Archive for the ‘tree’ Category

Weekend of Leisure

October 30, 2017

300 in progress

Taking my Time on this New One

It seemed to him that the hand was not able to attain to the perfection of art in carrying out the things which he imagined.

Vasari’s account of Leonardo da Vinci

A weekend of rest was so welcome to my weary soul. Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci, after eighty-some pages, is a veritable literary feast. I have always been fascinated with the curiosity and endless journaling of this Renaissance Mind, and after reading several biographies already, am so thrilled at Isaacson’s way of bringing in new material on Leonardo’s life that I had not encountered before.

I posted the quote above because it fits what I’m wrestling with as I work on my latest watercolor. I had this notion of what I wanted to accomplish, and so far it is not happening. I’m not giving up, but rather, slowing down and spending more time looking at it, puzzling over it, than actually working on it. My November 11 show already has around twenty or so framed original watercolors of trains and doesn’t need this one to be completed. And, as a good friend said recently, it wouldn’t hurt for me to have this “in progress” painting in the gallery during show time. At any rate, I’m not under a deadline to complete it. I like that feeling: letting a painting emerge under its own time.

As to the Leonardo quote above, I’m reminded of a story I read several years ago about a guitar student frustrated while doing his lesson. When the guitar master asked him what was wrong, the student replied that he could always hear the music much better than he was able to play it. To this the master replied: “And why do you think that is  ever going to change?” That quote remains at the heart of my art work. I never complete a painting with the “look” that I was striving to achieve. Nevertheless, I love the process, and try not to let the end result frustrate me. Art is a gift. Art is life. And the thrill and leisure of making it successfully marks the time in my life as quality time.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Advertisements

Return to the Watercolor Studio

September 13, 2017

rusk train

Beginning Study of the Texas State Railroad in Rusk, Texas

While considering my composition for the ceiling, which pleases me only since yesterday, thanks to the changes that I made with pastel in the sky, I was saying to myself that a good picture was exactly like a good dish, containing the same ingredients as a bad one: it is all a question of the artist who produces it.  How many magnificent compositions would be nothing without the grain of salt of the great cook!  That power of the indefinable thing is astonishing in Rubens; what his temperament, his vis poetica, adds to a composition, without seeming to change it, is prodigious. It is no other than the turn of the style; the way he does it is everything, the matter he deals with is comparatively unimportant.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, June 8, 1850

I was pleased to find a large quantity of time and space this afternoon and this evening to return to my watercolor studio and begin work on the magnificent excursion train that runs between Palestine and Rusk, Texas, through the piney woods. A couple of weeks ago, I finally was able to board that train, thanks to a generous benefactor who booked me first class (I appreciate you, Ben!). I took dozens of photos during the pleasant four-hour experience, and am delighted now to compose some watercolors of that phenomenon.

Even though my lecture preparations have chewed up most of my time recently, I’ve managed to continue my reading of the Journals of Delacroix, and find myself mesmerized at that artist’s erudition. My feeble abilities in Latin were at least able to translate vis poetica as “poetic genius” or “artistic force.” And I’m always wrestling with that notion of what exactly gives art work its lasting quality. I’ve always believed that skill is necessary, and am grateful that I seem to have been born with a talent for it, and had excellent instructors in high school and college. But that “indefinable thing” mentioned by Delacroix still drives my query.

Throughout my life I have played guitar for the pure joy of it. And I believe in my heart that though I know how to play the guitar, I am not much of a musician. What escapes me is that “touch” that I envy so much with excellent guitar players who know how to coax the sweet strains of music from those strings. In comparison, I always feel that I am “clunky.” Still, that doesn’t stop me from playing my guitar.

In similar fashion, I have looked at art all my life, and am convinced that there are many skilled people that still are not artists, because that “indefinable thing”, or vis poetica, doesn’t appear in their work. I laugh every time I read those portions of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road where Dean Moriarty says that a particular musician has “It.” It is precisely that quality that separates “art” from “art work”. The joy that I feel in the pursuit of art is the quest for that spark, that element that makes the composition become “art.”

Sorry if I seem to be rambling. I haven’t blogged for quite some time, and tonight I’m just happy to be painting again. The start I have on this train is promising, and I’m loving the tight detailing just as much as the splash and dash of the looser parts of it. And as I continue to look into this composition and make decisions, I’ll continually wish for that “indefinable thing” to come to the surface. Every time I attempt a painting, I am hoping for something transcendent to emerge.

I only have a few months left to finish my big project–a series of train paintings to sell as originals, prints and greeting cards through The Gallery at Redlands this Christmas season. I’m happy to find a large project to target, and hope this one works out.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Pining for Plein Air Activity

April 5, 2017

South Fork Pine

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch of Colorado Pine

My one-man-show will close Sunday, April 9 at 5:00 p.m. and I hope to take a day or two to catch my breath.  Then I will dive head-first into my favorite annual plein air painting event: Paint Historic Waxahachie.  Artists who registered in advance were given the green light to begin painting April 1, but I’ve been too busy with this show and my daily school responsibilities–next week, I hope.

The watercolor sketch posted above is in my show at the Gallery at Redlands. I painted it in Colorado last summer while relaxing with daily fly fishing and plein air watercoloring. My pulse rate changes dramatically when I am in that Rocky Mountain environment, and I cannot wait to return there for an extended vacation this summer. Every time I look at this small painting, I recall those beautiful, chilly, sun-drenched mornings when I sat out on the porch of my cabin with my coffee, surveying the South Fork of the Rio Grande rolling by below.

I truly miss those days, and can’t wait for them to return.

Thanks for reading.

Drawing Trees over the Holidays

November 22, 2016

tree-2

tree-4

Get one form that looks like the tree, rather than little pickings at the branches. Give the tree its gesture. Some trees are heavy, ample and full. In a tree there is a spirit of life, a spirit of growth and a spirit of holding its head up.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Now that the trees are casting their leaves up here in Missouri, I’m pulling out the pencils and sketchbook and trying to capture some of their movement, their essence.  Since I was a child, I stared at bare trees more than leafed-out ones, and I’m really not sure why.  I wasn’t drawing them as a child, and when I became an adult, I foolishly drew and painted trees for years out of my imagination rather than the way I do now–gazing at them, studying them, contemplating each one’s figure and portrait.

Andrew Wyeth for years has fascinated me with his tree studies in pencil and dry brush. More recently, I have purchased a book on Leonardo da Vinci’s tree studies. I could spend he rest of my life learning this craft, I believe.

Thanks for reading.

Working Sometimes from the Fact

November 17, 2016

20161116_100144

I can’t work completely out of my imagination. I must put my foot in a bit of truth; and then I can fly free.

Andrew Wyeth

It was 85 degrees in north Texas yesterday, November 16.  I have been impatiently waiting for fall weather and winter to follow.  One of the reasons is that I enjoy so much gazing at winter trees with their core anatomy on view.  Leaves, like clothing, conceal the tree’s essence, and I regret that living in the southwest, I see the bare trees for such a short span of the year.

I have posted the Andrew Wyeth quote because I feel those same sentiments.  Beginning last winter, I drew trees in pencil, rendering them as accurately as I could see them.  I know that Wyeth and Edward Hopper said that in later years they could work out of their imagination, no longer requiring the “fact” in front of their eyes for scrutiny.  I am not there yet; if I try and draw or paint something that I am not looking at, then it comes out looking like a cartoon or cheap illustration.

The tree above, I guess, is a hybrid.  I began drawing it from life Tuesday evening, as I awaited my artitistic friends for our weekly gathering at the cafe.  I didn’t get very far before they arrived.  So, I finished the drawing yesterday, using my imagination rather than a reference photo.  I’m satisfied with the result, and am now ready to move on to the next tree.  Unfortunately I spend my workdays indoors in an interior room without windows.  So I’ll have to wait . . .

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Addled

August 16, 2016

pine lorraine

Second Plein Air Sketch from Rolla, Missouri

Curly:  You city folk, you worry about a lotta shit . . . . You all come here at about the same age, with the same problems. Spend about fifty weeks a year getting knots in your rope, and then you think two weeks out here will untie them for you. None of you get it. Do you know what the secret of life is?  . . .  One thing. Just one thing.

City Slickers

I awoke this morning with this motion picture dialogue in my head. Yesterday was the first day of Inservice as I returned to my high school job. As expected, the day dumped a myriad of details on our heads, and life by last evening was everything but simple. My college job resumes tomorrow. But I’m happy tonight, because all the knots in the rope of my online course got untied today, thanks to timely help again from Texas Wesleyan University’s CETL department–they are always, always there to assist, thank you Natalie and Linda.

A parallel dialogue to Curly’s (minus the profane language) is found in The Gospel According to Luke, chapter ten. In that text, Jesus offers a calming word to a frantic Martha, pointing out that she is distracted over many things, but only one thing is necessary. Both of these dialogues flooded my heart with peace this afternoon as I sorted out school matters, preparing to begin a new year, and remembering what exactly this is all about.

addledAddled

I will never, ever successfully dot all the i’s and cross the t’s that are demanded of me. But I’ll still pour my best into the task, as I have for nearly thirty years. And at the end of most days, I’ll look back, satisfied that I did the best I could with what time and resources I had.

Posted at the top is the second plein air watercolor I began in Rolla, Missouri a few weeks ago with my friend Lorraine McFarland. I suppose I’ll always be enchanted at the site of a stand of pines. I cannot call it “finished” yet, and probably didn’t give it the best of my attention as I was “distracted” on that day as well (story of my life). I was on my way Home when I began the work, but now that I have arrived, I’m looking at it every day, trying to figure out what to do next.  I’ll post it again when it’s finished.

Thanks for reading.

I paint, wondering what I’ll learn next.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog, always grateful that I am not alone.

 

Evening at the Parisian Café

January 19, 2016

image

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement.  And do not call it fixity,

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.

And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

T. S. Eliot, “Four Quartets

Today I finished reading one of the most satisfying books in a long time: Bernard Jacobson’s Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant. The text is comprised of 120 pages of fine print, and I do not like reading fine print, but this was a genuine feast, begun Saturday and finished today (Tuesday). I simply could not put it down. I have been a devoted student of Motherwell’s life and work since the late 1980’s, and have chafed that there were no biographies written on him. Last year marked the centennial of his birth, so this book has come out, and another is coming out the first week in March, which I have already ordered pre-publication, compliments of Amazon.

I share almost nothing in common with Motherwell’s style of painting and collaging, but I absolutely love his writing, and he wrote prodigiously. The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell remains one of my favorite art texts of all time. I love his lifestyle which combined reading, writing, publishing, editing, teaching and making art across multiple genres. He was a contemplative, quiet man, and I have felt an affinity with his solitary side during my own hours of work and study. Nearly every day when my job is done, I retreat to my home and studio-my sanctuary. Tonight, as temperatures drop outside, I am enjoying this fireplace and re-reading all the notes I took in my journal from the reading of this excellent book. I posted the drawing of the tree above in a brief blog earlier this evening. I went to La Madeleine Cafe on the north side of Arlington to meet some kindred spirits, and got there a half hour early. So I took out my sketchbook, and with a cup of coffee at an outside table, did this 5 x 7″ drawing with great pleasure and gladness of heart. For years I have stared at winter trees, and questioned myself why I was not studying them with a pencil. Last November I got in the groove of this, and don’t want to get out, I enjoy the practice and discovery so much.

Once my friends arrived, we repaired ourselves indoors to the warmth of the cafe and excellent, spirited conversation. It has taken me decades to find such rich camaraderie and verbal exchange among artistic spirits. The French Impressionists had their Café Guerbois. Picasso and friends had their Les Deux Magots. The Ash Can School had 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The Abstract Expressionists had the Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village. I myself have ached for an art cafe where I could show up once a week or so and just talk with other creative people, and finally I found a married couple who possess this overflowing zest for art, ideas, music, literature and film. Their enthusiasm is contagious and I could listen to their ideas all night. How marvelous to have this space on Tuesday evenings for sharing a table, cups of coffee, and an abundance of dreams. Thanks Z and Elaine. You are truly the best! I’m still buzzing with the things we talked about this evening.

Now back at home, I’m enriched in front of the fire with memories, a journal, good books and a glad heart.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

The Poetry of Winter Trees

January 8, 2016

2015-12-25-11.00.54.jpg.jpeg

Perhaps the purpose of leaves is to conceal

the verticality of trees which we notice in December

as if for the first time: row after row of dark forms

yearning upwards. And since we will be horizontal

ourselves for so long, let us now honor

the gods of the vertical: stalks of wheat which

to the ant must seem as high as these trees do to us,

silos and telephone poles, stalagmites and skyscrapers.

but most of all these winter oaks, these soft-fleshed poplars,

this birch whose bark is like roughened skin against

which I lean my chilled head, not ready to lie down.

Vertical – Poem by Linda Pastan

I could never thank Linda Pastan enough for creating and publishing such a poem that makes me catch my breath.   For years I have looked at winter trees, wishing to capture them in pencil or watercolor, but could never find the words to express my sentiments. Now in this poem of hers, I feel an overwhelming gratitude that someone thought it, wrote it and published it.  Thank you Linda Pastan.

Happy New Year 2016

January 1, 2016

image

Don’t mope over it all day, he said.  I’m inconsequent.  Give up the moody brooding.

James Joyce, Ulysses

Good day, Dear Friends, and Happy January 1, 2016.  One of my New Year resolutions was to work on art every single day of 2016.  Halfway through my morning, while reading from James Joyce, I suddenly said to myself “Oops!  Haven’t done the art thing yet!”  So, I returned to my favorite tree next to my living room and gave it another shot above. I guess I don’t have much to say about this one except that I turned the art wheel of momentum one more revolution.  May it continue.

I may be returning to this blog later today–I woke up to this wonderful morning and immediately began composing a short story about my late Uncle Paul, experiencing deep cathartic feelings from the experience.  I don’t want to put it on the blog until I have it completed and (hopefully) polished.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Partial Tree Portrait

December 25, 2015

imageThe sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes–no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

While reading, I glanced up at the view out the window, found myself staring at a tree against the morning sky, and decided, “Well, why not?”  I never feel boredom when I stare into a network of tree branches, trying to discern their basic direction, and capturing it on a page with pencil.  The trees I draw from life are always much, much better than what I draw from out of my own imagination, because the trees are always doing much more than I perceive in my memory.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of looking at them and trying to capture parts of them for the sake of future drawings and watercolors.

Thanks for looking . . .