Posts Tagged ‘Edward Hopper’

Sunday Morning Meditations

May 7, 2023

Experimenting in my watercolor sketchbook

It is winter proper; the cold weather, such as it is, has come to stay. I bloom indoors like a forced forsythia; I come in to come out. At night I read and write, and things I have never understood become clear; I reap the harvest of the rest of the year’s planting.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

It is Sunday morning and I have found a measure of comfort practicing my watercolor (above), reading Annie Dillard (above) and scribbling page after page in my journal. Soon I’ll leave for the hospital, and wish I could report improvements in Dad’s health. But at this time, I cannot.

Though it is not winter, I feel every sentence of Annie’s sentiment recorded above. I’m grateful that my sister has provided lodging for me instead of my staying in a hotel room. She and her husband have kept me grounded. Every day is a rhythm of hospital sitting, awaiting news on Dad’s situation, and driving back to the house to keep myself sane with art, music (I brought my guitar and it provides comfort), reading, thinking, writing, and visiting with Bob & Cheryl. And every time I read something oracular to me, I record it in the journal and write pages of ideas born from those precious words.

At this moment in my life, I cannot make art for the market. I’m too much on the move, and the only supplies I brought were the bare bones tools for plein air work. I’ve also been sketching in the sketchbook. Doing this keeps me sane, even if the results aren’t pleasing to the eye. When I finally return to Texas, I’ll probably get back into my studio rhythm, and hopefully be better instead of worse at my craft. I’m just trying to keep the tip of the spear sharp in the meantime. And art is providing solace when all else is trying to pull me downward.

Thanks for reading.


Another Turn of the Crank

May 6, 2023

Nature, in the common sense, refers to essences unchanged by man; space, the air, the river, the leaf. Art is applied to the mixture of his will with the same things, as in a house, a canal, a statue, a picture. But his operations taken together are so insignificant, a little chipping, baking, patching, and washing, that in an impression so grand as that of the world on the human mind, they do not vary the result.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

My sister is taking the morning shift with Dad in the hospital. This gave me some space to collect my wits and do something constructive. Reading from Emerson and Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek brought some calm back into my system.

I’ve resumed a watercolor in my sketchbook inspired by what I saw in last evening’s walk through the neighborhood. Sketchbook drying time is much longer than what I’m accustomed to when I paint on stretched watercolor paper. But my haste in getting to St. Louis meant simply throwing the very basic watercolor supplies into a backpack. The longer drying time means time spent in books and journal, which I suppose is better anyway. I like it when I can feed my mind and imagination while working on art.

The Emerson quote above really stirred me. I acknowledge that my art is an attempt to manipulate nature, using my training and imagination. And at my older age, I acknowledge now that my efforts are so small when measured against our universe as well as the history of art. I read years ago some wise words from an artist who said the world doesn’t need our art; it will get along just fine without us. That liberated me from the oppression of cranking out blockbuster paintings. These later, experimental years are much more interesting, to me anyway.

I’m trying some new things. I began my trees with a wash of Winsor Lemon. Then I used the Masquepen to stipple the area. A light wash of Cobalt came next and is now drying (very slowly). I will stipple with masquing again. Then I’ll work on the darker, richer parts of the leaf clusters. I will leave soon for the hospital (Cheryl just texted there is no change from yesterday. Better than hearing that he’s worse).

Thanks for reading.

Edward Hopper as a Soothing Balm

May 5, 2023

What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.

Edward Hopper

It wasn’t a good day. After a couple of days of progress in the hospital that led physicians to speak of Dad’s transfer to rehab, he suddenly took a turn for the worse. Today was the second bad day, and my sister and I fought off despair. Dad seemed to stabilize this afternoon, so we left, and I took a long walk through the High Ridge neighborhoods. Suddenly, looking up near sundown as I passed through an apartment complex, I saw something that immediately reminded me of one of Edward Hopper’s iconic paintings. I took the photo with my phone, and now I sit at my sister’s dining room table tonight and begin to paint after a hiatus that has gone on I don’t know how long.

Second Story Sunlight

The act of painting has rescued me tonight. I’ll rise early in the morning and visit Dad, hoping for some kind of progress.

Thank you for reading and caring.

Returning to the Solitude Theme

June 30, 2020
Back Home, Working on a New Commission

I’ve been thinking a lot about Edward Hopper. So have other stay-at-homes, I notice online. The visual bard of American solitude . . . . Aloneness is his great theme, symbolizing America: insecure selfhoods in a country that is only abstractly a nation. “E pluribus unum,” a magnificent ideal, thuds on “unum” every day throughout the land.

Peter Schjeldahl, “APART: Edward Hopper’s solitude,” The New Yorker, June 8 & 15, 2020

After five energizing days working in The Gallery at Redlands, I find myself home once again, working on my next commission. This will be a painting of a subject I worked on several times back in the 1980’s. The site is no longer in existence: the Ozark Court Motel on old Route 66 in Stanton, Missouri. This business dates back to the 1930s and by the time I was seeing it on my annual trips between Fort Worth, Texas and St. Louis, Missouri, the site was abandoned. The iconic sign disappeared years ago, and I’m fortunate to still have 35mm photos I took of it back in the days. The patrons have a business in Missouri and fond memories of Ozark Court. Finding me on the Internet, they’ve requested a watercolor of the motel sign and I am more than happy to return to this theme.

Back in the 1990’s I immersed myself in the work of Edward Hopper and created stacks of watercolors of iconic Missouri and Texas small-town sites. Since those days, my subject matter has broadened, but I never abandoned totally these Hopperesque subjects. Now that I’m engaged in a Turvey’s Corner series, I’m finding delight in focusing on these themes once again.

During this coronavirus rampage, I feel very fortunate that work has found me through personal contacts and Internet traffic. Commissions are still stacked pretty high for me, and painting subjects that please others pleases me as well. I’ve also been fortunate to mix plenty of reading and writing with my watercoloring. Yesterday I finished Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and now find myself resuming Jack Kerouac’s Visions of Cody. A quirky reading habit of mine involves flitting from book to book, but since I am diligent with bookmarks, I’m pretty good at returning and finishing works once started.

Ideas in general have not been as fresh the past few days as I’m accustomed to, hence the gap in blogging. This morning Sandi found a good word for me from Washington Post. Among their 2019 Neologism winners comes the word bozone: the substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. So that’s it. I’ve been stuck in the bozone the past few days. Hopefully I’ll find a way out soon.

Commission Completed Last Week

I want to close this blog with a photo of the commission I completed while in Palestine last week. Friends from the community wanted me to paint this man sitting on the bench admiring the fall foliage surrounding the pond on his property. The subject reminded me of the general Edward Hopper theme, and now fortunately for me, my new patrons have requested this abandoned hotel site on route 66 for me to paint. I’m having a good time with these subjects.

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.

A Weekend to Hit the Reset Button

April 14, 2019


It is a thorny undertaking, and more so than it seems, to follow a movement so wandering as that of our mind, to penetrate the opaque depths of its innermost folds, to pick out and immobilize the innumerable flutterings that agitate it.

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

After nearly a week of sweating out business paperwork, I finally escaped to Palestine and the waiting Gallery at Redlands. It was so good to see my art-loving friends again. Looking back now at the restful Friday, Saturday and Sunday that provided a wholesome blend of reading and watercoloring in the gallery, I’ll see if I can put some words on the page describing the delights.

A few weeks ago, I began reading from the Essays of the sixteenth-century thinker Montaigne, the one credited with inventing the genre of essay. I was aware of his literary prowess through my readings of Emerson, but never got around to reading him directly. This recent experience has been quite a revelation, and has inspired me to take my ideas more seriously, and seek a stronger link between my art and philosophical musings.

The two evenings prior to my departure for Palestine were spent seated in a patio area of a recently opened Kroger store a few miles from where I live. This store is planted alongside state highway 287, on an enormous piece of undeveloped property. Noticing the earth-moving equipment on the vacant property west of the store made me realize that this raw land will not be pristine much longer. So I decided to spend two late afternoons on the patio, looking across the vast stretch of land with sketchbook, journal and Montaigne on the table before me. As the sun sank lower in the sky, the most amazing array of colors refleted off the knee-high weeds on the property, and my eye was overwhelmed at the contrast of warm golds and cold greens alternating across the undulating grasses until it stopped at the stand of trees at the far end, almost a silhouette against the sunset sky. What I saw was the quintessential Edward Hopper oil painting of landsapes under low-angle sunlight. I know that such luminosity is possible with oil, but have puzzled frequently over how to get it done in watercolor.

Once I arrived at the gallery, I took out three 8 x 10″  stretched panels of watercolor paper and went to work experimenting on the landscape that remains etched in my mind’s eye. I laid down the initial skies Friday night, then worked on some washes of basic land color on Saturday. Sunday was spent mostly experimenting with dry brush, masquing, misting with a spray bottle, and splattering with a toothbrush. Finally by Sunday afternoon, I felt painter’s fatigue and decided to give my eye a rest until tomorrow. The paintings remain in the gallery downstairs, and I am now cozied up in my favorite Redlands Hotel suite with my copy of Montaigne and an open sketchbook. Here is what I have so far with the three watercolor sketches:




Tomorrow is a new day, and I hope to find fresh energy to continue work (play) on these three pieces.

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.

Waxahachie Plein Air Wanderings

April 23, 2017

The sun never knew how great it was until it struck the side of a building.

Louis I. Kahn

Maybe I am not very human – what I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.

Edward Hopper


The former Bailey Print and Typewriter Store, College Street, Waxahachie Texas

I awoke Saturday to a 55-degree windy morning, but was excited to have a clear calendar for plein air painting.  Paint Historic Waxahachie is now in full swing, and will end on May 14. I have been eligible to participate since April 1, but have been mired in too many retirement-and-tax-related tasks to make the forty-minute drive to this quaint town and begin painting. This was my first day to get after it. With a hot cup of coffee and three layers of clothing (shirt, hoodie and denim jacket), I set up my easel just off College Street and resumed a plein air sketch I had begun last week, but was aborted because of a heavy rainstorm. My motivation was high, and the building on my right kept the wind from reaching me. And though I was working in the shadows, pedestrians were still finding me and stopping to look at my work in progress and chat. Waxahachie has always been filled with the friendliest people, and I have enjoyed the pleasantries of their conversations without fail. I have never felt like a stranger in that town.


I decided to stop and let the painting rest at this point. I can always set up the easel in the same spot and work further on the composition if I choose. But for now, I’m going to move on to other ideas and return to this with a critical eye next time I visit Waxahachie.


Upper Balcony along College Street

Stepping into the sunlight on College Street, my sight was arrested by the bright morning sun on the light yellow upper balcony of this building, framed against dark rustic brick and trees. I could not stop gazing at it and thought, “Oh, why not?”  Setting up my easel, I drew for quite awhile, trying to get the proportions of the balcony and building right. By the time I began painting, my teeth were chattering as College Street had become a virtual wind tunnel for those freezing blasts of arctic air. The temperature had only risen to 57 degrees and my coffee mug was empty. Nevertheless, I tooled away on this composition for awhile, enjoying the view immensely, though the discomfort of the cold winds continued to intensify.


Finally, around twelve noon, I had to stop. I was afraid I would make myself sick in the cold winds. This one also I am not satisfied with as a finished composition, so I intend to put it back on the easel when I return to Waxahachie for my next plein air attempts.

The beginning and end of all literary activity is the reproduction of the world that surrounds me by means of the world that is in me, all things being grasped, related, recreated, molded, and reconstructed in a personal form and original manner.


My Saturday seemed to apply Goethe’s theory of writing to painting. While moving about Waxahachie, certain sites I viewed resonated profoundly with certain emotions and memories I have treasured throughout my life. Every time I set up the easel and got out the tools, I felt that I was engaged in a dance with the subjects before me, and I hoped that my responses on the blank page were worthy of the beauty my eye beheld in front of me.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Another Limited Edition for the Weekend Show

March 30, 2017

Christmas at Spencer's Grill horizontal

Christmas at Spencer’s Grill

And finally, I’m bringing this limited edition back out for the weekend show at The Gallery at Redlands, 400 N. Queen St., Palestine, Texas.  It is priced at $80.

Spencer’s Grill is located on Kirkwood Road (old Route 66) in St. Louis, Missouri. The business has been there since 1947, and the colorful billboard that advertised the place caught my eye since the days I was too young yet to read. Nearly every time I visit my family in St. Louis, I go to this establishment for an old-fashioned breakfast, seated at a counter stool, feeling that I have entered Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks. I guess I will always be a painter of memories.


Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

In the Studio, with Thanksgiving

November 17, 2016


Listening to an Edward Hopper Interview while Painting

Broadly stated, art is one’s effort to communicate to others one’s emotional reaction to life and the world.

Edward Hopper

Once the clocks set back an hour and autumn (allegedly) arrives in Texas, I at least can appreciate the longer hours after darkness, if not the falling temperatures.  Today we reached the low 80’s again, and I’m disgusted with the perpetual warm temperatures deep into November.  Thanksgiving is next week and I recall days from my youth when temperatures had already reached the freezing mark.  People today walked around in Tshirts and shorts.

But once the sun goes down and the world darkens and the evening is still young, I find myself in a blissful state, entering the studio and watercoloring for hours.  I have a commission deadline to meet, so I’m basically in the studio now when I’m not in the classroom.  Tonight has been so delicious, as I’ve put DVD’s on the television and listened to various documentaries on the computer.  The house has been quiet save for the voices of the movie On the Road (DVD), William Carlos Willams (PBS “Voices and Visions” (, and Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas (  These creative muses keep me company in the studio as music does to many other artists I know.

The commission I’m doing is coming along slowly, but successfully.  When doing such work, I probably would appear to an outside observer as A.D.D., but that is not the case at all.  I am always looking at the work critically, pausing, stepping away from it, interrupting it with household chores and coming back to it.  The old adage “cut once, measure twice” applies to my painting when I have to get it right.  I don’t push the painting past my comfortable speed, but let it emerge slowly and thoughtfully.  At the rate I’m going, I intend to have it finished by Saturday night, even if I have to stay with it after school tomorrow until late, and then rise on Satuday morning and linger over it throughout the day.  I’m enjoying the process as I always do with watercolor.  Once this job is complete, Thanksgiving begins for me, as the schools are closing for the entire week.  I’m ready for a holiday.

Thanks for reading.  The night has been wonderful.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Creating Worlds

September 10, 2016


The blank canvas is the blank page. You start with nothing. It’s hugely provocative. It’s frightening because you may have too much to put on it. Or not enough of yourself.

Wim Wenders

This cool, dark, overcast, rainy Saturday morning put me in the mood to continue a watercolor I worked on last evening. I’m getting close to finishing it. While painting, I like to listen to some kind of creative stimulus, often spinning LPs on my turntable, or using the laptop to dial up a YouTube presentation. Choosing the latter, I was shocked to discover a nearly hour-long documentary on Edward Hopper titled “Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas.” What jolted me after all these years was to discover how much film footage remains of Hopper’s television interview with Brian O’Doherty. The presentation is very engaging, and filled with plenty of interviews with film maker Wim Wenders (who was deeply influenced by Hopper’s scenes and collaborated with his photographer to re-create many settings reminiscent of these paintings). The above quote from Wenders is still working on me as I pour myself into this most recent painting.

Eureka Springs is the setting, and their historic railroad depot provides a lengthy section of abandoned trackage where derelict rolling stock has been parked. Every time I visit the town, I love to stroll the length of these tracks, taking pictures and making sketches of the rail cars. As I painted this afternoon, watching my blank paper slowly develop into a painting, I felt the sweet memories of last summer’s excursion flowing through me. Of course, I’m never sure if my feelings come out in the paintings (and Edward Hopper never knew, or perhaps didn’t even care, whether his thoughts were recognized by viewers of his work). I think what engages me the most, thinking of the Wim Wender quote, is when I should declare a painting finished, whether or not I have pushed my feelings far enough into the process. Of course, that is something I’ll never know. But I still think about it as I work.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.


Studio Sanctuary

September 7, 2016


It is very well to copy what one sees. It’s much better to draw what one has retained in one’s memory. It is a transformation in which imagination collaborates with memory.

Edgar Degas

Finally, FINALLY I am afforded the opportunity to return to the studio! I’m in my third week of a new school year and have managed to do plenty of pencil sketching in my journal the past few days, but I have had an uncontrollable itch to pick up the watercolor brush. So, when I saw a gap in my schedule this afternoon, I charged full-bore into a 20 x 24″ stretched paper surface and have felt such a rush of eudaimonia throughout this afternoon and evening.

My subject I recognize as an abandoned filling station I photographed this summer, I believe in the vicinity of Brookfield, Missouri on Highway 36. About a month or so ago, I did a small watercolor of a brightly-colored restored gas station further east along that same stretch of highway that friends had pointed out to me.

station new

Painting from last summer near New Cambria, Missouri

My current project will have far less color, just a white frame building with all its signage and pumps removed. Still, the sprawling highway alongside the abandoned structure has such an Edward Hopper kind of feel, and I have always loved his painting titled Gas. 


Edward Hopper, Gas

Most viewers with whom I’ve spoken are fascinated with the solitary man at the pumps. As for me, I’ve always been more interested in the white frame building, the pavement, and a dark forest framing the composition. When I drove across Missouri last summer and saw the remains of that gas station to my right, I knew I had something very near to my recollection of a Hopper composition.


The evening has also been delicious because of the quiet time and space to work on my art history for tomorrow. With each passing day, I am getting more attached to my students in the three A-Day art history sections. I am trying something new this academic year, and so far I’m pleased with how it is working. For about four years now, I have been hammered by “experts” that collaborative learning is the wave of the educational future, and that we should be forcing the students into such groups to enhance their learning. This is completely counter to the way I learned during my significant years, and cuts against the grain of how I am comfortable teaching. I have heard the scoffers ridiculing the lecture format, referring to it as the Dark Age of schooling. I couldn’t disagree more. For one thing, when I lecture, I continually throw questions out on the floor to engage students willing to engage, and for the most part they are willing. Last year, I almost completely abandoned the lecture format in favor of group learning and discussion, and I found the year among the most dissatisfying in my nearly three decades of experience.

This year I have compromised, working earnestly to cut each ninety-minute class period into collaborative portions, in additon to lecturing portions as well as time for independent work with chrome books or smart phones. Each session still has a thesis, and I don’t lose sight of the goal. But I am very pleased to watch how these classes have developed. For instance, in my last session, our focus was on early dynastic Egypt, and we studied three select sculptures from the day’s unit. And as the three figures were examined, I sought a healthy balance of independent computer research, group collaboration and lecture. And once the ninety-minute period was completed, the students not only were exposed to the historical background and technical vocabulary of those three pieces, but when prompted by me to connect with what they had worked on during the first two weeks, there emerged from the discussion allusions to the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic eras of Greek art, along with ideas from Heraclitus, Parmenides and Plato. In further discussion, ideas were dropped as well from the lives of Isaac Newton, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. That provided quite a rush for me, and I hope it did for them as well.

It’s been a great week, and I’m so pleased to be making art again. Thanks for reading.