Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

A Cold, Rainy Afternoon in the Studio

April 14, 2014
Quiet Retreat to the Watercolor Studio

Quiet Retreat to the Watercolor Studio

At such times there is a song going on within us, a song to which we listen.  It fills us with surprise.  We marvel at it.  We would continue to hear it.  But few are capable of holding themselves in the state of listening to their own song.  Intellectuality steps in and as the song within us is of the utmost sensitiveness, it retires in the presence of the cold, material intellect.  It is aristocratic and will not associate itself with the commonplace–and we fall back and become our ordinary selves.  Yet we live in the memory of these songs which in moments of intellectual inadvertence have been possible to us.  They are the pinnacles of our experience and it is the desire to express these intimate sensations, this song from within, which motivates the masters of all art.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

The day has been physically and intellectually dreary.  Forty-four degrees, dark and rainy outside.  Indoors we have studied A. P. Art History, focusing on the German Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement fueled by World War I.  George Grosz, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix and Ernst Barlach all served in the German army during that Great War.  They entered as enthusiastic patriotic idealists, exited as horrified, burned-out and disillusioned artists.  As we looked upon their paintings and reflected on the writings of Nietzsche that transformed the world views of the young soldier Otto Dix, as well as the chaplain Paul Tillich, I felt the cold of the outside gripping my own artistic sensitivity.  The longer we looked at these works and talked of the war’s atrocities, the more I wished to retreat to my studio and revive the song that has stirred my heart recently, encouraging me to paint and explore beauty.

The first thing I did when I got home to my studio was put on a fresh pot of coffee to help stave off the cold and wet climate that settled into my bones and offset the dark gray world peeking through the miniblinds of my studio windows.  Then I tilted the surface of my drafting table and settled into drawing, erasing and re-drawing the details in the shadows of the buildings lining the winter streets of Hermann, Missouri.  Slowly, the depressing themes of the morning studies melted away and I was once again looking upon a beautiful watercolor world, unscarred by war and destruction.  The winter atmosphere in this painting is cold and hazy, but within my soul, I feel a clarity and sense of color and warmth.  I still need to add more layers of shadow to the areas on the lower left of this composition, then along the facades of the stores facing the street.  This is going to take awhile, it appears.  But I have time, and renewed energy.  Making art today has lifted me from the despairing subjects of the morning classes.  Once again, I am grateful for that gift.

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.

 

 

 

Late Night in the Studio

April 13, 2014

Hermann close upWorking Late Sunday Night on this Hermann, Missouri Cityscape

The ideal modern artist must become this unobserved but “passionate observer” who watches the world yet remains hidden.  He is a flaneur (a stroller), a tourist in his own land, whose scenery of choice is the crowd, “a prince who always preserves his incognito.”  He delights in “the rippling, moving, fleeting, infinite” multitude.  Here is the artist as voyeur, seeing but unseen, “a mirror as immense as that crowd; a kaleidoscope endowed with consciousness.”

Beth Archer Brombert, recording the ideas of Baudelaire concerning the contemporary artist

The Entire Composition in Progress

The Entire Composition in Progress

Though I’m confined to the studio, working from photographs, the Texas weather is inching toward plein air capability, and I am happy to see a couple of events on the horizon where I am invited to engage in it.  The Baudelaire sentiments remind me of Emerson’s comments in Nature when he describes the observer as a “transparent eyeball”–he is nothing, he sees all.  Andrew Wyeth enjoyed such a feeling when he sat in the Olsen household in Maine, creating watercolor and tempera works inside the dim interior of their house as they went about their daily chores.  He oftentimes felt that he wasn’t visibly present because of the ease in which they worked as though incognizant of his company.

I felt the same transparency when I walked the streets of Hermann last Christmas holidays.  I know no one in that town, and no one was out walking in the frigid weather that morning.  I was delighted to take photos, knowing I would try my hardest to convert some of these into decent watercolors once I got back to my warm studio.

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.

 

Returning to the Muse

April 13, 2014
Taking a Fresh Look at the Hermann, Missouri Watercolor

Taking a Fresh Look at the Hermann, Missouri Watercolor

Michelangelo, El Greco, Rembrandt imitated; Raphael imitated, and Poussin, Velásquez and Goya; Delacroix, Manet and Cézanne . . . whenever documents allow us to go back to the origin of a painter’s works, or a sculptor’s, or any artist’s, we encounter . . . the dreams, the anguish, or the serenity of another artist.  For artists do not emerge full-grown from a formless world, but from their struggle against the forms imposed by others.

André Malraux

Henri Matisse and Eugene Delacroix often spoke of “cleansing the eye” after a long hiatus from painting.  It has been weeks since I’ve been able to look at this painting.  Now that the intrusions from common life’s tasks have been addressed, I’m glad to linger over this watercolor tonight and resume work that I reluctantly abandoned long ago.  Kick-starting this has not been easy.  I find myself poring over the reference photo, taking in details, and constantly asking questions like: “How would Hopper have addressed this?” or “How would Wyeth render this?” or “Would Homer have included this detail?”  Thus I’ve inserted for my own good the quote above that all artists work in dialogue with their predecessors and ultimately (hopefully) find their own way in the end.  I’m still searching for my voice among these multitudes, my signature, my contribution.  Yet in the midst of all this, I’m just happy to be painting again.

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.

Painting My Way into 2014

December 31, 2013
Historical District of Hermann, Missouri

Historical District of Hermann, Missouri

Thus, the lived experience of the length of a year changes radically throughout our life.  A year that to a five-year-old constitutes a full fifth of his existence must seem much longer than when it will constitute a mere twentieth or thirtieth of his time on earth.  We all know how the years revolve quicker and quicker as we get older, until, with the approach of old age, they slow down again because we begin to measure them against the psychologically and somatically anticipated date of our departure.

Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind

Well . . . all I can say in response to Hannah Arendt is that 2013 is a blur to me.  I wish I could believe that that is a sign that I have  of many more years to live.  To me, the calendar year has not slowed down since my twenties.  Perhaps I will feel anxiety in the event that my years begin slowing down!  Oh well, I choose not to dwell on that today.

I wish I had something more profound to offer my readers this New Year’s Eve, as I have read so many extraordinary blog posts today capping the old year and opening the new.  I have given this day to reading, journaling, cooking and house-tidying.  And I have begun another 8 x 10″ watercolor of the historic district in Hermann, Missouri.  I have wanted to visit this German town ever since I read William Least Heat-Moon’s River-Horse.  Throughout the recent years, patrons have visited my booth during art festivals and asked me if I had any paintings from Hermann, Missouri.  The answer was always No, because I had never visited the place.  This Christmas, I included Hermann in my Missouri visitations.  The winter day was extremely cold, but the sun was bright, the 10:00 a.m. hour was perfect for shadows and light, and I took over forty photos.  This watercolor sketch is my first attempt, and so far I like what is emerging.  Hence, I am fulfilling my #1 Resolution for 2014 to paint my way into the new year.

I cannot express to readers visiting and commenting on my site how grateful I am for all the encouragement you have provided.   Makng art is a solitary enterprise, but blogging has definitely taken away any semblance of loneliness from this venture.  Thank you for that.  I wish you a fabulous 2014.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll begin sharing Resolutions.

Thanks always for reading.  I wish you a fulfilling night of anticipation.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Butternut Coffee Christmas

December 18, 2012
Butternut Coffee Tin and Vintage Suitcase Watercolor

Butternut Coffee Tin and Vintage Suitcase Watercolor

The afternoons are getting rather long.  I finish teaching daily at 12:20, but am staying in my classroom (which I’ve converted into a “rustic gallery” for selling my art) until 4:00 daily.  The four-hour afternoons have been given to reading Hemingway and experimenting in watercolor sketches of various still life arrangements.

During Christmas 2001, I got this notion of creating a series of watercolor Christmas cards, calling the series “A Heritage Coffee Christmas.”  I went to antique stores and purchased vintage coffee cans, so I could see the logos and color schemes, and created a series of 5 x 7″ cards of barns at winter time, surrounded by evergreens and sporting advertising billboards of these various coffee companies.  I thought the watercolors were good in that day, but that was 2001.  I will post my Butternut Christmas card below.

I noticed my pile of vintage coffee cans in the back of my room, hanging out with my books, and realized they had been back there eleven years with nothing to do.  So, I selected the Butternut can, put it in front of one of my ragged vintage suitcases, and began this sketch.  Today is my second afternoon to fiddle with it.  I have no idea what is going to emerge, but I’m enjoying what I see, so far.  The composition measures about 8 x 10″ and I’m using a cheap Strathmore watercolor sketchbook I found lying among my supplies.

Thanks for reading.

"Heritage Coffee" Christmas Card

“Heritage Coffee” Christmas Card

A Meditation on the Seasons of Creativity

November 25, 2012

Christmas Card Workspace in the Man Cave

Good morning from the “bedroom’ studio of Arlington, Texas.  I confess that I have posted a year-old photo of what I was creating during the Thanksgiving Break last year.  I plan to return to the “Man Cave” studio later in the day to paint.  Currently, I am propped in bed with coffee, two slumbering Shih-tzu dogs, one cat and a large pile of volumes and journal.   And life is pensive but serene.  My breathing is slower and easier.

Let me open by saying I am not sure where this blog entry will take me this time.  It may be a stream-of-consciousness, with little-to-no-editing, but I’ll take my chances.  I am in bed with a large volume of Henry David Thoreau journals (the Harvard volumes 1-7, 1837-1855 are in one immense tome) and reading pensively his entry of June 20, 1844:

If we only see clearly enough how mean our lives are, they will be splendid enough.  Let us remember not to strive upwards too long, but sometimes drop plumb down the other way, and wallow in meanness.  From the deepest pit we may see the stars, if not the sun.  Let us have the presence of mind enough to sink when we can’t swim. . . .

When the heavens are obscured to us, and nothing noble or heroic appears, but we are oppressed by imperfection and shortcoming on all hands, we are apt to suck our thumbs and decry our fates.  As if nothing were to be done in cloudy weather, or, if heaven were not accessible by the upper road, men would not find out a lower.  Sometimes I feel so cheap that I am inspired, and could write a poem about it,–but straightway I cannot, for I am no longer mean.  Let me know that I am ailing, and I am well.  We should not always beat off the impression of trivialness, but make haste to welcome and cherish it.  Water the weed till it blossoms; with cultivation it will bear fruit.”

I love reading words of wisdom that address our cycles of creativity and un-creativity, our highs and lows, our energy and our inertia.  When I was younger, I was frustrated by those times of famine, when I was not “on” creatively.  I think I was “saved” by essays of Emerson and poems of Whitman that addressed those cycles as natural.  (most notably Emerson’s “The American Scholar” and Whitman’s “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life”).  We inhale, we exhale.  We intake, we exhaust.  We inspire, we expire.  Emerson wrote that it comes into us as life, it comes out of us as truth.

I could describe my current moment as low, as lethargic, as uninspired, as inert.  But the reality is, I am taking in sublime thoughts from Thoreau, from Emerson, from Whitman . . . and I am pushing them back out, distilled by my ever-emerging philosophy.  Sitting up in bed, surrounded by an untidy house and slumbering critters, I am setting a course for today’s navigation (the Hebrew word translated “wisdom” is chochma–“the helmsman, or art of steering.”  I am plotting a course with mandatory stops in Romanesque Europe (A. P. Art History for tomorrow) and Act I of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (English IV).  Beyond those towns, who knows?  Maybe a return to my watercolors (I think I hear the longhorns shuffling around in the garage, they must be getting restless).  But whatever occurs along my way, I am anticipating another good journey today.

Thanks for reading.

The Artist as a Collector of Memories

March 27, 2012

Spencer's Grill, Kirkwood, Missouri

I apologize for my recent hiatus.  I became very sick with allergies Saturday night at the Art on the Greene Festival, and now on Tuesday, still cannot shake it.  I am just a shell of a teacher here at school during these state-mandated tests for four hours, and then a full slate of classes following.  Not a good time to be sick.

The art and music festival was a resounding success.  I have not yet inquired about the official numbers, but know that over 3,000 came through the park during the short days of Friday and Sunday.  It would be easy to assume that the Saturday attendance pushed the numbers far beyond 10,000.  My booth was full much of the time, and I enjoyed every single patron that paused to converse with me.

Some patrons came, looking for bargains, some looking for just that perfect piece to fit in a space at home or at work, but many entered my booth to remember.  My company is Recollections 54, as I create scenes and vistas reminiscent of our small-town America during the fifties.  And I truly loved every story, every experience that was shared with me by patrons over those three days.

The posted picture has finally sold, in the original watercolor.  A patron who had been eyeing it for over six months came and made the purchase Sunday.  And I was also delighted to sell limited edition prints of it as well as greeting cards carrying its image.  It is no doubt a scene that has resonated with many.

I grew up outside St. Louis, Missouri, and have known this Spencer’s Grill since my early childhood.  The business was established in 1947 on historic Route 66 (now Kirkwood Road, or Lindbergh Blvd.) and the sign has been in place since 1948.  The business has never closed, and I do not fail to go there when I visit my St. Louis family to enjoy a breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, hash browns and scrapple.  Entering this diner is like entering a time warp in the 1940’s and 50’s.  I relish every sensation and memory culled from my visits there.

Proust reminds us that there are sensations that arrest us unexpectedly and take us back to warm, primal memories of our childhood that matter, that are worth remembering.  Spencer’s Grill does exactly that with the smell of the old diner, coffee brewing, and breakfast foods frying.  The sounds, the aromas, the look at the people hunched over the counter and crowded into the booths–all of this brings back my childhood, and my memories of an America that will not die until I do.

Thank you for reading.  I should be feeling better soon and return to blogging.

 

Christmas Watercolor Activity in the Man Cave

December 17, 2011

Uncle Paul's Christmas Present

Saturday has been a good day to spend in the Man Cave.  I have jokingly referred to my garage as my “man cave” though I have no power tools or table saws in place–just my drafting table, easel and watercolor supplies.  The winter light is really terrific now in Texas, and the temperatures today have hovered about the mid-fifties.  The sun is bright and the lighting is quite cool and clean.

I am hoping to finish this painting by Monday so I can get it to the framer.  It is for my Uncle Paul, an amazing man now in his 90’s and in failing health.  Paul lived in San Mateo, California since the 1950’s and did well out there.   He lived a quite life, working for Greyhound all those years, mostly night shift.  That was so he could support his habit as a writer.  The night shifts were quiet for a supervisor, and Paul loved to write and publish.

Paul was always a terrific humorist and story teller.  I had my own Garrison Keillor in the family while growing up, and never quite appreciated what a treasure he was.  In his final years, he re-lives the memories of rural Jackson, Missouri, where he lives now, and loves looking upon the monuments of his growing-up years.  This picture is one of them–the cabin where his father resided for the final decades of his life, about 20 paces from the main house on the farm.

I am trying to cool the colors as much as possible, because Paul always appreciated the blues and lavenders visible in the shadows of the snowdrifts that piled up on the family farm.  I am going to regret seeing this painting come to an end.  I’ve been chipping away at it slowly and methodically, enjoying every nuance of the decaying timbers of the cabin and every branch of the naked trees hovering overhead.  One day I hope to approach the “Andrew Wyeth” standard of dry brush as I continually explore rural winter landscapes.  The world indeed takes on a beautiful aura during those months of quiet.  I am so glad school ended yesterday.  The Christmas holidays are a splendid time to relax, enjoy the quiet, and attempt a few watercolor experiments.

Thanks for reading.

Watercoloring Grandpa’s Cabin

December 16, 2011

Grandpa's Cabin

I am returning to a scene I’ve painted several times, yet haven’t seen in over thirty years.  This is the converted “brooder house” where my Grandpa Tripp resided during the final decades of his life.  The main house was only about 20 or so paces away, but he spent his nights in this cabin, while taking all his meals with Grandma in the main house.  He passed away when I was in elementary school, and the memories grow fainter.  Still I recall the smell of the interior of this structure, and recall his card table, pot-bellied stove, large bed, and B&W TV.  Those were all the creature comforts he desired.

I sold a watercolor of this when I was in high school, perhaps my first watercolor ever to sell.  I remember a truck driver making deliveries pulling over on the highway and trotting down to our high school campus to see the sidewalk display our art department set up.  He asked if any of the pieces were for sale.  My teacher said “Yes.”  He said, “I want that one,” and bought mine on the spot.  I was in another class, and didn’t even know until hours later!

During Christmas 1988, I made another watercolor of this and gave it to my dad.  It is framed and hanging in his special room in High Ridge, Missouri.  Now, dad is welcoming back one of his older brothers from California whose health is in decline.  He has returned to his original stomping grounds in rural Jackson, Missouri.  He loved my dad’s watercolor, so we’ve decided to surprise him with one of his own for this Christmas.  I need to move quickly so we can have it custom framed in time to deliver for Christmas.

This is the painting in its beginning stages.  It’s not coming along as quickly as I had anticipated, but many of them don’t.  I just have to get used to that.  It will develop at its own pace, I suppose.

Thanks for reading.

 

Converted my Classroom into a “Rustic Gallery”

December 13, 2011

Rustic Christmas Gallery

My sincere apologies for this lengthy hiatus in blog posting.  School is winding down the semester and preparing to dismiss for the holidays.  In addition to the extra duties, I have been involved in a couple of art shows and competitions.  I was delighted to take 2nd place in the annual members’ show of the Desoto Arts League last week.  And I opened a group show a week ago at the Burson Gallery in Hillsboro, Texas.

Every year near Christmas time, I decorate the back of my classroom at Martin High School, converting it into a “Rustic Christmas Gallery” and sell my art work to teachers and students.  I will have my little “store” open till 5:00 every day this week, then until 3:00 next Monday and Tuesday (we meet in the mornings for final exams).  And then it is home for the holidays.

I have a new watercolor planned, but haven’t gotten enough done to photograph and post on the blog.  Hopefully I will give you a snapshot of it by the weekend.  The events around me always seem to accelerate when the holidays arrive.  This year is no different.

Thanks for reading.