Archive for the ‘plein air’ Category

Morning Coffee with Dave & Friends

September 11, 2018

friends

Early Morning Solitude

. . . I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Yesterday afternoon, I found a break amidst all my grading and college prep work, and returned to the studio, finishing a commission that I’ve already posted several times, and then began re-working this plein air sketch I began in west Texas a couple of weeks ago. Sitting on the back bumper of my Jeep, I looked across the barren landscape and painted this amazing horizon, then quickly sketched in the railroad embankment below, but never painted the line itself or the gravel banks. Today, I tried to enrich some of the colors and shadows of the trees and horizon, began work on the railroad embankment, and then determined where the 8 x 10″ boundary should lie. Tomorrow I plan to return to the studio after my morning class, and will take a fresh look at this to see if it requires any more attention. It felt lovely to pick up the brush again.

plein air

Return to the Studio

My early morning reading today began in The Gospel of Mark where I had in a previous blog remarked on the Parable of the Sower. In the same chapter is a brief discourse on growth that I was thinking about yesterday while painting that small watercolor. As I painted, I thought about my past, and the number of silent years required to grow in artistic ability, sensitivity, and intellectual matters. When I was college-age, I envied professors of fifty years and older, because they seemed so well “seasoned” in their thinking and in their art work. When talking with them in earnest, they would usually smile and say something like, “Be patient, stay with it, results will come in time.” It took decades for that to sink in. In fact, it wasn’t until my last few years of teaching that I heard myself mouthing those same words of advice to impatient high school and college students. Yes! Deeper, more mature matters require extensive time to compost, to develop, to flower, to bring to harvest. There is no royal road, no short cut to Quality.

The amusing part of this morning’s reading is that it began with one book, the Bible. Within thirty minutes, all these other volumes were sought, opened, read, notated, and now I am attempting to describe this refreshing morning on the blog. The cumulative moments that go from one book to half a dozen books remind me of earlier days, either composing sermons for the pulpit or writing papers during my Ph.D. seminar years. And I love it! I love the pursuit, the process, following the thread, seeing where the idea is going to lead. The reading and thinking themselves are an Odyssey. Recently I was reading about sowing seed, and now the idea comes up again, from The Gospel of Mark, 4:26-29:

. . . as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of itself: first the blade, then the ear, after that the full grain in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

The above I have posted from the King James Version. This morning I read the same passage from my Geneva Bible which preceded King James by about fifty years. I enjoy struggling with the English of this era:

Alfo he faid, So is the kingdome of God, as if a man fhulde caft fede in the grounde,

And fhulde flepe, and rife vp night and day, and the fede fhulde fpring and grow vp, he not knowing how,

For the eaerth bringeth forthe frute of her felf, firft the blade, then the eares, after that ful corne in the eares.

And affone as the frute fheweth it felf, anone he putteth in the fickel, becaufe the harueft is come.

After years and years of effort in education and the making of art, I am delighted to bring some of this to harvest. The classes at the college make me feel warm inside, because finally I am pouring out matters of the heart that have taken me most of my life to grow and water and now disperse. And as for the arts, I am so blessed that three galleries have welcomed my work and finally I have enough art festivals and shows annually where I can send out my creations.

Years ago, a gentleman was in my home, and seeing the size of my personal library, he made the observation: “It doesn’t seem fair that you have hoarded all these books and put them inside a private residence. They should be ‘out there’ for others to enjoy.” I thought that was an odd assessment, and still do. I thought my response made sense, that those books were what grew me intellectually, and being a teacher, I was daily going into the classroom and attempting to pour their wealth into the minds of students. I still think of his words, and my response, which seemed to be met with indifference. But, there it is. Throughout the decades I have loved studying, thinking, writing and attempting to put the best of my ideas out there for others to read. And so also with my art–I have created a large inventory of work, but it is in the galleries and festivals, not hoarded inside my home like a private collection. And then, this blog–I write daily because I have to; it is in me. And my hope remains that whatever ideas I share will play a part in making this world better than it was the way I found it. I hope that the footprint I leave is one that can point the way for others.

And so, I close with these words from my beloved muse, Paul Tillich:

The most intimate motions within the depths of our souls are not completely our own. for they belong also to our friends, to mankind, to the universe, and to the Ground of all being, the aim of our life. Nothing can be hidden ultimately. It is always reflected in the mirror in which nothing can be concealed.

Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations

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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Morning Coffee with Dave & Ezra

August 31, 2018

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Relaxing in a Coffee Shop with Ezra Pound’s Literary Essays

There has been so much scribbling about a new fashion in poetry, that I may perhaps be pardoned this brief recapitulation and retrospect.

In the spring or early summer  of 1912, ‘H. D.’, Richard Aldington and myself decided that we were agreed upon the three principles following:

  1. Direct treatment of the ‘thing’ whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

. . .

It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works. 

. . .

To begin with, consider the three propositions (demanding direct treatment, economy of words, and the sequence of the musical phrase), not as dogma–never consider anything as dogma–but as the result of long contemplation, which, even if it is some one else’s contemplation, may be worth consideration.

Ezra Pound, “A Retrospect”, in Pavannes and Divisons, 1918

I have returned to Ezra Pound because of recent reading of Hemingway and poems by William Carlos Williams. When I taught English long ago, I learned that Imagism was a popular movement in literature that has been associated with these writers and others. Williams was famous for saying “No ideas but in things.”

At any rate, while on a road trip yesterday that lasted for hours, I enjoyed what I refer to as “windshield time”–allowing thoughts to drift through my mind while watching the landscape drift by. I thought of Hemingway’s early writings from Paris (I referenced this in my last blog) when he settled on the notion of beginning with one true, direct sentence, and building from there. I then recalled that Pound laid down the three principles I’ve just posted above, about the necessity of addressing something directly, with as few words as possible, and following a musical phrase rather than a metronome. As I drove, I thought about the possibility of applying this literary theory to visual art. Why not give it a try?

At one point, I saw a high rocky mesa along the highway, and on impulse, did what I frequently dream of doing–pulling the Jeep over, getting out my art supplies, and attempting to paint/sketch the landscape en plein air. I decided to address the same principles I recalled from Pound’s theory of Imagism in writing–approach the subject directly as observed, use as few strokes of the brush as I can get away with, and not follow pre-set rules of sequence.

Setting up the easel, I decided to render the mesa first, with quick broad strokes of neutral color, then move to a foreground tree later, and finally lay in the sky (I have had so many “arguments” with other artists who insist that a legitimate landscape always begins with the sky). As I worked quickly (spent only about 30 minutes in the 97-degree heat), I recalled these principles of Ezra Pound, and smiled to think I was applying his literary criticism to plein air painting.

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Pleasures of a Road Trip–Stopping on Impulse to Paint

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Morning Coffee with Dave & Paul Cezanne

August 22, 2018

cezanne

Within the painter, there are two things: the eye and the mind; they must serve each other. The artist must work at developing them mutually: the eye for the vision of nature and the mind for the logic of organized sensations, which provide the means of expression.

Paul Cezanne, quoted in Emile Bernard in “Cezanne’s Opinions,” 1904

Throughout my life, Cezanne’s work washed over my consciousness in successive waves. I was introduced to his work while taking art history as a senior in high school, and recall those days of fixation on one of his Card Players paintings:

cezanne card players

Continuing my study of art history into the college years, I became more aware of his still life arrangements.

cezanne still life

But while teaching the Humanities in my early years as a teacher at Lamar High School, I twice visited the Barnes Foundation while it was traveling, first to the National Gallery in Washington D.C., and later to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. It was during that exhibition that I was smitten for the first time by the work of Cezanne, notably because of this piece:

cezanne-nudes-landscape

I was smitten because the oil colors were so rich that the painting, ninety years later, still appeared wet. I also was amazed because I recognized some kind of Arcadian presentation, unlike the natural plein air landscapes or studio nudes of the Impressionist painters of his company. I then wondered what exactly was going on in Cezanne’s imagination to frame such a presentation.

Throughout the nearly three decades of teaching art history in high school, I never gave Cezanne the attention he deserved. I was honest with my class, explaining that he had many theories going on throughout his life, and I never quite understood them, aside from the popular explanations of his attempting to find a relationship between form and color. I believe in that regard I was more honest and direct than Hemingway was in his early Paris years as an emerging writer:

. . . I could walk through the gardens and then go to the Musee du Luxembourg where the great paintings were that have now mostly been transferred to the Louvre and the Jeu de Paume. I went there nearly every day for the Cezannes and to see the Manets and the Monets and the other Impressionists that I had first come to know about in the Art Institute at Chicago. I was learning something from the painting of Cezanne that made writing simple true sentences far from enough to make the stories have the dimensions that I was trying to put in them. I was learning very much from him but I was not articulate enough to explain it to anyone. 

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I have laughed so many times over that passage! I scribbled in the margin of my book: “and you STILL are not articulate enough to explain it!” As for my teaching, I didn’t try to explain what I did not comprehend about Cezanne’s theories. And I will not attempt that this morning. Rather, I just want to share what his work and ideas have come to mean to me in my own pursuits.

Since retiring, I have taken up a number of famous artists in my leisure, grateful for the time and space now provided me to read quietly, reflectively, and not have to scurry about writing lectures and meeting three classes every day. I have taken up Motherwell, Rothko, Newman and Cezanne in these past two years, and poured countless hours into reading their interviews, biographies, criticisms, and poring over their images. Other artists will follow, I am sure, but I chose these particular individuals because they were serious, independent thinkers, not just skilled painters. And the Cezanne quote that opens this blog this morning has arrested my attention. As an artist, I have tried in recent years to focus my mind as well as my eye on the task of painting in watercolor. In studying the works of great artists, I have always been enamored with their talents, but their serious thoughts and constructions of theories have been just as fascinating to me.

While discussing three different ways of studying history in his Untimely Meditations, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche expounded his preference for the “monumentalistic” approach which concentrated on past heroes in order to confront contemporary mediocrity with the possibility of greatness. That has been my practice since finishing graduate school, to fasten my attention on great figures of the past in order to better myself. I like that the graduation exercises are called “Commencement” because I truly believe that a person’s real education commences once s/he crosses the threshold of the stage, diploma or degree in hand. And since my commencement, I have continually sought out the words of visionaries, all the time feeling that I was climbing the mount and approaching the temple to consult the Oracle.

Late in life, after his first one-man show, in 1895, at the age of fifty-six, things began to change. Awestruck young artists would make their way to Aix, as if on a pilgrimage, to seek him out and hear him speak–and if they were very lucky, see him paint. As accounts of these meetings began to leak out, so the word spread. The sayings of Cezanne circulated like the fragments of Heraclitus.

Alex Danchev, Cezanne: A Life

It was not until I read this biography this summer that I learned Cezanne was a serious scholar, rising at 4:00 a.m. and entering his studio by 5:00 to read for at least two hours before going out to paint. He was classically trained, and loved translating Greek and Latin texts. I was fascinated to read of his fixation on Virgil and Horace, and his ability to quote them in their original tongues, from memory. As a lover of Greek, I had always hoped that my hours spent translating would in some way feed my artistic eye as well. Now, I receive encouragement to continue from Cezanne.

During my senior years, not only have I fastened my attention on the words of famous artists, seeking some kind of Oracle to direct my own efforts, but I have also returned to nature to look at it with fresh eyes in an attempt to come up with a theory or method to capture what I see and place it on paper. I was delighted to read Cezanne’s encouragement to study the masters but always give priority to nature:

The Louvre is the book in which we learn to read. We should not, however, content ourselves with retaining the beautiful formulas of our illustrious predecessors. Let’s take leave of them to study beautiful nature, let’s undertake to disengage our minds from them, let’s seek to express ourselves in accordance with our personal temperaments. Time and reflection, moreover, modify vision little by little, and finally comprehension comes to us.

Paul Cezanne, letter to Emile Bernard, 1905

As he discussed his pilgrimage to Cezanne’s hometown of Aix-en-Provence and his trek to Mont Sainte Victoire, Martin Heidegger remarked: “These days in Cezanne’s home country are worth more than a whole library of philosophy books. If only one could think as directly as Cezanne painted.” While traveling to New Mexico and Colorado this summer, I managed to finish the book Cezanne: A Life, by Alex Danchev. And it was Cezanne’s influence that moved me to spend an entire day on the cabin deck in South Fork, Colorado and do nothing but study and experiment with watercolor, rendering the evergreen trees that were bathed in that splendid Rocky Mountain atmosphere.

I painted “on the motif” (Cezanne’s favorite expression about painting en plein air). And as I gazed at the evergreens in the changing light and intermittently fed the birds and chipmunks that gathered on my deck, I eventually developed some experimental steps to painting trees as I had never tried before in watercolor. Below is the page of my journal that I scribbled on August 5 at 2:34 p.m.:

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s painting 6

s painting 4

s painting 1

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Because Cezanne was absorbed with blue pigments in his rendering of atmosphere, I experimented with blues that I had not used with much frequency before: Winsor Blue (Green Shade), Winsor Blue (Red Shade), Indanthrene Blue, Cobalt Blue, Phthalo Turquoise, Prussian Blue, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Antwerp Blue and Payne’s Gray. Previously, I had only worked with blue in my skies, and a little with color mixing. But I had never worked so much with blues in and around my green palette. I was truly in a different zone, and now that I have returned to Texas, am looking forward to experimenting further with this.

I just finished my first day in Logic class, and so marks the transition into my university duties. I have three courses this semester, but two are online, so I won’t have to invest as much in travel time and lecture writing. I believe focusing on logic will be a good thing, as I work to organize my mind as well as my eye and continue in this artistic enterprise. Reading always thrills me, but so does picking up the brush.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with Dave & Paul

August 19, 2018

Sunday Tillich

Reading from Tillich after Attending Mass

I am not a Catholic, but attending mass is something I do on occasion. The Sacred Heart Catholic Church is directly across the street from The Gallery at Redlands. I have painted it twice, and for over a year have felt serene every time I hear the church bells tolling the hours. John Donne’s “Meditation XVII” keeps coming back to me.

Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Palestine, Texas

Among the books I packed for the weekend in Palestine was volume one of Paul Tillich’s Systematic Theology. I read this in its entirety over ten years ago (T. S. Eliot read it twice while crossing the Atlantic, and sent Tillich a “thank you” letter for the contribution). I still return to it frequently to re-read portions I have underlined and notes jotted in the margins. Among my favorite passages is the following:

Theology moves back and forth between two poles, the eternal truth of its foundation and the temporal situation in which the eternal truth must be received. Not many theological systems have been able to balance these two demands perfectly. Most of them either sacrifice elements of the truth or are not able to speak to the situation.

I will have to agree with Tillich on this point. The theologian Karl Barth struggled to bring together the current newspaper on one side of his pulpit and the New Testament on the other. That was 1914. Today I feel is no different. I love to read the New Testament, and am grateful that I was provided an education enabling me to read its Greek text. During mass this morning I attempted to read from my Latin Vulgate. I regret that Latin was never available to me, and though I work in the grammars, I have not paid the price in learning to translate it effectively. But still, I enjoy reading the text and learning what I can from it.

But the current news, well, I won’t waste time addressing that. In this country, I feel that religious leaders with the biggest megaphone are the least effective, or relevant, in bridging the message of the New Testament to bear on these times. And our nation certainly lacks courageous prophets of the ancient Hebrew heritage who withstood rulers clearly on the wrong side of the truth. Still, I search for meaning and coherence in this life we live these days.

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Sunday Morning in the Gallery at Redlands

The weekend spent in the gallery was refreshing to me, to say the least. I left here fifty days ago to travel, and I so loved my odyssey. But it was a thrill, feeling that I had a home where I could return. And the people of Palestine certainly made me feel welcome. On Saturday, a high school friend came down from Paris, Texas to visit, and I had not seen her since she graduated college and packed her car for Houston to accept her first teaching position. That must have been around 1976. So, we had much catching up to do.

And then Sunday, a dear friend that I met through this hotel a year ago came by for an afternoon visit. We hadn’t seen each other in about three months, so we also had catching up to do. What a homecoming this has been.

Sunday cloudcroft

(Sorry about the Reflection!) My Plein Air Watercolor from Cloudcroft

Sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck, I began this 8 x 10″ watercolor on the edge of the town of Cloudcroft, New Mexico several months ago. I decided to frame it for the gallery and brought it down to add to the collection this weekend. We are offering it for $200 in its 11 x 14″ frame.

Sunday box

(Ugh! Reflections!) Box Canyon at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

One of my most thrilling mornings at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico was hiking back into Box Canyon, and pausing beside a stream to set up an easel in the shade and attempt this 8 x 10″ plein air watercolor of this magnificent bluff towering above me and the trees. I am still fascinated at the colors and textures and striations of massive cliffs, and am struggling to find the right color combinations for rendering them. I’ll continue to study this matter. This watercolor as well, in its 11 x 14″ frame, is offered at $200.

Today is the first day of the semester at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth. I have two online classes ready for viewing. Tomorrow will be my first time in the classroom. Time to hit the books!

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Carrying the Wilderness Back into the City

August 15, 2018

cloudcroft

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

John Muir

The watercolor above was begun one late afternoon a couple of months ago while relaxing at the edge of the quaint little town of Cloudcroft, New Mexico. I stopped before getting to the tree on the right, because I was dissatisfied with my way of rendering trees.

On my last Sunday recently in South Fork, Colorado, I went wild with a series of experiments on the evergreens I enjoyed every day outside the cabin where I resided. I am still trying to absorb all the new things I tried. But this afternoon, I decided to apply some of those new experimental techniques to this tree on the right. I’m happy with the result.

All the while I painted, I thought of the John Muir quote above, and a kindred quote I have always loved from Emerson’s Nature:

In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith.

Thanks to a long, relaxing vacation, I feel in many ways that I have returned to reason and faith. There is no describing this sentiment.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Hoping to Turn a Corner

August 5, 2018

S tree

Sunrise View from my Cabin Deck

All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings . . . 

. . . the imagination must learn to ply her craft by judgment studied.

William Wordsworth, “Lyrical Ballads”

Every morning for this past week, I have been spellbound at the sight of this evergreen below my cabin deck when the sun rises and washes it like this.  After making a couple of watercolor studies of the rugged pine that is closer to my cabin, I mused about how to paint such an evergreen as this. For days, I ruminated over how to approach the problem. This morning, reading Heidegger’s “The Thinker as Poet”, I came across the following:

As soon as we have the thing before our eyes,

         and in our hearts an ear

         for the word, thinking prospers.

Recently, I revisited Annie Dillards reference to “the tree with lights” in her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  This morning, as Dillard, Heidegger and Wordsworth converged in my imagination, I decided to try and paint evergreens in experimental fashion.  I have brought along on vacation with me a children’s book, titled -Ish by Peter Reynolds. The story is a delightful one that has reminded me that I don’t have to copy nature with the accuracy of a photographer. Rather, I just need to make these trees look “tree-ish.” During my years of teaching art history, I was always intrigued by Xie He’s Six Canons, and decided today to see if I could put his principles to work. I split my time evenly between painting, reading, and scribbling observations in my journal.

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Work in Progress

I painted all morning, took a break for lunch, then again all afternoon. Throughout the morning, I was continually visited by the little wild critters.

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Here is a Bold and Hungry Little Fellow

Chipmunks continually scurried about the deck, searching for scattered sunflower seeds I had tossed about me. This one in particular climbed up my pant leg and looked in my lap for seeds. I decided to gather a few in my palm and reach down. Sure enough, he came fearlessly to me and ate every morsel.

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Guarding my Paintings

This gorgeous bird (I believe he is an Evening Grosbeak) has spent the last three days perched near me on this deck while I painted or read. When I take sunflower seeds to him, he might scamper a few feet away from me, but never flies away. He just stands nearby, like he’s waiting for something, and remains long after he’s eaten all my offerings.

I’m not certain that I have yet arrived at a solution for painting evergreens in watercolor, but I certainly pulled out all the stops as I experimented today, following Wordsworth’s message of spontaneously pouring out all my passions at first, then returning after the pieces dried to try and complete an attractive composition “by judgment studied.” I am exhausted by the process, but am exhilarated by the feelings I experienced today in pursuit of this process.

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s painting 2

s painting 3

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That’s all for this day. Thank you for reading.

s painting collection

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Colorado Splendor

August 4, 2018

chipmunk close

A New Little Friend

chipmunk

Follow your genius closely enough and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect at every hour.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

My friend Dian Darr, who is part of this Colorado excursion, gave me a gift of a plaque with the above quote from Thoreau engraved on it. When I return home, it will be placed in front of me at my desk to view every time I sit down there to work. Thank you, Dian!

The windows of the Brookie Cabin have been left open every night, which has made for some bone-chilling mornings. Today was not an exception, with temperatures dipping to 48 degrees. I rose at 5:55, took a quick shower and donned clean clothes, and intended to sit at the table to read and write for awhile, but I made the mistake of looking out the cabin window:

tree

Tree Filled with Lights!

When my eyes were dazzled by the sight of this tree in the brilliant light of the mountain sunrise, I immediately remembered a line from Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, relating a story of a girl blind from birth that had had a special surgery allowing her to see for the very first time:

“When her doctor took her bandages off and led her into the garden, the girl who was no longer blind saw “the tree with the lights in it.”

I immediately put on a fleece hoodie and went out onto the porch to attempt to paint this tree of lights.

me 3

Taking Advantage of a Bright 50-degree morning

And speaking of painting, allow me to jump back in time. I just have to post this picture of what happened to me last night as I worked to finish my second attempt at a pine tree, this one in the late afternoon light:

evening pine

My Second Attempt at the Pine Tree

As I was finishing this pine tree painting, birds began to crowd each other at the feeder that hangs from the corner of this deck. I decided to put some of the sunflower seeds along the rail of the deck beside me, figuring that after I went inside for the evening, one of them could gather up those seeds.  Well, this one couldn’t wait:

bird

I believe this bird is an Evening Grosbeak, judging by the illustrations in a bird book I’ve consulted. He was only 18″ from my left shoulder as I painted! I looked directly at him and took this picture with my cell phone. He stayed almost thirty minutes, gobbling up every single sunflower seed that I had spread along the railing.

And now, back to this morning . . . After painting about an hour, I accepted the Darr’s generous invitation to have breakfast with them in their cabin nearby. After breakfast, we drove to Beaver Creek Reservoir to see if we could catch some trout for dinner. It was then that I realized that I had mistakenly packed all three of my fly reels to ship back to Texas! So . . . Plan B.  I decided to try the spinning reel with a casting bubble to throw dry and wet flies into the water. It worked!

trout bigger

Trying out a Casting Bubble and Dry Fly

This beautiful rainbow rose to the surface and gobbled up an enormous dry fly of a grasshopper. Ron and I alternated between Parachute Adams dry flies and Copper John nymphs and managed to catch our limit.

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Fishing with my Buddy Ron Darr

ron and I

Proud of our Catch!

trout big

It has been a spectacular day in Colorado. I’m not ready to return to Texas, but will have to leave here eventually.

Thanks for reading.

Musing with Cezanne: Focus on the Pine

July 30, 2018

There would be other trees, but his first love was the pine. For Cezanne, the pine itself was a lieu de memoire, a memory place, redolent with mythology, packed with history, and charged with feeling. 

Alex Danchev, Cezanne: A Life

cezanne pine

Cezanne, “Large Pine and Red Earth”

This Large Pine and Red Earth is more than a tree: it is a personality. It is also a vision. Cezanne painted the treeness of the tree, as Kandinsky said. The branches are twisted or contorted; the foliage shimmers.

Alex Danchev, Cezanne: A Life

pine photo

This is my third consecutive summer at Riverbend Resort in South Fork, Colorado. I have been coming to this place since 1999, but am now on my sixth visit. My favorite place to reside is the Brookie Cabin with this view from the deck overlooking the stream. And every year, my time has been divided deliciously between fly fishing in the stream and plein air painting from this deck.

In 2016, I spent every sunrise on this deck, with fresh coffee, reading essays from Martin Heidegger and translating Greek Pre-Socratic fragments. Every time I looked up from my reading, I was smitten with this rugged pine in front of me, the rusty-red texture of its bark, and its needles against a hazy mountain backdrop. Finally, I attempted a 5×7″ plein air watercolor sketch of it. Liking what I saw, I framed and matted it, and before I knew it, the painting had become the property of someone else. In all my years, I have never regretted a sale, but in the two years passing, I have regretted letting this one go.

pine 2016

And so it happens, I’ve been reading this Cezanne biography, and learned that the pine was his favorite tree, for many of the same reasons that I have been so smitten with this solitary Colorado pine from the past three summers. As is my custom, I’ve spent nearly every morning on the Brookie deck this visit, with my coffee and books, and have decided to give this painting another try.

pine me

I have spent the past two mornings working on this 9×12″ plein air composition. I always quit once the sun gets high enough that the bark loses its intense color. When painting en plein air, I usually work quickly, completing an 8×10″ composition within the hour. But this one is different. Like Cezanne, Leonardo da Vinci, and Willem de Kooning, I am now spending many minutes between brushstrokes, and often laying the painting on the deck floor to look at from time to time while reading and sipping coffee. I guess you could say I am composting. This painting is coming along very slowly, but every layer, every brushstroke, and every pencil stroke is studied. And I am greatly enjoying this process.

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Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Painting from Box Canyon

July 21, 2018

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Box Canyon at Ghost Ranch

Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and the birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

Rainer Maria Rilke, letter to a young writer, April 23, 1903

Today’s adventure included a hike into Box Canyon from Ghost Ranch. Finding a shady spot near a stream, I looked up at the towering facade of bluffs and decided to set up the easel and give it a try. The winds were cool in the canyon, and the time spent there was lovely. All week long, I have tried new pigments in my painting attempts, and have made some compositional decisions unlike what I have tried before. I am very much enjoying this time of experimentation, and am now reading Rilke’s collection of letters to a young writer for the second time this week. I am moved deeply by his words and convictions.

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View of the Pedernal from the Casita

Yesterday morning, I drew out this composition completely in pencil and laid down my first few pale washes. But today I chose to spend the morning painting in Box Canyon at Ghost Ranch. So when I returned to the casita this evening, the colors and shadows were completely different on the Pedernal. Knowing I leave for Colorado in the morning, I decided to give this an evening attempt. It will be my last Pedernal painting from location. The one I began yesterday afternoon at Ghost Ranch was stopped early because of a rare desert storm that drove me to shelter. I took out the painting this evening, and transferring the reference photo I took to my laptop, studied the image and decided to push it further. Perhaps tomorrow from Colorado I can work on it further and post it on the blog.

Again, borrowing the words from John Muir, “The mountains are calling me and I must go.” New Mexico has been a perfect rest for me this week, and a perpetual inspiration to paint. I expect the same from the Colorado Rockies over the next two weeks.

Thanks always for reading. It feels good to post these sentiments, knowing there are readers who are interested.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Plein Air Painting as Re-Invention

July 20, 2018

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The fact is, I am an intuitive painter, a direct painter. I have never worked from sketches, never planned a painting, never ‘thought out’ a painting. I start each painting as if I had never painted before. I present no dogma, no system, no demonstrations. I have no formal solutions. I have no interest in the ‘finished’ painting. I work only out of high passion.

Barnett Newman, Interview with Dorothy Gees Seckler

As I began painting shortly after sunrise, with temperatures at 62 degrees, I started with a blank sheet, and as I stared at the Pedernal, contemplating what to put on the picture plane, these words from Barnett Newman seeped into my consciousness. Without delay, I did something for the first time–took up a pencil and drew in my landscape composition completely, every shadow and facet of the Pedernal, along with the rock outcroppings below and the sweep of the meadows and desert in the foreground. I never do that–always in plein air landscape attempts, the pencil is used only for architecture or human-made structures. I never draw trees and seldom draw horizon lines. As for mountains, I have only laid down an outline for a suggestion, but never tried to draw the details or shadow lines. And then, as it came time to lay down the colors, I ignored my basic palette and began mixing a stew of new colors never before used. And I laid down light washes without trying to accent with the dark tones. All of it was brand new to me, and I thought of Newman describing the sensation of painting as if he had never done it before. In another context (I could not locate it), Newman discussed inventing painting as if it had never been done before (around 1941). The sensation was indescribable. I enjoyed experimenting, and did not concern myself with how the finished product would look. These plein air attempts are a laboratory for me, and I’m swimming in bliss.

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A Little Re-Touching of Yesterday’s Attempt

I felt a rush of enthusiasm as I worked on the new composition, and then laid aside the art materials in order to return to Ghost Ranch for a hike up toward Chimney Rock, one of my favorite sites from Georgia O’Keeffe compositions.

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Chimney Rock

There wasn’t time to get all the way up there (three hours required), as lunch reservations had been made. But the ninety-minute trek was exhilarating, and all the while I wondered (after an old Timberland Footwear advertising tag–“What kind of footprint will you leave?”). The desert here in Abiquiu is not Extreme, but worse: Exceptional. So I tried to stay on the hardest surfaces of the hiking trail, hoping not to leave boot prints in soft soil. At any rate, the hike was an experience I seldom know.

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View of the Pedernal from near Chimney Rock

During my descent, I saw a button on the trail, face down. Thinking of the environmentalist adage: “Take only memories, leave nothing”, I picked it up, not wishing for litter to remain on the trail. Turning it over and reading it, then looking back down at where it had been lying, I realized what someone had done. So I replaced the button, face up:

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Hope that doesn’t offend. I felt embarrassed when I saw the message, knowing someone, somewhere was amused at folk like me picking up the button and turning it over to read.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.