Archive for the ‘plein air’ Category

When it Rains, Inspiration Arrives

July 12, 2022

We never come to thoughts. They come to us.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

As one grows older one sees the impossibility of imposing order on the chaos with brute force. But if you’re patient there may come that moment while eating an apple when the solution presents itself politely and says “Here I am.”

Albert Einstein, quoted in the film “Why Man Creates” written by Saul Bass and Mayo Simon

Colorado gave us rain most of the day, forcing me to stay inside the cabin, or at least on the deck. Before the rain arrived, Sandi offered to drive us on an extended road trip over the Silver Thread. We managed to get ten miles past Creede before . . . (wait for it!) . . . a sleet storm overpowered us! So, we turned around and headed back to our cabin in South Fork. Before the rain, I rode along as a passenger, admiring the vistas, especially the aspen trees.

Since the year 2000, when I first visited Colorado, I was smitten by the sight of aspen trees, their glittering, shimmering round leaves blinking through the mountain atmosphere. And those white tree trunks against the dark forest interiors! Over the past twenty years of Colorado visits I have tried to solve the pine trees in watercolor, and still feel I haven’t arrived. But I was always befuddled, wondering how to render aspens. As Sandi drove this morning, the idea finally arrived. Thinking of Heidegger and Einstein, grateful for the visitation of inspirations, I spent the day inside the cabin contemplating how I was going to paint my first stand of aspens.

After taking ten photographs and adjusting them for my composition, I decided to begin with (I don’t know what this is called) negative painting or painting by subtraction. I penciled out the aspen outlines, then used my masquepen to block the trunks and branches. Later, I poured some of the masque solution onto a saucer and spattered with a toothbrush my first layer of “white” aspen leaves.

Nightfall has arrived. Tomorrow, under natural light, I will apply my first wash of light sea-green, sprinkled with salt and stale bread crumbs. When dry, I will spatter more masquing fluid. Once that is dry, I will apply a darker layer of aspen green. Dry again, then a new spattering of masquing, followed by a yet darker color, etc. I tried this method for the first time in the summer of 2015 when I was doing my Artist-in-Residency for Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. While on a spoil island in the Laguna Madre, I was reading Heidegger’s “On the Origin of the Work of Art” and was inspired by a quote from the Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Dűrer:

For in truth, art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it.

Sitting on the island my first evening of the residency, I read that statement and contemplated the cord grasses growing in the shadows of the research station where I was residing for a week. Recalling the appearance of Albrecht Dűrer’s watercolor of tall grasses, I puzzled out the technique of multiple layers of masquing and watercolor washes.

Now, seven years later, I’m ready to try it again on the Colorado aspens. We’ll see how it turns out.

The day has been filled with gods (I believe Emerson wrote that), and I am grateful to have been alive to experience the visitations.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover (especially today!)

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Sunday Morning Richness

July 10, 2022
Coffee and thinking before reading, always
Reading from the Greek Testament

Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest awhile.

Mark 6:31 (Jesus advising his disciples after they had finished a lengthy preaching and healing tour)

Morning colors are always amazing here
My 1st Colorado watercolor sketch
The start of my second watercolor sketch
A portion of my morning journal

At 10:13 tonight, I finally pause in the darkness of the Colorado night, sitting outside on the Brookie cabin deck, enjoying the 62-degree temperatures and the cup of hot tea Sandi just brewed and brought out to me. The south fork of the Rio Grande is filling the night with its own conversation, and the soothing sounds of the stream remind me that I’ll be sleeping soon.

While making coffee this morning, I began translating the 6th chapter of Mark’s Gospel from my Greek Testament. The text came alive, and I found myself scribbling several pages of personal observations concerning his effect on the synagogue audience as he spoke in his hometown of Nazareth on the Sabbath. They were astounded. The 1st chapter of Mark records the same audience reaction in Capernaum, noting that he spoke with authority and not as the scribes. The Nazareth audience was astonished for different reasons: they knew his family, his roots. And the wisdom with which he spoke far transcended what his townspeople had heard before. I have been intrigued with Mark’s Gospel since the 1970’s, and since I began reading Harvey Cox’s When Jesus Came to Harvard, I have been translating this Gospel with fresh eyes, avoiding the stacks of notes taken during seminary and pastoral days. What intrigues me about Mark’s Gospel is that he frequently registers the audience astonishment, but never tells us what Jesus actually said.

I have opened this blog post with the passage above where Jesus invited his disciples to retire to a “lonely place” after they had returned from a preaching tour, exuberant with their success, but no doubt tired. The Synoptic Gospels have always fascinated me with the rhythms of Jesus three-and-a-half year itinerant ministry from town to town. He frequently withdrew from the public into a solitary place to re-charge, to re-calibrate, to re-center. The Greek word translated “lonely place” is the work often translated “wilderness.” The word was used of John the Baptist’s domain in the trans-Jordanian region where he dwelt in isolation. The wilderness motif has engaged me ever since my studies in the Gospels along with Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden. Throughout my professional life and now even in retirement, I still periodically withdraw “to the wilderness” to re-focus what I am doing in my own life. These two weeks we’ve set aside to spend in Colorado are part of that plan. I love my life and everything I do. But I also love those opportunities to break away from the weekly cycle and go to a solitary place, hide the calendar, and do what I wish.

As to the pictures posted above, I have attempted two watercolor sketches from the view of this Brookie cabin deck, looking down toward the stream of the south fork of the Rio Grande. The first is just a rough, quick sketch; the second I may try to develop into a more serious painting tomorrow, we’ll see how I feel about it when I look on it with fresh eyes.

The final picture is of the journal I began this morning on the deck over a cup of coffee. Since it is Sunday, I had this urge to translate from my Greek Testament, and I pasted a photo of Karl Barth in my journal, as he still inspires much of my work these days. I took that picture after dark, so the lighting is rather strained.

Thanks for staying up with me. I hope to have more to share tomorrow.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Earlier Work on the Chuck Wagon

February 6, 2022
Chuckwagon Watercolor created on site in 2016

I did not pick up the brush today as I had too much college work to catch up since we are returning to the classroom in the morning. I’m excited finally to get to deliver my inaugural semester lecture to students I have not yet seen.

Before retiring to bed last night, I pulled all my journal volumes from 2016-2017 in order to re-read what I had recorded during all my stays in the remote East Texas store that my friends allow me to live in during periodic escapes from city life. I had forgotten that I had set up a plein air easel and painted on site a watercolor of a chuck wagon on the property. Having recently developed an addiction to watching 1883 on television, I decided I wanted to paint a wagon train much like what is seen on the series. I hope my schedule will allow me a visit again soon to the old country store. It’s been a few years since I last resided there.

A Lyrical Moment at the Old Store

Thanks for reading.

Look unto the Rock from which You were Hewn (Isaiah 51:1)

July 16, 2021
Plein Air Watercolor Sketch during Colorado Vacation

My hope is to launch a series of blog entries this weekend encapsulating the amazing three days experienced this week in South Fork, Colorado. Departing yesterday morning at 10:00, we took our time driving back to Texas with our two small dogs, stopping frequently to visit interesting locations on the return, finally pulling into our driveway at 2:30 this morning. After about four hours’ sleep we cleaned up, re-packed, and made the two-hour journey to Palestine to be ready and in place for the city’s monthly Art Walk tomorrow (Saturday). Currently I’m sitting in The Gallery at Redlands, eyes barely focused, but still wishing to begin this series tonight just in case tomorrow brings a flurry of activity and distractions preventing me from posting.

I still cannot believe how much was crammed into those three Colorado days. Above is an image marking one of my many personal highlights. Sitting on the deck of Brookie Cabin at South Fork’s Riverbend Resort, I have gazed over the years below at this magnificent boulder seated between me and the South Fork of the Rio Grande. Several years ago I painted it and felt satisfied with the results, but still found myself since then continuing to stare at the amazing visage of that massive rock. The textured surface, the pock marks, the lichen patterns, the subtle shifts of warm and cool neutrals playing across it–I’m still mezmerized.

In recent years my desire has intensified to study the colors and textures of boulders, cliffs, canyons and mountains visited in west Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. My satisfaction with my results has been mixed with far more misses than successes. Yet still I wish to pursue these watercolor and pencil studies and hope that with the Colorado visit behind me I will nevertheless continue this focus and see if I can turn a significant corner in my watercolor ouevre.

While selecting colors for this particular rock, I turned to some pigments I’m not used to working with in my watercolors–Stephen Quiller’s Venetian Red, along with Daniel Smith’s Quinacridone Burnt Sienna and Shadow Violet. For awhile I attempted to render the myriads of pock marks with Albrecht Dürer watercolor pencils by Faber Castell–Dark Sepia 175 and Cold Grey VI 235. I then finished out the work by scumbling about the boulder surface with a pencil I’ve become attached to over the past year–the Blackwing Matte. John Steinbeck used this pencil to write his manuscripts, and Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones, along with Disney animator Shamus Culhane, sketched with this tool. I have enjoyed the velvety feel of the graphite when scribbling in my journals and eventually used it to draw into my watercolors. I have always loved the graphite quality of Andrew Wyeth drawings, watercolors and drybrush sketches, and always hoped I could find satisfying ways of weaving pencil into my watercolor endeavors. This recent scumbling experiment excited me as I finished up this plein air sketch.

I’m glad to be back home in Texas, but still feel the Colorado excitement in the pores of my skin and am happy that the memories are very fresh and alive, though I am exhausted tonight as I write this. Hopefully, I’ll find more lucidity tomorrow after a good night’s rest.

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.

Enraptured at Zion National Park

September 12, 2020
Plein Air Watercolor Sketching as Evening Approaches

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.

Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight, does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

Sandi and I rolled into Utah yesterday evening, checked into our hotel in Kanab, and after a restful night’s sleep made two trips to Zion National Park, one in the morning, and again in the later afternoon.

As afternoon stretched into evening, we parked in the eastern part of the canyon and I got out to paint. As I was setting up my easel and staring in wonder at the rocky hillside in front of me, I detected movement. Unable to make out the shape, I used my smartphone camera to go full zoom, and saw what it was: a desert bighorn sheep. Solitary. Stopping to look back at me. I took about a dozen photos as he contined to ascend the rocky slope, pausing frequently to look back at me. I then felt Emerson’s sentiment–I was perceived, accepted, embraced. It was OK that I was in the park. My heart melted as I watched the sheep till he disappeared into the shadows of one of the crags of the rocky landscape. I only wish I had a better camera than my phone to capture his image.

Desert Bighorn Sheep

I was so moved at the sight of the bighorn that I found it difficult to shift gears and paint. I also found it difficult selecting a small piece of the enormous canyon landscape that enveloped me. But I finally began, tentatively, trying to figure out color, texture, contrast, and the accents of the undulating lines flowing across the face of the canyon walls.

First Attempt as the Evening Light began to Fade

As I waited for the first to dry, I took out another sketchbook and did a pencil sketch of the same subject. After the painting dried, I flipped to the next page of my diary and began afresh, this time with a little more confidence.

Second Attempt, before the Light Evaporated

After all these years of plein air sketching, I still find myself grasping for the right words to describe the sublimity of the act of painting on location. The evening was delicious as I stared at the rocky facade, made selections of color, brush, pencil and technique and forged ahead with the task, all the while savoring the sounds of laughing and chattering children in the distance, hiking with their parents and asking a myriad of questions. It was a perfect world. Once I finished the second sketch, Sandi rejoined me after her walk and together we strolled about the terrain where we were positioned, and enjoyed the cool air as the evening began to darken.

Leaving Zion on our return trip, we approached for the third time a pasture where a herd of buffalo gathered. The preceding three times, a dozen cars were pulled over and tourists lined the fence, taking pictures. This time no one had stopped and I decided I needed a closer look.

The cloud of lingering dust was what attracted my attention and made me want to pull over and watch awhile. But when I saw the cow and calf come toward me, enter the pond and drink, I felt my heart melt again, just as I felt when gazing at the bighorn so far away. I took dozens of photos of the pair, then directed my attention back to the herd. I have done very little painting of animals in my past, but I am going to have to give buffalo a try, especially after this heartwarming moment of watching them in the cool of the evening.

Today was totally enchanting. I have never before visited Utah and am so happy to be here for awhile, and grateful for this chance to share with you some of today’s best moments.

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.

Snowbound September 9, 2020

September 9, 2020
View from the Cabin Porch, South Fork, CO

When the early morning light quietly

grows above the mountains . . .

            The world’s darkening never reaches

            to the light of Being.

            We are too late for the gods and too

                        early for Being. Being’s poem,

                        just begun, is man.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

We decided we had had too much of the Texas triple-digit daily temperatures, so we put together a plan for a one-week Odyssey to Colorado and Utah. Two days before departure, we saw the winter storm warnings for Colorado, but decided to soldier on. Spending the first night in Amarillo, we noticed temperatures dropping to 59 degrees. By the time we cleared Walsenburg, Colorado, snow began dumping on us and the temperatures dropped to 32 degrees. South Fork greeted us one hour later with no snow and a surprising 57 degree afternoon, but that changed at nightfall. At 7 p.m., the electricity for the city failed, and did not resume till 1:30 a.m. Fortunately the cabin was well-insulated and sleeping was never a problem. Morning greeted us with a foot of snow, and it continues to fall, expecting to continue till noon Thursday. Today is Wednesday. The first thing I did when rising this morning was read “Snowbound” by John Greenleaf Whittier. After that, I read the Heidegger poem, then went outside to photograph the breath-taking mountain vista shrouded in mist above.

28 degrees isn’t so bad if you’re sufficiently bundled. So I set up my plein air easel on the front porch and gazed at that lovely mountain scene, deciding to give it a try in my watercolor sketchbook diary.

View from Inside the Cabin
Sandi captured this photo of me working on the sketch

This is only my second watercolor sketch in the diary. I purchased it last week, deciding to bite the bullet and see if I could do some decent watercolor experiments and keep them in a bound book. In the past I’ve attempted many sketches that ended up worthy of framing, so I feared that I would merely tear up a sketchbook. Now I’ve decided that I will work freely in this book, and if something is suitable for framing, tough luck; I will keep the sketchbook intact and enjoy flipping through its pages.

Even when my watercolor attempts don’t pan out, I have a luxurious time painting, loving every moment. This mountain view really sent me to another world, watching the mist descend over the crown of the mountain, all the time trying to capture the colors and textures I saw evolving. Thanks to a small spray mist bottle, I was able to continue dissolving the paint at the top of the mountain while continuing my work down the slope. This is only a 5 x 7″ attempt, but I’m happy with how it came out and will gladly keep it in the book. I’m still amazed that I was able to paint en plein air outdoors in 28-degree weather.

Thanks for reading. Our first full day here in Colorado is proving an eventful odyssey, and we’re happy and safe.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Searching for the Recipe

March 13, 2020
Fourth Beginning of a Ransom Canyon Composition

He was alone, and he wanted to make a song out of the colored canyon, the way the women of Torreón made songs upon their looms out of colored yarn, but he had not got the right words together.

N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn

This Native American sage just painted with accuracy and grace my perrenial dilemma as an artist. In painting, in writing, in arranging music, I frequently marvel at the complexity of composition, and very seldom attain the splendrous vision my eye or inner ear senses.

When playing my guitar, I constantly reach for the correct chord, only to hit upon a diminshed form that jars my ear. When writing an essay, I can fumble with a paragraph of sentences for an hour and come away with a mess comparable to a ball of yarn tossed by a generation of cats. And now more recently, with my fourth attempt at a canyon composition, my eye delights in the arrangement of hues and contrasts across the cliff wall, yet the colors on my palette never seem to combine for the composition I seek.

Please reader, do not misunderstand–I am not depressed or upset as I write this. I merely approach the creative task in a spirit of worship, seeking to pour out my soul in response to profound beauty encountered in this physical world as well as the underlying world of Ideas. And as I work at this, my soul wells up in gratitude for feelings experienced during the effort, even if the final product falls short of the expression I sought.

My work, my art, my journal pages, my blog–all my contributions are abstractions, distortions, fragments, ostraca scattered across my life’s memories. But my delight always lies in the trying. And right now, the canyons of west Texas and streams of the Oklahoma mountains are calling out to me.

As for the painting started above . . . not today. This morning once again finds me on the road, stopping at a Starbuck’s to send out this missive via wifi. I often feel like Eddie Albert from Green Acres, climbing up a utility pole in Hooterville to make a phone call. But there it is . . .

Thanks always for reading. I hope to send pictures soon of painting attempts adjacent to Oklahoma trout streams.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

The Next Show Draws Near

March 11, 2020
Return to Ransom Canyon

To be an artist is to live suspended above the abyss between recognition and artistic value, never quite knowing whether your art will land on either bank, or straddle both, or be swallowed by the fathomless pit of obscurity. We never know how our work stirs another mind or touches another heart, how it tenons into the mortise of the world.

In our own culture, obsessed with celebrity and panicked for instant approval, what begins as creative work too often ends up as flotsam on the stream of ego-gratification — the countless counterfeit crowns that come in the form of retweets and likes and best-seller lists, unmoored from any real measure of artistic value and longevity. How, then, is an artist to live with that sacred, terrifying uncertainty with which all creative work enters the world, and go on making art?

The quote above I have lifted from an older post of Maria Popova’s “Brain Pickings” dated March 24, 2019. She nourishes my soul twice a week and I seldom miss reading her extended meditations. This praticular one came on a good day: I am kicking into a higher gear because I have an art festival in a little over a week. And though I love making art, I cannot help wondering while engaged in this enterprise whether or not the work is truly worthy. I have little trouble selling my pieces and for that I am eternally grateful. Yet still I muse over the quality of the art.

Palestine, Texas will kick off its annual Dogwood Festival Friday night March 20 with a V.I.P. event under the big tent across the street from The Redlands Hotel. I have been included among the artists selected to exhibit under the tent that night and all the next day. When my first spring festival rolls up on the calendar, I scramble to frame and package all the work I have created throughout the winter season. Currently I have six new paintings framed and ready that have not been offered for public view. In addition to this, I have revised and re-branded a select number of my greeting cards that I sell at events.

In the midst of this scramble to create and market new art, the ideas expressed in Popova’s quote do not cease moving within me. In fact, this morning’s scene at my writing table appeared quiet and serene. But there was nevertheless a subterranean surge of words, images and ideas flowing beneath the outward scene. The readings from N. Scott Momaday only get better, and last night I happened upon a copy of his House Made of Dawn, the first novel to earn the Pulitzer Prize for a Native American. This literary work is gripping from the very first page, and I am now about fifty pages into it. At the same time, I am continuing my sojourn through Momaday’s The Man Made of Words.

After several hours of framing, packaging, editing greeting cards and reading Momaday, the sun was high enough and temperatures reached the sixties. I had the itch to return to Ransom Canyon and begin a fourth work in plein air.

Beginning with a bluff on the left
Stopping with the outdoor work and preparing sketches for the right portion

I found the canyon quiet and peaceful despite the multitude of houses scattered over the bluffs. After working about an hour, I had done enough to the left side of the composition to shut down and head back to the house. I have several ideas for Native American subjects to place on the right side of the composition, and that is my next step. Meanwhile I have stopped at a neighborhood Starbucks for refreshment, Wi-Fi, reading and blogging.

Thanks for reading. Please check out my website at www.davidtrippart.com.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Kiowa Centaurs

March 9, 2020
2nd attempt at painting a Native American (in progress)

A word has power in and of itself. It comes from nothing into sound and meaning; it gives origin to all things.

N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain

3rd attempt at painting a Native American (in progress)

My blog has fallen silent in recent days due to my recent absorption into Native American images. This all began in Ransom Canyon around Feb. 25 and I posted a pair of blogs describing my feelings as I attempted some plein air sketches in the base of the canyon.

Ransom Canyon has been completely reshaped into an enormous subdivision, and my attempts to paint the more scenic bluffs are rebuffed by the realization that I would be stepping onto some homeowner’s property if I attempted to set up an easel and paint. Parking is another issue–where do I put my vehicle when the road has no shoulders? There is, however, a “memorial chapel” built in the heart of the complex with about 4-5 parking slots, so I have been able to park and hike on public land, and set up the easel on church property, so far without anyone raising complaint.

As I gazed at the canyon walls and imagined what it must have been like 500 years ago when Teyas Indians roamed this geological marvel in search of buffalo before confronting Coronado or aggressive Apache tribes.

My imagination while painting led me to the writings of N. Scott Momaday, a writer I had known about since the mid-1990’s but never bothered to examine. I read The Way to Rainy Mountain in its entirety, and am now about halfway through The Man Made of Words. What I read about the Kiowa migrations from Yellowstone to western Oklahoma fired my imagination, inducing me to attempt a few watercolor sketches of an Indian on horseback on the canyon walls I painted.

Initial attempt of Native American on horseback, 14 x 11″ framed–$200

As I read the accounts of the Kiowa migration, I drew frequent comparisons to what I’ve been studying with Homer’s Odyssey and was inspired to resume work on my own memoir.

In a few days, I plan to travel to Broken Bow, Oklahoma and, weather permitting, engage in some plein air studies of that region. As I paint those surroundings, I anticipate writing the section of my memoir that engaged with Choctaw descendants when I was in the sixth grade. And hopefully I’ll come up with some more images to pursue in watercolor. The Native American tradition I have never touched with my art until now. This is completely new to me, and I feel an excitement with the new discoveries pending.

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.

Late Night Meditations over Ransom Canyon

February 25, 2020

Working on the Canyon

Monday afternoon handed me the freedom to load the Jeep and find my way to Ransom Canyon, Texas in search of a plein air subject. I was not disappointed. Ransom Canyon appears to be the west Texas answer to California’s Laurel Canyon—a scenic gorge inhabited 500 years ago by Teyas and buffalo before Coronado came to visit, with Apaches soon to follow. No one knows for sure what became of the Teyas. Today people with money have built very expensive homes to crown the canyon crests. But I did not journey here to admire the houses; I soon became lost in the colors and textures of the rocky slopes beneath the stately homes, for awhile forgetting that I was standing on the floor of a suburb.

Finding shade in the 70-degree afternoon, I alternated my time there between sketching a section of canyon wall and reading Emerson’s “History” from his Essays: First Series. After about ninety minutes, I had done all I could on location and returned to my dwelling place. An early-evening nap managed to turn my Circadian rhythms upside down, so I now find myself at 12:08 a.m. in front of my laptop, searching for words to encapsulate what exactly happened over the past couple of hours.

I love playing solitaire (with real playing cards, not on the computer). Sitting down at the table around 8:00, I surprised myself by winning the very first hand dealt. When that happens, I know my options fall between wasting several more hours trying to win again, or simply putting the cards away and looking for something else to do. Choosing the latter, I drew out this afternoon’s sketch from my book bag, stared at it awhile, then chose to push further into the composition. As I worked, the textures of the canyon wall began to take on the characteristics of an aged human visage, the grasses becoming facial hair and the gravelly banks the craggy, sun-scarred skin. The longer I worked with pencil and brush, the more lost I became as the 8 x 10” surface took on the dimensions of the forty square yards of terrain I had studied in the afternoon light. Transferring the picture I took with my phone to the laptop, I began to enlarge the digital image, zooming in on the crags and shadows of the canyon wall, and discovering with delight more possibilities of developing the composition.

I get the most out of my painting experience when taking frequent breaks, walking away from the picture in progress and burying myself in some kind of significant reading. Re-opening the Emerson essay, I came across words that sent me into orbit:

All literature writes the character of the wise man. Books, monuments, pictures, conversation, are portraits in which he finds the lineaments he is forming.

Lineaments? What are lineaments? In former days, I often cursed my limited vocabulary. But now we live in this Zeitgeist of technological convenience. Reaching for the smart phone, I Googled “lineaments” . . .

Literary: a distinctive feature or characteristic, especially of the face. “I recognized those haggard lineaments.”

Geology: a linear feature on the earth’s surface, such as a fault.

How serendipitous, to read from this old sage exactly what I was doing with pencil and brush! Lineaments. The usage of this word peaked in the 1850’s around the time Emerson was finding his voice in the essay. And now, in this unusual hour, I have picked up the word and am now running with it as I study closely the features embedded in this canyon wall, experimenting with ways to translate them onto my watercolor page. As I work, I see the porous complexion of a native American hunter, scanning the horizon for buffalo, totally unaware of an impending encounter with Coronado or the Apache. As I continue to work over the entire composition, I am finding just as much joy with sharpened graphite pencils as I am with the watercolor brushes. I draw awhile, then paint awhile, then return to drawing, all the while carving new lineaments into the paper surface and weaving threads of color in and out with a rigger brush. Working over this expanse of rock, I feel as though I am part draftsman, part weaver and part sculptor.

. . .

A few hours of sleep have managed to replenish my energy, so now I sit next to the fire with coffee and the painting before me, propped for me to study it yet again before resuming. Temperatures have plummeted into the low thirties this morning, and the high is not projected to climb above the forties. So . . . it seems unlikely that I’ll return to the canyon. If I finish this 8 x 10” piece today, I may start another, using the reference photos I took of the terrain yesterday—not my favorite way to paint, but still preferable over standing in the frigid cold.

Last night proved to be an enchanting experience for me, and I am happy to share it with you.

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.