Archive for the ‘commission’ Category

Another Quality Morning with Pups and Art

December 14, 2020

A native is a man or creature or plant indigenous to a limited geographical area . . . A non-native awakes in the morning in a body in a bed in a room in a building on a street in a county in a state in a nation. A native awakes in the center of a little cosmos–or a big one, if his intelligence is vast–and he wears this cosmos like a robe, senses the barely perceptible shiftings, migrations, moods and machinations of its creatures, its growing green things, its earth and sky. Native intelligence is what Huck Finn had rafting the Mississippi, what Thoreau had by his pond, what Kerouac had in Desolation Lookout and lost entirely the instant he caught a whiff of any city.

David James Duncan, The River Why

Baby Paddington woke me the same way he does every morning–clawing at my shoulder at 6:58 a.m. He’s not going to go back to sleep once he starts that. Rising from bed, I gathered wood and got the fire started, French-pressed some New Mexico PiƱon coffee, then sat back in an armchair beneath a throw, and immediately the two pups jumped into my lap. Paddington was the first to return to sleep, and I mused at how just twenty minutes earlier he couldn’t rest till he dragged me out of the sack. Spoiled puppy, sappy old man.

But the reading in The River Why was phenomenal, and I am still thinking over the native intelligence theme. Soon I’ll be spending long stretches of time on the open road and will no doubt continue to add to this strand of thought.

Sunlit Studio Eidolons

Yesterday was dark, bleak and wet the entire day. The studio work turned out just fine, thanks to a number of lamps. But today is much better as the sun has finally emerged to flood my windows with quality light.

Nearing the end of the Commission

I’m thinking that this commission will be completed today or tomorrow. I have had a myriad of interruptions rupturing my concentation on this for three days now, but still I have managed to take small bites out of the composition, and it is finally taking shape the way I’ve wanted it to.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Painting on a Rainy Day

December 13, 2020

“Glum Gus” she calls me. I might be feeling pensive, preoccupied, mystified, fatigued, introspective, or any of a hundred ways resulting in what seems to me merely an expressionless expression–but to Ma these moods are all one: “Glum AGIN! Cheer up, boy! Always limpin’ around with a burr in yer ass! Smile, dammit!” I don’t think this is quite what Thoreau meant when he said “Simplify.”

David James Duncan, The River Why

Throughout this dark, cold, rainy Sunday I have been working through my latest watercolor commission and laughing my way through The River Why. The reason I posted the passage above is because I have felt my entire life the way this frustrated narrator did of himself. I’m not a laughing, jovial kind of spirit and my friends all know that. When talking a few years back to an artist friend about my difficulty meeting the general public at art festivals, I acknowledged that I love art and love talking about it to interested patrons. But at a festival, I feel cramped inside a 10 x 10′ tent with my work on display every time a stranger enters–I do not want to be perceived as a pushy, aggressive sales person hawking his wares. People at festivals should have the freedom and space to peruse and enjoy art without threat of hungry artists’ eyes burning through them from the shadows of the tents. When telling my friend of these issues, she suggested I make a sign to put out front:


The commission is coming along slowly, and I’m glad to be retired and not pressed by deadlines. The patron wants this one before Christmas, and I anticipate finishing it up today or tomorrow.

I have often been asked if I become bored with commissions if the subject matter is always the same. The answer is a simple No, and I know why: if I paint the same subject repeatedly (and lately, the subject has been suburban homes), the reality is that I never repeat the same steps as I create a painting. I do not have a set formula. The same is true if I do a series of workshops. I know how to take participants through steps in creating a watercolor, and I always formulate the steps to facilitate the process. But the order of the steps is never the same. There are so many ways to enter a painting, and I find no reason to fall into a boring routine.

Years ago, I watched a film of Picasso performating a painting of a seated female nude. Out of his more than 30,000 works of art created over a lifetime, there is no telling how many times he drew or painted a seated female nude. On this particular film, I watched the artist as he loaded his brush, approached the blank canvas, and began outlining his figure. He started at the small of her back, and the brush glided upward over her shoulder, up her neck and over the top of her head, then downward over the profile face, neck, breasts, abdomen, thighs . . . As I watched in wonder, I thought: if I were painting this subject, I would start at the very top of the head. No doubt Picasso did too, hundreds of times. But this time he chose an unusual place to start, and I will never forget that image. It was then that I determined I would never let myself become bored with a routine in drawing or painting subject matter; there are dozens of ways to proceed.

With this particular painting, I am working all over the picture plane, sometimes rendering in detail, other times laying down a wash, or picking up a pencil to adjust something further. But I am not bored with the subject, nor will I be if the next five or ten paintings turn out to be of houses. I always find a way to change it up. I’m very happy and contented this day, even if I’m not smiling. Trust me-I’m not gloomy.

Christmas Greetings from Studio Eidolons

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I am alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Early Morning Meditations

December 12, 2020

The once-monthly fisherman adores his rare day on the river, imagining that ten times the trips would yield ten times the pleasure. but I have lived the gallant fisher’s life, and I learned that not fishing is crucial to the enjoyment of fishing . .

David James Duncan, The River Why

First Fire of this Winter

What a revelation these words created in the pre-dawn of the morning! For days I have been planning a return to the Guadalupe River to engage in my favorite avocation: fly-fishing. When Baby Paddington woke me at 4:40, sick, I soon realized I may not be going to the stream soon after all. I’ll know more after we visit the vet today. But the words posted above gave me exactly what I need–a fly-fisherman doesn’t reap genuine joy from a multiplicity of packed-scheduled-visits to the stream; s/he only needs enough to keep the embers burning. My experience of a few weeks ago lit a genuine fire, and it is still smoldering. I’ll get to the stream again. Meanwhile, Baby Paddington needs nurturing. I would not have exchanged this morning’s session before the fire for anything. As the dogs slept from 5:00 till 8:00, I continued my blissful reading of The River Why.

Back to Work on the Next Commission

COVID-19 has been cruel to this nation in ways unspeakable. When my art business witnessed the cancellation of my entire year of scheduled festivals and exhibitions, I assumed that nothing would happen except my quiet production of art in the seclusion of my studio. I was in for a surprise: I am currently working on my tenth watercolor commission, all of them arranged via online contacts. At present it appears that this will be my final work of 2020, and for all the business I am grateful.

The veterinarian visit has put me behind in what I had hoped to accomplish today, so I’ll sign this one off early and get back to painting. Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Inspiration vs. Work

August 5, 2020
Two Drafting Tables. Two Simultaneous Commissions

Inspiration is for amateurs; artists just go to work in the morning.

Chuck Close

I keep this Chuck Close quote on one of my drafting tables as a message to myself every morning when I set to the task of fulfilling commissions. I have several assigned to me now, and have spent today going back and forth between two of them–when one is drying I move to the other, etc. When I don’t have an assignment, I find myself looking for some kind of inspiring message from my morning reading. But when there is a job to do, I go straight to it, usually.

Having said that, I did nevertheless spend about an hour this morning reading from Zola, Thomas Jefferson, and my New Testament. I also spent considerable time scribbling out some new ideas for my next art-related endeavors. And I also decided to pick up the guitar and loosen up. I changed the strings on two of them yesterday and swore I would not neglect them as I have the past six months.

I will show pictures of the two commissions I’m working on, as soon as there is enough to photograph. Meanwhile, here are some other images I’d like to share:

I posted this one earlier today to show my Facebook friends, and it has gotten plenty of attention. Years ago, I acquired a garden gate and this 36″ Coca-Cola sign. I decided to put them together and see how much detail I could manage to capture on a large sheet of watercolor paper. We now have it framed and hanging in the bedroom. I read long ago that when a work is designated “Collection of the Artist” the underlying message is that the artist was never able to sell it. In that case, this belongs in the Collection of the Artist. After years of exposure and no sale, I’m delighted to know that Sandi loves it, so I’ve taken it off the market and given it a home.

Here is another section of my renovated studio. When I look up from the drafting table, I have plenty of objects on which to fix my attention and wander my imagination.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Have Brush. Will Travel

July 29, 2020
Setting to Work on my Next Commission

A whisper ran through the crowd as it watched the two artists, one short and sanguine, the other tall and diffident, shake hands and exchange a few friendly words:

“Still producing marvels, I see.”

“As usual! What about you, have you nothing in this year?”

“Not a thing. I’m having a rest, looking for a new idea.”

“Don’t be funny. You don’t need to look for new ideas!”

Emile Zola, The Masterpiece

Reading this passage over coffee this morning gave me pause. I’m always astonished at how art imitates life; nearly everyday in my casual reading, a line of words lifts off the page, mirroring what I’m experiencing at this particular point in my life. Talking on the phone recently with artist friends, I find that we are all on the same page–no longer physically present in public exhibitions, and in the meantime working in our private spaces, developing new ideas as they come.

As the coronavirus has raged across the land, my entire art calendar has been systematically cleared. My last event was a one-man-show in Dallas that ran through the month of February. Since that time, all art festivals and gallery events on my 2020 calendar evaporated, even the ones running from October through December.

But I’m not complaining. This hiatus has truly been a gift in so many ways: I am more rested, travel less, stress less, and enjoy quality time in the studio painting, reading, writing in my journal, composing short stories–all those things I can now do with quality time abundant. For over a month, I experienced stress, feeling there was something I was supposed to go out and do. I had to remind myself “No”, there is nothing to be done out there. Relax. Rest. Make art at your leisure.

Other gifts have surprised me as well. Suddenly I am scheduled for art classes. I conducted one last week. Another happens tomorrow. And two more are scheduled for August. Commissions also piled up (I usually have one at a time). I am finally down to my last pair of commissions and should have them completed within a week or so.

So. This is just to say: if anyone out there wishes to commission a work from me, I am a hired gun with plenty of time on my hands. If not, I’ll continue to enjoy painting what I wish, when I wish. And always, I will post on the blog what I have going on.

Fort Worth Flatiron Building in Progress

Last week’s class involved watercoloring a section of the historic Flatiron building located in Fort Worth, dating from 1907. I have already painted it a couple of times and sold it. The print at the top is a photo of the last painting I sold out of the gallery where I’ve been invited to teach classes (I now am represented by an additional gallery–Show Me the Monet, located here in Arlington). The painting in progress at the bottom is what I was using as a demo when I taught the class. I decided not to throw it away but see if I could pull another decent painting from it. So, I’m working on it at leisure.

I haven’t checked to see if there is still available seating for tomorrow’s session. We’ll be painting wildflowers (specifically, firewheels as they appear on the islands in the Texas Laguna Madre). If any of you local readers are interested, please call the gallery to reserve your spot at (817) 468-5263. The one-time class meets tomorrow (Thursday, 7/30), 2-5:00. Cost is $55.

Sample of tomorrow’s “Firewheels” class

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Another Crank of the Wheel

June 25, 2020
Early Morning Downtown Palestine

Early morning is a time of magic in Cannery Row. In the gray time after the light has come and before the sun has risen, the Row seems to hang suspended out of time in a silvery light.

John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

Yes, and early morning is a “time of magic” in downtown Palestine as well. The warm silvery light came peeking through the second story window of the Redlands Hotel shortly after 6:00 this morning, accompanied by the clang, clang, clang of the bell two blocks away announcing the arrival of Union Pacific #7159, a bright yellow C44ACM built by General Electric back in 2018. The sassy loco was making a grand entrance and letting me know it was time to get my sorry rear end out of bed and back to the drafting table in The Gallery at Redlands downstairs.

The Gallery at Redlands
Laying out Work for Framing
The drafting table has seen plenty of action this week
Newest Commission in Progress

I started this commission yesterday and hope to have it completed today or tomorrow. My artist friend Elaine Jary is en route to the gallery now to take down her show. Her ETA is two hours plus, so I have some time to work on this painting before we get busy taking down her show and putting my work back up on the walls.

It’s already shaping up to be a busy day. The hotel lobby is bustling with maintenance men and staff pursuing their own tasks. I seem to work better when I know people all around me are busy.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Organizing Scattered Pieces

June 22, 2020
Busy in the Studio

Hazel’s mind was like wandering alone in a deserted museum. Hazel’s mind was choked with uncatalogued exhibits. He never forgot anything but he never bothered to arrange his memories. Everything was thrown together like fishing tackle in the bottom of a rowboat, hooks and sinkers and line and lures and gaffs all snarled up.

John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

This Steinbeck read is providing plenty of entertainment today. Yes, Hazel is a man, and I laughed at the passage above because it sounds like the author was describing my own mind on a typical day. This was one of those odd conglomerations of reading over coffee, painting in the studio, dashing to the store to pick up furniture ordered, joining Sandi in another home improvement task that yielded great rewards, and taking breaks now and then for thinking, blogging, catching up with a ton of art-related correspondence that had piled up and packing for yet another road trip.

Tomorrow I will delightfully return to The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas. It has been over four months since I last inhabited that space and I have missed so many of my friends and acquaintances down there. The gallery will get a new face lift, though I will be sorry to say good-bye to many of Elaine Jary’s pieces that have enlivened the walls this year.

Latest commission in progress

I was hoping to finish this commission today, but too many other things entered my space and I had to stay on top of them. Hopefully I will complete this one tomorrow and then move on to the next. The coronavirus has rendered a nasty world about us, yet at the same time I have been blessed to meet new friends and patrons, and there remains plenty of art to be made.

Thanks for reading. Next time I post, I should be doing so from the gallery.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Working in the Studio, with Camping still on my Mind

June 21, 2020

Coffee has a special taste of a frosty morning, and the third cup is as good as the first.

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

Cowboy Coffee at Beaver’s Bend State Park, Broken Bow, Oklahoma

Sunday at home has been cozy, with last night’s storms extending into a dark and cool day all day today. Finishing my second reading of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley has put me in a docile frame of mind, and now I’ve turned to my first reading of Cannery Row. After the first dozen pages, I believe this will be a keeper as well.

Reading Travels with Charley while enjoying my final cup of Cowboy Coffee

We returned home three days ago, but my heart and imagination are still in the Oklahoma wilderness. It was hot every day–93 degrees and humid, and apparently too warm for the trout waters. I had several strikes on dry flies, but hooked nothing, and for the first time there, never saw another fly fisherman catch anything either.

Evening Hole, my favorite place for stalking trout
New commission in progress

At the time of this writing, I have at least eight paintings to complete to satisfy the wishes of patrons. The initial plans are already laid out and I am simply moving from one to the next, grateful that I love watercoloring and always find myself getting lost in every new composition. I have been taking today’s very slowly as there are a number of areas where I could lose the painting quickly.

Time spent this morning over coffee and Steinbeck yielded this gem from Cannery Row:

The word is a symbol and a delight which sucks up men and scenes, trees, plants, factories, and Pekinese. Then the Thing Becomes the Word and back to Thing again, but warped and woven into a fantastic pattern. The Word sucks up Cannery Row, digests it and spews it out, and the Row has taken the shimmer of the green world and the sky-reflecting seas.

All day long, while painting in the studio, this passage has simmered in my consciousness. For as long as I can remember, “word” has meant much more to me than just a single building block for a sentence. From seminary days learning Greek, logos has consumed my attention. I always appreciated the writings of Martin Heidegger, arguing that “word” refers to the “gathering together,” the “organizing dynamic” of life as we encounter it.

Whenever I experience an artful day, I look for the Word, for the organizing principle of what is going on about me. I love the challenge of making art because I am called upon to organize elements and design something the eye can recognize and appreciate. On this particular day, painting a house that means a great deal to a patron, I wonder about the people who inhabited the structure, what kind of stories sprung from the neighborhood, what sounds and smells were encountered on a daily basis–all kinds of details engaged my imagination as I worked.

And speaking of work, I need to return to it. Thank you for taking time to read me and about the things happening in this part of the world while a virus continues to hover about our surroundings. Stay safe.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Paying the Rent

June 20, 2020
work on a new commission

For my blog readers, I just wanted to drop a line to say I am working on new Hank and Randy stories and paintings but am not ready to show them yet. Meanwhile, a stack of commissions just poured in and I am working to get them completed and delivered as promised.

completed commission just delivered

While working in my studio, I am playing old video cassettes of Andy Warhol documentaries. I have always admired his business-like work ethic in The Factory, and smile at his commentary on the daily round. His associate Bob Colacello told interviewers that Warhol showed up every morning early at The Factory and cranked out commissions till noon. He called this “paying the rent.” Having over a dozen paid staff members, he quipped that he had to “bring home the bacon” because he “had so many mouths to feed.”

After lunch, Warhol would go into the Think Tank with his staffers and then discuss the issue of “what we can do now for Art”. This is where I find myself. To continue working on my house and paying the bills, I need to pay heed to my business and peform the tasks promised. But after so many hours of the day split between commission work and house work I then wonder what I can do for Art. Hence, the Hank and Randy series–this I continue to plot and hope to have new work to show soon. Meanwhile I have promised art to complete . . .

Thanks for reading.