Archive for the ‘New Mexico’ Category

In the Flow

April 24, 2018

ghost ranch upright

Plein air watercolor of Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico

Perhaps I feel happiest when, during the creative process, I simply let work “pour out,” so to speak, without critical intervention or editing.

Robert Motherwell

For weeks now, art work has been pouring out of me, and I’ve fallen far behind in blogging the adventures. Since my recent plein air sojourn into New Mexico, I have travelled to east Texas to plein air paint, and am now making daily trips to Waxahachie to take part in the annual Paint Historic Waxahachie event. This weekend I will exhibit for the first time at Artscape 2018 held in the Dallas Arboretum. Two weeks later I’ll be exhibiting at Arlington’s Art on the Greene. Soon, I plan to post many new images, as I have completed a number of new paintings and am currently having them reproduced in limited edition prints as well as greeting cards. Preparing for this weekend’s show while painting daily in Waxahachie and maintaining my Monday and Wednesday college classes has my head spinning, but it’s a good life.

bullard 1

bullard 2

bullard 3

Oh yes, and by the way, I’ve done other things besides paint. Fly fishing is another passion of mine. I landed fourteen of these.

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.

 

 

 

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Recollections 54 Redivivus

September 19, 2016

abandoned-cafe

The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

On February 7, 2002, over fourteen years ago, I was convinced that I had finally found my artistic voice, and responded by launching my sole proprietorship Recollections 54, creating a market for my watercolors (www.recollections54.com). My passion has always been to travel  county roads through the sleepy towns of America, my watercolor block riding at my side like a faithful travel dog. Always on the lookout for something to paint, I experienced every day as a new opportunity for discovery of some artifact reminiscent of earlier decades of energy and prosperity. Today, only the shells and husks remain of filling stations, general stores, movie theaters and other public buildings formerly stirring with conversations, stories and glimpses of life. The writer Marcel Proust has pointed out the thrill of beholding an object capable of triggering profound memories from youth, and being filled with a sense of warmth and gratitude.

Holding down two jobs has made painting with any kind of regularity a challenge, and should I be fortunate enough to retire one day, I have this fantasy of pursuing my watercolor passion with fewer restrictions. In addition to working full time, I have also taken a number of detours throughout the past fourteen years, traveling roads that involved significant changes in my signature genre–still life painting, plein air painting, Texas coastal themes and fly fishing, to name a few. But lately, I’ve found joy in returning to this Recollections 54 genre, selecting scenes from vanishing America.

I have nearly completed another watercolor of this favorite genre, and posted it above. This relic of a roadside restaurant flooded me with a sense of loss and presence when I stopped and photographed it in New Mexico years ago. Loss, because the business was dead; presence, because the structure resonated with stories as I stood gazing at it from every possible angle, near and afar, taking dozens of photos and trying to imagine what it was like to pull into the gravel parking lot hungry and eager to enter a comfortable zone and be served.

Emerson wrote that detachment was the virtue of a piece of art, that ability to detach the subject from the surroundings that tried to draw away attention. Frequently that is what I do when selecting something to draw or paint. From buildings such as this, I frequently remove windows, air conditioning units, graffiti, dangling cables–anything I regard as taking away from the simple integrity of the subject. The surroundings often present that annoying tree or trash dumpster that is in the way. The fun thing about making art is the ability to make those decisions in framing up a composition. And so this subject also presented its own unique set of possibilities.

I believe the painting is nearly finished. As was the practice of Andrew Wyeth, I’ll put it up in my home somewhere, and glance at it as I enter or leave the room, always evaluating, figuring if there remains something to do before signing off on it.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Ecstatic Revision

September 19, 2016

new-mexico

Perhaps I feel happiest when, during the creative process, I simply let work “pour out”, so to speak, without critical intervention or editing . . . 

Robert Motherwell

After a weekend tour of five Texas universities with the senior A.V.I.D. students from my campus, I found myself quite exhausted and mellow when I finally awoke in my own bed Sunday morning. My gas station and passenger rail car watercolors are nearly complete, and I really was not in the mood to look at them and make final decisions. So, instead, I picked up this demonstration piece I began a couple of years ago, to see if I could edit it and pull out a finished painting. The site is an abandoned restaurant in New Mexico that I photographed a number of years ago while passing through from Colorado.

My first painting of this location has already sold to dear friends. I’m always glad to sell to a friend, but I missed looking up at that framed painting that hung in a prominent place in my living room. So far, this one is not living up to the standards of the first, but we’ll see what happens as I bump it a little more.

The original painting was titled New Mexico Closure, and it is featured on my website recollections54.com. With this current attempt, I am attempting to put more foliage around the back and enrich the foreground textures. So far, the bread crumbs and salt are not creating the effects I’m seeking, but I’ll give it another go this evening, hopefully.

I posted the Robert Motherwell quote above, completely affirming that joy in pouring out spontaneously all the richness of my emotions as I begin a work, then revising later. Oftentimes, the earlier joy far exceeds the work of revision. However, there are times like now that my ecstatic high is reversed, and I find more joy in the revision. That is true on this occasion because this painting began as a demo for a local art society. I fielded numerous questions as I put down the preliminary colors and shapes, and of course, was conscious of an audience, so I could not experience that “high” that I know when alone in the studio and pouring out a new work.

William Wordsworth opined once that “all good poetry is the spntaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” But he then later wrote that “the imagination must learn to ply her craft by judgment studied.” What makes this current watercolor experience enjoyable for me is the time I’m spending staring at the work from across the room, making compositional decisions. When I see something I don’t like, I don’t despair but wonder “can it be improved, and if so, do I have the skill”?  So far, I’m saying Yes and Yes.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

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.

 

Finding One’s Passion in the Midst of the 10,000-Hour Rule

July 8, 2013
Stage Coach Hotel, Fort Worth Stockyards District

Stage Coach Hotel, Fort Worth Stockyards District

Every art form conveys a message.  When an artist is young and still learning, that message is usually about technique: see what I can do.  Decorative art has a perfectly valid message, one of beauty.  As we mature, in both our art and in our life, we learn to understand our passions and these then become the subject we express in our works.  But at the same time, passion is not the only source of expression because thought can also come into play.  So an artist’s expression evolves from the heart (passion), the brain (thought) or a combination of the two (with usually an emphasis on one or the other).  

Alex Powers, (Interview) The Art of Watercolour, 2nd issue

I am posting my second attempt at watercolor sketching the Stage Coach Hotel in the Fort Worth Stockyard District.  When I photographed this portal a couple of weeks ago in late afternoon, the temperatures had already reached triple digits.  My eye was “held” at the richness of reds in the sun-damaged door, and the smoky, grimy window panes that survived above.  I couldn’t stop looking at these details, and took quite a number of photographs of the subject.  I knew I wanted to take this one back to the studio and see if I could make something of it.

Following the thread from the Alex Powers interview, I am finally settling down to watercoloring my passion after years of adding techniques and tricks to my toolbox.  Reading Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit finally got my attention about that–it is time to let techniques support my objective in painting rather than building “interesting” paintings on a myriad of techniques.  The immediate result is that my paintings are coming along even faster now, and I’m spending less time combing through my toolbox for gimmicks to toss out onto the painting.

Portals have fascinated me for decades, but it wasn’t until this past winter that I took my first crack at painting close-up studies of door knobs.  I next turned my attention to the surfaces of weathered old doors.  When the spring came around, I began experimenting with screen door compositions.  All of these studies took place in my studio.  For the past few weeks I have been traveling about, painting portals on site and enjoying the speed and decision-making of plein air painting.  Now that Texas has settled into its inferno summer temperatures, I am perusing photographs that I’ve taken of these portals and making plans for additional compositions.  All of this has been fulfilling for me.  I don’t know how to explain my passion for the subjects I paint.  I suppose I could just toss out the adage: for those who don’t understand, no explanation is possible; for those who do, none is necessary.

I have probably mentioned in earlier blogs that I play guitar.  I have not been able to accomplish with music what I have with the visual arts.   I suppose that would fall somewhere under the “10,000- Hour” rule of Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers.  I have easily put in my 10,000 hours of study and application in the visual arts.  On guitar, well that’s another story.  But my point in opening with the quote from Alex Powers is this: younger, less experienced artists can easily get caught up in the fascination of learning many, many techniques and tricks that “wow” the observer, just as many younger, less experienced guitar players load up their toolboxes with tricks and gimmicks to stun listeners with their performance.  And yet, many young and less experienced artists still do not know how to build a painting, just as many guitar players in the same class cannot play a single song all the way through.  And when they do (painters and guitar players), they often show creative flourishes, but not a finished masterpiece.  I don’t say this with the sadness that I used to: when I play guitar, I am conscious that I can play all the notes correctly and sometimes even keep my timing consistent.  But the “soul” is not there.  My guitar does not gently weep.  My listeners do not feel what I feel, because it is not  coming through my fingers, not emerging from my guitar.  I have witnessed scores of guitar gods playing my instrument, and I would swear that it was not the same instrument.  I marveled at how they coaxed that sound, that soul, from my acoustic box.  At this point, I still cannot.

I used to complain this way about my paintings–that they were fine illustrations, ably constructed, correctly rendered, and so on.  But now, I want feelings and moods to emerge from my pictures, not gimmicks.  I want viewers to see my work, and feel what I felt in constructing it.  And, to borrow a line from Hemingway: “I’m not there, but I feel I’m getting closer.”  I am more excited about painting now than I ever recall feeling before.  Because I know what I want.  I know what I seek.  The passion is there.  And I’m starting to believe that the passion can emerge from my brush.  Who knows? Maybe some day passion will rise from my guitar strings as well.  But, one thing at a time.

Thanks for reading.  Sorry if this was too much navel-gazing.  It’s been on my mind awhile now.

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.

Nostalgic New Mexico Road House Watercolor

May 15, 2011

New Mexico Road House

The Weiler House just framed this watercolor for me, in preparation for the One-Man Show this fall.  See http://www.weilerhousefineart.com for the gallery’s website.  I saw this abandoned road house several years ago while traveling New Mexico during the late summer.  I painted it once before, putting railroad tracks in the foreground.  This time I thought I would let the “Mother Road” roll past the front.  I seem to recall that this collection of buildings was near historic route 66.

Thanks for reading.

New Mexico Route 66, December 18, 2010

December 18, 2010

New Mexico Cantina along Historic Route 66

Several summers back, I photographed and painted this abandoned site along New Mexico historic Route 66.  I’m trying it from a slightly different angle this time.  One day I hope to make a large painting from this.  The two current ones are about 12 x 16″.  The light in New Mexico during the summer amazes me, and I regret that I haven’t returned to that state in nearly four years.  Maybe I can make that a priority during summer vacation 2011.

Thanks for reading.

Kerouac Country, November 15, 2010

November 15, 2010

Kerouac Country

I have posted similar information in another entry today, so I will try not to duplicate (much).  I began this painting Saturday morning during the first of a 2-day art festival, where very few patrons were coming around the booth.  Too much time on my hands, so I figured I needed to do something constructive rather than stand around.

I have painted this site before.  I wish I took better notes on my travels.  All I know is that this structure is in New Mexico and I spent plenty of time on historic Route 66 on the day that I photographed this site.  I just don’t know for sure if it was on Route 66, or on a connecting highway.  I believe it is northwest of Santa Rosa.  If any of you readers recognize it, perhaps you could help me.

The weekend art festival was a one-hour drive for me, and I listened to CDs of Kerouac’s On the Road as I drove through the country.  Thus I was prompted to paint some of those “open-country” themes.

I miss the independent cafes and diners that were such an important part of our road trips in the fifties.  I was saddened years ago to find that the “Owl Shanty” along Route 61 in southeast Missouri was only a concrete slab barely visible among the weeds.  Most of our American roadside past is buried beneath the weeds and concrete.

This particular diner looks like the kind I enjoyed in the days of my youth.  When I drove past it on that particular day, and saw the gathering thunder clouds in the distance, I felt a Proust-like “recollection” of childhood moments that were profoundly important to me then, and still are.

Thank you for reading.

Finding My Way Back, September 26, 2010

September 26, 2010

Route 66 Road House

It’s been along time since I’ve posted.  I have managed to do some painting, but mostly I’ve been teaching on two campuses and participating in art festivals.  The one posted above was done during the Jazz by the Boulevard festival in Fort Worth the weekend of September 11.  The sales were a little slow, and the crowd thin at times (and the heat and humidity absolutely despicable!).  So I worked on this throughout the Saturday portion of the event, and finished it early Sunday morning just after the gates re-opened for day two of the festival.  For anyone looking at my website (www.recollections54.com), you will notice that I’ve tried this composition before, only the website version has railroad tracks cutting off the bottom of the composition.  That was due to cold feet–I couldn’t make up my mind how to lay in the foreground highway.  The website version sold, and I decided I would give this composition another shot, only this time put in the highway as it appears in the photograph I took several years ago while cruising about in New Mexico.  I think this one is much improved.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll try to post more frequently, as I have other works now in progress.  However, I do have four festivals approaching over the next four consecutive weekends.