Posts Tagged ‘Jasper Johns’

“Things Seen But Not Looked At”

May 31, 2014
Ghost Sign on S. Rogers St., Waxahachie

Ghost Sign on S. Rogers St., Waxahachie

It is often said “The public does not appreciate art!”  Perhaps the public is dull, but there is just a possibility that we are also dull, and that if there were more motive, wit, human philosophy, or other evidence of interesting personality in our work the call might be stronger.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

It was a dark, overcast morning in Waxahachie, Texas when I arrived before 8:00 to begin painting en plein air.  The seventy-degree morning was inviting, and so were the cool breezes.  I don’t request bright, direct sunlight every time I paint, the way I used to do.  I strolled four city blocks before I decided to give this ghost sign a try; I have had more problems with brick facades in watercolor than most other subjects.  Twice when I walked past this building, it seemed to “put out a call” the way it was described when Edward Hopper shambled about town, looking for a space to enter and paint.  I felt welcomed by the bricks, the message, the ghost of a business that once welcomed many customers but now was shuttered.  The street was busy with traffic and pedestrians, and all the while I sketched and painted, the building stood contrastingly mute.  To borrow the phrase from Pop Artist Jasper Johns, I thought today I would paint something “seen but not looked at.”

I posted the Robert Henri quote with tongue-in-cheek, because pedestrians had to climb a hill to see what I was doing, and many of them did, the interest always seemed genuine, and the cordiality was heart-warming.  I even had the pleasure of conversing for a little while with a reporter for the Waxahachie Daily Light, their local newspaper.  In my past six years of participation in Paint Historic Waxahachie, I have always found the public in this town very interested in art made on site, and the conversations were always engaging.

I can’t wait to return to this town tomorrow in search of another subject to paint.

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.

Painting a Still Life with Thoughts of Hemingway, Cezanne and Jasper Johns

April 15, 2013
Watercolor Sketch in Progress of Vintage Lures

Watercolor Sketch in Progress of Vintage Lures

The French novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans, writing of Cezanne, described one of his still life paintings as “set down quickly in crude strokes and smudged with a thumb: seen from close to, they are a wild mess of bright red and yellow, green and blue.”  From the correct distance, Huysmans, wrote, the work was pleasing, “and suddenly one becomes aware of altogether new truths, truths one had never paid attention to before: unfamiliar yet real shades, patches of colour with a character all their own.”

These are some of the sentiments I feel as I scrutinize the colors and forms of this vivid assembly of vintage fishing lures.  I was amused earlier to day when I read of the Pop Artist Jasper Johns, that he wanted to paint objects “seen but not looked at.”  From my youth, I was taken by the bright colors of the wooden fishing lures that filled my dad’s tackle box, long before I was old enough to learn how to fish.

Hajo Duchting, in his book Paul Cezanne describes the dynamics of one of the artist’s still life arrangements: “The various contrasts of reddish-orange and green recur in paired formations throughout the canvas, setting up echoes and correspondences.  The slow transition from light to shadow means that in every colour there is a wonderful range of deep, velvety nuances.  The shades range from the delicately transparent to patches of thick pigment, ever-changing yet nonetheless contributing to a consistent overall texture.”

I am trying to take a page from Cezanne as I figure out how to make these intense colors “pop” in company with one another.  I still have so much to figure out about how to arrange the warms and cools, the complementaries, the high and low intensity of colors.  Such a complicated set of possibilities!  And before I began, all I thought I had to do was try to match my colors to my models!  Already, this composition is intriguing me, and I can hardly wait to resume it tomorrow after school.  Tomorrow will be my first day to breathe freely.  As I testified earlier, I finished all my income tax research Saturday night.  What I didn’t mention was that it took until tonight to get my tax preparer to sort all of it out and file it, which she did this evening.  I drove home a free man (but too tired to paint for more than an hour).

Tomorrow, then.  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.