Archive for the ‘bison’ Category

Playtime in The Gallery at Redlands

July 23, 2021
Loosening up with some Pen & Ink Sketches

Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth, I believe. He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience, to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it. He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. He ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk.

N. Scott Momaday, The Man Made of Words

Friday morning in The Gallery at Redlands finds me at play. I finally sat down to gaze upon the cover of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. Charlie Mackesy, to me, is the gold standard for pen & ink as witnessed by his exquisite sketches of the characters in this lovely children’s book. I purchased a Pentel Arts Pocket Brush medium brush pen and sat down at the drafting table to see if I could possibly discard a lifetime’s practice of uptight, anal drawing. Yesterday, I sat down for my first attempt, copying Mackesy’s horse as quickly as I could with a rigger brush and bottle of India Ink. It didn’t go down very well.

First Attempt, using Rigger Brush & India Ink

Today’s attempt with the Pentel Brush Pen showed some improvement with the calligraphic style lines of varying width, but I still found myself very sloppy with the attempted hairline whips of arc-shaped lines. I think what I need to do is use the pen brush for heavier, calligraphic variety sweeps, then refine my fine lines using a tech pen. I’ll try that next.

The Momaday reading inspired me this morning, reminding me of my recent attempt to break the restraints of my former color palette. Having done more plein air work recently in canyon and mountain settings, I’ve decided to loosen up and try some of the quinacridone gold and red hues I’ve been purchasing from the Daniel Smith brand. The result has been some bison sketches of which I’ve sold several already at $100 apiece for 5 x 7″ watercolors mounted in 8 x 10″ frames.

Lone Bison, 8 x 10″ frame, $100
Friday Morning in The Gallery at Redlands

Downtown Palestine has been relatively quiet this morning, aside from drop-in visits from friends in the community whom I dearly love. Conversations with them are always warm, positive and enlightening. It looks like it could be a lovely day for experimental art work and creative eros.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Saturday Experiments in the Gallery at Redlands

June 26, 2021

The tensions of “publication” had been followed by a rest–now I notice that it is over, and the demon is beginning to rummage and push me again.”

Martin Heidegger, in a letter to his wife

Saturday has been a whirlwind in The Gallery at Redlands, and now the evening is already underway. I have tried throughout the day to find space to launch a blog and finally a space seems to have opened. Last night I finished the Sacred Heart Church watercolor, framed it and put it in the window. The previous blog shows that work on display.

A strange turn has happened with the bison subject matter. About a month ago, I taught a watercolor class on bison painting, and the demo I created laid about in Studio Eidolons for weeks. Every time I noticed it “out of the corner of my eye” (Andrew Wyeth’s favorite expression for evaluating his own finished work), I liked the simplicity of an iconic bison against a white background. So, on a lark, I framed the sample in a 5 x 7″ window mat and placed it in an 8 x 10″ frame and priced it at $100. It sold the day I set it up in the gallery. A week later I decided to try another one, and it sold. Yesterday, a third one sold. So now, I have a fourth and fifth to present, prices remaining at $100 each. I have no plans to make reproductions of these; as long as I have enough imagination to experiment with color and different techniques I believe I can create an authentic image and continue to offer if for sale as an original framed watercolor. We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime I am enjoying the changes in the palette as I seek ways to introduce more color into this magnificent animal.

Shelton Hall is slowly but surely taking shape. I know I won’t finish this one tonight, but will take it back to Studio Eidolons to work on the following week.

Things are getting busy again, so I’m going to close and say thanks always for reading.

Sunday Repose

June 13, 2021

All that mankind has done, thought, gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.

Thomas Carlyle

What a serene Sunday! Dragging in at 11:30 last night after a 48-hour gallery weekend, I was quite bedraggled, but happy. Happier now, rested! My reading this morning over coffee yielded this remark from Carlyle that I had recorded 15 years ago in my journal, and forgotten (I really should spend more time digging up the old bones I’ve buried in those notebooks since 1985). I cannot exaggerate the power of books to light creative fires for me. When I’m feeling flat, someone will always pull me out of the funk with what s/he cared enough to write for others to find. I still love the quote from the film Shadowlands: “We read to know we’re not alone.”

I have decided today to push further with this “Lone Bison” series. It began in Utah last September when I encountered a herd and took dozens of photos. Not long after, I used the photos as models and began drawing and watercoloring in sketchbooks my experiments with color and composition. I am becoming more daring with my colors of late and want to see how far I can push it.

When it comes to selling my art, I often find myself talking out both sides of my mouth: I’ll sell anything. However, there are particular pieces that I’m attached to for various reasons, and while in my possession, I spend time looking at them and contemplating how I can repeat the painting or extend it into a new direction. When a new work sells quickly, I’m robbed of that contemplative, composting time that has come to mean so much more in these later years.

Case in point: The Lone Bison. Last weekend I pulled from my collection at home a solitary bison, 5 x 7″ inches, that I painted as a demo for one of my “Watercolor Wednesdays” classes. I liked the way it cropped neatly into a 5 x 7″ inch matt, so I framed it and set it on the display case in The Gallery at Redlands. That very evening, someone bought it. So . . . all week long I could not stop thinking of that small watercolor study. Yesterday, in the gallery, I painted another one, using the same model as before. Before I could get it into the frame, a dear friend I’ve known since high school texted me that he wanted to purchase it. So . . . in the evening, I painted a third one, matted and framed it, but left it in the gallery in case someone just might see it this next week and wish to purchase it. So now here I am, at home in Studio Eidolons, thinking of all the possibilities I want to pursue with that solitary bison. We’ll see what happens today. I’m grateful for the time, the space, and the quiet.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Thoughts on the Lone Bison

June 12, 2021

Today we are searching for things in nature that are hidden behind the veil of appearance… We look for and paint this inner, spiritual side of nature.

Franz Marc

Vacationing in Utah last year brought me in close proximity to a herd of bison. I was moved profoundly as I gazed upon those behemoths grazing quietly on a broad plain, continually kicking up dust as they moved about. I attempted a pair of watercolors of them and was satisfied with the results. However, I found myself far more engaged as I continued sketching them in my watercolor sketchbooks and even once taught a watercolor class on bison sketching. This morning, waking in The Redlands Hotel, I determined that after breakfast I would make my way to the gallery downstairs and attempt yet another bison watercolor sketch, just a simple 5 x 7″ one.

In my most recent bison experiments, I am trying to open up and use Daniel Smith quinacridone colors more aggressively. This morning as I attempted my latest one, I thought about Franz Marc, the German Expressionist who founded the Blue Rider movement (Der Blaue Reiter), something that started as a published journal and eventually drew about it a circle of artists including Wasily Kandinsky. Marc imposed a vivid array of colors on the animals he painted, and I’ve never been able to get those images out of my head. So I decided “Why not try this on the bison?”

I’ve decided to mat this 5 x 7″ piece and place it in an 8 x 10″ frame and price it at $100 in The Gallery at Redlands. While I’m at it, I’ll go ahead and post the other two already hanging in this space.

Utah Evening Serenity, 21 x 20″ framed watercolor. $450

Bison Herd in Utah, 23 x 31″ framed watercolor. $600

The Lone Bison, 8 x 10″ framed watercolor. $100

Saturday in The Gallery at Redlands is proving calm and productive for me. I’ll be here till we close at 9 tonight.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Working on a Second Tower 55 Watercolor

February 23, 2021
12 x 16 watercolor in progress

With some luck, I should be finishing this watercolor before the day is through. I wanted to have it in time to share as part of my “Hank” series in Palestine when the Dogwood Festival opens. Below is the story I’ve been working on to give it a narrative.

Squealing brakes accompanied by the thundering slam of freight car couplings in the Union Pacific railyard in Fort Worth, Texas hindered Hank from sleeping soundly in the small hotel on the south side of downtown. Wiping sleep from his travel-weary eyes, he sat on the edge of his bed and looked out the second-story window of his room. February. A layer of fresh snow blanketed the parking lot, and as he gazed across the cool blue shadows from his bed, Hank once again felt that old familiar Odysseus-fueled sentiment to wander. Pulling his tattered copy of Kerouac’s On the Road from the backpack, Hank looked up the passage where Sal awoke in the Chicago railroad flophouse, wondering for the moment who he was. Smiling as he stuffed the book back into his bag, Hank reaffirmed that he knew perfectly well who he was—Hank, the wandering mendicant, exploring the world and learning its secrets.

Dawn was just breaking, and in the dim light outside, Hank was confident he could prowl undetected through the busy railyard in search of a slow-moving freight to hop near the interlocker of Tower 55. Just south of the three-story Tower, a long freight of boxcars was crawling slowly southward. Mesmerized by the slow parade, he recalled one of his favorite passages from Allen Ginsburg’s “Howl”.

who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome farms in grandfather night,

A closer scrutiny revealed no open boxcar doors as the train slowly gathered momentum. As Hank continued to watch, he came to the realization that rail travel was not for him. Though he enjoyed the romantic stories from On the Road, hopping a freight seemed too dangerous. Leaving the railyards, he spied the lighted sign of a Rexall Drugs and decided to go inside to look for a road atlas of Texas. Finding a Rand McNally, he paid the cashier and walked out.

Further down the street was a diner, more accurately a greasy spoon. Seeking warmth inside, Hank soon found himself sipping hot coffee from a heavy stained and cracked diner mug. Unfolding his map, he spread it across the table and squinted at it while enjoying the aromas wafting from the kitchen—fried eggs, hashbrowns, sausages, bacon, the steam of coffee. Hank wanted to head south across the state, having already visited the west. But none of the towns along the sprawling highway routes captured his fancy. Turning his attention to railroad routes, he traced southward from Fort Worth’s Tower 55. Palestine appeared to feature a large railyard. It was settled. Hank would set his sights on Palestine. Leaving the diner, Hank ventured in a southeasterly direction, seeking out Highway 287. Surely a motorist would soon pick up a hitchhiker who had just exited a hotel, showered, groomed, and dressed cleanly.

Hours later, Hank emerged from a 4-door Plymouth filled with a happy family with three chatty children. The Palestine railyards lay just south of Spring Street, and Hank looked up and down the tracks, glad he had decided against hopping a freight. To the north, he saw a five-story vintage hotel and decided to walk in that direction. The Redlands Hotel, established in 1915, was a stately structure, anchoring the west end of the city adjacent to the majestic Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Entering the hotel from the west portal, Hank was impressed to see a restored lobby reminiscent of the glory days of railroad commerce. To his left was a lovely restaurant with linen tablecloths glowing in the dimly lit interior. On his right was a small art gallery and AM radio station with a live broadcast.

Pushing on ahead through the lobby, Hank found the office at the far end and decided to inquire about a vacancy. Jeanene, the red-haired proprietor of the hotel, greeted him warmly and told him the hotel featured twenty suites, each in their original apartment layout featuring kitchen, bedroom, living area and bathroom. Smiling, Hank decided to rent for a week. Room 207 was clean and well-lighted, the kitchenette featuring a small round table next to windows looking down upon the handsome Carnegie Library across the street north of the hotel. Breathing deeply, Hank wondered what it could be like to live here for a spell.

Descending the stairs into the main lobby, Hank spotted the radio disc jockey seated in a wingback chair outside the restaurant, sipping coffee and smoking a cigarette. He had just completed his morning show. Carl Harris had been working at KXOK radio since the early 60’s playing top 40 tunes and inserting the occasional news and weather updates.

“So, you look like a well-traveled man. What brings you to Palestine?

“Just a whim. I was in Fort Worth yesterday looking to hop a freight but decided not to risk it.  Assuming Palestine to be a railroad town, I decided to hitchhike down here to see what you have.”

“Can’t say much for the town. It’s alright, I guess. But if it weren’t for the job, I’m not sure I’d stay.”

“How long have you been in radio?”

“Twelve years. By now I’d hoped to be in a bigger city, like Houston or Dallas. Always wanted to travel instead of staying in my hometown. But it’s a good gig. I love music, play guitar, write songs. The job supports my habit. Frankly, I don’t know how much time we still have here. Our rival station KMOX in the next county represents the new wave. I come from the old school of radio rockers, not this new breed of radio talkers. But I guess that is another story. So. What do you do, besides travel?”

“Can’t say for sure. A couple of years ago, I decided I didn’t want to stay in my hometown any longer. So I’ve been on the road, meeting people, seeing different places. Still trying to figure out what to do with my life.”

“You need a job? This art gallery is brand new and they can’t seem to find anyone willing to work for minimum wage. The main artist is from out of town and isn’t here enough to keep it going as it should.”

“I could be interested. Who do I see about the job?”

“Jeanene, in the office. She’ll set you up, I’m sure.”

Now the sun was going down, and the studio was filling with shadows, imparting a feeling of overpowering melancholy to the end of the day. When the light filtered away like this after a bout of fruitless labour it felt as if the sun had disappeared for ever and taken with it all the life and gaiety and harmony of colours.

Emile Zola, The Masterpiece

Hank closed the book with a bottomless sigh and turned out the lights. The day had been long and uneventful, like most recent days, and reading the novel from Zola left him feeling as lost and empty as Cezanne must have been when he struggled to find his way in the painting enterprise. Emptying his glass with the last swallow of sangria, Hank laid back on his bed, closed his eyes and waited for sleep.

Morning. With eyes remaining closed, Hank listened. Mockingbirds conversed outside his open window of the Redlands Hotel. Somewhere nearby a radio was playing. He recognized the voice of Carl on KXOK, his energized voice of the morning show using every trick to capture attention from listeners driving to work. Hank opened his eyes slowly and focused. The alarm clock showed 7:15. Stickiness from the sangria of last night lay foul on his tongue. Stale cigar smoke lingered. The only element offering good will this morning was the clear light of a winter sunrise filtering through the light curtains, exposing myriads of floating dust particles drifting above the foot of his narrow bed.

Hank had slept with his clothes on, again. Rising and shuffling into the small kitchenette, he opened the squeaking cabinet above the sink, pulled down the Eight O’Clock Bean Coffee bag, measured coffee into the basket and poured water into the percolator. Soon the kitchen was filled with his favorite morning aroma. Looking out the window as the coffee percolated, his eyes rested again on the magnificent structure of the Carnegie Library. He needed to pay the place a visit. All he had read for the past six months was the same old books he had brought along in his backpack.

Stepping onto the second-story balcony of the hotel with his mug of coffee, Hank settled into one of the chairs and gazed across Spring Street into the railyard. He had been working downstairs in the art gallery for a little over two weeks now and was beginning to feel settled into this town. He was also beginning to wonder if he could make art worthy of the gallery he sat in each day. If he was to submit his art, it would have to be very soon. February was drawing near its close, and the city’s annual Dogwood Festival would begin in just a few weeks. Artists from around the county would be setting up tents in the street and displaying their work for sale. Hank hoped by then that he would be able to exhibit out of the gallery. Drawing his coat more tightly around his neck, he savored the warmth of the coffee and allowed his mind to drift back to his ninth-grade artistic beginnings.

High School had been a new and daunting world for Hank. He found himself in a different building, four miles from his Turvey’s Corner home. His first class on that first day was Art I. Having won first-place art honors at his junior high awards assembly the year before, he thought he was going to step into a classroom, bearing an aura of respect and admiration. What he found instead was a room filled with juniors and seniors. At the end of his table sat varsity tackle Joe Bennett with his 240 pounds, full red beard, and letter jacket. Senior girls already looking like suburban women with eye shadow and lip gloss chatted nervously in his orbit. Hippies with T-shirts and shoulder-length hair, American flags sewed to the backs of their denim jackets, sulked in their chairs, dark and glum, their clothes reeking of stale cigarette smoke. Hank felt diminutive. Mr. Scucchi entered the room, looking dapper in his tweed sport jacket with patched elbows, his shirt open at the collar. Addressing the class, he spoke in a vocabulary Hank recognized as charged with art speak, little of which he understood. Hank felt himself shrinking with every word.

On the third week of school something happened. Apparently, Mr. Scucchi had been looking at Hank’s daily work. Now, looking over Hank’s shoulder this Wednesday morning while he sketched the still life arrangement in the center of the classroom, the teacher asked, “Didn’t you win the art award at North Jefferson last year?” Hank looked up from his work and only nodded, too intimidated to speak up, and embarrassed, sensing the entire class suddenly looking up and focusing on him with interested curiosity. The teacher, saying nothing, moved on to the next student. “And what exactly are you trying to do with this?”

The following day Hank continued, bent over his work, unaware that Mr. Scucchi had walked up silently behind him again. Reaching over him, the teacher laid a coffee-table sized book on top of Hank’s drawing. In giant letters, the title read ANDREW WYETH. “I think you should look at this.”

Opening the enormous volume gingerly as though it were a museum archive piece, Hank’s eyes widened at what he saw. Page after page revealed drybrush watercolors in sepia tones of ramshackle farmhouses, barns, and outbuildings, all of them looking like his grandparents’ farm in southeast Missouri. Hank’s artistic vision, already keen at this tender age, still lacked the vocabulary to give it definition. He already had vision but lacked articulation. School had never interested him. He had read very little and listened to his teachers even less. His parents had grown up as children of tenant farmers with little schooling in one-room schoolhouses. Thus, they read little and spoke less.  Hank could not voice what it was exactly that he saw that could be called “beautiful.” What was beautiful about decrepit buildings? Where was the artistic aura in poverty? Why was Andrew Wyeth famous for painting such drab subjects? And why could Hank not stop gazing at and admiring these paintings? The artwork rang with authenticity, triggering the deep-seated emotions Hank always felt when visiting his grandparents’ farm.

As high school unfolded in the following years, Hank continued to take art, the only subject where he could thrive, relying on his talent, his eye, but taking almost no interest in theory. During his sophomore year, he visited his grandparents’ farm repeatedly, making copious drawings in his sketchbook of his grandpa’s shack. His second and third-year art teacher, Mr. Hoeh, took an interest in the drawings and encouraged him to study the shack drawings more closely. Mr. Hoeh believed they could yield quality watercolors.

Hank’s second great awakening occurred during his senior year while competing at an art show in a St. Louis shopping center. The competition categories were for student and professional. Hank by this time had grown accustomed to winning awards in student categories, and this show would be no different. What was different was the sight of a high school senior, two spaces down from Hank, competing in the professional category. And winning.

This high school senior, known only as Brad, worked in the J. C. Penney department store in the shopping center. He was not even with his display when the Best of Show ribbon was awarded him; he had to go work inside the store. With his absence, Hank lingered a long time and looked at his work—Andrew Wyeth-inspired dry brush paintings of those same subjects—farmhouses and barns and busted-down fencing. Nearly devoid of color—sepias, umbers, ochres, and warm grays. Plenty of spattering and wet-on-wet bleeding. The peripheries of each composition were left undefined, fading into the white halo of paper. To Hank’s eyes, each watercolor was exquisite, the touch of a master. But Hank still wondered, how on earth could one describe such decrepit subject matter as “beautiful”?

As he continued to drift slowly through the professional displays, Hank found an elderly gentleman in bowtie and beret seated on a stool, bent over a watercolor in progress. His body of work was also remarkable, taking second place. All watercolors. Classic landscapes charged with vibrant color. The old man Hank found to be quite approachable, so he laid aside his shyness, and asked the big questions.

“I never saw watercolor in tubes before, only in paint pans. I thought only oils and acrylics came in tubes. What brand is that?”

“Winsor & Newton, the best in the world, as far as I’m concerned.”

“And what kind of tablet is that? It looks like a sketchbook, but the paper is sealed all the way around.”

“Again, the best paper in the world—D’Arches. This is called a watercolor block. They’re costly, but worth every penny. They keep the paper from buckling while wet.”

“But your paper is wet now. And buckled.”

“While wet, yes. But as it dries, it shrinks, and when totally dry it will be flat as a board again. There is no worse presentation than a warpy watercolor, buckled within a mat and frame.”

Back at his own display, Hank spent the rest of the day thinking over what the old man had told him, and of the remarkable watercolor work of young Brad. When the festival ended and Hank had nearly packed all his gear, he looked up to see the old watercolorist standing before him with extended hand. Eagerly, Hank shook the old friend’s hand, thanking him for patiently answering all his questions. Smiling, the man said, “Just call me Herb. I hope to see you again soon, at another festival. Until then . . .” In his other hand was a leather wallet folded over three times with a thong tied around it. He was handing it to Hank. “Open it,” he said. Frank untied the thong and unfolded the wallet. A used set of watercolor pans was tucked inside. “Winsor & Newton,” Herb smiled. “Best in the world. Practice every day. You’ll get there.” Smiling, he turned and walked away.

Breakfast finished, Hank descended the hotel stairs to the ground floor and entered The Gallery at Redlands. Looking out the window at the Union Pacific railyards across Spring Street, he recalled the early morning in Fort Worth as he stood in the fog watching the trains emerge from the gloom, roaring and expelling exhaust that mingled with the fog. It brought to mind his sojourn in Utah a month ago when he stood gazing at the herd of bison on the ranch. The bison also moved in and out of a mist from the mountains, a mist that mingled with the dust they kicked up from the dirt, and the exhalation of hot breath into the cold atmosphere. Bison and mist.  Diesels and mist. New images were beginning to form in his mind.

Walking to his desk, Hank sat and quickly sketched on his watercolor pad a gathering of bison as he recalled the way they looked on that particular day.

Leaning back from his work, Hank liked what he saw. Now it was time to turn his attention back to what he saw early one morning in Fort Worth as he contemplated journeying to Palestine.

_________________________________________

More later. Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Weaving Disparate Strands

February 20, 2021

You know, there is a philosopher who says, As you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos and random events, nonrelated events smashing into each other and causing this situation, and then this happens, and it’s overwhelming, and it just looks like: What in the world is going on? And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely-crafted novel. . . But at the time, it don’t!

Joe Walsh, History of the Eagles

I awoke this sunny, snow-covered wintry morning, my mind jarred by a collision of stories, images and ideas for writing, painting, journaling, blogging, and while I made coffee, I wondered what in the devil I was going to do once I sat down at my desk in Studio Eidolons. The words of Joe Walsh of The Eagles came back to me, so I recorded them, then made the decision to weave the disparate threads of memory that woke me a little while ago.

Life imitates art. Art imitates life. For decades I have chipped away at a project combining my personal memoir with a fiction narrative titled Turvey’s Corner 63050. Pieces of this narrative have been dropped into my blog for over a year now. Today, as I work on piecing together a pair of stories from the Hank cycle, merging bison with diesel locomotives, I am sharing portions of my personal journal along with the newly-crafted stories. Hank is my alter-ego, inspired by friend Wayne White from second grade who will join me along with The Twelve artists re-opening The Gallery at Redlands next month. Wayne is currently a photographer residing in Missouri not far from where we grew up. Most of the stories of Hank are my own, co-mingled with made-up episodes. In this blog, I’ll share the fact along with the fiction.

Last September, Sandi and I traveled to Kanab, Utah to visit Zion National Park. On September 12, returning to our hotel from Zion, we encountered a herd of bison on a ranch near a stock tank. We had seen the herd that morning, but twenty-or-so tourists lined the perimeter fence and we decided not to stop. On the return, no one was at the fence, so we pulled over and I strolled down to the fence line and stayed about twenty minutes, observing the movements of the herd and taking numerous photos with my phone. I did not write about the enounter till September 17, back home in Arlington, Texas. The encounter had composted in my memory for nearly a week.

From my journal, September 17, 9:54 p.m.

So what happened with the bison? I was moved by the idyllic setting. The dust cloud raised. The density of the herd. The cow & calf stepping toward me, then moving into the tank to drink. The amber evening sunset on their coats, highlighting them in golds & oranges, while purple ruled the shadows. I felt a connection, a closeness . . .

The next day, I sat down in Studio Eidolons to attempt my first watercolor sketch of a single bison, using photos from my phone as a reference:

Two days later I decided to attempt a second sketch, this time of the herd, again looking at photos on my phone. I had just laid down Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, which I had been reading since our return home a few days before. I chose to write of myself in the third person.

From my journal September 19, 2020, 1:57 p.m., Motherwell station:

The mad scientist Heideggerian is probing the mists of Being as he bends over the drafting table, spritzes the watercolor sketchbook with a mist of water, then drops in a mixture of Daniel Smith Shadow Violet with Winsor & Newton Cerulean Blue. Then a ribbon of Cerulean below to establish a horizon. Spaced below the horizon, a horizontal line of pale Green-Gold. Below that a hoirzontal line of Transparent Yello & Winsor Violet.

Then, he touched Shadow Violet D.S. in the mists above to begin the shadowy forms of bison emerging from the mist . . .

Returning now @ 2:24 p.m.

Time to draw out the forms, looking at my mist configurations.

Now, I’m sketching out a Hank narrative to illustrate this moment in my life.

Hank gazed across the ranchland at the distant bison herd gathered beside a stock tank, its derelict windmill towering above. He felt a shudder as he watched the sun rippling across the backs of the behemoths. Slowly they grazed among the tall grasses, some of them ambling down into the waters to drink. Adjusting his easel and quickly sketching the profile of the nearest one, he splashed water across the broad body. Then quickly dipping his brush into the Winsor Violet and Transparent Yellow, he touched with the tip of his brush the newly mixed mixture of warm brown, and as the pigment quickly billowed into the water on the paper, Hank tilted the easel just a bit to encourage more movement and watched the color quickly fill the contours of the beast.

As the bison slowly emerged on the wet surface of the paper, Hank recalled the words of Abstract Expressionist painter Robert Motherwell in a recent interview. The artist had driven his car across France toward Spain, arriving at Alta Mira around sundown just as the guard was closing the gate to the cave with the famous prehistoric paintings inside. Motherwell offered the guard a fistful of paper currency, and with a nod, the employee swung the gate back open and let him inside the cave. Finding the ceiling to be low, Motherwell had to lie on his back on an upraised plateau to gaze up at the wounded bison, lit by a single electric bulb. Finding the viewing unsatisfactory, the artist was suddenly handed a lighted candle by the guard who then turned out the electric light. In the flicker of the candle, Motherwell suddenly noticed the impression of the bison moving, shuddering, and he was filled with an emotion never created by the viewing of the photographs in art history books.

Recalling this, Hank looked up at the herd of bison and down at his sketch with renewed fascination. The single watercolor sketch would do for the time being. But one day he would focus on a composition of a bison herd emerging from a dim, misty landscape.

My next watercolor will be a repeat of the Fort Worth Tower 55 I painted a few days ago, but this time with considerably more atmospheric traces of fog and diesel exhaust. As Hank looks at the scene in the early dawn, he will recall the sight of the bison and draw parallels between the diesels and bison stirring up the atmosphere.

In closing, I’m posting a pair of watercolors I attempted of the bison. Neither have yet been framed or put on public display.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Inspiration Surging during a Sun-splashed Morning

February 19, 2021
Brightly-lit snowy neighborhood through the windows of Studio Eidolons

Hofmann would hold up before his students a sheet of plain-as-plain-can-be paper and announce that “within its confines is the complete creative message.”

Jed Perl, New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century

My recent readings during mornings-over-coffee have come from New Art City. This morning I was aroused as I read of Hans Hofmann’s influence around Greenwich Village and in Provincetown while the Abstract Expressionists were taking hold of New York City in the 1940s-50s. The above quote, for me, was reminiscent of several other divines. So much has been expressed about the process of creativity. Aristotle, for one, argued that the oak tree was already inside the acorn, and simply had to emerge. Robert Motherwell defined the process of drawing as the “dividing of a plane surface.” In the book I’m reading, Jed Perl points out that “what Hofmann was saying was than when you drew a line on a piece of paper, you were creating a world.” Statements like that keep me going. I have frequently written and taught that the artist, created in God’s image, possesses the inborn desire to create. The two-dimensional artist approaches a rectangle, and immediately begins dividing up the interior until a world emerges.

Beginning a new one

While painting the Fort Worth Tower 55 composition on 8 x 10″ paper, I frequently felt the desire to try this again on a slightly larger scale. Since the painting sold so quickly, I’ve decided to push on ahead with a 12 x 16″ surface of 90# cold-pressed D’Arches paper stretched on canvas stretchers. The Hank story that corresponds to this picture has stretched my imagination further and I want to explore more aggressively the possibilities of a foggy atmosphere in watercolor. A part of me thinks of the inspiration of Claude Monet to paint impressionistically the Gare Saint-Lazare railway station in Paris. Another part of me wishes to connect a pair of Hank stories linking the bison herd he saw in the mists of Utah with the collection of diesel locomotives snorting in the dawn mist of the Fort Worth railyards.

Hank gazed across the ranchland at the distant bison herd gathered beside a stock tank with derelict windmill. He felt a shudder as he watched the sun rippling across the backs of the behemoths. Slowly they grazed among the tall grasses, some of them ambling down into the waters to drink. Adjusting his easel and quickly sketching the forms of a cow and calf standing closest to him, he splashed the water across the sketched body of the cow. Quickly dipping his brush into the Winsor Violet and Transparent Yellow, he touched with the tip of his brush the new mixture of warm brown, and as the pigment quickly billowed into the water on the paper, Hank tilted the easel just a bit to encourage more movement and watched the color quickly fill the contours of the mother beast.

He recalled the words of Abstract Expressionist painter Robert Motherwell in a recent interview. The artist had driven his car across France toward Spain, arriving at Alta Mira around sundown just as the guard was closing the gate to the cave with the famous prehistoric paintings inside. Motherwell offered the guard a fistful of paper currency, and with a nod, the employee swung the gate back open and let him inside the cave. Finding the ceiling to be low, Motherwell had to lie on his back on an upraised plateau to gaze up at the wounded bison, lit by a single electric bulb. Finding the viewing unsatisfactory, the artist was suddenly handed a lighted candle by the guard who then turned out the electric light. In the flicker of the candle, Motherwell suddenly noticed the impression of the bison moving, shuddering, and he was filled with an emotion never created by the viewing of the photographs in art history books.

Recalling this, Hank looked at the herd of bison and his sketch with renewed fascination. The single watercolor sketch of the cow would do for the time being. But one day he would focus on a composition of a bison herd emerging from a dim, misty landscape.

Once again this morning, I have been visited by so many new ideas and images to paint. I am not sure if I am expressing this clearly, but much of my recent creative eros could be attributed to being snow-bound all week, along with the enthusiasm I am feeling from The Twelve who will join me next month when we hold our new reception at The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine. In my daily imaginings, I “see” the other artists in their studios, thinking out and creating new works for the public soon to see. I can’t wait for this weather to break so I can begin visiting with some of these surging artistic spirits.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Resolution and Revolution

January 1, 2021
Cozy New Year on a 28-degree Morning

As they step into the same rivers, different waters flow upon them.

Heraclitus

For as long as I can remember, I have savored waking early in the morning on New Year’s Day. I have heard the sentiments repeatedly, that January 1 is an arbitrary beginning point, that our lives are linear rather than cyclical, and New Year’s resolutions are a farce. I understand that mindset, and could choose to adopt it as my own, if I wished. But I don’t wish. Heraclitus stated it well–it may be the same river we step into, but the waters are different. And I anticipate 2021 not to be a repeat of 2020. As for myself, I don’t plan to continue any kind of routine that feels like a dead routine.

For a few weeks now, I have drafted and edited resolutions, as I feel that compulsion to resolve some important matters in my personal life. And the resolution is felt more strongly when the New Year comes around. I also am fond of the idea of revolution. From my perspective, life is cyclical; not only do we revolve, but our society revolves. And I am more than ready to see my personal life, as well as the culture that surrounds me, revolve. Progress demands another turn of the wheel, another turn of the page.

Possibly finished with this #2 Bison Painting

One matter I have resolved is not only to become more prolific in making art, but to return to abandoned works to see if they can be completed. Yesterday and today, I took out a pair of bison compositions that had been tossed aside, and am now working to finish them. While lingering over the paintings, all the warm memories from that September evening in Utah washed over me. The sun was about to set. For the first time in three days as I drove past this ranch outside of Zion National Park, there were no tourists lined up at the fence. I scrambled out of the truck, crossed the pasture, and, lingering at the fence, took at least thirty photos with my phone of this bison herd. A cloud of dust hung about them (that I still cannot seem to capture in watercolor, but I’ll keep trying!), the cool winds stirred the tall grasses, and I felt for a few moments that the world had reached a stage of perfection. Moments before taking this picture, the cow and calf faced me directly, and walked toward me directly, then turned and entered the pond for a drink. I’m still contemplating the photo of them facing me, wondering if that could produce a decent watercolor.

On this first day of 2021, I wish all my readers a life filled with wonder and love going forward. And I wish for any of you seeking resolution and revolution that you are successful in pursuing them.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Ruminations on New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2020
Resumed Work on Bison Watercolor

If you have another exciting challenging project to work on, well being stuck on one is just an opportunity to do something else.

Tim Hartford, “A Powerful Way to Unleash your Natural Creativity” TED talks

Retiring to bed last night, I lay awake awhile, musing over what to do during New Year’s Eve. Before sleep overtook me, the idea was hatched. For this trip, I had packed two watercolors that were started months ago. The first was aborted once I got stuck, hence a second one, that then was aborted when I got stuck again. Waking this morning, recalling last night’s bedtime thoughts, I felt thankful that I had packed my two “stuck” paintings. Resuming work on the one posted above, I decided I needed some company, so I dialed up TED talks. And, what do you know! Tim Hartford addressed directly what I was experiencing. For a few weeks I have been dormant when it comes to watercoloring, aside from the occasional sketchbook exercise. I’m glad now that I have two in-progress pieces while away on this trip. Who knows–maybe I’ll return home soon with one or two new completed paintings. I have worked for about an hour on the one above and am allowing it now to dry while I bring my attention back to this blog. Should I hit a snag on the painting, the other one is waiting nearby.

While painting today, a number of ruminations have flowed rather freely. Taking occasional breaks from my work (or is it play?), I revised the New Year’s resolutions I have been compiling for a little while now, and finally drafted a final document in my laptop: a list that I will print multiple times on small sheets of paper to serve as daily check lists as I go about my routines.

Today I want to address one of the major items on the list: mindfulness. When browsing the Barnes & Noble Store, I notice a prominent display under the topic of mindfulness, and recognize this as some kind of movement that has gained significant momentum, judging from the number of products on display that seem to be selling well. In all honesty, I have never stopped to examine the various books, pamphlets and journal-like volumes in the display, but I am intrigued by that title and have adopted it as one of my resolutions.

Our nation currently endures a toxic public discourse that repulses me every time I tune in to the national news. Occasionally the toxicity finds its way into my social media channels. Repeat offenders are removed, and therefore I can keep my social media positive. As before promised, I am doing my best to keep this venom off my blog. Why would anyone wish to read such vitriol? One of my resolutions vows to read quality writing and hopefully find a way to disseminate it. And when listening to audio materials, I find myself now tuning in to TED talks more frequently than news feeds.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Quiet of the Morning

November 12, 2020

Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow.

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

I am out of the studio all day today as window installers are working in there and three other rooms of our house. I have posted above the second bison painting as I left it late last night. Until I return to it, I’ll let the words of T. S. Eliot seep into my consciousness and ponder just exactly how I wish to finish up the watercolor.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.