Archive for the ‘city’ Category

Nearing Completion on a Long-Range Watercolor Project

April 18, 2014
Nearly Finished With This Watercolor of Hermann, Missouri

Nearly Finished With This Watercolor of Hermann, Missouri

The book, if you would see anything in it, requires to be read in the clear, brown, twilight atmosphere in which it was written; if opened in the sunshine, it is apt to look exceedingly like a volume of blank pages.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice-Told Tales

Retiring to bed at 2:00 this morning, I was surprised to wake without an alarm shortly after 8:00.  There is no school today, but the routine 6:00 alarm apparently has me waking earlier in the mornings these days, even when no such alarm is set.  I came into the studio eagerly, ready to take the next step on this watercolor, but instead just sat and looked over it, in no hurry to stitch up the final details.  So instead, I have been sitting in a comfortable chair with coffee, books and journal, and have set the painting on an easel ten feet in front of me in the morning light, and occasionally I look up at it, much as Andrew Wyeth did with his near-completed compositions.  Wyeth would put them in a prominent place in his living room, so he could catch glimpses of them (“from the corner of my eye”, he said) as he walked throughout the house in the course of a day.  Eventually he reached a decision of whether or not the painting needed further work.  I suppose that is what I am doing now.  Two days ago, a student whose opinion I respect highly saw the painting and thought it looked finished already.  Many times I have pushed a watercolor past its completion point and felt disappointed that it had been overworked, overdone.  So, I am letting this one breathe for awhile.

This latest watercolor contrasts starkly with the one I have generally used as a measuring-stick against all subsequent work:

Summer Morning on Sundance Square

Summer Morning on Sundance Square

Completed several summers ago, I found great satisfaction in the hot sun-filled composition of this piece.  I was at my boldest in the use of color and sharp contrasts not only in value but in the complementary colors.

Last Christmas season, when I trekked through that quaint German town Hermann, Missouri, I felt an exhilaration I cannnot describe as I took picture after picture, all the time hoping, wondering if I could possibly render a watercolor to capture the cold winter light that diffused across that cityscape, and the sense of mist that crept up from the Missouri River far down below.  I knew that a muted, misty painting could possibly come across as boring when juxtaposed with a sharp, summer composition such as this one in Sundance Square.

As the Texas summer approaches, I will no doubt return to plenty of these hot compositions.  But right now, I am really loving the look of my muted, atmospheric piece, and believe I’ll continue to look at it “from the corner of my eye” and make a decision of whether to leave it as is, or look for ways to put some spice into it.  Right now, I just don’t know.

I have some abandoned watercolors littered about my studio, so I believe I’ll find one of them to focus on for the time being.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

Lining Up the Vehicles and Rendering the Streets

April 18, 2014
Working Late on a Thursday Night

Working Late on a Thursday Night

The hour has reached nearly 2:00 a.m.  There is no school for me on Good Friday.  I’m feeling kind of mellow as I sit up late and work on the details of a line of parked vehicles and all the shadow changes on the pavement to the right.  I’m not rushing this and can say that I’m feeling satisfied so far with how it is finishing.  Hopefully I’ll have it complete before I return to school next week.

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.

Reds in the Shadows

April 16, 2014
Working on the shadows now

Working on the shadows now

Aut lux nata est aut capta hic libera regnat.

The light is either born here, or, imprisoned, reigns here in freedom.

Inscription in the Archiepiscopal Chapel at Ravenna

Mark Rothko is an abstract expressionist painter who still intrigues me, particularly in his discussions of light in the shadows.  As I inch closer to completing this winterscape watercolor of Hermann, Missouri, I’m struggling with the storefront shadows and row of parked cars.  There will be more shadows creeping across the street.  I am not sure how it happened, but in a mindless moment, I introduced a plethora of neutral grays into the building facade shadows, and I don’t like them at all.  Today I decided to experiment with some red washes over those gray regions–Alizarin Crimson, Quinachridone Red and Pemanent Rose.  I then introduced some Pthalo Turquoise in the same areas, hoping to replace the gray deadness with some kind of living color.  I feel that it’s starting to improve.  The parked vehicles in the shade are also proving a challenge, and I’m trying not to repeat the same mistake with neutral grays.  There remains a significant puddle of ugly gray above the parked vehicles that I still have not decided what to do with yet.  In good time.

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.

Getting Lost in the Shadows of Watercolor

April 14, 2014
Working the Shadows and Parked Vehicles

Working the Shadows and Parked Vehicles

Drawing is a way of organizing space.

Robert Motherwell (I think!)

The paper is the atmosphere in which the watercolor breathes.

(author unknown!)

I open tonight’s blog with two questionable quotes.  The first I am relatively certain came from Robert Motherwell, my idol of Abstract Expressionist thought and erudition.  But tonight I have been unsuccessful in tracing it to him.  The second quote came from an artists’ magazine I read back in the 1980’s, before I actually made watercolor a serious pursuit.  I have never been able to forget it.

Both of these quotes are swimming in my consciousness as I work on this piece tonight.  Temperatures outside are dropping to the point that I decided to don a heavy sweater rather than turn up the thermostat.  I am sitting adjacent to an entire wall of northern windows, and I feel the freeze warning that has been forecast throughout the day.  The chill is reminding me of the cold December morning that I walked the streets of Hermann, Missouri and took the photograph for this composition.  There was such a clarity of light that morning that I knew would be conducive for watercolor–I love the clear, sharp, cold light of a winter’s day and have worked hard to get that atmosphere into this painting.  I love what watercolor paper lends to the atmosphere of a landscape painting.

As for the drawing/organizing space principle, I have been handcuffed, trying to render the shadowed facades of this row of storefronts adjacent to a line of parked vehicles.  The Motherwell quote surfaced, and I decided to break the shadows into rhythms of geometric configurations, alternating warm and cool colors as I filled in the spaces.  I feel the way I did in high school when we painted large nonrepresentational acrylic-on-canvas compositions.  We were challenged to experiment with the combinations of warm and cool colors and seek some kind of pleasing balance.  That is what I am attempting to do here.  I have no serious aspirations to copy the myriad of representational images in my small photograph.  We’ll see how it turns out.  If it doesn’t work, I’ll try something else.  At any rate, I am enjoying this evening in the studio.

This is probably all the painting I’ll be able to post this evening.  I still have work to do on a Nietzsche lecture for tomorrow morning’s Philosophy class.  I cannot seem to create a lifestyle with a singular focus–there is always another task to perform.  I love reading, writing and talking about Nietzsche.  But I also love watercolor.  With tonight’s limited time, I need to find a way to address both.

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.

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.

Watercoloring a Winter Midwestern Town

March 11, 2014
Resumption of the Hermann, Missouri watercolor

Resumption of the Hermann, Missouri watercolor

But at the same time this question arises and I am perplexed: where does the painting of a picture begin and where does it end?  At the instant when extreme feelings are merging in the deepest core of one’s being, at the instant when they burst and all one’s thoughts gush forth like lava from a volcano, doesn’t the suddenly created work erupt, brutally perhaps, but in a grand and apparently superhuman way?  Reason’s cold calculations have not led to this eruption; but who can say exactly when the work was begun in one’s heart of hearts?  Perhaps it is unconscious.

Paul Gauguin, letter to Monfreid, Autust 15, 1989, Papeete

I’ve poured a ton of energy into the watercolors today, and am starting to feel the fatigue.  So, I believe I’ll let this painting lie as it is for awhile.  There is always tomorrow.  This particular work leaves me feeling as though I’m working a jigsaw puzzle.  I’m starting to get lost in all the interlocking pieces.  I spent most of today’s efforts on the left side, working on the cupola and foliage.  I also added more pieces to the developing town at center right.  But my eyes are starting to say “Enough.”

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.

Spring Break and Time for Quality Reflection

March 10, 2014
Using Spring Break to Catch up on some Watercolor Endeavors

Using Spring Break to Catch up on some Watercolor Endeavors

My God, what childish things will be found in these pages, written either for personal entertainment or for the sake of classifying favorite if somewhat foolish ideas, rather than trusting a poor memory, and so many rays reaching to the vital center of my art.  But if a work of art were a work of chance, all these notes would be almost useless.

I don’t think it happens like that at all.  I believe that the line of thought which has guided my work, or part of it, is very mysteriously linked to a thousand others, either my own or those heard from other people.

Paul Gauguin, Noa Noa 

Yesterday I celebrated the beginning of my Spring Break from school, spending about six hours reading from Paul Gauguin’s journals as well as writing in my own.  My own journals date from 1985, and have grown to about 120 volumes.  I still go back and re-read them, finding plenty of junk, but also plenty of quality quotes and ideas that would have been forgotten (amazing at how much we fail to retain in our memories over the years).  My personal journals are my own thoughts co-mingled with what I read and experience in daily life.  Reading back over them reminds me of connections between writers, artists, musicians and philosophers that I have forged from my own perspective.  One thing hasn’t changed through the years–I still journal in an attempt to find myself and determine what I want to do in this life.  The journals have been my greatest source for teaching in the public schools and universities, and have also helped me come to grips with this artist quest that consumes me.

I am re-posting the large watercolor that I resumed during the last week of school, glad now for an opportunity to poke at it without a daily schedule to obey.  It would be wonderful to finish it this week, but I have my doubts about that.  I am enjoying the slowness of its development, intrigued at the possibilites that emerge with each successive stroke of the brush or pencil.  Truly, the process of creating a watercolor excites me far more than looking at the finished product.

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.

A Winter Stop in Arcadia

March 6, 2014
Whittling Away at the Hermann, Missouri watercolor

Whittling Away at the Hermann, Missouri watercolor

An awful lot of painting is just sitting and thinking.

Robert Motherwell

Recently in Advanced Placement Art History, we looked at the art of Nicolas Poussin, and this image of the young men looking intently at the epitaph on the monument has remained with me.  I see their focused scrutiny, and feel that same sentiment often when I lean over and peer deeply into the masterwork of some celebrated artist from the past.

Et in Arcadia Ego, by Nicolas Poussin

For the past couple of days, I have been listening to a new DVD celebrating Andrew Wyeth’s work: Self-Portrait: Snow Hill as I have worked in my studio.  This in turn has led me back into some of my books of his work, and I have taken another look into his brick texturing of vintage buildings, and his incredible build-up of dry brush of winter forests.  I am experimenting with some different techniques on the bricks and background forest in this winter painting I’ve begun of Hermann, Missouri.  My enthusiasm is building as I’m watching some of the results emerge that I hoped would take place.

As I write this and as I paint, a cold, grey northern winter light is slanting through my studio windows.  And I like it, deeply appreciate it.  There is a mystique to the winter light that I have been cognizant of since my early childhood, and I always wished I could capture a sense of it in my painting.  That is what I’m earnestly seeking now in this watercolor as I focus on the photographs I took last December when I tramped through Hermann, filled with delight at what I saw.

Funny thing–a cold, overcast day could just as easily lead to depression, I realize.  But today, it is filling me with a desire to paint, and I feel an exhilaration as I enter into this Arcadian zone.

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 . . . 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.