Posts Tagged ‘Hemingway’

Friday Night and the Beginning of the Christmas Recess

December 19, 2014
First Night of the Christmas Break

First Night of the Christmas Break

The grizzled teacher slowly woke from his late afternoon December nap, felt the winter chill filling the bedroom and decided to pull on warm clothes, draw the quilts up over his lap and prop in his bed with a pile of books and a fresh pot of coffee at his elbow.

It was the first evening of Christmas break, a two-week holiday from high school classes.  As he gazed across his room at the volumes on the bookcase inviting him into the spring term of classes–DeKooning, Motherwell, Rothko, Pollock, Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce, Pound, Eliot and William Carlos Williams–he felt a stirring of contenment under his skin much like the spring thaw bursting through the winter rocks.  He opened his first book and began . . .

Thanks for reading.  I’ll probably post more later . . .

Emptying It All Out

July 7, 2014
Small Shakespeare Drawing and Collage

Small Shakespeare Drawing and Collage

Already he was beginning to get that old familiar feeling of being emptied out each day, yet ready to return to his task with renewed energy every morning.

Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, by Carlos Baker

This Monday morning was an excellent return to the good feelings I have known before.  With only two full days remaining to complete the first semester of summer school, the averages solid enough that no student fears failing, and the curriculum of English literature now anchored firmly in the Puritan and Enlightenment eras of the 17th-18th centuries, my head was spinning with ideas  long before I left the house before first light this morning.  I knew before the first student entered the room that there would be good moments to share with Shakespeare, Milton, Bunyan and Pepys.  As students worked on their vocabulary sheets, I dashed off this small collage of Shakespeare and wrote in my journal.

The better days of my life are given to the description of Hemingway above–waking to a mind surging with ideas, and then spending the day stitching up as many of them as possible before turning out the light at the end of the night.

There was never any more inception than there is now,

Nor any more youth or age than there is now,

And will never be any more perfection than there is now,

Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,

Always the procreant urge of the world.

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

I love the diversity of this day, and that there are still quite a number of hours left before time to sleep.  I have a pair of small watercolors awaiting my attention and several good books open in my reading chair, and an open journal at my writing desk.  The muses are stirring.

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.




A Necessary Kick in the Pants from a Dutch Uncle

February 18, 2013
Putting the Final Touches on the Fishing Still LIfe

Putting the Final Touches on the Fishing Still LIfe

In spite of his own writing difficulties, Ernest played Dutch uncle to Fitzgerald, repeatedly urging him to get forward with Tender is the Night.  The only thing to do with a novel, said he, was to finish it.

Carlos Baker, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story

Today, I decided enough is enough.  I’m tired of this sickness that has been draped all over me like a cheap suit for over a week now.  Today is President’s Day, no school.  And though I am still weak,  I am tired of the lethargy, the sleeping, the moping and the self-pity.  Reading this morning from the Hemingway biography gave me the necessary kick to get up and return to the cave, and finish this darned still life that I’ve been mooning over for far too long.  It is time to get on with the next endeavor.  This one is done.  The only thing to do with a painting is to finish it.

There was nothing left to do but work a little more on shading the lantern and signing my name.  After spending some morning time staring, painting, staring some more, painting some more (again, I felt like I was Willem de Kooning, who was laughed at for staring and contemplating more than actually painting), I finally decided I did all I could, and that it was time to move on to something else.

I am grateful for Dutch uncles as Hemingway was to Fitzgerald, and  Jackson Browne was to David Crosby, nudging him to complete The Delta (one of the most moving songs ever to come over me).  Nobody thinks twice about the work-in-progress, the Ph.D. all-but-dissertation or the season that almost was.  I find just as much joy as anyone in the process of creativity, but how much more I love looking at something finished, a fait accompli.  

So, thank you, Carlos Baker.  Your published word this morning became oracular to me, when I need it the most.

And thanks all of you who read me.

The Completed Painting

The Completed Painting

Peeling Back the Layers of the Watercolor Still Life

January 1, 2013
Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

Ernest Hemingway could not write about Michigan until he was in Paris, and could not write about Paris until he had returned to the United States.  On this first day of the New Year, I am returning to my ninth grade in House Springs Missouri, at Northwest High School.  In Proustlike fashion, this still life with the kerosene lantern is transporting me back to my Art I class, period 1, when we walked into class and saw a collection of at least fifteen objects assembled in the middle of the classroom, and the table arranged in a circle about the perimeter.  Each of us was given a full-size sheet of newsprint paper (perhaps 18 x 24″), a charcoal pencil, a blending stump and a kneaded eraser.

Immediately, a girl protested: “Mr. Scucchi, I cannot fit all that on this paper!” Coolly, the teacher replied: “Did you ever draw a house?”  Discussion over.  Time to draw.

At college there was an ancient Greek vase on the table in the seminar room where our class in Greek was held.  Fresh from Michigan, I had never seen anything before with lines so simple and yet so beautiful, and I marveled at it day after day.  In those hours of a student’s trancelike wonder there was born the resolve, unconscious at first, to go to Greece. 

The Art I students would sit before this giant still life for three weeks, fifteen instructional periods.  And in those periods, I became lost in wonder at the kerosene lantern, the focal point (for me) to this immense pile of objects that included a jug, a Ruffino wine bottle with straw bottom, corn scoop, football helmet, antique water pump, bricks and drapery.

With charcoal pencil and blending stump, I became absorbed with the textures of the kerosene lantern, the complications of a smoky globe with highlights and scratches and thin wires wound about it, the rusted and pitted armature catching highlights and absorbing shadows, the thinness of the bail that arced above the lantern, and the issues of rendering this delicate piece of iron with charcoal as it presented itself as a string of highlights, mid-tones and shadows.  I realize now that, as a ninth-grader, I was not as dull as I and my peers had regarded me.  It is a certainty that I was not academically astute or interested, but during those days I realized that I was visually alert and interested in these objects.

No Ideas but in Things.

Leaning into the New Year with Renewed Watercolor Resolve

December 29, 2012
Still Life in the Man Cave

Still Life in the Man Cave

Art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass.

–Walter Pater, Studies in the History of the Renaissance

I have returned from my St. Louis Christmas vacation, spent with Mom, Dad and siblings.  I was privileged to have my son accompany me from Austin on the trip to and from as well.  The white Christmas was beautiful, travel was safe, and I’m glad to be back in my Man Cave for the next chapter.  I’m caught rather flatfooted, realizing it is already December 29, and I have yet to record a single New Year Resolution in my private journal.  I take those seriously every year, and for the life of me cannot figure out why I have yet to think these through.  Perhaps later today.

I have been in the Man Cave since about 8:30 this morning, when it was 23 degrees outside.  Now, at 10:00, it has warmed up to 33, and with layers of  clothing along with a space heater, I am making out quite nicely here.  I have posted a photo taken last night of my drafting table, tilted and positioned in front of the still life that I began assembling before I left for St. Louis.  I am choosing to work on a 28 x 22″ composition, and am thrilled to the bone to be attempting this.  Throughout yesterday evening and this morning I have drawn, erased, re-drawn, erased, re-drawn, constantly working to get the proportions and details right.  I firmly believe that the success of this large watercolor is going to depend on the strength of the drawing, and I am determined not to do it halfway.  So, I continue to revise, often feeling like Willem de Kooning, who didn’t hesitate to scrape off three hours’ worth of painting and start over.

I am nearly finished with Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, and am enthralled with his work ethic and discussions of the discipline of writing.  Those remarks are giving me the impetus I need to push ahead in my studio and crank out the paintings, believing in what I do.  The objects I have selected for this arrangement all have Proustian “ghosts” lingering about them.  I’m not ever sure if I’m on the same page as the Imagist writers and their philosophy “No Ideas but in Things,” but I certainly feel an inner compulsion to go after this still life arrangement.  I have checked out two more Andrew Wyeth volumes from our local public library as well.  I know there is much gold to be mined there as well.

There are two or three additional watercolor compositions I have churning about in my head, so I could very well be starting some additional works before this day comes to a close.  Once I actually start pushing watercolor pigments around on this enormous paper before me, I’ll certainly be posting those pictures as well.  I’m excited to be back on task.

Thanks for reading.

Digging Deeper into the Drybrush of the Vintage Flyrod

December 18, 2012
Study of Bamboo Flyrod and Pflueger Reel with Pepsi Crate

Study of Bamboo Flyrod and Pflueger Reel with Pepsi Crate

Spending the evening in the Man Cave, while listening to the  documentary of The Real World of Andrew Wyeth, I felt my interest in this subject intensify.  I really want to dig deeply into the details of this crate, flyrod and reel.  Too often when I introduce my watercolor composition with pale washes and a few specific details, I feel a premature satisfaction as the image develops before me.  I have to ask myself if I am ready to stop, to leave it as a quick sketch, or if I want to push further, deeper into the subject.  No such debate arose this time.  I really want to work this one as far as I can.  After weeks of poring over Andrew Wyeth drybrush images, I have this itch to explore still life objects up close and personal, to see if I can develop some techniques, to see if I can find a better way to present my subjects in this wonderful medium.

I chose to stop at this point, take the picture and post it.  As Hemingway pointed out, it is easier to resume work the next day if you stop while you’re still “hot”, if you cease at the height of your interest.  It’s good to know what is coming next.  I am ready to spool off some fly line and put one or two flies in the foreground, then work on the shadows around the base of this crate and reel.  I can see already what I want to do.  So I’ll put it to bed for the night and plan on returning to it after school tomorrow.

Time to pick up the Hemingway biography once again.  Thanks for reading.

A Butternut Coffee Christmas

December 18, 2012
Butternut Coffee Tin and Vintage Suitcase Watercolor

Butternut Coffee Tin and Vintage Suitcase Watercolor

The afternoons are getting rather long.  I finish teaching daily at 12:20, but am staying in my classroom (which I’ve converted into a “rustic gallery” for selling my art) until 4:00 daily.  The four-hour afternoons have been given to reading Hemingway and experimenting in watercolor sketches of various still life arrangements.

During Christmas 2001, I got this notion of creating a series of watercolor Christmas cards, calling the series “A Heritage Coffee Christmas.”  I went to antique stores and purchased vintage coffee cans, so I could see the logos and color schemes, and created a series of 5 x 7″ cards of barns at winter time, surrounded by evergreens and sporting advertising billboards of these various coffee companies.  I thought the watercolors were good in that day, but that was 2001.  I will post my Butternut Christmas card below.

I noticed my pile of vintage coffee cans in the back of my room, hanging out with my books, and realized they had been back there eleven years with nothing to do.  So, I selected the Butternut can, put it in front of one of my ragged vintage suitcases, and began this sketch.  Today is my second afternoon to fiddle with it.  I have no idea what is going to emerge, but I’m enjoying what I see, so far.  The composition measures about 8 x 10″ and I’m using a cheap Strathmore watercolor sketchbook I found lying among my supplies.

Thanks for reading.

"Heritage Coffee" Christmas Card

“Heritage Coffee” Christmas Card

Watercoloring a Custom Bamboo Flyrod with Thougths of Hemingway

December 17, 2012
Vintage Fly Fishing

Vintage Fly Fishing

Soon I’ll be posting new images of watercolor sketches and drybrush attempts done over the weekend involving kerosene lanterns, vintage suitcases and coffee cans.  Tonight in the Man Cave I have chosen to focus on this vintage fly rod I began sketching last week.  A Colorado man gave this gift to me years ago.  He was an amazing Renaissance man–fishing guide, horseman, farrier and story-teller.  His equestrian ranch and bed-and-breakfast businesses took him completely away from fly fishing, so I he gave me two custom bamboo rods made for his father and him back in the 1940’s, along with an assortment of fiberglass fly rods and vintage reels.  I leaned one of his rigs against this Pepsi case and immediately got lost in all the dynamics of it.

Reading the Hemingway biography over the weekend by Carlos Baker has also been enlightening.  I am amazed at the theories spun by Hemingway in the company of Ezra Pound and Sherwood Anderson.  Reading those while perusing drybrush illustrations by Andrew Wyeth, and then turning to the sketchbook and watercolor field box has had my head spinning for several days.  As I posted earlier, rainbow trout are already being stocked near where I live here in Texas.  It looks as though I may have to wait until Saturday or Sunday, but I have my own fly fishing gear, waders and boots packed, and I’m ready to get out there.  But until then, I’ll keep chipping away at this 8 x 10″ watercolor and see what emerges.  I’m already excited over the possibilities.

Only four more days of school left until we leave for the holidays.  I really hope I have a surge in watercolor interest when there is the time to pursue it then.

Thanks for reading.

Hemingway, Wintertime and Thoughts of Fly Fishing

December 13, 2012
Vintage Still Life

Vintage Still Life

Quality studio time has been scarce this week, with the school semester winding down and Christmas vacation rapidly approaching.  Nevertheless, I have been burying myself in Hemingway, though I don’t teach any of his writings.  Thoughts of his “Big Two-Hearted River” story reminded me of a vintage bamboo fly rod from the 1940’s that was given me by a big-hearted equestrian teacher from Colorado several years back.  I retrieved it from my display area, along with his Pflueger reel, and placed it over this antique Pepsi crate and thought “Why not?”  I’ve had an obsession for the past month for still life studies, and have no idea where this inspiration originated.  As stated in earlier posts, tenth grade was the first and only time I ever attempted a watercolor still life.

Texas waters are already being stocked with rainbow trout, one of the locations only 30 minutes from where I live.  I can’t wait to free up some time to travel there and see if I can have some success with my fly rod.  I may just take this bamboo one and see how it works.  It’s been too long since I’ve stalked rainbows with a fly rod.

I feel that I have a theory taking shape that combines still life aesthetics with what I have been gleaning from Hemingway, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound and Andrew Wyeth of late.  I dare not put it into words just yet for fear that I’ll sound just as obtuse as Hemingway did when explaining his theories that combined Cezanne’s paintings with his style of writing:

I was learning something from the painting of Cezanne that made writing simple true sentences far from enough to make the stories have the dimensions that I was trying to put in them.  I was learning very much from him but I was not articulate enough to explain it to anyone.

No, there is no typo above.  That is what Hemingway actually wrote in A Moveable Feast.

I do think I have something cooking that combines literary Imagism with Andrew Wyeth’s Regionalism and my own storehouse of Proustian memories.  I’m exploring it as best I can during these crowded-schedule days.

Thanks for reading.