Posts Tagged ‘gas station’

Seeking Aurora

October 4, 2016

claude-unfinished

I have been as sincere a worshipper of Aurora as the Greeks.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

No matter how old I get, the visual effects of a bright sun will always arrest my gaze. The watercolor with which I struggle now focuses on this derelict gas station in Claude, Texas that my eye has engaged for over a decade of travels to and from Colorado. My previous attempts at painting it have been satisfying, but this time I’m struggling to catch the quality of the warm sun glancing off the gas pumps. My first wash of colors appeared too dirty and drab for my satisfaction. I’m wanting to capture that burnished glow of sun glancing off the rusty facades. As the sun waned that afternoon when I photographed them, the pumps seemed to wax. I thought that Apollo was lending his strength to any object with the stillness and strength to reflect it. The complementary clash of blue and orange has always been pleasing to me, and if I can get these pumps to complement the sky colors, then I’ll be more satisfied.

The foliage texture in the trees has pleased me, but again, the flickering fireflies of colored sunlight reflecting off the leaves didn’t happen this time either. I’m pushing myself to let the sun paint this watercolor, and so far I seem to be getting in the way.

claude-changes

Introducing some changes . . .

Once I got home from school, I had some more time to spend on the painting, using prismacolor pencil colors of yellow, scarlet and orange to try and bring some glow to the gas pumps and the tiled roof. I then added the concrete and asphalt of the sidewalk and street in the foreground, along with some fringe grasses.  The foliage was darkened and extended as well, and finally some deepening of the shadows beneath the roof.

Once tomorrow arrives and I can get some natural light back on this painting, I’ll have a clearer idea of how it is looking.

Thanks for reading.

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A Weekend Given to the Arts

October 2, 2016

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. . . there is something else in painting beside exactitude and precise rendering from the model.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, March 5, 1849

I celebrated this first weekend in over a month when I had no work-related responsibilities to fulfill. The entire weekend was given to reading, journaling, and watercoloring, and now my soul, finally, feels restored. The abandoned gas station from Claude, Texas is coming along slowly and with much feeling, as I spend more time staring at it compositionally than actually painting. Reading the Delacroix journal this morning confirmed me in this practice, that I should spend more time contemplating my work as art instead of the craftsmanship of drawing or painting.

I spent a large part of Sunday painting all around this composition, and I believe the most satisfying discovery was the way the stale bread crumbs responded in the foliage above the roof of the station. As the paint dried around the crumbs, I continued to mist the paper with a small spray bottle given to me by a dear fellow watercolorist/friend. Thank you, Elaine! I feel that finally I’m learning how to cope with the difficulty of tree foliage and texturing.

claude-unfinished

Over a week ago, I began a smaller sketch of Queen Anne’s Lace, intrigued by the warm and cool greens that surround the blossoms, and wondering how actually to shape and render the blossoms themselves.  After alternating several layers of masquing and color washes, I finally peeled away all the masquing this afternoon and tried to go back into the composition and render the blossoms.  So far, it isn’t working the way I wish for it to, but it’s early still.  I’ll keep studying and trying new things.

queen-annes-lace

I wish I could pick up the brush again in the morning, but I have a job to fulfill, so I guess I’ll see if I have any gas left in the tank after finishng my Monday classes.

Thanks for reading.

Feeling the Surge

September 20, 2016

claude-start

Beginning of a Watercolor of an Abandoned Gas Station in Claude, Texas

The pressure disappeared with the first word he put on paper,  He thought–while his hand moved rapidly–what a power there was in words; later, for those who heard them, but first for the one who found them; a healing power, a solution, like the breaking of a barrier.  He thought, perhaps the basic secret the scientists have never discovered, the first fount of life, is that which happens when a thought takes shape in words.

He built like a composer improvising under the spur of a mystic guidance.  He had sudden inspirations.

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

What an extraordinary day at my high school! I have volunteered to oversee the Lunch & Learn tutorial service offered by A.V.I.D. students. Today was our first day, and I was ecstatic to find all four of my tutors present and ready to help students who actually showed up the first day to get help in their math classes.

While the students worked on their problems, I was engaged in conversation by one of our senior girls who had encouraged me to read The Poisonwood Bible. I finished that book a couple of weeks ago and still am vibrating from the experience. The student who engaged me has finished the book as well, and her Advanced Placement English class is now discussing it. How enlightening it was, listening to her take on the story and her own extracted ideas from the text.

After the tutoring session, I found that I still had about fifteen minutes of the lunch hour remaining, so I dashed upstairs to see if any of my “lunch bunch” was still assembled. They were, and what was the conversation over as I entered the room? Literature by Joyce, Melville and Hemingway! Wow. If I harbor any regrets from this splendid day, it is that I only got to sit with my colleagues for fifteen minutes to engage in a discussion about reading. How enriching to sit with colleagues over a simple lunch and listen to conversations soaring above the small talk.

When I got home, I felt the surge to begin a new watercolor, so I quickly sketched in a line drawing of an abandoned filling station in Claude, Texas that I have painted before:

route66memories-from-website

As I prepared to lay in the sky, I decided to pull out a limited edition print of mine with a winter sky that pleased me:

cold-desolation

A number of years have gone by since I’ve attempted a wintry sky.  So far, what I’m trying on the new painting is working.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

Perpetual Wanderlust

September 15, 2016

brookfieldbrookfield-close

Abaondoned Gas Station on Missouri Highway 36

I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Finding myself impounded in a school classroom five days a week, my imagination goes back on the road that I enjoyed so deeply last summer, as travels took me to the Texas coast, to Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri.  I started a painting of an abandoned gas station I encountered on Missouri State Highway 36, west of Macon, and watching the watercolor coming into focus over the past week has filled me with the most pleasant memories of that summer trek.

It has been surmised that Edward Hopper was so taken with a particular gas station in the Cape Cod region that he turned his automobile around and went back for a closer look, eventually creating a collection of drawings and a magnificent oil painting.

gas

Edward Hopper, Gas

That was precisely my experience last summer–several miles past the abandoned gas station, I suddenly turned my Jeep around and returned to the location to take pictures and make thumbnail sketches for a future watercolor. In the Hopper painting, I have always been drawn to the dark woods beyond the station at night, thinking of one of Hopper’s favorite poets, Robert Frost:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Even though my watercolor is set in the blazing heat of a Missouri summer at midday, I wished for my woods backing the gas station to have that same dark look as I see in the Hopper painting.

Yesterday afternoon was quite rare, as I had the entire afternoon and evening free to do as I pleased. I spent the entire time bent over this painting, enjoying every piece of the composition as it slowly came into focus beneath my brushes and pencils. I used a good deal of salt and stale bread crumbs to help texture the gravel parking lot and scattered patches of grasses in the foreground. A good, sharp #2 pencil helped me render carefully the details of the frame siding, as well as the windows and doors around the structure, and the ridges in the roof. The continual layering of warm and cool colors in the foliage proved to be challenging, but I’m satisfied so far with how that part of the painting is going.  I’m a little timid about finishing out the clouds, as it’s been months since I played with Q-Tips and grays, and am rather forgetful of what exactly I have done in the past to get the effects I want there.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Studio Sanctuary

September 7, 2016

studio

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.

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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. 

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.

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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.

 

 

Lazy Afternoon at Zula’s Coffee House. Last Day of Waxahachie Plein Air Competition

June 2, 2011

Lazy Afternoon at Zula's Coffee House, Waxahachie, Texas

Today marks the end of the plein air competition in Waxahachie (for me).  The deadline for entering work is tomorrow (Friday) at 2:00, and I will be stuck in school for the entire day.  The last week of public school is a total waste of time and resources, if I may offer my frank opinion.  Prime time every day this week has been spent in a high school where everyone–student and teacher alike–has already mailed it in.   I’m happy that I managed to crank out seven paintings since last Friday–six of them between Friday and Monday, and then the past three days on this one (again, prime time spent in school, and left-over, late-afternoon time, painting).

Zula’s Coffee House is my favorite place to land when I’m in Waxahachie, Texas.  Terra, the proprietor, has this way of making any patron comfortable and grateful for setting up in this coffee haven, any time day or night.  It has become a popular venue for folk singing, book discussions and various other small group activities.  Wi-Fi makes it a great place to work on the laptop when deadlines are pressing.  The coffee house is located on Business Highway 287, on the north side of downtown Waxahachie (Main Street).  It is far enough away from the town square to escape the traffic noises of midday, and has a life of its own (which the town square lacks after 5:00 p.m.).  The open meadow across the street provides plenty of space for anyone with an active eye and a dreamy imagination.  During the fall of last year, I painted the meadow in all the bright colors that the late afternoon sun yielded.  Again, this is a sweet spot to land for anyone who is a lover of art, books, music and of course, coffee!

Thanks Terra for a very rewarding three days.  I’m glad I finally got around to painting this splendid venue.

Thanks for reading.

Another Route 66 Service Station Relic from a Dying America

March 3, 2011

Cold Desolation, Robertsville, Missouri

I have decided to post an older work now featured on my website (and the original is still for sale at the Weiler House Fine Arts Gallery http://www.weilerhousefineart.com).  A demanding school schedule has jerked me out of the studio for a minimum of two days, it appears, and I really wish to blog daily.  I’m having to work hard to make this possible.  Hopefully tomorrow I can return to my Spencer’s Grill painting and (maybe) finish it by the weekend.

My father has always taken an interest in my art work, even from my early childhood.  Once I launched Recollections 54, he was even more diligent in scouting for me these out-of-the way, forgotten towns that had once flourished throughout the fifties.  During one Christmas visit, he took me on some county roads west of St. Louis, adjacent to Route 66.  Stopping in Robertsville, I photographed this abandoned station from every possible angle.  It was about 10 degrees out, and snow was everywhere, and my 35mm camera lens was continually fogging up.  But I managed to get some decent photos, and put these images in the back of my mind’s eye to “compost” for a few years.

Of course, there were no signs left on this abused structure.  I added all of those, using props I’ve collected over the years.  The automobile was actually found alongside Route 66 in New Mexico, somewhere near Santa Rosa.  No such vehicles were to be seen on this property.

Once I finished the wintry, stormy sky and was ready to begin painting the building beneath, I had an accident in the studio.  Pushing a pile of books off my desk to clear room for an armload of “junk,” I hadn’t counted on the books bouncing along the floor and hitting this painting which was on the floor, propped against the wall.  I prefer to work on D’Arches paper, soaked in a shower and stapled on canvas stretchers, as though I were preparing a surface for oil or acrylic painting.  When dry, this surface is stretched tight as a drum skin, and delightful to work on with wet-on-wet watercolor.  Anyway, the books tore three holes in the painting.  My first reaction was to rip it off and throw it away, but it was the best sky I had ever painted!  So, I turned it over, scotch-taped the rips from behind, and proceeded onward with it.  I’m glad I did.  The painting won Best of Show in a competition the following year and a handsome check.

Something that attaches me to this painting is the reality that it was painted all over the Midwest, West and Southwest.  The summer that it was painted was a time when I decided to do a “Kerouac-style” road trip.  I loaded my Jeep and drove from Dallas/Fort Worth through SE Oklahoma, across Missouri and to St. Louis where I stayed awhile and visited with my family, painting on this from time to time.  Then I drove west to Kansas City, and onward to Denver.  From there I fly fished my way west to Kremmling, and then all the way down the Arkansas River, from its headwaters in Leadville, and on down through Buena Vista, Salida and Canon City.  Then it was on to Santa Fe, New Mexico and finally back home to Arlington, Texas.  I finished this watercolor in Canon City, Colorado, but enjoyed thoroughly working on it in St. Louis, Kremmling and Leadville as well.  All of this is to say–I saw much of this kind of “abandoned town” setting throughout my lengthy road-trip excursion that summer, and all of those sights fed this painting.

Incidentally, I had another “accident” in my garage studio day before yesterday–my French easel collapsed (a small piece of wood with 2 screws tore loose on the back leg) and crashed to the floor with “Spencer’s Grill” on it.  The result is two holes in this painting, now.  Anyway, I scotch-taped those from the back as well, and hope this will be alright.  I like the painting too much to throw it away.

Thanks for reading.

Kerouac’s Dream, December 18, 2010

December 18, 2010

Kerouac's Dream

I have already painted this vintage car several times, but thought it was time to put some fall foliage around it.  It is a 1950 Chevy Sedan Special Delivery, parked in a field north of Hillsboro, Texas, along Highway 77.  The owner has graciously permitted me to come onto his property and do watercolor sketches en plein air of his collection of vintage cars.  Hillsboro is a one-hour drive from where I live, across beautiful sprawling Texas country.  I have Jack Kerouac’s On the Road that I listen to on CD as I drive and let my mind drift across the American landscape.  With my company’s name, Recollections 54, I still look for ways to translate the memories of the American fifties into watercolor compositions and vignettes.  Even if I never reach the standard of quality that I target, I can already say that this journey has been a profoundly rewarding one.  Soon I will journey to my hometown St. Louis for Christmas, and look forward to finding new vistas to record.

Thanks for reading.

Finished Route 66 Relic, August 16, 2010

August 16, 2010

Villa Ridge, Missouri abandoned Zephyr gas station bill board

This watercolor was begun on site several weeks back.  It is part of what remains of the old Cooksy Station on historic Route  66 southwest of St. Louis.  This billboard adjoins the property of an abandoned Zephyr gas station on Route AT at Villa Ridge, near Interstate 44.  I found it with considerable difficulty (a state trooper pulled me over for an illegal turn in St. Clair, and I explained what I was seeking–he gave me a warning, and directions!).   I took several pictures of this billboard, and then painted the remains of the gas station as the early evening light was fading.  Later, I arose at sunrise (staying with my parents in High Ridge, 40 minutes away) and drove to this site and painted it in the morning light, until a heavy thunderstorm darkened the skies and chased me off the site.  Thanks to photographs, I was able to return to the composition on numerous occasions.

Yesterday, in Lubbock, Texas, I was finishing up a number of watercolors begun during my St. Louis travels of a few weeks ago, and a more recent Colorado vacation.  With this particular composition, I needed to deepen the dark shadows above, behind, and within the foliage covering the billboard.  The weedy bottom portions also needed some additional tweaking.  I’ve decided now that it is finished.

Thanks for reading.

Finishing the Route 66 Billboard, July 28, 2010

July 28, 2010

Zephyr Billboard Historic Route 66, Villa Ridge, Missouri

I’m nearly finished with this one.  I’ll be leaving for Colorado next week for some more plein air painting (and fly fishing!), and I need to finish up the partial paintings on all my watercolor blocks.  I have several in progress, and the blocks are all tied up until I can tear the paintings off.  A good predicament, I suppose.

I took a number of photographs around Villa Ridge, Missouri while visiting there last week.  Soon, I hope to get into a series of Route 66 nostalgia pieces.

Thank you for reading.