Archive for the ‘fall foliage’ Category

A Past Worth Remembering

October 11, 2016


Wayne’s Bluff


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.


Lost in the Labyrinthe

March 19, 2016


Newman chose his terms ever so deliberately: “plasma” (or “plastic”) connotes an organic fluidity; it also suggests the more familiar word “plastic,” which refers to an organic quality in materials. Semantically, “plasmic” and “plastic” are closely related (they derive from the Greek word for molding or forming); but they are also inversions of one another, with the one term oriented to living organisms and the other to inert matter. Simply put, the plasmic is lively and active (like the movement of thought, it gives form to things), whereas the plastic is passive (it is the form that thought and other forces produce). The various drafts of “The Plasmic Image” explore the links between “plasmic” and “plastic,” between creative thought and the material form it can assume. Newman’s guiding metaphor is this: plasma, as the fluid part of the body communicates thought. Thus the plasmic and the plastic bond together whenever “the new painter is concerned with his subject matter, with his thought”.

Richard Shiff, Introduction to Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews

Countless times while posting on my blog, I feel that I am wearing my underwear on the outside. This is one of those moments. I love reading artist’s writings about the task of making art. Robert Motherwell has been a favorite of mine for years, and now, one of his contemporaries, Barnett Newman has crossed my desk. A former student of mine, Ian Watson, now a serious painter pursuing a path that has issued from his serious study of Abstract Expressionism, has passed on to me this book on Newman’s writings. Though my painting style is nowhere near the Abstract Expressionists, the more serious thinkers among them engage my mind in the most satisfying way. I don’t feel that I have a clear-cut aesthetic theory of art, or even a style for that matter. I love the process of making art, and love reading the thoughtful writings of artists who engage in that same enterprise, always hoping one day I will figure out what I am trying to do and express it well.

Finishing my term as Artist-in-Residence day before yesterday has yielded an experience similar to jumping into a warm pond after emerging from a sauna. Yesterday, back home for the first time, I spent the day in galleries and museums, searching for some kind of direction of where to go next in my work. I enjoyed the museum time, but nothing really clicked with my own work. I had trouble going to bed last night, finally succumbing at 2:00 a.m. Waking at 8:00, groggy, I made coffee, built a fire (wow, a delightful 43 degrees outside!), settled into my reading chair before the fireplace, and read extensively from Thoreau’s journals and Barnett Newman’s writings. Coming across the introductory quote posted above, I thought about that conflict between the artist’s mind and the materials s/he is trying to manipulate, and I looked up at this watercolor I started last year and abandoned.

The painting is of a section of bluff carved out by Highway 30 west of High Ridge, Missouri. I drove through that section last Thanksgiving on a dreary rainy morning, en route to my Texas home. I was so taken by the soaked landscape under the dark morning skies that I turned my vehicle around, drove back, got out in the rain and took several photos.Once I got home I began the painting enthusiastically, but nothing seemed to go right. I tossed it aside and forgot about it. Once I found it again this year, and wished to give it another try, I could not find my reference photos among my computer files. I wasted almost an entire Saturday morning looking for them. Disgusted, I put the watercolor next to the fireplace and went on with my life. Then, I came across the photos just before leaving on Spring Break for Corpus Christi. I thought about this painting the entire time I was on the coast.

Reading the comments on Newman’s theory jolted me and I returned to the drafting table. I love the slice of landscape I viewed that morning, and have re-visited countless times in my mind’s eye. And this morning, I decided to push my mind and imagination harder against the resistant colors and shapes to see if I could wrest some kind of pleasing composition from it. I keep working back and forth between the complementary violets and yellows as well as the greens and reds. And, as many times before, I am lost in the network of winter tree limbs that trace out a labyrinthe against the sky. I purchased an atomizer from Asel Art yesterday (I lost mine from 1974!) and sprayed some Hydrus liquid watercolor across certain areas. I feel like a small child in the classroom, but that is O.K. I’m back to the joy of discovering new artistic possibilities and am enjoying this ride in particular.

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.


Autumnal Rhapsody

December 7, 2015


Holiday conversations pulsated in the warm house

As I sat with coffee, gazing out the window

At falling yellow leaves

Flickering like fireflies

Descending backlit against burgundy shadows.

Sensing the gentle invitational tug,

I rose quietly amidst the talk,

Threaded my way through the crowded parlor,

And exited through the screen door.

Settling into an Adirondack chair,

Sitting quietly in the autumnal embrace,

I watched as a tree slowly grew

Across the waiting space of my sketchbook page.

. . . Thanks for reading.

Perfect Response to a Cold, Rainy Dawn

November 29, 2015

imageThen there was the bad weather.  It would come in one day when the fall was over.  You would have to shut the windows in the night against the rain and the cold wind would strip the leaves from the trees in the Place Contrescarpe.  The leaves lay sodden in the rain and the wind drove the rain against the big green autobus at the terminal and the Cafe des Amateurs was crowded and the windows misted over from the heat and the smoke inside.

Ernest Hemingway, “A Good Cafe on the Place St.-Michel” in A Moveable Feast

The weather turned nasty over the past several days of the holiday, with rain continuing, floods abounding in north Texas, the skies darkening and temperatures plummeting.  Waking at 6:50 this morning and feeling rested, I decided to lower my thermostat to 65 degrees, pull a sweater over my denim shirt, enjoy the coffee, read and see if I could make something good of the cold, wet day.


After a satisfying breakfast, I sat at my writing desk for a few hours, and enjoyed a smorgasbord of reading, from the diaries of Andy Warhol and Henry David Thoreau (quite a contrast) to some translating from my Greek New Testament.  I opened Paul’s Letter to the Romans and worked over the text of the opening six verses, enjoying the language, and reading remarks from Karl Barth’s Commentary on Romans as well as the exacting work of C. E. B. Cranfield in the International Critical Commentary.  After writing several pages of ideas in my journal, I then turned to my bank of digital images of fall scenes taken over the years, particulary during rainy weather.  I decided to attempt a steep hill and cut-out rocky bluff between High Ridge and House Springs, Missouri, where the highway blasted through rock, cutting a swath between the towns.  I had taken several pictures of this area during heavy rains over the past several autumn seasons, and decided I would give this one a try.

bluff wc

I began by laying down a large wash of lime green and bright yellow.  When it dried, I masqued as many leaves as I could over the light colors, then poured a mixture of violet, crimson and other colors over the dried masquing.  Once I stripped that away, I attempted the rocky bluff below and the tree line above.  I’m not getting what I want just yet, but perhaps in the days ahead I can push this painting in the direction I’m hoping.  At any rate, it was a good dark, cold afternoon for being indoors painting, and it felt good to be in the studio again.

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.

Winter Closing In

November 15, 2014
Road Trip in the Crisp Cold

Road Trip in the Crisp Cold

I awoke today and found

the frost perched on the town.

It hovered in a frozen sky

then it gobbled summer down.

When the sun turns traitor cold

and all the trees are shivering in a naked row.


I get the urge for going

But I never seem to go.

I get the urge for going

When the meadow grass is turning brown

Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in.

Joni Mitchell

After a second shivering night without a furnace, it was a genuine pleasure to meet with a writer and creative spirit for a 6:30 breakfast in front of a roaring fire place.   The conversation was first rate, and there just doesn’t seem to be enough of those available today. So . . . (you know who you are!) . . . thanks for a fabulous breakfast and most soulful chat.  Thanks for a wonderful beginning to this cold morning.

I’ve posted these lyrics above that have haunted me for years now.  I had no idea that Joni Mitchell penned the words, as I’ve listened to the song performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash.  And though the song was never a hit, it remains one of my favorite, most soulful pieces.  I love the approach of the year-end holidays and the change in climate, mostly for the memories–an admixture of joy and sadness, gratitude as well as regret.  Soulful.  That is the best way I can describe the coming season.  And I welcome it.

Painting is the trade that takes longest to learn and is the most difficult.  It demands erudition like that of the composer, but it also demands execution like that of the violinist.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, September 18, 1847

Right now, the house and studio are too cold for painting, but at least I could study it further with the plethora of books I have surrounding me now.  And I have the 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.

Unmasking the Picket Fence

June 3, 2014
18 x 24" Watercolor of Historic Louisiana Home

18 x 24″ Watercolor of Historic Louisiana Home

An artist has got to get acquainted with himself just as much as he can.  It is no easy job, for it is not a present-day habit of humanity.  This is what I call self-development, self-education.  No matter how fine a school you are in, you have to educate yourself.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Today was a day requiring a large measure of self-motivation.  The classes this morning were long, as was the one this afternoon.  There were a lot of grades to record, and I just didn’t feel like it, but managed to do the task nevertheless.  By school’s end, my body was totally exhausted.  But I pushed myself toward Waxahachie, and am so glad that I only needed an hour to straighten out the watercolor that yesterday started out so badly.  Driving home, I felt the weariness descend again.  I had a substantial stack of papers to grade for tomorrow morning’s class, and this large studio watercolor that I’ve tried to keep developing.  Somehow I managed to reach deep enough within to do what I needed to do.  I’m quite satisfied that what needed to happen, happened.

I’ve removed the masking fluid from the picket fence and am glad to see that it is popping out against its background the way I had hoped it would do.  The Indian paintbrush in the foreground also seems to be off to a pretty good beginning.  And the white building is managing to peep through the foliage O.K.  I’m glad it’s going the way I’ve wanted it to do.

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.


My Favorite Memory from the Art Festival Circuit

March 24, 2014
The Shed cafe, Edom, Texas

The Shed Cafe, Edom, Texas

. . . your desire to make art–beautiful or meaningful or emotive art–is integral to your sense of who you are.  Life and Art, once entwined, can quickly become inseparable; at age ninety Frank Lloyd Wright was still designing, Imogen Cunningham still photographing, Sravinsky still composing, Picasso still painting.

David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear

I love that point raised by Bayles and Orland.  If I could be fortunate enough to live to see ninety, I would hope that I still have the eye and the steady hand to continue making art.  I still feel like a student, am still filled with surprises at every turn, and love the discovery of new ideas and techniques.  I make art because it is in me; I am not complete when I’m not making something new.  This morning, I am exhausted from finishing a three-day art festival that featured frigid temperatures and high winds.  Nevertheless, sales were O.K., and the conversations with patrons were very warming to my soul.  I am grateful for all the positives that came out of this one.  I have two weeks before the next festival, and plenty of time to rest up and recuperate.  All things considered, the festival was a good experience, but it meant three days without making art, so I am itching to get back into the studio.

I promised in an earlier post to share my favorite memory from the art festival circuit.  Every October, I participate in the Edom Festival of the Arts in remote east Texas.  The setting is rolling pastureland with several barns and sheds scattered around the property and enormous shade trees.  The booths are not lined up in a grid, but arranged organically around the property, inserted between trees, outbuildings, etc.  A tall privacy fence hides the festival grounds from the highway nearby.  There is no electricity on the grounds, so we don’t have to fuss with track lighting, laptops or credit card terminals.  Patrons know that the event is a cash-and-carry affair, with an ATM in the town, and the two-day festival is filled with art shoppers.  Sales and conversations at the Edom Festival of the Arts are first rate, and I can’t wait to go every fall when the weather begins to cool.

Two years back, to save money and time, I decided not to book a hotel (about a thirty-minute drive to the nearest city).  I had this romantic and ludicrous notion that I would sleep in the back of my Jeep Grand Cherokee, disregarding my age and lack of general fitness (also disregarding the soreness and achiness that always comes from loading the Jeep, driving two hours, setting up the tent, furniture, and hanging all the art).  When darkness descended, I crawled into the back of my Jeep that was parked near the forest with all the other artists’ vehicles and trailers (a number of them have camping trailers for accommodations).  The night grew chilly, and I never got comfortable in the back of my vehicle.  I chafed at my lack of judgment and slept very little as the night wore on.

Finally, just before dawn, I decided I had to get back on my feet.  I had slept in my clothes, so I did not have to undergo acrobatic contortions, dressing in the back of the vehicle.  Emerging from the Jeep, I trudged with heavy feet up the hill and through the festival grounds.  The grass was wet with dew, temperatures were in the upper forties (the sweatshirt and jacket were doing their job just fine), and as I walked among the gleaming white tents in silence, I felt an exhilaration I cannot explain.  The morning was crisp, cold and delicious.  I loved the scent of the October pasture.  The artist “village” was so attractive to me, though all the tents were shuttered and no art work was visible at this hour.  But I loved the morning walk through the darkness, and as I wended my way toward The Shed Cafe (not visible because of the privacy fence), I could only hope that it opened according to “traditional country cafe hours”.  It was 6:05 and still dark.  Rounding the corner of the privacy fence, I saw what is posted at the top of this blog (this photo was taken later, nearer Christmas time, hence the holiday lights).  Warm light poured out of every window, smoke was billowing out of the chimney, and I instantly smelled eggs frying, bacon, ham, biscuits, gravy, coffee–the works!  I cannot describe the rush of good will that filled me at that moment.  All the achiness and sleepiness from the goofy night sleeping in the Jeep disappeared, and all that mattered was the warm, affirming feeling of a hot country breakfast.  The food at The Shed is among the finest I’ve ever had, and regardless of the success in sales at the Edom Festival, breakfast at The Shed is the highlight of the weekend.

The Shed Cafe Edom, Texas

The Shed Cafe
Edom, Texas

Last winter, I painted this 8 x 10″ watercolor of my favorite east Texas eatery.

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.

Plein Air Watercolor of a Neighbor’s Trees in the Fall

December 20, 2012
Plein Air Autumn Landscape

Plein Air Autumn Landscape

My intention this evening was to paint well into the night, enjoying the dropping temperatures, and the ambiance of my Man Cave studio.  Instead I was blessed with a couple of visits from artist friends that I never get to see enough of.  I could not have planned a better evening.  Great conversation ensued, and I’m now inspired more than I was a few hours ago.  I’m confident that this will carry over into tomorrow after school, so I’ll just let this night go.

But before I retire, here is a sketch I chose to finish up after my company left.  I started this plein air sketch of my neighbor’s trees just as the leaves were turning several weeks back.  This view I enjoyed from my garage.  I never got around to finishing it after removing the masquing a long time ago.  So, tonight, I laid in some more washes to take away from the starkness of the previously masqued areas, and then drew in some more trunks and branches.

Tomorrow offers more opportunity as I close out the semester and return to the studio.

Thanks for reading.

Railroad Freight Cars in the Morning Autumn Light

February 11, 2012

Railroad Freight Cars in the Autumn Light

This weekend I will be getting out the guitar again and making music with several bands.  Aside from that, I will be buried in business paper work.  I am behind, as usual.  Therefore, I see no watercolor activity on the 48-hour horizon.

I am re-posting this small watercolor I put together last fall during a festival in Mineola, Texas.  I had taken the sketch to Austin for a weekend of watercolor demonstrations, and left it behind in the Prismacolor booth, where I had done some work.  Thankfully, a representative from Prismacolor mailed it back to me recently, along with other pieces I had left behind.  It is good to look at it once again, and think about some new railroad compositions.

This setting is in Grand Saline, Texas, near an abandoned cotton gin.  I had traveled out there two summers ago to paint the gin and railroad siding.  But last fall, while en route to an art festival in Mineola, I was spellbound at the sight of these brightly-colored rail cars parked in the morning sun, surrounded by fall foliage. I got out and took a number of photos, and later made a decision on this particular angle.

I have so many paintings in my head, that I have trouble prioritizing where to go next.  As stated before, I have a strong inclination to work on a large composition of the Ridglea Theater, but I also have been contemplating a large railroad composition.  I just haven’t yet settled on the particular scene I wish to depict.  Unfortunately, these paintings will have to wait a few days, while I sort out other business details.

Thanks for reading.

Grand Saline Railroad Painting (2nd day of Mineola Festival)

November 6, 2011

Grand Saline Union Pacific

The second day of the Mineola Holiday Bazaar was much busier than day one.  Therefore, painting time was at a premium.  As you can see, by show’s end, this is as far as I could get on a new watercolor.  I photographed this in Grand Saline on my way to Mineola for this Holiday Bazaar.  The Union Pacific and GATX colors against the fall foliage were so striking, that I had to pull the Jeep over and take photographs.  I thought seriously about painting this one yesterday, but opted for the New Mexico composition instead.  Alas, I had very little quality time to spend on this one, and now I have school beginning early tomorrow morning (after I load out this show and pack everything home, 2 hours away).  So . . . I’m not sure when I’ll get to finish this one.  Perhaps tomorrow after school (ack!  it’s that dreadful 4-class day!), perhaps later.  But I will finish it.

Thanks for reading.