Archive for the ‘cantina’ Category

A Quiet, Reflective Afternoon

August 17, 2016

baroque cat

Baroque Still Life of Rich Foods and Sleeping Cat

Emerson lived for ideas, but he did so with the reckless, headlong ardor of a lover.

Robert D. Richardson, Jr., Emerson: The Mind on Fire

Good afternoon from a dark, rain-soaked Texas afternoon. After weeks of triple-digit temperatures, my home territory has been soaked in rain for three days running, and forecasts say it could last a few days more. The darkness of the afternoon provides quite a respite for my weary soul, having just finished my third day of Inservice in preparation for the opening of a pair of campuses. My college began its first day today, and high school will open Monday. Meanwhile, we educators are slogging through hours and hours of daily meetings. Thursday and Friday “promise” to be uninterrupted days spent in our classrooms putting things in order, and of course, the building will be open Saturday if we need still another day to get ready.

Time has not allowed me the luxury to paint at all this week, so instead of my recent watercolor activity I’ve chosen to post a photo I took recently while dining quietly one afternoon at the College Street Pub in Waxahachie. The temperatures that afternoon hovered around 103 degrees, and the floor fans on the porch were doing their best to cool off the patrons. I could not resist pointing my camera phone at the slumbering cat stretched out on one of the cafe tables. I was reminded of a Dutch still life composition of objects assembled to depict the good life as well as the notion of vanitas. 

While reading last night, I came across this line concerning Emerson that I posted above. The Richardson biography I read when it was a brand new publication, then alas, someone stole the volume out of my classroom about ten years ago. Having just purchased a new one, I have to read it once more, and underline once again the passages that resonate with me. I felt genuinely exposed when I read the author’s assessment of Emerson’s passion-driven life of the mind. I know the pain associated with having lived such a life, and am more conscious than ever of others I have hurt in the past as I’ve charged full-bore along such a path. One hates to come into the senior years with a sense of regret, but indeed I look back and regret that there are things I cannot re-do. When I approach my Philosophy class this coming semester, I think I’m going to explore some of these character issues from an existential framework. Jean-Paul Sartre argued that our character is the sum-total of our decisions in life: the good, the bad and the ugly.  We are what we have made ourselves to be, nothing more, nothing less. I wish someone would have talked to me of such matters when I sat at a high school desk. Maybe the teachers did, and I was just too indolent to listen. I don’t know. Now it’s my turn to talk to the next generation, and I’m grateful to have the chance once again this semester to try and get it right.

Looking back over this post, I fear it sounds more pessimistic than I feel right now. I’m tired from the three days of meetings, but not morose, not depressed. With a little rest, I anticipate I’ll regather some energy to face what lies ahead, grateful that I still have a few days . . .

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to know.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Oracular Moments with Emerson

February 9, 2014

Small Watercolor Sketch of Yesterday's Lunch Outside the Art Museum

Small Watercolor Sketch of Yesterday’s Lunch Outside the Art Museum

Reference Photo

Reference Photo

We wake and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight.  But the Genius which according to the old belief stands at the door by which we enter, and gives us the lethe to drink, that we may tell no tales, mixed the cup too strongly, and we cannot shake off the lethargy now at noonday. . . . We are like millers on the lower levels of a stream, when the factories above them have exhausted the water.  We too fancy that the upper people must have raised their dams.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

I awoke this morning, feeling rather dull and sluggish.  There was no real reason for that–I didn’t exactly overdo it yesterday, and thought I had gotten plenty of sleep.  I rose from bed anyway, chalking it up to “aging” and tried to smile about it.  I made coffee and sunk into a comfortable chair to cozy up with words from Emerson.  It was Sunday, and I needed a Good Word.  He didn’t disappoint.  The selection I posted above came from an Emerson who felt his creative spirit sagging after years of explosive thinking and writing.  And with genuine wisdom, he addressed that sobering feeling of creativity leveling off.

For years I have been conscious of the ebb and flow of a creative life, and have tried not to let the barren stretches bring me down.  There are many ways to re-tool, to refresh, to trim one’s sails to catch the breezes once they blow again. And so, when I read the above passage, I laughed out loud, shook off my doldrums, and set about the task of getting tomorrow’s classes ready for school so I could pick up the brush again.

I have been so timid about rendering people in watercolor.  Figure drawing has always been difficult for me, and trying to render humans in watercolor even more intimidating.  But as I viewed the Edward Hopper collection over the past couple of months, I realize that some of his small renderings of people in watercolor and charcoal were not all that splendid.  So, I’ve decided I’m going to go after this subject and see if I can pull it off.  If I cannot do it with this one, I’ll do it with the next, or the next.  I’ll get it.  I’m starting with a small, modest-sized watercolor sketch, to see how I do with people.  And I’m intrigued by this new direction, not tired (wink).

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.

Completed the Cafe Watercolor

November 29, 2013
Completed Watercolor of The Shed Cafe--Edom, Texas

Completed Watercolor of The Shed Cafe–Edom, Texas

I’m pleased to have finished this watercolor in time to reproduce it in the form of greeting cards and matted prints.  I will spend Saturday at The Shed Cafe in Edom, Texas as the business’s featured artist for the town’s Art Jam.  The holidays have provided plenty of down time, great food, a little television and plenty of studio opportunity.

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.

Watercoloring the Hot Summer Town of Hico, Texas en Plein Air

June 29, 2011

A Hot Summer Afternoon in Hico, Texas

After the morning plein air excursion into Granbury, I next turned my Jeep further south, and arrived in Hico, Texas as the sun waxed hotter.  What a fabulous town for painting!  Ghost signs were everywhere to be found on the sides of buildings of brick and rusticated stone.  I turned down a major street, and was delighted to find it divided, with a tree-shaded island featuring park benches and gazebos.  I found plenty of space to set up my easel on the island, without blocking sidewalk traffic (not that there was much, in that small town!).  As I painted, I found the residents of Hico to be exceedingly friendly.  A number of men and women approached me, looked at my work, said affirming things, and chatted with me about life in the small town, and also asked how things were in my large city, and I found it pleasing to cover a number of conversational subjects with them, all of the talk pleasant.  I even had the pleasure of meeting an acrylic studio painter who owned a business on the street where I painted.  A lady in a passing car rolled down her window, took a look at my work, and expressed admiration for my attempt at architecture.  She was a painter of animals and thought it would be difficult to paint buildings.  I guess I should have mentioned to her that I find it difficult, painting animals!

I loved this street intersection vista.  The light rusticated stone building contrasted nicely with the darker buildings across the street on the left, and I was fascinated with the tree on the right invading the compositional space.  I took a reference photo of this site and am seriously considering taking another shot at this in the studio.

The day was hot, the travel exhausting, but I’m glad I got out and did this.   Last night I looked at the website of the Weiler House Gallery (http://www.weilerhousefineart.com/#events) and saw that my Solo Show for this fall has been posted.  My first reaction was that it was time to “find another gear” in producing art work.  Showtime is in two months.

Thanks for reading.

Lazy Afternoon at Zula’s Coffee House. Last Day of Waxahachie Plein Air Competition

June 2, 2011

Lazy Afternoon at Zula's Coffee House, Waxahachie, Texas

Today marks the end of the plein air competition in Waxahachie (for me).  The deadline for entering work is tomorrow (Friday) at 2:00, and I will be stuck in school for the entire day.  The last week of public school is a total waste of time and resources, if I may offer my frank opinion.  Prime time every day this week has been spent in a high school where everyone–student and teacher alike–has already mailed it in.   I’m happy that I managed to crank out seven paintings since last Friday–six of them between Friday and Monday, and then the past three days on this one (again, prime time spent in school, and left-over, late-afternoon time, painting).

Zula’s Coffee House is my favorite place to land when I’m in Waxahachie, Texas.  Terra, the proprietor, has this way of making any patron comfortable and grateful for setting up in this coffee haven, any time day or night.  It has become a popular venue for folk singing, book discussions and various other small group activities.  Wi-Fi makes it a great place to work on the laptop when deadlines are pressing.  The coffee house is located on Business Highway 287, on the north side of downtown Waxahachie (Main Street).  It is far enough away from the town square to escape the traffic noises of midday, and has a life of its own (which the town square lacks after 5:00 p.m.).  The open meadow across the street provides plenty of space for anyone with an active eye and a dreamy imagination.  During the fall of last year, I painted the meadow in all the bright colors that the late afternoon sun yielded.  Again, this is a sweet spot to land for anyone who is a lover of art, books, music and of course, coffee!

Thanks Terra for a very rewarding three days.  I’m glad I finally got around to painting this splendid venue.

Thanks for reading.

Nostalgic New Mexico Road House Watercolor

May 15, 2011

New Mexico Road House

The Weiler House just framed this watercolor for me, in preparation for the One-Man Show this fall.  See http://www.weilerhousefineart.com for the gallery’s website.  I saw this abandoned road house several years ago while traveling New Mexico during the late summer.  I painted it once before, putting railroad tracks in the foreground.  This time I thought I would let the “Mother Road” roll past the front.  I seem to recall that this collection of buildings was near historic route 66.

Thanks for reading.

4:30 A.M. in the Painter’s Studio

March 29, 2011

Eureka Springs, Arkansas Flat-Iron Building

This morning, I entered the garage studio at 4:30 and worked on this for one hour.  Now, I sit in my darkened classroom–ambient perimeter lamps providing the only light, and pause to write in my journal, reflect, and perhaps put out one more blog on this piece.  The last piece contained somewhat of a rant–I was tired and ready for bed, yet I choose not to erase it.  I’m not pleased with my school district, or with our state legislature that has made decisions leading to the demise of public education funding in Texas.  But I’ve written all I intend to on that subject.  This day began with art, so it promises to be a good day.

No signature yet, but this painting is nearly finished.  As I pause and look over it, I realize that tinkering with details and “finish” work tend to suck the freshness and spontaneity out of a watercolor.  So it is likely that I will just add a signature and let it go.  I’m very happy with the last two 8 x 10″ pieces of the historic Eureka Springs business district.  My brief sojourn there during Spring Break was a cold and overcast one, nevertheless I managed to take a few photos, and am very pleased that I recorded the experience, and, I believe, these two paintings do indeed reflect an overcast, winter light.  In a more perfect world, I would have a painter’s studio on the top corner floor of this flat-iron.  Monet gushed that he didn’t have to leave his backyard at Giverny to find compositions to paint during his final decades.  I believe that if I could look out from this top floor, over the scintillating Eureka Springs town, that I could very well say the same.

Thanks for reading, and have a fabulous, artful day.

Lunch at a Romantic Mountain Town Getaway

March 23, 2011

Romantic Musings

Pausing for a romantic luncheon in the historic business district of Eureka Springs, Arkansas last weekend, my wife and I could not stop gazing down at Spring Street  below us.  The more I looked, the more I thought of Edward Hopper’s birds-eye views of New York City that he painted so enchantingly.  I realized that I had never tried this, so it was time.  I have posted a link to the Basin Park Hotel, where we enjoyed lunch, and this fabulous balcony view.  The link shows the flat-iron building across the street that anchors this composition.  http://www.eurekavacation.com/basin/

I am so pleased to get in-and-out of a small painting so quickly (this one is 8 x 10″ and will be available for $300 unframed).  I never thought it possible (for myself) to get so much minute detail crammed into such a small working space, and to be nearly finished this quickly.  I began on Sunday afternoon (the day after the luncheon), and have posted the picture as it appeared Tuesday.  I have yet to finish the handrails in the foreground, and still have some decisions to make on the overall composition (perhaps some broad darker tones in the background landscape, or the row of brick buildings–I don’t know yet).

My wife has suggested a diptych, again, something I have never tried in watercolor groupings.  I like the idea, so now I have the second one underway of the flat iron building, viewed from the end–an extreme low-angle view (worms-eye?).  The wet and sloppy sky is still drying, hence I pause to blog for a bit.  This second one is also 8 x 10″ and will be extremely, minutely detailed (I hope).

My poetic muse companions the past three days have been Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams.  I’m filled with a sense of wonder as I contemplate their theories of Imagism (Williams: “No ideas but in things”) and for the moment am attempting paintings of subjects that have no long-term personal history with me (The first time I visited Eureka Springs was last summer) but nevertheless arrest me with their grace and beauty.  In the cities I have always been fascinated with the co-existence of cosmetically beautiful objects and utilitarian ugly ones.  Ezra Pound noted in one of his literary essays that James Joyce juxtaposed the beautiful and the ugly in his stories.  Pound referred to these as the “bass and treble” of his arrangements.  Thus, in this painting (and the next) I am trying to present the  objects in which the tourist’s eye takes delight, as well as those which are either abhorred, or not even noticed at all.

One final thing I wish to point out–on that particular day in Eureka Springs, it was cold, windy, overcast, and there was absolutely no light or shadow to pick up on the objects.  I photographed it all anyway, and have chosen to paint it anyway.  Though the afternoon was a romantic one, it was nevertheless the last day of winter, and winter weather was in the air.  I tried to capture that gray, overcast, chilly atmosphere in the painting.

Thanks for reading.

An Edward Hopper Perspective of Eureka Springs, Arkansas

March 22, 2011

Second-Story View of Historic Eureka Springs, Arkansas

My pulse is pounding to paint, and it’s been so hard to find the quality time.  The last days of winter were spent last week in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  I’m doing this small (12 x 14″) watercolor composition from a photo I took from the balcony of a cool hotel in the historic district of this town.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity of trying out an “Edward Hopper” perspective, as I recall that he composed some of his New York City watercolors and oils from this high-angle view.  I seem to recall the French Impressionist Camille Pissaro doing the same with his “modern” Paris and its expanding boulevards.

So much is surging through me these recent days.  I’ve been indulging in Imagist poetry from Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Willliams, and now am re-reading James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I’ll have more to say of all that later, hopefully today.  I just walked away from the painting to allow it sufficient time to dry.  I’m itching to get back and work some more.  This particular scene definitely has my attention.

Thanks for reading.

Ghosts of Eureka Springs Past

March 13, 2011

Ghosts of Eureka Springs PastI just got my painting framed at the Weiler House Gallery (http://weilerhousefineart.com) and will soon deliver it to the Eureka Springs School of the Arts for their first faculty art show.  I haven’t seen the town since I left it last June, when I was privileged to teach a one-week plein air watercolor class to an outstanding group of painters.

I’m glad the painting is finally framed, and that I am at the beginning of a one-week Spring Break from school.  Already I’m in the garage planing out my next composition, and hopefully will have it posted soon.

Thank you for reading.