Posts Tagged ‘drawing’

Welcoming 2019

January 1, 2019

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The passions are a kind of thirst, inexorable and intense, for certain feelings or felt states. To find or invent ‘objects’ (which are, more strictly speaking, relational structures) whose felt quality satisfies the passions,- that for me is the activity of the artist, an activity which does not cease even in sleep. No wonder the artist is constantly placing and displacing, relating and rupturing relations; his task is to find a complex of qualities whose feeling is just right – veering toward the unknown and chaos, yet ordered and related in order to be apprehended.

–Robert Motherwell

What an exhilaration to awake to a 19-degree winter morning on New Year’s Day 2019! With no appointments on the books, I felt a soothing calm as the day presented itself with leisure and books. Reading passages from Abstract Expressionist artist Robert Motherwell put me in the frame of mind to explore drawing with renewed vigor. He defined drawing as a method for organizing space on a two-dimensional plane.

The first day of the new year often witnesses a different trajectory in my art. Currently I am working on commissions, and will begin posting them, but I also laid down a New Year resolution that I would draw more. So . . . a few years ago, I drew one winter tree per day for the month of January, then matted each 5 x 7″ drawing, framed a few, and sold a large quantity of them. This year, I’m not thinking about the sale, only the hope to improve with the careful discipline and repetition of drawing. My intention is to spend January with a focus on drawing nature.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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Drawing Trees over the Holidays

November 22, 2016

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Get one form that looks like the tree, rather than little pickings at the branches. Give the tree its gesture. Some trees are heavy, ample and full. In a tree there is a spirit of life, a spirit of growth and a spirit of holding its head up.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Now that the trees are casting their leaves up here in Missouri, I’m pulling out the pencils and sketchbook and trying to capture some of their movement, their essence.  Since I was a child, I stared at bare trees more than leafed-out ones, and I’m really not sure why.  I wasn’t drawing them as a child, and when I became an adult, I foolishly drew and painted trees for years out of my imagination rather than the way I do now–gazing at them, studying them, contemplating each one’s figure and portrait.

Andrew Wyeth for years has fascinated me with his tree studies in pencil and dry brush. More recently, I have purchased a book on Leonardo da Vinci’s tree studies. I could spend he rest of my life learning this craft, I believe.

Thanks for reading.

Working Sometimes from the Fact

November 17, 2016

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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.

Sketching on a Friday

July 29, 2016

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There are three aspects of nature which command man’s attention: power, loveliness, grandeur.  Power he exploits, loveliness he enjoys, grandeur fills him with awe.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion

Closing out a sublime vacation has always proved difficult for me. This morning I ventured into an old-fashioned diner for an old-fashioned breakfast. When I stepped outside, the unseasonable Missouri temperatures were suspended at 81 degrees. Without a moment’s hesitation, I fetched my journal and packet of pencils from my vehicle and took a seat on the sidewalk outside, adjacent to the Post Office in High Ridge, Missouri, and sketched a tree stretching over the fence of the property next door.  The traffic swished, the birds chirped, the breeze chased loose leaves and debris across the paved parking lot stretched out before me. And I felt that I was embraced by nature’s grandeur.  Unfortunately the photo above is not sharp, because I cropped it from the corner of the journal where I was writing my most private thoughts.

I was sad to close a three-day chapter with friends I knew from high school.  We laugh at ourselves (old farts) when we gather to kayak and fish the river (the Gasconade this time). But on a sober note, I miss these guys sorely right now-their stories, their laughter, their ideas and above all, the fact that they no longer take themselves as seriously as half-a-century ago.  We are not the center of the world as we thought we were in high school. As it turns out, our parents and teachers knew what they were talking about (most of the time) when they tried to teach us how to live and succeed. I never thought I would be caught talking about “the good old days” but now that it’s happened, I can genuinely say I feel much better about life all around now. Thanks, Mark and Wayne.  I can’t wait till the next time . . .

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I had to lay down the brush a few days ago to make way for the river and fishing. Today I’m just sitting quietly with my reading and my thoughts, glad for the respite from work, and gladder still that school is still a few weeks away.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I’m not really alone.

Saturday Ruminations

February 20, 2016

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He continues to inspire people to make art out of the substance of their daily lives, rather than to seek out special ‘artistic’ subjects. He continues to inspire ordinary people to break out of the narrow confinements of lives they have beeen handed down.

Steve Turner, Jack Kerouac: Angelheaded Hipster

It seems unfair to awaken at 5:30 on a Saturday morning, but at least I used the time to finish reading the Jack Kerouac biography I just cited above, spend some time scribbling in my journal, then making a stab at sketching one of my favorite spots for flyfishing–the Brazos River below Possum Kingdom dam, where they release rainbow trout every winter. I took a photograph of my favorite Highway 16 bridge the last time I went there, and since I got totally skunked, catching zero trout, I thought I may as well attempt some sketches of that gorgeous environment.

Sketching brightens my disposition, and I needed that this morning. Reading details of the closing decade of Kerouac’s life always saddens me. He didn’t manage to publish On the Road until 1957 and then eleven years later he was dead. That final decade was tragic beyond words, as recognition for his literary work finally came while his spirits tanked. He lacked the disposition to savor being a public figure, and writing no longer brought him bliss.

I like the observation that Turner drew near the close of the biography, and I love the challenge of creativity just as much as I love people who respond to that challenge. Recently, I have felt pain as I have read one account after another of a famous creative spirit who could not continue to thrive creatively when the fame set in. Often it was because they were stripped of their environment of solitude that was necessary for creative exploits. Added to that was the pressure to sustain a particular style or signature that fed the public but no longer intrested the creator. That often proved a no-win situation. If they continued in the style, they were unhappy, feeling that they were doing hack work to satisfy the market. If they did indeed pursue new stylistic avenues, the public rejected it, wanting the familiar trademark stuff.

I have always savored the remark made by Robert Motherwell in an interview concerning the life choices of the Abstract Expressionist artists before their work was discovered: “If no one gave a damn about what we did, why not do whatever we wanted?” That is the kind of felicitious artful lifestyle that appeals to me–being able to do what pleases oneself without having to worry about the market. I have not expressed enough gratitude for my having a steady job throughout my adult life that supports what I do in the creative realm. I can succeed or I can fail at my art, but at least I can continue to earn a living and not have to ask anyone to support what I do.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Escape Velocity

February 4, 2016

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I tingled all over; I counted minutes and subtracted miles. Just ahead, over the rolling wheatfields all golden beneath the distant snows of Estes, I’d be seeing old Denver at last. I pictured myself in a Denver bar that night, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was “Wow!”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

In 1856 Walt Whitman gave us “Song of the Open Road.” One hundred one years later, Jack Kerouac gave us On the Road. Finally completing a collage this afternoon while listening to the film “The Source”, that old itch rose again to hit the open road. But alas, it is Thursday. Another work day stands between me and a coveted opportunity to drive across open country. Though it is February, the winter is so mild here in Texas, with temperatures at this moment in the mid-fifties and sunny. Truly if it weren’t for another work day tomorrow, I would push my vehicle down some open roads somewhere if for no other reason than just to gaze across the “raw land” (Kerouac’s phrase) and enjoy the things of life that really matter.

In the second month of a new semester, school is long on demands and short on praise. No matter what one does, there is always another directive coming down the pike. We reach a point that we’re convinced we can never do enough to satisfy the demands. I don’t want to turn into one of T. S. Eliot’s “Hollow Men” by devoting all my time to preparations, grading, paperwork and assorted tasks that satisfy account books but not souls. At this point of the late afternoon, I’m glad that tomorrow’s demands have already been met in preparation, and perhaps I can settle into making some art or reading some quality literature (but I’d rather be on the road!).

Thanks for reading.

 

Sunday Morning Sketch

January 24, 2016

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An artist learns by repeated trial and error, by an almost moral instinct, to avoid the merely or the confusingly decorative . . . to say what he has to say with the most direct and economical means, to be true to his objects, to his materials, to his technique, and hence, by a correlated miracle, to himself.

Irwin Edman, Arts and the Man

My morning has been given to the richest reading imaginable–Lewis Hyde’s The Gift and Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis. After a couple of hours of easy-chair reading and scribbling ideas into my journal, I felt the urge to draw, and pulled up on my computer one of many photos I’ve taken in past weeks of winter trees, and begin to draw. This is as far as I have gotten. I have an obscene stack of papers to grade for school tomorrow, classes to prepare, and so on. Time to get back to my job.

Thanks for reading.

 

When the Imagination is Flat, Draw Anyway

January 22, 2016

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Books are for the scholar’s idle times. When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted in other men’s transcripts of their readings. But when the intervals of darkness come, as come they must, — when the sun is hid, and the stars withdraw their shining, — we repair to the lamps which were kindled by their ray, to guide our steps to the East again, where the dawn is.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

This advice from my beloved New England sage I have taken seriously throughout my adult life. As a schoolteacher, at least one idea begins percolating in my consciousness while getting ready to go to work every morning. That way, if the classroom dynamics are flat, I have something going on in my head worth exploring that makes the day better, anyway.

But this morning, of all rare times, nothing came. And as I moved through my classes, it never did come. Now that I am into my Friday night, with a welcoming weekend stretched out before me, I still have no idea to pursue. Following Emerson’s dictate, I now have a stack of quality books at my elbow. But before opening one of the volumes, I was struck by the thought: “Hey! You haven’t drawn or painted today! Do it.” But I didn’t feel like it. I did it anyway, and the drawing is posted above. Things are already looking up, and I am ready to read and relax into the rest of the night now. If nothing happens tonight, I’m confident that I’ll wake up with an Idea tomorrow.

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.

 

Quality Hours before the Fire

January 21, 2016

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Texas has been cold, dark and rainy the entire day. Once home from school, I built a nice fire, brewed a pot of coffee and then got under the blankets in front of the fireplace and read with a glad heart. My imagination has been fueled by an article I read today in Culture that popped up on my facebook: “The Death of the Artist–and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur.” I found the article very engaging, as it traced the history of the artist, from artisan to genius to institution to our current digital age of entrepreneurship. Some of it could have been disturbing, but it rang true, and provoked me to think soberly about what I’m attempting to do at this point in my life. After I read the article, I turned to something I had heard about my entire adult life but never once read: Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman.” What a probing, sober-minded piece of work! The rest of the afternoon found me thinking and scribbling in my journal.

I finally went to my drafting table and worked further on something I started between class periods this morning and posted earlier today:

Jan 21I’m still intrigued by the tangle of winter trees, and never seem to tire of their twisted, gaunt anatomy.

Thanks for reading.

When the Day is Jammed . . .

January 21, 2016

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There are times like this day, when the public school schedule is so jammed with details, that one cannot find quality moments even to think, but just react. So . . . I decided to see what I could do during the mindless passing periods between classes (about seven minutes). Even when one has seven minutes here and seven minutes there, opportunities for sanctuary still present themselves. And so I retreat into the start of another drawing, with delight, knowing I could always finish the piece tonight in the studio, or tomorrow night, or . . .