Archive for the ‘Autumn’ Category

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.

 

Painting into the Holiday

November 23, 2015

imageI am not interested in art as a means of making a living, but I am interested in art as a means of living a life.  It is the most important of all studies, and all studies are tributary to it.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

After nearly two weaks of a nasty sinus infection and demanding school schedule, I am delighted to emerge intact, and most grateful for this opportunity to pick up the brush again!  When I feel sick to the point that I cannot use my eyes, life is so bleak, and the past two weeks without art and reading were dismal.

On a recent road trip, I experienced a moment described about our famous painter Edward Hopper–it was often said that he would pass by a subject worthy of painting, and, a few miles later, would turn his car around and go back to the location, so powerful was the lingering mental image of the subject. This happened to me.  An abandoned tire shop alongside a quiet highway arrested my attention, and I drove a good five miles before turning around to get back to it and take some pictures–I felt that the structure just bristled with stories. Photographing it from a multiple of angles, and so grateful for the bright sunlight, strong shadows, and cold bracing weather, I determined that I would begin studies of this as soon as I felt sound in mind and body again.

The holidays are approaching, and I decided not to wait until Thanksgiving to get out the watercolor supplies.  This is a small study–approximately 8 x 10″ in size, but I kicked it out in half a day today and am itching to begin another.  It feels splendid to be sketching again.  I have worked exclusively in Texas coastal subjects since my artist-in-residency last summer.  I’m glad to return to this nostalgic strain once again–it’s been awhile.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving!

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Limits Yield Intensity

November 23, 2014
Sunday Morning Plein Air Watercolor Sketch

Sunday Morning Plein Air Watercolor Sketch

Limits yield intensity.  Beethoven said, speaking of Handel, that the measure of music is “producing great results with scant means.”

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

My weekend was fuller than usual, spent largely in east Texas at a Christmas event, and then with friends I’ve appreciated for many years.  During my escape from the city, I managed to toss out a couple of watercolor sketches, and felt very alive doing so.  This morning, I awoke to a world in Athens, Texas that was just exploding in autumn colors after more than 24 hours of rainfall.  I took a number of photos, but wasn’t satisfied until I worked on the small watercolor posted at the top of this entry.

Rapturous Colors in Athens, Texas

Rapturous Colors in Athens, Texas

Following breakfast, we went out on the back deck, looked across the property at these gorgeous colors, and drew out watercolor supplies to see if we could capture some of this essence.  My attempt was quick and small (about 5 x 7″) but my heart swelled with delight as I gazed at the natural beauty and reached for colors in an attempt to respond to what I saw and felt.  Despite many promises that I made to myself, this was in fact my first attempt this fall to attempt a plein air watercolor sketch of the changing of the seasons.  I saw it coming for weeks, but just never turned from my daily schedule to pursue this project.  Today felt good as I finally settled into it.  A part of me wishes for more time to pursue these interests, but seriously, most people lack this quality time, yet know how to appreciate it when the scant moments offer themselves up for creative exploits.  I’m happy to have received this gift this morning.

I think I’ll put this small watercolor into a 5 x 7″ window mat and place it inside an 8 x 10″ frame.  I believe that $50 will be a fair asking price for the piece.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Sunday Afternoon Leisure

October 5, 2014
Sunday Afternoon in the Quiet Study

Sunday Afternoon in the Quiet Study

All the arts we practice are apprenticeship.  The big art is our life.

M. C. Richards

In the calmness of the Sunday afternoon before returning to work in the morning, I have found delight in having met several major deadlines over this difficult weekend.  And so, this afternoon, as I sat with coffee, wondering what to read, I decided instead to draw the coffee cup and saucer before me with an Ebony pencil.  I have really missed sketching, and the sensation of dragging the soft graphite over the sketchbook paper revived some lost pleasures.  In response to this sacred moment, I then gave another part of my waning weekend to tidying up my studio and reorganizing my watercolor supplies.  This I did in anticipation of a busy life once the leaves begin to turn in Texas and reveal some new colors I have missed over this past year.  In the meantime, some quiet reflection and writing in the journal are now giving me the kind of quiet afternoon I have coveted for several days.  Hopefully, as I look for ways to live a more artful life, my attempts at making new art will get me back to the prolific levels it knew before the fall school schedule became so demanding.

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.

What if Every Class Began with Heidegger?

May 18, 2014

North of Waxahachie, Texas

When on a summer’s day the butterfly

settles on the flower and, wings

closed, sways with it in the

meadow-breeze . . . .

            All our heart’s courage is the

            echoing response to the

            first call of Being which

            gathers our thinking into the

            play of the world.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

Reading the text above left me breathless, late one night recently.  I had been working over several days, trying to prepare a lecture on Martin Heidegger for my high school philosophy class.  Anyone who has tried to read his work, especially Being and Time, knows that Heidegger’s thought is a difficult nut to crack.  Finally, I read his piece titled “The Thinker as Poet”, read it again, and read it still again.  I couldn’t believe the ideas that washed over me.  For several decades now, my life has zig-zagged between art and academics.  I am salaried to teach academics to high school and college students (art history, philosophy, literature).  I have never stopped making art, and I have pursued watercolors for a number of years now.  And I love the kindredship I feel when I read words such as these from a writer who loved both fields.

With only a few weeks of school remaining, I oftentimes find this time a year the best of times, for me.  Most students (and teachers) have given up by now and are on cruise control.  I always find this an excellent time to pursue studies in areas outside my comfort zone, and I feel that I am a student again, off-balance, leaning into new ideas, and stretching to understand the more nuanced teachings from the masters.  Right now, I am loving my reading and my art endeavors more than ever, and hope that the trend continues a long time.  I can think of nothing better.

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.

 

My Favorite Memory from the Art Festival Circuit

March 24, 2014
The Shed cafe, Edom, Texas

The Shed Cafe, Edom, Texas

. . . your desire to make art–beautiful or meaningful or emotive art–is integral to your sense of who you are.  Life and Art, once entwined, can quickly become inseparable; at age ninety Frank Lloyd Wright was still designing, Imogen Cunningham still photographing, Sravinsky still composing, Picasso still painting.

David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear

I love that point raised by Bayles and Orland.  If I could be fortunate enough to live to see ninety, I would hope that I still have the eye and the steady hand to continue making art.  I still feel like a student, am still filled with surprises at every turn, and love the discovery of new ideas and techniques.  I make art because it is in me; I am not complete when I’m not making something new.  This morning, I am exhausted from finishing a three-day art festival that featured frigid temperatures and high winds.  Nevertheless, sales were O.K., and the conversations with patrons were very warming to my soul.  I am grateful for all the positives that came out of this one.  I have two weeks before the next festival, and plenty of time to rest up and recuperate.  All things considered, the festival was a good experience, but it meant three days without making art, so I am itching to get back into the studio.

I promised in an earlier post to share my favorite memory from the art festival circuit.  Every October, I participate in the Edom Festival of the Arts in remote east Texas.  The setting is rolling pastureland with several barns and sheds scattered around the property and enormous shade trees.  The booths are not lined up in a grid, but arranged organically around the property, inserted between trees, outbuildings, etc.  A tall privacy fence hides the festival grounds from the highway nearby.  There is no electricity on the grounds, so we don’t have to fuss with track lighting, laptops or credit card terminals.  Patrons know that the event is a cash-and-carry affair, with an ATM in the town, and the two-day festival is filled with art shoppers.  Sales and conversations at the Edom Festival of the Arts are first rate, and I can’t wait to go every fall when the weather begins to cool.

Two years back, to save money and time, I decided not to book a hotel (about a thirty-minute drive to the nearest city).  I had this romantic and ludicrous notion that I would sleep in the back of my Jeep Grand Cherokee, disregarding my age and lack of general fitness (also disregarding the soreness and achiness that always comes from loading the Jeep, driving two hours, setting up the tent, furniture, and hanging all the art).  When darkness descended, I crawled into the back of my Jeep that was parked near the forest with all the other artists’ vehicles and trailers (a number of them have camping trailers for accommodations).  The night grew chilly, and I never got comfortable in the back of my vehicle.  I chafed at my lack of judgment and slept very little as the night wore on.

Finally, just before dawn, I decided I had to get back on my feet.  I had slept in my clothes, so I did not have to undergo acrobatic contortions, dressing in the back of the vehicle.  Emerging from the Jeep, I trudged with heavy feet up the hill and through the festival grounds.  The grass was wet with dew, temperatures were in the upper forties (the sweatshirt and jacket were doing their job just fine), and as I walked among the gleaming white tents in silence, I felt an exhilaration I cannot explain.  The morning was crisp, cold and delicious.  I loved the scent of the October pasture.  The artist “village” was so attractive to me, though all the tents were shuttered and no art work was visible at this hour.  But I loved the morning walk through the darkness, and as I wended my way toward The Shed Cafe (not visible because of the privacy fence), I could only hope that it opened according to “traditional country cafe hours”.  It was 6:05 and still dark.  Rounding the corner of the privacy fence, I saw what is posted at the top of this blog (this photo was taken later, nearer Christmas time, hence the holiday lights).  Warm light poured out of every window, smoke was billowing out of the chimney, and I instantly smelled eggs frying, bacon, ham, biscuits, gravy, coffee–the works!  I cannot describe the rush of good will that filled me at that moment.  All the achiness and sleepiness from the goofy night sleeping in the Jeep disappeared, and all that mattered was the warm, affirming feeling of a hot country breakfast.  The food at The Shed is among the finest I’ve ever had, and regardless of the success in sales at the Edom Festival, breakfast at The Shed is the highlight of the weekend.

The Shed Cafe Edom, Texas

The Shed Cafe
Edom, Texas

Last winter, I painted this 8 x 10″ watercolor of my favorite east Texas eatery.

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.

Autumn Trees in the Western Sun

November 1, 2011

Autumn Trees in the Western Sun

Texas weather was again delicious for plein air experimentation.  After school let out, I immediately went out in search of autumn colors, and it didn’t take long to find them.  This time I layered Winsor & Newton watercolors with Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils, going back and forth between the media.  I found a happier balance this time, and believe I have come up with one of my better watercolor sketches of fall foliage.  It’s rather small (about 9 x 12″), but I think it will have  a smart appearance once matted and framed.

In looking at this pair of trees, I was surprised to find the one with the dead leaves still sporting its full headdress, while the tree of living leaves had already lost about half of them.  I found that strange, and wanted to try and sketch the pair accurately.  Fall is coming on.  Because of the dreadfully hot and dry summer, I’m afraid that Texas will see little-to-no color this season.  Nevertheless, I still like the looks of the trees as they begin casting their leaves, even if the colors range only from green-to-brown. All the same, I’ll try to capture some of them in watercolor sketches en plein air this time around.

Thanks for reading.

Strawberry Fields Forever

October 31, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever

Leaving school this afternoon, I drove my Jeep out into a beautiful world, awash with Texas sunny skies and temperatures at 71 degrees with cool breezes filling the air.  I slipped a Beatles Anthology CD into my player and listened to the three different renditions of Strawberry Fields Forever.  I felt a sense of sadness, realizing that I miss John Lennon more now than I did in the immediate years following his untimely death.  Maybe I lacked maturity in those days, but his death was a sensationalist event in the media and I never really felt the sense of sorrow and loss until much later.  Now, I have trouble listening to Imagine and Strawberry Fields.  As the song played, my mind’s eye was filled with this image from Stovall Park in south Arlington, Texas.

I drove to the park, got out of my Jeep and walked to this location, and as I gazed at the tree in the late afternoon sun, the muse whispered sweetly and gently into my ear, and I knew I had to give it a shot.  I must say the muse was with me this time, as I felt genuine joy working on the piece, though I only lingered 45 minutes over it.  I was intrigued with the darkness and density of the tree, with the sun behind it, and the contrast of the yellow, sunlit leaves in particular places.  I also felt stirred at the dark lavenders and crimsons I sensed in the sprawling shadows beneath the spreading tree.  The only part at which I labored the most was the dark density of the body of the tree top, trying to find the right kind of blue tones to put into the shadows.  I’m not sure that I got it right, but I think I have improved over past attempts at painting trees en plen air.  I hope I can find a way to do it tomorrow as well.  My dreaded 4-class school schedule will hold me until nearly 3:00, but maybe I can get away quickly enough to capture the afternoon light again.

Thanks for reading.

Looking Forward to Fall Colors and Plein Air Watercoloring

September 18, 2011

Looking Forward to Fall Colors and Plein Air Watercoloring

The cool, autumnal temperatures that lightly kissed the four-day Grapefest have left me yearning for the changing colors that announce the plein air season for passionate watercolorists.  Though the art festival season will be extremely heavy from September through October, I am of a mind to commit my weekday afternoons to plein air watercolor sketching.

This is an open meadow across Business Highway 287 on the north side of Waxahachie, Texas.  I had stopped by Zula’s Coffee House late one autumn afternoon in 2010, and enjoyed my coffee outdoors at a picnic table while watching the sunlight sweep across the field across the highway.  I took out my watercolors and made quick work of this vista.  Now I’m ready to chase autumn colors with the brush again.  They cannot come soon enough.

Thanks always for reading.

 

Kerouac’s Dream, December 18, 2010

December 18, 2010

Kerouac's Dream

I have already painted this vintage car several times, but thought it was time to put some fall foliage around it.  It is a 1950 Chevy Sedan Special Delivery, parked in a field north of Hillsboro, Texas, along Highway 77.  The owner has graciously permitted me to come onto his property and do watercolor sketches en plein air of his collection of vintage cars.  Hillsboro is a one-hour drive from where I live, across beautiful sprawling Texas country.  I have Jack Kerouac’s On the Road that I listen to on CD as I drive and let my mind drift across the American landscape.  With my company’s name, Recollections 54, I still look for ways to translate the memories of the American fifties into watercolor compositions and vignettes.  Even if I never reach the standard of quality that I target, I can already say that this journey has been a profoundly rewarding one.  Soon I will journey to my hometown St. Louis for Christmas, and look forward to finding new vistas to record.

Thanks for reading.