Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Wyeth’

Rubbing the Cold off the Object

December 30, 2016

door

These great men [Thoreau, Goethe, Emerson, Tolstoy] forever radiate a sharp sense of that profound requirement of the artist, to fully understand that consequences of what he creates are unimportant. “Let the motive for action be in the action itself and not in the event.”

I know from my own experience that when I create with any degree of strength and beauty I have had no thought of consequences.  Anyone who creates for effect –to score a hit–does not know what he is missing!

N. C. Wyeth, final letter to his son Andrew Wyeth, February 16, 1944

Finally, after a considerable hiatus, I am delighted to re-enter my studio.  It has taken a few days to get over the weariness generated by a drive from St. Louis to Dallas/Fort Worth following my holiday visit with family. It takes me longer to hit the reset button following those long drives than when I was younger.

The watercolor has gotten cold on me since I left it last week.  But I have been excited to return to it, and am confident that the warmth and confidence will emerge once I give it a few strokes. I am painting this composition for my own pure pleasure, and thus the “commission pressure” is not present. And I’m not painting it with a market in mind; I just want to explore this subject that has been residing in my mind’s eye for quite a long period now. Hence, the quote from N. C. Wyeth above. I did not realize until later in life that I received far more joy and fulfilment in the making of art than in the attention or selling that followed. As my holiday draws near its close, I’m delighted, in this quiet studio, to pursue what gives me the most satisfaction. I’ll continue to post blogs as the painting runs its course.

I wish all of you an exciting and promising New Year.  Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Working Sometimes from the Fact

November 17, 2016

20161116_100144

I can’t work completely out of my imagination. I must put my foot in a bit of truth; and then I can fly free.

Andrew Wyeth

It was 85 degrees in north Texas yesterday, November 16.  I have been impatiently waiting for fall weather and winter to follow.  One of the reasons is that I enjoy so much gazing at winter trees with their core anatomy on view.  Leaves, like clothing, conceal the tree’s essence, and I regret that living in the southwest, I see the bare trees for such a short span of the year.

I have posted the Andrew Wyeth quote because I feel those same sentiments.  Beginning last winter, I drew trees in pencil, rendering them as accurately as I could see them.  I know that Wyeth and Edward Hopper said that in later years they could work out of their imagination, no longer requiring the “fact” in front of their eyes for scrutiny.  I am not there yet; if I try and draw or paint something that I am not looking at, then it comes out looking like a cartoon or cheap illustration.

The tree above, I guess, is a hybrid.  I began drawing it from life Tuesday evening, as I awaited my artitistic friends for our weekly gathering at the cafe.  I didn’t get very far before they arrived.  So, I finished the drawing yesterday, using my imagination rather than a reference photo.  I’m satisfied with the result, and am now ready to move on to the next tree.  Unfortunately I spend my workdays indoors in an interior room without windows.  So I’ll have to wait . . .

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Preparing for the Next Show

November 14, 2016

9-x-12

Six Paintings en route to Fort Worth Community Arts Center’s 9 x 12 Works on Paper Show

My struggle is to preserve that abstract flash–like something you caught out of the corner of your eye, but in the picture you can look at it directly.  It’s a very elusive thing.

Andrew Wyeth

On my first day returning to work following a lovely weekend of painting and reading, I suddenly discovered I was up against yet another deadline, but I met it.  This afternoon I shipped the six watercolors above to the Fort Worth Community Arts Center at 1300 Gendy.  Their annual 9 x 12 Works on Paper Show features unmatted works 9 x 12″ or smaller put on public view.  Everything is priced at $100.  I managed to do some selling last year, despite having only a picked-over portfolio.  This year I am much happier with what I am sending, and hope some, if not all of these paintings find a home.  At this stage of my life, I am producing a large quantity of work that can no longer hang in my home because every wall of every room is filled.

For any of you readers living in the area, I would love to see you at the artists reception on December 2 from 6 to 9 p.m.  Last year’s reception witnessed a huge turnout, as there were hundreds of works hung spanning multiple galleries.  At least two other shows were also taking place in the same facility.  Usually I only hang around such receptions for an hour or so, but there were so many artists, friends and patrons to see that I ended up staying for the entire reception.

My website has just been updated and I wanted to share that with you: www.recollections54.com.

Tonight has offered me hours of quiet for reading and reflection.  I don’t seem to get enough of those in my own home lately, and I’m grateful for this gift.  I am halfway through an engaging Leonardo da Vinci biography, and hope to write more about it later.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Afterglow of a Wilderness Retreat

November 13, 2016

rocking-chair

That’s me, in a rocker, in a secluded place three hours from my home

It is Sunday evening, and I have just returned from my country sanctuary.  I spent another precious weekend watercoloring inside a general store where I was privileged to reside as a guest. While working and looking around at the grocery items from decades past, I kept hearing in my mind the following script from the motion picture Pollock starring Ed Harris. The painter had just moved to Springs, Long Island to escape the madness of New York City.  The proprietor of the local grocery had this to say to Pollock the first time he shopped in the store:

You're the fella moved into the old Quinn place.

              Morning.

              You moved out from the city?

              I don't blame you.

              In a world where they can split a tiny atom...

              and blow up hundreds of thousands of people...

              there's no telling where it's all gonna lead.

              Best to find a quiet place...

              do what you have to do.


The morning following our presidential election, I returned to work and was surrounded with teachers and students wanting to discuss the election’s outcome.  This was a conversation I did not wish to engage. I took ill, and in the following days called in sick, and by the weekend decided I needed to retreat to the country.  The healing balm offered by this special place and my special friends has far exceeded my expectations in providing needed rest, quiet, recharged spiritual batteries and recalibrated ideas for my future.  I can return to work tomorrow, grateful for the past few days of peace.

thoreau-window

Reading from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau

After an exhausting three-hour drive, I found myself extremely sleepy early Friday night, so I turned in early.  Waking without an alarm at 6:48, I felt refreshed, rose and made breakfast and coffee, hiked to a neighboring pond to fly fish awhile (caught only one bluegill on a popper, but managed to catch an additional seventeen bass by the time the weekend ran its course), then sat at a bedroom reading desk looking out a pair of French doors across a sun-washed pasture.  Turning to the Journals of Thoreau, I read the following:

I require of any lecturer that he will read me a more or less simple and sincere account of his own life, of what he has done and thought,–not so much what he has read or heard of other men’s lives and actions, but some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land,–and if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me,–describing even his outward circumstances and what adventures he has had, as well as his thoughts and feelings about them.  He who gives us only the results of other men’s lives, though with brilliant temporary success, we may in some measure justly accuse of having defrauded us of our time.  We want him to give us that which was most precious to him,–not his life’s blood but even that for which his life’s blood circulated, what he has got by living.  If anything ever yielded him pure pleasure or instruction, let him communicate it.

I needed to read that.  Having taught for three decades, and in recent years posted to a blog, I have always second-guessed how much quoting of others vs. how much personal stuff I should communicate to anyone willing to listen.  My life has been stirred by what I have read of those who have traveled this life before me.  And daily I seek to record my personal visions.  But when it comes to blending the two, I’m never sure, and I guess I never will be.  At any rate, I appreciated Thoreau’s sentiments, because I’m always fearful of putting out blogs that offer nothing more than navel-gazing.

store-shelf-in-progress

Rising from my reading, I returned to the main store counter and looked among the cans, bottles and packages on the shelf, trying to decide what to paint first.  I chose this section, hoping that the bright red Coca-Cola ad would draw immediate attention to the painting, and then hoping that the coffee tin and bottle adjoining would support enough detail to satisfy the curious eye.

store-shelf

As usual, I spent a good part of the weekend perusing Andrew Wyeth drybrush sketches, and decided to leave this one as a vignette.  It is approximately 9 x 12″ so I’m seriously considering putting it into the Fort Worth CAC 9 x 12 show two days from now.  They allow us to submit up to six unframed original pieces and they price them at $100 each.  This sketch just might be able to find a home there.  In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy looking at it, grateful for the memories it exudes.

My friends also have a chuckwagon parked in a nearby barn, and have furnished me the keys the section where it is parked.  For a couple of years, I have wanted to attempt sketches of it and finally worked up the nerve Saturday afternoon to visit the barn.

chuckwagon-in-progress

Just as inside the store, I found difficulty narrowing down the pletora of ojects to just a few.  After all, I have to return to work on Monday, and I knew I could not paint the entire scene in one day.

chuckwagon

This one I have not finished, but took plenty of reference photos in hopes that I can complete it in my studio at home.

Late Saturday night, I was too wired to sleep, filled with good feelings about all that had happened during the day–fly fishing, painting, reading, journaling, sitting in a rocking chair and staring across beautiful landscape.  So I returned to the front of the store and began a sketch of one of the old doorknobs and locking mechanisms on the main door connecting the store to the residential section of the building.

doorknob-in-progress

Retiring to bed finally around 1 a.m., I thought I may sleep till noon.  But I awoke at 5:40, feeling rested and energized to make something else happen before loading up and making the three-hour trek back home.  After breakfast, coffee and more quality quiet reading time, I returned to the store and worked further on the painting.  It still isn’t finished, but I took a good close-up reference photo of the details and will certainly finish this one.

doorknob

The weekend in the wilderness has done everything I wished for, and more.  I think I’ll do O.K. returning to work tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

A Place Far Away

October 31, 2016

Note:  I’ll never have the artistic eye of photographer Cindy Sherman, but I do know how to take selfies with a 10-second timer on my phone.  I was alone for the weekend, and the silence was beyond description.

selfie

I don’t really have studios. I wander around people’s attics, out in fields, in cellars, anyplace I find that invites me.

Andrew Wyeth

Since my ninth grade year, I have read of Andrew Wyeth’s focused painting adventures as a guest at Kuerner’s farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and at the Olson house in Cushing, Maine.  Throughout my life I have been drawn to his subject matter because it took me back to own primal childhood memories of life on my grandparents’ farms in rural southeast Missouri.  One of my most cherished memories was Marlin’s store, located in rural Jackson, Missouri, next door to McLain’s Chapel and across the road from an abandoned schoolhouse. The Marlin family lived in the rear of the store, and always I have been fascinated with stories associated with business owners living behind their store or filling station.

As these memories lingered with me, I always envied Wyeth for having loving friends who opened their doors to him in that way.  Well, I have recently been on the receiving end of that kind of friendship.  A very dear couple living in rural Texas has invited me onto their property in time past, and this weekend they invited me to spend a weekend living in the back of their restored general store.  I felt tears when I first entered the front doors and saw the kind of environment that always greeted me as a small boy inside Marlin’s.

menns

With deep-seated joy, I resided in the back of this store from Friday night till Sunday afternoon.  The entire time was given to painting what I could see inside and outside the building, along with reading, thinking and journaling.

interior-selfie-3

(Another Selfie)

menns-painting

fog

tree

Both mornings were enveloped in dense fog till around 10:00, and then the sun came out and washed the landscape in beautiful color.  Besides the interior watercolor sketch, I attempted two plein air sketches, the first in the fog and the second in the clear.

I cannot describe the beauty and serenity of the quiet countryside that was my home for the weekend, nor can I express the depths of my gratitude to my friends for extending to me this delightful invitation.  My life has been enriched beyond description.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Late Night Reading and another Tree Study

January 17, 2016

image

They went through me like an arrow, and from that moment I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Robert Motherwell, upon seeing for the first time Henri Matisse’s paintings

This delicious Sunday night has been spent before the fireplace, reading more than forty pages from this new Motherwell book I just received. I posted his observation above of what happened when he was in his early twenties and saw paintings by Matisse in the home of one of Gertrude Stein’s brothers in Palo Alto, California. His testimony echoes what I felt when I saw my first Andrew Wyeth book in my ninth-grade art class. What a rush to recall that moment.

I closed the book and returned to my drafting table to experiment some more with the rendering of winter trees in pencil. I purchased a sketch book in an antique store last month, and am enjoying the qualities of the aged, darkened paper in the book. I’m still cutting lines into the surface of the paper with a ballpoint pen that has run out of ink, then dragging a 9B pencil over the creases. In addition to the soft pencil and dry ballpoint, I just just used a No. 2 pencil manufactured by Papermate–a Mirado classic. I have fallen in love with these, and find them in Albertson’s grocery stores and H-E-B stores as well. For the really fine and light lines, I use a 6H pencil, and from time to time I drag a blending stump through the pencil work. I’m still not sure what I’m doing, but loving the experiment.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Learning from Repetition

January 11, 2016

image

Motherwell is ruefully aware that the “Elegies” are regarded by some as a formula. (“When he gets stuck, what should he do but make another ‘Elegy’?” he quotes one critic as saying).

Grace Glueck, “The Creative Mind; The Mastery of Robert Motherwell,” The New York Times, December 2, 1984.

My art history reading of late has taken me back to Robert Motherwell, an Abstract Expressionist painter who has always fascinated me because of his erudition. I’ve had the pleasure of reading his Collected Writings and have perused many volumes of his work that I’ve purchased over the years.  The Youtube interviews with him are also rich in ideas, and after wearing out the VHS tape, I purchased the DVD of his “Storming the Citadel.” Yesterday I found this New York Times article and read it with great interest as well. He painted the “Elegy” series well over a hundred times, and sometimes took criticism that he just fell back on the pattern when he was out of fresh ideas. In response, he said in an interview:

. . . the reason I’ve made so many of whatever I’ve made that could be called a series–because I detest serial painting–is simply because I feel that I’ve never really solved any of them, and so they remain a challenge.  The day I can make an Elegy that really satisfies me, then I’ll stop.

In the past month or so, I have become absorbed with drawing. Throughout my artistic life, I have believed in my heart that drawing is fundamental to art, and yet have felt like a hypocrite, because I have always drawn so little.  Finally, I am obsessed with the practice of drawing.  And for many years, I have stared at the anatomy of trees in the winter, when they are so exposed and accessible to the naked eye, yet never pulled the trigger in deciding to fill up sketchbooks with tree drawings.  That has changed.

All I wish to say is that I am not falling back on tree drawings because I have no fresh ideas.  Like Motherwell, I’m still trying to figure them out, still trying to find a satisfaction with my own efforts.  Meanwhile, I have learned a great deal by this repetitive exercise.  Following is an abbreviated list of what I’ve come to understand while attempting to draw trees:

  1. Tree boughs are not silhouettes; they have a range of tones.
  2. In watercolor, the tree’s wood is not uniform throughout in color and value.
  3. Tapering the boughs and limbs, for me, is extremely difficult and requires much concentration and repeated checking.
  4. The snarls of twigs are similar to scribbles with the pencil.
  5. There are always more twigs at the ends of the tree that I tend to notice in early glances.
  6. I do not want the tree to look badly pruned.  I must taper the twigs all the way to the point that they nearly disappear into the sky.

My attempt at watercoloring the tree tops in my back yard is coming along much more slowly than the drawings, but I’m happy in the struggle.

tree wc

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Sketching Into the Weekend

October 16, 2015

imageI prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.

Andrew Wyeth

Since my high school years, I have preferred winter trees a a subject for drawing. With the ragweed season out of control, I cannot go outdoors to draw trees from direct observation, so I continue to sketch them from my imagination, a practice that I always fear leaves caricature or cartoony effects. Soon the wretched ragweed will die, the fall colors will change, leaves will disappear and once again I will be able to look directly at my subjects and attempt to draw them as they really are.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Re-exploring the Laguna Madre

August 27, 2015

imageThursday evening has offered me a luxurious gift–I was ready for tomorrow’s classes by early afternoon, and had time to paint in the studio with quality light coming through my windows. All day throughout my classes I envisioned this painting I began, knowing what I wanted to do next with it. I love Andrew Wyeth’s description of his drybrush watercolor process as similar to weaving a tapestry–he said if you drybrushed on white paper, the painting would be too harsh, too abrupt. He preferred to lay down a light wash, then drybrush over the top of it when it dried, then lay down a wash over the top, apply more drybrush, etc. I have done this repeatedly in rendering the weatherbeaten sides of buildings, and have made a few forays into landscape with the technique. But this will be the first time working on a larger piece (20 x 24″) that is exclusively landscape, with no props such as architecture to take the eye away from the land textures. I am continually layering drybrush and wash, one atop the other, and the land is starting to take on a richer complexity and texture.

The layout of the island where I stayed last June on the Laguna Madre becomes more fascinating to me in these months following, as I look at photos I took, sketches I did on location, and study closely the textures and colors of the various plant life and sand colors. This time, I am really trying hard to match the colors as best I can. Of course, I want to make a pretty painting, but I want this watercolor to be truer to the colors I saw on location, and the process is requiring plenty of experimenting and scrutiny. And I love the process.

I am hesitant to toss this photo up on the blog for two reasons: 1) I have gotten further along, but it is now dark, and my photography of my large watercolors under artificial light is awful, 2) the painting is coming along like a jigsaw puzzle, as my plan is to develop that serpentine line of ground textures from the foreground to the lagoon. Currently there is still a great deal of white paper surface that has not yet been touched, and there is no quick way for me to get that done. All in good time.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Meaningful and Needed Gap Between Responsibilities

August 21, 2015

imageMoving into my final weekend of the summer, I was tortured as I attempted to prepare my classes for Monday while looking up from time to time at this small watercolor I began weeks ago and laid aside. And so this evening, I decided to move on a recent idea–creating a serpentine line of grasses, foliage and beach debris, connecting the dark green area on the lower left ultimately to the horizon line of the lagoon. The process was enjoyable, as I combined masquing with drybrush, pencil and blotting to create this meandering line of terrain. Though I did not get out any of his works, the drybrush watercolor sketches of Andrew Wyeth were my inspiration, as they have been since before I started the Artist-in-Residence last June. I suppose what I am saying is that I had the “essence” of Wyeth’s compositions in my visual memory as I worked on this piece this evening.

The painting time has been delicious, and I’m appreciative for that space. Now it is time to return to classroom preparations. Monday is approaching quickly.

Thanks for reading. I hope to have time, space and a quality idea to post on the blog tomorrow or sometime this weekend.

I paint in order to explore.

I journal when I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.