Posts Tagged ‘flatiron building’

Pushing into the Empty Spaces

January 15, 2014
Moving with More Confidence across the Composition

Moving with More Confidence across the Composition

Any painter knows that empty space is his most powerful artistic weapon, if he can adequately animate it.  The void need not be terrifying.

Robert Motherwell

Though today was a long school day, I somehow managed to come home with a burst of energy I haven’t felt in a few days.  The painting was waiting on my drafting table, but I chose first to spend some quiet time reading, reflecting and writing in my journal.  I came across some amazing material in The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell, particulary his observations on the life and writings of Franz Kafka and how those elements carried over to the ethos of the Abstract Expressionist group of painters.  The quote above gripped me in a way that I decided to take a deep breath, and push into the facade of the flatiron building–an area that had me rather nervous because it is so light and fair in contrast to the deeply colored cornice areas.  I don’t know honestly how long this evening I have been working on this–time evaporates when I enter a painting and shut out everything else.  All I know now is that the fatigue factor has set in, I still have some school work to prepare for tomorrow, so I guess I’ll give this a rest for another day.

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.

Wrestling with Hofmann’s “Push-Pull” in Painting

January 14, 2014
Slow, tedious work on the flatiron

Slow, tedious work on the flatiron

Creative expression is . . . the spiritual translation of inner concepts into form, resulting from the fusion of these intuitions with artistic means of expression in a unity of spirit and form. . . . Imitation of objective reality is therefore not creation but dilettantism, or else a purely intellectual performance, scientific and sterile.

Hans Hofmann

What a gift this evening provided–I managed to dust off tomorrow’s class preparations late this afternoon, and am now finishing a deliciously quiet evening of watercoloring and studying.  It’s been frustrating lately, working late into the nights doing school stuff and having little-to-no quality time to paint.  I managed to insert quite a few more details into the crown of this Fort Worth flatiron as the evening progressed, then stopped abruptly awhile ago, realizing that I was falling into my paint-by-number syndrome.  When my mind starts ranging about in extraneous ideas while only my eye responds to details on the watercolor, I feel suddenly that I am on auto-pilot, and am merely whipping out another watercolor for the trade.  At this age, I am more hungry to learn, to experiment, to push the boundaries, and not repeat what I’ve done before.

sketching-and-watercoloring

Nice Quiet Evening in the Claustrum

Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hofmann found his way to the United States in 1934, the same year as Paul Tillich.  Both men fled World War II Europe, set up shop in New York City, and began changing our world by bringing European avant-garde thought to our early twentieth century.  Both men had an engaging way of applying dialectic to their disciplinary homes.  Paul Tillich was fascinated with the “boundaries” separating disparate realms, and Hans Hofmann alike spoke of that energy emerging from the “push-pull.”  Among Hofmann’s discussions of “push-pull”, I have decided to play with contrasts in color, both warm vs. cool and complementary pairs as well.  As I worked in the shadows of the cornice of this flatiron building, I continually balanced my Transparent Yellows with my Winsor Violets, and juxtaposed my Winsor Reds with mixtures of Transparent Yellow and Winsor Blue (Green Shade).  My photography is quite primitive, and I hate it that my blog cannot really put the painting before my reader’s eyes in the same way that this raw watercolor gazes back at me.  But I’m loving what I see with these colliding pairs of colors placed side-by-side.  My shadows are showing much more dynamism than they did in the days when I relied on Payne’s Gray for cool effects or Sepia for warmth.  There is so much more going on now, in the shadows, plenty of push-pull.

I’m glad I stopped earlier this evening.  The theories I’m reading from Hofmann and Paul Cezanne regarding complementary colors and warm vs. cool colors are giving me fresher ideas that I intend to apply to this experimental painting.  Just before stopping for the evening, I looked at the work and began to realize that it was becoming academic and tight.  I’ve done more than enough of that throughout my life.  I want to discover new worlds in watercolor, and wish to learn something new from every painting excursion.  I fear that art will become boring to me if it ever reaches a point where I am cranking out product.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remember that I am not alone.

Enfolded and Nurtured in the “Claustrum”

January 13, 2014
In the Cloister with Hopper

In the Cloister with Hopper

Cloister” (from the Latin claustrum, “enclosed place”) connotes being shut away from the world.  Architecturally, the medieval church cloister embodied the seclusion of the spiritual life, the vita contemplativa.  At Moissac, as elsewhere, the cloister provided the monks (and nuns) with a foretaste of Paradise.

Fred S. Kleiner, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages

. . . I feared for the necessary time and privacy to make my own art–without which personal experience I could not continue to help others.  . . . Inch by inch, I retreated to the solitude of my personal creative laboratory–the still, quiet place within myself where I could make art and learn from the making of it.  . . .  Artists toil in cells all over Manhattan.  We have a monk’s devotion to our work–and, like monks, some of us will be visited by visions and others will toil out our days knowing glory only at a distance, kneeling in the chapel . . . 

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

I could not have asked for a superior beginning to this day.  Waking at 5:20 a.m. without an alarm, I was able to enter my classroom one full hour before the 7:35 Advanced Placement Art History class arrived.  The school was still quiet and dark in the pre-dawn, and I needed some time to look at the email I received from Courtney Jordan’s “Artist Daily” (I am a happy subscriber).  It seemed fortuitous that the article was titled “Drawing Lessons from Edward Hopper.”  I happened to bring to school with me the catalogue from the current Dallas Museum of Art exhibit: “Hopper/Drawing”.  It was my  intention to study the book and continue sketching architecture.  Thanks to the catalogue, the timely morning email, and an hour of space, I was able to do some thumbnail sketches of architecture and read further the materials I have on Edward Hopper’s drawing habits.

Our focus in A. P. Art History today was Chartres Cathedral and the notion of sacred space.  And the sacredness attached to my morning watch in the cloister had a way of remaining with me throughout what would turn out to be a torturous school day, followed by hours of afternoon and evening prep for tomorrow’s classes (totally different than today’s classes).  I am on the same page as Julia Cameron.  I believe that my only hope for being an effective educator is having something to share that goes beyond nuts-and-bolts preparation work and meetings.  And that cultivation of a life worth sharing comes only from moments of solitude.  Preparation of self is much more valuable than preparation of lesson plans.  I managed to open the day with the necessary quiet and space to prepare myself, and now here I am at 10:09 p.m., grateful to have some silence before bedtime.  I’ve worked some more on the Fort Worth flatiron building that I began yesterday.  The cornice work is painstaking and tedious, but I am loving the precision and detail of it all, and taking my sweet time rendering the corbels.  It’s still early, but this small 9 x 12″ piece is already taking hold of me.

O.K.  Thanks for reading.  I’m going to return to the watercolor before I get sleepy.  Moments such as this are rare these days.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The Opening Measures of a New Symphony

January 12, 2014
Opening Moves on a Small Flatiron watercolor

Opening Moves on a Small Flatiron watercolor

The patches of color on the canvas tend to become out of gear with one another as more colors are added during the process of painting: “every brush stroke diminishes the importance of the preceding one.”  Revisions, increases of amount are necessary to recover the original structure.  “To do this I must organize my ideas; the relation between the hues must be so established that they will sustain one another.”

Robert Motherwell

After  a considerable amount of energy expended on preliminary sketches, I finally settle into a 9 x 12″ watercolor of the top portion of Fort Worth’s historic flatiron building, on the south side of downtown, Houston @ W. 9th Street.  I spent a chilly, windy morning working on it today, and felt a rush of excitement while on site.  I also did some preliminary sketching of the north portal of Saint Andrews Episcopal Church located on W. 10th Street @ Lamar.  Coming home, I carefully prepared 9 x 12″ compositions of both studies.  After digressing a few hours to complete my assignments for tomorrow’s A. P. Art History, I returned to the flatiron and began painting.  The sky, of course, laid in quickly, but was so wet that it took quite awhile to dry out (I really do not like using hair dryers to speed up the drying process).  Once it was absolutely bone-dry, I went to work on the corbels and upper regions of the cornice and immediately found myself facing dilemmas.  As I stared at the iron work this morning, it didn’t take long to get past the “blackness” of its overall appearance.  The blue-green patina streaks are posing a problem, but I’m determined to keep working on them.  I’m also finding some interesting combinations of Winsor Violet and Transparent Yellow to work on the “bronzy” looking portions.  I find myself drawing, drawing, and drawing some more as I work on this upper portion, and so far I’m enjoying all of it, though it is coming along very, very slowly.  I just hope I’ll have the patience to stay with it and not try to speed up the experiment.

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.

Flatiron in January Light

January 12, 2014
Sunday Morning Sketches

Sunday Morning Sketches

Photo of Fort Worth Flatiron Sunday Morning

Photo of Fort Worth Flatiron Sunday Morning

People often express the idea that they are most themselves when they are alone; and creative artists especially may believe that it is the ivory tower of the solitary expression of their art that their innermost being finds its completion.  They forget that art is communication, and that, implicitly or explicitly, the work which they produce in solitude is aimed at somebody.

Anthony Storr, The Integrity of the Personality

What a Sunday it has been, and I’m just barely past noon.  Having retired to bed around 2 a.m., I thought I would sleep the best part of this day away.  But shortly after 7:00, I awoke, and by 8:15 decided it was prime time to pack my art bag and hit the road.  The sun was bright, the temperatures had reached 57 degrees, and I felt the call of downtown Fort Worth.  My response was not without reward.  As it turned out, the 17 mph winds turned Houston Street into a frigid wind tunnel, the skyscrapers channeling those north winds through the shadowed streets, ripping away at my hat and jacket.  Still, the sight before me was unbelievable, and I managed to carve out charcoal sketches of the 1907 Flatiron building situated on Houston @ W. 9th Street.  Climbing back into my Jeep to get warm again (the Startuck’s Coffee wasn’t doing the job), I drove around the block, and came across Saint Andrews Episcopal Church on W. 10th Street @ Lamar.  Sitting on the curb, I charcoal-sketched the north portal of that 1910 building as well.  The separation of winter sun and shadows was stirring me up.  I took a few reference photos, and started back to the house, but quickly decided to pass a little time at a Barnes & Noble Store and perhaps get more coffee.  No such luck–the stores in Sundance Square and at University Park have both closed.  I was unspeakably saddened by this–since 1995, both stores had filled my life with warm memories, provided sanctuary for journaling, sketching, reading, musing–and now both have passed away.  I feel like two of my art studios have been closed down.

I stopped my sketching long enough to spend time in Anthony Storr’s book Solitude, and came across the above citation from one of his earlier books.  I’m never sure how to respond to this notion of the creative process and how much of it depends on solitude, how much depends on relating to other people.  I never seem to have a clear-cut answer to this, because my own art work seems to happen in solitude as well as public.  Yesterday, for example, I was covered up with people the entire day and it was imp0ssible to create art.  But my mind never left what I was wanting to do, and I did manage to scratch out some sketches between social events, and then late last night.  This morning, I set out for the task, expecting to interact with no one at all.  But by the time I had traveled to Fort Worth, sketched, travelled home and sketched some more, I was tagged by a number of people, through phone calls, texts, emails, blog responses, Facebook–so I cannot honestly say that I worked exclusively in solitude today.  I understand the artistic sentiment that one has to be alone to create.  But frankly, I have no problems finding “alone” time, and of course I manage to get a great deal of art accomplished in those “alone” times.  But still, when I get covered up with people all week in school and occasionally on those weekends that come with their own set of social demands, I still manage to get things done.  Perhaps it just depends on where the mind is, where the sentiment lies.  At any rate, this day is barely underway, and already it has been quite fruitful in the studios, indoor and out.

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.

Sketching around a Full Schedule

January 12, 2014
Sketching a Hopper Composition

Sketching a Hopper Composition

Architectural Thumbnail Sketches

Architectural Thumbnail Sketches

Descartes Collage

Descartes Collage

The third characteristic of a symbol is that it opens up levels of reality which otherwise are closed for us.  All arts create symbols for a level of reality which cannot be reached in any other way.  A picture and a poem reveal elements of reality which cannot be approached scientifically.  In the creative work of art we encounter reality in a dimension which is closed for us without such works.

Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith

The hour is very late.  I’ve spent an entire Saturday in social contexts that provided no space for art, but now am enjoying a quiet sanctuary environment, looking over recent sketches and designs I have scribbled out while musing over the past week’s subjects covered.  I posted yesterday evening the afterglow of students discussing poetry in my classroom over the lunch hour.  I haven’t yet gotten around to talking about my past week’s classes in Philosophy and Art History.  In A. P. Art History, we’ve looked at Romanesque and Gothic architecture, discussing the symbols of that era, and about architectural aesthetics in general.  In Regular Art History, we are in High Renaissance, and devoted the entire week looking at the remarkable creations of Leonardo da Vinci.  In Philosophy, we’ve discussed theories of knowledge, focussing mostly on  Socrates and Plato, while preparing a foundation for Descartes.

Three personalities who have occupied my attention the most in recent days are Leonardo da Vinci, Edward Hopper and Robert Motherwell.  Da Vinci, to me, is the quintessential sketchbook/journal artist–the only artist I think of immediately who balanced writing with drawing.  For over a decade I have chafed at my own practices, knowing that I scribble in journals almost daily, and paint almost daily, but never on the same page.  My journals are 100% written and my sketchbooks are 100% drawn. I have recorded in earlier posts that I have a set of twins in my A. P. Art History classes who faithfully sketch and record observations in their Moleskine journals.  They say that the practice helps them concentrate on their subjects better, and that is what I have believed to be true for years, yet I cannot seem to stay with the practice.

So.  After spending time lingering over the Hopper/Drawing exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art yesterday afternoon, I began sketching and writing in my own Moleskine, and began reworking some collage ideas on Rene Descartes.  I have a strong notion to begin a watercolor sketch of the historic Fort Worth Flatiron building from a different angle than the one depicted in the watercolor I sold recently.  My intention is to study the details better, and become better versed in the technical names for the architectural elements peculiar to this building.

I am going to add this to my growing list of New Year Resolutions: draw more, sketch more, and find a balance between writing and sketching in the same journal.

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.

Education Under the Radar

January 10, 2014
Watercolor of Fort Worth Flatiron Building Just Sold

Watercolor of Fort Worth Flatiron Building Just Sold

Introduction to Poetry

BY BILLY COLLINS

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
When lunchtime arrived, I had completed my first week of the spring semester at Arlington Martin High School.  One minute after the last student filed out of my English II class, the door swung open and another student entered who was not on today’s roster (we’re on a block schedule; she was in one of yesterday’s classes).  She was soon followed by another, then another.  Seven students casually clustered in the back of my classroom, and the first girl read the poem above.  Fifty-five minutes later, the bell rang, ending the lunch hour, and the students had not yet had time to peak.  They had moved from Collins to Keats to Shelley to Wordsworth to Frost to Eliot to Browning to Williams to Stevens and . . . no doubt I have left out some names.
This was not a scheduled meeting.  They were not my English II students, but students from regular and A. P. Art History classes and past Philosophy classes.  Some of them are not even my current students anymore.  And this spontaneous outpouring of poetry lay far outside the box of literary analysis.  I would call it a phenomenological exploration, as ideas from the poetry were meshed with philosophy, art history and personal experiences.  Before the hour ended, we were discussing multiple intelligences and theories gleaned from the books of Howard Gardner from the 1990’s.  We discussed Picasso, Hopper, Dali, Pollock, Warhol. There were no apparent limits to the imagination and curiosity of the students.
I really don’t know what to say this evening as I reflect on this encounter.  I knew such a group of thirsty students before–way back in 1990.  They would invite me into their homes, we would fill living rooms with bodies and discussions, and I would drive home afterward, overflowing with this indescribable feeling of educational bliss.  Throughout the ensuing decades, I have wondered countless times if such a student-driven movement would ever occur again as it had in 1990, and arrived at the assumption that it would not.  And now the surge has returned.  This current core of enthusiastic explorers has been intact since the beginning of the fall semester, and they have visited my classroom at lunch nearly every week, though they very seldom notify me in advance that they are coming.
This is the level of education that fulfills all my dreams.  These are the moments that fly under the radar.  The students don’t get class credit for coming into my room at lunchtime.  No grades are given.  There are no lesson plans.  I don’t lecture, though the students are constantly digging out journals and scribbling notes from what I say or what they are saying among themselves.  They come into class with their books, their journals, their smart phones, but above all, their ideas and contagious enthusiasm.  And moments like this will not be included in superintendents’ or principals’ end-of-the-year reports.  They will not be addressed in my summative meeting.  These encounters will not be recorded on spreadsheets or discussed under the heading of common assessments.  They cannot be measured.
It is my opinion that most of the politically-induced directives that comprise public education in this day have managed to suck all the joy and enthusiasm out of learning.  So it stirs my blood to watch these students put the joy right back in where it belongs.  And they are doing it on their own time, driven by their own spontaneous agendas.  I’m very, very privileged to catch this wave.
When school ended, and the last student left, I drove to the Dallas Museum of Art to view the Hopper/Drawing exhibit again that ends February 16.  I hope I can visit it several more times before it goes away.  I spent the closing hours of the museum seated in the cafe, drawing in my moleskine journal, overwhelmed again at the draftsmanship reflective of Hopper’s compositional and value sketches.  One of my New Year resolutions is to sketch more consistently and in a more explorative fashion.
Finally, I posted the above watercolor because I was notifiied yesterday that it has sold.  I’m thrilled that it has finally found a home, and have considered it one of my best works over the past few years.
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.

My website www.recollections54.com has just been updated.

February 17, 2012

Sunlight on the Fort Worth Flatiron

I regret that I let my website languish for so long.  I am at http://recollections54.com.  It just got updated, and should be updated further next week.  My latest watercolor is now on the home page, and the actual painting is now in the Weiler House Fine Art Gallery. (weilerhousefineart.com).  I have every intention of beginning my next watercolor over the 3-day weekend that is beginning in just a few hours.

Thanks for reading.

Finished the Fort Worth Flatiron Watercolor

February 9, 2012

Fort Worth Flatiron, 1906-7

I am happy to sign this one and proclaim it “completed.”  I thought I would be finishing it over the weekend, but had some unexpected time on my hands last evening in the studio, and managed to chip away at the final details during this day.

Thanks, all of you who have watched this from its inception.  It took awhile, as I found little quality time to focus on it.  But finally, after a couple of weeks, it’s finished and I can move on to the next composition.  I’m looking seriously at the historic Ridglea Theater on Camp Bowie Blvd., on Fort Worth’s west side.

Thanks always for reading.

Watercoloring the Environment around the Flatiron

February 8, 2012

Truck parked beneath the flatiron

Today was busy with Spelling Bee activity (I am the district’s pronouncer, and have been for about fifteen years now).  Between the two competitions,  I had a brief span of time to put into the studio.  Tonight I managed a little more time.  Most of it was spent at street level, working on a parked pickup truck and the parts of the building and trees and lamp post behind it.  I think I could possibly have this entire thing wrapped up by the weekend.  It’s about time to bring it to a close and move on to the next adventure.

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Albert King playing on DVD while I tooled away at this watercolor this evening.  I do love the Blues, and sorely miss those two beautiful, soulish guitarists!

Thanks for reading.