Posts Tagged ‘Georgia O’Keeffe’

Quality Morning with O’Keeffe Musings

February 26, 2022
Executive Time

. . . the directness of transcription from feeling to symbol gives the best of these canvases a special and distinguished place of their own to which few contemporaries, however, talented, have access. These pictures are not derivations, they are sources.

Lewis Mumford, The New Yorker, review of O’Keeffe’s 1934 show at New York’s American Place.

The morning coffee and “executive time” over books and journal proved a rewarding start to my Saturday. I’ve returned to the Georgia O’Keeffe biography started while I was at Ghost Ranch a few years ago (and didn’t finish–I tend to be a “finisher” with respect to quality biographies). The book, authored by Roxana Robinson, has always been engaging, and I am now at the point where Georgia struggled to get her footing back following her Radio City Music Hall mural failure, her hospitalization due to a breakdown, her chronic frustrations with “Tornado” Stieglitz, and recently a torrid erotic encounter with Jean Toomer. Now alone, she has managed to regain her balance and establish a sure direction for her life and her art. It is early 1934, her retrospective has launched to a good review (posted above), and Ghost Ranch is only a few months away.

Why do I so love reading the stories of the personal struggles of artists, writers and musicians–the creatives? Because I read to remind myself that I am not alone (words from C. S. Lewis in the film Shadowlands). My personal struggles at the moment are nowhere as torrential as those of Georgia and others, but I have gone through those as well and am thankful that they are past. My current struggle is the perennial one dealing with what to do next in making art. I love the critic’s line (posted above) that Georgia’s paintings in the show were “not derivations” but “sources.” This is what I always hope to happen when I create a new body of work, that the work will be a source, not a derivative of some other artist or fad or trend.

The aging Frank Lloyd-Wright boasted that he could still shake buildings out of his shirtsleeves. That is how I feel about making art–I’m making it faster now and more efficiently than I have in years past. Yet, I feel all of it–none of my work is superficial to me, though I sometimes wonder if the subject matter is superficial or trendy in the eyes of viewers. Oh well. Too much analysis, I suppose. What I need to do is make art! Just throw the damn ball! But . . . I still have some college grading in front of me, so it’s time to close this blog, grade the rest of the essays in my queue, and then get back to Studio Eidolons to continue painting. I’m glad there is still plenty of Saturday still out in front of me.

Saturday morning painting in Studio Eidolons
Morning Watch, reading and writing as creative spirits from the past visit and affirm . . .

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.

Early Morning Thoughts from Pedernal Casita at Abiquiu Lake

July 19, 2018

Pedernal in the Evening

Pedernal in the Morning (more…)

Rest in the Midst of the Torrent

May 9, 2018

waxahachie 1

Plein air in progress–Ellis County Courthousewaxahachie 2

Plein air in progress–Waxahachie, Texas

waxahachie 3.jpg

Plein air in progress–Waxahachie, Texas

When she was working, Georgia rose at six and was off by six-thirty. She would bring a painting back to work on it further indoors. Her paintings began by being straightforward and representational, done from life. Later, as she worked over them n her studio, they took on the emotional resonance that gave them their power.

Roxana Robinson, Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life

Recently, my blogging has been sporadic, not because I have had nothing to report, but because I have been mobile. For the next week, the work will only increase. I find this time of year extremely busy with the art calendar. When I taught high school full-time, I had to say No to most of this activity. Retirement, for me, has been a sweet, sweet reward, allowing me to pursue things that truly matter to me. It’s a good thing, being able to rest and compose this blog in the mid-morning hours. But soon, that will radically change as I burst out the door and pursue a schedule that will not let up till late tonight.

Our annual Paint Historic Waxahachie event is now in full swing, but alas, my time is sharply divided between participation in this endeavor while also preparing for Arlington’s annual Art on the Greene this coming weekend. Every morning I have made the 40-minute drive to Waxahachie to work on plein air watercolors for the competition and sale, and have come home in the evening, too weary to write or post my activities. Tonight, I will need to load the Jeep with all my booth equipment so I can set up tomorrow for the weekend Arlington festival, and sadly miss the Waxahachie awards and dinner event Friday night and Saturday sale. Artists are fortunate to have so many opportunities to select what they wish to pursue, but we feel unfortunate when two worthy events collide over the same weekend.

The three paintings posted above have been in progress over several days, as I’ve traveled to Waxahachie and set up at a certain location at a particular time of day to set the light and shadows as I wish. I never worked longer than an hour at at a time at each station, always moving on to the next and also taking breaks in the shade for water, reading good books and scribbling in the journal. At my (retired!) age, I find that I work better by taking many breaks instead of pursuing a single painting for hours as I used to do. This way, I am better able to conserve energy, as I spread it out throughout the day and not find myself wearing down after a few hours.

I posted the Georgia O’Keeffe text above because I drew considerable inspiration from these words while resting between painting activity. I hope my plein air endeavors will mature and improve by following this practice of stopping and re-evaluating. The rules of this Paint Historic Waxahachie competition prohibit working on the paintings away from the location, and I follow that principle respectfully. But when home at night, I am happy to look over the paintings and evaluate how they are progressing, and make mental notes of what I wish to pursue with them when I return to the scene the next day. Taking my favorite word from the writer, Natalie Goldberg, “composting” describes this mental activity of maturing an idea as it slowly grows. Later today or tomorrow, I’ll finish these three paintings and re-post them.

As a guitar player performing in bands, I knew what it meant to be “page-bound” as I could not seem to find any kind of artistic, musical flourish while focused on the chords on a sheet of music while rehearsing. Only when getting away from the page could I find those spontaneous moments of guitar riffs and fillers that punctuated the song I was trying to play. Likewise with plein air painting. I delight in focusing on the subject live before me, my eye excitedly poring over the details, colors and textures within that field of vision. But I have trouble seeing the compositional picture forming on my watercolor page. I guess I need to call this dilemma “subject bound” because the page is not really getting my full attention. It is not until I am away from the subject that I can then focus on the rectangular space of my paper and make decisions on how to complete the painting. When I return to the scene of creation, I no longer see just the subject before me, but also the composition I am trying to complete.

Goethe and Heidegger both have articulated theories of art as a merger of the subject matter and the artist’s inner vision. Some day I hope to compose a meaningful statement of my own to that effect. But as for now, I need to pack my gear, run a few business errands, and then dash to Waxahachie for another full day of painting and decision-making.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blot to remind myself I am not alone.


Pondering Georgia O’Keeffe

May 2, 2018

goji berry 2

The evening has been serene, as I’ve resumed work on a small watercolor I began en plein air a few weeks ago while staying at a goji berry farm near Taos, New Mexico.  The morning was crisp and cold, below forty degrees, and the New Mexico sunlight was spectacular, lighting up this shaggy, ragged tree on the perimeter of the property where I was staying a couple of days. I set up my easel beneath an arbor and worked, keeping warm as I sipped coffee, for about an hour. Returning home to a busy art and college schedule, this painting had to languish in the studio, until today. I’ve been experimenting with toothbrush splattering and sprinkling the damp washes with stale bread crumbs and salt. I’ve also applied a great deal of masquing that I won’t remove until tomorrow.

All the while I worked in the studio, I played the Georgia O’Keeffe movie starring Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons.  I played it twice, I’m so moved by it. After that, I dialed up a BBC documentary on O’Keeffe on YouTube and listened intently as I worked. All the while, I felt a profound connection, as I recalled those splendorous days spent at Ghost Ranch and Taos. I cannot wait to return to those sacred places.

Thanks for reading.

Sensing the Splendor of Georgia O’Keeffe

April 18, 2018

canyon rock

Plein Air Watercolor of Canyon Rock, Ghost Ranch

Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded . . . the mountains are home.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I sensed the mountains calling out to me last week, and blogged that I was going to respond. Two days after the blog, I was in Taos, New Mexico, for the first time. The Goji-Berry Farm outside Taos provided a wonderful place to stay.  The cabin available was built in the 1880’s and the English artist Dorothy Brett resided there. The cabin next door was the one occupied by Georgia O’Keeffe at one time.  I felt a genuine stirring deep within, realizing I was visiting this area ninety years after Georgia O’Keefee first arrived.

The watercolor above I painted en plein air at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, O’Keeffe’s residence wonderfully preserved. The hike up the ridge was a steep one, and the icy mountain winds made the thirty-nine-degree day feel worse than it actually was. I managed to find a spot behind a large bush that partially shielded me from the blasts, and worked on this 10 x 8″ watercolor for about forty-five minutes.

As I worked, I understood Georgia’s sentiment that she felt she had come home at last. There was an intimacy I felt as I gazed into the facades of the ring of mountains around Ghost Ranch, and the huge sky filled me with a depth of wonder I could never capture in words.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

An Artful, 3-day Weekend

January 15, 2016


I begin a painting with a series of mistakes. The painting comes out of the correction of mistakes by feeling.

Robert Motherwell

Good evening. I’m posting a new drawing from today, because the painting I have worked on the past three days is a disaster. I’m trying to find some measure of consolation from the Motherwell quote that he began paintings with a series of mistakes–that has not been my way, but it certainly is how this recent work is going. Maybe tomorrow I will find a way to correct it (and then post it!).

A three-day weekend greets me and the timing couldn’t be better. Winter weather may be settling into my area tomorrow. The logs are stacked, the fireplace is ready, and I’ll light the fire if the temperatures get back down to where they belong this time of year (above 60 degrees today, unbelievable).  The bottle of cabernet sauvignon has been opened and I’m ready to pour my first glass while watching a movie on Georgia O’Keeffe that I just acquired (Joan Allen, Jeremy Irons).

Thanks for reading. I hope I’ll have some decent art to post over the weekend. For what it’s worth, I did enjoy the tree drawing of this day.