Archive for the ‘Edward Hopper’ Category

The Emotional and the Technical: Balancing the Art Equation

April 17, 2021
Opportunity to Read and Reflect while the Restaurant is Busy

The man who has great emotions might burst into tears–but that is as far as he will get if he has no practical side. The artist must have the emotional side first, the primal cause of his being an artist, but he must also have an excellent mind, which he must command and use as a tool for the expression of his emotions.

The idea, which is the primal thing for a picture, is all in the air; the expression on canvas is a case of absolute science as it deals with materials. A great artist is both a great imaginer and a great employer of practical science. First there must be the man, then the technique.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

The day has been long as Sandi and I have culled out of the gallery my pieces to hang in next weekend’s festival at the Dallas Arboretum. The dinner hour has arrived, and the Saturday night crowd now fills the Queen Street Grille across the lobby from our Gallery at Redlands. It is possible later that patrons after dinner will flow across the hall and into this gallery to have a look. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the waning western light glowing through the large windows of the gallery as well as the general quiet of the lobby. (Prom pictures were being taken this afternoon. The noise, ugh!)

My pulse quickens every time I read of the life of Robert Henri as he gathered The Eight around him in Philadelphia. Henri was truly a prophet, drawing a young group of newspaper illustrators around him in his apartment at 806 Walnut Street. He read to them from Emerson, Whitman and Tolstoy to fire up their imagination and then instructed them in the proper techniques for sketching and illustration. The group went on to become known as The Ashcan School, moving to New York City and sketching live the scenes that enveloped their day-to-day lives. Later on, The Eight expanded to include a young Edward Hopper, one of my favorite American artists of all time.

The quote above engages me directly, as I look back over my earlier years when I sought training to improve my art techniques, but didn’t really feel the fire in my belly till I was finishing up grad school, enriched by theology, literature and philosophy. Returning to the pencil and brush, I was surprised that I actually had something more to say through drawing and painting than I had thought in my earlier years. Thus my newly discovered passion was easily engrafted onto the skills I had been taught while working on my art degree.

Throughout my later years, I have come up with several ways to look at this bifurcation of emotion and technique. In philosophy, I learned from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy that Greek actors on the stage sought to display to the audience the two competing forces in human life–Dionysus, the god of passion and turbulence struggling against Apollo, the god of reason and discipline. As an artist I have known for decades those two competing forces.

In art history, I have seen countless examples of those clashing tendencies. Neo-Classical art focused on the disciplines of drawing and composition. In reaction, Romanticism sprung up, crying out for passion and experimentation in art. In my own artistic endeavors, I have been told by my earlier instructors that I was too tight, too controlling, too orderly in my work, lacking in feeling, freedom and spontaneity. I am still aware of that in my current work.

I hope that before too much longer The Twelve will have opportunity to gather and talk about these matters that drive our artistic endeavors. Meanwhile I’ll just continue reading, thinking, writing, and hopefully applying what I’m discovering.

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.

Today I Build my House Again

May 10, 2018

Terlingua framed

Framed watercolor of Terlingua Ghost Town

The beginning and the end of all literary activity is the reproduction of the world that surrounds me by means of the world that is in me, all things being grasped, related, recreated, molded, and reconstructed in a personal form and an original manner.

Quotation from Goethe to Jacobi, Frankfurt, letter of August 21, 1774

While assembling my gear for today’s load-in at Arlington’s Art on the Greene, I brought up YouTube on my television and listened to the “Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas” documentary. I had to stop loading and write out the Goethe quote that really resonated with me. It is said that Hopper carried this quote on a piece of paper in his pocket as he went about looking for subjects to paint. I someday would like to construct a well-worded definition of art as a number of these remarkable thinkers have done before us. Anytime a muse speaks of art as a combination of our inner world with the outer world, I feel a rush of new energy and enthusiasm.

In an earlier post, I tried to explain how my theory of plein air painting parallels the practice of Georgia O’Keeffe. She painted her landscapes directly, then brought them into the studio to revise. The finished result was the abstract work that we admire. For me, it is a little different–I love to paint directly from nature, but sometimes do not finish the work on site. I’ll take a reference photo, and for days the image of what I tried to paint will compost in my mind until I think of compositional matters to resolve in the piece. When I return to the work with fresh eyes, I make whatever alteration is necessary, most of it involving the perimeter of the painting as I decide which portions to leave blank and which ones to render in some combination of texture and color. One of the things that made this past week so difficult was the plein air competition in Waxahachie–all works must be created exclusively on site. Therefore, I could not work in the studio, but chose to return daily at the same hour to the sites where I began each of my three paintings, and push further with the composition. Still, the composting activity happened in the evenings when I looked at the in-progress paintings and made mental notes of what I wished to accomplish at my next session.

This morning I finally framed the Terlingua ghost town I visited about a month ago. I took a number of photographs of the church on the hill as the sun was setting, and for weeks afterward continued to re-visit the subject in my mind’s eye. Once I set out to paint it, I reproduced the church, looking at the photos I took. Then again I laid it aside as I continued to ponder (compost!) how to render the surrounding terrain. After a few more days, I reached a decision and finished it.

The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It came to him, short-lived actions it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

This Emerson quote has flooded my soul since 1992, when I first read it while studying in Oregon, and I have re-read “The American Scholar” every semester since that remarkable day. Every word of the statement clamors for my attention, but this morning I’m fastened on this portion: “Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.” When I was young, I relied on my eye-to-hand coordination and what others call “talent” while trying to make art. In my senior years, things have changed. I am wishing more and more to pour a life of experience and depth of feeling into my paintings. When viewers see my work, I appreciate them telling me I am “talented.” But frankly, I have known that from my youth. What I really want to know is if anything I paint stirs them, holds them, resonates with them. Ken Wilber wrote that beauty “suspends the desire to be elsewhere.” I guess what I wish to know is that someone experiences “beauty” when they look at something I painted. That fact holds much more value with me than someone acknowledging that I have talent.

All creation, because it is such a drawing-up, is a drawing, as of water from a spring.

Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”

This afternoon I’ll experience the rebuilding of my house, as I set up the 10 x 10 booth for display and sale of my work. There have been times past where I dreaded this moment, but this isn’t one of those. A couple of weeks ago, I had my best experience of assembling and disassembling my booth and gear at the Dallas Arboretum. Richard Greene Linear Park, where I set up today, is filled with large shade trees, and wind often blows across the lake to provide comfort as we labor over our steel poles and vinyl tents. I’m looking forward to another good festival.

Richard Greene Linear Park is located in Arlington at 1601 E. Randol Mill Road. Hours for this event are Friday 3-10; Saturday 11-10; Sunday 11-5.

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.

 

Relaxing and Rethinking

July 8, 2015

Every artist has a central story to tell, and the difficulty, the impossible task, is trying to present that story in pictures.

Gregory Crewdson

Approaching Real Life DFW Talk Radio Station

Approaching Real Life DFW Talk Radio Station

Talk Radio Host Heidi Valdez Hardy

Talk Radio Host Heidi Valdez Hardy

The Broadcast Booth

The Broadcast Booth

I can think of few occasions more delicious than an evening to relax and reflect over a satisfying day. I am exhausted to the bone, but after a few days of tension building up to this afternoon’s two-hour radio interview, I am serene and thankful that all went well. From the moment I entered the broadcast booth with host Heidi Valdez Hardy, I knew things would go smoothly. She is a confident broadcaster, with a pleasing demeanor and enthusiastic wit.

The afternoon had its points of humor. Fifteen minutes before going live, Heidi asked me if I would mind being the co-host of the program. I had no clue what that meant. Did I know how to navigate facebook? Yes. Then would I mind posting information on her facebook timeline as the show progressed? And would I mind answering the phone when the screen lit up with an incoming call? At first I thought this would unravel me, but as it turned out, I was multi-tasking, and it took my mind off the nervousness I had been feeling about speaking over the air. So . . . I got to be the interviewee, social media secretary, and call screener all rolled into one, and it was wonderful. I had no time to feel nervous or uptight. Quite frankly, it reminded me of days when I worked in the Office of Communications of the Fort Worth Police Department long ago–I just didn’t have to take any 9-1-1 calls today.

The very first call into the program came from Cedar Hill, Missouri, from a friend with whom I had graduated high school forty-three years ago. Heidi could not believe that this was a caller from outside the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. The man had the most gracious words of praise to offer, and started the program on a highly affirming note. Thanks, Mark. I really needed that boost.

The two hours rolled by, feeling like twenty minutes. When it was over, I just heaved a sigh of relief and genuine thanks. What a rush of good will. I could reproduce pages of handwritten journal memories from these two hours, and I’m very satisfied that we got to talk in earnest and at great length about the experiences of the Artist in Residence program at the Texas Laguna Madre. A podcast will be posted in the future of today’s show, and anyone wishing to access www.dfwreallifetalk.com may listen to it.

There were two questions posed that moved me deeply, and I want to address those. First,which artist would I bring back to life with whom to have a conversation, if that were possible? I feel that I had waited all my life to answer that, and I was stirred up, just thinking about it. I would start with Andrew Wyeth. I have always been fascinated wtih his eye for the environment, and his way of rendering the details with exacting precision, while at the same time allowing some of the watercolor wash and splatter to spin out of control. I love his balance of control and freedom in the compositions. I feel that his still waters ran very deeply and wish I could have had private moments to talk quietly with him. Edward Hopper is also on my list. That quiet man had such a profound philosophi and poetic mind, with his love of literature and the American scene. I see the profound loneliness and isolation in his urban and small town settings, and wish that I could unlock the secret to instilling that kind of mood into my own compositions. And finally, Robert Motherwell. That brilliant scholar lectured on twenty-seven university faculties, wrote and published essays, edited for scholarly journals, devoured literature and philosophy, and still had time to create a vast inventory of paintings, a huge body of work. How rare to see the scholar and creative artist occupying the same body. And he made no apology for loving both worlds, perhaps because it was all one to him. That is what I want to embody as well. He is my role model.

The second question concerned my ultimate dream or desire. This answer would surprise some, because most would expect me to wish for broader exposure or sales. Of course, those things are important, but there is something more: I love painting more than selling or displaying my work. But I make my art in solitude, and don’t complain about that. What I do covet though, is the Parisian Cafe. Never in my life have I known a gathering place for creative spirits to meet at least once a week. The French Impressionists had their Cafe Gerbois. The Lost Generation met at Gertrude Stein’s. The Abstract Expressionists had the Cedar Bar. The Ash Can School met at 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. But I have never had a cafe where I could meet consistently with other creative minds eager to talk of ideas, philosophy, literature, art, music, or any creative endeavor. That I have always craved. That I still seek. When I sit and read a lengthy email from fellow WordPress blogger Corey Aber, I feel that I am sitting in a Parisian Cafe, listening to another creative, eager spirit. I just wish I could physically sit in the presence of a circle of those men and women, and hear their dreams, share in the joy of their explorations, and talk of ways that we can make this world better by living more artful lives.

It is bedtime. But I wanted to put some thoughts onto the blog before retiring. I didn’t think it possible to feel even better than I did before I started writing this, but it happened. It’s been a day worth recounting.

Thank you again for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.