Posts Tagged ‘Hermann’

Getting Lost in the Shadows of Watercolor

April 14, 2014
Working the Shadows and Parked Vehicles

Working the Shadows and Parked Vehicles

Drawing is a way of organizing space.

Robert Motherwell (I think!)

The paper is the atmosphere in which the watercolor breathes.

(author unknown!)

I open tonight’s blog with two questionable quotes.  The first I am relatively certain came from Robert Motherwell, my idol of Abstract Expressionist thought and erudition.  But tonight I have been unsuccessful in tracing it to him.  The second quote came from an artists’ magazine I read back in the 1980’s, before I actually made watercolor a serious pursuit.  I have never been able to forget it.

Both of these quotes are swimming in my consciousness as I work on this piece tonight.  Temperatures outside are dropping to the point that I decided to don a heavy sweater rather than turn up the thermostat.  I am sitting adjacent to an entire wall of northern windows, and I feel the freeze warning that has been forecast throughout the day.  The chill is reminding me of the cold December morning that I walked the streets of Hermann, Missouri and took the photograph for this composition.  There was such a clarity of light that morning that I knew would be conducive for watercolor–I love the clear, sharp, cold light of a winter’s day and have worked hard to get that atmosphere into this painting.  I love what watercolor paper lends to the atmosphere of a landscape painting.

As for the drawing/organizing space principle, I have been handcuffed, trying to render the shadowed facades of this row of storefronts adjacent to a line of parked vehicles.  The Motherwell quote surfaced, and I decided to break the shadows into rhythms of geometric configurations, alternating warm and cool colors as I filled in the spaces.  I feel the way I did in high school when we painted large nonrepresentational acrylic-on-canvas compositions.  We were challenged to experiment with the combinations of warm and cool colors and seek some kind of pleasing balance.  That is what I am attempting to do here.  I have no serious aspirations to copy the myriad of representational images in my small photograph.  We’ll see how it turns out.  If it doesn’t work, I’ll try something else.  At any rate, I am enjoying this evening in the studio.

This is probably all the painting I’ll be able to post this evening.  I still have work to do on a Nietzsche lecture for tomorrow morning’s Philosophy class.  I cannot seem to create a lifestyle with a singular focus–there is always another task to perform.  I love reading, writing and talking about Nietzsche.  But I also love watercolor.  With tonight’s limited time, I need to find a way to address both.

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.

Returning to the Muse

April 13, 2014
Taking a Fresh Look at the Hermann, Missouri Watercolor

Taking a Fresh Look at the Hermann, Missouri Watercolor

Michelangelo, El Greco, Rembrandt imitated; Raphael imitated, and Poussin, Velásquez and Goya; Delacroix, Manet and Cézanne . . . whenever documents allow us to go back to the origin of a painter’s works, or a sculptor’s, or any artist’s, we encounter . . . the dreams, the anguish, or the serenity of another artist.  For artists do not emerge full-grown from a formless world, but from their struggle against the forms imposed by others.

André Malraux

Henri Matisse and Eugene Delacroix often spoke of “cleansing the eye” after a long hiatus from painting.  It has been weeks since I’ve been able to look at this painting.  Now that the intrusions from common life’s tasks have been addressed, I’m glad to linger over this watercolor tonight and resume work that I reluctantly abandoned long ago.  Kick-starting this has not been easy.  I find myself poring over the reference photo, taking in details, and constantly asking questions like: “How would Hopper have addressed this?” or “How would Wyeth render this?” or “Would Homer have included this detail?”  Thus I’ve inserted for my own good the quote above that all artists work in dialogue with their predecessors and ultimately (hopefully) find their own way in the end.  I’m still searching for my voice among these multitudes, my signature, my contribution.  Yet in the midst of all this, I’m just happy to be painting again.

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.

Watercoloring Arcadia

February 19, 2014
Returning to Work on the Hermann, Missouri Cityscape

Returning to Work on the Hermann, Missouri Cityscape

Every ship is a romantic object, except that we sail in.  Embark, and the romance quits our vessel and hangs on every other sail in the horizon.  Our life looks trivial, and we shun to record it.  Men seem to have learned of the horizon the art of perpetual retreating and reference.  “Yonder uplands are rich pasturage, and my neighbor has fertile meadow, but my field,” says the querulous farmer, “only holds the world together.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

I return to this Emerson statement every time I catch myself wishing I didn’t live in the suburbs of Arlington, Texas.  As a watercolorist, I have wished I could make my home in the Colorado Rockies, New England, the rolling Midwest–anywhere but in a Texas metroplex choked with streets and suburbs.  I deal with these feelings now as I look through my photo files and pull up the Hermann, Missouri visit last Christmas season.  I have decided to tackle one of the old downtown street scenes again, on a much larger scale than before.

This afternoon, I took a walk through my own suburbs after lunch, trying to regain strength lost during the past week’s illness.  And the longer I walked, the more aware I became of how weak I am currently.  I suppose it’s going to take some more days of walking to retrieve that sense of vitality.  But as I walked, I recalled the Hermann downtown that I loved so much when I strolled it at the end of last year.  Granted, the temperatures were frigid, but the colors were strong, and the winter light so beautiful to my eye.  I don’t pretend to have the French Impressionist skill of capturing atmospheric effects, but at least as I work on this, I can recall the scintillating beauty I knew that day as I walked the town high above the banks of the Missouri River.

At my current age, I realize fully that these notions of mine are Arcadian dreams.  I doubt that Colorado or New England folk would rather be living in Arlington (unless they think there’s pizzass to sharing a city with two professional sports stadiums).  But I also know that living in those regions would not make me any more of an artist than I am at this point.  I’ll continue to relish opportunities to see vistas firsthand and render them en plein air.  But when that is not possible, I still have my photographs and memories for reference.  And the later Edward Hopper painted less from “the fact” and more from his memory and imagination.  It worked for him.  I’m confident it will work for me.

I just love this Hermann, Missouri vista, and felt genuine joy in the waning moments of this afternoon as I worked in my studio.  The fading light slanting through my studio windows fell on this watercolor page and gave me the atmosphere I wanted for working on a winter scene (this afternoon in Arlington was dark and wintry-looking outside though the temperatures remained high).  I picked up the large brush again and enjoyed blocking in large areas of wash.  As for the details, I was in the mood for tedium, for tight, exacting work.  My eyes are finally comfortable with focussing.  It’s seemed such a long time since I’ve been in this zone.  I hope I get some more opportunity tomorrow.

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.