Archive for the ‘Brazos River’ Category

The Loss of a Faithful Fishing Buddy

January 4, 2012

Harvest of Largemouth Bass

The phone call came at 2:20 p.m. today while I was working in my classroom.  Dave Wright passed away last week while I was out of town.  I had to sit down.

In the fall of 1988, at an extremely low point in my life, wondering what kind of profession I should pursue, I signed my first teaching contract at Arlington Lamar High School.  I knew no one there, lived out-of-town, the 5A school was enormous, and I felt hopelessly lost.  The first human being to reach out to me in genuine friendship was Dave Wright, the head custodian.  I found myself frequenting his office for a cup of coffee, a sit-down, and plenty of laughs.  Slowly but surely, he helped me find my bearings, and our friendship endured beyond the seven-year tenure I put in at that campus.  We became fishing buddies, and I regret to find out that I have no photos of him taken with my digital camera–all shots were taken long ago with a 35mm camera.  Once I went digital, I began photographing the fish we caught, but not the fishermen.

Dave was always needling me about my late-sleeping habits.  He would arrive on the Lamar campus daily around 5 a.m.  Coming from southwest of Fort Worth, I would occasionally set an early alarm and dash to the school, sometimes arriving there around 5:00, but **drat!** the lights would be on inside, I would enter the side door, and hear that familiar shout of his from the far end of the corridor: “WELL!  IT’S ABOUT TIME YOU SHOWED UP!!!!”  I would look to see him grinning and pointing at his wristwatch as though I were late, though I had arrived three hours before classes began.  We would sit down to coffee and plenty of pleasant conversation (mostly about fishing).  Incidentally, he never drank coffee, yet always felt he had to have the pot ready for anyone like me who happened to drift by the custodial office.

Dave and I drove hundreds of miles and fished so many waters around north Texas.  He had a knack for getting us invited onto private waters for quality fishing, and we certainly pulled in more than our share of trophies.  He was always good-natured, even when his health began to fail and he could no longer drive.  I didn’t mind taking over the chauffeur responsibilities, and we managed to put in about ten more years together before he left this earth.

Dave was also a collector of my watercolors, and I suppose he has about 7-8 of them framed and hanging in his home.  He always stopped by the classroom while I was at Lamar, and spent plenty of time in my home and studio, looking at what I was painting next.  And I’ll never forget those surprises while I was lecturing in art history, looking up to see him standing inside my classroom door, listening and watching the slides we were discussing.

But most of all, we shared the fishing trips, and it is those that I will miss most.  Dave had a profound love for the outdoors, for the water, and for those long quiet moments, waiting for a bass to strike.  I have met few fishermen with his patience, and fewer more successful than he was in outwaiting the fish.

I cannot explain the hollowness that I feel this day, and cannot begin to know the profound hurt of his wife, son, daughter and grandchildren.  There will never be another Dave.  I’ll never know a school staffer with his wit, his gentleness and humor.  And I’ll never know a fisherman cut out of his cloth.  He was truly unique.  And I miss him so.

Rest in peace, my Gentle Friend.  Thanks for counting me worthy to be a part of your circle.

Exploring Edward Hopper with Victorian Architecture

March 15, 2011

Victorian cropped

Revisiting Edward Hopper and Victorian Architecture

Spring Break has afforded quality watercolor time, and it is only Tuesday evening.  Daylight Saving Time has given me more quality outdoor light in the afternoon/evening as well.  The garage studio environment has been sublime for painting, reading, journaling and blogging.  I moved my antiquated stereo into the garage and am now enjoying a turntable that I haven’t played in a couple of years. Currently, I’m enjoying a pirated double-LP recording of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Live at the Los Angeles Forum 6-26-1970.  Standing in waiting is a large stack of blues LPs–Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lonnie Johnson, Brownie McGhee, B. B. King, Son House, John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson.

The pictures posted above are my attempt to paint a Victorian mansion I have admired for years, situated high atop a hill in Weatherford, Texas, along Highway 180.  A couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday, I was en route to the Brazos River near Possum Kingdom to do some fly fishing for recently-stocked rainbow trout.  The sun was strong that morning, and as I drove past this mansion, I had to pull over, turn around, return, get out and shoot some photos of it.  Finally I’m getting around to attempting my first watercolor on full-size paper (about 30 x 22″) with nearly 2/3 of the composition being hillside.  I’m flying blind here–don’t have any idea what I’m going to do with all this grass!  However, the mansion is coming along satisfactorily, and if I decide the grass isn’t working out, I can always take this to the paper cutter!  That should relieve some of the pressure I feel.

T. S. Eliot has been my companion for the day.  I’ve been spending plenty of time in “The Waste Land,” and am now reading the Eliot chapter in Howard Gardner’s Creating Minds. I’m fascinated with this poet, and am pleased that I can learn from his creative endeavor, even if he struggled over language the way I do over drawing.  I just finished reading a letter he wrote to his brother, explaining that he chose to write fewer pieces, concentrating on perfection and making each completed piece an “event” rather than being merely “prolific” and publishing pieces everywhere.  My goal in 2010 was to be prolific, as I have averaged less than twenty watercolors per year.  I completed nearly one hundred in 2010.  This year however, with my first ever one-man-show scheduled for September, I am concentrating on fewer and larger compositions, attempting to make every complete painting worthy of framing.  I know that is plenty to expect, but nevertheless, I am trying for quality over productivity this year.

And I’m certainly pushing some boundaries.  One of Edward Hopper’s neighboring artists commented that Hopper planned out each of his oils completely before he even started the composition.  The neighbor thought that was “a terrible way to paint, because you aren’t discovering anything.”  The critic went on to express admiration for Hopper’s watercolors “because in them you seem him experimenting all the time.”  I’m trying to keep this thought before me, and push each new piece I begin in a direction not familiar to me.  I don’t want to settle into any kind of “hack work,” pushing out watercolors for the trade.  So .  . . with this Victorian set high atop a hill, I try to complete my first Victorian in entirety (all my previous works are only partial studies of Victorian buildings, never completed), and I also try to devote some attention to a large plot of cultivated property.  We’ll see how it goes . . .

Thanks for reading.

Fly Fishing on the Brazos Watercolor Sketch Finished

February 27, 2011

Fly Fishing the Brazos

I decided to add a diminutive fly fisherman working the currents in the lower left-hand corner of this sketch.  If I decide he doesn’t “work out,” then I’ll crop him out when I mat and frame the composition.  I’m glad to have another watercolor sketch “in the box,” and delighted that I had yesterday’s outing/odyssey.  But now I’d like to finish up that Eureka Springs BIG painting.  I’m getting kind of tired of looking at it and want to sign it off and drop it off.

Thanks for reading.


Escape to the River for Plein Air Painting and Fly Fishing

February 27, 2011

Highway 16 Bridge over the Brazos

Plein air study of Brazos River Bridge

Saturday offered a break-out day for me.  I set out early in the morning for a two-hour drive west to the Brazos River near Possum Kingdom dam.  Rainbow trout are released there on five different occasions throughout the winter months.  The day was wide open, as my wife Sandi was attending two separate equestrian events in Weatherford.  Along the way, I had to stop at a classic auto show, where I photographed a row of six Hudsons from 1937-1956.  I will no doubt be creating some watercolors of them sooner rather than later.  I also encountered an “Edward Hopper” painting composition–a magnificent Victorian house high on a hill, bathed in the morning sunlight.  Stopping also for a breakfast add-on, as well as a gasoline fill-up, cooler of ice for (hopefully) rainbow trouth and some bottled water, I began to wonder if I would make it before noon.  I did.

Last weekend, I was distracted by fly fishing, and at the end of the day, too pooped to get out the easel and paint, so this time I decided to reverse my priorities.  I set up my French easel alongside the boat ramp and tried to capture this magnificent Highway 16 bridge over the Brazos.  I worked as quickly as possible, mostly wet-in-wet, and then did some sharper definitional work, enough to capture where the details would lie.  The sun grew hotter, my back and neck started to ache, so I broke down the easel, rigged up the fly rod, struggled into my waders and boots, and descended to the river.  Like last week, I lost four and managed to get one on the stringer.  I guess that’s what comes with a barbless hook (for me, anyway).  The size 20 elk-hair caddis does manage to lure 10-12 inch trout to the surface, and I’ll never cease feeling the thrill of watching a riser bust the surface.

By 3:30, I was feeling weary, and knew that I had a two-hour road trip waiting for me, so I packed it in.  On both legs of the trip, I thrilled to the reading of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, narrated by Matt Dillon.  The timing was funny, as I encountered the row of parked Hudsons in Weatherford, just 15 minutes after Sal Paradise asked Dean Moriarty how he had gotten across the United States so fast to visit him.  Answer: “Aw man, that Hudson goes!”

Thanks for reading.  I’m still tweaking this watercolor and may have a different “look” by tonight.  Either way, I plan to be through with it by today’s end.  I have bigger fish to fry!