Posts Tagged ‘Impressionism’

Thoughts on Northern Hindu Temples and Cezanne’s Mont Sant-Victoire

September 20, 2013
Ink Sketch of Vishvanatha Temple, Khajuraho, India

Ink Sketch of Vishvanatha Temple, Khajuraho, India

We work in the dark–we do what we can–we give what we have.  our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task.  The rest is the madness of art.

Henry James

It’s been quite a week in Lake Wobegon.  I found myself teaching Southeast Asian Art in A. P. Art History at my high school, along with Buddhism in World Religions at the university.  My regular Art History class at the high school focused on Impressionism all week, and today looked at how Paul Cezanne transitioned from Impressionism into a modern style that served as a gateway for twentieth-century art.  All week my head throbbed with a thousand stimuli from all these courses, readings, musings of students–and then today something happened.

I have this amazing pair of twins in my A. P. classes.  They are both artistic, carry moleskine journals (as do I), and continually draw in them as well as record their musings.  They keep legitimate sketchbook/journals in true Leonardo da Vinci fashion, going back and forth frequently between drawing and writing.  One of them told me that it helped her concentrate better on the objects studied in art history.  Today, during a lull in the A. P. class, I opened my book to the Southeast Asian chapter, pulled out my ballpoint pen, and sketched this Hindu Temple that follows the northern style of architecture, with its towers (shikharas) bulging to emulate the Himalayan mountain range.  I experienced what I heard this young twin mention to me a couple of weeks ago–as I drew this structure, I was forced to look at architectural details I had never before noticed.  She was right–drawing something makes you stare at every cubic inch of the form, enabling you to take in details not seen before.  I was amazed to see this range of mountains emerge from the architecture, and especially loved the way the base flanged outward to meet the ground.

As I drew, my mind drifted over to Paul Cezanne and his theories, and his late fixation on Mont Sainte-Victoire.  As I thought of his attempts to contrast warm and cool colors across the face of the mountain he painted at least sixty times, I suddenly recalled the mountain I had begun as an 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch a week ago and abandoned.  Going home during my conference period, I found a 140-lb sheet of D’Arches cold-pressed watercolor paper, soaked it in the shower, and stapled it to an 18 x 20″ stretcher frame to dry.  This evening I have spent, bent over the composition, trying once more to capture the essence of this gorgeous mountain I stood beneath last weekend as the evening descended and the rainbow trout began to rise.  I’m so glad I lingered long enough to take photos of other fly fishermen in the stream beneath this outcropping of rock. I will put them in place later.

Beginning of an 18 x 20" watercolor of Beavers Bend.

Beginning of an 18 x 20″ watercolor of Beavers Bend.

I hate that I had to work on this under artifical light, but I just couldn’t bear the thought of waiting until morning.  I just hope the colors turn out to be O.K. when the natural light hits them in the morning.  I genuinely hope that this weekend will yield quality time to focus on this mountain, as I continue to think about Cezanne, the Hindu worshippers, and that amazing pair of twin artists that have helped me move in a new direction.

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 Plein Air Retreat with Claude Monet

April 30, 2012

Monet's Giverny in Athens, Texas

Sunday presented me with a bounteous gift.  I received a surprise phone call while in the studio Saturday from a long-time teacher friend/colleague.  Back in the early 1990’s we team-taught French Impressionism to her French classes and my art classes at Lamar High School.  Though we had not seen much of each other for nearly two decades, we continued to share a common thread in French Impressionist art.

She phoned Saturday to say she had just driven past a site in Athens, Texas that reminded her of Claude Monet’s gardens in Giverny–a pond on some private property that was glistening in the morning sun with a large body of water lilies.  My friend contacted the owners and secured permission for us to go on to the property.  I arrived the next day, and we went directly to work.  The owners of the property were extremely gracious to us, and I cannot recall a more splendid plein air opportunity than the one I experienced as the sun began to set on this beautiful body of water and lily pads.

I was out of my element, which is always fun en plein air.  I had never before attempted to paint lily pads, and found myself scrambling on this one.  But the sight of the sun, back-lighting the trees behind the pond, proved just as scintillating a subject as the shimmering water surface itself, and I found myself getting lost in this composition.  I have been invited to return when the lilies are in bloom, and I cannot wait for that day to happen.  The two-hour drive was well worth the experience, and I welcome the return.

I loved the connection I felt to Claude Monet as I studied the light playing across the water surface, the flickering leaves on the trees, and the bending grasses.  I did not want to leave the site.  I cannot thank my friends enough for giving me this opportunity.

Thanks for reading.