Archive for the ‘art studio’ Category

Finding Peace in One’s Work

October 11, 2017

polar express drafting

In the Studio this Evening

There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 2:24 (King James Version)

sunrise

At the University this Morning

There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual–become clairvoyant. We reach then into reality. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I don’t regard myself as naturally ebullient. I used to laugh with a friend when describing myself as a “gloomy guy.” Throughout lengthy stages of my life, I have known rage, negativity, anxiety, depression and self-doubt. And I have regarded myself as one who just couldn’t seem to get it right. Life and emotions turn on a dime. What I’ve experienced today is not guaranteed to extend into tomorrow. But I’ll still take it.

My life did change profoundly since June 3 when I retired after twenty-eight years of full-time public high school teaching alongside thirty-two years of part-time university teaching. Since the beginning of this semester, I have enjoyed a nine-semester-hour load involving one online Logic course and a pair of Introduction to Ethics courses. My Ethics classes are back-to-back Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9-10:50. That’s it. Day-after-day-after-day I have been rising between 5 and 7 a.m., grateful to the core that I’m not dashing off to a high school by 7:00 and expected to stay until 3:15. On my university mornings, I rise at 5:00, go over my lecture notes, read, write in my journal, and often head to the university, arriving by sunrise so I can sit in the Science/Technical building lobby and watch the morning colors move across the commons. By that time I still have over an hour before strolling over to the lecture hall. I took the above picture this morning while enjoying my coffee and looking once more over my lecture notes on Immanuel Kant and his Categorical Imperative.

After a full afternoon of business-related errands, I settled into some online work for my Logic class, grading exams and posting a new assignment. Then I got to enter the studio and push my “Polar Express” themed watercolor a bit further. I’m going slowly on this, because I’m looking at a picture I took of the historic T&P 610 on a sunny morning, and trying to translate it into a night scene. I’m also contemplating a snowy foreground. So many decisions still to make on it.

It doesn’t seem likely that I’ll get to touch this painting any more this week. Tomorrow I meet with some dear friends at the train museum in Frisco, Texas (I’ve never visited it), and then I have to pack and load my gear for this weekend’s art festival in Edom, Texas. The Edom Art Festival is one of my genuine highlights of the year, with a beautiful setting, great fall weather, and enthusiastic patrons. I’m sorry the event only comes round once a year.

I still have to write Friday morning’s lecture to deliver before I leave town for the art festival. Tonight is going to be a late one, but I’m feeling so positive about life in general that I’m compelled to share with you.

Thanks for reading.

I paint out of a sense of wonder.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

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The Fall Season is Picking Up

October 2, 2017

Orange diesel

30 finished

Night Train Blue

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Night Train Violet

Blue & Red diesel

610 cab

I just finished a whirlwind of a weekend in Palestine, and am finishing several train watercolors at last. I just placed my first order for 1500 postcards of the historic #30 steam engine from the Texas State Railroad. In time, I will have postcards, greeting cards, and limited edition prints of all the trains of Palestine I’ve posted above. We’re trying to put on a big train show at The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas this coming holiday season. I’ve been working on watercolors for the event all summer and am getting ready to make a deal with a framer to get them ready for presentation.

Thanks for reading.

Rainy Atelier

September 28, 2017

studio

You come to the place of your art from the swiftly flowing river of work and domesticity in which from choice and necessity you have swum and bobbed along with everyone else. You emerge from this wide and deep stream, towel off, slip into something more comfortable, and step into your atelier ready to do a new kind of business.

Peter London, Drawing Closer to Nature: Making Art in Dialogue with the Natural World

Waking early to a dark and rainy morning, I immediately recalled something I read yesterday from Peter London, found it, and post it now for you. What an inspiring word! Teaching every other day now gives me the richness of having these long days without appointment, and a studio ready to use. I am a YouTube junkie, and that wonderful resource plays nonstop on my large flat screen to give me the environment of my choice every day when I work/play in my studio. Of course this morning, I dial up one of those many delicious jazz-for-a-rainy-day stations.

I can almost hear the chug of steam locomotives in the background, reminding me it is time to get back to the watercolors.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have the luxury today of emerging from the stream, totally refreshed and ready to pursue your personal enterprise.

 

A Life of the Mind

September 14, 2017

Blog Thursday

Morning Meditation over the Journals of Eugene Delacroix

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Working on Watercolors as the Dawn Breaks

There, seated on a bench, I started to jot down in my notebook some reflections similar to those that I am tracing here. . . . I cannot and must not live in any other way than through the mind; the food that it demands is more necessary to my life than that which my body calls for.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, July 14, 1850

Finally, a genuine “off” day between college lecturing. After the third week of the semester, I finally have my ducks in a row so that on the days I don’t have class I can actually spend my hours doing what I feel is most central to my life–reading, writing in my journal, blogging and making art. Tomorrow’s college lecture is ready so I don’t have to fret over those details.

I rose at 5 a.m., with a sense of joy and anticipation. Following breakfast, I found myself in the watercolor studio picking at a composition I had been working on the night before. I now have three railroad watercolors in progress, and am happily moving to and fro among them. By 6:15, I decided to break from the painting and retreat to my study to continue my reading from Delacroix’s journals. I laughed out loud when I read the passage posted above, because I have felt foolish keeping a handwritten journal religiously since 1985, and still scribbling in it almost daily, then occasionally writing a blog from what I’ve already written in my journal. And here, I find Delacroix admitting the same thing–keeping a notebook, then re-writing, editing what he first wrote as he transfers it into the journal now published. From time to time, I wonder if I should print out all my blog pages, then wonder if that is really necessary, since I’ve already recorded most of this stuff in my handwritten journals.

I have always loved this notion of “the life of the mind” and am gratified this morning to read Delacroix expressing the same sentiment. I’ve always feared that it sounded arrogant to say that I live a life of the mind, perhaps even foolish and impractical. But it’s accurate. Forty years ago this fall, I embarked on the life of the mind when I entered graduate school, thrilled at the daily pursuit of the history of ideas, and over these decades, reading has been my food, and attempting to express my ideas by making art and standing to deliver in classrooms has been my exercise.

On Monday evening, I will stand before the Society of Watercolor Artists in Fort Worth for the purpose of doing a watercolor demonstration. To describe this event as daunting is a gross understatement. I’ve known of the assignment for a number of months, but still, the anxiety of standing and delivering amidst a body of seasoned watercolorists keeps my inner doubts churning. At any rate, I’m preparing daily now to have something (hopefully) worthy to say and demonstrate when that hour arrives. Wish me luck!

Much of what I express on these blog pages is being shaped into the coming presentation. So, again, I thank all of you for your reading and your responses.

Until next time then . . .

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 Watercolor Studio

September 13, 2017

rusk train

Beginning Study of the Texas State Railroad in Rusk, Texas

While considering my composition for the ceiling, which pleases me only since yesterday, thanks to the changes that I made with pastel in the sky, I was saying to myself that a good picture was exactly like a good dish, containing the same ingredients as a bad one: it is all a question of the artist who produces it.  How many magnificent compositions would be nothing without the grain of salt of the great cook!  That power of the indefinable thing is astonishing in Rubens; what his temperament, his vis poetica, adds to a composition, without seeming to change it, is prodigious. It is no other than the turn of the style; the way he does it is everything, the matter he deals with is comparatively unimportant.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, June 8, 1850

I was pleased to find a large quantity of time and space this afternoon and this evening to return to my watercolor studio and begin work on the magnificent excursion train that runs between Palestine and Rusk, Texas, through the piney woods. A couple of weeks ago, I finally was able to board that train, thanks to a generous benefactor who booked me first class (I appreciate you, Ben!). I took dozens of photos during the pleasant four-hour experience, and am delighted now to compose some watercolors of that phenomenon.

Even though my lecture preparations have chewed up most of my time recently, I’ve managed to continue my reading of the Journals of Delacroix, and find myself mesmerized at that artist’s erudition. My feeble abilities in Latin were at least able to translate vis poetica as “poetic genius” or “artistic force.” And I’m always wrestling with that notion of what exactly gives art work its lasting quality. I’ve always believed that skill is necessary, and am grateful that I seem to have been born with a talent for it, and had excellent instructors in high school and college. But that “indefinable thing” mentioned by Delacroix still drives my query.

Throughout my life I have played guitar for the pure joy of it. And I believe in my heart that though I know how to play the guitar, I am not much of a musician. What escapes me is that “touch” that I envy so much with excellent guitar players who know how to coax the sweet strains of music from those strings. In comparison, I always feel that I am “clunky.” Still, that doesn’t stop me from playing my guitar.

In similar fashion, I have looked at art all my life, and am convinced that there are many skilled people that still are not artists, because that “indefinable thing”, or vis poetica, doesn’t appear in their work. I laugh every time I read those portions of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road where Dean Moriarty says that a particular musician has “It.” It is precisely that quality that separates “art” from “art work”. The joy that I feel in the pursuit of art is the quest for that spark, that element that makes the composition become “art.”

Sorry if I seem to be rambling. I haven’t blogged for quite some time, and tonight I’m just happy to be painting again. The start I have on this train is promising, and I’m loving the tight detailing just as much as the splash and dash of the looser parts of it. And as I continue to look into this composition and make decisions, I’ll continually wish for that “indefinable thing” to come to the surface. Every time I attempt a painting, I am hoping for something transcendent to emerge.

I only have a few months left to finish my big project–a series of train paintings to sell as originals, prints and greeting cards through The Gallery at Redlands this Christmas season. I’m happy to find a large project to target, and hope this one works out.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Grinding it Out

July 24, 2017

largemouth

This has been an exhausting work day for me in The Gallery at Redlands. I have a commission to complete and have had difficulty painting because of a broken A/C at home. Painting on the road doesn’t come easily for me. Several friends have stopped by the gallery whom I haven’t seen in weeks and it was good to catch up on the local news and make a couple of trips out of the shop to photograph some historic sites in the Palestine vicinity. But all the while, though, I knew I needed to get this 11 x 14″ painting started and nearly finished.  I stopped repeatedly throughout the day, taking refresher breaks so as not to experience fatigue-driven mistakes. Finally, at 7:15 tonight, I realized that this composition is finally taking shape and I believe is going to turn out alright. It needs to be scanned and processed no later than tomorrow to satisfy a deadline I promised.

Thanks for reading.  It’s quiet here, and I just wanted to share this.

Drawing the Next Circle

July 24, 2017

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In the Gallery at Redlands, Palestine, Texas

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn, that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

Awakened at 5:30 this morning by a heavy rainstorm (love the sound of rain on a tin roof!), I rose refreshed, and by the time I finished showering, making breakfast and loading the Jeep for the 50-minute drive to the gallery, I was surprised to be at the desk by 8:00. My pump is primed, and I am ready to begin the next painting.

Emerson’s meditation on “Circles” has possessed me since 1992 when I was first introduced to it while at Oregon State University. The words resonate with me, because I seldom feel that I’ve been mired in a rut; there is always a new adventure to pursue, a new experience to savor.  When Jack Kerouac wrote that beyond the hills in the distance something wonderful is going to happen, I believe it was Ken Kesey who retorted, “It turns out there are just more hills.” I have met many with Kesey’s sentiment, but I am not one of them. In a short time I’ll be departing for my next road trip, and I’m excited beyond measure. Meanwhile, I have a commission to complete, so I’m getting down to the business of it. It’s a beautiful morning in Palestine, Texas for working on a painting.

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Last evening, between soggy rainstorms, I did manage to get in a little fly fishing in a private pond near the store where I reside in the country. I managed to land two largemouth bass and a pair of fat panfish. I returned them all, just enjoying the sport of fishing. I couldn’t imagine a better way to finish an evening. Last week in Louisiana, some of my best evenings were capped by fishing area lakes, and I’m still thinking fondly of those experiences.

Time to get to work . . . thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when feeling alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Musings on the First Night of Retirement

June 5, 2017

retirement chamber

My Favorite Spot in the House

It is the sense of the sublime that we have to regard as the root of man’s creative activities in art, thought and noble living.  Just as no flora has ever fully displayed the hidden vitality of the earth, so has no work of art ever brought to expression the depth of the unutterable, in the sight of which the souls of saints, poets and philosophers live.  the attempt to convey what we see and cannot say is the everlasting theme of mankind’s unfinished symphony, a venture in which adequacy is never achieved.  Only those who live on borrowed words believe in their gift of expression.  A sensitive person knows that the intrinsic, the most essential, is never expressed.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone

At 2:22 this afternoon, I closed the door to Room 114 for the last time and walked away from my school and into retirement.  Crossing the parking lot, I couldn’t resist one last photo that I may pull up to view from time to time.  Or perhaps not.  Friday morning was the last time I saw my students, but I needed the rest of that day, along with Saturday and today to dispose properly twenty-eight years of responsibilities and memories.  I had no idea how much work it would require to bring closure.

Tonight has been truly soothing.  I posted some video footage on facebook of two of the murals I created while I was on that campus.  And I managed to get in some quality reading time.  But for the most part, I just sat and soaked up the feelings of being free from the job that has held me for so long.

There are many exciting things on the horizon and I am glad to turn my attention to them. But I wanted to post something to my blogging friends just to say, Yes, I finally retired, and am happy to open a new chapter.

Thanks for reading.

Not the Rooftops of Paris, but Dark and Rainy Nevertheless, and Quite Good

February 20, 2017

 

grandma

Second Day on a 20 x 16″ Watercolor

But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the litle oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made.  I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.  All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence that you know.”  So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Waking early this morning to a dark and rain-soaked world, I was glad not to go to work but to do as I please for the entire day.  Late last night I had begun work on a new watercolor of a Blues theme that I used to pursue fervently, but had stopped doing in recent years.  Soon I’ll release details on a new One-Man-Show that has been offered me, and I would love to complete some Blues art to hang in this venue.  I chose as a backdrop for the painting my grandmother’s abandoned house.  Then I took some selfies in my backyard, holding my late uncle’s pre-World War II Gibson archtop guitar.  I have high expectations for this composition and have already enjoyed a full morning of layering washes and drybrush details into the piece.  I’m taking my time with it.

As I worked, I dialed up on Netflix “Papa Hemingway in Cuba.”  When I’m painting, I love listening to movies, documentaries, and YouTube lectures.  They keep my mind engaged. And as this film rolled, my mind went back to some intense reading I enjoyed a few winters ago: Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and Carlos Baker’s Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story.  And as I worked, I thought of all those times when I’ve struggled over whether to make art, read, or write when I had time to myself.  This weekend has produced another one of those environments for me that I love so much–what Paul Tillich referred to often as “creative eros”, an urge to create, period.  And when I find myself unable to resolve whether to paint, draw, read, write, or just sit in a comfortable chair with coffee to think and do nothing else–I realize that life could not possibly be better.

desk

Working on a New Lecture Series

Just before the weekend arrived, I discovered that among the post-retirement options offered to me this coming fall is a chance to teach Ethics at the university for the first time. Pulling from my shelf a volume from The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, I was surprised to find myself absorbed in a very lengthy History of Ethics article.  This came as a surprise because I seldom find myself interested for very long in an encyclopedia entry, particularly one that goes on for page after page after page, four columns staring back at me every time I turn the page.  But this article has really taken me in new directions.  For decades I have been interested in the history of philosophy, but usually focused on metaphysics and theories of knowledge, never ethics.  Now, as I read the ethical portions of these philosophers and schools, I am amazed at the new ideas I’m grafting onto the structures already learned.  The new directions are quite exciting.

Reading this article has also led me back to a famous book that I have never successfully stayed with over the decades: Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be.  Now, having read twenty-seven pages and scribbling out a pile of notes, I feel that I am finally into this book as well. The reading of just these two sources has already produced pages and pages of journal entries, paragraphs, diagrams and illustrations of new ideas waiting for further development.

creel-redone

“Thinking About the Next Catch”

Last night I received my email notification that the piece pictured above has been accepted to show in the 32nd Annual Texas & Neighbors Regional Art Exhibition to be held at the Irving Arts Center April 29-June 3. There were 585 pieces juried, and 75 selected.  Over the years, I have visited this show and always wished to participate, but continually missed the application deadline.  Thanks to an artist friend, I met the deadline this year, and now am very happy for this opportunity of hanging one of my pieces with works selected from Texas and several neighboring states.

The weekend has been full and rewarding.  Thank you for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Studio Off the Grid

January 29, 2017

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I have just completed a weekend in the embrace of my Sanctuary, my Studio Off the Grid. Far away from the city, with much thanks to precious friends, I am privileged to take up residence in an old store with living quarters in the back. The residential section is centrally heated, but the front store room relies on a small heater. Temperatures early Saturday hovered in the thirties and it was difficult heating the front of the store where I prefer to set up my easel and paint the interior. So, much of the day was devoted to reading, writing and reflecting in the residential quarters. I had over two hundred pages left to read in Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and by the afternoon I had finished it with shudders of deep feelings hitting every mark between sadness and satisfaction.

In addition to Steinbeck, I read much about Martin Heidegger, finishing Adam Sharr’s Heidegger’s Hut and resuming my reading of Rüdiger Safranski’s Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil.  I also read from Heidegger’s 1934 radio address “Why Do I Stay in the Provinces?”.

Once the front of the store was warm enough for painting, I entered my studio sanctuary and resumed work on a watercolor I started a couple of weeks ago, but abandoned because I had trouble rendering the objects surrounding me. I am increasingly dissatisfied with painting from photographs, and though I cannot avoid the practice when painting myself, I found it much more satisfying to look at my actual surroundings in this store instead of copying the objects I see in the photo. My struggle between photographs and live models goes back a few winters, when I made my first stabs at watercoloring still life objects from my garage. The antique doors stored there have given me a very satisfying grounding, first in the actual garage, and more recently dragging them into my living room studio. They are worth the physical effort. The door I painted months ago in this actual store also yielded some great advantages, much more than if I had photographed the door and worked exclusively from the photo in my home residence over three hours away. The same goes with the antique objects I’ve collected over the decades: my paintings of the objects are far superior (to my eye) than objects I’ve photographed and painted. I have trouble explaining why I feel that painting from life offers benefits beyond painting from images. My problem explaining this reminds me of Heidegger’s struggle matching words to his ideas:

On a deep winter’s night when a wild, pounding snowstorm rages around the cabin and veils and covers everything, that is the perfect time for philosophy. Then its questions become simple and essential. Working through each thought can only be tough and rigorous. The struggle to mold something into language is like the resistance of the towering firs against the storm.

So now I try to wrap words around my resisting issue of making art from photographs vs. the real objects before me: I find much more satisfaction from my watercolors and drawings done from three-dimensional subjects rather than two-dimensional photos. Granted, there is much more work and anxiety involved in editing a 360-degree environment and translating the three dimensions onto a measured two-dimensional picture plane, I feel that something special emerges from that struggle. When I work from a photo, I feel that I am doing paint-by-number, merely struggling for a one-to-one correspondence from one square inch to another. When looking at a real world before my eyes with depth, changing colors, light shifts, etc., I feel that I am actually recording a world onto the paper before me. And in viewing the watercolor months and years later, that world still pulsates on the surface, to me.  This never happens with my works of art transferred from photos, even if I feel that the skill levels are sometimes higher. I don’t know that this is making sense to a reader, but it’s the best I can do for now.

Thanks always for taking time to read me.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

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