Archive for the ‘tree’ Category

Good Morning and Merry Christmas

December 25, 2015

image. . . the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light . . . 

Matthew 4:16

Traditionally, Christmas is celebrated by my family on Christmas Eve, with the festivities lasting literally into Christmas Day.  And so, coming back to my sister’s house well after midnight, full of food, images, memories and sounds, I finally collapsed into bed, thinking I would sleep till noon today, satisfied.

By 8:30, I  realized I was not sleeping any longer.  I’m glad I rose to the quiet Christmas Day, with a beautiful sun rising in the East.  Before retiring to bed around 1:00 a.m. I had read the Christmas Story from Luke’s Gospel.  Now, freshly rising from a quality sleep, I have chosen to spend the morning lingering over the Greek text of Matthew’s Christmas Story.  After all these years, I’m still very fulfilled, reading the New Testament from its original language and savoring words layered in meanings.

The passage that arrested me this morning (a portion quoted above) was lifted from Isaiah 9:2 and resonates with the warmth one knows when emerging from darkness and confusion to a world of light and understanding.  As I spent time pondering this and writing in my journal, I turned to Psalm 119:130 to read “The entrance of thy words giveth light .”  I still love the King James Version, and spend more time recently reading texts from Shakespeare and savoring the language from that era.  A better translation of the Psalms passage would be “The unfolding of your words gives light . . . ”  That text takes me back to my early college years, as I was drawn into the ministry.  Feeling the compulsion to study the scriptures, I spent hours at my desk working on the passages required for exposition on Sundays, and hoping for a day that I could learn Koine Greek.  When the day finally arrived in 1977, I felt that a change had come that would bear fruit the rest of my life.  So far, none of that has diminished.

Being far from my personal library, I regret that I did not pack my Latin Vulgate or Biblia Hebraica or Septuagint.  This would be a morning that I would have all the volumes open at my desk, grazing from the words and writing personal observations till I could hold no more.  At least I brought a couple of Luther biographies, so I suppose I could vicariously enjoy his pursuits during those early Erfurt days in the cloister.

Thanks for reading.  I’m not sure that I put out much of a “Christmas” greeting, but I’m loving the warm sentiments of this quiet morning, and all the feelings that accompany the holiday season.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Wrinkled Shadows

December 9, 2015

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Driving early to school in the pre-dawn, listening to Youtube on my phone, I was taken by Hart Crane’s poetry reading, particularly the juxtaposition of the words “wrinkled shadows.” As soon as I got to school, finding plenty of time before the first class began, I took up my pencils and worked on another quick tree sketch, thinking about those shadows with their wrinkled bark.  And as I worked in silence, I thought of T. S. Eliot’s refrain concerning the shadow in “The Hollow Men.”

I’m finding a fascinating world in these tree renderings, and am starting to find amusement in their reproduction, like wild mushrooms (I have now eight 5 x 7″ drawings of trees in 8 x 10″ white mats and shrinkwrapped, priced between $25 and $40).  I am finding great pleasure in drawing them and cannot help but wonder where this is going to take me next.

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.

Drawing of my Drawing

December 8, 2015

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Seated in my classroom after hours, I wanted to draw, but my room has no windows.  So . . . I took out my Sunday drawing of the tree and decided to draw from the drawing.  Unfortunately, the lighting is not good for photography here, but I’m happy with the result of this drawing-of-a-drawing.  At least this will hold me till I can get outdoors again to draw from the real subject.

I will forever be grateful for Youtube!  Listening to Harold Bloom discussing Emerson in an interview gave me great company during this quiet afternoon.

Thanks for reading.

Autumnal Rhapsody

December 7, 2015

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Holiday conversations pulsated in the warm house

As I sat with coffee, gazing out the window

At falling yellow leaves

Flickering like fireflies

Descending backlit against burgundy shadows.

Sensing the gentle invitational tug,

I rose quietly amidst the talk,

Threaded my way through the crowded parlor,

And exited through the screen door.

Settling into an Adirondack chair,

Sitting quietly in the autumnal embrace,

I watched as a tree slowly grew

Across the waiting space of my sketchbook page.

. . . Thanks for reading.

Plein Air Painting and Thoughts from an Ancient Chinese Canon

March 25, 2015
Winter Tree Study in Stovall Park

Winter Tree Study in Stovall Park

The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees within him. If he does not see anything within him, he should give up painting what he sees before him.

Caspar David Friedrich

Though we travel the world to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today, while re-reading the Six Canons from Xie He, a sixth-century critique of art from a Chinese thinker, I thought upon the first canon: Engender a sense of movement through spirit consonance. One interpreter renders the final item “spirit resonance” or “vitality.” It was said that the Chinese critics thought if a work of art did not contain “spirit resonance”, then there was no reason to spend any more time looking at it. I decided to ponder this while taking my exercise walk tonight, and take my supplies with me just in case. As I strolled Stovall Park, I came across this bare-bones winter tree waving in the rising winds signaling a possible storm. I set up an easel, the storm moved around me, though there was some drizzle (it’s watercolor, so no bother), and after thirty minutes I decided to stop with what I had. Just as last weekend, when I gazed into the tree tops at Richard Greene Linear Park, I found myself attracted to the movement of the limbs in the crown of the trees, gently dancing in the high winds. This is a study I want to pursue further, as I have never been satisfied with my tree studies in paintings. For most of my life, I have admired the anatomy of trees in winter, with all their contours exposed, and wished to capture them on paper. Finally I’m getting around to trying more than just once or twice. I cannot explain my connection with nature, but I’ve always been moved by Emerson’s words from his first book Nature:

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

Stopping after 30 Minutes

Stopping after 30 Minutes

I am not a horse person. I do not ride. But I’m always amused that when I set up an easel adjacent to an empty pasture, it doesn’t stay empty very long. I don’t pretend to know horse psychology, don’t know if they expect me to feed them, reach out to them, or if they’re just curious at the new side show. But I do love their company, and think few animals are more magnificent than horses.

One Should Never Paint Alone

One Should Never Paint Alone

Thanks for reading. It’s been another good day and night.

I paint in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Late Night Ruminations Concerning Artistic Authenticity

March 24, 2015
Staring at Watercolor Sketches Late at Night

Staring at Watercolor Sketches Late at Night

see in painters prose writers and poets. Rhyme, measure, the turning of verses which is indispensable and which gives them so much vigor, are analogous to the hidden symmetry, to the equilibrium at once wise and inspired, which governs the meeting or separation of lines and spaces, the echoes of color, etc. . . . But the beauty of verse does not consist of exactitude in obeying rules, when even the most ignorant eyes see at once any lack of attention to them. It resides in a thousand secret harmonies and conventions which make up the power of poetry and which go straight to the imagination.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, September 19, 1847

In my art history classes, we are neck-deep in the opposing theories of the Neoclassical and Romantic painters of the 18th and 19th centuries. I never really know just how much of this content (if any) resonates with my students, but it makes my blood pump hotter, and quickens my pulse. This debate is not merely academic with me, as the personal matters extend all the way back to my college days over forty years ago. In those days, I was tagged as Neoclassical, though they used a different vocabulary to describe my work then.

The debate divides painters between the drafting, compositional, structural ones (Neoclassical) and the painterly, organic, emotional ones (Romantic). I have always been tagged with the former–I draw, I structure, I try to discern rules for quality compositions when I make art. My college professors said my oil paintings were “colored drawings.” They were right. In the ensuing years, I have found my niche in watercolor because I regard this medium as an extension of drawing, and it feels natural to me.

But now in my senior years, I feel things more deeply, embrace beauty more passionately. And when I regard my own work, I continually wonder how one finds the key to creating art for an emotional response rather than a rational one. I find some comfort in reading that Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper struggled with the same sentiments. They feaered that label of being “illustrators” and “technicians” rather than artists.

Another Exercise Walk Yields a Winsome Subject

Another Exercise Walk Yields a Winsome Subject

When I took my exercise walk this evening, I was held by the attraction of this magnificent tree glowing in the setting sun. As I gazed at it, charged with emotional energy, I thought of my own recent attempts to render trees in watercolor. And I wondered what it would take to raise the quality of such paintings from the standard of illustration to one of beauty. How could I learn to paint trees with a druidic feel, rather than illustrative, such as one finds in an encyclopedia?

My apologies if this entry comes across as rambling. But this is where I am tonight, and I’m fascinated with these conflicting notions that have coexisted in the art world for centuries.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Rebuilding My House Afresh

March 23, 2015
A Walk in the Cool of the Evening

A Walk in the Cool of the Evening around Stovall Park

 . . . put no trust in any thought that is not born in the open . . . 

Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

Reader beware: With this blog entry, I’m filling in the gaping chasm of the past couple of weeks.

The past two weeks have kept me, for the most part, on the road and out of my house. Hence, the blog hiatus. But now I’m clawing my way back to the life that eluded me. Most of the past two weeks have been good, indeed sublime. But I have missed the sweetness of solitude and stillness. This evening the weather was so delicious that I dropped all my school work, pulled on my walking shoes and drove to the nearest park for a leisurely two-mile stroll. Nietzsche certainly called this one right: there is indeed an invigorating pulse to the kinds of thoughts we produce when we are ambulatory and feeling physically stretched. As I breathed the clean air, thought better thoughts, and considered the possibility of working this exercise into a disciplined routine, I remembered, “Oh yeah, the Blog.”

When spring break commenced two weeks ago, a high school friend whom I last saw in 1972 contacted me, purchasing one of my watercolors.The timing could not have been better. I chose to drive the painting to St. Louis to deliver to him personally, and visit my parents for the first time since Christmas. The windshield time from Fort Worth to St. Louis was soothing to a great degree, as I chose to drive through the cool moist night, arriving about 8:00 in the morning. Visiting with my family and then seeing my high school comrade for the first time in over forty years was unspeakably wholesome. I wish I could have chatted with him for a week, as age had not subtracted from him one iota of his mental quickness and interest in the same matters of life that keep my attention.

Cedar Two

Cedar Two

Cedar One

Cedar One

While in St. Louis, I attempted a pair of plein air watercolors of a cedar growing adjacent to my parents’ driveway. It had been awhile since I had done this kind of watercolor sketching, and the time spent working on these gave me a deep-seated sense of satisfaction.

Bowman Gallery

Bowman Gallery

Driving back to Texas, I allowed myself one day of rest before hitting the road again, this time south to the Gulf. The small town of Portland, just east of Corpus Christi, is where the Dinah Bowman gallery is that carries some of my work and invites me on occasion to do a watercolor workshop. Nine enthusiastic students were awaiting my arrival and we spent two days together in perpetual wonder. I am still moved by what I saw of their creations.

Watercolor Workshop

Watercolor Workshop

The two days were splendid, as we worked together, exploring watercolor and talking of its possibilities. My former student Mike Catlin now manages the gallery and is the one who brought me into their fold. Dinah is a very well-connected artist in the artist and university circles in south Texas and her energy and ideas kept my head spinning. I was sorry to have only two days to invest in that territory, as so many artistic possibilities thrive there.

Returning to Arlington, I resumed high school and college duties, and devoted every hour of the evening till midnight, getting ready for a major festival: Art on the Greene, held at Richard Greene Linear Park in north Arlington.

My Booth at Art on the Greene

My Booth at Art on the Greene

The weather for this Friday-through-Sunday festival sucked beyond all description, with heavy rains and cold weather soaking the park Friday and Saturday, successfully driving away nearly all the potential patrons. Sunday was a better day, weather-wise and patron-wise, but not enough to make up for the dreary pair of days preceding. I did manage a pair of plein air watercolor sketches of winter trees as I sat outside my booth with nothing better to do.

First Plein-Air Watercolor Sketch

First Plein-Air Watercolor Sketch

2nd Plein Air Watercolor Sketch

Second Plein Air Watercolor Sketch

Watercoloring never ceases to bring me abundant pleasure, and I never tired of focusing on the trees towering above me, thinking of all those splendid Andrew Wyeth drybrush studies that have always peaked my enthusiasm.

A new week has commenced today, and with it another series of grading deadlines, meetings, and professional development requirements. Tomorrow will be a strenuous day with two meetings added on to the normal teaching schedule. Scheduling disasters such as that leave me in a grouchy mood, but I figure if I get enough sleep tonight, having exercised pleasantly with the evening walk, that I may perhaps be sufficient for tomorrow’s demands.

Closing Out a Beautiful Night in my Favorite Spot

Closing Out a Beautiful Night in my Favorite Spot

Thanks for reading. I anticipate that I’ll be more consistent in blogging this week.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Plein Air Practice

September 20, 2014

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While waiting for a balloon launch (my 1st time going to one of these), I thought I’d get in some plenty air watercolor practice. The treeline adjacent to the launch is beautiful under western skies.

Focus on a Tree en Plein Air

July 7, 2014
Tree in my Backyard

Tree in my Backyard

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work–a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before.

William Faulkner, Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

This morning when I read these words from Faulkner, I felt his nod of affirmation toward anyone who tries to create.  The moment class ended today, I bolted for my studio so I could give this plein air sketch begun yesterday afternoon one more push.  As I worked over the details, I thought of all artists, musicians and writers–those who try and seize those impulses in their consciousness, mull over them, and then give them some kind of recognizable form for others to see and feel.

Broadly stated, art is one’s effort to communicate to others one’s emotional reaction to life and the world.

Edward Hopper

The feelings I’ve known while gazing at the side of this tree in my backyard cannot be expressed, but at least I can leave a record behind of my moment in its presence.

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.

 

A “Plein Air” Watercolor Attempt in the Solitude of Stovall Park

April 28, 2014
Solitary Tree in Stovall Park

Solitary Tree in Stovall Park

“Did you just want to make it pretty, because you had to patch something together? . . . You get an idea like this and you don’t know what to do with it!  You stumble on a magnificent thing and you have to ruin it!  Do you know how much you got to learn?”

Henry Cameron, critizing Howard Roark’s architectural drawings in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead

Texas temperatures were O.K. Saturday, though the winds were fierce.  I decided to drive to nearby Stovall Park for an exercise walk, taking along a good book to read, my journal and my watercolor supplies.  I only managed 3/4 of a mile when I saw it–a solitary tree in the natural grasses, throwing a canopy of shade below and filled with dynamic color.  I couldn’t resist.  I jogged back to the Jeep and retrieved my supplies, and found a picnic table near enough to the tree that I could sit, relax, study, and not think about time or deadlines.

I am reading The Fountainhead with great pleasure, and read extensively from the book at my picnic table while waiting for portions of the watercolor sketch to dry and trying to make decisions on how to execute the compostion.  I posted the text above because it made me laugh out loud.  I do laugh at myself when I chip away at a watercolor, with no clear cut idea of how to accomplish the objectives I’ve set up.  For instance, I saw in this arrangement an incredible range of greens–warm, cool and neutral.  And I took my time, trying in earnest to separate the background field from the tree leaves and the grasses below, both in and out of shadow.  I divided my time between drawing, painting, masquing, reading this book and writing in my journal, and taking refresher walks.  By the time the day had passed, I had walked over three miles, came to the end of this sketch, and covered another 125 pages of the book I’m enjoying.  And it turned out to be a beautiful, rewarding day.

Looking over the watercolor now, I believe I solved a few problems, and created some others.  I am intrigued at the plein air challenges I’ll face in nearby Waxahachie, Texas beginning this weekend.  And I’m glad I had a Saturday to work on this one.  It’s been awhile (Spring Break) since I tried my hand at a plein air 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.