Archive for the ‘city park’ Category

Watercoloring Indoors While the Thunderstorms Roll Through

May 12, 2014
Completed Watercolor of the Kennedale, Texas Clock Tower

Completed Watercolor of the Kennedale, Texas Clock Tower

The thunderstorms kept me indoors all afternoon and evening, which was a good thing.  I needed to complete this watercolor so I could return to other obligations beginning to pile up from neglect.  I’m happy with the way the process developed.  There were a few surprises along the way, but I felt that I was able to meet all obstacles and still finish early enough to get a decent night’s sleep, for a change.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll try to post more tomorrow.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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Days Immersed in the Arts are Better than Days Without Them

May 12, 2014
Work in Progress on a Small Clock Tower

Work in Progress on a Small Clock Tower

The arts open up a dimension of reality which is otherwise hidden, and they open up our own being for receiving this reality. . . . Only the arts can do this: science, philosophy, moral action and religious devotion cannot.  The artists bring to our senses, and through them to our whole being, something of the depth of our world and of ourselves, something of the mystery of being.”

Paul Tillich, Address given before the National Conference of Church Architects

I have been making studies of this beautiful clock tower in a small park near where I live.  Several years ago, I designed a masthead of this image for an art festival poster.  Now it is time to attempt a real watercolor of the subject.  The setting is Kennedale, Texas where I have enjoyed their Annual Art in the Park for about five years now.  The park is beautifully landscaped and offers a perfect setting for an art venue.’  My booth has always been set up just beneath this clock tower, and I have spent many hours during three-day festival weekends admiring its verticality and sleek lines.  I have also enjoyed gazing at the rose bushes planted beneath.

Though I haven’t posted for awhile, I have been working on a series of watercolors almost nightly.  So far, the paintings are not really far enough along to photograph.  I’m a poor photographer and my pencil renderings that start out the compositions don’t pick up well when I try to post them digitally.  But I have two large watercolors in progress that I will be putting on the blog as soon as they have suffiicent color to make the subjects recognizable.  Both are paintings of local landmarks.

I posted the Paul Tillich quote because I just finished my second day lecturing on his life and work in my high school Philosophy class.  I also enjoy introducing him to twentieth-century art interpretations in my Art History classes because of his insightful remarks about the visual arts.  My soul resonates with his comments on the way art opens up avenues to us not as accessible through other academic disciplines.  Throughout this year, a circle of students have demonstrated this to me weekly as they’ve gathered to discuss art, literature and the vitalities of life.  I am most fortunate to be included in these weekly conversations.

This is an excellent afternoon for painting–outside the Texas skies are very dark and the thunderstorms are rather violent.  I’m glad to be sheltered, and the sounds of the rolling thunder are soothing to me as I pore over this watercolor project.

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.

 

 

Thoughts in All Directions

April 5, 2014
Displaying at Art in the Park.  Kennedale, Texas

Displaying at Art in the Park. Kennedale, Texas

What pleases me is that I am acquiring reason without losing the emotions evoked by beauty.  I certainly do not want to deceive myself, but it seems to me that I am working more calmly than ever before, and I have the same love for my work. . . . What are most real to me, are the illusions that I create with my painting.  the rest is shifting sand.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, February 27, 1824

One of Delacroix greatest gifts to me, personally, is the Journal he left behind.  I appreciate his paintings and what he contributed to the rising tide of Romanticism in the history of art.  But daily, I am surprised by his thoughts, and have spent considerable time over this past week lingering over ideas inspired by him.  His statement above resonates with me, because he testifies that his intellect balanced his emotions in the act of painting.  Historians, I believe, overstate Romanticism to make it more teachable, contrasting it with Neoclassicism to throw it into bolder relief.  And I have no problem with that.  At least we have the written words of one of the major players on that stage, emphasizing reason’s role in the creation of his art.

Though I’ve gone a week without posting to the blog, my mind has been focused on painting.  There just have been too many work-related deadlines to meet, along with the day-to-day maintenance issues with living.  But it has been a good week, the blog lacuna notwithstanding.  Currently I am in the midst of a three-day art festival about ten minutes from my home.  I was glad to awaken this morning after a good night’s sleep (yesterday’s load-in and set up left me quite achy and sore).  Rising refreshed, I was glad to know I had about two hours before having to return to the festival scene.  Hence, my quiet moments before the computer screen to put this together.  The coffee was good too.

I am taking my watercolor supplies to the booth with me today.  If time allows, I will work on a small watercolor sketch–something I have wanted to do all week but was prohibited by other deadlines.

Thanks for reading, for staying with me.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Art and Fear?

February 11, 2014
A Little Space in the Afternoon Studio

A Little Space in the Afternoon Studio

God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

Yes, I read this excellent book, Art and Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland.  I felt that a pair of artists were in the room with me, engaged in legitimate, heart-to-heart discussion.  And they addressed the inherent fears and required courage of art making rather than the blocked-artist syndrome.  I am not a blocked artist.  I am a public school teacher, teaching multiple subjects.  I will frequently face weekday afternoons and evenings where preparations leave little-to-no time for quality studio work.  But that is not blockage, not creative paralysis–it is just  an overloaded schedule.  This afternoon I managed to eke out some time for the studio, so here I am, with a little hesitation.  So what is this “fear” factor?  I will be the first to testify that making art is a courageous act.

Art requires more courage from me than other acts that might stir up fear in others.  For instance, I am not afraid to walk into a high school classroom, stand in front, and begin talking directly to the body of students.  I have never been afraid to stand in a public auditorium and address a congregation of adults.  I don’t know fear in those instances.  But what is this “fear factor” in art?  Am I afraid of rejection by the public?  Not really.  Do I fear ruining a $20 sheet of quality watercolor paper?  I don’t think so.  Am I afraid I am wasting my time?  Hardly.  I have invested years in this, and don’t begrudge additional hours, days, months or years.  In fact, I wish I had 500 years left to invest–I’ll never reach the level I want to reach in my own lifetime.

So, what is it?  Am I afraid of making a bad painting?  Perhaps that is it.  But I don’t understand that.  When I make a bad painting, I just don’t show it.  I seldom throw bad painting attempts away.  I suppose that if I keep them in a drawer that I’ll take them out another day, study them, and learn from the mistakes.  But I don’t generally do that either.  I just don’t look at them.  So what is it that frightens me?  What is the source of the anxiety?  I wish I knew.

Somehow, I am intimidated, approaching subjects where I have little-to-no experience.  And that is what is happening now with the rendering of human figures in watercolor, small human figures.  I don’t know why I have this phobia about screwing up.  So what if I screw up?  This is laughable.  I don’t live financially off my art sales.  My job keeps me fed and housed.  Maybe at the root of all these art endeavors is the fear of failure.  But how could that be?  How can one fail, if allowed to re-do, re-try, if allowed to learn, grow, accomplish?  Silly, isn’t it.  Perhaps I need to re-read Rollo May’s The Courage to Create.

At any rate, I am in the studio for a short while this afternoon, nibbling away at this small watercolor sketch.  And writing this blog is therapeutic it seems.  Right now, I am not afraid.  In fact, I’m enjoying the process, regardless of the outcome.  And when I finish this one, I will turn to the next.  One cannot help but improve with practice, and practice on the human figure is something I have yet to accomplish.

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for putting up with my navel gazing (smiling).  I had some things to work out.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Blue Rondo A La Turk – Dave Brubeck

February 10, 2014

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PD21CBN6KkE

This morning, driving through the icy darkness to school, I slid Dave Brubeck’s CD into my dashboard player and felt warm amusement as Blue Rondo A La Turk played.  I don’t know how to discuss music on an academic level, but I’ll simply say this–at the 1:53 mark, this piece finally settles into a pleasant 4/4 swing groove, only to be repeatedly interrupted by the spastic staccato that opened the first minute and a half.  And the more I replayed it, the more I laughed in the darkness and enjoyed it.

Forgive this unschooled application of Brubeck’s piece, but the longer I thought on it today, the more I saw how it fit life as I experience it daily.  I can safely say that my daily round of work routine involves a series of comfortable, flowing grooves, punctuated with intermittent surprises.  If I can ride the rough surf of the surprise, the groove will follow shortly.  I can usually count on that.  This is true of every class, every passing period, and every evening once I arrive home and begin my nightly routine–interstices consisting of grooves and spazzes.  That is how I view life.  And yes, I acknowledge that the perspective is colored by my own peculiar lenses.

Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion.  Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and as we pass through them they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

But enough about moods.  Let’s talk about art . . .

Second Evening Sketching in Watercolor

Second Evening Sketching in Watercolor

Again, I find myself lost in an evolving sketch.  I am grateful for the warm memories of that Saturday afternoon in Dallas, especially now with the night around me dropping to 29 degrees with freezing rain.  I am still poking at this sketch, unsure of how to make the warm yellows and oranges pop against the atmospheric surroundings I found that afternoon.  The sun from the right was very intense, and I loved the effects of it.  I’m still wondering if I should try and get that on this page, or just focus on the people I’m trying to render and the decorations on the side of the food truck.  As I work, I’m listening to some very old VHS tapes of Joseph Campbell lecturing on James Joyce.  I love the work of Joyce, and love Robert Motherwell’s assessment of him as the Shakespeare of Modernism.  Motherwell said that the work of Joyce made him want to paint.  I can say that listening to Campbell’s fireside chats on this cold night have stirred my blood, helping me get back to the brush.

The sweetness of this day at school consisted of thoughts of returning to a moment like the one I was able to know this evening.  All day long when we’re on the job, our minds drift to those spaces where we want to retreat, and look to retreat as soon as the moment presents itself.  Emerson has been a genuine friend the past couple of days, particularly the insights he’s offered in his later essay “Experience.”  I close with this:

There are always sunsets, and there is always genius; but only a few hours so serene that we can relish nature or criticism.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

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.

 

 

 

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.

Rendering Trees in Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils

November 1, 2011

Trees Rendered in Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils

This afternoon, I attempted to render a pair of trees exclusively in Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils.  So far, I have only had success in balancing them with watercolors and brush.  I’m still finding it a challenge, trying to neutralize the intense colors.  My style tries to match landscape colors with what I find in nature, and these are still coming out entirely too bright.  Perhaps my palette is too limited.  I’m working with a set of 24 pencils, and haven’t taken the opportunity to refine my palette by ordering individual colors.

Thanks for reading.

Strawberry Fields Forever

October 31, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Seeking Andrew Wyeth’s Help with the Pine Trees

June 24, 2011

Early Summer Morning at Stovall Park, Arlington, Texas

I rose at sunrise earlier this week, and tried my hand at plein air watercolor at Stovall Park in south Arlington, Texas, about 5 minutes from where I reside.  I found the warm sunlight alternating with cool shadows extremely delicious and wanted to try and capture some of that on paper.  I worked on it long enough to realize that I had no clue how to render the pine needles in the foreground tree.  So I finished blocking in the rest of the composition with wet-on-wet layers and called it quits for a few days.

Late this afternoon, I set up my easel in the garage, took another look at this sketch, and decided to consult Andrew Wyeth, my patron saint, my guiding force, my all-around heroic drybrush Meister.  Perusing a series of his drybrush sketches rendered en plein air at Kuerner’s farm led me to take another crack at this quick composition.  I pushed it about as far as I could go, then worked to get the background shadows much deeper, hoping to set off the pine needles more effectively.  I think I’m going to return to Stovall and try another of these.  Pine trees have intimidated me for too many years now.  It’s past time to do something about them.

Thanks for reading.  It’s been a delightful day painting.  Glad there is still plenty of summer left.

Tired of “Bluffing” the Eureka Springs Plein Air Attempt

June 24, 2011

Eureka Springs Bluff and Flower Garden

With the Texas temperatures more tolerable in the evenings, I returned to my garage studio to give plein air another whirl.  If you have been following my blog, you’ll recognize this one that I started a couple of weeks ago after a class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.  The sun dropped and all the flowers fell into deep shadow so I stopped.  When I got home and searched for a reference photo, I was dismayed to find out that I did not take one from this angle.  I had a number of digital photos of this setting from an extreme side-angle.  So I had to “fake it” as I finished this one out.  I simply added more darks around the flowers and at the base of the bluff.  Then I added more background trees to the upper left hand corner of the composition.

Finishing this composition took me back to Eureka Springs, in pure Proustian fashion.  I enjoyed the mental re-visit and was somewhat sad when I stopped working on this.  Another chapter closed.

Thanks for reading.