Archive for the ‘Mother Road’ Category

On the Road with Jack Kerouac

July 8, 2014
On the Road Collage

On the Road Collage

“Now, Sal, we’re leaving everything behind us and entering a new and unknown phase of things.  All the years and troubles and kicks–and now this!  so that we can safely think of nothing else and just go on ahead with our faces stuck out like this, you see, and understand the world as, really and genuinely speaking, other Americans haven’t done before us . . .

Dean Moriarty, in On the Road

Before retiring to bed, I felt the itch to create another Route 66 collage, something I haven’t done in over five years.  I’ve missed this genre.  Working through the images compelled me to take out my copy of On the Road and spot read some of it, for the ump-teenth time.  As I write this, I am playing my On the Road DVD on the television, enjoying the jazz music and Beat dialogue.

Thanks for reading.  I think I’ll let this stuff go for the night . . . 

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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Springtime Wanderlust

February 24, 2012

One Last Road Trip

It just occurred to me this morning, while driving to school in the pre-dawn, that Spring Break is two weeks away.  It couldn’t be more timely, for me.  That is a week on the school calendar that always whispers “road trip” in my ear.  Fantasies of plein air painting, fly fishing, reading stacks of books, journaling and blogging flood my soul (as well as sleeping in!).

Since I just posted a completed painting of a defunct gas station, I thought it apropos to post this Spring Break painting from 2006.  I had gone with friends to fly fish the White River in northern Arkansas, then traveled to visit a retired principal/friend in Bentonville, and then, in a surprise twist, journeyed into Oklahoma to re-visit a town where a member of my traveling party had grown up as a child.  She said she “wanted to do the Proust thing,” an idea that had to be explained to me, and now remains with me forever.

French novelist Marcel Proust spoke of how certain moments stir our senses to recall primal memories from our early childhood that are profoundly warm and worth recalling.  Yet, any attempt to seize those moments will lead immediately to their dissolution.  They are gifts, and they only remain a moment, often surprising us with what the painter Robert Motherwell called the “shock of recognition” and then vanishing.  But the warmth remains.  I had known this experience throughout my life, and always cherished such gifts, but not until my friend introduced me to Proust did I have a way of describing it.  Incidentally, my friend on that day re-visited her childhood town, and in the end concluded that “Nothing happened.”  Sometimes it is that way.  We cannot make it happen.  We don’t always know Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” sentiments.

This painting is virtually all that is left of Binger, Oklahoma–two buildings at a crossroads.  When we travelled Oklahoma, we were seized by the sight of these buildings and thought they possessed a certain “Edward Hopper” isolation.  So we took a number of photos and I later worked this into a composition.  In fact, I have included this gas station in three of my paintings (the other two can be found on my website: http://recollections54.com).

The 1924 Oldsmobile (what is left of it) is parked behind a restored auto showroom in Hillsboro, Texas, on E. Elm Street.  I thought this abandoned filling station needed an abandoned car for a companion.  Overall, I was happy with the composition, though no one has yet purchased the original watercolor.  I have managed to sell a good number of limited edition giclee prints of it, however, and dozens of greeting cards.

This is the time of year that I am bitten by the Jack Kerouac On the Road sentiment.  Fantasies of Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri and Arkansas flood my being, and I begin looking at the calendar, contemplating the nine days and wondering if I can pull one off this year.  I always look to that time as one of restoration, decompression and retooling (and recovering some sleep!).  Whatever happens, my priority is to create at least one decent watercolor, hopefully en plein air.

Thanks for reading.

Filling Station Desolation, still in progress

February 22, 2012

Robertsville, Missouri Abandoned Filling Station

I admit surprise at how fast this large watercolor is coming together.  I’m used to longer stretches of time for “composting” as I think through what I want to do exactly.  But time to paint is really scarce these days, and when I approach this particular watercolor, I seem to be painting faster.  Today I added the dark trees on the left border and worked on the power line as well as the guidewire attached to the post at the left.  I’m still tinkering with the drybrush weeds along the left as well.  I’m not sure what to do next, so I thought I would go ahead and put this on the blog to let anyone who reads this know that I am still chipping away at this piece, and think I may be finished with it in the next day or so.

I still want to deepen the shadows and heighten the contrast, hopefully to give the composition a nice “Edward Hopper” kind of pop.  I always gravitate to his watercolors because of their delightful use of contrast.

Thanks for reading.

Filling Stations from my Youthful Memories

February 21, 2012

Route 66 of Yesterday

A major grading deadline looms at midnight tonight.  Therefore, I have had little time to give to this latest watercolor today.  I spent some time building up the gravel textures along the shoulder of the highway, and darkening the shadows and enriching the wood textures along the siding of the service station.  That is all I have had time to pursue.  I hope I can return to the garage studio tonight to work further on this piece, but that will depend on the grading process.  So far, it is going quite slowly and painfully, as always.

I take delight in focusing on this setting for a watercolor.   Being a child of the fifties (recollections54.com), I look at a scene like this and recall the sounds of the bell cables the car rolled over as it pulled alongside the gas pumps.  On hot summer days, I recall my surprise seeing station attendants move so quickly and enthusiastically out from behind their oscillating fans to service our car–pump the gas, check the oil under the hood, check the tire pressures, wipe off the windshield and wipers, and take the $5 bill from my father’s hand.  One day when I asked Mom why Dad never asked for $10 worth of gas, she replied: “The tank won’t hold $10 worth.”  Gasoline choices back then were between regular and ethyl.  I recall the horror one day when Mom read the gas price on the front of the pump: 32 cents per gallon!

The memories are not fading quite as rapidly from my mental landscape as this physical structure is from our American landscape.  One thing I enjoy doing with watercolor is keeping these conversations and memories alive.  I miss route 66.  I miss full-service gas stations.  I miss those 1950’s automobiles.

Thanks for reading.

Wide Open Spaces in New Mexico

February 11, 2012

New Mexico Landscape

I’m taking a break from my business-related paperwork to re-post a New Mexico favorite I created last fall during an art festival in Mineola, Texas.  I took a series of photos in New Mexico at the end of a summer road trip about 3-4 years ago.  This is the second composition I painted from this abandoned structure I found along the road while a storm was gathering.  In the earlier painting, I darkened the sky, but chose to lighten up this particular composition.

I was happy with the way the salt textured the roadway as I kept sprinkling new layers and spritzing with a spray bottle.  I was also pleased with the way in which the masquepen left the dead limbs intact in the midst of the darkened cedar behind the building.  The painting came along rather quickly, and I hope to try a third composition from it in the near future.

Thanks for reading.

In Memoriam Route 66 Villa Ridge, Missouri

August 17, 2011

In Memoriam Route 66 Villa Ridge, Missouri

I finished this watercolor about 2:00 a.m. this morning.  It’s a relief to have it finished, knowing it only took five days.  As I look on the finished composition, I still feel the sadness of a civilization that has died.  I’m old enough to recall Highway 66 road trips when I was a child, and I cannot help but listen for the ringing of bell cables every time I see the husk of a service station such as this one, languishing on vacant property adjacent to a county road or service road that was formerly an artery carrying traffic across this nation.

As a teacher, I’ve returned to my campus this week to honor my contract.  The students will appear next Monday.  Whether or not I begin a composition before then, I just don’t know at this point.  I have my first One Man Show beginning on September 10.  A part of me wishes to continue painting up till the day that we open, but another part says I already have enough work ready to hang, and that a hiatus might be the healthy road to take right now.  Maybe I’ll decide by tomorrow!

Thanks again for reading, and helping me see this one through.

Nearing Completion of Route 66 Zephyr Gas Station

August 15, 2011

Villa Ridge, Missouri Zephyr Gas Station along Historic Route 66

The fourth day on this work sees it nearing completion.  I had to re-draw the gas pump to align it parallel with the station.  The distant lamp post was in the wrong place and no proportioned to the rest of the composition, so I am eliminating it.  most of today was spent trying to separate the graveled parking lot from the puddles.  I still have grasses to render, poking up through the puddles as well.  The center of the parking area also needs to be tended.  But I think the end is finally in sight.  If I don’t complete it tonight, then I’m quite sure I can sign off on it before tomorrow is over.  This has been a rewarding experience.  Painting water reflections has been a trial for me, but I’m sure I’ll attempt it again some day.

Thanks for reading.

Defunct Route 66 Gas Station after a Hard Rain

August 14, 2011

Abandoned Route 66 Zephyr Station after the Rain

The painting is slowing down, now that I’m nearing the end of my third day.  Painting water reflections is completely new territory for me, and I spend more time studying the reference photos, applying masquing fluid to the paper and mixing pigments than actual painting.  But I am enjoying the process, and today is the first time I’ve felt “lost” in the painting, in a good sense.  School begins tomorrow for me, but I’ll continue with the painting daily until it’s finished, hopefully before this next week runs its course.   Tonight before retiring to bed, I hope to enrich further the shadows in the water reflections and attempt to render the grasses sticking up out of this enormous parking lot swamp.  For any of you reading this for the first time, the location of this station is Villa Ridge, Missouri, on Route 66 southwest of St. Louis.  Currently the station is at county road AT, about a mile off Interstate 44.   I saw it for the first time in the summer of 2010 and did two plein air watercolor sketches, one of the end of this building, and the other of a rusted-out, foliage-covered billboard advertising Zephyr detergent gasoline.

Thanks for reading.

Route 66 Zephyr Station making Progress

August 13, 2011

Route 66 Zephyr, Villa Ridge, Missouri

I’m feeling glad that I was able to chip away at this watercolor throughout a long and solitary Saturday.  It’s time to put Route 66 to bed for now, but I’m looking forward to rising tomorrow and resuming the enterprise.  This will be my first full-size watercolor of a Route 66 composition.  I’m now hoping the painting will have enough quality to include in my One Man Show next month.

Until tomorrow then.  Thanks for reading.

A Route 66 Monument to Yesterday’s Travel and Commerce

August 13, 2011

Villa Ridge, Missouri Zephyr on Historic Route 66

Today marks my second day working on this 22 x 28″ watercolor of the Villa Ridge, Missouri Zephyr station along historic Route 66.  I have researched and found the lights and gas pumps that once stood on this location.  They are absent now.  I’m also trying to restore some of the details of this Quonset hut filling station that are now out of sight behind plywood panels.  The Zephyr gas sign is my own idea–I have no idea where the logo originally hung.

Last week when I visited this location for the second time, hard rains had fallen, and the enormous puddles in the foreground reflected the derelict structure.  I’m going to attempt the reflections once I get to the bottom portion of this composition.  So far, it has been slow to emerge, but I will hopefully chip away at it on a daily basis, and not allow school next week to interrupt my flow.

The paradox of “loss” and “presence” flooded me when I stood in the presence of this structure last week, in the moist air, and listened, recalling the sounds of bell cables being run over by cars entering and exiting the busy Route 66 station.  I recalled the smell of grease, dirty tires and of course, that ever-present gasoline scent that I loved to inhale as a child!  I still remember attendants emerging from the building, wiping their hands on red shop towels as they approached cars cars pulling into the bay.  How long has it been since full-service ended?  I’m still trying to remember the first time I pumped my own gasoline when I pulled into a station.  I suppose it was around 1973.  At any rate, last week, I felt the loss as I stood in this vacant space, waiting in silence, and then I felt the presence of the past.   I hope I can put some of that into this painting.  I laugh when I read of Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth chafing every time a critic called them illustrators.  I go through that every time I do a painting of this type of subject–my soul is flooded with feelings and emotion, and yet I realize that I do not know how to paint “mood”–all I can do is illustrate what I see, and hope that somehow the “mood” emerges when a viewer looks at my work.

Thanks for reading.