Posts Tagged ‘Eugene Delacroix’

Issues of the Autodidact

April 7, 2014
8 x 10" watercolor sketch done in my festival booth

8 x 10″ watercolor sketch done in my festival booth (More of my watercolors may be seen on my website


“Are you self-taught?”

Having just finished another art festival, I feel the impulse to spend a moment and address this most frequently asked question I hear when sitting in my booth.  Am I self-taught?  Throughout my life, I have heard the occasional artist making this claim, usually with a hint of superiority.  My answer to that question always appears ambivalent, but I know the bottom line:  no, I am not self-taught.  I have a bachelor’s degree in art.  I have been trained.  However, the only medium I work with now is watercolor, and that I did not learn in college, though I tried.  The professors could not help me.  And I made many, many more stabs at watercolor in the years following, without success.  Now that I have made gains in watercolor to the point that I can market them, could I claim to be self-taught in watercolor?  Not really.  Throughout the years, I have pored over books and visited museums to learn all I could about the watercolors of Andew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer and J. M. W. Turner.  And I have purchased scores of watercolor magazines, and a few books explaining the processes and techniques.  On the basis of all the above, I cannot claim to be self-taught in watercolor.  I have absorbed all I possibly can from the masters, and I still seek to learn more, to improve.  I could call myself an autodidact had I not gotten a college degree, and resorted to educating myself exclusively from sources I’ve selected.  But it didn’t happen that way, and I will not decry my university education.  It laid a foundation for me that continues to support the edifice I erect atop it.

My philosophy class has been reading Thoreau’s Walden, and he no doubt makes the claim that nature taught him to write such a book.  But there should be no doubt that his Harvard degree contributed much to the construction of that wonderful, alert mind that composed the literary materpiece.  Thoreau’s mind was soaked, not only with four years of Harvard education, but also his love of books borrowed from Emerson’s library, and the texts over which he continued to linger in the ensuing years.  Being fluent in Greek, Latin, Italian, German and French, Thoreau loved the power of language and constantly drew inspiration from written sources, along with the great outdoors, and found ways to spin these ideas with his own unique perspective.

Work hard at your picture.  Think of Dante.  Re-read him.  Constantly exert yourself to return to great ideas.  What fruit can I reap from my almost complete solitude, if I have only commonplace ideas?

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, March 3, 1824

I could wish that I had an original, creative mind, but frankly I draw my inspiration from a myriad of sources, and am grateful for every gift they offer.  Solitude offers me the environment to draw from the works of geniuses in the hope that some of it will rub off in my own creations.

I have posted a quick, one-hour 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch that I did sitting in my booth on Saturday at Kennedale’s Art in the Park.  I used a reference photo taken of me fly fishing in South Fork, Colorado.  I am still shy about rendering a human figure in watercolor.  Drawing the figure does not come easily for me, and applying watercolor wash and drybrush over the drawing still has me over-thinking.  I’m confident that I will reach a time when it comes more easily.  In the meantime, I’ll keep studying and experimenting.

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.



Thoughts in All Directions

April 5, 2014
Displaying at Art in the Park.  Kennedale, Texas

Displaying at Art in the Park. Kennedale, Texas

What pleases me is that I am acquiring reason without losing the emotions evoked by beauty.  I certainly do not want to deceive myself, but it seems to me that I am working more calmly than ever before, and I have the same love for my work. . . . What are most real to me, are the illusions that I create with my painting.  the rest is shifting sand.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, February 27, 1824

One of Delacroix greatest gifts to me, personally, is the Journal he left behind.  I appreciate his paintings and what he contributed to the rising tide of Romanticism in the history of art.  But daily, I am surprised by his thoughts, and have spent considerable time over this past week lingering over ideas inspired by him.  His statement above resonates with me, because he testifies that his intellect balanced his emotions in the act of painting.  Historians, I believe, overstate Romanticism to make it more teachable, contrasting it with Neoclassicism to throw it into bolder relief.  And I have no problem with that.  At least we have the written words of one of the major players on that stage, emphasizing reason’s role in the creation of his art.

Though I’ve gone a week without posting to the blog, my mind has been focused on painting.  There just have been too many work-related deadlines to meet, along with the day-to-day maintenance issues with living.  But it has been a good week, the blog lacuna notwithstanding.  Currently I am in the midst of a three-day art festival about ten minutes from my home.  I was glad to awaken this morning after a good night’s sleep (yesterday’s load-in and set up left me quite achy and sore).  Rising refreshed, I was glad to know I had about two hours before having to return to the festival scene.  Hence, my quiet moments before the computer screen to put this together.  The coffee was good too.

I am taking my watercolor supplies to the booth with me today.  If time allows, I will work on a small watercolor sketch–something I have wanted to do all week but was prohibited by other deadlines.

Thanks for reading, for staying with me.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Thanksgiving–Thankful for Some Quiet Space and Time to Watercolor

November 28, 2013
Beginning Watercolor of The Shed Cafe.  Edom, Texas

Beginning Watercolor of The Shed Cafe. Edom, Texas

There is in me something that is often stronger than my body, which is often enlivened by it.  In some people the inner spark scarcely exists.  I find it dominant in me.  Without it, I should die, but it will consume me (doubtless I speak of imagination, which masters and leads me).

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, October 6, 1822

The holidays could not arrive too soon.  Since I walked out of the high school Tuesday afternoon, I have managed to teach a college course, tidy-up three rooms in my house, tend to several pressing business affairs, prepare a Thanksgiving feast and even linger over a new watercolor.  This is my third and final of a series focussing on the Edom, Texas business district.  In two days, I’ll be there for the entire day, painting and (hopefully) selling my art work.

The Shed Cafe is undoubtedly my favorite place to dine in all of east Texas.  Every fall, when I attend the Edom Festival of the Arts, my highlight is taking meals from The Shed.  The entrees and desserts alone are grand enough, but I swear that every vegetable side they offer tastes like it came out of my Grandmother’s garden, and her garden vegetables have always been my standard for gauging the quality of restaurant foods.  Right now, I am stuffed with Thanksigiving food, but I cannot wait to spend the entire day Saturday inside The Shed Cafe.

My quiet reading times during vacation have been focussed on the Journals of Eugene Delacroix, French Romantic painter from the nineteenth century.  The older I get, the more I appreciate the great artists of history who cared enough to journal, took their work seriously enough to commit their theories to writing.  Delacroix was undoubtedly a great mind blooming on this side of the European Enlightement, and as I pore over his pages, I am frequently stunned by his insight.  I plan to share some of those on the blog as the holiday unfolds.

Thanks always for reading.  How wonderful to have this time to pause and reflect, and be thankful for the gift of life.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Meditations from the Man Cave

May 15, 2012

A Voyeuristic Peak into the Refurbished Man Cave

For over a year, I have made jokes about the “man cave” in my garage.  My space contained no sofa, no refrigerator, no wet bar.  In place of power tools and a pool table, I had a pair of small drafting tables pushed to the center, a director’s chair, and all my watercolor supplies.  During the scarce temperate months of Texas, I enjoyed retreating to the garage “studio” to make art, and thus called it my “man cave” with the disclaimer that there was nothing to photograph of my surroundings to post to the blog.

All of that changed over the weekend.  With the addition of an antique drafting table, measuring 4 x 7′, and using my antique doors to enclose this new space in the back of the garage, I have managed to carve out a new environment better suited for what I like to do when I’m not at my day job.

Temporary closure walls for the Man Cave

If I were a student in today’s public school, I would probably be tested for Attention Deficit Disorder.  I chase too many interests.  Friends who have admired me have labeled me as a Renaissance Man, assuming I was multi-talented.  I wish that were accurate.  In reality, I am multi-interested.  I probably have too many interests, too little focus.  My new studio is a reflection of that.

I love to create art.  I love to read.  I love blogging on the computer and writing in my daily journal (Lord, I have over 110 volumes of journals, going back to the late 1980’s).  I have loved scholarly research since graduate school days.  With my library in place, I now have an excellent space to pursue these studies in art, literature and philosophy.  I love music, especially the blues, and playing my guitar.  I’m delighted now to have a space that allows me to explore all these venues.

A portion of my library moved to the Man Cave

Abstract Expressionist artist Robert Motherwell remains one of my intellectual and artistic heroes.  For years, I have perused photos of his studio and library.  He was a scholarly man, conflicted throughout his life between painting and writing for publication.  He had majored in painting during his undergraduate years at Stanford, then turned to Art History and Philosophy during his graduate studies at Harvard.  General history paints him as a man who dropped his academic research and became an Abstract Expressionist painter.  That is not accurate.  Throughout his illustrious career, he continued to pursue scholarly endeavors and write for publication.  He was a prolific writer as well as painter.  I have read The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell as though they were scripture, equally amazed at his fertile mind along with his paintings and collages.  Though criticized on the one side by editors, and on the other by galleries, he nevertheless pursued those two avenues throughout his creative life.  The monograph on Robert Motherwell titled With Pen and Brush also chronicles his dual pursuits in these venues.

My life would be simpler if I had only two pursuits–watercoloring and writing.  But life isn’t that simple for me.  To these pursuits I must also add writing in my journal, listening to music, playing my guitar, reading for pleasure, studying for research and writing lectures for classes and public discourse.  Every day, all these venues clamor for my attention, as I dress and pack my bag to spend yet another day earning my living, teaching in a public school.  And, as readers of my blog well know, my public school exercise is not one of quality, by quantity, daily checking the appropriate boxes of required tasks fulfilled: teaching Art I, Philosophy, Humanities, Regular Art History and Advanced Placement Art History, maintaining a grade book, and keeping tabs on whether students are wearing their I.D.’s complying with dress codes, and behaving themselves.  Quality teaching went out the window a long time ago, when there were fewer subjects to master, fewer and smaller classes to maintain and fewer legislative hoops through which to jump while flapping my arms like a chicken.  Now, my daily routine involves little more than documented baby sitting or herding cats.  So, I come to the school to earn my living, but enter the studio to carve out a world of ideas and art.  The latter has succeeded the more in returning to me a sense of dignity and meaning.

Keeping a journal puts me in company with artists such as Eugene Delacroix and Paul Gauguin, and essayists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  It keeps my thoughts and pictures out in front of me, fuels my daily fires of inspiration.  My journals are maps for organizing wonder.  And, like my blog, my journals are first drafts, beginnings of thoughts, ends of thoughts, never pretending to be published gems.

Journaling and blogging are my lifeblood.  I journal when I am alone; I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Thanks for reading.

Final Day of Kennedale’s Art in the Park

April 1, 2012

Kennedale final day of festival

The Texas sun is brutal today.  I’ll be glad when this show finally closes at 5:00.  I regret that my 7:35 class in the morning will be coming on early and fast.

This festival has been slower than others.  It has provided quality, quiet, isolated time for me to kick out a pair of watercolor sketches, posted yesterday.  I have also taken advantage of reading time.  In our A. P. Art History class, we are working through the 19th century.  I have been captivated for years by the work and the  mind of Eugene Delacroix, a Romantic painter from France.  During this festival, I have opened and read for the first time from his Journal, and have been amazed at his observations.

On April 13, 1853, he recorded this:  One always has to spoil a picture a little bit, in order to finish it.  The last touches, which are given to bring about harmony among the parts, take away from the freshness.  In order to appear before the public one has to cut away all the happy negligences which are the passion of the artist.

I have wrestled with that reality my entire artistic life.  I could not begin to count the number of my watercolors that, to me, were better while in progress than when completed and signed.  The vignette look, with all the empty space surrounding the composition, is something I lifted from the Andrew Wyeth drybrush renderings that I admired since I was a dreamy high school student.  Yet, I have to force myself to stop before I get to the perimeter of my compositions.  I still have not mustered the courage to pause, reflect, evaluate over the days, then just sigh, and say: “I’m calling this one finished.”

I’m looking forward to gleaning more from Delacroix.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday at Art in the Park, Kennedale, Texas

March 31, 2012

Troublesome Creek Fly Fishing

Today is Saturday at Kennedale Texas.  I’m participating in Art in the Park.  The weather is absolutely beautiful, but the attendance is quite thin, so I have plenty of time to do watercolor in the booth.  I started and finished this one today, and if the crowds don’t pick up soon, it looks as though I’ll start (and perhaps finish) a second piece.  I worked from a photo that my guide shot of me angling a 24″ Cutthroat Trout at Troublesome Creek in Kremmling, Colorado, northwest of Denver.

The sun is so bright outside that I can barely see this image on my laptop.  If I find out later that it is badly reproduced, I’ll clean it up and re-post it.  I use Photoshop to sharpen my photos, but honestly, I cannot see anything in this bright light today.

Besides watercoloring, I am reading with great delight the Journals of the Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix.  The man’s mind (as well as his paintbrush) excites me to no end.  He has made me feel like such a featherweight in my journal endeavors over the past few decades.  I am determined to find a way to discuss my theories on watercolor with the exactitude that he did with his oils.  For sure, I do not travel the exotic lands that he did, but still I am enough of a road trip warrior that I can surely penetrate these odyssey experiments better with the written word, and with a watercolor block and camera in hand.  I can’t wait for the summer season to come around so I can see about putting some of this to work.

Thanks for reading.  I think I’ll start another fly fishing watercolor sketch.

Thanks for reading.