Archive for the ‘Arkansas’ Category

Creating Worlds

September 10, 2016

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The blank canvas is the blank page. You start with nothing. It’s hugely provocative. It’s frightening because you may have too much to put on it. Or not enough of yourself.

Wim Wenders

This cool, dark, overcast, rainy Saturday morning put me in the mood to continue a watercolor I worked on last evening. I’m getting close to finishing it. While painting, I like to listen to some kind of creative stimulus, often spinning LPs on my turntable, or using the laptop to dial up a YouTube presentation. Choosing the latter, I was shocked to discover a nearly hour-long documentary on Edward Hopper titled “Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas.” What jolted me after all these years was to discover how much film footage remains of Hopper’s television interview with Brian O’Doherty. The presentation is very engaging, and filled with plenty of interviews with film maker Wim Wenders (who was deeply influenced by Hopper’s scenes and collaborated with his photographer to re-create many settings reminiscent of these paintings). The above quote from Wenders is still working on me as I pour myself into this most recent painting.

Eureka Springs is the setting, and their historic railroad depot provides a lengthy section of abandoned trackage where derelict rolling stock has been parked. Every time I visit the town, I love to stroll the length of these tracks, taking pictures and making sketches of the rail cars. As I painted this afternoon, watching my blank paper slowly develop into a painting, I felt the sweet memories of last summer’s excursion flowing through me. Of course, I’m never sure if my feelings come out in the paintings (and Edward Hopper never knew, or perhaps didn’t even care, whether his thoughts were recognized by viewers of his work). I think what engages me the most, thinking of the Wim Wender quote, is when I should declare a painting finished, whether or not I have pushed my feelings far enough into the process. Of course, that is something I’ll never know. But I still think about it as I work.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

dark-studio

Suspended between Wordsworth and Pink Floyd

September 9, 2016

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Remains of a Gas Station near Brookfield, Missouri

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Remains of a Passenger Rail Car in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb.

Friday night has arrived, the week in school has been deeply rewarding, watching classrooms filled with students enthusiastic about pursuing new ideas. Evenings have been given to watercolor activity, and I’ve posted a pair that were inspired by some of my summer travels. Memories associated with these two images are so thick tonight, it seems I have to brush them away from my face so that I can breathe.

Tonight, a deep feeling has overcome me. I’ve returned from a funeral visitation. One of my precious students has lost a father unexpectedly, and her mother is a colleague of mine who has always been a generous resource when needed. Driving home, I listened to “Comfortably Numb” and the words I’ve posted really went deep into my heart. Once I was home again, I dug up Wordsworth verses, including “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” I have felt an intimate kinship with this poet when he speaks of childhood memories that have their ways of sweeping over us during our more pensive moments. And like Proust, he urged that those feelings were worth remembering, even when fleeting, and even when we cannot put our finger on what it is exactly we feel we have lost along the way. Again Thoreau’s haunting words of losing the horse, the bayhound and the turtledove come back to me tonight. I don’t think I’m sad. But something is stirring deep within, and I’m trying to find a way to express it. I’m glad the weekend has arrived and I can walk away from my regular schedule for a couple of days.

Thanks for reading.

Good Morning, America

August 12, 2016

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I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, . . . 

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to no one else.

Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”

Good morning again, blogging and facebook friends. I unplugged from your company a couple of weeks ago, needing some time away to sort out some unsortable issues. After a week, I experienced little success in sorting, and then didn’t really know how to return to you, and still don’t, actually. Wayne White, a loving friend from high school days (http://www.doubledacres.com/), used to open his daily facebook with the warmest greetings to us all, and I still feel the warmth from reading his posts. So, here is my hope this morning to leave words of good cheer for anyone needing such. Wayne always encouraged us to spread the love, so I shall try.

A number of watercolors have been completed since I last posted, including the one above. This is a larger work by my scale (16 x 20″ unframed), and recalls a good moment from last spring while I was judging and workshopping at a plein air event in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, one of my favorite American towns for painting.

This summer has provided the luxury of grazing amidst many lush literary pastures.  A host of luminaries have shined a light before and within me throughout this sojourn, and I love them all for sharing their literary gift. During a joyful re-reading of William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry, I revisited this passage:

Depth roots us in the world, gives life substance and wholeness. It enriches our work, our relationships, everything we do. It’s the essential ingredient of a good life and one of the qualities we admire most in others. Great artists, thinkers, and leaders all have an unusual capacity to be ‘grasped’ by some idea or mission, an inner engagement that drives them to pursue a vision, undaunted by obstacles. Ludwig van Beethoven, Michelangelo, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr.—we call them ‘brilliant,’ as if it were pure intelligence that made them who they were. But what unites them is what they did with their intelligence, the depth they reached in their thinking and brought to bear in their work.

Balancing social encounters with a quiet contemplative life has made this entire summer truly unforgettable, with a host of splendorous emotions accompanied by a commensurate number of stumbles, bumps and bruises. That happens, and we should welcome it. After all, we know the sentiments of Henry David Thoreau as we continue to pursue the phantom of fulfilment throughout this Odyssey:

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtledove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travellers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

We know of that which Thoreau speaks. Each of us still tracks that phantom whose memory continues to haunt. And as Whitman observed, each of us sings our own carol.

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.

 

Swimming in Ideas

August 1, 2016

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We sail because our mind is like a fantastic sea shell, and when applying our ear to its lips we hear a perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore.

Abraham Heschel, Man is Not Alone

The day has been quite fulfilling, as I’ve enjoyed Heschel’s engaging work, and picked up the brush after a two-day hiatus.  I picked up my Arkansas truck watercolor from the frame shop and love the presentation the framers put together. Then I turned my attention to the train from Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  This is a rather large composition and it’s going to require some focussed time. So far, it seems that I am doing much more drawing than painting, but I enjoy that too.  Thanks for reading.

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Memories of an Arkansas Vista

July 7, 2016

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There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.

Thomas Merton (quoted in Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

On this quiet Thursday, I completed my second reading of this magnificent Annie Dillard book, and am closing in on completing this watercolor I began yesterday. I am not happy that my Jeep is suffering difficulties, and was taken to the dealership Saturday, and as of today, they still have not even looked at it.  Six days is too long for anyone to be without their sole possession of transportation. Nevertheless, being housebound, I am completing other tasks, that I hope are not “itsy-bitsy” by Merton statndards.

This truck I photographed while traveling across Arkansas last May on my first of two trips out there to conduct watercolor workshops and judge plein air competitions.  The sight of the sun glinting off the corroded steel of the abandoned vehicle, as well as the liveliness of the surrounding landscape, filled my imagination with such delicious satisfaction, that I turned my Jeep around after traveling an extra mile, and returned to this spot, got out, walked as close as I could to the vehicle, and took several photos with my phone.  Only now, two months later, do I get around to painting the scene.  I was not able to get it out of my mind.

Painting over the past two days has yielded a large quantity of satisfaction for me, as I stared very closely at this composition, crawling around in the weeds and foliage, examining the barbed wire, and scrutinizing every square inch of the faded truck.  The only breaks I took were to read more from Annie Dillard and rest my eyes from the visual details of the painting.

Today I am tired, and still waiting for word on the Jeep.  But I’m happy to have finished a book, and am staring across the room at this watercolor to determine what else needs to be done to it, if anything.

Thanks for reading.

Beaver Bluffs Sketch

May 24, 2016

Beavers Bluff

Bosh! Stephen said rudely. A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

James Joyce, Ulysses

Breaking down the weekend festival on Sunday night made rising early Monday to drive six hours to Eureka Springs an arduous task.  I’m glad that I had no responsibilities when I arrived late on Monday. My first working day in Eureka Springs today involved a drive out of town to find Beaver Bluffs. I’ll be conducting my first workshop on these premises tomorrow afternoon. The directions given were good, and a stiff hike around the lake brought me face to face with towering bluffs and cedars shooting out of their crowns.  I still haven’t solved the problem of watercoloring cedar trees, and I so love their appearance.  The colors elude me as do the foliage patterns, though I feel I am getting the hang of the colors of the twisted trunks and branches. The striations in the rocky surfaces below the cedars revealed some interesting compositional patterns, and I was sorry I didn’t have time for a second one today.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll get a second shot at this scene, either before or after the workshop.

It has been a long day, and tomorrow will be longer, so I must call it a night.

Thanks for reading.

Closing Out the White River Plein Air Competition

May 7, 2016

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Best of Show winner, Susan Hurst

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.  I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.  It’s thin current slides away, but eternity remains.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

This week in Cotter, Arkansas has been so enchanting for anyone wishing to pursue artistic bliss.  As for myself, I’ve enjoyed the perfect balance of plein air watercolor sketching and fly fishing in the White and Norfork Rivers.  The artists and fishermen surrounding me throughout the week have had their ways of affecting the quality of the day (Thoreau’s words) and I appreciate the special memories each has planted in my heart. I frequently return to Thoreau’s sentiments, posted above. All the sensations I enjoy throughout the passing of my days stand in bold relief against that backdrop of eternity.  The engagement of actvities is always in motion as I continue to pursue that moving target, especially the target of making art that satisfies.  And all the while I pursue the artistic dream, I realize that my works of art always pale against that backdrop of Art.  Art is eternity.  Matthew Arnold wrote it best: “Art still has truth. Take refuge there.”  As long as art remains my refuge, then I suppose I could testify that I am “living the dream.”

Today I had the formidable task of judging the works in oil, watercolor and pastel created throughout this past week.  I have posted above the Best of Show winner Susan Hurst with her exquisite oil landscape.  The cool, atmospheric colors of her distant hills along with those fabulous warm colors in the foreground took my breath away.  I should be taking plein air lessons from her.  I found her to be a precious soul when we got to chat after the judging.  It always bothers me that I don’t get to spend quality time bonding with these artists throughout the week, but playing the role of judge, I feel that they need to be free of my presence, and certainly should not feel that I am hovering about their easels as they create.  So, I remain as incognito as possible, finally stepping into their circle to talk frankly once the judging is done.  I’m glad I finally got to talk at length with Susan, with Marty Coulter (who won last night’s Quick Draw competition along with today’s first place in works on canvas), and Lorraine McFarland (featured below).  I also got to meet over a dozen other artists during this afternoon’s gathering.

Below, I have posted the winner of the works on paper category, Lorraine McFarland, with her pastel landscape.  In talking with her afterward, I learned a great deal about underpainting pastel works with watercolor, and the different looks created by soft, buttery pastels scumbled over the hard ones.  I am delighted to learn that Lorraine, along with one and possible two of the other artists, will be attending the week-long Eureka Springs plein air event coming up in just a few weeks.  I will be there as well.  What a reunion!  For years I have loved the camaraderie of fellow festival artists as we see each other annually at art festivals that mean so much to us.  But this will be the first time in a few years that I have gotten to bond with other plein air artists at such events.

Lorraine McFarland

First Place winner, works on paper, Lorraine McFarland

Before leaving Cotter, I just had to post this adorable photo I took of a ground hog munching bread right outside my cafe window a few days ago.  He ate so much, that he eventually had to sit while eating, and then recline as he continued to eat!  I laughed so hard, taking as many pictures as I could.  This one is my favorite.

ground hog standing

I don’t know what else to add, but to say Thank You to the White River Artists, especially the officers of the organization, for making my stay so delightful, and for providing such a rich forum for these plein air painters to pursue their passions.  The week has been so enriching to my soul, and I love every one of you.

And thanks to all of you who take time to read these words.

I paint in order to find myself.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Soothing Moments in the River

May 5, 2016

 

brown trout 1 photoshopped

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.
Norman Maclean

My friend Bill Barksdale arrived at my door at 6 a.m. and we made our second journey to the waters, this time the White River.  The water levels were low and sluggish, and so were the trout, but I did manage to coax this 5-inch brown to take my fly. Fortunately, I was able to lift his sweet face out of the waters for a portrait, and then a quick release.

I was pleased with the kind of photo my Samsung phone was able to make, but Bill went to work with his high-end camera and took several shots to record our morning:  I’m surprised that I’m not scowling more deeply as this river has required tiny flies that my eyes don’t see as well as they did in younger days.

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I could not have dialed up a more perfect day, spending most of it in the river. Watching trout rise to sip flies from the surface (except for mine), thrills me to the core.  For much of the morning, I gazed at row after row of trout, lined up to feed on whatever drifted past them (except for my own flies), their tails and fins undulating softly in the current.  All of it produced such hypnotic sensations, and I felt that I could have watched these sights for days.  And wade fishing in trout streams has always settled my pulse rate.  The past week has been fast-paced for me, with much travel, many daily appointments and responsibilities, and plenty of second-guessing.  I now face two consecutive days of judging art competitions, but tomorrow’s will be held late in the day, and then Saturday’s will happen in the morning. Fortunately for me, the activities are spread out, allowing me quality time to unwind between my responsibilities.  And so far, I’ve managed the perfect blend of making watercolors outside and fly fishing.  The week has flown by at warp speed and I’m astonished tonight to realize I have only two full days remaining at this event, before journeying back home to return to my full-time job.  I’m confident that once I return home, my batteries will be charged sufficiently for me to resume my duties.

Thanks for staying with me this week.

 

 

Up early for another round

May 3, 2016

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It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do.  To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.  Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Rarely do I retire to bed before 9:30, but I hardly remember last night.  Driving through severe rain storms from Arlington to Tyler, Texas for a one-day workshop, and then driving another six-and-a-half hours to Cotter, Arkansas for a two-day workshop took its toll finally.  My hosts have offered wonderful accommodations and hospitality, but finally I physically and mentally cratered.  Last night I wanted to blog, and did in fact put something up, but don’t care to return and read it.

The six o’clock alarm found me refreshed, optimistic and oh so happy to go the next round.  Today will be my final workshop day, followed by some days of demonstrating and judging a plein air competition, but the hardest part of the schedule is just one full day away from completion.  So glad to be rested!  And so glad I set the alarm for a three-hour cushion before going to class. Can’t wait to see the participants again, absolutely love their drive to paint!

Henry Thoreau is a man I wish to God I could have met and spent time with.  So grateful am I that he cared enough about us to leave behind such precious words.  I’m angered every time I read of how his fellow citizens regarded him as a waste of a life when he died at forty-four without ever holding down a regular job.  His two books were failures in his lifetime.  Yet when his family opened his locked trunk after his death, they found over four million words of publishable print.  Why did he write and save all those manuscript pages after his failed publications? Because he believed he had something to say and that someday there would be grateful souls with hands outstretched to receive his message.  I am one of those hungry souls. His every word nourishes me.

My waking thought at six a.m. was the quote I’ve posted above.  I love carving out pieces of the world to put onto paper for myself and others to view, but wish all-the-more to carve and paint the atmosphere through which I peer daily and thereby to live a more artful, satisfying life for myself and others.

Trout Lodge bridge

Early morning attempt

It is a chilly fifty-one degrees early this morning in Cotter, Arkansas.  Yet the sun is bright and warm enough that I decided to pull up a table outside my lodge door and do a quick watercolor study of this magnificent Cotter Bridge just one hundred feet from my door. My fingers finally stiffened enough in the cold that I decided I pushed this one far enough and have a good record to take back to the studio.  No doubt this subject would make a beautiful painting to frame one day.

It’s nearly time to leave for class now.  Thank you always for reading and spending some of your morning with me.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

A Good Kind of Weariness

May 2, 2016

cotter bridge

The evening is still early, but feels as it were past midnight. Settled into my hotel room, I look back with gladness on this first day of the White River Association Plein Air Workshop in Cotter, Arkansas, particularly grateful for the new artist-friends I’ve had the pleasure of making.  The coffee now smells good, the bed is firm, and I’m enjoying some good reading, journaling and thinking as I await sleep.  Tomorrow is the second and final day of my workshop and I hope for it to be even stronger and fulfilling than today’s.

Above I’ve posted my second demo of the day.  We gathered at the Cotter Bridge in the park and looked across the White River, picking out spots to sketch in watercolor.  The participants turned in at least two watercolors apiece on this first day, and it was rewarding to see them so eager and aggressive to pursue plein air work–to some it was the first time ever.  I still remember how intimidated I was with my first try.

Thanks for reading.