Posts Tagged ‘fall foliage’

Limits Yield Intensity

November 23, 2014
Sunday Morning Plein Air Watercolor Sketch

Sunday Morning Plein Air Watercolor Sketch

Limits yield intensity.  Beethoven said, speaking of Handel, that the measure of music is “producing great results with scant means.”

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

My weekend was fuller than usual, spent largely in east Texas at a Christmas event, and then with friends I’ve appreciated for many years.  During my escape from the city, I managed to toss out a couple of watercolor sketches, and felt very alive doing so.  This morning, I awoke to a world in Athens, Texas that was just exploding in autumn colors after more than 24 hours of rainfall.  I took a number of photos, but wasn’t satisfied until I worked on the small watercolor posted at the top of this entry.

Rapturous Colors in Athens, Texas

Rapturous Colors in Athens, Texas

Following breakfast, we went out on the back deck, looked across the property at these gorgeous colors, and drew out watercolor supplies to see if we could capture some of this essence.  My attempt was quick and small (about 5 x 7″) but my heart swelled with delight as I gazed at the natural beauty and reached for colors in an attempt to respond to what I saw and felt.  Despite many promises that I made to myself, this was in fact my first attempt this fall to attempt a plein air watercolor sketch of the changing of the seasons.  I saw it coming for weeks, but just never turned from my daily schedule to pursue this project.  Today felt good as I finally settled into it.  A part of me wishes for more time to pursue these interests, but seriously, most people lack this quality time, yet know how to appreciate it when the scant moments offer themselves up for creative exploits.  I’m happy to have received this gift this morning.

I think I’ll put this small watercolor into a 5 x 7″ window mat and place it inside an 8 x 10″ frame.  I believe that $50 will be a fair asking price for the piece.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Looking Forward to Fall Colors and Plein Air Watercoloring

September 18, 2011

Looking Forward to Fall Colors and Plein Air Watercoloring

The cool, autumnal temperatures that lightly kissed the four-day Grapefest have left me yearning for the changing colors that announce the plein air season for passionate watercolorists.  Though the art festival season will be extremely heavy from September through October, I am of a mind to commit my weekday afternoons to plein air watercolor sketching.

This is an open meadow across Business Highway 287 on the north side of Waxahachie, Texas.  I had stopped by Zula’s Coffee House late one autumn afternoon in 2010, and enjoyed my coffee outdoors at a picnic table while watching the sunlight sweep across the field across the highway.  I took out my watercolors and made quick work of this vista.  Now I’m ready to chase autumn colors with the brush again.  They cannot come soon enough.

Thanks always for reading.

 

Fall Colors in the Horse Country, November 27, 2010

November 28, 2010

Fall Colors in Horse Country

Saturday morning found me waking to temperatures in the upper 30’s.  Sandi had a riding lesson scheduled in south Fort Worth.  Since it was the first time to take her horse trailer out, I decided to come along to offer an extra set of hands for some of the details of loading a trailer and helping get the horse in and out.  Once we arrived, I found the world to be extremely bright and clear with sunlight.  Sandi got her horse prepped for the lesson, and I photographed her and Andante riding about the pen, stretching and loosening up.  By the time her lesson appointment arrived, I looked around for something to do.

These trees were “calling out” to me from the time we arrived on the property.  The incredibly bright yellow and orange leaves against a dark forest just would not let go of my imagination.  The sight of leaves falling between that dark space of tree cluster and bare ground also raised my ecstasy.  I walked around, looking at this site from three different directions, all the time trying to talk myself out of the commitment to a plein air watercolor.  I felt rusty, out-of-practice, uptight, not ready.  All of this added up to the “dance of avoidance” Ian Roberts writes about in his Creative Authenticity. I knew that, like Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth before me, there would be rewards waiting if I would just respond to the call.  But I was overwhelmed as I continually gazed at the complications–the masses of fall foliage, the dark forest behind, the bald, dirt ground beneath, the shadows spinning out from the trees and their gnarled trunks.  I felt there were just too many details to chase, and I felt tired.

I pulled out four unfinished watercolors, along with the 8 x 10 photographs I had taken of the subjects.  Nothing moved me.  I took out my digital camera and photographed the scene before me repeatedly, trying to convince myself that I could do a better job working from the photographs and inserting a grazing horse beneath the trees.  I knew that I would not do that, however.  Trees from photographs just don’t “do it” for me.

I even contemplated reading; I had a whole bag full of books.  I even thought of writing in my journal.  But I knew I would live with regret if I passed on this opportunity, and Sandi’s riding lesson was going to take up an hour.  So I sat, and looked, and thought–and finally drew out my watercolor block and sketched in the tree trunks and fencing.

Next I pulled the Super Nib Masquepen and began to dot in the hundreds of leaf clusters and falling leaves, along with the pipe fencing.  Once everything dried, I laid in a quick Cerulean Blue sky.  Fortunately the steady cold winds were drying out the surface of the watercolor block quickly.  Quinachronine Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson and Sap Green were the predominant pigments to help see me through the fall foliage.

I was pleased at my overall draughtmanship on the gnarled tree trunks.  I mixed plenty of Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red, Winsor Green and Ultramarine Blue to come up with my blacks and grays.  An HB pencil also aided me in drawing in the tree bark, along with some help from an 8B Derwent watersoluble pencil.  The tree trunks came together quite quickly.

I felt pretty lost on the shadows across the dirt, so I used more of my black and gray mixings from the colors listed above, and swirled them about on the dry paper with my “ugly brush”–a real staple for me.  My “ugly” is a flat sable that I cut diagonally and then used an X-acto knife to pull out some of the bristles, leaving a jagged chisel-looking brush for my foliage, weeds and tree bark.

I’m really delighted that I responded to this opportunity, instead of passing it by.  I was really taken by what Annie Dillard referred to as the “tree filled with lights.”  I could not get over the beauty and splendor of the bright, bright sun reflections coming out of those brassy-colored leaves.  And to think that I almost passed on this to read instead.  I recall Nietzsche talking about how “positively wicked” it was for a writer or scholar to spend the prime time of the day reading–lost in other men’s thoughts–instead of producing one’s own.  I’m grateful that this day was a day that I decided to create.

Thank you for reading.

Afternoon Autumn Glow, November 23, 2010

November 23, 2010

Afternoon Autumn Glow

Well, it’s the first evening of a five-day Thanksgiving Holiday.  My wife and I have been sick with sinus infections for over a week, and I’ve felt too poorly to focus on painting.  But once school ended today I couldn’t get to rural Burleson fast enough.  This gorgeous crepe myrtle is on the property where Sandi boards her horse.  I could not believe how alive it was in color as the sun began to set.  This is a quick, 45-minute sketch of it.  I guess Emerson called it right when he wrote that “nature wears the colors of our spirit.”  This is the first day I have felt “whole” in over a week, and as I stood at my easel, taking in the beauty of this tree, I felt cleansed as I sought to reproduce these fiery colors on the paper.

My own neighborhood is alive with color, and has been for over a week.  It is as though nature waited patiently for me to recover from this annoying illness and muster enough stamina to paint her.  In the morning, I intend to step out into the neighborhood and do my best to capture more of this scintillating fall foliage in watercolor.

Thanks for reading.

Fox Hunt now on the Greeting Card, March 7, 2010

March 7, 2010

Jennifer in the Hunt

Signed-and-numbered limited edition giclees are being made from this image.  I’m hoping they will be ready in time for Thursday’s Art Festival in Hillsboro.  I’ve just finished preparing the 5 x 7″ greeting card, blank inside, with the following caption on back:  Here is my first attempt at painting a fox hunt with hounds.  Jennifer Stewart (the artist who designs my website) submitted to me a magnificent photo made by her husband Bart.  This painting is also my first “poured” painting, where I poured the watercolor pigments directly onto the wet surface to create all the accidental details of the foliage.  The major challenge of this composition was to capture the beauty of the fall foliage without taking the focus away from the magnificent equestrian subjects.  The last item I painted was the hounds, and again, I hoped to give them just enough definition to distinguish them, without taking the focus away from the subject.

Fly Fishing Completed, February 22, 2010

February 22, 2010

Beavers Bend Fly Fishing

I think I’ve done all I can with this one.  I only spent a few days on it from start to finish.  Pretty rough trying to pour watercolor over a 9 x 12″ surface.  Difficulty also with the drying process.  I used a watercolor block, and the paper took forever to dry out.  I think I worked rather impatiently.  Lost my contrasts and ended up with a rather dark, uniform low-contrast picture.  Nevertheless I learned some things, and am anxious to pursue another fly fishing composition, hopefully sooner instead of later.  Today wasn’t the best of days to try to paint.  I had high school classes all day and a college class at night.  Very little time to paint, and once I did, I was pretty fatigued.  At any rate, I’m glad I did another watercolor, and feel that I am building some momentum.  I hate long dry spells of not painting.

Closing in on the Finish, February 18, 2010

February 18, 2010

Jennifer in the Hunt

This painting has had an incredibly long gestation period.  I can say that about my more successful watercolors, and hope I’ll be able to say it about this once it’s complete.  From my website (www.recollections54.com) there are a number of works that took months to complete, even years when the work would lay dormant for several months, untouched.  This is especially true of “Blues on the Corner.”

Jennifer Stewart is the one who created and maintains my website.  Two of her horses are in this composition, and her husband took the photograph (which incidentally has been published–thankfully, he has given me permission to paint from this published photograph).

Those of you who have followed my blog know that this is only about the fourth or fifth time I’ve painted a horse, and the first time ever that I have painted hounds.  All of this gave me pause, to say the least, and the reasons for this lengthy “gestation” process include anxieties, quitting, spending weeks and months staring at it, painting-stopping-staring-pondering, second-guessing, doubting  . . .  I think you know what I mean.  I could never have pushed this painting out quickly.  It contains too many firsts, and the more improvement I saw in the process of creating this, the more I hesitated to take the next step–you know, the paralysis that stems from the fear of blowing it.”  After all these years, it’s funny (or pathetic) to see how timid and tendentious I can be with watercolor.

So.  Today I went with my wife to Lyndon Acres in Burleson, Texas.  She stables her horse there, and was in the mood for a ride.  I set up my studio under the trees and poured watercolor all over the top two corners to enrich the dark greens of the foliage, being careful to apply plenty of masking fluid before the pouring.  After I got it home this evening, I peeled off all the masking fluid, picked up the brush, and restored the feathery foliage to the dark green areas.

My last step tonight, before posting this and heading to bed, was to pour deep plum colors all over the lower right corner (after applying plenty of masking fluid).  I have sprinkled heavy quantities of salt into the drying pigment, and I’ll find out in the morning how that worked out (I like what it did to the lower left corner lavender wash).

Anyway . . . thank you for reading, and I hope you’re getting as much fun out of this as I am.  I think I could be just a few days away from finishing it (if I don’t get interrupted.  Arrrgh!  The daily life cycle of a schoolteacher).