Archive for the ‘plein air’ Category

Heaving my Spirit into the Mountains

April 25, 2018

Big Bend Santa Elena Junction upright

Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

With stacks of newly-fashioned greeting cards piling on my desk this morning, I am confronted afresh with plein air watercolors from several weeks back that I never got around to blogging. Spring is always a spastic season, with art festivals, gallery shows, competitions and workshops stacked in the calendar, along with my twice-a-week college classes.

The painting posted above was done at Big Bend National Park during Spring Break. We were taking the dirt road from Santa Elena Junction back to the park entrance. Stopping at a dry creek bed, I set up my easel in the bed and looked across the desert at this colorful range of mountains and mused over the contrast between their eternity and the creek’s intermittent flows. On another day, I could be listening to the laughing brook flowing by while staring into the mute mountains. But today, only the mountains were there, waiting to be confronted face-to-face. As I painted, the winds continually swept across the valley, and in my memory, I listened to the sweet, haunting strains of Richard Burmer’s song “Across the View.”

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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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.

 

 

 

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.

Tying up Some Loose Ends

April 11, 2018

palestine bank painting

Recently Completed Watercolor of Historic Bank in Palestine, Texas

When the early morning light quietly

 grows above the mountains . . .

            The word’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.

            To head toward a star—this only.

            To think is to confine yourself to a

                        single thought that one day stands

                        still like a star in the world’s sky.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

A long, yawning gap stretches out between this morning and the occasion of my last blog post. But I have not been yawning. Life has been very pleasing, but packed with activity, all of it meaningful to me, but boring to post on a blog. I have had the thrill of teaching my college classes, conducting a watercolor workshop, giving private watercolor lessons, chatting with artistic colleagues, and spending extended weekends in Palestine working out of The Gallery at Redlands.

I regret to say that it will be probably a month before I spend another weekend in the gallery. This time of year is when my calendar suddenly explodes with art festivals, watercolor workshops and competition exhibitions. I have no free weekend to do gallery work until the midst of May. The painting below will soon be exhibited in the downtown Fort Worth Public Library for the Society of Watercolor Artists Annual International Exhibition.

redlands finished oxbow

Old Town Palestine

I posted the Heidegger poem above, because I still feel the draw of the mountains since leaving Big Bend National Park last month. I have been looking closely at the tightening calendar, scouting for a gap to return to a mountain range somewhere and take up once again the thrill of plein air painting the glory and the light and the atmosphere which they radiate. That time has come. By the time many of you read this I will be already en route to my next adventure, seeking scenes of beauty to capture on watercolor paper and journals. I have ached for this moment, though fully enjoying all the social events I’ve known the past weeks.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Preparing for a Plein Air Paint-Out

March 29, 2018

azalea plein air

Historic Home on Magnolia Street in Palestine, Texas

The approaching weekend is offering a world of excitement as the Society of Watercolor Artists descends upon Palestine for a weekend of plein air painting during their ongoing Dogwood Festival. I arrived in town today and immediately went to work on the 8 x 10″ watercolor posted above. There has been plenty of rain lately, and the colors of nature are really popping in this quaint historic town.

The artists will display and sell out of The Gallery at Redlands here in the Redlands Hotel throughout the weekend, and we have plenty of fun scheduled for Saturday evening as we relax and dine at the Red Fire Grille, also located in this hotel.

If you live close enough, we hope you’ll consider a trip into town to meet us as we paint to our delight.

Thanks for reading.

Plein Air Zeitgeist

March 21, 2018

redlands finished oxbow

The Oxbow. Palestine, Texas

Framed watercolor: $700

Though the time is still a week and a half away, I’m trembling this morning with anticipation over our upcoming plein air painting event in Palestine, Texas. At least a half dozen painters from the Society of Watercolor Artists (SWA) will take up residence in the historic Redlands Hotel the weekend of March 30-April 1 in conjunction with the city’s annual Dogwood Festival. For three days we will “paint the town” with enthusiasm.

These are my new and dear friends, and we’re looking forward to putting up new work in The Gallery at Redlands for display and sale over the weekend. Over the past year, I have had this delightful privilege of painting historic Palestine, and now look forward to introducing these artists to the local sights. Several of the local residents have also volunteered to serve as tour guides as needed.

gallery

Our headquarters for the weekend will be The Gallery at Redlands on the main floor of the Redlands Hotel. The artists have been invited to bring their previous framed works to put up for display and sale. Plein air watercolors created throughout the weekend will also appear in the gallery for Dogwood Festival patrons to view as they tour the hotel.

The Zeitgeist of plein air painting has been an exciting one that I have enjoyed for over a decade now, beginning with my experience of Paint Historic Waxahachie (I just registered for that event last night and will have more to say about it as the event approaches in April-May). I had no idea when I began this adventure in Waxahachie long ago that I would find myself adopting this lifestyle. The experience of painting live on site has given me the adventure of residing on an island in the Texas Laguna Madre twice as Artist-in-Residence for Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. It has also taken me to canyons in west Texas, mountains in Colorado and quaint towns in northern Arkansas. I’ve had the privilege of conducting several plein air watercolor workshops across Texas and Arkansas, and now eagerly anticipate this inaugural plein air gathering in Palestine, Texas. I’ll have plenty more to report as our event draws nearer.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

 

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.

Plein Air Painting in Palestine

February 2, 2018

Shelton Hall

Shelton Hall, Palestine, Texas

It felt good to be able to get out of the house without feeling weak or tired today. The sun was bright and the air cold with snappy winds from the north. I made the one-hour drive south to Hillsboro to check out my show hanging in the library gallery and to schedule the artist’s reception (March 8). The library invited me to extend my show until April 1 which thrilled me, since I’ve been under the weather for such a long time and unable to promote the event (I hung the show the first week in January).  I’ll have more to post about it as we get closer to the reception.

hillsboro

Solo Show, Hillsboro Public Library

After completing the Hillsboro business, I pointed my vehicle east for another long drive, this one lasting two hours. Arriving in Palestine (my home-away-from-home) I unloaded my gear into the gallery as quickly as possible, then set out for Old Town Palestine to see if I could capture this old gin on paper, now known as Shelton Hall. The coffee shop across the street was kind enough to allow me to set up my easel under their patio roof, away from the winds, yet still in place to capture the sunlight. I worked as quickly as I could, until the cold finally convinced me I had been out long enough. Back in the gallery, I applied some finishing touches and signed off on it.

Thanks for reading. I hope to post tomorrow–exiting things have been happening and I’m looking forward to reporting them.

 

Back to the Special Place Where I Belong

September 16, 2017

redlands sat

Decompression Time

A man, yet by these tears a little boy again . . . cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.

Walt Whitman, “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking”

My body is weary this evening as I linger over some lines from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass–a treasure to me since I discovered him afresh in 1989. These lines arrested my attention tonight, because I feel again the sense of wonder I knew as a child and felt evening time growing quiet around me. Tonight has offered a delicious quiet where I can read, think over the events of the day, and scribble ideas in my journal that could be worth recalling.

I rose early this morning and spent most of the day at First Christian Church in Arlington, Texas, offering outdoor watercolor lessons in their garden area during their annual bazaar and selling my art work out of a booth indoors. It was a beautiful day to be out and among people, and I enjoyed a number of quality conversations from old friends as well as new acquaintances.

booth

My Booth Indoors . . .

plein aire

. . . and my Painting Demo Outdoors

Once the festival ended and my gear was loaded with good help (thank you, Connie!), I rolled south for two hours till I reached my sacred home–The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine’s Historic Redlands Inn. I have been away from here for two weeks, and felt a warm feeling when I turned down Oak street and saw this site ready for my arrival.

inn

My Gallery Home

The City of Palestine has been so welcoming and accommodating to me and my art-lover friends. I never knew I could enjoy the conversations so much from the Inn proprietors, the gift shop employees, the fabulous Red Fire Grille personnel and professionals who keep offices in the suites upstairs–all of them have made me feel like I’ve found a home. It is now Saturday night, and I’m not alone in this office, because the Red Fire Grille has patrons coming in and out, and the proprietors are very gracious in visiting me.

As I’ve written before, the Polar Express begins its holiday season soon in Palestine, and I’m hoping to have plenty of new train-related paintings to display and sell this season. For several months, I’ve been travelling, photographing and sketching historic trains and tonight have them spread out on a bench in the gallery. Patrons coming through have spoken glowingly of them, so I guess I’m doing something right.

train paintings

My Newest Railroad Project in Progress

Darkness has descended outside and the gallery lights are too soft for working on the paintings–I’m too tired anyway. Reading and thinking in the quiet has been most pleasant, and a number of restaurant patrons have come through to look at the work and comment. Good conversations have emerged as well, and that just adds to the quality of the night.

Tomorrow, when the sun comes through the gallery windows, I’ll paint again. I’m ready.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.