Archive for the ‘Vintage cars’ Category

Accepting the Gift of Inclement Weather

December 6, 2013
Beginning Work on a Gas Station

Beginning Work on a Gas Station

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.  Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing.  He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates.  For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must fae eternity, or the lack of it, each day.  For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment.

Ernest Hemingway, Nobel Prize acceptance speech

Today’s school closure was a genuine gift for me.  I am up to my neck with three Christmas commissions that I could not give sufficient attention to with my school schedule this semester.  The three-day weekend could not have come at a better time.  The Hemingway statement rings true to me.  Making art is a solitary exercise, as is writing.  I love the fellowship of other creative spirits, but they cannot help me when the task of painting beckons.  And the quiet of the studio throughout this day has been perfect.  I cannot drive anywhere, even if I wished it.  And tomorrow is Saturday–no schoolwork to prepare immediately.  It’s been a great day to get the tasks underway.  I’m posting part of what I’ve accomplished today.  I’ve done quite a bit more, but not sufficient yet for photography.  Three paintings are underway and I’m feeling the satisfaction of accomplishment.

Thanks for reading.  Gotta get back to it!

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Finishing the Archer City Filling Station

August 12, 2013
Archer City Filling Station and Hudson

Archer City Filling Station and Hudson

Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty.  It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

I feel that this watercolor may be finished, though I have yet to sign it.  This afternoon I took a long look at it, made some compositional notes in my journal, returned later, and added only what I had suggested in the journal: darkening the ground  between the building and Hudson, completing the jutting piece of property to the left of the building, completing foliage in the left background, rendering the shingled roof, applying washes of color to the right of the Hudson, finishing the crepe myrtle tree behind the building.  The painting looked much different (and better) to me after those tweakings.  Now I’ll lay it aside for a few days or weeks and decide later if anything else needs to be done.

In response to the quote from Leopold (I’m still trying to finish that book that I started reading years ago!), I’m fascinated with nature and what exactly it is that we consider “beautfiul.”  As stated in an earlier blog, I myself love to look at gnarled dead trees, the kinks in their branches, and the myriad of limbs that dissolve into the sky. No doubt I did more work on the dead trees to the left rear of the gas station than any other single part of this painting, though I doubt sincerely if viewers will even as much as look at that part, which is alright with me.  As a painter, I have never obsessed with what the viewer finds attractive in any of my compositions, so long as the viewer finds the painting worth a second look.

Perhaps tomorrow I can attack the large composition of the Fort Worth Sinclair station I visited yesterday.  I had planned on doing that today, but could not obtain some of the supplies needed to start the painting.  Hopefully tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Sunday in the Watercolor Studio

August 11, 2013

Tree  Study in Archer City Painting

Tree Study in Archer City Painting

Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf.  We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

For me, Annie’s writing has always been warm company in times of solitude.  Yesterday, I spent a long time, lingering over the mass of trees, living and dead, on the left background of this Archer City composition.  Never in my life have I been satisfied with my handling of dead trees.  I never put in enough tree limbs, and my works look like trees that have been badly pruned.  For this reason, I have, for years now, stared at dead trees and their network of branches weaving webs across the sky.  Fellow artists, during plein air painting excursions have often expressed surprise when finding this out.  Naturally, when enveloped in nature, none of us singles out the same object for scrutiny.  But friends have been surprised to know that I could easily disregard everything else except for a solitary dead tree with thousands of limbs.  I still have plenty of work to do on this particular painting.  I spent more than an hour studying the photo I took of the trees and carefully working with graphite, colored pencil, watercolor pencil and watercolor pigments to render these dead boughs, branches and limbs.  I still have a long way to go.

Archer City, Texas

When taking a break from the background trees, I still have plenty of decisions to make about this foreground.  There is a paved road winding around from behind the filling station to join the highway in front.  I’m working on that now, and also trying to solve the asphalt texturing in front of the Hudson.  I also worked on the car quite a bit more this morning, darkening parts of it and trying to capture the nuances of highlighted reflections on the finish.  I’m getting lost in this painting, as usual.

I haven’t given up on my Coca-Cola sign and garden gate.  I’m still making decsions on how to finish that one.  I also received a tip on a restored Sinclair filling station on McCart Avenue in Fort Worth.  The setting is a real blast from the nostalgic past.  I drove over there this morning, took pictures, and have begun a small 8 x 10″ study on the side of the station where the sun was hitting the stark white.  I plan to return to the site this afternoon when the sun can light up the front of the filling station.  I didn’t like the front facade in total shadow as I found it this morning.  Hopefully I can spin out some nice compositions from that setting as well.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Making Progress on the Filling Station and Hudson

August 8, 2013
Archer City Progress

Archer City Progress

Every brush stroke diminishes the importance of the preceding one.

Henri Matisse

The day has been a relaxing one for watercoloring.  I’m moving slowly on this one, trying to make every brush stroke count.  I’m being careful with the Hudson, not sure exactly how to solve all its problems, particularly its color.  So far, I’m happy with it, though.  I’m also taking my time with the shadows on the stone building,layering them slowly, working carefully between warm and cool washes.  I still have decisions to make concerning the background and foreground.  The longer I linger over this, the more I’m enjoying it.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

It is Easy to Repeat, but Hard to Originate

August 8, 2013
Archer City Hudson Beginning

Archer City Hudson Beginning

It is easy to repeat, but hard to originate, . . . we may easily multiply the forms of the outward; but to give the within outwardness, that is not easy.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, February 2, 1841

The Abstract Expressionist painters of the 1940’s and 50’s despaired of Thoreau’s sentiment posted above. Abandoning visual subject matter in order to focus on painting expressively their feelings and emotions, they wrote and spoke of the difficulty of expressing the inward, when they had no external props.  Having been an abstract painter in my earlier years, I knew that difficulty then, as I know it now.  However, returning to recognizable subject matter has not gotten me off the hook where expression is concerned.  I recognize the difficulty of being “orginal” when I paint representationally.  In fact, to borrow from one contemporary painter’s published remarks, this style of art tends to make artists of my caliber “dinosaurs.”

But the issue I address here goes beyond style or classification.  I am speaking of inward expression.  I realize that when I paint objects representationally, my work could be viewed as illustration, and my artistry could be assessed in terms of skill or technique.  Edward Hopper wondered if viewers looking upon his work would feel the emotions he felt while creating the work.  I believe that as he got older, he stopped worrying about it and just continued to paint.  I think that is where I am emotionally as well.  But, since I am blogging, and some are reading, I will say this again–I am painting things that hold my attention, things that draw me in, because they are assoicated with warm, Proustian, primal memories from my childhood that I love to re-visit.   I miss the curvilinear, full-bodied automobiles from my childhood.  I most notably miss the Hudson.  When Sal Paradise asked Dean Moriarty how he got from the west coast to the east so fast, Dean answered: “Ah, man, that Hudson goes!”  Ever since I read Kerouac’s On the Road, I haven’t been able to pass an abandoned filling station without envisioning those anti-heroes pulling a Hudson up to the pumps, and dashing inside to steal cigarettes while the attendant pumped their gas to send them back out onto the road.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Prolific

August 7, 2013
Beginning of an Archer City, Texas Gas Station

Beginning of an Archer City, Texas Gas Station

“He’s like a source, you know.  It’s like somebody struck a rock and water flowed out.  You know, he’s just so prolific.”

James Taylor, speaking about Neil Young

“Urge and urge and urge–always the procreant urge of the world.”

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

I have laid aside my large watercolor of the Coca-Cola sign and vintage gate for the time being, and decided to begin a new piece today.  My output tends to be much better when I have several pieces generated simultaneously, and lately I have gotten away from that.  Years ago, at a hotel conference, gallery owner Jason Horejs seized my attention when, addressing the group of artists, asked the question: “Just how prolific are you?  How many works do you generate in a year?  That is all a gallery owner wants to know.”  By that time I was lucky to put out ten-to-fifteen watercolors a year, blaming my full-time job as a school teacher for my not being more prolific.  Since that day, I have averaged over a hundred watercolors a year, and feel much happier about my growth as an artist.  I have always been inspired by the flood of work that poured out of creative persons of the twentieth century, particularly Neil Young and Pablo Picasso.  Those men never seemed to quit.  I have always wished to know that spirit of drivenness.

I have been looking at photos taken about a month ago of an abandoned service station in Archer City, Texas, a composition I have already done once as a quick 8 x 10″ piece.   Going back through my archives, I also pulled a photo I took of a restored Hudson at an auto show several years back in Weatherford, Texas.  I just finished reading Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They’re Not What You Think) by John Leland.  My imagination soared as I recalled Dean Moriarty saying “Oh man, that Hudon goes!”.  Since I read that line several years back, I’ve wanted to paint a Hudson from that era.  So, here is my beginning.

I took the gas station photo on a scalding hot, 100-plus-degree day.  Looking at the photo, I decided not to put in the pasty white sky often found on such days, but a somewhat darker, stormier one, a sky that I hope would set off better the dead trees mixed with the live ones, as well as the crepe myrtle tree rising behind the  building.

The Hudson is going to be bright green, and I’m looking forward to rendering it.  All in good time.  I’ve lost my light for the day so must content myself now with reading and waiting for tomorrow’s light to return.  I think I hear Thoreau’s Journal whispering as a muse to me, from the dark corner of my studio.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

A Scorching Day in Archer City, Texas

July 15, 2013
Service Station Relic in Archer City, Texas

Service Station Relic in Archer City, Texas

As a Texas watercolorist, I can hardly convey my delight in this small Texas town where Larry McMurtry’s Last Picture Show was filmed.  This abandoned service station languishes around the corner, about two blocks from that historic cinematic location.  To complete this composition, I had to go to my archives to find a vintage automobile I photographed in New Mexico years ago.  Now, I feel that I’ve managed to create a visual time warp for those of who like to remember earlier days, cruising small towns and looking for something, anything interesting to do.  If I grow quiet enough, I can almost hear the sound of a bell cable, as the car drives over it, signaling the service station attendant inside to put down the shop towel and come out anto fuel the automobile.

It’s been a few weeks since I visited Archer City when temperatures soared five degrees above the century mark.  How amusing that I return to my photos to paint this composition on a day when Arlington, Texas breaks a record low temperature set in 1900.  The record from that day was 79 degrees; it is now 72.  I don’t usual file weather reports on my blog, but this is unusual, and it feels good.

I started this composition Saturday while sitting in my booth at a craft festival, then returned to it this evening after summer school to wrap it up.  It is a quick sketch, but I’m very pleased with it.  It measures 10 x 8″ and I’m offering it for $100 with a 14 x 11″ white mat.

Thanks for reading.

Finding One’s Passion in the Midst of the 10,000-Hour Rule

July 8, 2013
Stage Coach Hotel, Fort Worth Stockyards District

Stage Coach Hotel, Fort Worth Stockyards District

Every art form conveys a message.  When an artist is young and still learning, that message is usually about technique: see what I can do.  Decorative art has a perfectly valid message, one of beauty.  As we mature, in both our art and in our life, we learn to understand our passions and these then become the subject we express in our works.  But at the same time, passion is not the only source of expression because thought can also come into play.  So an artist’s expression evolves from the heart (passion), the brain (thought) or a combination of the two (with usually an emphasis on one or the other).  

Alex Powers, (Interview) The Art of Watercolour, 2nd issue

I am posting my second attempt at watercolor sketching the Stage Coach Hotel in the Fort Worth Stockyard District.  When I photographed this portal a couple of weeks ago in late afternoon, the temperatures had already reached triple digits.  My eye was “held” at the richness of reds in the sun-damaged door, and the smoky, grimy window panes that survived above.  I couldn’t stop looking at these details, and took quite a number of photographs of the subject.  I knew I wanted to take this one back to the studio and see if I could make something of it.

Following the thread from the Alex Powers interview, I am finally settling down to watercoloring my passion after years of adding techniques and tricks to my toolbox.  Reading Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit finally got my attention about that–it is time to let techniques support my objective in painting rather than building “interesting” paintings on a myriad of techniques.  The immediate result is that my paintings are coming along even faster now, and I’m spending less time combing through my toolbox for gimmicks to toss out onto the painting.

Portals have fascinated me for decades, but it wasn’t until this past winter that I took my first crack at painting close-up studies of door knobs.  I next turned my attention to the surfaces of weathered old doors.  When the spring came around, I began experimenting with screen door compositions.  All of these studies took place in my studio.  For the past few weeks I have been traveling about, painting portals on site and enjoying the speed and decision-making of plein air painting.  Now that Texas has settled into its inferno summer temperatures, I am perusing photographs that I’ve taken of these portals and making plans for additional compositions.  All of this has been fulfilling for me.  I don’t know how to explain my passion for the subjects I paint.  I suppose I could just toss out the adage: for those who don’t understand, no explanation is possible; for those who do, none is necessary.

I have probably mentioned in earlier blogs that I play guitar.  I have not been able to accomplish with music what I have with the visual arts.   I suppose that would fall somewhere under the “10,000- Hour” rule of Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers.  I have easily put in my 10,000 hours of study and application in the visual arts.  On guitar, well that’s another story.  But my point in opening with the quote from Alex Powers is this: younger, less experienced artists can easily get caught up in the fascination of learning many, many techniques and tricks that “wow” the observer, just as many younger, less experienced guitar players load up their toolboxes with tricks and gimmicks to stun listeners with their performance.  And yet, many young and less experienced artists still do not know how to build a painting, just as many guitar players in the same class cannot play a single song all the way through.  And when they do (painters and guitar players), they often show creative flourishes, but not a finished masterpiece.  I don’t say this with the sadness that I used to: when I play guitar, I am conscious that I can play all the notes correctly and sometimes even keep my timing consistent.  But the “soul” is not there.  My guitar does not gently weep.  My listeners do not feel what I feel, because it is not  coming through my fingers, not emerging from my guitar.  I have witnessed scores of guitar gods playing my instrument, and I would swear that it was not the same instrument.  I marveled at how they coaxed that sound, that soul, from my acoustic box.  At this point, I still cannot.

I used to complain this way about my paintings–that they were fine illustrations, ably constructed, correctly rendered, and so on.  But now, I want feelings and moods to emerge from my pictures, not gimmicks.  I want viewers to see my work, and feel what I felt in constructing it.  And, to borrow a line from Hemingway: “I’m not there, but I feel I’m getting closer.”  I am more excited about painting now than I ever recall feeling before.  Because I know what I want.  I know what I seek.  The passion is there.  And I’m starting to believe that the passion can emerge from my brush.  Who knows? Maybe some day passion will rise from my guitar strings as well.  But, one thing at a time.

Thanks for reading.  Sorry if this was too much navel-gazing.  It’s been on my mind awhile now.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Preparing for Exhibit at DeSoto City Hall

March 29, 2012

Tell Me Where the Road Is

I feel the constant need to apologize to my faithful readers for not creating new work.  I’ve been so sick this past week, and have gone to school each day anyway, and then come home to collapse into bed.  Every day I am getting a little  better, but I’m still not back to full health.

This afternoon, I’ll deliver fifteen framed watercolors to DeSoto City Hall for an April exhibit.  I’m honored to be asked to exhibit there, and it is a beautiful venue for art.

This posted painting will be the centerpiece of my new show.  I’m showing the cover of a shopper that published the image a few years ago.  I’ve managed to get plenty of mileage out of this particular watercolor.  The image is a 1946 International truck that belonged to my 4th grade teacher, Betty Langhauser.  For decades, I saw this truck parked beside her home when I traveled to St. Louis to visit my own parents.  Mrs. Langhauser died a few years ago on the 4th of July.  On my next visit home, I saw that the vehicle had been removed from the property, and know that I’ll never see it again.  I’m glad I photographed it the year before she passed away and made the painting of it.

Tomorrow I begin another three-day art festival, Kennedale’s annual Art in the Park.  If I have Wi-Fi access, I’ll publish from that location.  If not, then I’ll publish from my home the delayed news.

Thanks for reading.

Springtime Wanderlust

February 24, 2012

One Last Road Trip

It just occurred to me this morning, while driving to school in the pre-dawn, that Spring Break is two weeks away.  It couldn’t be more timely, for me.  That is a week on the school calendar that always whispers “road trip” in my ear.  Fantasies of plein air painting, fly fishing, reading stacks of books, journaling and blogging flood my soul (as well as sleeping in!).

Since I just posted a completed painting of a defunct gas station, I thought it apropos to post this Spring Break painting from 2006.  I had gone with friends to fly fish the White River in northern Arkansas, then traveled to visit a retired principal/friend in Bentonville, and then, in a surprise twist, journeyed into Oklahoma to re-visit a town where a member of my traveling party had grown up as a child.  She said she “wanted to do the Proust thing,” an idea that had to be explained to me, and now remains with me forever.

French novelist Marcel Proust spoke of how certain moments stir our senses to recall primal memories from our early childhood that are profoundly warm and worth recalling.  Yet, any attempt to seize those moments will lead immediately to their dissolution.  They are gifts, and they only remain a moment, often surprising us with what the painter Robert Motherwell called the “shock of recognition” and then vanishing.  But the warmth remains.  I had known this experience throughout my life, and always cherished such gifts, but not until my friend introduced me to Proust did I have a way of describing it.  Incidentally, my friend on that day re-visited her childhood town, and in the end concluded that “Nothing happened.”  Sometimes it is that way.  We cannot make it happen.  We don’t always know Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” sentiments.

This painting is virtually all that is left of Binger, Oklahoma–two buildings at a crossroads.  When we travelled Oklahoma, we were seized by the sight of these buildings and thought they possessed a certain “Edward Hopper” isolation.  So we took a number of photos and I later worked this into a composition.  In fact, I have included this gas station in three of my paintings (the other two can be found on my website: http://recollections54.com).

The 1924 Oldsmobile (what is left of it) is parked behind a restored auto showroom in Hillsboro, Texas, on E. Elm Street.  I thought this abandoned filling station needed an abandoned car for a companion.  Overall, I was happy with the composition, though no one has yet purchased the original watercolor.  I have managed to sell a good number of limited edition giclee prints of it, however, and dozens of greeting cards.

This is the time of year that I am bitten by the Jack Kerouac On the Road sentiment.  Fantasies of Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri and Arkansas flood my being, and I begin looking at the calendar, contemplating the nine days and wondering if I can pull one off this year.  I always look to that time as one of restoration, decompression and retooling (and recovering some sleep!).  Whatever happens, my priority is to create at least one decent watercolor, hopefully en plein air.

Thanks for reading.