Posts Tagged ‘Goethe’

Today I Build my House Again

May 10, 2018

Terlingua framed

Framed watercolor of Terlingua Ghost Town

The beginning and the end of all literary activity is the reproduction of the world that surrounds me by means of the world that is in me, all things being grasped, related, recreated, molded, and reconstructed in a personal form and an original manner.

Quotation from Goethe to Jacobi, Frankfurt, letter of August 21, 1774

While assembling my gear for today’s load-in at Arlington’s Art on the Greene, I brought up YouTube on my television and listened to the “Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas” documentary. I had to stop loading and write out the Goethe quote that really resonated with me. It is said that Hopper carried this quote on a piece of paper in his pocket as he went about looking for subjects to paint. I someday would like to construct a well-worded definition of art as a number of these remarkable thinkers have done before us. Anytime a muse speaks of art as a combination of our inner world with the outer world, I feel a rush of new energy and enthusiasm.

In an earlier post, I tried to explain how my theory of plein air painting parallels the practice of Georgia O’Keeffe. She painted her landscapes directly, then brought them into the studio to revise. The finished result was the abstract work that we admire. For me, it is a little different–I love to paint directly from nature, but sometimes do not finish the work on site. I’ll take a reference photo, and for days the image of what I tried to paint will compost in my mind until I think of compositional matters to resolve in the piece. When I return to the work with fresh eyes, I make whatever alteration is necessary, most of it involving the perimeter of the painting as I decide which portions to leave blank and which ones to render in some combination of texture and color. One of the things that made this past week so difficult was the plein air competition in Waxahachie–all works must be created exclusively on site. Therefore, I could not work in the studio, but chose to return daily at the same hour to the sites where I began each of my three paintings, and push further with the composition. Still, the composting activity happened in the evenings when I looked at the in-progress paintings and made mental notes of what I wished to accomplish at my next session.

This morning I finally framed the Terlingua ghost town I visited about a month ago. I took a number of photographs of the church on the hill as the sun was setting, and for weeks afterward continued to re-visit the subject in my mind’s eye. Once I set out to paint it, I reproduced the church, looking at the photos I took. Then again I laid it aside as I continued to ponder (compost!) how to render the surrounding terrain. After a few more days, I reached a decision and finished it.

The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It came to him, short-lived actions it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

This Emerson quote has flooded my soul since 1992, when I first read it while studying in Oregon, and I have re-read “The American Scholar” every semester since that remarkable day. Every word of the statement clamors for my attention, but this morning I’m fastened on this portion: “Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.” When I was young, I relied on my eye-to-hand coordination and what others call “talent” while trying to make art. In my senior years, things have changed. I am wishing more and more to pour a life of experience and depth of feeling into my paintings. When viewers see my work, I appreciate them telling me I am “talented.” But frankly, I have known that from my youth. What I really want to know is if anything I paint stirs them, holds them, resonates with them. Ken Wilber wrote that beauty “suspends the desire to be elsewhere.” I guess what I wish to know is that someone experiences “beauty” when they look at something I painted. That fact holds much more value with me than someone acknowledging that I have talent.

All creation, because it is such a drawing-up, is a drawing, as of water from a spring.

Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”

This afternoon I’ll experience the rebuilding of my house, as I set up the 10 x 10 booth for display and sale of my work. There have been times past where I dreaded this moment, but this isn’t one of those. A couple of weeks ago, I had my best experience of assembling and disassembling my booth and gear at the Dallas Arboretum. Richard Greene Linear Park, where I set up today, is filled with large shade trees, and wind often blows across the lake to provide comfort as we labor over our steel poles and vinyl tents. I’m looking forward to another good festival.

Richard Greene Linear Park is located in Arlington at 1601 E. Randol Mill Road. Hours for this event are Friday 3-10; Saturday 11-10; Sunday 11-5.

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.

 

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Waxahachie Plein Air Wanderings

April 23, 2017

The sun never knew how great it was until it struck the side of a building.

Louis I. Kahn

Maybe I am not very human – what I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.

Edward Hopper

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The former Bailey Print and Typewriter Store, College Street, Waxahachie Texas

I awoke Saturday to a 55-degree windy morning, but was excited to have a clear calendar for plein air painting.  Paint Historic Waxahachie is now in full swing, and will end on May 14. I have been eligible to participate since April 1, but have been mired in too many retirement-and-tax-related tasks to make the forty-minute drive to this quaint town and begin painting. This was my first day to get after it. With a hot cup of coffee and three layers of clothing (shirt, hoodie and denim jacket), I set up my easel just off College Street and resumed a plein air sketch I had begun last week, but was aborted because of a heavy rainstorm. My motivation was high, and the building on my right kept the wind from reaching me. And though I was working in the shadows, pedestrians were still finding me and stopping to look at my work in progress and chat. Waxahachie has always been filled with the friendliest people, and I have enjoyed the pleasantries of their conversations without fail. I have never felt like a stranger in that town.

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I decided to stop and let the painting rest at this point. I can always set up the easel in the same spot and work further on the composition if I choose. But for now, I’m going to move on to other ideas and return to this with a critical eye next time I visit Waxahachie.

wax3

Upper Balcony along College Street

Stepping into the sunlight on College Street, my sight was arrested by the bright morning sun on the light yellow upper balcony of this building, framed against dark rustic brick and trees. I could not stop gazing at it and thought, “Oh, why not?”  Setting up my easel, I drew for quite awhile, trying to get the proportions of the balcony and building right. By the time I began painting, my teeth were chattering as College Street had become a virtual wind tunnel for those freezing blasts of arctic air. The temperature had only risen to 57 degrees and my coffee mug was empty. Nevertheless, I tooled away on this composition for awhile, enjoying the view immensely, though the discomfort of the cold winds continued to intensify.

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Finally, around twelve noon, I had to stop. I was afraid I would make myself sick in the cold winds. This one also I am not satisfied with as a finished composition, so I intend to put it back on the easel when I return to Waxahachie for my next plein air attempts.

The beginning and end of all literary activity is the reproduction of the world that surrounds me by means of the world that is in me, all things being grasped, related, recreated, molded, and reconstructed in a personal form and original manner.

Goethe

My Saturday seemed to apply Goethe’s theory of writing to painting. While moving about Waxahachie, certain sites I viewed resonated profoundly with certain emotions and memories I have treasured throughout my life. Every time I set up the easel and got out the tools, I felt that I was engaged in a dance with the subjects before me, and I hoped that my responses on the blank page were worthy of the beauty my eye beheld in front of me.

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.

Unveiling a New Addition to the Show this Weekend

March 29, 2017

card Weatherford Victorian Salute vertical

“Angel’s Nest” Weatherford, Texas

This striving after imitative expression, which one meets every where, is significant of the aim of nature, but is mere stenography.  There are higher degrees, and nature has more splendid endowments for those whom she elects to a superior office; for the class of scholars or writers, who see connection where the multitude see fragments, and who are impelled to exhibit the facts in order, and so to supply the axis on which the frame of things turns.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Goethe; or, the Writer”

Returning to a day job after an exciting weekend of art-related activities could be compared to diving into a warm pond after a sauna.  It is only Wednesday, but the week has been comparatively tepid. The watercolor posted above is on a full-sized sheet of 300# D’Arches paper. The original frame was damaged, so I’ve decided to re-frame it and bring it to hang in my show this weekend. It has been out of the public eye for about three years now, and the time is long past due to make repairs and bring it back out.

I have returned to reading Goethe during this week, and decided to pick up Emeson’s essay on that marvelous sage, probably the Shakespeare of Gemany. On Monday evening, feeling a bit hungover from the weekend show, I drove out to a beautiful green belt on the east side of Arlington, found a park bench, and read this essay until dark.  I cannot describe the feelings that washed over me, but the passage I’ve cited above gripped me the most.  With Emerson and Hemingway, I have frequently translated the theories of writing to the visual arts, and here is another example.  Emerson contrasts the stenographer with the poetic writer, and I always feel the conflict between the illustrator and the fine artist when I attempt to paint.  When I decided to tackle this magnificent Victorian house in Weatherford, Texas (where I stayed during my 60th birthday), I knew that I wanted to go beyond mere description of that intriguing structure, to transcend the architect’s rendering of the subject. That is the main reason I kept the subject small on the paper and devoted the greatest expanse to the sprawling lawn in the foreground. I am wishing to paint this subject again, because I’m not satisfied with every aspect of it and would love to have another run at it. I have always loved Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World” and have always wished to render a house atop a hill with that expansive sense of space surrounding it.

Thanks for reading. I can’t wait to return the The Gallery at Redlands for the weekend.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

A Satisfying Return to the Studio Tonight

February 6, 2017

tripp-1

tripp-2

Die Zeit ist kurz, die Kunst ist lang. (Time is too brief, though art’s forever.)

Goethe, Faust

The soft darkness and stillness of this night welcomed me back to my abandoned studio. There have been too many lengthy lapses in creative activity, thanks to school-related tasks that have driven me far from my element, and I chafe at the realization that the “system”, while crowing about “what’s best for the students” never considers the value of an instructor’s personal enrichment. To me, the development and enrichment of the instructor is by far the best gift to offer students.  Way back in 1995, The National Endowment for the Humanities granted twenty-five of us the last of the Teacher-Scholar Awards (Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” killed the program). The award was a one-year funded sabbatical leave of absence, grounded in the philosophy that teachers are better for their students when they are granted time off for educational advancement, scholarly study or personal enrichment. In twenty-eight years, I am glad that I had that one year to re-tool and re-think what I was trying to do in the classroom. I am aware that many are quick to retort that teachers have summer vacations, but that didn’t begin happening to me until two years ago–I always taught both semesters of summer school, hence no summers off from the classroom. I have been a year-round teacher until recently.

But that’s not why I’m pausing to write this night!  I was fortunate to finish tomorrow’s classroom preparations with enough of an evening before me to re-enter my studio and resume work on two abandoned watercolors. I believe I have finished the still life of the doorknob and Indian corn.  I only needed about an hour to stitch up some details on that large painting that had annoyed me. As for the smaller one of myself in the chair, I’m getting closer to finishing it out as well.  I’m still working on me, as well as the objects surrounding me, and feel that I need one or two more sessions in the studio before I can call this one complete. I am particularly fond of working on the small composition because it was born in the cozy quiet of the store I so love to inhabit when I can get out of the city for a weekend. Every time I peer into this picture, I feel myself back in the store, back in the quiet, back in the cozy embrace of a good life.

I still have not completed my reading of Faust, because I continue to pause, underline, highlight, scribble in my journal, and muse over the power of his words. When I read this line that time is brief and art is forever, my soul feels soothed. Art for me is a sanctuary. One of the portals outside the Saint Louis Art Museum reads: ART STILL HAS TRVTH. TAKE REFVGE THERE. That quote from Matthew Arnold has nourished me throughout the years. My heart vibrates when I think of the kindred spirits I know personally who enrich themselves with creative endeavors–writing, making art, playing a musical instrument, or just reading for pure pleasure and enrichment. When we are allowed quiet evenings to engage in these pursuits, we are wealthy indeed.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Symphonious Stirrings

January 18, 2015

Ah, when the friendly lamp is glowing

Again within our narrow cell,

Through heart and bosom light comes flowing

If but the heart knows itself well.

Then Reason once again discourses

And Hope begins to bloom again;

Man yearns to reach life’s flowing sources,

Ah! to the Fount of Life attain.

Goethe, Faust

Too often I overlook the Gift of a good night’s rest.  Waking shortly before 9:00 this morning, with the sun sweeping all over my room, it felt nice to remain under the warm quilts and let the thoughts sift slowly through my awakening consciousness. I let that happen for about thirty minutes before rising to put on coffee, shower quickly, and take a comfortable seat in my study, re-open some volumes that have absorbed my attention this weekend, pick up the pencil, and begin scribbling beginnings of thoughts, ends of thoughts, summations of thoughts, just scribbling and enjoying the sounds of classical music drifting through the silent corridors of my house.

After writing the above, I packed my watercolor supplies and headed to north Arlington to lead a group lesson at a birthday party.  Some laughingly said we would be doing Painting with a Twist, but it actually turned out to be a very satisfying watercolor session.  I wish I had taken more photos in retrospect, but below are a few examples of what they did this afternoon:

A Second Attempt to Emulate Winslow Homer

March 10, 2013
Winslow Homer, Second Attempt

Winslow Homer, Second Attempt

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it.  Action has magic, grace, and power in it.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This has been a good Spring Break/Cave Day.  I’m working on a second Winslow Homer composition.  I’ve always been intrigued by his greens, and still haven’t solved that problem.  I love the way you can see the warm soil colors through the tall grasses in his works.  Currently, I’m experimenting with a number of reds (Winsor Red, Permanent Rose, Cadmium Red), to mix with a number of blues (Winsor Blue–Green and Red Shade, Pthalo Turquoise) and Transparent Yellow.  Occasionally I drop in some Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson. So far, none of it is working, but at least I’m eliminating some choices!  In line with Goethe’s remark, I am finding wonderful power in action.  Truly, I’m having a good time as I chip away at portions of this composition, attempting to solve some color combination problems.

Thanks for reading.

Creating New Worlds

September 23, 2011

Early Morning in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Alas, I did not manage to begin a new watercolor today.  I try to start something new and fresh daily, but this day was given to matting, shrinkwrapping and labeling watercolors for the upcoming art festivals.  I will be participating in four art festivals over the next five weekends (not this weekend, fortunately).  I found a closet-full of forgotten work that never had been matted, so there went my day.  I still have plenty to mat tomorrow as well.

Taking a breather late this afternoon, I was delighted to return to an Emerson biography I read and loved a decade ago: Emerson: The Mind on Fire, by Robert D. Richardson, Jr.  This magnificent bard had the following to say regarding Napoleon Bonaparte:   Napoleon’s glory “passed away like the smoke of his artillery, and left no trace.  He left France smaller, poorer, feebler than he found it.”  On the other hand, Emerson wrote of Goethe that he stood “for the class of scholars and writers who see connections where the multitude see fragments, and who are impelled to exhibit the facts in order, and so to supply the axis on which the frame of things turn.”

As an artist and educator, I take delight in these sentiments.  The world’s eye (through the media) remains focused on individuals who sometimes create and heal, but oftentimes spread destruction across our world.  But in the quieter corners of this environ are souls who actually try to create, heal and thereby leave this world in better shape than they found it.  I don’t pretend to be one who does great things.  But I do take satisfaction in knowing that over the past 2 1/2 decades I have tried to grow students’ minds to think better, more responsibly, and to instill a sense of pride and ability to create a better world than the one that greets us.

At this juncture in life, I am certain of fewer things than what I thought 2 1/2 decades ago.  But I do possess a renewed resolve to create images reflecting the better parts of my daily environment.  The image posted above was one I captured early one morning in Eureka Springs, Arkansas last June.  I had risen at sunrise and descended to the lowest parts of that sleeping town, and came across this abandoned structure that exuded so much charm and beauty in the morning light.  As I worked on it in watercolor en plein air, I kept wishing that I had studio space inside!  I pictured how lovely it would be to step out on that porch with a cup of coffee and say “Good Morning” to a world full of promise, a world waiting to be healed, a world waiting to be re-made in a better image.

To me, mornings that begin with making art are better than mornings that do not.  Hopefully I can create a better morning tomorrow.  Thanks for reading.