Posts Tagged ‘art theory’

The Morning Visitation

December 19, 2019


The outward work will never be puny if the inward work is great.

Meister Eckhart

My blog has been on hiatus for about a week, due to travel and working on commission projects that I don’t wish to post publicly till they are complete. The Christmas season is closing in fast, and I still have preparations and more travel before me. But this morning’s reading was accompanied by a spiritual visitation that has given me pause to write.

The opening quote from a 13th-century divine lingers, adding a sweetness to the atmosphere that embraces me as I attempt to express what is happening . . . Working through the past three days on four separate watercolors at the same time has scrambled my mind and imagination in unusual ways. The four separate genres have kept my attention shifting as I continually lay aside a wet one and resume work on one of the other dry ones. Rotating the pieces frequently throughout the mornings and afternoons of the past three days has kept me on my toes. The four genres are unrelated, so I feel that I am changing the subject several times on the hour throughout the working day.

While viewing the four in-progress paintings, my mind has continually gone back and forth between the techniques and theories involved in making art. In previous posts, I have shared how this reltationship continues to drive my thinking, and recent forays into the writings of Robert Henri have added more fuel to the fire.

To put it succinctly: as a college art major long ago, I focused only on mechanics to making art. Underlying theories had no place in my thinking. Once the Bachelors degree was completed, I dove headlong into graduate school, studying theology, and a Renaissance of thought bloomed. The next ten years were devoted to academic pursuits, and almost no art was made. Upon completion of my doctorate I immediately entered the classroom, and once I settled in to the rhythm of study and class delivery, I returned to making art. So much had changed over the years. For the first time in my life, there was this multi-layered foundation beneath my art. Formerly, I had considered only technique. Then I devoted a decade to theory. Now I find myself lost in the relationship that binds the two: ideas and mechanics, theory and practice, aesthetics and craftsmanship. I am still lost in the wilderness of this relationship, and I love the effort of finding my way.

Long intervals open up between my projects, but I am almost never blocked. Rather, I am consumed with reading and listening to media, feeding my creative fire. And though I am all-too-capable of turning out a bad piece of art, I never feel that the art is “puny” to borrow the translation from Meister Eckhart. A less-than-favorable piece of art might issue from a fumble, a stumble, or bad choices, but I never feel the work is enemic. Rather, the decades of study, growth and odyssey can only enrich these expressions. And I lean forward to the next endeavor.

Meanwile, I have four watercolors I need to finish by Christmas, so the time has come to close this blog and get back into the studio.

Thanks for reading.

Shultz reduced

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.




Post-Christmas Musings

December 27, 2016


Holiday Hotel Insomnia

 Ut pictura poesis (“as in painting, so in poetry”)

I am slowly waking to a most unusual day. For reasons unknown, I awoke a little after 3:00 this morning and could not return to sleep. The hotel was dark and quiet.  Finally, I rose, showered, and spent two hours at the writing desk recording my thoughts, reading and reflecting in the stillness of the post-Christmas pre-dawn. Finally, I went to a 24-hour diner for breakfast, then to Starbucks where I have remained until now (8:14 a.m.), reading and enjoying this cold winter morning (dropped to 34 degrees in St. Louis this morning).

My reading has been an extraordinary experience, finishing the Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life biography, then resuming The Wyeths by N. C. Wyeth and beginning Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings (a much-appreciated Christmas gift).

I read the following in a letter from the young N. C. Wyeth to his parents, regarding a challenge just given him from his teacher Howard Pyle:

“Wyeth, I’ve been watching your work very closely and I see you have a great deal of talent but what you need is knowledge, that is, you have not had a good training and thereby no foundation.” 

Pyle then invited the young N. C. to enroll in his school for illustrators.  I purchased this book, because I’ve been astounded at the erudition of N. C. in his letters written late in life.  Here I am clearly reading of the turning point in his experience, when he was identified as basically unlettered though talented, and requiring intellectual development and maturing.

I am moved by this reading, and recall my own experience forty-four years ago,  when starting out in college on a scholarship granted because of my artistic abilities, but discovering quite quickly that my mental laziness throughout high school had finally outed me.  Some of the painful conversations with my professors still haunt my memory. Looking back, I’m now very grateful for my years in graduate study that poured a foundation beneath my art that now gives me more of a purpose to pursue what I pursue. Though I cannnot yet articulate a particular theory of aesthetics of philosophy of art, I nevertheless am aware of a much deeper motive for making art than I knew in younger years. And of course I still study and practice technique as much as possible and will never neglect this important part of the artistic enterprise. But the message still needs to be explored. Gladly, I still have some holiday vacation time to do this.

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.

Pondering New Directions in Watercolor

January 2, 2015
A Dark, Rainy Friday Made for Books and Reflective Thought

A Dark, Rainy Friday Made for Books and Reflective Thought

There are men charged with the duty of examining the construction of the plants, animals and soils which are the instruments of the great orchestra.  These men are called professors.  Each selects one instrument and spends his life taking it apart and describing its strings and sounding boards.  This process of dismemberment is called research.  The place for dismemberment is called a university.

A professor may pluck the strings of his own instrument, but never that of another, and if he listens for music he must never admit it to his fellows or to his students.  For all are restrainted by an ironbound taboo which decrees that the construction of instruments is the domain of science, while the detection of harmony is the domain of poets.

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

How delightful to be finished with my holiday travels, home again, and still possess time for quiet reflection before returning to school next week.  Today (Friday) is dark and rainy and well-suited for staying indoors.  The coffee pot is full, the books are stacked high, Mozart is playing on the stereo, and I’m grazing from a number of ideological pastures as I figure out what to do next with my time.  Today I have watched again the film “A Beautiful Mind,” and have felt so inspired at the thought of John Nash wrestling with the implications of a new idea.  The film has spurred me to dig deeper into journals and art books in a quest for some kind of direction in my artistic pursuits.  While re-reading one of my favorite books, Wyeth at Kuerners, I suddenly saw in my mind’s eye the subject that I want to try next.  I’m waiting for it to get dark outside so I can work in my garage studio, relying on spotlighting effects rather than the natural light flooding through the windows of the door.

The Aldo Leopold quote posted above I culled from a journal I kept during the final quarter of 2013.  I enjoy perusing old journals, especially at this age when I seem to forget about 90% of what I’ve written in prior years that I thought so important then.  I was delighted to find Leopold tagging on to the same idea I published yesterday,separating Art from works of art.  For most of my life, I have attempted to make art, and always realized that my creations pointed toward Art but never seemed to cross the threshold.  And when it comes to assessing the strength of various works of art, I always seem to find myself tongue-tied.  Currently I’m working on this idea of how we as artists break works of art into their component elements of design, analyze techniques applied, and ultimately conclude that the composition is always more, much more than its parts.

Many of my ideas about art parallel my views on education.  Since I’ll be returning to school next week, my mind is full of these ideas as well, especially my view that education, like art, cannot be distilled into a few basic principles.  Education is an art, not a toolbox of techniques.  The assessment of a quality education (to me) cannot be divined from a sheet of statistics, cannot be discovered by analyzing data, and cannot be disseminated by training a group of teachers to follow a lesson plan template.  As an educator, I have no gimmicks, no magic tricks.  I study hard. collect myriads of words and ideas, assemble and arrange them and then communicate them to listeners.  Sometimes what I pass on is “caught” much as one would catch the measles.  As to the art arena, my watercolors are the same thing–an assemblage of objects, techniques, moods and ideas that sometimes work.  And in ways that I still do not understand, certain paintings of mine will reach viewers, will draw them in.  I’m eternally grateful for those encounters, though I have no idea how these things happen.

Looking Over my Recent History of Work, Trying to Determime What to Try Next

Looking Over my Recent History of Work, Trying to Determime What to Try Next

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.