Archive for the ‘poured watercolor’ Category

Pre-Dawn Meditations

March 16, 2016

cropped fire wheels

Experiment in Watercolor Masquing, Spritzing and Spattering

To create oneself through making (either by writing or painting) is an ethical act of decision and passion: you become formed, differentiated from others; you  feel your place in the world and find your wholeness, integrity.

Richard Schiff, Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Inerviews

The pre-dawn mornings in Portland, Texas have been soothing this week. Temperatures are always lingering around 70 degrees, as a foggy mist hovers over the dawn. I love driving through the darkness toward the local Starbucks, and then watching the grey light emerge. The atmosphere is rich for reading and writing, and I am enjoying immensely this book of Barnett Newman writings on art that an artist friend has lent me. I always manage to settle into this coffee shop before 7:00 and the workshop doesn’t begin until 9:30.

My ideas this morning are driven by the comment posted above from the Introduction to this book. Yesterday’s experience of watching watercolors emerge from the brushes and minds of various individuals renewed for me that joyous “shock of recognition” (Motherwell’s words) as I saw how these artists view the world through their own eyes and filter their interpretations through their own souls. One of many highlights for me was meeting a retired Episcopal priest who expressed much of my own sentiments as we discussed our seminary training and how our lives have unfolded since that training many decades ago. Both of us are grateful for our education, and for the subsequent freedom to explore new vistas, applying our old disciplines to new discoveries.  I could feel his passion for making art, and was astounded as I watched his harbor watercolor come into focus. I could only admire the effects of his solid training and at the same time appreciate his willingness to explore new methods rather than cranking out the same thing he was used to doing from the past.

I also delighted in the work of a retired architect, one who referred to himself as “old school” because he drew his creations with his own hands and tools instead of relying on computer-generated schemes. His adept skill in using a straightedge and watercolor brush showed a disciplined eye, and at the same time he knew how to use the brush in a painterly fashion, instead of being bound by precision alone. I have always enjoyed that Apollo-Dionysus tension, with Apollo representing the rules and structure, and Dionysus representing the flourish and spontaneity.

I am anticipating today’s session with eagerness because these painters, most of them belonging to the same watercolor society, are not carbon copies of one another. And during the closing critique session yesterday, I was touched by their genuine regard and respect for one another. When the artist community is a nurturing one, everybody grows and experiences the very best of the art-making enterprise. So, here’s to new and affirming experiences . . .

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

Perfect Response to a Cold, Rainy Dawn

November 29, 2015

imageThen there was the bad weather.  It would come in one day when the fall was over.  You would have to shut the windows in the night against the rain and the cold wind would strip the leaves from the trees in the Place Contrescarpe.  The leaves lay sodden in the rain and the wind drove the rain against the big green autobus at the terminal and the Cafe des Amateurs was crowded and the windows misted over from the heat and the smoke inside.

Ernest Hemingway, “A Good Cafe on the Place St.-Michel” in A Moveable Feast

The weather turned nasty over the past several days of the holiday, with rain continuing, floods abounding in north Texas, the skies darkening and temperatures plummeting.  Waking at 6:50 this morning and feeling rested, I decided to lower my thermostat to 65 degrees, pull a sweater over my denim shirt, enjoy the coffee, read and see if I could make something good of the cold, wet day.

breakfast

After a satisfying breakfast, I sat at my writing desk for a few hours, and enjoyed a smorgasbord of reading, from the diaries of Andy Warhol and Henry David Thoreau (quite a contrast) to some translating from my Greek New Testament.  I opened Paul’s Letter to the Romans and worked over the text of the opening six verses, enjoying the language, and reading remarks from Karl Barth’s Commentary on Romans as well as the exacting work of C. E. B. Cranfield in the International Critical Commentary.  After writing several pages of ideas in my journal, I then turned to my bank of digital images of fall scenes taken over the years, particulary during rainy weather.  I decided to attempt a steep hill and cut-out rocky bluff between High Ridge and House Springs, Missouri, where the highway blasted through rock, cutting a swath between the towns.  I had taken several pictures of this area during heavy rains over the past several autumn seasons, and decided I would give this one a try.

bluff wc

I began by laying down a large wash of lime green and bright yellow.  When it dried, I masqued as many leaves as I could over the light colors, then poured a mixture of violet, crimson and other colors over the dried masquing.  Once I stripped that away, I attempted the rocky bluff below and the tree line above.  I’m not getting what I want just yet, but perhaps in the days ahead I can push this painting in the direction I’m hoping.  At any rate, it was a good dark, cold afternoon for being indoors painting, and it felt good to be in the studio again.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Contemplating the Mermaid’s Winecup

July 1, 2015

I have an appointment to meet, so I will put up today’s work just in case I get back too late to post more tonight. Finally, I am rendering the cups on the end of this alga specimen, as well as the shell to whicih they are anchored. The stems in between I have worked on just a little. While painting, I have been listening to Youtube interviews with Robert Motherwell, along with a panel discussion of his show covering the East Hampton Years, 1944-1952. Jack Flam, the one who assembled the massive 3 volume catalogue raisonné on Motherwell, drew an amazing parallel between the artist and a quote from the Romantic poet William Wordsworth. The latter said that in writing, he poured out all the richness of his emotion, and then revised the torrent to shape it into a poem. Motherwell also said that in abstract art, the artists pours out all his/her richness, and then steps in and edits or corrects the output. That is much of what is going on with this piece I’m working now. Yesterday I poured, salted, spritzed and played happily with the surface of the paper to create an environment for the subject. Today I am trying to make the alga emerge from the atmosphere. The result is that I am working much more slowly and thoughtfully today as my eye moves from detail to detail, puzzling out how to present this subject.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Returning from a Hiatus

June 30, 2015
Poured Watercolor Attempt of the Mermaid's Winecup

Poured Watercolor Attempt of the Mermaid’s Winecup

I begin a painting with a series of mistakes.

Robert Motherwell

For I have known them all already, known them all:–

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons

T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

I am like a feather floating in the atmosphere; on every side is depth unfathomable.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, February 21, 1842

With joy and serenity, I return to the blog after a prolonged absence, combining travel with injury. An unexpected opportunity sprung up to travel to Kerrville and see the marvelous show of Dinah Bowman before it came down. Dinah has provided a wonderful wind at my back to help me set sail more vigorously in the past years. She accepted work from me in her gallery in Portland, Texas (Bowman Design and Framing), thanks to the introduction provided by her framer Mike Catlin, a former student of mine. She has also sponsored two watercolor workshops for me to conduct in her area, and then was the prime mover to land me in this recent Artist in Residence work in the Texas Laguna Madre. Below are a couple of photos from her show that closed last weekend, along with the link to her website:  http://www.bowmandesignandframing.com/

Dinah Bowman's Show

Dinah Bowman’s Show

Before I left for Kerrville early Saturday morning, I managed to wrench my lower back (a perennial problem) and I knew I was in trouble before I began the five-hour drive. I loved every minute of my time with Dinah and Dick, but suffered miserably from back issues. Driving back home Sunday only made things worse, hence no blog yesterday either. Now, after plenty of medication, I am functioning somewhat and really glad to return to my own studio.

Masquing the Mermaid's Winecup

Masquing the Mermaid’s Winecup

While I was at the Laguna Madre, the media came and visited me on the fourth day, and I am still warmed by every memory of that visit. Capt. Jay Tarkington waded out into the lagoon and brought back a specimen he pulled up from the bottom, presenting it to me as a gift. They call it the Mermaid’s Winecup because of the delicate cup shapes of the algae. I have already attempted two watercolor sketches of it, but am trying now to work larger and in more detail. I drew this specimen carefully this morning, and then spent a great deal of time masquing it so I can lay in a deep, dark background to make the light-green winecups and neutal stalks stand out more clearly. My intention is to pour the background–something I haven’t done for years and am looking forward to exploring again. The project has taken a lot of time already. First I had to soak and stretch the paper on the canvas stretchers, let it dry, then draw meticulously with pencil the entire specimen, then masque it (and the masquing took just as much time as the actual drawing). Now I need to let it dry thoroughly before soaking the paper and pouring colors onto the background.

Poured WInsor & Newton Transparent Yellow and Salt

Poured WInsor & Newton Transparent Yellow and Salt

This is going to take the entire day. Already it is 1:14 p.m. and I began this in the mid-morning. The masquing has dried, so I’ve soaked the paper and poured from a bowl Transparent Yellow from my WInsor & Newton pigments. I salted the edges as soon as the wet turned into damp, and now I wait for the puddles to dry before I apply the second layer (and at this moment, I have no clue what color that will be). I don’t like to push it with a hair dryer, and natural drying takes forever, but I’m enjoying my reading of Robert Motherwell: The East Hampton Years, 1944-1952. I am also writing a great deal in my journal today, and yesterday, I began indexing my journals, using Excel. That project will take years to complete, if I ever complete it, because I have over 130 volumes, and I am about 1/3 the way through my first volume. But I’m a patient man.

Second Poured Layer: Winsor Violet

Second Poured Layer: Winsor Violet

As the hour stretches into the late afternoon, I finally find the paper dry enough to work on a second poured layer. Using a spritz bottle, I sprinkle water, and adding water to a small squirt of Winsor Violet (Winsor & Newton) in a shallow bowl, I add water and pour it in places around the bottom portion of the watercolor. The spritz bottle I used for some additional acceleration, and sprinkled more salt around the damp areas. Now I need to let this sit and dry some more. Meanwhile, Motherwell reading and journal writing is keeping me content.

Introducing Olive Green (Luma Liquid Watercolor)

Introducing Olive Green (Luma Liquid Watercolor)

My third poured color is Olive Green from the Luma Liquid Watercolor series. After a full day of drawing, masquing, pouring, drying, etc. I’m probably finished with this until tomorrow morning. I need to make sure the surface is bone dry before stripping off all the masquing, otherwise, damp colors will be smeared into the white protected areas. Tomorrow I hope to do a good job detailing the algae and host shell to which it is anchored. The colors and patterns I see emerging from this background alone are so fascinating to my eyes that I just want to crawl inside this composition and explore possibilities awhile.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Finding the Seam

May 27, 2014
Poured Watercolor of Myself Flyfishing in South Fork, Colorado

Poured Watercolor of Myself Fly Fishing in South Fork, Colorado

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The 2013-2014 academic year slides now into its twilight, and we spent the morning in my high school Philosophy class attempting to pull the drawstring on the bag containing the fragments of wisdom collected throughout the semester.  Norman Maclean and Henry David Thoreau have provided a framework for my current musings on a philosophical summation.

Sifting through the philosophical fragments of the Presocratics, we find two thinkers who fastened their outlook on opposite worldviews.  Heraclitus of Ephesus, arguing that one cannot set foot in the same river twice, concluded that the essential core of life is flux, or change.  Everything flows; nothing abides.  Parmenides of Elea, on the other hand, maintained that the core of life was stable, eternal, permanent; there is always Being.  A century later, Plato synthesized these thinkers, positing a world of appearances, physical, always changing, yet supported by a world of ideas, pure Being, eternal.  Throughout western history, thinkers wrestled with these two poles, seeking the seam that unites (or divides) them.

As a passionate fly fisherman, I think on these things nearly every time I enter a Colorado mountain stream.  As my eyes survey the waters, I eventually detect the seam dividing the swifter current from the deepening pools, and if I look long enough, I can see the rows of trout lining the seam, staying in the quiet waters while watching their food drift by on the flow.  I take delight in watching my dry fly drift down the current, close enough to the seam to entice a rainbow to rise.

Another seam, articulated by Mclean and Thoreau, divides the coursing waters above from the basement foundation of rock below. I love that metaphor of life as a river, surging and coursing, over the eternal, supporting foundation below.   Robert Henri in his celebrated book The Art Spirit, has struck a similar chord repeatedly in his remarks, dividing surface appearances from deep realities:

There is an undercurrent, the real life, beneath all appearances everywhere.

In these times there is a powerful demarcation between the surface and the deep currents of human development.  Events and upheavals, which seem more profound than they really are, are happening on the surface.  But there is another and deeper change in progress.  It is of long, steady persistent growth, very little affected and not at all disturbed by surface conditions.  

There is so much truth to mine from these literary musings of great minds from the past.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Finishing the Foliage for the Fort Worth Stockyards

August 17, 2012

Fort Worth Stockyard Foliage

I have nearly finished the backdrop foliage for this Fort Worth Stockyard setting of a twice-daily longhorn cattle drive through the streets.  I’m looking forward to the challenge of rendering the massive longhorns.  Nevertheless, with them being in the foreground, I feel that my next step is working on the cowboys and their mounts.  I’m also looking forward to the brick street and shadows beneath.  I think this composition has real potential.

Thanks for reading.

Pouring, Masking and Drybrushing Trees in Watercolor

August 16, 2012

Stockyard Background Foliage

Today has been given mostly to studying the tree cover behind the Fort Worth Stockyards and trying to find ways of matching my pouring, masking and drybrushing efforts to the colors and textures there.  This has meant hours of masking, pouring, removing the masking and re-masking new areas, drybrushing, salting and occasionally sandpapering.  I seem to spend more time staring at the photographs and painting than actually painting.

During break periods, I have been reading and reflecting with great satisfaction over the Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell.  I love this man’s intellect, his aesthetic and his way of analyzing trends in art history.  I have also enjoyed reading from this huge coffee table volume: Andy Warhol “Giant” Size.  I just finished reading the first two chapters, and am fascinated with his overall life, his taking the New York advertising scene over by force, and especially his idea of opening the Factory.

Thanks for reading.

Beginning Work on the Fort Worth Stockyards

August 15, 2012

Fort Worth Stockyards

While allowing my Savoy Hotel painting to lie dormant for a day, I decided to go ahead and pour the background trees in this 22 x 28″ watercolor of the Fort Worth Stockyards.  Last week, for the first time in my life, I drove over there, sat in the 105-degree afternoon, and waited to see the longhorns driven down West Exchange Street.  It was worth the wait.  I have a little experience painting horses (very little), and zero experience painting livestock.  But, we’ll see how it goes.  First I have many layers to pour in order to lay in the background foliage.  I’ll be at this one for awhile.

Thanks for reading.

Continued Experimenting at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts

June 20, 2012

Experiment in Poured Watercolor

Students this year have expressed an interest in pouring techniques, so I developed this experiment over a three-day period, by masking, pouring Transparent Yellow, then Winsor Blue (Green Shade), masking some more on day two, then pouring Winsor Violet and Phthalo Turquoise.  After all of it was dry, I used my “ugly brush” to render foliage textures, using mostly Dr. Ph Martins liquid watercolors (Sap Green with touches of Transparent Yellow and Ultramarine Blue).  After removing all the masking, I worked in some tree branches, using an X-acto knife and Albrecht Durer brand watercolor pencil in Dark Sepia.  Plenty of salting and spritzing occurred throughout the two-day experiment as well.  I think I’ve done about all I can with it, so I now post it and let you have a look.

Daffodil Cottage in the Waning Light

Three of my students this year are residing within a block or two of where I am.   Last night, they invited anyone interested to “congregate” at the Piedmont House, where they were staying.  Seven of us gathered in the waning light, and gave plein air our best shot.  I thought I was choosing well by going to the second floor deck and looking down the street at the Daffodil Cottage and adjoining property.  What I hadn’t counted on was the low ceiling blocking out the light from my easel, and the longer I worked, the less I could discern between the reds and the greens on my watercolor block!  So, I threw in the towel.  I have posted what I attempted.  Nevertheless, I must say this–when a fisherman casts about all day, and never gets as much as a strike, and tells me that it was still a beautiful day to be out, I don’t trust him.  When a golfer shoots considerably higher than his comfort-zone-score, and says that nevertheless he had an enjoyable time golfing, I suspect he is lying.  I can say for myself, without hedging, that every plein air attempt brings me joy, even when I make a bad painting.   I already have more-than-enough paintings in my inventory; it doesn’t matter that the present one isn’t worthy.  I always enjoy plein air, and really believe that I have learned at least one thing from engaging in that effort.  And last night, I enjoyed immensely.

After I descended the stairs, I found everyone else still painting, still engaged, and still happy.  And I took genuine delight in that.  Afterward, we sat around awhile longer talking, laughing, listening to the sounds of a tourist town winding down for the evening.  I have no regrets from last night.

Thanks for reading.

A River Runs Through It

February 28, 2012

Finding the Seam

I have been hindered from working further on the Ridglea Theater watercolor, and did not want my blog to languish for more than a couple of days, so I am re-posting this watercolor of me fly fishing the South Fork of the Rio Grande in southwestern Colorado.  This is my second “poured” watercolor, and I still take delight in looking at it.  The original painting is still for sale at the Weiler House Fine Art Gallery (http://weilerhousefineart.com), and I still drop by occasionally to study it.  The background trees and water patterns were mostly poured, with a little brush and pencil work and salt added after the colors were set.

Last night, I had a delightful phone conversation with a dear friend and former student currently residing in Colorado.  After I hung up, I realized that it has been over two years since I visited that lovely state and entered one of those mountain streams.  As a matter of fact, I haven’t taken out my fly rod in several months, and I’m really getting the itch again.

When Norman Maclean’s novella A River Runs Through It was released as a motion picture in 1992, I was just finishing a Summer Seminar at Oregon State University, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  I knew then that fly fishing was something I had to take up, and though it took about another eight years for me to get into it, I have not been able to lay it down.

I cannot describe how my breathing changes when I step into a crystal clear Colorado stream, and peer into those pools, scanning for rainbows and browns.  I take such exquisite delight in watching the seams dividing slow current from fast, and current from pool, and watching the trout line up outside the fast water to watch insects drift by.  My heart jumps into my throat, every time I see the flash of a trout rising to take my fly as it bobs and flows past in the current.  I miss Colorado desperately, right now.

I close with my favorite line from the late Professor Maclean:

Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.  The river was cut by the world’s gerat flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.  On some of those rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

Thanks for reading.