Archive for the ‘landscape’ Category

Late Saturday Night Bliss . . .

September 28, 2019

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A New Watercolor Experiment

Art, Cezanne reminds us, is surrounded by artifice.

Jonah, Lehrer, Proust was a Neuroscientist

I decided to put some wraps on an all-day experiment in watercolor, grateful for such a long space in time with no appointments or engagements. I anticipate more of the same on Sunday. Before retiring to bed, I wanted to post some of my experimental work. Tomorrow, under natural light, I’ll be able to present better photos than these taken at night under artificial lighting.

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Thanks for reading.

Reaping the Whirlwind

September 23, 2019

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This Watercolor Just Found a Home

Go into Nature raw and simple and just sit quietly doing nothing other than allowing Nature to become accustomed to your presence. Soon enough, often just beyond what you had taken to be the threshold of your patience and perception, Nature steps forward and begins to reveal its features to you.

Peter London, Drawing Closer to Nature

Two summers ago, I had a one-day plein air experience that now seems to have altered my watercolor trajectory in a profound way. I was sitting for hours on a cabin deck in South Fork, Colorado, staring at the beautiful evergreens lit by the sunrise. Musing over how exactly I could capture the evanescence of these lovely trees in transparent watercolor, I thought over what I had learned about sixth-century Xie He’s “canons” of painting. Briefly stated, he pointed out that the artist’s aim was to capture the spirit or movement of the subject.

I immediately began experimenting with numerous panels of stretched watercolor, combining masquing, pouring, splattering and dripping of the pigments. As I worked, I was joined by some cute critters.

bird on painting

Feeding chipmunk4

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A New Attempt at Evergreens

Today I decided to go after the evergreen subjects with some new ideas for experimenting. All day, my mind has been in a whirlwind as I’ve thought up new techinques and approaches, filling several pages of my journal. It feels good when the mind and imagination begin percolating new ideas and approaches.

I wanted to take a moment and share the paintings I worked on yesterday at the Queen St Grille. It was a great experience, and I am grateful for Jean Mollard’s invitation to paint there again.

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I’m painting well into the night tonight, which is unusual for me. I hope I’ll have more to share tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the rush.

Thanks always for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Return from the Wilderness

July 19, 2019

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Nature does not like to be observed, and likes that we should be her fools and playmates. We may have the sphere for our cricketball, but not a berry for our philosophy. Direct strokes she never gave us power to make; all our blows glance, all our hits are accidents.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

I send out greetings from Albuquerque this morning, and am on the journey home after spending a couple of delicious weeks traveling throughout the West. For days, my senses have been overpowered by the majesty of our natural world, and I wonder how long it will be before I can sort all of this out and resume blogging. I have filled my journal to overflowing and attempted over twenty watercolors since I have been out. Once I am back home I will begin unpacking, unraveling, unscrambling and hopefully re-assembling some projects worth sharing on this platform. Meanwhile, I’m posting a few random pictures of what I encountered.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog, reminding msyself I am not alone.

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Gearing Up for the Next Workshop

June 4, 2019

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In Progress Watercolor for Workshop Reference

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”
This coming weekend, I will be working with some of my favorite artists in east Texas. Every time they invite me to judge an event or conduct a workshop, I count the days till I get to see them again. They recently sent me a reference photo of a location in Italy that they wish to paint. Before settling on the composition, they had already decided that they wanted to be instructed in architecture and foliage. I began work on this yesterday and poked around with it for a few hours, then returned to it today, spending more time looking at the reference photo than actually painting the composition. I felt like the carpenter who followed the dictum: Cut once. Measure twice. I always feel dissatisfied when my brush goes on automatic pilot because I am painting something I had attempted many, many times before. With this particular subject, I encountered many first-time objects and surfaces and had to concentrate on how to render them on paper. I always receive so much more enjoyment when engaged this way, constantly questioning, second-guessing. I am reminded of the sentiment of T. S. Eliot–the shadow falls between the conception and act of creation. And I feel something deeply satisfying when I linger in that shadow.

I am preparing to go on the road again, so I am not sure when I will post the next blog. But I always appreciate knowing there are people who look forward to the next installment. Thank you always for reading.

I make art, hoping to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog, reminding myself I am not alone.

Serene Morning in a Railroad Town

May 13, 2019

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Watercolors Completed over the Weekend

The Gallery at Redlands always provides a quiet, serene Monday morning after a weekend of painting and keeping gallery hours. I just finished matting and pricing seven new watercolors completed over the weekend, then stepped out into the cool, sunswept Palestine morning to pick up a few office supplies, and of course, stop to pick up coffee somewhere, anywhere.

Choosing a local donut shop in the same shopping center as Kroger, I went inside, paid for coffee, and held the door open as I was leaving to let in a middle-aged couple. The man looked at me, smiling broadly, and I thought for a moment that he was someone I had encountered in the gallery or at some public function recently. I was stunned when he shouted:

I knew it! Soon as I saw ya comin’ out of that Jeep, I told my wife: “Now see, that there’s a man goin’ after coffee right now!”

I am still laughing as I type out this encounter. I grew up in a midwestern town where strangers never spoke, seldom even made eye contact. But here in Palestine, Texas I encounted a man that still has me laughing and feeling light and lively about the morning. I don’t know what his full-time occupation is, but I certainly hope his fellow workers experience that same light-hearted humor. He reminds me of Shorty Lee, a funny man I worked alongside on a maintenance crew during my graduate school years.  I’ll be thinking and smiling over this morning’s encounter for years, I am confident.

On Smooth Rock 93.5 FM we just shared for the first time a special event coming up soon. On Saturday, may 25, the Texas State Railroad will hold its “Celebration of Steam” event. The excursion train from Palestine to Rusk will run on that day, and ticketholders will get in free. For anyone not riding the train, a $10 gate fee will be charged. Three historic locomotives will be on display throughout the day for photographing. The steam locomotives will be #610 and 30. The refurbished diesel #125 will also be on view. I  have been invited to set up my tent and sell my train art from 8:00-11:00 with the option of staying open when the excursion train returns at 3:00. I am posting below the paintings I have done of the steam locomotives. I have also painted the diesel, but it has since changed its road colors and number.

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After a busy weekend, it feels good to relax in the Gallery for awhile this morning. The watercolors are packaged, priced between $75 and $125 each, and are in the bin. Now, I catch up on some quality reading and reflection.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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A Weekend to Hit the Reset Button

April 14, 2019

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It is a thorny undertaking, and more so than it seems, to follow a movement so wandering as that of our mind, to penetrate the opaque depths of its innermost folds, to pick out and immobilize the innumerable flutterings that agitate it.

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

After nearly a week of sweating out business paperwork, I finally escaped to Palestine and the waiting Gallery at Redlands. It was so good to see my art-loving friends again. Looking back now at the restful Friday, Saturday and Sunday that provided a wholesome blend of reading and watercoloring in the gallery, I’ll see if I can put some words on the page describing the delights.

A few weeks ago, I began reading from the Essays of the sixteenth-century thinker Montaigne, the one credited with inventing the genre of essay. I was aware of his literary prowess through my readings of Emerson, but never got around to reading him directly. This recent experience has been quite a revelation, and has inspired me to take my ideas more seriously, and seek a stronger link between my art and philosophical musings.

The two evenings prior to my departure for Palestine were spent seated in a patio area of a recently opened Kroger store a few miles from where I live. This store is planted alongside state highway 287, on an enormous piece of undeveloped property. Noticing the earth-moving equipment on the vacant property west of the store made me realize that this raw land will not be pristine much longer. So I decided to spend two late afternoons on the patio, looking across the vast stretch of land with sketchbook, journal and Montaigne on the table before me. As the sun sank lower in the sky, the most amazing array of colors refleted off the knee-high weeds on the property, and my eye was overwhelmed at the contrast of warm golds and cold greens alternating across the undulating grasses until it stopped at the stand of trees at the far end, almost a silhouette against the sunset sky. What I saw was the quintessential Edward Hopper oil painting of landsapes under low-angle sunlight. I know that such luminosity is possible with oil, but have puzzled frequently over how to get it done in watercolor.

Once I arrived at the gallery, I took out three 8 x 10″  stretched panels of watercolor paper and went to work experimenting on the landscape that remains etched in my mind’s eye. I laid down the initial skies Friday night, then worked on some washes of basic land color on Saturday. Sunday was spent mostly experimenting with dry brush, masquing, misting with a spray bottle, and splattering with a toothbrush. Finally by Sunday afternoon, I felt painter’s fatigue and decided to give my eye a rest until tomorrow. The paintings remain in the gallery downstairs, and I am now cozied up in my favorite Redlands Hotel suite with my copy of Montaigne and an open sketchbook. Here is what I have so far with the three watercolor sketches:

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Tomorrow is a new day, and I hope to find fresh energy to continue work (play) on these three pieces.

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.

Quiet Moments in the Gallery at Redlands

March 18, 2019

An artist learns by repeated trial and error, by an almost moral instinct, to avoid the merely or the confusingly decorative, . . . to say what he has to say with the most direct and economical means, to be true to his objects, to his materials, to his technique, and hence, by a correlated miracle, to himself.

Irwin Edman, Arts and the Man

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8 x 10″ watercolor sketch in white 11 x 14″ mat–$75

Yesterday (Sunday) was one of those quiet lovely days spent mostly in The Gallery at Redlands. I managed to squeeze out a new painting (above) during those luxurious hours. The historic Redlands Hotel on 400 N. Queen Street in downtown Palestine, Texas is the most lovely place I have ever been privileged to “nest.” Emerson, in his small book Nature, wrote: “in the woods, too, a man casts off his years as the snake his slough and at what period soever of life is always a child”. This is what I experience when I have those moments of walking about in the wild, but I also feel it every time I enter the first floor of the Redlands Hotel. We celebrated the hotel’s 104th birthday on Friday, March 15:

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Jean Mollard, owner of The Redlands Hotel

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First Floor of The Redlands

Every time I descend the stairs of The Redlands, I feel that I am supposed to be smoking a large cigar, my clothing including a vest, watch chain and spats. The space is a veritable museum with a pulse. We anticipate a steady flow of traffic next weekend when the 81st annual Dogwood Trails Art & Music Festival commences.

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Station Manager Kevin Harris, Smooth Rock 93.5 FM

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Marc Mitchell (foreground) from “Kevin & Marc in the Morning” Show

Radio Guest Kirk Davis in background

It is now Monday morning, and the hotel is everything but silent. The “Kevin & Marc in the Morning” show, as always, keeps me great company while broadcasting out of this gallery. This morning they featured local artist/writer Kirk Davis who has just come out with a book sharing letters from World War II between his father and mother. His father, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, has left behind a romantic legacy embracing the love of his life as well as his drama in the Pacific theater. Kirk will be under the tent with a number of artists this coming Friday night’s V.I.P. event as well as Saturday 9-4:00, signing copies of his new book and displaying his father’s war memorabilia (including the Medal of Honor) along with his own artistic creations.

When I close this blog, I’ll be preparing for our big events next weekend. In addition to the Friday night V.I.P. party and the Saturday Dogwood Trails Art & Music Festival, I will be giving my first ever gallery talk on the subject of “Art in the Small Town.” Using a flat screen TV in the Redlands Hotel lobby, I will be showing images of my “Recollections 54” paintings over the past twenty years that feature small town nostalgic scenes. I have a talk prepared that will feature those who have inspired my own work, notably Edward Hopper’s narrative paintings, along with references from selected American writers who have contributed to our collective memories of the communities that have nurtured us. I am enthusiastic about this event, and thank Jean Mollard for her vision of sponsoring a series of gallery talks for the east Texas community.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with Dave & Ezra

August 31, 2018

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Relaxing in a Coffee Shop with Ezra Pound’s Literary Essays

There has been so much scribbling about a new fashion in poetry, that I may perhaps be pardoned this brief recapitulation and retrospect.

In the spring or early summer  of 1912, ‘H. D.’, Richard Aldington and myself decided that we were agreed upon the three principles following:

  1. Direct treatment of the ‘thing’ whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

. . .

It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works. 

. . .

To begin with, consider the three propositions (demanding direct treatment, economy of words, and the sequence of the musical phrase), not as dogma–never consider anything as dogma–but as the result of long contemplation, which, even if it is some one else’s contemplation, may be worth consideration.

Ezra Pound, “A Retrospect”, in Pavannes and Divisons, 1918

I have returned to Ezra Pound because of recent reading of Hemingway and poems by William Carlos Williams. When I taught English long ago, I learned that Imagism was a popular movement in literature that has been associated with these writers and others. Williams was famous for saying “No ideas but in things.”

At any rate, while on a road trip yesterday that lasted for hours, I enjoyed what I refer to as “windshield time”–allowing thoughts to drift through my mind while watching the landscape drift by. I thought of Hemingway’s early writings from Paris (I referenced this in my last blog) when he settled on the notion of beginning with one true, direct sentence, and building from there. I then recalled that Pound laid down the three principles I’ve just posted above, about the necessity of addressing something directly, with as few words as possible, and following a musical phrase rather than a metronome. As I drove, I thought about the possibility of applying this literary theory to visual art. Why not give it a try?

At one point, I saw a high rocky mesa along the highway, and on impulse, did what I frequently dream of doing–pulling the Jeep over, getting out my art supplies, and attempting to paint/sketch the landscape en plein air. I decided to address the same principles I recalled from Pound’s theory of Imagism in writing–approach the subject directly as observed, use as few strokes of the brush as I can get away with, and not follow pre-set rules of sequence.

Setting up the easel, I decided to render the mesa first, with quick broad strokes of neutral color, then move to a foreground tree later, and finally lay in the sky (I have had so many “arguments” with other artists who insist that a legitimate landscape always begins with the sky). As I worked quickly (spent only about 30 minutes in the 97-degree heat), I recalled these principles of Ezra Pound, and smiled to think I was applying his literary criticism to plein air painting.

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Pleasures of a Road Trip–Stopping on Impulse to Paint

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Morning Coffee with Joseph Mallord William Turner

August 26, 2018

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A Relaxing Morning in a Remote Place

With dark shadows cast across the lives of his family and friends, the compulsion that drove Turner to paint hardened into something closer to insularity. Turner’s own career was marching forwards. He reduced his exposure to domestic life to its most basic function, the environment in which he slept, or ate, otherwise keeping it distinct from the professional life that so engrossed him.

Franny Moyle, Turner: The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J. M. W. Turner

My intention was to spend the day in the country. And I did indeed spend most of the morning on the porch of this special place, enjoying my coffee, quality reading, and a magnificent spread of land under the east Texas sunny skies. Some events arose, however, that made it necessary for me to return to the gallery, and that is why I am able to post this blog after all (I do enjoy being off the grid when I go to this special retreat, however).

So, before I return to the wilderness, let me write a few quick words about the wonders of this Turner biography that I am reading. In 1794, Turner made a plein air watercolor tour that led him to “experiment with an emotive and dramatic response to scenery.” As I read these portions describing how he stepped into that experimental stage of painting romantic landscapes that would eventually help shift the French painters to Impressionism, my heart was stirred by a recent experience in Colorado. Having come to a dissatisfaction with how I rendered trees in watercolor, I spent a day throwing caution to the wind, using pigments I seldom use, and allowing for a great deal of spontaneity and chance by working with wet paper and unconventional tools. This ushered me into a new era, and I wish next to do some plein air sketches of landscape, applying some new techniques learned from another artist friend. It won’t be long before the fall foliage begins to emerge, and I want to be ready to try some things never tried before.

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A Recent Experimental Sketch

Since high school, I have been amazed with Turner’s atmospheric techniques, even more than those of the French Impressionists. I am now hoping with the reading of this biography to learn more of his approach to paintings. I read somewhere that he created some 19,000 watercolors in his lifetime. If that is accurate, then I have new incentive to generate more pieces.

The afternoon is growing late, and I have quite a drive ahead of me to get back into the country.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with Dave & Henry

August 15, 2018

I am home now, my imagination overrun with memories of natural beauty that was my real home for most of the summer.

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Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have . . . Hebrews 13:5 (KJV)

That I might never be blind to the beauty of the landscape! To hear music without any vibrating cord!

And so scribbled the thirty-three-year-old Henry David Thoreau in his journal while rhapsodizing over the landscape  engulfing him. Yet, while beholding the richness of the land, he languished over his perceived poverty in his own soul:

Looking through a stately pine grove, I saw the western sun falling in golden streams through its aisles. Its west side, opposite to me, was all lit up with golden light; but what was I to it? Such sights remind me of houses which we never inhabit,–that commonly I am not at home in the world. I see somewhat fairer than I enjoy or possess.

A fair afternoon, a celestial afternoon, cannot occur but we mar our pleasure by reproaching ourselves that we do not make all our days beautiful. The thought of what I am, of my pitiful conduct, deters me from receiving what joy I might from the glorious days that visit me. After the era of youth is passed, the knowledge of ourselves is an alloy that spoils our satisfactions. 

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 1850

Thoreau

I awoke this morning in my own bed, after a forty-five day odyssey across Texas, northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. In my sleep, the babbling sounds of the South Fork of the Rio Grande rolling past my cabin deck soothed my dreamscape. Waking up to suburban Arlington, Texas was not the fairest of greetings. I swear I can still smell the pines that I strove to paint early each morning in that fifty-degree Colorado climate. And if I close my eyes, I can still see the chipmunks scurrying about the deck in search of food.

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chipmunk

I am fortunate to be old enough to know better than to lapse into the kind of dissatisfaction Thoreau was facing in his journal. True, Arlington for me comes nowhere near the sublimity of the Colorado Rockies or the New Mexico canyons. But I have been blessed to spend a cool, seasonable summer in those environs, and I believe they have made me a better person to face the tasks that now lie before me. And I am old enough to know that the real wealth is what lies inside my soul, and my genuine happiness stems from my urge to create something from it. I could never possess the landscape, but can only enjoy it as a gift. Thoreau actually knew that as well:

I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only. Why, the owner does not know it for many years when a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got all the cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed milk.

Emerson believed that the quality of life is carried inside oneself, not in the abundance of possession:

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. 

Today marks a new day and a fresh beginning. Thankful for the summer restoration, I find myself able to pursue new work, new endeavors, while I continue to carry the thankful memories within.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.