Posts Tagged ‘Jackson Pollock’

Afterglow of a Wilderness Retreat

November 13, 2016


That’s me, in a rocker, in a secluded place three hours from my home

It is Sunday evening, and I have just returned from my country sanctuary.  I spent another precious weekend watercoloring inside a general store where I was privileged to reside as a guest. While working and looking around at the grocery items from decades past, I kept hearing in my mind the following script from the motion picture Pollock starring Ed Harris. The painter had just moved to Springs, Long Island to escape the madness of New York City.  The proprietor of the local grocery had this to say to Pollock the first time he shopped in the store:

You're the fella moved into the old Quinn place.


              You moved out from the city?

              I don't blame you.

              In a world where they can split a tiny atom...

              and blow up hundreds of thousands of people...

              there's no telling where it's all gonna lead.

              Best to find a quiet place...

              do what you have to do.

The morning following our presidential election, I returned to work and was surrounded with teachers and students wanting to discuss the election’s outcome.  This was a conversation I did not wish to engage. I took ill, and in the following days called in sick, and by the weekend decided I needed to retreat to the country.  The healing balm offered by this special place and my special friends has far exceeded my expectations in providing needed rest, quiet, recharged spiritual batteries and recalibrated ideas for my future.  I can return to work tomorrow, grateful for the past few days of peace.


Reading from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau

After an exhausting three-hour drive, I found myself extremely sleepy early Friday night, so I turned in early.  Waking without an alarm at 6:48, I felt refreshed, rose and made breakfast and coffee, hiked to a neighboring pond to fly fish awhile (caught only one bluegill on a popper, but managed to catch an additional seventeen bass by the time the weekend ran its course), then sat at a bedroom reading desk looking out a pair of French doors across a sun-washed pasture.  Turning to the Journals of Thoreau, I read the following:

I require of any lecturer that he will read me a more or less simple and sincere account of his own life, of what he has done and thought,–not so much what he has read or heard of other men’s lives and actions, but some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land,–and if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me,–describing even his outward circumstances and what adventures he has had, as well as his thoughts and feelings about them.  He who gives us only the results of other men’s lives, though with brilliant temporary success, we may in some measure justly accuse of having defrauded us of our time.  We want him to give us that which was most precious to him,–not his life’s blood but even that for which his life’s blood circulated, what he has got by living.  If anything ever yielded him pure pleasure or instruction, let him communicate it.

I needed to read that.  Having taught for three decades, and in recent years posted to a blog, I have always second-guessed how much quoting of others vs. how much personal stuff I should communicate to anyone willing to listen.  My life has been stirred by what I have read of those who have traveled this life before me.  And daily I seek to record my personal visions.  But when it comes to blending the two, I’m never sure, and I guess I never will be.  At any rate, I appreciated Thoreau’s sentiments, because I’m always fearful of putting out blogs that offer nothing more than navel-gazing.


Rising from my reading, I returned to the main store counter and looked among the cans, bottles and packages on the shelf, trying to decide what to paint first.  I chose this section, hoping that the bright red Coca-Cola ad would draw immediate attention to the painting, and then hoping that the coffee tin and bottle adjoining would support enough detail to satisfy the curious eye.


As usual, I spent a good part of the weekend perusing Andrew Wyeth drybrush sketches, and decided to leave this one as a vignette.  It is approximately 9 x 12″ so I’m seriously considering putting it into the Fort Worth CAC 9 x 12 show two days from now.  They allow us to submit up to six unframed original pieces and they price them at $100 each.  This sketch just might be able to find a home there.  In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy looking at it, grateful for the memories it exudes.

My friends also have a chuckwagon parked in a nearby barn, and have furnished me the keys the section where it is parked.  For a couple of years, I have wanted to attempt sketches of it and finally worked up the nerve Saturday afternoon to visit the barn.


Just as inside the store, I found difficulty narrowing down the pletora of ojects to just a few.  After all, I have to return to work on Monday, and I knew I could not paint the entire scene in one day.


This one I have not finished, but took plenty of reference photos in hopes that I can complete it in my studio at home.

Late Saturday night, I was too wired to sleep, filled with good feelings about all that had happened during the day–fly fishing, painting, reading, journaling, sitting in a rocking chair and staring across beautiful landscape.  So I returned to the front of the store and began a sketch of one of the old doorknobs and locking mechanisms on the main door connecting the store to the residential section of the building.


Retiring to bed finally around 1 a.m., I thought I may sleep till noon.  But I awoke at 5:40, feeling rested and energized to make something else happen before loading up and making the three-hour trek back home.  After breakfast, coffee and more quality quiet reading time, I returned to the store and worked further on the painting.  It still isn’t finished, but I took a good close-up reference photo of the details and will certainly finish this one.


The weekend in the wilderness has done everything I wished for, and more.  I think I’ll do O.K. returning to work tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


Calling Out to Jackson Pollock

August 2, 2016


Just a quick progress report on my Eureka Springs train–the depths of the surrounding forest is driving me nuts, and I feel that I am resorting to Jackson Pollock techniques as I weave skeins of paint from border to border. I’m having fun as I experiment, but of course those all-too-common anxieties begin to enter when one wonders over the likelihood of losing what could have been a good painting while “having fun.”  So . . . I think I will lay this aside, perhaps for the rest of the day, until I know for certain where to go next with it.

Thanks for reading . . .

The Creative Impulse in Later Years

July 17, 2015
Work on a Laguna Madre Landscape

Work on a Laguna Madre Landscape

Artists and poets are the raw nerve ends of humanity. By themselves they can do little to save humanity. Without them there would be little worth saving.

Inscription on a headstone in Green River Cemetery, Springs, New York, where Jackson Pollock is buried

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?  Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.” That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse! What will your verse be?

John Keating (Robin Williams), “Dead Poets Society”

Throughout this day, I have been responding to friends who commented on yesterday’s blog about aging, and coming unto one’s own. In recent days, I’ve had several opportunities to engage in conversation with friends of whom the creative impulse has taken hold in recent years. Many of them are the same age as I. Having spent a lifetime at a profession, they now feel the impetus to do something creative, and I am thrilled at that. The only matter that disturbs me is the hesitation I often hear from others, stemming from the fear that they have no talent.

Does the bird singing outside your bedroom window in the mornings have any idea of the beauty of its song, or is the bird just doing what the bird naturally does? How about the spider spinning the web in your garden? As the web glistens in the slanting rays of the morning sun, does the spider have any clue as to the beauty, the design, the symmetry of its web, or is the spider simply spinning out of its own essence?

Why do people create? Are they aware of the beauty of their works, or could it be that they are only doing what naturally comes to them, obeying an impulse? I was never an effective art teacher in the public schools, for a variety of reasons. But a major reason stems from the dilemma of grades. How could I possibly grade the quality of a student’s work? As a workshop instructor, I can answer questions, and I can help a student improve his/her technique, but at least I don’t have to assign a grade and give the illusion of quantifying the value of someone’s creation. I love the creative impulse, period, and wish that all humans would respond to their muses. Everyone has ability, and everyone has desires for expression. Words, pictures, sounds–these all contain powerful aesthetic forces and are in the consciousness of the active mind. What a terrible waste, not letting that impulse run its course. When one feels the tug of inspiration, s/he should respond wholeheartedly and not worry about whether or not the creation is “good.” Personally, I can think of few things that match the sublimity of creation, the mere notion of starting with a void and finishing with something of visual or auditory pleasure. The integrity of creation is its own reward, not what others might say, despite the reality that others might not even notice.

Today I had a little time in the studio, and worked further on the cloud definitions in the center and to the right. I also began planting some growth in the bald sandy spot in the lower right corner, tried to correct the color of the field station, which has a green tint against the blue sky. I’m also working at transitioning between the foreground wildflowers and the grasses surrounding the building. All this has appeared to be tinkering, but the devil is in the details and I enjoy that too. The fact of the matter is that I have been lost in abstract patterns while working on the textures of the sky and the ground. And I’m always crazy-in-love with abstract patterning. Lessons from my high school art teacher kept blistering to the surface as I worked on the ground textures, as he was the first to instill in me an appreciation for abstraction.

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.

Early Sunday Morning, Listening to Robert Henri Sermons

May 26, 2013
My "Edward Hopper" attempt during Last Year's Plein Air Event

My “Edward Hopper” attempt during Last Year’s Plein Air Event

“I am not interested in art as a means of making a living, but, I am interested in art as a means of living a life.”

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Today, Sunday, I embrace the respite that has been offered.  After school Friday, I went straight to the Levitt Pavilion to set up for the 3-day festival.  I stayed until we closed Friday night.  Saturday I rose at 7:00, journeyed 40 minutes southward to Waxahachie, and cranked out two plein air watercolors, returning to Arlington in time to re-enter my booth and go into the night festival which ended at 10:30.  I was in bed before midnight, and scheduled to return to Waxahachie early this morning, but rain forecasts throughout the day and overcast skies convinced me to stay home, rest, close out the festival tonight, then rise in the morning to spend the entire day in Waxahachie for plein air activity on Memorial Day.  The Waxahachie event will last clear through next Sunday.  I should be going down after school every day.  I think it prudent to take it easy today.  I’m still not as strong as before my recent illness.

Yesterday, I posted the pair of watercolors I did.  Above, I have posted one of the watercolors from last year’s “Paint Historic Waxahachie” event, since I only plan to read and journal in the Man Cave today.  Robert Henri speaks with the Voice of a Prophet, to me.  Reading him, I feel like I’ve gone to Dephi to consult the Oracle.  I do not make a living off my art; school teaching provides that.  But I live now to make art, to try and live an artful life.  I believe it was Seneca that said “Philosophy is the Art of Life.”  After many years of casting about, I think I have finally come home to a life of contemplation, giving my reading and years of philosophical contemplation a chance to “compost” and grow into something to give voice to my painting attempts.  I never saw this blog event coming!  A writer I met on, teaching in an Ohio college, convinced me to try Facebook, then convinced me to begin a blog.  I honestly expected no one to look at my blog, but thought it would be an online “extension” of the handwritten journals I keep every day.  I began to blog, thinking it would only be an online journal.  I’m surprised, and very pleased, to find new friends and colleagues through this network now, to learn from them, and feel encouraged as I continue this trek.

I really like the notion of Henri that art work is only the “footprint”, the “trace” of what an artist experienced.  It is a byproduct.  I read that that was how some critics regarded the Jackson Pollock drip paintings–the residue of his “dance”, of his “encounter” with Art.

“These results, however crude, become clear to the  artist who made them because they are records of states of being which he has enjoyed and which he would regain.  . . . Art is, after all, only a trace–like a footprint which shows that one has walked bravely and in great happiness.”

Even my best-chosen words in the journal and on the blog are unable to convey the exquisite, deep-seated delight that I feel when I am working in watercolor.  I love peering into the veneer of water on the paper surface, watching the colors billow and flow, dragging a pencil through it while still wet, cutting into it with an X-acto knife, all the time experimenting, looking, wondering, and encountering many surprises.  I just cannot seem to learn enough.  When it’s over, I feel a sense of disappointment, not because I think the painting is necessarily bad, but because the moment has passed and I have only the remnant, the residue, the record, which someone might purchase, but if that happens, the purchaser will never know what part of me lived through that process.

This may sound folksy or contrived, but much of what I get from watercoloring happens also in flyfishing, my other passion.  Time spent in a mountain stream changes my breathing, my heart rate.  Time spent working a fly rod, watching the line arc out over the water, watching it bend over the surface, waiting for a riffle to signal a rising trout–these processes excite me.  If I land a trout, great, I am likely to release it back into the stream.  But leaving a trout stream is much the same for me as stopping over a painting.  The moment has passed, and the process brought quality into my life that I cannot put into words.

I’m glad to spend this morning with Robert Henri and The Art Spirit.  After 178 pages, I know there still remains much to be said.  I can hardly wait to hear him further.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.