Archive for the ‘Eureka Springs’ Category

Creating Worlds

September 10, 2016


The blank canvas is the blank page. You start with nothing. It’s hugely provocative. It’s frightening because you may have too much to put on it. Or not enough of yourself.

Wim Wenders

This cool, dark, overcast, rainy Saturday morning put me in the mood to continue a watercolor I worked on last evening. I’m getting close to finishing it. While painting, I like to listen to some kind of creative stimulus, often spinning LPs on my turntable, or using the laptop to dial up a YouTube presentation. Choosing the latter, I was shocked to discover a nearly hour-long documentary on Edward Hopper titled “Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas.” What jolted me after all these years was to discover how much film footage remains of Hopper’s television interview with Brian O’Doherty. The presentation is very engaging, and filled with plenty of interviews with film maker Wim Wenders (who was deeply influenced by Hopper’s scenes and collaborated with his photographer to re-create many settings reminiscent of these paintings). The above quote from Wenders is still working on me as I pour myself into this most recent painting.

Eureka Springs is the setting, and their historic railroad depot provides a lengthy section of abandoned trackage where derelict rolling stock has been parked. Every time I visit the town, I love to stroll the length of these tracks, taking pictures and making sketches of the rail cars. As I painted this afternoon, watching my blank paper slowly develop into a painting, I felt the sweet memories of last summer’s excursion flowing through me. Of course, I’m never sure if my feelings come out in the paintings (and Edward Hopper never knew, or perhaps didn’t even care, whether his thoughts were recognized by viewers of his work). I think what engages me the most, thinking of the Wim Wender quote, is when I should declare a painting finished, whether or not I have pushed my feelings far enough into the process. Of course, that is something I’ll never know. But I still think about it as I work.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.



Suspended between Wordsworth and Pink Floyd

September 9, 2016


Remains of a Gas Station near Brookfield, Missouri


Remains of a Passenger Rail Car in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb.

Friday night has arrived, the week in school has been deeply rewarding, watching classrooms filled with students enthusiastic about pursuing new ideas. Evenings have been given to watercolor activity, and I’ve posted a pair that were inspired by some of my summer travels. Memories associated with these two images are so thick tonight, it seems I have to brush them away from my face so that I can breathe.

Tonight, a deep feeling has overcome me. I’ve returned from a funeral visitation. One of my precious students has lost a father unexpectedly, and her mother is a colleague of mine who has always been a generous resource when needed. Driving home, I listened to “Comfortably Numb” and the words I’ve posted really went deep into my heart. Once I was home again, I dug up Wordsworth verses, including “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” I have felt an intimate kinship with this poet when he speaks of childhood memories that have their ways of sweeping over us during our more pensive moments. And like Proust, he urged that those feelings were worth remembering, even when fleeting, and even when we cannot put our finger on what it is exactly we feel we have lost along the way. Again Thoreau’s haunting words of losing the horse, the bayhound and the turtledove come back to me tonight. I don’t think I’m sad. But something is stirring deep within, and I’m trying to find a way to express it. I’m glad the weekend has arrived and I can walk away from my regular schedule for a couple of days.

Thanks for reading.

Good Morning, America

August 12, 2016

loco (2)

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, . . . 

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to no one else.

Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”

Good morning again, blogging and facebook friends. I unplugged from your company a couple of weeks ago, needing some time away to sort out some unsortable issues. After a week, I experienced little success in sorting, and then didn’t really know how to return to you, and still don’t, actually. Wayne White, a loving friend from high school days (, used to open his daily facebook with the warmest greetings to us all, and I still feel the warmth from reading his posts. So, here is my hope this morning to leave words of good cheer for anyone needing such. Wayne always encouraged us to spread the love, so I shall try.

A number of watercolors have been completed since I last posted, including the one above. This is a larger work by my scale (16 x 20″ unframed), and recalls a good moment from last spring while I was judging and workshopping at a plein air event in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, one of my favorite American towns for painting.

This summer has provided the luxury of grazing amidst many lush literary pastures.  A host of luminaries have shined a light before and within me throughout this sojourn, and I love them all for sharing their literary gift. During a joyful re-reading of William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry, I revisited this passage:

Depth roots us in the world, gives life substance and wholeness. It enriches our work, our relationships, everything we do. It’s the essential ingredient of a good life and one of the qualities we admire most in others. Great artists, thinkers, and leaders all have an unusual capacity to be ‘grasped’ by some idea or mission, an inner engagement that drives them to pursue a vision, undaunted by obstacles. Ludwig van Beethoven, Michelangelo, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr.—we call them ‘brilliant,’ as if it were pure intelligence that made them who they were. But what unites them is what they did with their intelligence, the depth they reached in their thinking and brought to bear in their work.

Balancing social encounters with a quiet contemplative life has made this entire summer truly unforgettable, with a host of splendorous emotions accompanied by a commensurate number of stumbles, bumps and bruises. That happens, and we should welcome it. After all, we know the sentiments of Henry David Thoreau as we continue to pursue the phantom of fulfilment throughout this Odyssey:

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtledove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travellers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

We know of that which Thoreau speaks. Each of us still tracks that phantom whose memory continues to haunt. And as Whitman observed, each of us sings our own carol.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Calling Out to Jackson Pollock

August 2, 2016


Just a quick progress report on my Eureka Springs train–the depths of the surrounding forest is driving me nuts, and I feel that I am resorting to Jackson Pollock techniques as I weave skeins of paint from border to border. I’m having fun as I experiment, but of course those all-too-common anxieties begin to enter when one wonders over the likelihood of losing what could have been a good painting while “having fun.”  So . . . I think I will lay this aside, perhaps for the rest of the day, until I know for certain where to go next with it.

Thanks for reading . . .

Musings in the Wilderness

August 2, 2016

new train (2)

He had many of the qualities of a great poet, and was in some degree worthy to precede Shakespeare. But he seems to have run to waste for want of seclusion and solitude, as if mere pause and deliberation would have added a new element of greatness to his poetry. In his unquestionably fine, heroic tone it would seem as if he had the rarest part of genius, and education could have added the rest.

Henry David Thoreau (writing of Christopher Marlowe), Journal, 1837-1847

Reading from Thoreau early this morning stung me, and as I returned to work on this large watercolor, I could not stop thinking about the sad fate of Christopher Marlowe and Thoreau’s assessment of his gift. How many times has history witnessed the tragedy of gifted individuals who never developed beyond their native abilities because they would not nurture those skills? Looking back over my own life, I recognize that I was often a workaholic, and felt constrained to respond to every invitation to some sort of duty. In recent years, I’ve tried to find a way to slow things down and see if I could not water and feed some of the abilities I have been given.

This painting is a challenge on many fronts.  At this age, I still have too many unanswered questions about color and composition, but it’s a comfort to know that I’m not working on a commission. There is no deadline.  No one is waiting for this.  No competition lies ahead. And school is still a few weeks away.  I took this painting on my recent two-week vacation, and never unloaded it from my vehicle. I thought that perhaps I could give it some attention, but better things were offered during vacation time.  Now that I’m back home, things have slowed down, my routine is beginning to emerge once again, and I’m grateful for another quiet morning to read, reflect, and work on my painting.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to grow.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Beaver Bluffs Sketch

May 24, 2016

Beavers Bluff

Bosh! Stephen said rudely. A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

James Joyce, Ulysses

Breaking down the weekend festival on Sunday night made rising early Monday to drive six hours to Eureka Springs an arduous task.  I’m glad that I had no responsibilities when I arrived late on Monday. My first working day in Eureka Springs today involved a drive out of town to find Beaver Bluffs. I’ll be conducting my first workshop on these premises tomorrow afternoon. The directions given were good, and a stiff hike around the lake brought me face to face with towering bluffs and cedars shooting out of their crowns.  I still haven’t solved the problem of watercoloring cedar trees, and I so love their appearance.  The colors elude me as do the foliage patterns, though I feel I am getting the hang of the colors of the twisted trunks and branches. The striations in the rocky surfaces below the cedars revealed some interesting compositional patterns, and I was sorry I didn’t have time for a second one today.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll get a second shot at this scene, either before or after the workshop.

It has been a long day, and tomorrow will be longer, so I must call it a night.

Thanks for reading.

Another Video of One of my Past Workshops

February 9, 2016

Sorry to be on such a posting rampage tonight! In searching through my files, I just now came across this video that I had forgotten, produced several years ago to advertise one of my workshops conducted for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. I will be teaching a plein air workshop for them later in May of this year. Details will be released later. I love this video, and hope you will enjoy it as well.

Plein Air Gathering around Harding Spring

June 20, 2013
Landscape Enveloping Harding Spring

Landscape Enveloping Harding Spring

Geometry is our greatest creation and we are enthralled by it. . .  Man has drawn himself up like a giant, he has forged himself a tool.  He no longer works with his hands.  His spirit gives the order.  He has delegated to the machine the work of his clumsy and unskillful hands.  Freed, his spirit works freely.  On square paper he dreams.  

Le Corbusier

Rising early this morning, I was again greeted by the beautiful, warm sunshine of Eureka Springs.  Sitting on the terrace, I found fascinating ideas from a biography I’m reading on Le Corbusier.  As this young architect moved dialectically between natural forms and geometry, I was inspired to approach the Harding Springs and look at the Greek column and krater sitting in all their geometric stillness in the enveloping embrace of those beautiful shrubs, backed by the looming cliff, Lover’s Leap.

Painter at Harding Spring

Painter at Harding Spring

Painter at Harding Spring

Painter at Harding Spring

The Plein Air Workshop group arrived early and set up immediately, choosing their compositions around Harding Spring.

Jean's Rendering of a Neighboring Business

Jean’s Rendering of a Neighboring Business

Sitting in the midst of Harding Spring, Jean peered through the landscaping and across the street at a local business.  She decided to build a composition contrasting nature with architecture, flowers over against a stone building.  As she worked on this watercolor, she continued to build contrasting darks and lights, warm and cool colors between the building, the shadows and the flower beds.

Debbie's Plein Air Rendering of Lover's Leap

Debbie’s Plein Air Rendering of Lover’s Leap

After focusing on architectural rendering for two days, Debbie today decided to work with nature exclusively, hoping to keep it loose and Impressionistic this time.  She ended up with this Cezannesque-looking watercolor of Lover’s Leap at Harding Spring.  I was fascinated with her contrasts of warm and cool colors threading through the foliage and rock facade, much as Cezanne composed in his studies of Mont Sainte-Victoire.  At the end, she decided to go ahead and include the man-made railing at the top of the bluff.

Barbara's Plein Air Interpretaion of Lover's Leap

Barbara’s Plein Air Interpretaion of Lover’s Leap

Barbara was fascinated with the foundation stones and Greek monument along with the bluff and trees in this setting.  She worked feverishly on contrasting colors, seeking ways to make the bluff, tree trunks and monument emerge from the composition to take center stage.  On the rock facade, she experimented with a number of techniques until she came up with this satifsfying compositional conclusion.

I have only tomorrow morning left to spend with this class, and I miss them already.  Their daily enthusiasm was contagious, and I could not help catching their fever.  I cannot wait to see them in the morning, knowing their daily company has changed me profoundly as an artist, affirmed me as a teacher, and given me a new sense of vision in the pursuit of the arts.  My thanks goes out to all of them, and to all of you who take the time to read my daily musings.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The Joy of “Pushing Through”–Plein Air Painting in Eureka Springs

June 19, 2013
Plein Air Watercolor Sketch Attempt on Wednesday

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch Attempt on Wednesday

What we need is more sense of the wonder of life and less of this business of making a picture.  Your painting is the marking of your progression into nature, a sensation of something you see way beyond the two pretty colors over there.  Don’t stop to paint the material, but push on to give the spirit.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

We laughed together over lunch, saying this was “hump day” and therefore the hardest part of the five-day workshop.  Then we returned to the field to prove ourselves wrong.  The day reached 90 degrees, and was high in humidity, but we managed to stay in the shaded areas, for the most part, and doggedly pursued the compositions we had carved out of the neighborhood on Summit Street in the upper Eureka Springs historic district.  At the end of the day, we were tired, sweaty, thirsty, but satisfied that we managed to turn yet another corner in our watercolor pursuits, and learn a few more lessons in composition.

Pictured above is the sketch I picked over intermittently throughout the day, of a twin-gabled bed and breakfast I found very attractive.  I tried my best to stay attentive to what the workshop participants needed, and covered about a fifty-yard area to walk back-and-forth between them.  I never managed to get the yellows the way I wanted them on the gables of the house, but enjoyed working the green trim and the beautiful landscaping out front.

Completion of Barbara's Tuesday Watercolor

Completion of Barbara’s Tuesday Watercolor

Barbara spent a great deal of time Tuesday drawing out this composition, and had barely begun the painting of it when it was time to quit.  I photographed and posted last night what she had completed up to that point. Today she returned to enrich the tree, cast shadows on the house, re-work the wooden siding of the house, and add more texturing to the roof.  The lavender and rose hues she used to dapple the shadows on the siding have given the painting an exquisite look.

Beginning of Barbara's Wednesday painting

Beginning of Barbara’s Wednesday painting

With the time remaining, Barbara drew this composition in very carefully, then re-worked it in ink to keep from smearing the graphite all over the page.  There was little time remaining for the actual painting, but she knows there is still tomorrow and Friday to complete it.

Debbie's Wednesday Watercolor

Debbie’s Wednesday Watercolor

After putting some finishing details to the watercolor she created yesterday, Debbie went after this composition with a keen sense of purpose.  Already in her mind’s eye, she knew what she wanted from this composition–to place this sharply detailed house against a backdrop of out-of-focus, wet-on-wet foliage.  She also knew she wanted to masque the picket fence and drybrush vigorously about it, remove the masque, and then render in pencil the separation of the uprights from the horizontals.  Everything worked.  Dissatisfied with the foreground tree being too dense, she used an x-acto knife to scrape white reflective areas into the leaves to create a sense of liveliness.  That also worked.  Everything she set out to accomplish, she did, and managed to finish in one day.

Debbie's Tuesday painting, finished Wednesday

Debbie’s Tuesday painting, finished Wednesday

The only thing left for Debbie to complete on this composition was heightening the contrast between the flag, the pillars, and the intricate modeling near the roof.  She also warmed up the upper right-hand corner of the composition with Winsor & Newton Transparent Yellow.

Jean's Wednesday Watercolor

Jean’s Wednesday Watercolor

Jean was immediately attached to this stone wall and gravel lot fronting a rich backdrop of foliage.  Her interest focused on the blue planter and lantern perched on the pillar.  Most of her experimentation of the day was given to the texturing of the rock wall and pea gravel on the parking lot.  Her final touch was the darkening of the background foliage.  Everything worked for her today.

I cannot say with honesty that I was happy with my own work today, but then again, I didn’t really concentrate too much on it.  In between offering of guidance to the other participants’ works in progress, I took some stabs at my own plein air sketch.  But my dissatisfaction with my own piece doesn’t matter.  My heart overflows with joy, looking at what the class cranked out on this successful “hump day.”  I believe that all of them felt a sense of accomplishment, a sense of “pushing through” the appearance of what was in front of them, and creating a legitimate painting from their own unique vision.  And that makes my heart swell with joy this evening.

Thanks always for reading.  These are good times at Eureka Springs.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

First Day “In the Field” at Eureka Springs

June 18, 2013
Second Day Plein Air Demonstration

Second Day Plein Air Demonstration

People have not looked largely at life, mainly because our education drowns us in detail.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I awoke long before the alarm this morning, spent about two hours, enjoying coffee, leisurely reading and thinking on this beautiful terrace at my Eureka Springs lodging, then met my class at a residence on Summit Street.  We found beautiful compositions in every direction we looked.  I chose a vantage point from a balcony of the residence and looked down across the street onto this lovely house, and did this quick plein air sketch in two stages–first to get the students primed to begin an architectural composition, and then second to record some accents and details.  I opened this post with the Henri quote because I thought it ironic that I was in class again, having been out of school barely more than a week.  But at the same time, I felt that I was not drowning these eager painters in details.  Rather I was trying to incite them to paint more decisively, more confidently.  How wonderful to attend a school without walls, to paint without restrictions, to walk out into the surrounding neighborhoods and carve out compositions to capture in watercolor sketches.  I feel as though I have turned back the clock a couple of decades on my life.  Today was even better than yesterday, and the students have really picked me up.  I cannot wait to see what they do tomorrow.

Below are three student paintings begun on this first real day in the field:

Beginning of a flag composition at the front of the house

Beginning of a flag composition at the front of the house


Facade of house across street, looking down from balcony

Facade of house across street, looking down from balcony


Side View of House we Visited

Side View of House we Visited

Tomorrow we’ll return to the same location to finish up work begun today, and begin new work across the street where we have been welcomed to another residential site.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.