Posts Tagged ‘cedar’

Still Tugging at the Strings

March 11, 2015
A DailyExercise

A Daily Exercise


How the devil do I know

if there are rocks in your field,

plow it and find out.

If the plow strikes something

harder than earth, the point

shatters at a sudden blow

and the tractor jerks sidewise

and dumps you off the seat–

because the spring hitch

isn’t set to trip quickly enough

and it never is–probably

you hit a rock. That means

the glacier emptied his pocket

in your field as well as mine,

but the connection with a thing

is the only truth that I know of,

so plow it.

“Truth” by James Hearst

My head is finally beginning to clear after a frenetic series of days. I was thrilled to make a sale of one of my watercolors to a friend I’ve known from high school, living in the St. Louis area. My parents and siblings still live there, so I packed my Jeep and departed Saturday night, driving the entire night, to get there, deliver it, and enjoy my family. But business has also called me back to Texas, so I rose early Tuesday and drove back (about 10.5 hours each way). During all that windsheld time, followed by quality conversations with my family whom I see so infrequently, there has been plenty of time to think about what drives me the most–the creative process. I strove to practice creative endeavors while away, and continued that today, despite a busy schedule.

While in the St. Louis area, I attempted a pair of plein air watercolor sketches of a cedar growing up beside my parents’ driveway.

Cedar One

Cedar One

Cedar Two

Cedar Two

No matter how crushed my schedule, I really enjoy drawing out the simple watercolor supplies and working on fast sketches such as these. I’ve never felt that I express this properly, but there is a connection I feel with the subject I’m trying to capture, a relationship so to speak. I know I cannot reproduce the object with photographic accuracy, but that’s not what this is about. I’m simply trying to capture its essence, to record some kind of recgonizable representation of what lies at the center of my visual focus. And that relationship, that feeling, is what I enjoy so much, even if the painting or drawing turns out crappy. I would be lying if I said I fished all day and had a wonderful day, soaking up the environment, even if I never got a strike. When I’m “skunked’ fishing, I don’t call it a good day. But I do have a good day–every time–when I’m painting or drawing, even if the piece of art doesn’t work out. The finished result never rises to the excellence of the experience, no matter how fine the finished piece may look. And I am so fascinated with drawing and painting that I stare at passing landscape and objects as I drive, figuring out compositions that would make the objects into decent art.

I posted James Hearst’s poem at the top, because that theme has been running through my consciousness throughout this harried day of packing and organizing for a watercolor workshop I’ll teach soon. Recently I have made myself a promise that a day would not go by without my practicing my guitar and my art. Too many times I’ve griped about not being better at what I do, knowing full well that I will not get better, without practice, without daily application, without study, without discipline. Talent alone will not cut it. I’ve always known that, though I have not always practiced it. I am always running into people who call themselves frustrated artsists or musicians. Yet these frustrated folks never practice their craft; they only complain about being frustrated. I know there is no royal road to improvement. In spite of a harried stretch of recent days, I took my guitar and art supplies with me and got them out daily, telling myself I have no excuse and need to stop griping. The “connection” with a thing is the only thing we can know, so we should “plow it.” So today, I have plowed, with guitar and watercolor brush, even though I had a million details to tend surrounding the business I’m trying to run.

Thanks for reading. I’ll keep plowing.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


A Magnificent Plein-Air Day of Watercoloring

April 20, 2013
Plein Air Watercolor Sketch #1

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch #1

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch #2

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch #2

This morning, my painting buddy Chris and I piled our equipment into my Jeep around 8:30 and motored south to Ennis, Texas, to Love Park.  We found a large gathering of plein air painters from the north Texas area that we are fortunate to join from time to time in these excursions.  The day was sun-washed, about 60 degrees, with pleasant winds.  Bluebonnets infested the area, and most of the oil painters were standing completely enveloped in them as they painted their surroundings.

I chose a spot across the road from them, that had more cedars than bluebonnets, and I made two attempts at watercolor sketching these subjects.  Pines and cedars have always flummoxed me in watercolor (and still do).  I spent the entire morning, and early afternoon, staring at one single cedar, half in shadow, with a scattering of bluebonnets beneath.  I admired the view blissfully, and worked very hard, trying to match up the reddish-green tints that clothe the cedar.  I tried Quinachridone, Permanent Rose, Winsor Red and Cadmium Red.  I mixed in some Transparent Yellow, and occasionally Cadmium Yellow.  Nothing seemed to work in the final analysis.  I also studied hard the separation of shadows and mid-tones in the mass of the cedar, and enjoyed all the nuances I saw in those middle tones, the primarily warm colors, and the cools in the shadows.  I worked on those as well.

The bluebonnets–well, this was my second attempt in about four years with those.  I never can seem to make them “pop” out of their environment of green on my paper the way they do on earth.  I don’t have a clue yet what that secret is.  They looked pretty good against the white paper, but disappeared as I floated light, subtle greens around them to give them a “home.”  I guess I’ll have to work on that problem another day.

It was a very pleasant experience, the plein air sketching today.  I met some fabulous new friends that I look forward to seeing again.  We plan to gather at PrairieFest in Fort Worth on April 27 for another day of plein air bliss.

Thanks for reading.

I paint to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone. 

Some Un-Photoshopped Watercolor Sketches, June 28, 2010

June 28, 2010

Cruise three

Cruise Two

Cruise One

Granlibakken cedar

Granlibakken evening

It’s been quite a conference at Lake Tahoe.  I’m here for the International Baccalaureate conference.  I packed my watercolor supplies hoping to create some on-site, plein air sketches.  An abundance of required classes, and several important planning meetings with my campus have all but squeezed out every opportunity.

But . . . I did steal some time.  The one titled “Granlibakken Cedar” I did first, this morning, between breakfast and the first class.  I only had 15 minutes, but there it is.  I also must add that I don’t have Photoshop capability here on my laptop, so the editing of these photos, taken under incandescent lighting conditions, leaves much to be desired.  There is indeed much more color on these pages than what appears on the blogsite.

The three cruise titles I did this afternoon while on a 90-minute cruise around Lake Tahoe.  This is my first attempt to paint snow packs on mountain ranges from life.  As you can see, #1 is very light and tentative, but  by the time I got to #3 I was starting to get a little more bold in color in contrast.  Incidentally, it’s also the first time I tried to paint a lake surface en plein air.

The one titled “Granlibakken Evening” was one I tried after dinner.  The light was fading, and again, I only had about 15 minutes to work on it before being called away to another campus planning meeting.

Thanks for reading.  I’m glad I got to do a little watercolor sketching while out in this beautiful location.  I’m also delighted to be included in International Baccalaureate–it comes to our campus Fall 2011.  I’m excited to take part.  I’ll be teaching the course Theory of Knowledge.

Tomorrow I fly back home and hopefully engage in some plein air work without distractions and interruptions.