Posts Tagged ‘Albrecht Durer’

When it Rains, Inspiration Arrives

July 12, 2022

We never come to thoughts. They come to us.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

As one grows older one sees the impossibility of imposing order on the chaos with brute force. But if you’re patient there may come that moment while eating an apple when the solution presents itself politely and says “Here I am.”

Albert Einstein, quoted in the film “Why Man Creates” written by Saul Bass and Mayo Simon

Colorado gave us rain most of the day, forcing me to stay inside the cabin, or at least on the deck. Before the rain arrived, Sandi offered to drive us on an extended road trip over the Silver Thread. We managed to get ten miles past Creede before . . . (wait for it!) . . . a sleet storm overpowered us! So, we turned around and headed back to our cabin in South Fork. Before the rain, I rode along as a passenger, admiring the vistas, especially the aspen trees.

Since the year 2000, when I first visited Colorado, I was smitten by the sight of aspen trees, their glittering, shimmering round leaves blinking through the mountain atmosphere. And those white tree trunks against the dark forest interiors! Over the past twenty years of Colorado visits I have tried to solve the pine trees in watercolor, and still feel I haven’t arrived. But I was always befuddled, wondering how to render aspens. As Sandi drove this morning, the idea finally arrived. Thinking of Heidegger and Einstein, grateful for the visitation of inspirations, I spent the day inside the cabin contemplating how I was going to paint my first stand of aspens.

After taking ten photographs and adjusting them for my composition, I decided to begin with (I don’t know what this is called) negative painting or painting by subtraction. I penciled out the aspen outlines, then used my masquepen to block the trunks and branches. Later, I poured some of the masque solution onto a saucer and spattered with a toothbrush my first layer of “white” aspen leaves.

Nightfall has arrived. Tomorrow, under natural light, I will apply my first wash of light sea-green, sprinkled with salt and stale bread crumbs. When dry, I will spatter more masquing fluid. Once that is dry, I will apply a darker layer of aspen green. Dry again, then a new spattering of masquing, followed by a yet darker color, etc. I tried this method for the first time in the summer of 2015 when I was doing my Artist-in-Residency for Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. While on a spoil island in the Laguna Madre, I was reading Heidegger’s “On the Origin of the Work of Art” and was inspired by a quote from the Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Dűrer:

For in truth, art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it.

Sitting on the island my first evening of the residency, I read that statement and contemplated the cord grasses growing in the shadows of the research station where I was residing for a week. Recalling the appearance of Albrecht Dűrer’s watercolor of tall grasses, I puzzled out the technique of multiple layers of masquing and watercolor washes.

Now, seven years later, I’m ready to try it again on the Colorado aspens. We’ll see how it turns out.

The day has been filled with gods (I believe Emerson wrote that), and I am grateful to have been alive to experience the visitations.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover (especially today!)

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Passing Through Portals

February 1, 2017


. . . Albrecht Dürer, did after all make the well-known remark: “For in truth, art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it.” “Wrest” here means to draw out the rift and to draw the design with the drawing-pen on the drawing-board. But we at once raise the counterquestion: How can the rift be drawn out if it is not brought into the open region by the creative projection as a rift, which is to say, brought out beforehand as strife of measure and unmeasure? True, there lies hidden in nature a rift-design, a measure and a boundary and, tied to it, a capacity for bringing forth–that is, art.

Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”

In the darkness of the night, I trained a light on the aged door of the store where I resided for the weekend, and another light on my easel. Working in the stillness of that environment, I felt a depth of feeling and connection with my childhood overnight stays at my grandparents’ farm–nights spent lying awake, staring at the door knob and locking system dimly present in the quiet night. Musing over what lurked on the other side of that door became a lifetime fascination from me.

As I wrestle with this lengthy and cumbersome essay from Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”, and make use of his distinct vocabulary, I gather a new idea from his philosophy that my process for making art involves a struggle between my world of memory and the earth which yields up the objects I encounter. As I mingle my memories with my vision of these objects, a work of art emerges.

Painting through the night at the store, and later with re-visits and revisions of this painting, I mused over the portals of my past and the ones that lie in my present and future. Robert Motherwell and Henri Matisse wrote eloquently about “open door” motifs in their bodies of work. As I wrote in an earlier blog, I am considering a series of paintings of antique doors that I have acquired over past years, hoping that some significant ideas and symbols might emerge from these attempts.

The idea of “portal” has kept me preoccupied lately. My eye is a portal, through which passes this fascination of the ancient door allowing access into the next room, the next chamber, the next chapter. And as I move through my life, I am passing through portals, from one world to the next. This lifetime odyssey has passed through countless doors, most of them fascinating.


And so, with a heart exhilarated with anticipation, I approach my next attempt at making art.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Revised Friday on the Laguna Madre

June 19, 2015

Note to reader: The following is the article I composed on my laptop last Friday as I was preparing to depart from the Texas Laguna Madre. There was no Internet access then, so I saved and edited it for now.


Departure Day

Waking at 3:45 a.m. was not my plan. Unable to return to sleep, lying in the darkness, listening to the winds whipping through the screened windows and knowing I would depart in a manner of hours, I finally rose and pulled up a chair to the long conference table. With no lights available, I fitted my LED flashlight between the eyepieces of the field glasses at my elbow, and adjusting it to a 45-degree angle, fashioned a perfect desk lamp. Adjusting the second flashlight in similar fashion to fan out over the rest of the table, I then spread my eighteen watercolors across the surface so I could see them all and write. After about an hour of musing and writing, I returned to bed around 5:00 and slept till around 6:00.

Eighteen Paintings

Eighteen Paintings

Sunrise of the Final Day

Sunrise of the Final Day

Morning of the Final Day

Morning of the Final Day

Today is departure day. The boat is expected to arrive around 11:00. Tugging the rope to the gas-powered generator, I fired up the coffee maker and made my two cups, drank them slowly while gazing across the western waters, then took out a sketch I had begun the evening before while looking off the back porch of the field station. My technique was attempting the Albrecht Dürer style as I had tried with painting #4, with alternating layers of green washes and masquepen applications. Stripping off the masquing applied the night before, I again found too many white weeds, and so tried to tweak them by flowing pale warm green washes over the strands.

Once it dried, I positioned my coffee cup on the workbench on the west side porch of the field station, and drew it in pencil, using the circle templates I keep on file. Coffee cups are still the worst still life object for me to render. I can never seem to get that perfect oval on the top, or capture the edge of the rim. Any part of the drawing that dents or flattens the contour of the top of the cup draws my eye to it immediately and I feel incensed.

This time I got the mechanical oval in place alright, but painting on a Fluid watercolor block, I was impatient letting it dry (blocks never dry quickly as stretched paper does) and continued to work on the layers of wash on the cup that ran into each other because of the moisture. I didn’t care. I know better, and plan to try this one again once I get home, letting it dry so I can control the details better.

The 18th and Final Painting

The 18th and Final Painting

The boat arrived on schedule (funny to use the word schedule, considering I’ve been on “island time” nearly a week—there was no such word in my thinking), and Bobby Duke, Chriss Shope and Beth Almaraz got out with a bundle of technical equipment. Efficiently they walked about the island using their instruments and recording scientific data for the records they keep on the island’s ecosystem. They also followed a list of procedures in shutting down the field center and removing the gas-powered generator as well as the propane tank. All windows were closed, locked, blinds closed, doors locked, and bagged trash taken to the boat. In the midst of this, all three were pleasantly conversant and in good spirits. I don’t like to parody science personnel with their seriousness and uncommunicative airs. Let me just say that this trio was a genuine pleasure to have in company on this of all mornings. I found that true with all science personnel I have met in connection with this Texas A&M University Corpus Christi project.

And now, let me talk about the mood of this morning. It wasn’t the downer that I thought could happen. My internal clock adjusted to a six-day cycle, and when departure time came, I was ready. Maybe it was because I had accomplished my objectives. I managed to create a large body of work that was up to my standards, and made a number of discoveries that I plan to follow up in the studio. I wrote a great deal, managed to get blogs and facebook information launched, read, thought a great deal, and fly fished. I slept long and well every night (except last night) and was never tired or irritable. There were no negatives. And I am not returning home to something unpleasant. Compared to past travel excursions, my Colorado fly fishing vacations always ended on a depressing note, because I was not ready to stop fishing, and always returned to the first day of a fall semester of mandatory inservice training. That was always a downer. Right now, I have the rest of the summer stretched out before me, and that is a positive.

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.

Time Divided Between New Theories and Old Responsibilities

June 4, 2015

New Limited Edition of my Fort Worth Cattle Drive

New Limited Edition of my Fort Worth Cattle Drive

As I prepare for my new adventure, I want to share some good news: my new edition is coming out next week of the Fort Worth Cattle Drive I rendered in watercolor a few years back. The edition measures 18 x 24″ without the frame and will go on sale for $100. The first edition is being custom framed, but numbers 2-5 will be available in a week.

Last night at 10:02, a light went on in my mind. A text from Emerson that I had filed away in my memory years ago burrowed its way back to the surface of my thinking:

Nature in the common sense, refers to essences unchanged by man; space, the air, the river, the leaf. Art is applied to the mixture of his will with the same things, as in a house, a canal, a statue, a picture.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

For about a week, I have been wrestling with Heidegger’s notion, expressed in “The Origin of the Work of Art”, that art is generated in that rift between nature and human endeavor. Heidegger quotes from the great northern Renaissance spirit Albrecht Dürer: “For in truth, art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it.” Heidegger adds these words: “True, there lies hidden in nature a rift-design, a measure and a boundary and, tied to it, a capacity for bringing forth–that is, art.” Andrew Wyeth frequently maintained that the strength of a work of art lay not in the skillful detailed work of representational rendering, but in the discernment of what to record from nature and what to leave alone:

You know, it’s very easy to deteriorate when you have nature in front of you. You lose the grasp of what you are seeing. You can lose the essence by detailing a lot of extraneous things. . . . And it isn’t because you put in every fleck on a pile of stones or every blade of grass on the hill. That doesn’t make up a powerful painting. . . . It’s got to be abstracted through your vision, your mind. It’s a process of going through detail in order eventually to obtain simplification and cutting out. And it’s a very fine line because you can’t overdo it, you can’t cartoon it. It’s a subtle quality, very subtle. And with less sometimes to work with, you gain more.

Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth Drybrush:

Andrew Wyeth Drybrush: “Flock of Crows”

As I draw closer to my plein air experiments, I am keeping this idea in front of me. Always in my past, I have had trouble extracting from the complex display of nature before my eyes a composition for a watercolor. Throughout the past weeks, I have been looking at nature differently, with a notion to create vignette watercolors with a high focus on some small area, and the rest trailing away, out of focus, and eventually into the white border enveloping the picture. I’m excited to find out how this is going to play out in the days ahead.

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.

After all these years, I can still make an awful painting

February 23, 2014

Quiet Moments in the Studio

Quiet Moments in the Studio

After seventy-three years, I can still make an awful picture.  After seventy-three years, I am just beginning to learn the rudiments of painting.  I would like to live long enough, but I think it would take till the 21st century to have something of a sense that I know how to paint.

Robert Motherwell

Good evening.  This blog post is in response to Corey Aber, an artist-writer-blogger who commands my highest respect.  You can check out his work at

Corey recently asked me to post information concerning the equipment I use in my art making.  I’m always glad to share this information.

1. My paper is D’Arches cold press.  I buy sheets of 300-lb. to cut to whatever size I choose.  I also buy the blocks in 140 lb. measuring 10 1/4 x 14 1/8″.   I don’t like the price, and also don’t like the way the paper starts pulling away from the block by the time I get to the last five or so sheets.  But it is a convenient tool for packing about when I’m working en plein air.  When I am ambitious, I love to soak 140 lb. sheets and stretch them on canvas stretchers, using a staple gun.  I love the tight drum-like quality of the dried out paper, the springing sensation I get when I brush on the surface, and how fast it dries when I’m working wet-on-wet.  But it is a pretty good chore stretching it, and I have to be in the mood.

2. My pigments are Winsor & Newton.  They are all I use.  And my palette is extremely limited now.  I use three blues–Winsor Blue (Green Shade), Winsor Blue (Red Shade) and Phthalo Turquoise.  I use only one yellow, Transparent Yellow.  And I use three reds–Winsor Red, Quinachridone Red, and Permanent Rose.   Occasionally I use Winsor Violet, to tone down the Transparent Yellow.  And I use Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson to mix my blacks.  That’s it.  The reason for the colors mentioned above is the transparent, clean quality they have when mixing.  I can get the best greens, oranges and violets from those combinations.  And all my neutrals come from these colors.  I ceased using colors such as Sepia, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, etc. years ago.

3. My favorite all-around brush is a Winsor & Newton size 12 Sable Round.  It holds a great deal of water, and the tip can be made razor sharp for grasses, detail lines, etc., and I don’t have to keep reloading the brush because of the quantity of water it holds.  I also use a couple of flat brushes, sable, Winsor & Newton.  1/4″ and 1/2″.  From Bob Cook, I learned to make an “ugly brush” for foliage and drybrush rendering of weathered wood and tree trunks.  This is a quality 1/2″ flat brush (Winsor & Newton) that I cut diagonally with an X-acto knife, then shredded out plenty of bristles to create a jagged, ragged brush.  This makes very, very fast work of foliage and textures in drybrush fashion.

4. I use a few watercolor pencils that I keep sharpened, and drag a wet brush along them to dissolve the hard line.  These are Albrecht Durer pencils manufacted by Faber-Castell.  I like to use Dark Sepia, Warm Gray VI and Cool Gray VI.  I also keep sharpened HB pencils around, as well as water-soluble graphite pencils in HB and 8B.

That’s about it.  Thanks for reading.  And thank you, Corey, for asking.