Posts Tagged ‘American Scholar’

New Year’s Day with Coffee, Andrew Wyeth and Watercolor Sketching

January 1, 2012

Wyeth Studies

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape–the loneliness of it–the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it–the whole story doesn’t show.  (Andrew Wyeth, 1987)

Though I have left the Oklahoma wilderness behind, my mind’s eye still sees the winter trees that filled my imagination the past few days.  Today was a good quiet day for putting on the coffeepot, opening a stack of large Andrew Wyeth volumes, sketching with pencil and finally attempting a drybrush sketch of autumn or winter trees.

This image posted is the beginning attempt of some gnarled trees I examined closely in one of my larger “coffee table” Andrew Wyeth books.  Again, taking a lead from Xie He’s Six Canons (mentioned in the previous post and marvelously researched and posted by one of my devoted readers) I am attempting to work directly from Andrew Wyeth drybrush illustrations and extract the essence of his dense forest renderings.  Yesterday while looking into an Oklahoma forest, I noted how the trees stood out in light relief against a dense and dark neutral background of foliage and atmosphere.  As the day progressed, I watched those tree trunks and limbs wax brighter as their backdrop waned in the setting sun.  I wanted to stop and sketch the scene then, but I had camp appointments intruding and chose to meet my appointments.

Today however, I am fascinated with the idea of drybrush and pencil renderings of tree bark showing up lightly against a darker, denser background of tangled and confusing foliage.  So, I chose to lay in the background first, and it is now so wet and soupy that I fear I’ll be waiting about an hour or more before I can lay my hand on the page and begin the detailed renderings of the tree textures (dinner perhaps?).

Among my resolutions this year is the notion of studying abstract compositions and applying what I have learned to my current representational watercolor subjects.  For years I painted abstract acrylic compositions on canvas, and once I turned to watercolor, I ditched those compositions in favor of copying representations as faithfully as I could.  For years I have been aware of how successful artists seemed to have the knack for doing abstract work within the confines of their representational scenes.  And I have undoubtedly done that with reference to tree foliage.   But now I would like to look at overall composition in abstract fashion and see if I can push my watercolors in a new direction by applying abstract principles of design to my paintings.  We’ll see how that one pans out.

While working in my studio in the back of the house today, I have been playing and replaying a video of “Paul Gauguin: The Savage Dream” produced by the National Gallery of Art in Washington D. C.  What a sad, sad human being!  I have often been haunted by those feelings of torment and have tried to reject the label “temperamental artist.”  Granted my feelings have been worn on the sleeve more often than not, I still have always hoped to find a way to cope with life even when it is beset by disappointments.  Again, I feel that these are worries that have a way of surfacing during the holidays and opening the New Year, and again I need to find a way to work through them.

In closing I wish to share something precious from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “The American Scholar.”  This has lifted me for a couple of decades now.  Though I assume he speaks of the writer, I find this tribute applicable to anyone who creates, no matter what avenue is employed:

The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It came to him, short-lived actions; it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought.


Thanks for reading.