Archive for the ‘landscape’ Category

Sensing the Splendor of Georgia O’Keeffe

April 18, 2018

canyon rock

Plein Air Watercolor of Canyon Rock, Ghost Ranch

Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded . . . the mountains are home.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I sensed the mountains calling out to me last week, and blogged that I was going to respond. Two days after the blog, I was in Taos, New Mexico, for the first time. The Goji-Berry Farm outside Taos provided a wonderful place to stay.  The cabin available was built in the 1880’s and the English artist Dorothy Brett resided there. The cabin next door was the one occupied by Georgia O’Keeffe at one time.  I felt a genuine stirring deep within, realizing I was visiting this area ninety years after Georgia O’Keefee first arrived.

The watercolor above I painted en plein air at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, O’Keeffe’s residence wonderfully preserved. The hike up the ridge was a steep one, and the icy mountain winds made the thirty-nine-degree day feel worse than it actually was. I managed to find a spot behind a large bush that partially shielded me from the blasts, and worked on this 10 x 8″ watercolor for about forty-five minutes.

As I worked, I understood Georgia’s sentiment that she felt she had come home at last. There was an intimacy I felt as I gazed into the facades of the ring of mountains around Ghost Ranch, and the huge sky filled me with a depth of wonder I could never capture in words.

Thanks 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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El Despoblado

March 18, 2018

el despoblado

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

Today I wait for a plane to take me back to the suburbs where I will thrive only if able to sustain a life of the mind. I return from a week spent in the open country. I believe that El Despoblado could be translated “open country.” That is one of the descriptive titles of Big Bend National Park, a site that I have just visited for the first time in my life. Throughout the past week, canyons have overpowered me, embraced me, enfolded me, deeply delighted me. I was privileged to visit Caprock, Palo Duro and Big Bend over the past seven days. I believe that this is the best Spring Break I have ever known in all my decades of school employment.

Thanks to technology, by use of my phone I have been able to send a few snapshots of what I encountered this past week. Once back in the suburbs, I will perhaps have these myriad sensations sorted out and be able to post something commensurate to what I feel right now. Meanwhile, I sit and mentally, emotionally compost these rich experiences.

Thanks always for reading.

The Silence of the Canyon Evening

March 14, 2018

palo duro

Palo Duro Canyon

Meanwhile, there rages round the earth an unbridled yet clever talking, writing, and broadcasting of spoken words. 

Martin Heidegger, ” . . . Poetically Man Dwells . . .”

Spring Break brings me abundant blessing on many fronts. The most obvious is the chance to escape the clangor of city and suburban life. Since last weekend, I have forsaken 24/7 news and Internet searching. I packed only one book (I’ve always had this penchant for loading dozens of volumes–stupid!) and my journal, and I significantly downsized my art supplies–only three brushes along with portable plein air watercolor kit. I chose to bring my wooden pochade box because it mounts to the camera stand, and when opened, will hold the small kit.

Last evening in the quiet of Palo Duro Canyon, I set up about an hour before sundown and the place had already turned windy and chilly. The stillness and sanctuary of this enormous fissure in the earth was so soothing as I worked about 45 minutes to lay down the 5 x 7″ sketch above.

It is so soothing and fulfilling, being out here with all this natural space and quiet.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Entering the Canyon

March 13, 2018

Tripp at easel

To be old means: to stop in time at

that place where the unique

thought of a thought train has

swung into its joint.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker As Poet”

Spring Break has arrived. And after a few days of rest and catching up on postponed details, I managed to find myself at Caprock Canyons State Park. For me, it was the fullness of time. For about a week now, I’ve been reading a collection of seven Heidegger essays under the title Poetry, Language, Thought.

heidegger

The section posted above comes from his opening poem, one that caught my eye last summer while vacationing in Colorado. Just as much time has been spent on these poetic verses than on his extended essays. The reason I like the line posted above is because I feel that thought has slowed down for me during these senior years, now especially since I only teach two days a week at the college, and am covering courses I’ve taught for decades. Finally, I am afforded quality time to savor ideas and synthesize topics, with no pressing deadline, and without a log of five subjects swarming around my head like angry hornets. As a result, quite a few train cars have naturally swung into joint, aligning with idea trains that I’ve assembled throughout my life.

plein air

In his seminal essay “The Origin of the Work of Art,” Heidegger discusses the process of art being created as a result of an arena of conflict between earth and world–earth representing the raw material that is there, and world representing everything we humans bring to the earth as we enter this arena of conflict. The result is that art emerges in this nexus of conflict, with the earth refusing to yield willingly, and our world continually finding ways to work the elements of the earth. I experienced this exhilarating feeling last evening as I stood at Caprock, surveying the horizon and attempting to capture some of it on paper.

The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
(Wordsworth, “My Heart Leaps Up”)
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day.
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
(Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”)
For years, I have read Wordsworth with deep-seated joy. But as I worked yesterday evening on this plein air watercolor sketch, I realized that I do not share the sentiments of the words above that were playing through my soul. Yes, my childhood has fathered my present condition, but no, I cannot say that I no longer feel the soothing richness I knew as a child playing outdoors alone at age four, with the wind caressing my hair, the sand blowing and sticking to my arms, and the sounds of the breeze rushing through the canyon. I am just as much stirred by these natural delights as I was as a child, and pray that the feelings never ebb.
Thank you for reading.
I make art in order to discover.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Re-Stoking the Fires

January 1, 2018

high ridge

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

The first day of the New Year is a sluggish one for me, as I’m still shaking off this nagging respiratory infection that saps my energy. I’m spending more time in front of the fireplace under a blanket, watching TV when I would rather be reading, writing or painting. But I just don’t seem to have the energy or drive to be creative.  The Steve Jobs biography is still exciting to me, yet fails to fire my own spark plug of creativity. I did pull out an old watercolor abandoned from a year or two ago, and I worked on it for over an hour, but I never felt much of a rush or thrill, which is so unlike me when I’m painting. Nevertheless, I’ve posted a photo of its progress above.

I wish all of you the happiest of new years, as I myself am anticipating many new adventures. Meanwhile, I’m just going to keep taking it easy until my strength returns.

Thank you always for reading . . .

A Soothing Christmas Respite

December 27, 2017

christmas painting

Watercolor Sketch along the Meramec River

Christmas 2017 in St. Louis was blessed with fresh-fallen snow, and I could not stop staring at it out of windows, and even spent time walking in it and taking pictures with my phone. Over the past few days I have been looking at the pictures uploaded to my laptop and finally dashed out this 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch of what I saw during a stroll along the Meramec River in Fenton, Missouri.

Thanks for looking.

Waiting for the Morning Light . . .

August 11, 2017

20170811_055217

When the early morning light quietly 

grows above the mountains . . . . 

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

I set the alarm for 5 a.m. and rose to a 48-degree morning in South Fork, Colorado. My lovely stay here is drawing near a close, and I am still probing this engaging poem of Heidegger’s written from his days in the Black Forest. Following a long black night’s slumber, I felt kissed by the dawn, and rose gladly to dress, put on coffee to brew, and step outside onto the cabin deck while the darkness was just beginning to withdraw.

The world’s darkening never reaches

to the light of Being.

For the first time, my attention froze on those words. Looking up at the lit sky behind the mountains, I noticed that nature’s shapes below were beginning to emerge and take on color and identity. And I meditated on this–the light gives shape to the forms below; the forms do not reach up to the light.

Reaching for my Greek New Testament, I turned to John’s Prologue (John 1:1-18) and began reading that text that I had learned to translate since my graduate school days decades ago:

The light shines in darkness, and the darkness is unable to extinguish it (John 1:5). What a thought–it is the nature of light to invade darkness, push back the darkness. The darkness does not come to the light, nor does it overpower the light. My mind raced in a dozen directions, from the wisdom shed by European thinkers during the 18th-century Enlightenment to some of my own personal, biographical memories. Light overcomes darkness. As I sat on the darkened porch, watching the Colorado landscape take shape beneath the light of the dawn, I decided to set up my plein air easel and get ready to resume the watercolor that I had sketched out the evening before. As my eye trained on the boulder and fir tree below my deck, I delighted in the rose colors appearing on the rock as the sun rose in the east. The fir tree seemed suddenly to dance in the yellow-green glory of the light cast from the sun, and I excitedly reached for my brush.

But alas, the rosy sun suddenly dissolved into a gray overcast, and the rock and tree returned to their neutral tints. I shall patiently wait for the sun to return. I want this watercolor to depict a bright landscape, not an overcast one.

Returning to The Gospel of John and laying it alongside Heidegger’s poem, I continued with delight to draw out parallels between the texts, and by the time I stopped, I had scribbled out 5 1/2 pages in my journal, sketchy thoughts waiting to be fleshed out as the day progresses.

Thank you for reading. This has been a soul-stirring morning in Colorado.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drawing Trees over the Holidays

November 22, 2016

tree-2

tree-4

Get one form that looks like the tree, rather than little pickings at the branches. Give the tree its gesture. Some trees are heavy, ample and full. In a tree there is a spirit of life, a spirit of growth and a spirit of holding its head up.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Now that the trees are casting their leaves up here in Missouri, I’m pulling out the pencils and sketchbook and trying to capture some of their movement, their essence.  Since I was a child, I stared at bare trees more than leafed-out ones, and I’m really not sure why.  I wasn’t drawing them as a child, and when I became an adult, I foolishly drew and painted trees for years out of my imagination rather than the way I do now–gazing at them, studying them, contemplating each one’s figure and portrait.

Andrew Wyeth for years has fascinated me with his tree studies in pencil and dry brush. More recently, I have purchased a book on Leonardo da Vinci’s tree studies. I could spend he rest of my life learning this craft, I believe.

Thanks for reading.

Working Sometimes from the Fact

November 17, 2016

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I can’t work completely out of my imagination. I must put my foot in a bit of truth; and then I can fly free.

Andrew Wyeth

It was 85 degrees in north Texas yesterday, November 16.  I have been impatiently waiting for fall weather and winter to follow.  One of the reasons is that I enjoy so much gazing at winter trees with their core anatomy on view.  Leaves, like clothing, conceal the tree’s essence, and I regret that living in the southwest, I see the bare trees for such a short span of the year.

I have posted the Andrew Wyeth quote because I feel those same sentiments.  Beginning last winter, I drew trees in pencil, rendering them as accurately as I could see them.  I know that Wyeth and Edward Hopper said that in later years they could work out of their imagination, no longer requiring the “fact” in front of their eyes for scrutiny.  I am not there yet; if I try and draw or paint something that I am not looking at, then it comes out looking like a cartoon or cheap illustration.

The tree above, I guess, is a hybrid.  I began drawing it from life Tuesday evening, as I awaited my artitistic friends for our weekly gathering at the cafe.  I didn’t get very far before they arrived.  So, I finished the drawing yesterday, using my imagination rather than a reference photo.  I’m satisfied with the result, and am now ready to move on to the next tree.  Unfortunately I spend my workdays indoors in an interior room without windows.  So I’ll have to wait . . .

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Place Far Away

October 31, 2016

Note:  I’ll never have the artistic eye of photographer Cindy Sherman, but I do know how to take selfies with a 10-second timer on my phone.  I was alone for the weekend, and the silence was beyond description.

selfie

I don’t really have studios. I wander around people’s attics, out in fields, in cellars, anyplace I find that invites me.

Andrew Wyeth

Since my ninth grade year, I have read of Andrew Wyeth’s focused painting adventures as a guest at Kuerner’s farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and at the Olson house in Cushing, Maine.  Throughout my life I have been drawn to his subject matter because it took me back to own primal childhood memories of life on my grandparents’ farms in rural southeast Missouri.  One of my most cherished memories was Marlin’s store, located in rural Jackson, Missouri, next door to McLain’s Chapel and across the road from an abandoned schoolhouse. The Marlin family lived in the rear of the store, and always I have been fascinated with stories associated with business owners living behind their store or filling station.

As these memories lingered with me, I always envied Wyeth for having loving friends who opened their doors to him in that way.  Well, I have recently been on the receiving end of that kind of friendship.  A very dear couple living in rural Texas has invited me onto their property in time past, and this weekend they invited me to spend a weekend living in the back of their restored general store.  I felt tears when I first entered the front doors and saw the kind of environment that always greeted me as a small boy inside Marlin’s.

menns

With deep-seated joy, I resided in the back of this store from Friday night till Sunday afternoon.  The entire time was given to painting what I could see inside and outside the building, along with reading, thinking and journaling.

interior-selfie-3

(Another Selfie)

menns-painting

fog

tree

Both mornings were enveloped in dense fog till around 10:00, and then the sun came out and washed the landscape in beautiful color.  Besides the interior watercolor sketch, I attempted two plein air sketches, the first in the fog and the second in the clear.

I cannot describe the beauty and serenity of the quiet countryside that was my home for the weekend, nor can I express the depths of my gratitude to my friends for extending to me this delightful invitation.  My life has been enriched beyond description.

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.