Archive for the ‘Colorado’ Category

Unwinding After a Spectacular Weekend

April 8, 2017

seam

The soul is not a compensation, but a life. The soul is. Under all this running sea of circumstance, whose waters ebb and flow with perfect balance, lies the aboriginal abyss of real Being.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Compensation”

I have hung the painting above, titled “Finding the Seam” in place of the “Fort Worth Cattle Drive” which just went home with its new owner. The fly fishing painting was copied from a photo of me fishing the South Fork of the Rio Grande several years back. I have it listed at $800 framed. I’m happy that it fits the gap just fine that was left by the cattle drive composition.

I am keeping the Gallery at Redlands open till 9:00 p.m., since restaurant patrons are still drifting in and out. But now I finally have some time to read Emerson and reflect over a perfect day. The Emerson quote has come alive for me in the quiet of the evening as the hotel finally grows quiet following a day of high activity. Patrons kept me busy and talking almost the entire day, and sales have kept us all happy. This one-man-show has gone far beyond my highest expectations, and one day remains. A part of me is sad to see it come to a close, but another part of me is bone-tired and could use some rest. For three weekends now, I have felt this pull between the traffic of gallery patrons and the quiet in the recesses of my soul where I contemplate the next painting.

rachael

Elena, Courtney, Morgan and Rachael

One of the highlights of my show featured my teaching colleague, Rachael Peterson, bringing three of my Advanced Placement Art History students all the way out here from Arlington. What a joy to see them outside our everyday school complex. The girls fell in love with Palestine, its businesses and its people. Thank you, girls, for coming out and making this even more fun. You truly are a treasure, and I’m still smiling at every memory of you.

Tripp

Photo by Z Jary

Yesterday I was visited by a pair of artistic friends, Elaine and Z Jary. Elaine is a watercolorist and Z a photographer. Z patiently photographed me repeatedly, inside and outside the gallery, and was kind enough to send me a fistful of photos online. I have selected this one to put up. Z Jary, thank you, I am amazed at your photographic eye.

I will definitely sleep tonight. I was in the gallery before eight this morning, and am now closing it thirteen hours later. But the day has been precious and I appreciate every conversation and every encouraging word I encountered today.

Thank you for reading.

 I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Pining for Plein Air Activity

April 5, 2017

South Fork Pine

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch of Colorado Pine

My one-man-show will close Sunday, April 9 at 5:00 p.m. and I hope to take a day or two to catch my breath.  Then I will dive head-first into my favorite annual plein air painting event: Paint Historic Waxahachie.  Artists who registered in advance were given the green light to begin painting April 1, but I’ve been too busy with this show and my daily school responsibilities–next week, I hope.

The watercolor sketch posted above is in my show at the Gallery at Redlands. I painted it in Colorado last summer while relaxing with daily fly fishing and plein air watercoloring. My pulse rate changes dramatically when I am in that Rocky Mountain environment, and I cannot wait to return there for an extended vacation this summer. Every time I look at this small painting, I recall those beautiful, chilly, sun-drenched mornings when I sat out on the porch of my cabin with my coffee, surveying the South Fork of the Rio Grande rolling by below.

I truly miss those days, and can’t wait for them to return.

Thanks for reading.

Bringing out New Work for the Show

March 30, 2017

durango silverton

Durango-Silverton Train, limited edition giclee print

Throughout today, I intend to post new images of work to be added to this weekend’s one-man-show at The Gallery at Redlands, 400 N. Queen St., Palestine, Texas.  The above image is a limited edition giclee print of the Durango-Silverton Railroad that I painted in watercolor, years ago. The original has long since found a home, but the prints have been quite popular, and last weekend I sold out of the gallery the last one in stock. I managed to place a new order Monday for six that will be ready for pick up before I return to the gallery this weekend. These images are $70 and are preserved shrinkwrapped against a foamboard backing.

Several more giclee prints are forthcoming, and i will post images of them later today when I have a break in my schedule.

Thanks for reading.

A Past Worth Remembering

October 11, 2016

waynes-bluff

Wayne’s Bluff

high-ridge-bluff-2

David’s Bluff

number three (2)

Ron and Dian’s Bluff

And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.”

Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

Preparing for the upcoming Edom Festival of the Arts has put me in a satisfying frame of mind. Sorting through stacks of watercolors has floated abundant memories toward the surface of a resistant consciousness–resistant mostly due to fall semester industry.  Most of these memories have been most welcome–memories spanning the splendid summer of 2016.

Pulling three watercolors of bluffs from the stack, I have chosen to name the first one after a friend of mine known since the second grade.  Wayne and I have recently re-connected, thanks to Facebook, and have spent some quality time on Missouri rivers kayaking and fishing. I miss him during the months I live in Texas, as he still resides near my home town in Missouri.

The second bluff I have given my own name.  The memory of that post-Thanksgiving morning of 2015 when I was driving through the rain still stays with me.  The memory is mostly comforting.  At any rate, I enjoy looking at this composition as the location is only about four miles from where I lived throughout my youth.

The final painting I did en plein air while vacationing with my friends Ron and Dian Darr in South Fork, Colorado.  I worked on three paintings in this genre outside their travel trailer as we ate and visited together.  Every time I look at this painting, I recall how delicious times are when spent in conversation with these two kindred spirits.

When I sit in my booth in Edom this weekend, I’ll be looking at these works, feeling gratitude for the generous hand life has extended to me.

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.

The Source

August 1, 2016

pines (2)

Plein Air Beginnings in Rolla, Missouri

pines photo (2)

Reference Photo for Unfinished Pine Sketches

It is the sense of the sublime that we have to regard as the root of man’s creative activities in art, thought and noble living.  Just as no flora has ever fully displayed the hidden vitality of the earth, so has no work of art ever brought to expression the depth of the unutterable, in the sight of which the souls of saints, poets and philosophers live.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion

On Saturday morning, my new friend Lorraine McFarland–a remarkable pastelist residing near Rolla, Missouri–led me to the side of a lily pad-infested pond where we set up our easels in the cool morning and looked into the depths of the forest beyond. Surprisingly, the Missouri sun heated with enough intensity to chase us from our spots after about an hour of work, so we had to take reference photos with a vague promise that this work would be completed later. Returning home the next day, I discovered my A/C had quit, and the interior of my house was at 95 degrees. This morning, from yet another hotel room, I at least reside with the gladness of knowing an A/C man is arriving this morning to repair it.

Above, I have posted lines from the latest book that I read with a sense of amazement.  I am only five pages into the text, but I have re-read and re-marked them four separate times already, because I am unable to move beyond; this man’s words are going straight to my heart. I was experiencing these words as I gazed into the forest two days ago, my eyes moving all over the contours of three pines reaching upward through the dense growth, all the while sketching, correcting, blotting Annie Dillard’s “color patches”, and constantly catching my breath as snatches of beauty came and went across my paper just as fleetingly as they did across the highlighted trunks of those pines. For the space of one hour as I labored over this pair of compositional sketches, I realized as before that the forces surging through the artist’s eye and soul never translate onto the painted page. I have come to accept that.  As a guitarist, I still laugh at the story of the master asking his pupil why he was frustrated.  The pupil replied that he could always hear the music better than he was capable of playing it.  The master asked, “And why do you think that is ever going to change?”

As a Romantic, I am held captive by the Sublime. My expressions always fall far short of my experience, and I just have to accept that.  I enjoy trying, nevertheless.  Every painting, every sketch, every line of words I scribble into the journal are merely footprints, ciphers, eidolon, of what is happening to me as I encounter the Sublime.  My vacation travels have ended, I am home, but not yet Home.   In my soul, I am still journeying, wandering, and the odyssey far exceeds in beauty what I am able to express.

I close with a re-post of the pine tree that greeted me every morning in Colorado as I sat drinking my coffee on the porch.  I do indeed miss those 39-degree mornings, having returned to this triple-digit Texas hell.

pine (2)

Earlier Sketch of Pine Tree from South Fork, Colorado

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to encounter.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Mixing Plein Air Painting and Fishing

June 30, 2016

Tucker Pond thursday (2)

Here we find ourselves, suddenly, not in a critical speculation, but in a holy place, and should go very warily and reverently.  We stand before the secret of the world, there where Being passes into Appearance, and Unity into Variety.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet”

Today marks the second time this week I tried to paint en plein air while fishing in a Colorado mountain pond.  This time I clipped a small bell to the end of my rod so I could stare at the landscape and try to paint, merely listening for the occasional strike.  As it turned out, it was a good day for fishing as I managed to land seven rainbows.  The painting was a tad more difficult as I began with the sun drenching everything before me beautifully, then, within thirty minutes, the skies darkened, the landscape lost all highlights and shadows and intensity of color, and the temperatures dropped into the upper thirties.  And then it rained on us.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience of trying to capture what lay before me.

When I began this work, the dead tree in the heart of the composition was almost white against a brilliant forest, and the sagging limbs looked like the ribcage of a skeleton.  So I used my masquepen on it, which is tricky at this altitude–the fluid bubbles out of the steel nib uncontrollably, and I had to scribble fast and loose with it.  Then when it was time to replace the lid by inserting the pin into the nib, that proved difficult because the fluid continued to dribble out of the nib; there was no stopping it.  Then, when the skies darkened, the dead tree all but disappeared into its surroundings, taking on a dull warm gray.  I chose to keep it bright against its background and tried to keep my colors intense, though they were no longer so in the reality that lay before me.  Such are the experiences of doing plein air in the midst of a living environment.

I hope that what I’ve just written hasn’t come across as negative.  The day was beautiful even if the weather and environment didn’t pose still for me.  When I gaze into the glories of mountain scenery I cannot help but wonder what I ever could have done to deserve such a Gift.  Emerson got it right; this was a holy place and I felt nothing short of reverence as I stood enveloped in it. I’ve always said my favorite past times were fishing and plein air painting.  This week has marked the first time I have tried to do both simultaneously.  And it was a joy.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Decompressing After a Satisfying Day

June 29, 2016

pine (2)

The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

 

When I began plein air painting about seven years ago, the first lesson I had to learn was to abstract from the visible world that overpowered my vision and intimidated me before my easel.  Robert Motherwell wrote that “abstract” comes from a Latin word meaning “to take from”, and that a painter abstracts every time s/he selects an object and reconstructs it on a two-dimensional surface.

When I stepped out of my vehicle at South Fork, Colorado last weekend, I was overwhelmed at the complex beauty of this mountain environment that I have enjoyed for over a decade now. This was the first time I was determined not only to bring along my art supplies, but to give plein air just as much attention as trout fishing.

The first object I selected was a solitary pine tree directly in front of my cabin porch.  I sketched it in pencil the first afternoon I was here, and mosquitoes chewed me up as I worked quickly.  After several subsequent days of sketching forests and mountain bluffs, I returned to this lone pine and gave it my full attention after lunch today with my friends.

Annie Dillard’s references to the “color patch” in her excellent book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek flooded my consciousness this afternoon as I stared at this tree and attempted to capture the colors threading through the bark and the limbs.  Much of what Annie wrote about the “color patch” reminded me of ideas gleaned from Paul Cezanne and Camille Pissarro in the early days of French Impressionism.  The longer I stared at this tree bark the more amused I was at recalling Jasper Johns’s statement that an artist paints things that other people look at but never see.  It was true that I was indeed seeing the bark of a pine tree for the first time up close in concentrated study. I still have so much to learn.

Looking back over this past week, I can honestly say that I have not been as successful fly fishing in the stream as I’ve been in previous years here, but I’m willing to chalk that up to high waters and very fast currents.  I refuse to feel badly about that because I am delighted that I’ve had the finest opportunities for plein air painting, and I’m so glad I took advantage of those opportunities.  I feel I have learned a great deal, just as I did recently while spending a week on the island in the Laguna Madre.  I’m certain that my studio work will improve as a  result.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Two Splendor-Filled Colorado Days

June 29, 2016

Darr 6

Poets talk about “spots in time,” but it is really fishermen who experience eternity compressed into a moment.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

A cool, hard-driving mountain rain has driven me back indoors after a day and a half of fly fishing and plein air painting.  So, I’m going to record some of the wonders that have come my way since my last posting.

I rose early yesterday morning to see a group of men standing in the stretch of waters below my cabin, casting spinning reeels in all directions with lures flashing so large I could see them at 100 yards. They talked so loudly I could hear every word from inside my dwelling.   I had planned to enter that space myself, but realized it would be awhile before the area settled down.  So . . . making coffee, I sat at my kitchen table and did some necessary tasks–rebuilding my tapered leader that has taken a beating over recent years. The nine-foot leader had been chewed down to about five feet.  Finding some 3x tippet, I spliced three more feet onto it, then added another two feet of 5x tippet to get the leader back to its desired length.

Hearing the continuing clattering conversation of the three clowns below who were catching nothing, but slashing the hell out of that stretch of water, I decided to make some decisions while sorting through my flybox.  I tied on an elk-hair caddis dry fly, rubbed flotation fluid into its hackles, then added another 18″ of 5x tippet, tying it onto the bend of the hook, and finally tied on a bead-headed Copper John nymph.

Out on the porch, I pulled on my waders and boots, and seeing that the men were still busy thrashing the waters, I decided to hike 200 yards downstream where the river was deeper, darker, and much swifter.  The wading proved treacherous and arduous, and I hadn’t forgotten the soaking I took last Saturday when I tried to navigate these waters.  I did manage to work a couple of decent stretches of stream, managing only a couple of strikes on the dry fly, which I missed, having too much slack in my line.

Finally, the last man left my preferred stretch, so I waded slowly upstream to a marvelously wide, sun-filled flat stretch of shallow riffles.

open waters (2)

The voices of the subterranean river in the shadows were different from the voices of the sunlit river ahead.  In the shadows against the cliff the river was deep and engaged in profundities, circling back on itself now and then to say things over to be sure it had understood itself.  But the river ahead came out into the sunny world like a chatterbox, doing its best to be friendly.  It bowed to one shore and then to the other so nothing would feel neglected.

Norman MacleanA River Runs Through It

Darr 4

It took very little time to land three brown trout, all of them under ten inches, but I was thrilled to see them all take the dry fly.  Though the fish were small, the waters exploded every time they took the surface fly.

small trout

Realizing the sinking nymph was getting no action, I clipped it off, then continued to move upstream, fishing the dry fly only.  For about an hour, I managed to miss about ten strikes, most of them large browns, because I could not strip the slack out of my line quickly enough.  The waters are still very high and fast.  The snow melt is still running its course.  I’ve never before seen so many snow packs in the mountains this time of year in Colorado.  Nevertheless, I found my time on the river very intoxicating, as I listened to the waters flowing swiftly over the smooth rocks.  The wonderful thing about the cabin where I am staying is that it is so close to the river that I hear the sounds of the rushing waters around the clock.  They soothe me to sleep every night, and greet me in my first waking moment of the following morning.

The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.  On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words and some of the words are theirs.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Today I decided to put off my river excursion until this evening and instead focus on plein air painting throughout the morning and early afternoon.  (Now that the hard rains have arrived, I question whether I’ll get to enter the river today at all.  We’ll see.)  From where I am residing, I look daily across Highway 160 at this line of towering bluffs, and am fascinated with the striations in the rocks as well as the trees that crown them.  The sky constantly shifts back and forth from deep clear blue to cloud-stuffed.  I managed three quick watercolor sketches today on 140# stretched D’Arches cold-pressed paper.  I tried to begin a fourth, because the dark storm clouds framed up a deep colorful composition along the bluffs.  However, I needed to stretch more paper, and after stretching three more surfaces, the first of the hard raindrops fell, and I had to scurry back into the cabin with all my supplies.

bluff in pochade box (2)

number two (2)

number three (2)

three watercolors (2)

The rain has ceased and the Colorado landscape is showing some light once again.  I began a watercolor sketch of the pine tree in front of my porch a few days ago, but never returned to it.  I’m going to resume it now, and see if I can get back into the stream later.

Thanks for reading.  It’s been a magnificent pair of days.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

 

Multi-Tasking in Colorado

June 27, 2016

Tucker Pond multi tasking

Geez! Fumbling with my Phone while Plein Air Painting and Trout Fishing!

Even a soul submerged in sleep is hard at work, and helps make something of the world.

Heraclitus

Sleep did not come easy last night as my mind flowed with a myriad of thoughts and would not shut down. Yet I awoke at 5:00 this morning, filled with a spirit of expectancy, believing that today was going to be an excellent day.

Annie

Sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee and Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I enjoyed the snap to the air with temperatures hanging around 45 degrees. I read until Ron and Dian picked me up at 6:45 and we embarked on our 45-minute drive up to an altitude of 9600 feet and temperatures registering 38 degrees. Tucker Pond was beautiful with the mist rolling off its surface and trout constantly roiling the waters.

Multi-tasking seems to be my way of life.  I set up the easel as soon as I had my line cast into the waters.  Sure enough, just as I finished blocking in the sky, my rod jerked hard, and I saw a rainbow about 18 inches long fighting for his freedom.  He won, as I was too impatient to play him out, trying to put a net on him when he still had plenty of strength. I knew better.  On a more positive note, I always think trout are easier to cook when smaller anyway.

As I painted the morning away, I would lose several quality trout as they struck and stole my bait before I could lay down the brush and take up the rod.  Nevertheless, we intended to take four for our evening meal, and we each managed to land a pair.

trout

The entire time I gazed into the forest adjoining Tucker Pond, I thought of what I was reading from Annie Dillard about “color patches” and the way it reminded me of Paul Cezanne’s theories of color when painting in plein air.  I was smitten by the sight of the golden greens in the pine trees and how they contrasted with the blue spruce colors. The rose colors of the distant mountain to the left of the forest also held my attention. The morning was everything I had anticipated when I awoke with a sense of gladness before dawn.

Tucker Pond painting (2)

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Stimulus Overload

June 26, 2016

colorado 1 (2)

First Plein Air Sketch of the Morning at Riverbend Resort

colorado 2 (2)

Beginnings of a Second Sketch

tree (2)

The present of my consciousness is itself a mystery which is also always just rounding a bend like a floating branch borne by a flood.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Annie sure nailed it with that sentence in describing my life. As an educator, I’ve encountered for twenty-eight years students diagnosed with A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder), and have felt that I would have been diagnosed with the same, had counselors in my own school youth been equipped with that handle. I have told friends for years that when I am home alone in the afternoons and evenings, that I want to work on a watercolor, read a book, and write in my journal all at the same time.  If I settle for painting, what should I paint? If reading, what book? If journaling, which thought do I want to explore, right now?

I awoke with that dilemma this morning, multiplied to the limits.  The Colorado morning light was crystal clear, the air was cold, Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek was lying beside my bed, my art supplies and easel were in the corner, and the journal was on the kitchen table. And I wanted to do all of it at the same time.

During breakfast with Ron and Dian Darr, friends whom I’ve known and loved since 1990, I decided to set up the plein air easel and see if I could do something with those beautiful bluffs across the highway from Riverbend Resort where I am staying. For years I have wanted to paint bluffs, and got my first real taste of a few weeks ago in Eureka Springs, Arkansas at Beaver Bluffs.  Last week, west of St. Louis, while driving back toward Texas, I saw those marvelous bluffs carved out along Highway 30 between High Ridge and House Springs–a sight I took for granted during my school years but now was just screaming to be painted.  Last year, I began a painting of one of those bluffs, and it still sits in my studio, unfinished (that’s my life–a studio littered with half-done projects).

After stopping with the first sketch above, clouds rolled up over the mountain, so I decided to begin a second one.  However, the temperatures grew quite hot as the noon hour approached, and I decided to put this second one on hold.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll return to it.  The third pencil sketch was something I dashed out while chatting with Ron under the shaded canopy.

The day has been amazing.  I haven’t yet entered the stream to fly fish, but plan to as soon as the sun drops in the early evening.  Meanwhile I’m staring at this magnificent pine tree in front of my cabin porch–the one I sketched yesterday while mosquitoes ate me.  I have the repellent today and have already bathed my body in it.  Perhaps I’ll give the pine a try in watercolor . . .

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.