Posts Tagged ‘J. M. W. Turner’

Scattered to the Winds

March 25, 2014
Saint Ignatius Academy Fort Worth, Texas

Saint Ignatius Academy
Fort Worth, Texas

In a traditional school setting, intensity is diluted by short and widely-separated class meetings, continuity is lost as everyone scatters to the winds at the end of each class period, and ideas dissipate before they ever develop.

Ted Orland, View from the Studio Door

Since graduate school days, I have been regretfully aware of a lifestyle too hurried for ideas to settle and compost.  Having been a teacher now for twenty-five years, things have not changed.  Ideas sprout, but time is not allowed to water and cultivate them.  The bell rings, another class begins and the subject changes.  Even as a teacher, I face that issue–something comes up in class that gets my attention, but I cannot walk away and sit in silence, record it, modify it, work on it.  Soon the bell rings, they leave, others file in, the bell rings, and we begin another cycle (with me, often another subject from period to period).  One advantage that I do have as a teacher, though, is that I don’t have to dash out the door at the bell, and while students leave and others enter, I often scribble down the abbreviated notes of ideas that have seized me in the moment, and (sometimes) return to them later in the day when things have quieted.  But still, I often turn back to old journal pages to find these notes abandoned as well.  But thanks to the journal, they have at least been snared in the net, and I can disentangle them and re-work them.

Today in Advanced Placement Art History, we looked at the English Romantic painters, and I had to pause when we viewed Joseph Mallord William Turner’s Tintern Abbey.

Tintern Abbey by J. M. W. Turner

Tintern Abbey
by J. M. W. Turner

This medieval wreck had stirred the imagination of William Wordsworth to the extent that he revisited the memory five years later and composed the poem “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tinern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798”.  The poem then inspired J. M. W. Turner to create this marvelous pencil and watercolor rendering.  My painting above is of Saint Ignatius Academy, located at 1206 Throckmorton Street in Fort Worth, Texas.  A few years ago, I had traveled to the city with the intention of painting Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, only to find the building in too good condition for a rustic painting.  I turned in surprise to see this neighboring structure, from 1889, erected in the French Second Empire style.  The facility was no longer in use, and as I strolled the grounds, looking in windows, sitting on steps, observing closely the weathered portals and window frames, I felt the same sense of loss and presence that floods the minds of romantics when they look upon ruins that once thrived.  And I had to paint it.

Memories and significant ideas are always visiting us, and if we don’t find a way to hold them, mold them and preserve them, they scatter to the winds.

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.



Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, Loss and Presence

April 23, 2011

Sketches in the Studio

1887 relic of 4th Methodist Church Fort Worth, Texas

Today, Friday morning, April 22, 2011 begins a 3-day weekend for me.  While in classes yesterday morning, I suddenly was seized with this notion to visit this relic from the edge of downtown Fort Worth, Texas.  It is what remains of the 1887 Fourth Street Methodist Church (today First Methodist Church, in a different location).  The ruins were discovered a few years back when demolition began of a storage facility, with no knowledge that the skeletal remains of this vestry were within the old structure.  The Bass brothers decided not to destroy the relic.

For the past two weeks (is this serendipitous?) I have been mulling over William Wordsworth’s “Lines.  Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour.  July 13, 1798.”  I have also lingered over a watercolor by J. M. W. Turner, composed while the painter was quite young and visiting that same Medieval ruin of a church.  The poem and the painting have been on my mind the past few weeks, again with all those Proustian notions–of memories, of loss and of presence.

Other writers have expressed this better than I, but I know these heart-shuddering sentiments of standing in the midst of something left over from the past, with the wreckage of decomposition prevalent, and I simultaneously feel a profound loss and an exhilarating “presence.”  This is what I feel when I look on this church ruin adjacent to a thriving Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Texas.  At the close of the 19th century, worshipers, mourners, seekers–people of all persuasions–lingered on these grounds and worshiped within the sacred space.  I tried to focus on those matters while the traffic of downtown Fort Worth whizzed past me.  One memorable moment during this 30-minute sketching exercise was a courteous bicycle security guard working for the city stopping by and chatting with me for a few minutes.  Her presence, and the knowledge that there were “many of them” about the town, made me feel safer to return here and sketch again.  Indeed I shall.

Thank you for reading.  It is now Saturday, and I hope to get some quality work done in watercolor by the close of this day.