Posts Tagged ‘A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers’

Not a Sunday Painter, Maybe a Sunday Draftsman?

August 2, 2015
Sunday layered shell drawings

Sunday layered shell drawings

First Sketch of a Hard Head Catfish Skull

First Sketch of a Hard Head Catfish Skull

hard head catfish

hard head catfish

The life of a wise man is most of all extemporaneous for he lives out of an eternity which includes all time. The cunning mind travels further back than Zoroaster each instant, and comes quite down to the present with its revelation. The utmost thrift and industry of thinking give no man any stock in life; his credit with the inner world is no better, his capital no larger. He must try his fortune again to-day as yesterday.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Finally I have worked up the nerve to draw and paint the skull of a gaff top sail catfish, popularly called “hard head catfish”. Dinah Bowman found this skull along the shores of the island where I stayed and did my residency last month. I tried to paint it in a still life arrangement on my last evening at the island, but was really fatigued and unsatisfied with what I did. Finally this afternoon, I took a long look at the complex textures running along the surface of this bone, and thought I’d give it another try. The drawing was a pleasant experience, so I immediately stretched some watercolor paper and went to work on it as soon as it was dry. I have heavily salted the background of the skull and will need to let it set up and dry over a long period of time before working on the actual subject.

Reading Thoreau during the drying time was another pleasing experience. I am down to his final day on the Concord and Merrimack boat trip, and particularly enjoy his take on Goethe’s genius. I’ll have more to write about that (hopefully) in a future blog. For now, I’m pondering his comments about wisdom as an art of steering one’s life through these waters, bringing the past into the present. I’ve read these ideas from other great minds, but love his literary spin on the idea.

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.

Rapturously Absorbed in Thought on a Sunday Morning

August 2, 2015

Sold my first reproduction of this seashell and algae watercolor!

Drawing a Shell on Sunday

Drawing a Shell on Sunday

Sunday drafting table

Sunday drafting table

Contrasting the man of true religion with those who, with jealous privacy, would fain carry on a secret commerce with the gods, he says:–

“Haud cuivis promptum est, murmurque humilesque susurros

Tollere de templis; et aperto vivere voto.”

It is not easy for every one to take murmurs and low

Whispers out of the temples, and live with open vow.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Intriguing that I think and post these matters on a Sunday. Decades ago, I was in the pastoral ministry, and when I left it, I was admonished that Sunday mornings would prove dreadful for me, waking up with no place significant to go. Not true, as it turned out. Though much in my life has changed since those days (and whose life hasn’t changed, evolved throughout the years?), two things remained: 1) I possess an active inner self, that I sometimes label as Romantic. My feelings run deep, and I clear out as much time as possible in my daily life to find a quiet sanctuary for reading, reflecting and writing in my journal. In former days, I found inspiration only in the Bible and commentaries; now I find it in literature, art, philosophy, music, nature–in a myriad of sources. And every daily pause for those reflective, private moments is worshipful, an act of prayer. 2) I still have to express these important matters of the heart. I used to do that one day a week before a congregation, later I did that five days a week before students, now I do it daily through a blog and encounters with people I meet in the everyday world. It is still a religious odyssey filled with daily discovery and expression. And my life thrives on it.

This morning, after spending a satisfying span of time in communion with Thoreau through his astounding words, I looked up at a drafting table flooded with the morning light, selected yet another sea shell from my Laguna Madre days, and set to work rendering it with a differerent set of pencils: a #2 Papermate Mirado Classic, a 6B Staedtler Mars Lumograph and a third pencil I have not picked up in years: a 9B Grumbacher Woodless pencil, and then an 8H Derwent pencil for scribbling indentations into the surface of the paper, and then skating softer pencils over the top to reveal the scribbles. I don’t know how long I spent lingering over this shell, because I was listening to amazing guitar music by Leo Kottke and just swooning over the sounds emerging from his slide guitar. All I know is that a significant amount of time has passed, and I still have chores waiting, so I guess that I will now tend to those, refreshed, energetic and in the mood.

Thanks for reading.

I draw in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Quick Plein Air Sketch of a Conifer Tree

August 8, 2012

Damaged Conifer Tree

I took a quick moment while temperatures were mild, to step outside and scout for a single tree to paint.  I chose this conifer tree, because I still haven’t solved the problems of needles vs. leaves when I’m “faking it” en plein air.  I loved the damaged bark in the upper ranges of this tree, recording storms from the past, and etching character across the face of this portrait.  I’m starting to get the hang of tree bark, both in texture and color, and have found a satisfying way of blending graphite with watercolor as I render the textures of the bark.  As to the pine needles, I’ll still have to find a way.  It hasn’t happened yet.

I would have loved to talk to the landowner of this single tree on his property, but have serious questions over whether or not he has even noticed it among the hundreds that cover the acreage.  I recently came across this non-judgmental sentiment recorded by Henry David Thoreau in the nineteenth century when he penned his book A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers:

(he was speaking of the men of Concord who worked their lands):   . . . greater men than Homer, or Chaucer, or Shakespeare, only they never got time to say so; they never took to the way of writing.  Look at their fields, and imagine what they might write, if ever they should put pen to paper.  Or what have they not written on the face of the earth already, clearing, and burning, and scratching, and harrowing, and ploughing, and subsoiling, in and in, and out and out, and over and over, again and again, erasing what they had already written for want of parchment.

Farmers and property owners scratch the surfaces of their land, I only scratch the surfaces of paper (and as a teacher, occasionally the surface of someone’s mind, perhaps).  Throughout my life, I have made little contribution to real estate, but have tried from time to time to reproduce its wonders on paper, as I try again this day.  And in that endeavor, I do find great satisfaction.

Thanks for reading.