Posts Tagged ‘Annie Dillard’

A Good Day for Nesting

February 28, 2015
Still Grading, but in a Better Location

Still Grading, but in a Better Location

Right now, here in Paris, we have seven different nests. That’s not counting our old water mill, two hundred miles from Paris. I spend half my time rousting out, fixing up, furnishing these nesting places.

Rats’ nesting’s what it all is; can’t seem to keep myself from burrowing, digging in; always stuffing bits and pieces into one corner or another.

William Wharton, Scumbler

The Winter Wonderland! A second consecutive day,snowbound in Arlington, Texas (strangest of places for this to happen). Untold blessings have unfolded in this experience, probably the greatest was fulfilling this desire for nesting. Possessing zero skills for interior decorating, I nevertheless love the ongoing process of creating nests throughout my home. Today saw the emergence of several more reading nooks, small libraries, cozy corners with reading chairs and lamps, along with some alterations to my art studio and music rooms. Finding just the right niche for guitars, amps, drafting tables and writing desks has added to the pleasure. Though I still have this grading albatross about my neck, I find now a more suitable place to carry out my onerous task.

The stereo that has lived in the garage studio for a few years now has been moved to my living room, and what a delight I found in getting reacquainted with my old Pioneer turntable! About ten years ago, I received this second-hand turntable as a gift from my brother, and once word got out that I was saying Yes to vinyl, many friends starting unloading their collections on me, and I in turn began visiting vintage vinyl stores in Fort Worth, Arlington and St. Louis. This resulted in a shelf with a couple of hundred albums, many of which I have not yet heard. Today I put on Stephen Stills, Manassas (I have no idea who gave it to me, but I never took it out of its cover till now) and WOW! What an incredible sound! The turntable has spun all afternoon as I’ve revisited Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and a stack of Jazz albums awaits. At least I can grade to music well into the cold night.

My new reading nooks have been outfitted with Annie Dillard’s Living by Fiction and Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire. These wonderful creative spirits have provided wonderful, cozy company when I’ve taken breaks from the grading nemesis. The music studio has also provided a healthy diversion from a humdrum kind of task-driven day. The acoustic and electric guitars compete for my attention now, but that’s a good thing. So much music waits to be explored. I actually started writing a new composition of my own a few days ago and am glad to see it gaining momentum.

O.K., this has been a nice change of pace. Papers wait to be graded. 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.

A Literary Night

November 7, 2014
Writing on a Serene Friday Night

Writing on a Serene Friday Night

In the beginning was the word, the word

That from the solid bases of the light

Abstracted all the letters of the void;

And from the cloudy bases of the breath

The word flowed up, translating to the heart

First charactes of birth and death.

Dylan Thomas, “In the Beginning”

As the temperatures drop this Friday evening, I’m finding myself more in a literary mood than a painting one.  On the TV plays “Finding Forrester”–one of my favorite movies starring Sean Connery. The memorable quotes are endless as he discusses the writer’s craft:

You write your first draft with your heart; you rewrite with your head.  The first key to writing is writing.

I am taking him at his word.  The coffeepot is on.  Books are stacked next to me.  The journal is open.  Pencils are sharpened.  Soft music plays.  And I’m ready to let unbridled thought run its course tonight.  Throughout my life, I’ve spent many nights in this mode, only there was a sermon to compose, a lecture to write, or a lesson plan to develop.  What is nice about tonight is that I don’t report to my job until Monday morning–until then, I have no deadlines, no objectives.  I am free to think, to write, to compose what I feel.  I wonder now, why don’t I arrange to have more times like this?  My calendar should be under my command, not vice versa.  Maybe this is the turn, the beginning of a new direction.  I like the open-ended feel of this.

When you write, you lay out a line of words.  The line of words is a miner’s pick, a wood-carver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow.  Soon you find yourself deep in new territory.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

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.

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.

Objects Embodying the Stuff of Revelation

May 2, 2013
The Screen Door and Coffee Still-Life, Unmasked and Stained

The Screen Door and Coffee Still-Life, Unmasked and Stained

Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you advert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands?  Because it is up to you.  There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain.  It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin.  You were made and set here to give voice to this,your own astonishment.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

William Carlos Williams, the poet/physician, daily drove the streets of Rutherford, New Jersey, household to household, making his calls, and gathering images and ideas for his poems.  He was always engaged, always interpreting and re-interpreting his life.  Andrew Wyeth wandered the rolling hills of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, his eye taking in the images of his surroundings and the village life of Little Africa, all the while his romantic nature extracting meaning from the objects he found in everyday households.  Neither of these artists made apologies for the enthusiasm they felt as memories associated with the everyday mundane warmed their hearts.

Several blog readers have posted to me their warm memories of the slapping screen door from childhood, and the amusement they gained from annoying their elders with that irreverent pop.  All day long at school today, I could think only of getting back into the Cave and resuming work (play) on this screen door and coffee tin.   My mind drifted over all those popping screen doors (at both grandparents’ farms, Marlin’s general store in the grandparent’s vicinity, the wonderful old general store in Pine, Colorado where I stopped for provisions after a hot day of fly fishing at Cheeseman Canyon, feeling like Ernest Hemingway).  I cannot explain my fascination as a child with that screen door, and later as an artist when I looked more closely at its features–blistered painted wood, a hook that left its arc carved in the wood from its years of swinging back and forth, the cut of the spring into the wood, leaving its rust stains over the years, the sloppy paint job that left white paint around the perimeter of the screens–all those things excite me for reasons I can never put into words.  I guess I’m more of a painter than a writer.  These things I just cannot explain.

I removed the masquing first thing this afternoon.  Since then I have been re-staining the screen wire to get rid of the stark white left by the successful masquing.  It’s not going away willingly.  I still have more staining, more darkening to do.  I haven’t yet decided how to re-draw the screen wire over the white label of the coffee tin–I’ll have to experiment with that on separate paper.  I’m thinking about a hard-led pencil, perhaps even a mechanical pencil.  Perhaps a Prismacolor Verithin pencil which features a pretty decent hardness.  Again, since I’ve never done this before, I’ll have to experiment.

I have really enjoyed roughing up the wood and blistering the paint textures on the screen door frame.  I finally worked up the nerve to paint in the hanging spring and gouge the rusty imprints it left along the horizontal frame.  In all of this I am finding pure joy.  For years and years I have gazed upon the Andrew Wyeth drybrush renderings of whitewashed sidings of houses and window sashes blistered by the sun and weather, and always wanted to give it a try, using watercolor, pencil, fingerprints, smudges–anything that would simulate that weathered appearance.  Finally I am getting into it and absolutely loving it.

Yesterday afternoon, the Texas temperatures climbed to 83 degrees and I had to have a box fan running in the Cave to survive working out here.  Now it is 42 degrees with arctic winds howling outside the garage door, and I am wearing a heavy pullover sweater and drinking hot coffee to stay in the Cave.  But I love it.  The Cave environment has been welcoming, quiet, affirming.  I’m thrilled to enter a three-day weekend (no school tomorrow) and hope to have long, uninterrupted hours painting and reading in the cave.

I’m going to post a picture below of the painting after I removed the masquing, for anyone curious about this process.  When I apply the masquing to the untreated, white watercolor paper, it bonds well and does its job, but once it comes off, the stark whiteness is unacceptable.  I always know it’s going to happen, so I no longer feel those “uh-oh” moments when it comes off–I just know that there is plenty of work still ahead, staining the white areas, toning them down, getting them where you want them.  And that part does not come easily for me.  I have to keep applying more layers of wash, continue rubbing with my fingers, getting rid of that stark white.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The painting unmasqued, before re-staining and re-working

The painting unmasqued, before re-staining and re-working

The Man Cave Studio as I work Tonight

The Man Cave Studio as I work Tonight

Watercolor Sketching, with Fishin’ on my Mind

January 21, 2013
Arrangement of Vintage Fishing Tackle

Arrangement of Vintage Fishing Tackle

A painting covers its tracks.  Painters work from the ground up.  The latest version of a painting overlays earlier versions, and obliterates them.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

This is my reason for posting in-progress watercolors on my blog; I want to reveal my watercolor endeavors as works under construction.  And when a painting is finished, I spend plenty of time poring over my photographs taken of the painting as it underwent the stages of construction.

For several days now, I have been looking at this old tackle box overflowing with vintage lures, wondering over what kind of rod & reel to put with them. I’m not yet finished with this “fishing” series, but this evening I took my Garcia Mitchell 300 open-face reel off the display wall of my study and decided to build a small composition around it.  By the time I finished laying out this trio of objects and masking off an 8 x 10″ area on my watercolor block, I was ready to crank out a blockbuster watercolor.

The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or perchance a palace or temple to the earth, and at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a wood-shed with them.

Henry David Thoreau

Now, ninety minutes after beginning, I look at this “sketch” and in the Thoreauvian sentiment, acknowledge that my moon-bridge has become a mere wood-shed, but nevertheless a preliminary study for a larger, more finished painting.  Though the work has fallen below my preliminary expectations, I would not have traded this evening’s quiet studio experience for anything.

Andrew Wyeth said he would work for weeks on preliminary sketches, drybrush watercolors and fragments of compositions, knowing that the “communion” from these encounters would find its way into the final composiiton.  I’m not sure yet what kind of “fishing painting” lies just around the bend (if any), but this evening provided a nice quiet space in my holiday weekend for making art, for studying these small objects, for experimenting with a few new color combinations, and exploring new techniques in drawing and watercolor.

Thanks for reading.