Archive for the ‘ghost signs’ Category

Donny Still Searching for his Frame of Reference

July 3, 2013
Continued Work on the Archer City Filling Station Door

Continued Work on the Archer City Filling Station Door

Summer School is in its final minutes.  I’ve taken out this watercolor sketch begun last evening, and am surveying what I did to it during intermittent breaks in this morning’s schedule.  I’m enjoying it more, and feel that some of it is starting to take shape.  I still have some complicated compositional matters to resolve, and still am “out of my element,” unsure that I’ll be able to pull that off.  Nevertheless, I’ve learned a great deal about texturing, thanks to the door jambs.  I’ve also been mesmerized by the gradations of color across the window of this door, and the fragmented cigarette poster afixed to it.  That is where I’m finding the devil and his details, and I must say I’m having a good time of it.

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.

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West Texas Watercolor Excursions

June 12, 2013
Coca-Cola Ghost Sign in Lubbock Texas

Coca-Cola Ghost Sign in Lubbock, Texas

Drawing and color are not separate at all; insofar as you paint you draw.  When the color harmonizes, the more exact the drawing becomes.  When the color achieves richness, the form attains its plenitude.

Paul Cezanne

I responded to an invitation to journey to Lubbock, Texas this weekend, and celebrated the end of the school year by drawing, painting, reading, journaling, antiquing, and conversing with a kindred creative spirit.  I posted my earlier attempts of a watercolor sketch of this ghost sign on one of the main drags of Lubbock.  I’m still not quite finished with it, as there are a number of accents I still wish to put in–brick details, more power lines, and window detailing.  I’m still not quite satisfied with the Coca-Cola logo or the tree in front.  But I’ve laid it aside for now.  I have two workshops to conduct in the next ten days, and it’s time to switch gears.

My friend planted this idea of traveling northward to Amarillo Palo Duro Canyon for some plein air activity.  So, I opted to stay an extra day and spend Monday in the canyon.  The temperatures reached 105 degrees, and I was astounded to find out that I could not work wet-in-wet!  Impossible!  The high winds felt like a hair dryer, and the water dried on the paper as fast as I could apply it.  No matter how wet the wash, as soon as I put the brush into the palette to reload, the “puddle” on the watercolor block had disappeared.  This was indeed a different kind of experience for me.  Both sketches posted below were done very quickly, as I knew it was unwise to be out in the direct sun under such harsh conditions, and it was difficult, keeping my left hand on the easel at all times, knowing the canyon winds were trying to turn it into a kite.

Amarillo Palo Duro Canyon in late afternoon

Amarillo Palo Duro Canyon in late afternoon

I keep thinking I may re-work this composition, and try to detail the trees and rock textures better.  It was hard making those kind of decisions under intense sunlight.

Amarillo Palo Duro Canyon in Early Evening

Amarillo Palo Duro Canyon in Early Evening

I was abe to stand more in shadow as I worked on this bluff in early evening.  But the winds worsened, and I could not let go of the easel for fear it would fly out over the canyon and descend somewhere into its depths.  I may return to this in the next week or two, look at the photos I took, and see about adding more texture to the rocky facade.  I would not have traded this pair of plein air attempts in the canyon for anything, even if the heat was intense and unpleasant.  I was fascinated at the dynamics of the rocky facades with the winds chasing the cloud shadows across the craggy faces.  I felt that French Impressionist plein air tension, with Claude Monet on the one hand captivated by the fleeting effects of light playing off surfaces, and Paul Cezanne on the other extreme, contemplating the eternal form beneath the changing light.  It was Cezanne who said he wanted to make of Impressionism something enduring, like the art of museums.

Thanks for reading.  I’m not sure how effectively I’ll be posting during the workshops, or how accessible Internet services will be in either place.  But I promise to store up the photos, the memories, the stories, and bring them online as soon as I can.

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.

Watercoloring in the Quiet Morning

June 10, 2013
Continuing the Ghost Sign

Continuing the Ghost Sign

I have no sympathy with the belief that art is the restricted province of those who paint, sculpt, make music and verse.  I hope we will come to an understanding that the material used is only incidental, that there is artist in every man; and that to him the possibility of development and of expression and the happines of creation is as much a right and as much a duty to himself, as to any of those who work in the espeically ticketed ways.

After all, the object is not to make art, but to be in the wonderful state which makes art inevitable.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I awoke at 6:51 this morning, without an alarm, and I had to rise from my bed, because I had Robert Henri on my mind, and felt that I needed to keep an appointment with him.  Long ago, I had developed a daily habit of keeping some kind of a “morning watch,” a time in which I read from my Bible, kept a journal, and tried to prepare myself to live the day to the fullest.  I still maintain that “watch” much in the same way Immanuel Kant devoted the first hour of his morning to sitting in his chair and contemplating.  I always have the journal out, and something significant to read.  And Henri has been my muse of late, stirring me in the same manner that he did “The Eight” when they gathered in his studio apartment at 806 Walnut St. in downtown Philadelphia at the close of the nineteenth century.  He read to them from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, from Emerson, from any creative spirit he thought could ignite the artistic fires in his disciples.  And now, as I read this collection of his letters, addresses and private musings, I feel my own fires rekindling.

It did not take me long to lay the Henri volume down, pick up the brush, and return to this ghost sign that I found and photographed day before yesterday.  The quiet and sweetness of the morning has provided the perfect sanctuary for me to pore over this composition, think thoughts of art, philosophy, literature, life, and wonder what exactly this new day, this new gift, could reveal.  I so love the summer holiday from school (though I will resume teaching summer school very quickly).  Time evaporated yesterday, as I stood with my fly rod, looking into those waters, and recalling the words of Thoreau: “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.”

I am indeed on the same page as Henri, concerning the artist.  I believe everyone has that potential to live the artful life, to think the artful thoughts, and make constructions that are unique to his/her inner life, and to express them, whether in visual art, music, journaling, blogging, or conversing artfully with the friends around.  I believe everyone has the artist within, and that that artist deserves feeding, nurturing.  This blog is part of my outlet.  But my intake today has been the words of Henri, and the visual stimulation of this commercial building standing mute with its layers of memories enfolded.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Sketching a Ghost Sign

June 9, 2013
Coca Cola Ghost Sign

Coca Cola Ghost Sign

The artist, who is not a materialist, sees more than the incident.  He puts in his work, whether conscioulsy or not, a record of sensibilities, and his work bridges time and space, bringing us together.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I found a ghost sign yesterday afternoon, photographed it in the afternoon sun, and decided after putting away the windmill that I would try and sketch it out.  I’m working on that Fluid Watercolor block, trying to remind myself that I am sketching, not painting (such a hard thing for me to do in watercolor–I really need to loosen up and learn some things!).

I always find it hard to break in, to “dirty up” a new toy.  When I won Best of Show the other night, I was presented not only with a handsome check, but a Winsor & Newton lightweight sketcher’s box.  I went wild, just looking at it!  Now, two days later, I finally work up the nerve to open it and use it, dirtying up the palettes inside, and using pigments I’ve never before used.

For the underlying brick wash, I’ve combined Scarlet Lake and Viridian (two pigments I don’t recall ever using before).  Once it’s dry, I’ll begin working brick textures over it.  I’ve already screwed up the “o” in “Cola” (I always screw up the Coca-Cola script, though I just love looking at it!).  But there is a large tree spreading its canopy beneath this ghost sign, so no doubt I’ll thrust some branches and foliage up over that second “o”.  I just have to keep reminding myself–this is only a sketch, learn to sketch, don’t try to make every watercolor endeavor frameable.

I love the Robert Henri sentiment posted above.  I cannot explain the “Proustian” sentiment I feel stirring within when I view advertising billboards remembered from my youth.  I am truly not a materialist.  No doubt I try to apply all the academic training I can recall to every artistic endeavor I engage.  But it is feelings beneath that I am truly after, and every time a viewer of my work feels those stirrings, I feel that I have accomplished my task.

Thanks for reading.  I’m having fun.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Finished the Trinidad, Colorado Watercolor

December 6, 2012
Savoy Coffee, Trinidad, Colorado

Savoy Coffee, Trinidad, Colorado

It felt good this evening, signing off on this large 22 x 28″ watercolor of downtown Trinidad, Colorado.  This piece was started a couple of months ago, with great enthusiasm, then the excitement melted away as the painting took on a dullness that I found discouraging.  Yesterday, finally, I managed to sharpen the contrast in the composition, deepen the reds, and get more aggressive with the tree shadows.  Today I spent my time mostly cleaning up details of lamp posts, shadows cast off of various objects, laying in the sidewalk, and then finally tonight, working on the brick textures in the street.  I enjoyed the brickwork so much that I feel I could have done that for several more hours, but I worry about overworking a watercolor, as I have done time and time again.  I hope it didn’t happen this time.  I’ll know within the next several days, I suppose.

Thanks for reading, and thanks also for all the times you logged on and viewed this painting as it went through its long gestation period.

Finished the St. Louis Painting

September 22, 2012

My Town Finished (Switzer’s Licorice, St. Louis)

I finally finished this small 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch and am ready to put it in a matte and plastic sleeve.  I’ll bring it out at the Taste of St. Louis art festival next weekend.  Now it is time to get in the Andy Warhol “Factory” mode, as I have plenty of greeting cards and prints to process, gear to pack and a Jeep to load for next week’s sojourn.

Thanks for reading.

Preparing for Taste of St. Louis Art Festival

September 20, 2012

Turvey’s Corner

I am having to find another gear as I resume my daily school responsibilities, unpack my gear from Grapefest and replenish my inventory for next week’s Taste of St. Louis.  I am posting a watercolor I created in 1999, because I am printing the next series of limited edition giclee prints from it, just in time for the St. Louis show.

This marks a turning point in my watercolor odyssey.  It is my first successful composite landscape, with the distant building bearing the Switzer’s Licorice ghost sign coming from the St. Louis waterfront (now sadly demolished), the traction train car from a magazine photo, the right building with ghost signage bearing Busch Bavarian and Budweiser logos came from a small town in Illinois (I believe Prairie du Rocher). The buildings on the left (I think) came from New Bern, North Carolina.  All of the images came from 35mm slides I took years ago while traveling about the country.  I titled this watercolor Turvey’s Corner, because one of my favorite night spots in St. Louis was Turvey’s on the Green on 255 Union Blvd. (now sadly closed) that featured seafood, steak, cigars and St. Louis Blues post-game broadcasts.  I would love to go there and hang out and see Blues hockey players relaxing after a game.

This painting was to be the first of a series that I would call “My Town 63050”.  It was my dream then to create a fictitious town, Anwywhere USA, in the midwest, in the same way that Garrison Keillor created his Lake Wobegon, Sherwood Anderson his Winesburg, Ohio and Thornton Wilder his Grover’s Corners.  I did complete four or five paintings of specific buildings and streets, and had planned to design a town map illustrating where these structures were placed, complete with street addresses.  At some point, I abandoned the project, and only one of the paintings remains in my possession, all the rest of them sold and none of them were editioned.   The zip code is fictitious–I grew up in High Ridge, 63049, and attended high school in the neighboring town House Springs, 63051.

I still think of this abandoned project now and then, wondering if I might take it up again.  I did enjoy the creative juices and imagination I experienced as I worked out the various compositions.

Thanks for reading.

Feeling the Andy Warhol Adrenalin, Preparing for the Next Festival

September 7, 2012

Trinidad, Colorado

It’s Friday night.  My next art festival (Grapefest) begins in the middle of next week.  I have a weekend free to pursue the Andy Warhol/Factory lifestyle.  The only difference is that I will not have 21 employees working out of my studio, packaging my inventory.  But, I have plenty of coffee, plenty of time, plenty of space and two Andy Warhol documentary DVDs to keep me company as I work at finishing up some incomplete watercolors and matting and shrinkwrapping the ones already finished.

Above is my large 22 x 28″ piece from Trinidad, Colorado.  I still have plenty of ghost sign details to clean up, plenty of building left on the left side of the composition, and the street and sidewalk out front.  I hope to have this wrapped up on Saturday.  I’m getting ready to post other photos I’ve taken of the other works I’m packaging.  So, there is more to follow . . .

Thanks for reading.

Preparing Large Watercolor for Grapefest Art Festival

September 6, 2012

Downtown Trinidad, Colorado

Hello again, and my apologies for letting this blog languish, yet again.  The new school year has kept me up late every night, preparing for classes.  I haven’t  gotten behind, but cannot seem to get ahead, either.  At any rate, I have managed to get in some late hours in the studio over the last several nights, and think I just may have this 22 x 28″ watercolor finished before my first art festival of the fall season (Grapefest, in Grapevine, Texas next weekend).

The ghost sign on the shadow side of the building has demanded considerable time from me, and I still feel there is much to be done on that one wall alone.  The left hand side of the composition features a myriad of details that I haven’t even yet started.  Hopefully I can give it the attention it deserves beginning tomorrow night, once the weekend commences.  I plan to have more to report tomorrow night, so stay tuned, and thanks always for reading.

Returning to Work on the Ghost Signs of the Savoy Hotel

August 23, 2012

Savoy Hotel Ghost Signs

Work on this building is coming along very, very slowly.  I resumed the ghost signage on the side wall of this hotel late last night (and stayed up till nearly 3:00 a.m.).  Today I am back at school, getting my classroom ready for the students next week.  But I hit the wall around noon, and decided to take out this painting (which I conveniently brought with me) and push it a little further.  I have begun work on the tree to the left, three more windows have been added, and now I am trying to work on the fascia details running along the roof.  Contrast has been a problem on this composition from the beginning.  Last night I began taking daring steps to darken particular portions of the building, and today I have pushed them even further.
I always have a problem rendering the ghost signage, but I do love it so.  I cannot stop staring at it in real life, cannot stop photographing it, and after all these years am still flummoxed by the task, nevertheless I continue experimenting.  I have viewed so many splendid watercolors of ghost signs, and want to enter those ranks myself.  So, I keep trying.

Thanks for reading.  I need to go pick up some textbooks now!