Archive for the ‘Arkansas’ Category

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.



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


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.

Workshop Ponderings

May 2, 2016


The Bible opens with the words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That is an adequate summary statement, but the curious reader wants more.  And the following verses provide more:

And the world was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved over the face of the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.

There is a quality image: a world of chaos, a Mind that is brooding, moving, and suddenly creation occurs.  As one continues to read the account, the record shows God creating the world by a series of divisions, organizations.  The artist Robert Motherwell said that drawing was the division, the organization of space.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in “The American Scholar” testified that the scholar of the first age received into himself the world around, brooded thereon, gave it the new arrangement of his thought, and uttered it again.  It came into him life.  It went from him truth.

In about an hour, I will stand before my second watercolor workshop in the midst of this circuit I’ve been traveling. This will be a plein air watercolor workshop.  And my sincere hope is that the participants experience this parallel that Emerson drew from the opening verses of Genesis. They will stand enveloped in a world swirling with myriads of visual stimuli, holding before them a void, a square white rectangle.  As they ponder this visual world of complexity, their minds will begin to sort, to sift, to edit, and as their brushes move over the surface of the papers, worlds will begin to flow out of their brushes, first the wash, then the divisions, and finally the focused details.  There is little more rewarding than watching a world flow out of the tip of your brush, and realize that you are the one creating this world.

The Bible says that God created humans in his own image.  What is that image of God, that imago Dei?  I believe it is that essential urge to create.  The first word written about God identified him as a creator.  And he created people after his image.  My position is that people, by nature, create.  They have to, because it is in their essential nature to create.

Gotta go.  Workshop begins in one hour and five minutes, and I still have to drive to the location.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Another Video of One of my Past Workshops

February 9, 2016

Sorry to be on such a posting rampage tonight! In searching through my files, I just now came across this video that I had forgotten, produced several years ago to advertise one of my workshops conducted for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. I will be teaching a plein air workshop for them later in May of this year. Details will be released later. I love this video, and hope you will enjoy it as well.

Finished the Sketch

January 3, 2016


Tomorrow, I return to work after this delicious two-week Christmas/New Year vacation.  I took out last night’s watercolor sketch and looked at it with rested eyes, and decided it needed some “finish” work.  Now it is signed, sleeved at 5 x 7″ in an 8 x 10″ white mat and for sale.  $50.  Im ready for the next experiment.

Thanks for reading.

Keeping the Motor Running

January 2, 2016


The creative geniuses of art and science work obsessively. They do not lounge under apple trees waiting for fruit to fall or lightning to strike. “When inspiration does not come to me,” Freud once said, “I go halfway to meet it.” Bach wrote a cantata every week, even when he was sick or exhausted. Though most composers would kill to have written even one of his best pieces, some were little more than wallpaper music. Eliot’s numerous drafts of “The Waste Land” constitute what one scholar called “a jumble of good and bad passages [that he turned] into a poem.” In a study of 2,036 scientists throughout history, Simonton found that the most respected produced not only more great works, but also more “bad” ones. They produced. Period.

Sharon Begley, “The Puzzle of Genius,” Newsweek, June 27, 1993

Today has been a rewarding Saturday.  As I near the end of it, I recall that I made a sketch from a large watercolor I did a few years ago of a 1902 cabin in rural Arkansas.  I used the watercolor as a model for a 5 x 7″ drawing. Then tonight, I decided to knock out a 5 x 7″ watercolor sketch of the same composition. I’m not finished with the watercolor, but I’m getting sleepy and will shelve it until a later time.

The piece I posted above is from an article that I have never been able to forget.  I took it out today and re-read it, encouraging myself to make more art in this New Year, and not worry about whether or not the works is good or not, frameable or not, marketable or not. I love the observation that creators just create, period.  They create a large body of good work and bad work.  Ralph Waldo Emerson, discussing the writing experience, said that a pump brings up muddy water before it gets to the clean water, and that a writer has to write through the mud before reaching clarity. I think the same can be said for making art. Perhaps we start out cold and clumsy, but we’ll warm up to the occasion, provided we care enough to stay with it.

Thanks always for reading, and Happy New Year.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Closing Out a Serene Day with Good Thoughts and Artful Attempts

June 12, 2014
Taking My Time with the Hopper Study

Taking My Time with the Hopper Study

“What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.”

Edward Hopper

Currently, it is 9:52 p.m., and I am enjoying a refreshing night life in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square, next to the fountain where dozens of children are screaming with delight as they get hosed.  Recent rains have dropped the temperatures to the upper 70’s, and it feels quite good.  This is a fitting closure to a good day–I have come into the downtown Fort Worth night with a bag full of books, journal, sketchbook and my laptop.  Tourist season is at high tide, and there are probably 75-100 people milling about the general area where I am seated.  It is all very good.

Fort Worth is taking on the same kind of expansion and improvements as Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann’s 19th-century Paris; from Sundance Square to the museum district, one can see only progress.  Some days I wonder if I’m feeling the same inspiration and scintillation as the French Impressionists as they sketched their rapidly changing environment.  I have serious thoughts of taking out my sketchbook, but frankly, I’m daunted as I am seated immediately beneath the enormous Chisholm Trail mural that overlooks this new-look Sundance Square plaza.

Above this entry, I have posted my start of the watercolor inspired by Edward Hopper’s Marshall’s House from 1932.  Yesterday afternoon was spent doing preliminary tonal sketches of it in my sketchbook.  I chose this model for study because I recently turned on to red pigments during my Waxahachie plein air watercolor experiments.  I have also been curious about experimenting with Q-tips on my cloudy skies.  It has been a few years since I deliberately piled up clouds in my watercolor skies, and I thought it time to return to this practice and see what I can learn.  So–billowing clouds and a bright-red roof on a dilapidated building with plenty of screened-in porch and screen windows and door to study.  Below I am posting a couple of close-ups of large watercolors I did a few years ago of a 1903 structure still standing in Flippin, Arkansas.  I was pleased with how my rusted-out screens turned out in these pieces.

Detail of Large Watercolor of 1903 Cabin

Detail of Large Watercolor of 1903 Cabin

Detail of a Second Large Watercolor of the same 1903 Cabin

Detail of a Second Large Watercolor of the same 1903 Cabin

With the Edward Hopper study, I’m experimenting with graphite in the wet watercolor to see if I can simulate some screen texture.  I’m in no rush with this overall watercolor sketch, as I have already applied several layers of wash over the rooftops and facade over time throughout this day.  Tomorrow I hope to get into some serious pencil drawing over the dried watercolor.  For that, I’ll be taking out a number of Andrew Wyeth drybrush watercolor and pencil studies.

I guess I’ve reported about all I need to on this particular day.  I have the itch now to write in the journal and pursue some good reading from some good books.  Midnight is still a couple of hours away, and I’m feeling quite satisfied.  Sundance Square is a lively, delightful place at night.  I’ve wanted to do this for over a year, and can’t believe I have waited this long.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Plein Air Gathering around Harding Spring

June 20, 2013
Landscape Enveloping Harding Spring

Landscape Enveloping Harding Spring

Geometry is our greatest creation and we are enthralled by it. . .  Man has drawn himself up like a giant, he has forged himself a tool.  He no longer works with his hands.  His spirit gives the order.  He has delegated to the machine the work of his clumsy and unskillful hands.  Freed, his spirit works freely.  On square paper he dreams.  

Le Corbusier

Rising early this morning, I was again greeted by the beautiful, warm sunshine of Eureka Springs.  Sitting on the terrace, I found fascinating ideas from a biography I’m reading on Le Corbusier.  As this young architect moved dialectically between natural forms and geometry, I was inspired to approach the Harding Springs and look at the Greek column and krater sitting in all their geometric stillness in the enveloping embrace of those beautiful shrubs, backed by the looming cliff, Lover’s Leap.

Painter at Harding Spring

Painter at Harding Spring

Painter at Harding Spring

Painter at Harding Spring

The Plein Air Workshop group arrived early and set up immediately, choosing their compositions around Harding Spring.

Jean's Rendering of a Neighboring Business

Jean’s Rendering of a Neighboring Business

Sitting in the midst of Harding Spring, Jean peered through the landscaping and across the street at a local business.  She decided to build a composition contrasting nature with architecture, flowers over against a stone building.  As she worked on this watercolor, she continued to build contrasting darks and lights, warm and cool colors between the building, the shadows and the flower beds.

Debbie's Plein Air Rendering of Lover's Leap

Debbie’s Plein Air Rendering of Lover’s Leap

After focusing on architectural rendering for two days, Debbie today decided to work with nature exclusively, hoping to keep it loose and Impressionistic this time.  She ended up with this Cezannesque-looking watercolor of Lover’s Leap at Harding Spring.  I was fascinated with her contrasts of warm and cool colors threading through the foliage and rock facade, much as Cezanne composed in his studies of Mont Sainte-Victoire.  At the end, she decided to go ahead and include the man-made railing at the top of the bluff.

Barbara's Plein Air Interpretaion of Lover's Leap

Barbara’s Plein Air Interpretaion of Lover’s Leap

Barbara was fascinated with the foundation stones and Greek monument along with the bluff and trees in this setting.  She worked feverishly on contrasting colors, seeking ways to make the bluff, tree trunks and monument emerge from the composition to take center stage.  On the rock facade, she experimented with a number of techniques until she came up with this satifsfying compositional conclusion.

I have only tomorrow morning left to spend with this class, and I miss them already.  Their daily enthusiasm was contagious, and I could not help catching their fever.  I cannot wait to see them in the morning, knowing their daily company has changed me profoundly as an artist, affirmed me as a teacher, and given me a new sense of vision in the pursuit of the arts.  My thanks goes out to all of them, and to all of you who take the time to read my daily musings.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The Joy of “Pushing Through”–Plein Air Painting in Eureka Springs

June 19, 2013
Plein Air Watercolor Sketch Attempt on Wednesday

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch Attempt on Wednesday

What we need is more sense of the wonder of life and less of this business of making a picture.  Your painting is the marking of your progression into nature, a sensation of something you see way beyond the two pretty colors over there.  Don’t stop to paint the material, but push on to give the spirit.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

We laughed together over lunch, saying this was “hump day” and therefore the hardest part of the five-day workshop.  Then we returned to the field to prove ourselves wrong.  The day reached 90 degrees, and was high in humidity, but we managed to stay in the shaded areas, for the most part, and doggedly pursued the compositions we had carved out of the neighborhood on Summit Street in the upper Eureka Springs historic district.  At the end of the day, we were tired, sweaty, thirsty, but satisfied that we managed to turn yet another corner in our watercolor pursuits, and learn a few more lessons in composition.

Pictured above is the sketch I picked over intermittently throughout the day, of a twin-gabled bed and breakfast I found very attractive.  I tried my best to stay attentive to what the workshop participants needed, and covered about a fifty-yard area to walk back-and-forth between them.  I never managed to get the yellows the way I wanted them on the gables of the house, but enjoyed working the green trim and the beautiful landscaping out front.

Completion of Barbara's Tuesday Watercolor

Completion of Barbara’s Tuesday Watercolor

Barbara spent a great deal of time Tuesday drawing out this composition, and had barely begun the painting of it when it was time to quit.  I photographed and posted last night what she had completed up to that point. Today she returned to enrich the tree, cast shadows on the house, re-work the wooden siding of the house, and add more texturing to the roof.  The lavender and rose hues she used to dapple the shadows on the siding have given the painting an exquisite look.

Beginning of Barbara's Wednesday painting

Beginning of Barbara’s Wednesday painting

With the time remaining, Barbara drew this composition in very carefully, then re-worked it in ink to keep from smearing the graphite all over the page.  There was little time remaining for the actual painting, but she knows there is still tomorrow and Friday to complete it.

Debbie's Wednesday Watercolor

Debbie’s Wednesday Watercolor

After putting some finishing details to the watercolor she created yesterday, Debbie went after this composition with a keen sense of purpose.  Already in her mind’s eye, she knew what she wanted from this composition–to place this sharply detailed house against a backdrop of out-of-focus, wet-on-wet foliage.  She also knew she wanted to masque the picket fence and drybrush vigorously about it, remove the masque, and then render in pencil the separation of the uprights from the horizontals.  Everything worked.  Dissatisfied with the foreground tree being too dense, she used an x-acto knife to scrape white reflective areas into the leaves to create a sense of liveliness.  That also worked.  Everything she set out to accomplish, she did, and managed to finish in one day.

Debbie's Tuesday painting, finished Wednesday

Debbie’s Tuesday painting, finished Wednesday

The only thing left for Debbie to complete on this composition was heightening the contrast between the flag, the pillars, and the intricate modeling near the roof.  She also warmed up the upper right-hand corner of the composition with Winsor & Newton Transparent Yellow.

Jean's Wednesday Watercolor

Jean’s Wednesday Watercolor

Jean was immediately attached to this stone wall and gravel lot fronting a rich backdrop of foliage.  Her interest focused on the blue planter and lantern perched on the pillar.  Most of her experimentation of the day was given to the texturing of the rock wall and pea gravel on the parking lot.  Her final touch was the darkening of the background foliage.  Everything worked for her today.

I cannot say with honesty that I was happy with my own work today, but then again, I didn’t really concentrate too much on it.  In between offering of guidance to the other participants’ works in progress, I took some stabs at my own plein air sketch.  But my dissatisfaction with my own piece doesn’t matter.  My heart overflows with joy, looking at what the class cranked out on this successful “hump day.”  I believe that all of them felt a sense of accomplishment, a sense of “pushing through” the appearance of what was in front of them, and creating a legitimate painting from their own unique vision.  And that makes my heart swell with joy this evening.

Thanks always for reading.  These are good times at Eureka Springs.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.