Posts Tagged ‘Ian Roberts’

Knowing When to Stop, Even After You’ve Been Drawn In

November 9, 2014
Watercolor Sketch Completed Long Before Expected

Watercolor Sketch Completed Long Before Expected

The essence of this whole artistic enterprise is to focus your attention on what caught your attention in the first place. Respond to what is yours.  Your truth.  It doesn’t matter the subject matter, or the style.  You must strip the thing back to the basics of what you feel about your response.  What is the kernel here that you want to express?  Get to the foundation  . . . 

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

Well, this Sunday evening closes with a surprise.  After days of assembling a still life, staring at it from all angles, making adjustments, then attempting several charcoal sketches of it, today I decided to do a small watercolor sketch of just the Maxwell Coffee tin perched on the edge of the old chair.  I had decided to let the complex composition delay awhile longer, and fully expected to fiddle with this small watercolor until the middle of the week.  This afternoon, I felt “drawn in” by the subject, chuckled to myself and decided I may stay up awhile tonight, past bedtime.  Surprise–around 6:30 I stepped back from what I had done and decided, That’s It.  Done.  I can always begin another tomorrow.  But for now, I’m just going to study this sketch and figure out what to attempt on the next endeavor.

Below I’m posting a photo I took of the piece in the middle of the afternoon:

Sketch in Progress

Sketch in Progress

And finally, the studio environment in which this piece was incubated:

studio complete

This has been a satisfying day.  I think I’ll read awhile now.  Thanks for reading me.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

A Note about Authenticity

June 6, 2014
College Street Rhapsody Waxahachie, Texas

College Street Rhapsody
Waxahachie, Texas

If we are to say something authentic, we need to stick with an idea for a while.  We need to gnaw at it, mine it, obsess over it.  I’ve met creative people who are painting, yet also distracting themselves trying to learn Photoshop and taking singing lessons.  It’s true that Bernini managed to sculpt some of the most virtuosic marble sculptures ever produced, while also finding time to design buildings and monuments that changed the face of Rome, write and produce plays and compose the music for them as well.  But that was Bernini.  

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

I have read and re-read this book by Ian Roberts, with much delight, just as I have enjoyed re-reading Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit.  I like the point he raises here.  My own time is divided between watercoloring and teaching public school full time, and that is distraction enough.  I used to belong to bands and tie up much of my time with rehearsals and gigs, and I frankly no longer miss that life.  I would indeed like to be single-minded in my pursuit of watercolor, but that is not going to pay my bills, so there it is.  I can also throw into the mix books–I am a bibliophile and I cannot read enough art history and poetry.  That also requires quality time and composting.

I am also struggling with authenticity and a sense of identity with my recent watercolor pursuits.  Every time I think I have found my voice, I find myself turning yet another corner and exploring another realm.  For the past month of weekends, I have been gearing up for the Paint Historic Waxahachie annual event by painting in historic towns in north Texas.  Since last Saturday, I have spent every day in the town of Waxahachie making plein air paintings.  My heroic model for these exploits has been Andrew Wyeth.  I have focused on improving my drawing skills and seeking greater detail.  But a few days ago, when looking at the body of work that emerged from the past month, I grew tired of the sameness of it all, and took greater delight in looking at my colleagues’ work in oils featuring vivid colors.  So, I decided to go for brightness and contrast with the last four paintings.  I haven’t much liked the results, but do appreciate the difference between these and what I had been cranking out for a month.

Today was the last day for competition, with a 4:00 deadline.  I set up this afternoon on S. College Street, across from the College Street Pub (that I’ve painted three times over the past years), and looked up the hill toward the square.  Last Sunday, I painted the Ellis County Courthouse cupola peeking over the rooflines of the businesses.  This time, I looked away from the courthouse and focused on the backside of the imposing Rogers Hotel.  I decided once more to try and go for bold color.  I spent two hours on this composition and feel O.K. about it.  I would like to try and do a large studio watercolor of this same subject under the morning light instead of the afternoon.  There is much character in the windows, and I would welcome the chance to go after them with some fine draftsmanship and detail, instead of the sketchy way I cranked it out today.  I worked faster than I would normally choose, because a deadline was looming.

Now that the Paint Historic Waxahachie deadline has passed, and today was the last day of school, I look forward to some “chill” time as I try and figure out what direction I want to take next with my painting.  I need some wilderness time now, some solitude, some quality time for reflection and figuring some things out.

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.

Art and Fear?

February 11, 2014
A Little Space in the Afternoon Studio

A Little Space in the Afternoon Studio

God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

Yes, I read this excellent book, Art and Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland.  I felt that a pair of artists were in the room with me, engaged in legitimate, heart-to-heart discussion.  And they addressed the inherent fears and required courage of art making rather than the blocked-artist syndrome.  I am not a blocked artist.  I am a public school teacher, teaching multiple subjects.  I will frequently face weekday afternoons and evenings where preparations leave little-to-no time for quality studio work.  But that is not blockage, not creative paralysis–it is just  an overloaded schedule.  This afternoon I managed to eke out some time for the studio, so here I am, with a little hesitation.  So what is this “fear” factor?  I will be the first to testify that making art is a courageous act.

Art requires more courage from me than other acts that might stir up fear in others.  For instance, I am not afraid to walk into a high school classroom, stand in front, and begin talking directly to the body of students.  I have never been afraid to stand in a public auditorium and address a congregation of adults.  I don’t know fear in those instances.  But what is this “fear factor” in art?  Am I afraid of rejection by the public?  Not really.  Do I fear ruining a $20 sheet of quality watercolor paper?  I don’t think so.  Am I afraid I am wasting my time?  Hardly.  I have invested years in this, and don’t begrudge additional hours, days, months or years.  In fact, I wish I had 500 years left to invest–I’ll never reach the level I want to reach in my own lifetime.

So, what is it?  Am I afraid of making a bad painting?  Perhaps that is it.  But I don’t understand that.  When I make a bad painting, I just don’t show it.  I seldom throw bad painting attempts away.  I suppose that if I keep them in a drawer that I’ll take them out another day, study them, and learn from the mistakes.  But I don’t generally do that either.  I just don’t look at them.  So what is it that frightens me?  What is the source of the anxiety?  I wish I knew.

Somehow, I am intimidated, approaching subjects where I have little-to-no experience.  And that is what is happening now with the rendering of human figures in watercolor, small human figures.  I don’t know why I have this phobia about screwing up.  So what if I screw up?  This is laughable.  I don’t live financially off my art sales.  My job keeps me fed and housed.  Maybe at the root of all these art endeavors is the fear of failure.  But how could that be?  How can one fail, if allowed to re-do, re-try, if allowed to learn, grow, accomplish?  Silly, isn’t it.  Perhaps I need to re-read Rollo May’s The Courage to Create.

At any rate, I am in the studio for a short while this afternoon, nibbling away at this small watercolor sketch.  And writing this blog is therapeutic it seems.  Right now, I am not afraid.  In fact, I’m enjoying the process, regardless of the outcome.  And when I finish this one, I will turn to the next.  One cannot help but improve with practice, and practice on the human figure is something I have yet to accomplish.

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for putting up with my navel gazing (smiling).  I had some things to work out.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Mad Scientist in the Watercolor Studio, Part 2

April 30, 2013
Second Day on the Screen Door Experiment

Second Day on the Screen Door Experiment

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to the world if you paint or dance or write.  The world can probably get by without the product of your efforts.  But that is not the point.  The point is what the inner process of following your creative impulses will do, to you.  It is clearly about process.  Love the work, love the process.  our fascination will pull our attention forward.

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

I could not agree more strongly with Mr. Roberts on this point.  I get far more joy in the studio, in the midst of a painting in progress, than I do sitting back looking at it on display, or sitting in a festival booth, waiting to find out if patrons like the work or not.  The joy is in the doing.

Today, I took my Art History classes through the legacy of Andrew Wyeth and his drybrush watercolor studies from Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.  And the whole time we looked at and discussed his work, all I wanted was to be in this Cave proceeding with my latest “mad” experiment.  But alas, I had a list longer than my arm, of details I had to chase down after school, and heavy lesson plans for tomorrow’s class load, and couldn’t get into the studio for nearly five hours since the close of my last class.  It was total despair.

Finally, I got to get in a few strokes, working only on the coffee can and the left border of the composition.  The door frame will be white, so I had to lay in a left-hand darkened border.  I’m already wishing I could remove the masquing and take a peek at what is happening, but that cannot happen for a long time still.  My only anxiety now is to get this looking the way I really like it, only to find a disaster when the masquing comes off.  But . . . I cannot think of that right now.

I am still a little tired from Saturday and Sunday’s output, but really feared that if I took a little time off to rest, that I would find myself already into the next weekend, that a day off would turn into a week off, and the momentum would have stalled.  Several years back, I attended a workshop led by J. Jason Horejs, owner of Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.  He had just flown into DFW airport and was holding a session at an area hotel in Dallas.  The session, for me, turned out to be life changing.  The only question he had for the artists assembled that day was “How prolific are you?”  I sat there in shame, realizing that I had used my full-time job as an excuse for turning out an average of ten watercolors a year.  I left that class, determined by year’s end to have at least thirty completed.  I completed nearly a hundred, and have completed at least a hundred a year since then, though many of them are small watercolor “sketches” or “vignettes”, I nevertheless can say for the first time in my life that I am “prolific” as an artist, and thanks to the blog, feel a compulsion to keep cranking them out.  So many good things have happened as a result, but the greatest is that I have rediscovered a joy in the learning process that I had not known for years.

Urge and urge and urge,

Always the procreant urge of the world.

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Rising Early with Henry David Thoreau

June 6, 2012

Thoreau in the Man Cave

Years ago, after delivering a sermon at a Unitarian Church, a used-book dealer approached me on the parking lot.  Henry David Thoreau had played a role in the morning sermon, and I was ecstatic when this man opened the trunk of his car to reveal The Journal of Henry D Thoreau in 14 volumes.  Within minutes, I was writing him a check.

I have one of the volumes open on my drafting table, as I have resumed reading them since school let out.  From this morning, I gathered the following:

All sound is nearly akin to Silence; it is a bubble on her surface which straightway bursts, an emblem of the strength and prolificness of the undercurrent.  . . .  Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel of all dry discourses and all foolish acts, as balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as [after] disappointment; that background which the painter may not daub . . .   (December 15, 1838)

When the poetic frenzy seizes us, we run and scratch with our pen, delighting, like the cock, in the dust we make, but do not detect where the jewel lies, which perhaps we have in the meantime cast o a distance, or quite covered up again.   (February 8, 1839)

These sentiments lie at the heart of my pursuit of art.  The silent Art lies beneath the surface of all my artwork, a rock foundation that I can never quite uncover, can never expose.  But it is there.  And all my theories scratch at the hard crust covering the Truth.  I love and reverence that silence, and feel it most profoundly in the morning, when no one else is at hand, and the suburbs have not yet awakened to make noise.

So, I’m in the man cave.  I arrived at  5:40 this morning, and I’m ready to get to work.  I love beginning my days with writing in my journal and reading something of value.  This act is not what Ian Roberts humorously identifies as “creativity rituals and altar-making and mask-making in order to get unstuck and get started.”  I highly recommend his book Creative Authenticity.  His writings often play a role in my morning watch before I get started in the studio.

Time to paint.  Thanks for reading.