Posts Tagged ‘Arkansas’

Memories of an Arkansas Vista

July 7, 2016

arkansas finished (2)

There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.

Thomas Merton (quoted in Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

On this quiet Thursday, I completed my second reading of this magnificent Annie Dillard book, and am closing in on completing this watercolor I began yesterday. I am not happy that my Jeep is suffering difficulties, and was taken to the dealership Saturday, and as of today, they still have not even looked at it.  Six days is too long for anyone to be without their sole possession of transportation. Nevertheless, being housebound, I am completing other tasks, that I hope are not “itsy-bitsy” by Merton statndards.

This truck I photographed while traveling across Arkansas last May on my first of two trips out there to conduct watercolor workshops and judge plein air competitions.  The sight of the sun glinting off the corroded steel of the abandoned vehicle, as well as the liveliness of the surrounding landscape, filled my imagination with such delicious satisfaction, that I turned my Jeep around after traveling an extra mile, and returned to this spot, got out, walked as close as I could to the vehicle, and took several photos with my phone.  Only now, two months later, do I get around to painting the scene.  I was not able to get it out of my mind.

Painting over the past two days has yielded a large quantity of satisfaction for me, as I stared very closely at this composition, crawling around in the weeds and foliage, examining the barbed wire, and scrutinizing every square inch of the faded truck.  The only breaks I took were to read more from Annie Dillard and rest my eyes from the visual details of the painting.

Today I am tired, and still waiting for word on the Jeep.  But I’m happy to have finished a book, and am staring across the room at this watercolor to determine what else needs to be done to it, if anything.

Thanks for reading.

Creating New Worlds

September 23, 2011

Early Morning in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Alas, I did not manage to begin a new watercolor today.  I try to start something new and fresh daily, but this day was given to matting, shrinkwrapping and labeling watercolors for the upcoming art festivals.  I will be participating in four art festivals over the next five weekends (not this weekend, fortunately).  I found a closet-full of forgotten work that never had been matted, so there went my day.  I still have plenty to mat tomorrow as well.

Taking a breather late this afternoon, I was delighted to return to an Emerson biography I read and loved a decade ago: Emerson: The Mind on Fire, by Robert D. Richardson, Jr.  This magnificent bard had the following to say regarding Napoleon Bonaparte:   Napoleon’s glory “passed away like the smoke of his artillery, and left no trace.  He left France smaller, poorer, feebler than he found it.”  On the other hand, Emerson wrote of Goethe that he stood “for the class of scholars and writers who see connections where the multitude see fragments, and who are impelled to exhibit the facts in order, and so to supply the axis on which the frame of things turn.”

As an artist and educator, I take delight in these sentiments.  The world’s eye (through the media) remains focused on individuals who sometimes create and heal, but oftentimes spread destruction across our world.  But in the quieter corners of this environ are souls who actually try to create, heal and thereby leave this world in better shape than they found it.  I don’t pretend to be one who does great things.  But I do take satisfaction in knowing that over the past 2 1/2 decades I have tried to grow students’ minds to think better, more responsibly, and to instill a sense of pride and ability to create a better world than the one that greets us.

At this juncture in life, I am certain of fewer things than what I thought 2 1/2 decades ago.  But I do possess a renewed resolve to create images reflecting the better parts of my daily environment.  The image posted above was one I captured early one morning in Eureka Springs, Arkansas last June.  I had risen at sunrise and descended to the lowest parts of that sleeping town, and came across this abandoned structure that exuded so much charm and beauty in the morning light.  As I worked on it in watercolor en plein air, I kept wishing that I had studio space inside!  I pictured how lovely it would be to step out on that porch with a cup of coffee and say “Good Morning” to a world full of promise, a world waiting to be healed, a world waiting to be re-made in a better image.

To me, mornings that begin with making art are better than mornings that do not.  Hopefully I can create a better morning tomorrow.  Thanks for reading.

Watercoloring a 1903 Cabin from Flippin, Arkansas

September 11, 2011

1903 Cabin Flippin Arkansas

Last spring, while judging a plein air painting composition in Cotter, Arkansas, I was taken to this wonderful rustic cabin dating back to 1903.  This structure was reportedly one of the first two homes built in Flippin, Arkansas, just about the time the railroad was coming through the town.  I was taken to this site just after sunrise on a morning that was threatening rain.  The cool, moist atmosphere and the gathering clouds cast such an amazing pall over the cabin that I set up an easel and went to work immediately, trying to capture a watercolor sketch of it.  Once I returned to my studio in Texas, I used the original watercolor sketch along with some reference photos taken with my digital camera, and created this piece.

I was most intrigued with the light and shadow playing across the table and chairs lining the porch, as well as the rusty screen covering one of the doors.  The entire cabin seemed alive with the dynamics of light and shadow flickering in the dim light of that spring morning.  I hope one day to return to this cabin for further sketches and studies.

Thank you for reading.  And thanks all of you who attended the opening of my One-Man Show Saturday night at the Weiler House Fine Art Gallery.   (http://www.weilerhousefineart.com).   I appreciate each and every one of you!

Deja Vu–A Second Painting of Cotter Cabin

July 6, 2011

Cotter Cabin Deja Vu

If you have been following my post, you may have read that I “froze up” on my first large painting of this historic cabin in Cotter, Arkansas.  So, I began a second one, and once the juices began flowing, I went back to the original and finished it.  Now I’ve decided to bring closure to this one (though it appears I won’t finish tonight, as much as I wish I could!).  Right now, I’m up-to-my-elbows in it, and very interested.

Today was quite a day.  I rose shortly after sunrise, went to the historic Handley neighborhood and took some digital photos that I think will yield some good watercolor compositions.  By the time 7:30 arrived, I decided to go on into downtown Fort Worth to see how Sundance Square looks in the low-angle morning sunlight.  Choosing to avoid Loop 820 and Interstate 30, I chose to stay on Lancaster, finding it smooth sailing, relatively free of traffic, and conducive therefore for a speed trap.  Yep.  Ticketed for speeding.

Once I got to Sundance Square, I found exquisite yellow sunlight all over the downtown architecture, and focused mostly on Haltom Jewelers, taking about 40 more photos from all angles.  Then I settled into Starbuck’s on Sundance (hadn’t yet had my coffee-fix), opened Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and found myself lost in a swoon.  I cannot get enough of this guy!  The more he spoke of primal sensations taking us back to childhood memories, the more I thought of the Cotter Cabin with its look, its smells, and its reminders of my parents’ roots in Southeast Missouri near the Mississippi River.  The smell of the damp, rotting wood stuck in my throat, even though I was in modern upscale downtown Fort Worth.  I didn’t want to leave.  I don’t know how long I lingered there, reading, writing in my journal, and gazing across scores of years into my primal past.  I couldn’t wait to get back to the house and resume this painting.

So, yesterday it was William Carlos Williams with his Imagism.  Today it was Proust and his “recollections” (Ha Ha–I call my company Recollections 54) as well as William Wordsworth and his “child is father to the man” mantra.  It’s been a fabulous day, traffic ticket notwithstanding.

Thanks for reading.  Maybe I’ll finish this Cotter Cabin Deja Vu tomorrow.

Eureka Springs Railroad Environment

July 4, 2011

Eureka Springs RxR

The 4th of July has turned out to be a decent day for painting.  Once my thermometer reached 106, I decided it was time to get out of the garage and retreat to my indoor studio (I cannot bear the dim light of the indoors, once I’ve indulged in plein air, nevertheless I’m not inviting heat stroke either).  It’s nice to work in an air conditioned place now.

I began this small 11 x 14″ piece on the last day of class with my Eureka Springs School of the Arts group.  It was Friday morning, and I felt a heaviness, knowing I was going to leave Eureka Springs and all its beauty that day, yet anxious in my heart to get on to the next appointment.  I felt that great things were just ahead.

Once I took out this piece today, I realized that the antique steam engine really needed a set of wheels.  So I fortunately had a reference photo taken on location, and set to work today trying to finish out the bottom of this composition.  I’m glad to bring closure to this work.  Again, I have too many conflicting feelings co-mingled, as this painting takes me back to the end of Eureka Springs and the transition back to life as I know it today.  It has not been an easy shift, and I’m still working to get my feet back underneath me.

I have filled out an application for the 2012 academic year at Eureka Springs School of the Arts, and hope I can return to this remarkable mountain town next summer.  This quaint Victorian mountain town is a plein air artist’s dream.

Thanks always for reading.

Finished the Cotter Cabin. Time to Move On

July 4, 2011

Historic Cabin, Cotter, Arkansas

To those of you who have followed my blog, this picture may look no different than the one posted late last night.  Exactly the reason for me to sign it and leave it alone.  I have worked an additional 90 minutes on it this morning, but once I realize that each stroke I add does not radically improve the overall composition, and indeed may diminish it, it is time to let it go.  Perhaps I held on to this painting too long because it reminded me of things in my life that I need to let go.  So, there it is.  Ironically, I have another of the same size started, but I have decided for the moment not to pursue it.  Time to look at something else.

The morning of the 4th of July has started early for me.  I’ve chosen to paint in the garage because of the wonderful light, though I’ve been shirtless for an hour and am still mopping my brow frequently with my gym towel.  But I do love the light.  Funny–I’m not a guy who takes sun well, and doesn’t particularly like it.  Yet when I watercolor outdoors, I find a way to tolerate it.  Granted I would not enjoy pulling weeds or painting the siding of my house in this climate.

I am listening with my whole being as the VCR plays behind me “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”  That book by James Joyce touched my life at the very core when I read it back in the late 80’s.   I really need to read it again, but I’m hung up in Proust right now, hoping to finish him this summer.  Joyce and Proust both put me in touch with the important elements of my upbringing, and with summer vacation present, I have tried to spend more time pondering those matters.  Unfortunately I let other elements intrude, and they managed to keep me away from my quality reading and painting.  Perhaps Independence Day will be doubly poignant for me if I allow it to mark the first day of my return to what matters.  All I need to determine at this point is–what matters?!

Anyway, for the moment, painting matters.  And having said that, I have a couple of unfinished works at my side that need tending, so I will pursue those.  With some good fortune, I’ll be posting them in the hours ahead.

Thanks for reading, and I hope your 4th of July brings good things your way.  I’m happy to be painting this morning while my wife rides.  The garage studio space is working, for the moment.

Still Working on the Historic Cotter Cabin

July 3, 2011

Historic Cabin in Cotter, Arkansas

I’ve lost a few days of quality painting.  Sometimes life takes a lousy turn, and mine is no exception.  I’m glad I’m out of school for the summer, but hate to waste opportunities because I cannot seem to get myself back to work emotionally.

Having said that, I did return to this one this afternoon, and have stayed rather steadily with it throughout the evening.  I hope to finish it tomorrow, and truly celebrate Independence Day.  I have a second watercolor of this same subject also in progress.  I started it because this one was getting rather tight, and I was fumbling with my next move.  Then other personal things clouded my painting activities and both paintings got abandoned.  At any rate, I’m resolved to work through the emotional baggage and get something creative accomplished.  Perhaps I can finish this one tomorrow, and the other on the following day.  I’ll try.  I have other projects waiting in the wings and would like to move ahead with them.

I’m happy with how the chair emerged in this work, and am getting more satisfied with the table.  I found the stone steps an absolute delight to work with, thanks largely to the practice I got in a few weeks ago when I painted that limestone bluff in Eureka Springs.  I had no idea that that activity would prove so helpful with this current painting.  Now that the masking has been removed, the flowers are showing beneath the cabin, and out front as well.  I’m seeing a few elements emerge that are beginning to please me with this painting.

Thanks for reading.

Feelings Evoked from a 1903 Cabin in Arkansas

June 26, 2011

1903 Cabin in Cotter, Arkansas

I’m surprised at how quickly this composition is shaping up.  It measures 20 x 24″ and I began it yesterday evening with only about an hour of daylight remaining.  I took a reference photo of this 1903 cabin in Cotter, Arkansas when I was visiting there last May.  I actually did a plein air watercolor sketch of it during that visit, devoting about 90 minutes to the session.  I blogged it in an earlier post.  Though it’s taken over a month, I’ve had it on my mind to do a larger studio watercolor of this sketch, using the photo.  I love working from natural light so much that I choose not to work on it inside my house.  So, today, with temperatures soaring past 100 degrees again, I spent the morning and evening in my open garage working on it, ever so grateful for gusty winds (though at times they gave about as much relief as a hair dryer).

In order to work on this, I’ve spent considerable time poring over Andrew Wyeth drybrush studies of frame houses and barns.  I’ve also looked carefully at how he renders grasses in watercolor.  It surprises me that I’m moving so quickly through this piece, when I thought that I would be working slowly and methodically.  When it comes to the ongoing art historical debate between the Poussinistes and Rubenistes (drawing vs. painting/Nicholas Poussin followers vs. Peter Paul Rubens followers–sorry, just had to throw that one in!), I always came down on the side of Poussin, Wyeth, and all others who approach painting as an extension of drawing.  For decades, I’ve wanted my own watercolors to model fine draftsmanship.  But over the past couple of years, I’ve tilted more toward color exploration and quality, and have found myself moving away from drawing.  Drawing always slows down my work.  I guess I’m surprised that I’m not spending more time drawing in detail on this piece.  But . . . the painting is not yet finished.  Who knows–perhaps tomorrow I’ll return to drawing and slow my pace.  We’ll see.  The bottom line is that I’m having fun with it.

Thanks for reading.

Calling my “Bluff” at Eureka Springs

June 15, 2011

Eureka Springs Bluff

A hot, humid, sticky day in Arkansas, thanks to midnight thunderstorms the night before.  Our plein air class from the Eureka Springs School of the Arts began the morning at the Turpentine Creek Cat Refuge south on Highway 23 out of Eureka Springs.  My students asked me to do a demonstration, painting a slumbering Bengal tiger in the shadows.  I tried.  She turned over about a dozen times in the first 10 minutes.  My attempt of course was a disaster.  The students paintings that ensued however showed much more promise.

Our afternoon session was spent on Spring Street near where I am residing this week.  The students gravitated toward this beautiful bluff and flower bed shimmering in the sun.  They called my bluff, asking me to do a painting demonstration of this scene, knowing I had never tried to paint a large natural rock surface.  I suppose I did O.K. on this (much better than on the tiger, which I won’t bother to post!).  After the students finished at 4:00, I noted that two students wished to remain for about another hour.  So I took this sketch back out, having only roughed out the bluff, and tried to knock out some flowerbeds (another first for me).  I lost the light as the evening shadows lengthened, so I will need to come back to this one.  The flowers and foliage are not quite finished.

An inspiring day for plein air painting, once again.

Thanks for reading.

Evening Plein Air Watercolor Start on a Eureka Springs Church

June 12, 2011

Eureka Springs Church

This morning, my wife and I rose at 5:00 to make the four-hour drive to Little Rock so she could catch a flight back to Texas.  She begins teaching summer school in the morning, and I begin my one-week class here in the morning as well.  The return to Eureka Springs capped eight hours of driving, and I felt it.  However, the Eureka Springs School of the Arts has provided me with a place to stay this week, and when I moved in this evening, I could not believe my eyes!  I’m in a luxurious space, and feel so unworthy!  All I could hear were the dying words of Tom Hanks to Private Ryan: “Earn this.”  (Incidentally I did not care for the movie, but always remembered that “hook”).  And so, with “Earn this!” on my conscience, I hastily unpacked my gear in this beautiful dwelling, then headed out into the surrounding neighborhood at 6:00 p.m. to paint something, anything.  I just felt I needed to “earn this!”

The sun was setting on this beautiful church, about a block from where I will be residing.  I only had 45 minutes of light with which to work, so this is as far as I could go.  I believe I will set it out as a sample for my plein air students in the morning, showing them how I begin an on-site work.  Then, when 6:00 p.m. rolls back around, I’ll return to the site, and hopefully complete it.  I begin with four students tomorrow.  We’ll practice plein air watercolor for five days, 9:00-4:00.  I’ve waited a year for this, and can hardly believe that the inauguration of this experience is just hours away now.

About this start to the church painting–I was much more fascinated with the beautiful sunset colors filling the trees and foliage to the right of the church, than the actual church structure, although I look forward to (trying) to solve the problem of the rusticated exterior.  I love such cut-stone buildings and their Roman predecessors.  Finally I get to attempt a watercolor of one.  Hopefully I’ll render the stop sign and street signs with enough detail that they emerge from the overwhelming, colorful foliage.  I also love the slant of the street downward, much like what I saw with that Victorian cottage bathed in yellow that I attempted a few days ago (posted).

Thank you for reading.  Wish my class (and me) good luck tomorrow as we begin this week.