Posts Tagged ‘drawing’

Pushing Ahead on the Island Painting

January 20, 2016

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Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me.

D. H. Lawrence

I suppose that is about the best way I could describe my feelings when I am seized with the impulse to make art. All day today at school, I could only think about returning to this watercolor I started recently, and I couldn’t get to it till late, late afternoon. But once I got down to it, everything else in my life seemed to melt away, and I got to the point where I wasn’t even thinking about what I was doing as the brush continued to move. For me, that is often what happens when watercoloring or drawing.

Jan 20

Once the watercolor got too wet and soupy to continue working on it, I set it aside and took out another photo I took recently of a tangle of trees in my back yard. I didn’t stay with this one very long until I got sleepy. But still, there are moments when my hand is moving, the pencil seems to be having its way, and I’m no longer thinking about what I’m doing. I like that feeling.

Thanks for reading.

Evening at the Parisian Café

January 19, 2016

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At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement.  And do not call it fixity,

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.

And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

T. S. Eliot, “Four Quartets

Today I finished reading one of the most satisfying books in a long time: Bernard Jacobson’s Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant. The text is comprised of 120 pages of fine print, and I do not like reading fine print, but this was a genuine feast, begun Saturday and finished today (Tuesday). I simply could not put it down. I have been a devoted student of Motherwell’s life and work since the late 1980’s, and have chafed that there were no biographies written on him. Last year marked the centennial of his birth, so this book has come out, and another is coming out the first week in March, which I have already ordered pre-publication, compliments of Amazon.

I share almost nothing in common with Motherwell’s style of painting and collaging, but I absolutely love his writing, and he wrote prodigiously. The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell remains one of my favorite art texts of all time. I love his lifestyle which combined reading, writing, publishing, editing, teaching and making art across multiple genres. He was a contemplative, quiet man, and I have felt an affinity with his solitary side during my own hours of work and study. Nearly every day when my job is done, I retreat to my home and studio-my sanctuary. Tonight, as temperatures drop outside, I am enjoying this fireplace and re-reading all the notes I took in my journal from the reading of this excellent book. I posted the drawing of the tree above in a brief blog earlier this evening. I went to La Madeleine Cafe on the north side of Arlington to meet some kindred spirits, and got there a half hour early. So I took out my sketchbook, and with a cup of coffee at an outside table, did this 5 x 7″ drawing with great pleasure and gladness of heart. For years I have stared at winter trees, and questioned myself why I was not studying them with a pencil. Last November I got in the groove of this, and don’t want to get out, I enjoy the practice and discovery so much.

Once my friends arrived, we repaired ourselves indoors to the warmth of the cafe and excellent, spirited conversation. It has taken me decades to find such rich camaraderie and verbal exchange among artistic spirits. The French Impressionists had their Café Guerbois. Picasso and friends had their Les Deux Magots. The Ash Can School had 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The Abstract Expressionists had the Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village. I myself have ached for an art cafe where I could show up once a week or so and just talk with other creative people, and finally I found a married couple who possess this overflowing zest for art, ideas, music, literature and film. Their enthusiasm is contagious and I could listen to their ideas all night. How marvelous to have this space on Tuesday evenings for sharing a table, cups of coffee, and an abundance of dreams. Thanks Z and Elaine. You are truly the best! I’m still buzzing with the things we talked about this evening.

Now back at home, I’m enriched in front of the fire with memories, a journal, good books and a glad heart.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

Late Night Reading and another Tree Study

January 17, 2016

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They went through me like an arrow, and from that moment I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Robert Motherwell, upon seeing for the first time Henri Matisse’s paintings

This delicious Sunday night has been spent before the fireplace, reading more than forty pages from this new Motherwell book I just received. I posted his observation above of what happened when he was in his early twenties and saw paintings by Matisse in the home of one of Gertrude Stein’s brothers in Palo Alto, California. His testimony echoes what I felt when I saw my first Andrew Wyeth book in my ninth-grade art class. What a rush to recall that moment.

I closed the book and returned to my drafting table to experiment some more with the rendering of winter trees in pencil. I purchased a sketch book in an antique store last month, and am enjoying the qualities of the aged, darkened paper in the book. I’m still cutting lines into the surface of the paper with a ballpoint pen that has run out of ink, then dragging a 9B pencil over the creases. In addition to the soft pencil and dry ballpoint, I just just used a No. 2 pencil manufactured by Papermate–a Mirado classic. I have fallen in love with these, and find them in Albertson’s grocery stores and H-E-B stores as well. For the really fine and light lines, I use a 6H pencil, and from time to time I drag a blending stump through the pencil work. I’m still not sure what I’m doing, but loving the experiment.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Learning from Repetition

January 11, 2016

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Motherwell is ruefully aware that the “Elegies” are regarded by some as a formula. (“When he gets stuck, what should he do but make another ‘Elegy’?” he quotes one critic as saying).

Grace Glueck, “The Creative Mind; The Mastery of Robert Motherwell,” The New York Times, December 2, 1984.

My art history reading of late has taken me back to Robert Motherwell, an Abstract Expressionist painter who has always fascinated me because of his erudition. I’ve had the pleasure of reading his Collected Writings and have perused many volumes of his work that I’ve purchased over the years.  The Youtube interviews with him are also rich in ideas, and after wearing out the VHS tape, I purchased the DVD of his “Storming the Citadel.” Yesterday I found this New York Times article and read it with great interest as well. He painted the “Elegy” series well over a hundred times, and sometimes took criticism that he just fell back on the pattern when he was out of fresh ideas. In response, he said in an interview:

. . . the reason I’ve made so many of whatever I’ve made that could be called a series–because I detest serial painting–is simply because I feel that I’ve never really solved any of them, and so they remain a challenge.  The day I can make an Elegy that really satisfies me, then I’ll stop.

In the past month or so, I have become absorbed with drawing. Throughout my artistic life, I have believed in my heart that drawing is fundamental to art, and yet have felt like a hypocrite, because I have always drawn so little.  Finally, I am obsessed with the practice of drawing.  And for many years, I have stared at the anatomy of trees in the winter, when they are so exposed and accessible to the naked eye, yet never pulled the trigger in deciding to fill up sketchbooks with tree drawings.  That has changed.

All I wish to say is that I am not falling back on tree drawings because I have no fresh ideas.  Like Motherwell, I’m still trying to figure them out, still trying to find a satisfaction with my own efforts.  Meanwhile, I have learned a great deal by this repetitive exercise.  Following is an abbreviated list of what I’ve come to understand while attempting to draw trees:

  1. Tree boughs are not silhouettes; they have a range of tones.
  2. In watercolor, the tree’s wood is not uniform throughout in color and value.
  3. Tapering the boughs and limbs, for me, is extremely difficult and requires much concentration and repeated checking.
  4. The snarls of twigs are similar to scribbles with the pencil.
  5. There are always more twigs at the ends of the tree that I tend to notice in early glances.
  6. I do not want the tree to look badly pruned.  I must taper the twigs all the way to the point that they nearly disappear into the sky.

My attempt at watercoloring the tree tops in my back yard is coming along much more slowly than the drawings, but I’m happy in the struggle.

tree wc

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.

Sunday Pondering

January 10, 2016

imageWhile gazing heavenward through the tops of winter trees, I note the complexity of limbs partitioning the sky, as lead tracings in stained-glass cathedral windows partition theology.

trees

There is plenty of schoolwork to accomplish this Sunday, but I’m trying to put in some quality studio work as well.  I completed a 5 x 7″ drawing of the tree tops in my back  yard. I have also begun an 8 x 10″ watercolor of the same composition.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday Art

January 9, 2016

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Perhaps tomorrow (Sunday) I will find more quality time for blogging. Today I have cleaned house thoroughly, read prodigiously, and worked on three watercolors (that hopefully I’ll post tomorrow) and barely got underway this drawing of the tops of winter trees in my own backyard,

The day has been a delicious one with temperatures hovering in the forties and then the thirties.  Tonight they are expected to dip into the twenties. The fireplace has burned all day, lending a pleasing ambiance to the living room and studio. And my reading from James Joyce’s Ulysses and Harold Bloom’s The Daemon Knows has refreshed my soul.

Thanks for reading.

Cozying into a Perfect Friday Night

January 8, 2016

foodieAs Texas temperatures drop to around forty tonight and into the twenties over the weekend,  I stacked the firewood in delightful preparation for a cozy weekend at home. School went very, very well this first week of the spring semester, and I celebrated by preparing one of my favorite meals.

deskie

Now I retire happily to my favorite piece of furniture in the house and spend quality time writing and digging into the delicious literary works from authors that drive my imagination (lately Joyce, Shakespeare and Marvell). The philosophy and art history classes this past week have lit a fire beneath me, and I’m grateful for time and space to explore new avenues.

tree january 8

I am re-posting this tree drawing I did early this morning before school, when things weren’t going as great.  I think drawing did a great deal to lift me into better spirits.  In many times, art has been a healing friendship that has improved my outlook on this world.

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.

The Poetry of Winter Trees

January 8, 2016

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Perhaps the purpose of leaves is to conceal

the verticality of trees which we notice in December

as if for the first time: row after row of dark forms

yearning upwards. And since we will be horizontal

ourselves for so long, let us now honor

the gods of the vertical: stalks of wheat which

to the ant must seem as high as these trees do to us,

silos and telephone poles, stalagmites and skyscrapers.

but most of all these winter oaks, these soft-fleshed poplars,

this birch whose bark is like roughened skin against

which I lean my chilled head, not ready to lie down.

Vertical – Poem by Linda Pastan

I could never thank Linda Pastan enough for creating and publishing such a poem that makes me catch my breath.   For years I have looked at winter trees, wishing to capture them in pencil or watercolor, but could never find the words to express my sentiments. Now in this poem of hers, I feel an overwhelming gratitude that someone thought it, wrote it and published it.  Thank you Linda Pastan.

Keeping the Motor Running

January 2, 2016

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The creative geniuses of art and science work obsessively. They do not lounge under apple trees waiting for fruit to fall or lightning to strike. “When inspiration does not come to me,” Freud once said, “I go halfway to meet it.” Bach wrote a cantata every week, even when he was sick or exhausted. Though most composers would kill to have written even one of his best pieces, some were little more than wallpaper music. Eliot’s numerous drafts of “The Waste Land” constitute what one scholar called “a jumble of good and bad passages [that he turned] into a poem.” In a study of 2,036 scientists throughout history, Simonton found that the most respected produced not only more great works, but also more “bad” ones. They produced. Period.

Sharon Begley, “The Puzzle of Genius,” Newsweek, June 27, 1993

Today has been a rewarding Saturday.  As I near the end of it, I recall that I made a sketch from a large watercolor I did a few years ago of a 1902 cabin in rural Arkansas.  I used the watercolor as a model for a 5 x 7″ drawing. Then tonight, I decided to knock out a 5 x 7″ watercolor sketch of the same composition. I’m not finished with the watercolor, but I’m getting sleepy and will shelve it until a later time.

The piece I posted above is from an article that I have never been able to forget.  I took it out today and re-read it, encouraging myself to make more art in this New Year, and not worry about whether or not the works is good or not, frameable or not, marketable or not. I love the observation that creators just create, period.  They create a large body of good work and bad work.  Ralph Waldo Emerson, discussing the writing experience, said that a pump brings up muddy water before it gets to the clean water, and that a writer has to write through the mud before reaching clarity. I think the same can be said for making art. Perhaps we start out cold and clumsy, but we’ll warm up to the occasion, provided we care enough to stay with it.

Thanks always for reading, and Happy New Year.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Happy New Year 2016

January 1, 2016

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Don’t mope over it all day, he said.  I’m inconsequent.  Give up the moody brooding.

James Joyce, Ulysses

Good day, Dear Friends, and Happy January 1, 2016.  One of my New Year resolutions was to work on art every single day of 2016.  Halfway through my morning, while reading from James Joyce, I suddenly said to myself “Oops!  Haven’t done the art thing yet!”  So, I returned to my favorite tree next to my living room and gave it another shot above. I guess I don’t have much to say about this one except that I turned the art wheel of momentum one more revolution.  May it continue.

I may be returning to this blog later today–I woke up to this wonderful morning and immediately began composing a short story about my late Uncle Paul, experiencing deep cathartic feelings from the experience.  I don’t want to put it on the blog until I have it completed and (hopefully) polished.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.