and what adventures he has had, as well as his thoughts and feelings about them.  He who gives us only the results of other men’s lives, though with brilliant temporary success, we may in some measure justly accuse of having defrauded us of our time.  We want him to give us that which was most precious to him,–not his life’s blood but even that for which his life’s blood circulated, what he has got by living.  If anything ever yielded him pure pleasure or instruction, let him communicate it.

I needed to read that.  Having taught for three decades, and in recent years posted to a blog, I have always second-guessed how much quoting of others vs. how much personal stuff I should communicate to anyone willing to listen.  My life has been stirred by what I have read of those who have traveled this life before me.  And daily I seek to record my personal visions.  But when it comes to blending the two, I’m never sure, and I guess I never will be.  At any rate, I appreciated Thoreau’s sentiments, because I’m always fearful of putting out blogs that offer nothing more than navel-gazing.

store-shelf-in-progress

Rising from my reading, I returned to the main store counter and looked among the cans, bottles and packages on the shelf, trying to decide what to paint first.  I chose this section, hoping that the bright red Coca-Cola ad would draw immediate attention to the painting, and then hoping that the coffee tin and bottle adjoining would support enough detail to satisfy the curious eye.

store-shelf

As usual, I spent a good part of the weekend perusing Andrew Wyeth drybrush sketches, and decided to leave this one as a vignette.  It is approximately 9 x 12″ so I’m seriously considering putting it into the Fort Worth CAC 9 x 12 show two days from now.  They allow us to submit up to six unframed original pieces and they price them at $100 each.  This sketch just might be able to find a home there.  In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy looking at it, grateful for the memories it exudes.

My friends also have a chuckwagon parked in a nearby barn, and have furnished me the keys the section where it is parked.  For a couple of years, I have wanted to attempt sketches of it and finally worked up the nerve Saturday afternoon to visit the barn.

chuckwagon-in-progress

Just as inside the store, I found difficulty narrowing down the pletora of ojects to just a few.  After all, I have to return to work on Monday, and I knew I could not paint the entire scene in one day.

chuckwagon

This one I have not finished, but took plenty of reference photos in hopes that I can complete it in my studio at home.

Late Saturday night, I was too wired to sleep, filled with good feelings about all that had happened during the day–fly fishing, painting, reading, journaling, sitting in a rocking chair and staring across beautiful landscape.  So I returned to the front of the store and began a sketch of one of the old doorknobs and locking mechanisms on the main door connecting the store to the residential section of the building.

doorknob-in-progress

Retiring to bed finally around 1 a.m., I thought I may sleep till noon.  But I awoke at 5:40, feeling rested and energized to make something else happen before loading up and making the three-hour trek back home.  After breakfast, coffee and more quality quiet reading time, I returned to the store and worked further on the painting.  It still isn’t finished, but I took a good close-up reference photo of the details and will certainly finish this one.

doorknob

The weekend in the wilderness has done everything I wished for, and more.  I think I’ll do O.K. returning to work tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Learning from Repetition

January 11, 2016

image

Motherwell is ruefully aware that the “Elegies” are regarded by some as a formula. (“When he gets stuck, what should he do but make another ‘Elegy’?” he quotes one critic as saying).

Grace Glueck, “The Creative Mind; The Mastery of Robert Motherwell,” The New York Times, December 2, 1984.

My art history reading of late has taken me back to Robert Motherwell, an Abstract Expressionist painter who has always fascinated me because of his erudition. I’ve had the pleasure of reading his Collected Writings and have perused many volumes of his work that I’ve purchased over the years.  The Youtube interviews with him are also rich in ideas, and after wearing out the VHS tape, I purchased the DVD of his “Storming the Citadel.” Yesterday I found this New York Times article and read it with great interest as well. He painted the “Elegy” series well over a hundred times, and sometimes took criticism that he just fell back on the pattern when he was out of fresh ideas. In response, he said in an interview:

. . . the reason I’ve made so many of whatever I’ve made that could be called a series–because I detest serial painting–is simply because I feel that I’ve never really solved any of them, and so they remain a challenge.  The day I can make an Elegy that really satisfies me, then I’ll stop.

In the past month or so, I have become absorbed with drawing. Throughout my artistic life, I have believed in my heart that drawing is fundamental to art, and yet have felt like a hypocrite, because I have always drawn so little.  Finally, I am obsessed with the practice of drawing.  And for many years, I have stared at the anatomy of trees in the winter, when they are so exposed and accessible to the naked eye, yet never pulled the trigger in deciding to fill up sketchbooks with tree drawings.  That has changed.

All I wish to say is that I am not falling back on tree drawings because I have no fresh ideas.  Like Motherwell, I’m still trying to figure them out, still trying to find a satisfaction with my own efforts.  Meanwhile, I have learned a great deal by this repetitive exercise.  Following is an abbreviated list of what I’ve come to understand while attempting to draw trees:

  1. Tree boughs are not silhouettes; they have a range of tones.
  2. In watercolor, the tree’s wood is not uniform throughout in color and value.
  3. Tapering the boughs and limbs, for me, is extremely difficult and requires much concentration and repeated checking.
  4. The snarls of twigs are similar to scribbles with the pencil.
  5. There are always more twigs at the ends of the tree that I tend to notice in early glances.
  6. I do not want the tree to look badly pruned.  I must taper the twigs all the way to the point that they nearly disappear into the sky.

My attempt at watercoloring the tree tops in my back yard is coming along much more slowly than the drawings, but I’m happy in the struggle.

tree wc

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Sunday Pondering

January 10, 2016

imageWhile gazing heavenward through the tops of winter trees, I note the complexity of limbs partitioning the sky, as lead tracings in stained-glass cathedral windows partition theology.

trees

There is plenty of schoolwork to accomplish this Sunday, but I’m trying to put in some quality studio work as well.  I completed a 5 x 7″ drawing of the tree tops in my back  yard. I have also begun an 8 x 10″ watercolor of the same composition.

Thanks for reading.

Warming to the Christmas Holiday

December 19, 2015

image

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end.

But I do not talk of the beginning or end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,

Nor any more youth or age than there is now, 

And will never be any more perfection than there is now.

Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,

Always the procreant urge of the world.

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

Today marks the first day of my two-week Christmas vacation, and I regret that I am observing it with my second nasty sinus infection this season.  Today marks the fourth day of the corruption.

At any rate, I scraped together sufficient energy to spend the day working on a watercolor commission and doing basic chores about the house.  Now that the sun has gone down and I’ve lost my natural light, I lay the watercolor aside and pursue my passion, reading and writing in the journal.

While painting today, I played a couple of DVDs about the Beat Generation, and felt a rush from their energy.  Much as those writers did in their day, I tire of the antiseptic environment that surrounds me daily in the public school sector.   I shared with one of my classes recently the quote from N. C. Wyeth about how education frequently levels the students: “We are pruned to stumps, one resembling the other, without character or grace.”  All I can hope for my students is that they understand their creative growth depends on many factors outside the classroom walls.  My own educational experience gave me the essential tools to expand my horizons, but the creative urge came from a different source.

library painting

Last week, I worked on a commission for the City of Kennedale, near where I live.  I chose not to post this watercolor image before the city delivered it to the recipient–a librarian who was retiring from service.  I failed to photograph the finished work, and now it is out of my hands!  The finish work included considerable darkening of the foreground grass, some fall trees to the right of the clock tower, and toning down the overall redness of the brick building.  I also added consierable mass to the tree limbs at the top of the composition, as well as more clusters of dead leaves.

winter tree

I have also made about ten more 5 x 7″ tree drawings that I’ve been pricing between $25-40 (matted with 8 x 10″ around the outside).  Drawing has proved relaxing, especially with the way things have gone the final three weeks of school leading up to the holidays.

winter tree & fence

This particular drawing was purchased by a dear friend this past week.  I’ve appreciated all the encouragement offered by friends recently, and really look forward to more opportunities over the holidays for making art.

Thanks for reading.

A Second Watercolor over the Holiday

November 24, 2015

tire shop

After all, the goal is not making art.  It is living a life.  Those who live their lives will leave the stuff that is really art.  Art is a result.  It is the trace of those who have led their lives.  It is interesting to us because we read of the struggle and the degree of success the man made in his struggle to live.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Thanksgiving break could not have come at a better time for me–time to rest up, get stronger from this lingering sinus infection, and devote some quality time to reading and watercoloring.  Going back over my computer files, I’m glad I dug up this photo of an abandoned tire shop somewhere in Atoka County, Oklahoma.  Whoever owns this wretched piece of real estate has no idea that someone drove by, turned his head, continued to think about what he saw in passing, and turned his vehicle around on the highway to return to the spot, get out and photograph it from multiple angles while nearby a pair of deer hunters dressed in camouflage smoked cigarettes and stretched their legs, walking around their parked vehicle.  I have now completed two small watercolors of the site in two days.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll tack on a third.  Every square foot of this structure seems to narrate a story to me.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Relaxing and Rethinking

July 8, 2015

Every artist has a central story to tell, and the difficulty, the impossible task, is trying to present that story in pictures.

Gregory Crewdson

Approaching Real Life DFW Talk Radio Station

Approaching Real Life DFW Talk Radio Station

Talk Radio Host Heidi Valdez Hardy

Talk Radio Host Heidi Valdez Hardy

The Broadcast Booth

The Broadcast Booth

I can think of few occasions more delicious than an evening to relax and reflect over a satisfying day. I am exhausted to the bone, but after a few days of tension building up to this afternoon’s two-hour radio interview, I am serene and thankful that all went well. From the moment I entered the broadcast booth with host Heidi Valdez Hardy, I knew things would go smoothly. She is a confident broadcaster, with a pleasing demeanor and enthusiastic wit.

The afternoon had its points of humor. Fifteen minutes before going live, Heidi asked me if I would mind being the co-host of the program. I had no clue what that meant. Did I know how to navigate facebook? Yes. Then would I mind posting information on her facebook timeline as the show progressed? And would I mind answering the phone when the screen lit up with an incoming call? At first I thought this would unravel me, but as it turned out, I was multi-tasking, and it took my mind off the nervousness I had been feeling about speaking over the air. So . . . I got to be the interviewee, social media secretary, and call screener all rolled into one, and it was wonderful. I had no time to feel nervous or uptight. Quite frankly, it reminded me of days when I worked in the Office of Communications of the Fort Worth Police Department long ago–I just didn’t have to take any 9-1-1 calls today.

The very first call into the program came from Cedar Hill, Missouri, from a friend with whom I had graduated high school forty-three years ago. Heidi could not believe that this was a caller from outside the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. The man had the most gracious words of praise to offer, and started the program on a highly affirming note. Thanks, Mark. I really needed that boost.

The two hours rolled by, feeling like twenty minutes. When it was over, I just heaved a sigh of relief and genuine thanks. What a rush of good will. I could reproduce pages of handwritten journal memories from these two hours, and I’m very satisfied that we got to talk in earnest and at great length about the experiences of the Artist in Residence program at the Texas Laguna Madre. A podcast will be posted in the future of today’s show, and anyone wishing to access www.dfwreallifetalk.com may listen to it.

There were two questions posed that moved me deeply, and I want to address those. First,which artist would I bring back to life with whom to have a conversation, if that were possible? I feel that I had waited all my life to answer that, and I was stirred up, just thinking about it. I would start with Andrew Wyeth. I have always been fascinated wtih his eye for the environment, and his way of rendering the details with exacting precision, while at the same time allowing some of the watercolor wash and splatter to spin out of control. I love his balance of control and freedom in the compositions. I feel that his still waters ran very deeply and wish I could have had private moments to talk quietly with him. Edward Hopper is also on my list. That quiet man had such a profound philosophi and poetic mind, with his love of literature and the American scene. I see the profound loneliness and isolation in his urban and small town settings, and wish that I could unlock the secret to instilling that kind of mood into my own compositions. And finally, Robert Motherwell. That brilliant scholar lectured on twenty-seven university faculties, wrote and published essays, edited for scholarly journals, devoured literature and philosophy, and still had time to create a vast inventory of paintings, a huge body of work. How rare to see the scholar and creative artist occupying the same body. And he made no apology for loving both worlds, perhaps because it was all one to him. That is what I want to embody as well. He is my role model.

The second question concerned my ultimate dream or desire. This answer would surprise some, because most would expect me to wish for broader exposure or sales. Of course, those things are important, but there is something more: I love painting more than selling or displaying my work. But I make my art in solitude, and don’t complain about that. What I do covet though, is the Parisian Cafe. Never in my life have I known a gathering place for creative spirits to meet at least once a week. The French Impressionists had their Cafe Gerbois. The Lost Generation met at Gertrude Stein’s. The Abstract Expressionists had the Cedar Bar. The Ash Can School met at 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. But I have never had a cafe where I could meet consistently with other creative minds eager to talk of ideas, philosophy, literature, art, music, or any creative endeavor. That I have always craved. That I still seek. When I sit and read a lengthy email from fellow WordPress blogger Corey Aber, I feel that I am sitting in a Parisian Cafe, listening to another creative, eager spirit. I just wish I could physically sit in the presence of a circle of those men and women, and hear their dreams, share in the joy of their explorations, and talk of ways that we can make this world better by living more artful lives.

It is bedtime. But I wanted to put some thoughts onto the blog before retiring. I didn’t think it possible to feel even better than I did before I started writing this, but it happened. It’s been a day worth recounting.

Thank you again for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Revised Wednesday on the Laguna Madre

June 17, 2015

Note to readers: The following is what I wrote one week ago while on the island, but was unable to post on the blog.

W E D N E S D A Y

Media Day at the Laguna Madre Field Station

The Dawn of Media Day

The Dawn of Media Day

But what does all this scribbling amount to? What is now scribbled in the heat of the moment one can contemplate with somewhat of satisfaction, but alas! to-morrow–aye, to-night–it is stale, flat, and unprofitable,–in fine, is not, only its shell remains, like some red parboiled lobster-shell which, kicked aside never so often, still stares at you in the path.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, March 5, 1838

Rising refreshed at 6:10, I pulled on my clothes and wandered out behind the field station to take a picture of the eastern horizon. After taking the photograph and looking at my phone, I discovered such a backlog of blog and facebook posts, that I felt a compulsion to answer every single one, and it took a full thirty minutes. Then, taking time out to read from Thoreau’s Journal, I smiled inwardly at the piles of journal pages I’ve piled up since 1986, wondering how many of them are good only for starting fires this winter when the fireplace is ready. I found out that the media would be arriving between 10:00 and 11:00. I went ahead and began laying out a composition for the fire wheel flowers I have been practicing throughout the week, hoping to accomplish more of the Albrecht Dürer discipline.

Painting Fire Wheels in Preparation for the Media

Painting Fire Wheels in Preparation for the Media

Boats moved up and down the lagoon throughout the morning, each containing one or two occupants. When I looked up and saw with surprise a boat filled with nine people, I figured it must be my guests for the morning. As it slowed to approach the dock, I walked the distance from the field station to the end of the dock. A videographer already had a giant camera trained on me, and others raised their 35mm cameras and smart phones and began shutterbugging. I felt quite overwhelmed by all of this; there is no way to explain their enthusiasm and hearty greeting, and the effect it had on me.

The Media Arrives

The Media Arrives

The morning was like a press conference with interviews on TV (it was the NBC affiliate from Corpus Christi, KRIS-TV) and recorded for the local newspaper (The Caller-Times) and university communications department. Every single person was a ball of enthusiasm, filled with ideas and good words. I could have stayed all day with them, and was sorry when time came for them to leave. I photographed the boat pulling away, and they were photographing me, still!

http://www.kristv.com/clip/11598233/artist-paints-laguna-madre-part-of-new-program-at-tamucc#.VX9XGZV6Mc1.wordpress

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wr03ZJB84TI&feature=youtu.be

http://www.tamucc.edu/news/2015/06/061115%20Dr.%20David%20Tripp%20.html#.VXnajXoo7qB

Once the media departed, I felt more charged than ever to paint. Finding a better quality watercolor paper among my stock, I decided to stop using the Utrecht brand paper I had been using up to this point (a quantity of it had been given me), and went back to my old stand by: D’Arches 140-pound paper. As soon as I laid in the flat wash of a sky, I knew my problem had been solved. There was also no problem in lifting out the wet color for cloud effects with a cotton towel and Q-Tips.

Painting Number 12, on Quality Paper

Painting Number 12, on Quality Paper

Dinah Bowman, a well-known local artist in the Corpus Christi area who was the main driving force behind securing this Artist in Residence position for me, gathered shells and brought them to me so I could try some close drybrush study of them as well. For years, I had admired the Andrew Wyeth seashore studies executed during his summer months in Maine. This would be my first time to attempt painting seashells, the remains of a crab, and a discarded fishing lure.

Drybrush Study of Shore Debris

Drybrush Study of Shore Debris

As the sun sunk low and the sky and land filled with warm colors, I decided to try one more plein air study of the lagoon on the south side of me.

South Side Laguna Madre

South Side Laguna Madre

The day had been satisfied beyond description. Night is coming on. Time to lie down to sleep before it gets too dark to find my way to the bed.

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.

 

Remembering Robert Frost’s Snowy Evening

December 3, 2014
The Property Behind my Parents' Home in High Ridge, Missouri

The Property Behind my Parents’ Home in High Ridge, Missouri

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   
My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   
He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
I know–I have posted Robert Frost’s immortal words on previous blogs.  But this poem surged through me as evening arrived and I stood at the backside of my parents’ property during the Thanksgiving break and gazed upon this tree laden with snow and the broken down fence beneath it.   All I could think of was the lament of Robert Frost–his wish to visit the snowy woods, but obligations preventing him, so he could only imagine the possibilities.  It was Thanksgiving.  I was out of school.  I was seven hundred miles from home.  Nothing prevented me from standing in this winter wonderland and exploring the surroundings.  This is my third and final plein air watercolor sketch of my holiday season, and I did it with gladness in my heart.
This 5 x 7″ watercolor is matted in white and installed in a wooden 8 x 10″ frame with glass.  I am offering it for $50, grateful to Robert Frost for giving me the inspiration to sketch this composition.
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.