Posts Tagged ‘Jesuit’

Finished the Saint Ignatius Watercolor

May 9, 2012

Saint Ignatius Academy, Fort Worth, Texas

I’m pleased finally to fix my signature on this composition that has developed for a little while now.  I determined this evening while working in my garage studio that I wanted to finish this before retiring to bed.  I have a feeling that this is not my final look at Saint Ignatius Academy, truly I have enjoyed laboring over this and have strong feelings about giving it a few more tries from different perspectives.  The character of this late nineteenth-century building holds me in ways I cannot put into words, reminding me of William Wordsworth and J. M. W. Turner coming under the spell of Tintern Abbey.

Thank you for reading.

Taking a Hiatus on the Saint Ignatius Watercolor

April 25, 2012

Saint Ignatius nearing finish

Good evening.  Last evening I completed the monumental sculpture and base, and worked a little further on the portals, steps and handrails.  Finally I splashed some wash on the lower left part of the foreground for balance.  Then I got hung up.

After consulting with a number of trusted artist friends, I’ve decided how to complete this.  I will deepen the shadows on the receding walls, enrich some of the fire escape shadows, but most important of all, re-draw the architectural details on the perimeter of the composition.  For that I need to go back and take another long look at Andrew Wyeth and his drybrush techniques.  What I have always wished to accomplish in a major watercolor is to render in as much detail as possible the focal points of the composition, and then as the eye moves toward the perimeter, dissolve the picture into wash, and finally pencil rendering.  I have always loved that dimension of  Wyeth’s work.

I’m going to spend a day or two “composting” this picture, the way our Venetian painter Titian did over 500 years ago, and Wyeth did in our last century.  I’m borrowing that metaphor from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.  I am referring to a habit of Titian and Wyeth in their manner of gazing at their works for days near the end, determining what exactly had to be done to “finish” the piece.  Goldberg, in the task of writing, speaks of how important it is for a writer to grow still, and allow thoughts to make their way to the surface, much in the same way that energy builds over time in a compost heap.  All that is needed is time.  And so I will give this picture time.  I don’t want to lose it.  I’m very, very excited about bringing it to closure, and right now have this burning desire to pore over the Wyeth work and glean ideas from his exquisite pencil renderings over watercolor.

Thanks for reading.  I hope the next time I publish this painting, that I present it to you as a fait accompli.

Approaching the Saint Ignatius Portal

April 24, 2012

Saint Ignatius West Portal

You can mark out this week, as far as educating students in Texas goes.  It is TAKS testing.  Four hours a morning, our students are taking state standardized tests that are being phased out, and then our district runs the students through their regular classes throughout the afternoon for another four hours (30 minutes a class), assuming that they are getting further educated.  In two weeks, we will wipe out another three days, with the new (and improved?) STAAR testing–same thing–test them all morning, then pretend to educate them further by forcing them through their abbreviated afternoon classes.  Texas thinks it is educating students with all these standardized tests, when in reality the state continues its slide to the bottom of the nation with the SAT scores.  Our state-mandated tests appear to have little-to-nothing to do with SAT success (when did they ever?).  But tell that to our governor and legislature.  They are the education experts.  Just listen to our Texas governor speak publicly, and you know immediately what kind of premium he places on an educated mind.

Teachers are allowed one day duty-free from the testing.  This is my day.  I will begin my fake classes at 12:15.  So, the morning has been spent in the watercolor studio, and I’m just about to finish the west portal of Saint Ignatius Academy.  Looking at the remains of this bastion of education probably has me bemoaning the condition of Texas public education.  The Jesuits knew how to train the intellect, and students passing through their corridors exited with trained minds.

It still bugs me to watch our Republican-majority legislature and tax payers hold their noses when “public education” is brought up, while they look for every possible means to starve that beast, revenue-wise, and at the same time insist on higher standards.  Makes sense, huh?

After school today, I hope to begin work on this monumental sculpture just outside the Saint Ignatius portal.  I have admired this monument, studying closely the photos I took, but kept procrastinating the rendering of it in watercolor, probably because I’m concerned about how to make her stand out against that facade background.  But, I guess her time has now come.  We’ll see what transpires this afternoon.  I still have less than two hours to shower, dress, groom, fix lunch, and then head to school to pretend to accomplish something in each 30-minute class originally designed for 90 (I’ll have four of them in a row, in four different classrooms, on two floors, without a break–groan).  But hey, at least the students got to take that phased-out TAKS test throughout the morning, so the day wasn’t a total waste, right?  I believe this is the final year of TAKS testing before we move on to the new-and-improved STAAR standardized test.  Bring it.  Texas can brag all she wants about her state-mandated, standardized testing scores, but as long as this state remains the bottom-feeder of the nation with its SAT results, all that bragging will be nothing more than political showmanship.  Our universities and corporations could not care less about Texas high school test scores.

My musical company throughout the morning has been Neil Young’s “Live Rust” and Rare Earth’s “Get Ready” (both on vinyl).  Great stuff to listen to while painting in the studio.  And the weather this morning has been cool, the sunlight bright and clear, and the ambiance positively delicious.

Thanks for reading.

Watercoloring Saint Ignatius, One Window at a Time

April 23, 2012

Saint Ignatius South Facade

Having managed only three hours’ sleep last night, I found myself rather sluggish today.  However, I managed to shrug some of it off late this afternoon and returned to work on my waiting Saint Ignatius watercolor.  Today I worked on the windows on the top two stories, adding color to the panels that are still visible, and continuing to refine the rusticated exterior of that magnificent facade.  I don’t know how much later I can stay with it tonight, but the neighborhood is certainly quiet and peaceful in the darkness, with soft muffled occasional sounds drifting my way.  The air has turned quite cool, and I love that about the Texas spring evenings.  Muddy Waters is keeping me company with his punctuated vocals and guitar.  I love listening to “Same Thing.”

Thanks for reading.

Close-up of the Saint Ignatius Academy Watercolor

April 22, 2012

Saint Ignatius Academy Fire Escape

Well.  It appears that it’s going to be another late night (my choice).  I took a cat nap around 5:00, and once I rose and stretched my limbs, I knew what I wanted to do–return to the garage studio (where I’ve already spent the day) and pick up the brush again.  This time I poured all my concentration into the fire escape, all the geometry, angles, irregularities of the rusticated exterior behind it, shadows–the works!  And I have loved every minute of it.

My companion this evening has been Son House.  I have his legendary 1941-1942 recordings in chronological sequence on vinyl.  Yesterday when my band played at J. Gilligan’s Pub, I found myself enjoying immensely a Keb’ Mo’ blues tune we hadn’t played in a couple of years–“Keep It Simple.”  I have gotten away from playing acoustic blues on my guitar, and it was so fun to come back to it.  So, Son House is flooding my soul this evening with good things as he hammers on his acoustic.

I still have some art history to finish up for tomorrow, but I’m quite sure that I’ll return to the watercolor (or else read a book!).  I don’t know why, but staring deeply into the facade of this bastion of Jesuit scholarship always makes me want to read theology!  My volumes have been neglected recently.  I have had an itch to re-study some of the theological trends that blistered between the World Wars (that’s where we are in A. P. art history right now).

I believe this will be my last post tonight, even if I do continue working on the watercolor.  The light in this garage has been fine for painting, but it’s giving me fits when I try to photograph this piece for blogging.

Oh well, it’s 10:00, so I’ll say Good Night to you, and thanks always for reading me.  Oooohhhh . . .  I put on Howlin’ Wolf’s London Sessions and he’s now singing “Sittin’ on Top of the World.”  That one always hurts.  Hopefully, I’ll write you tomorrow!

Sunday All Day in the Watercolor Studio

April 22, 2012

Saint Ignatius Sunday

Good afternoon.  Saturday came and went without watercolor pursuit.  I was privileged to participate in a fundraising event at J. Gilligan’s Pub in Arlington.  I donated a limited edition print for a silent auction, and my band played a short gig.  That pretty much wiped out my Saturday.

Today, however, I got to spend most of the time in the garage studio.  I worked on A. P. Art History for quite a few hours, re-arranged my studio, then redirected my energies toward this full-size watercolor.  I worked all over the composition, so I cannot isolate a small area for detailed analysis.  Today I did windows, foliage, fire escape, rusticated stone work and various assorted details.  The painting is starting to tighten up in detail, and it’s time for me to make some compositional decisions before it gets out of hand.  I’m starting to get lost in it again.

I’ve decided to walk away from it for a few hours, and just may return to it tonight.  If I do, then I’ll probably post a blog once more before bedtime.  My companions today (besides my watercolor buddy and bandmate David Slight) have been Albert Collins and Robert Johnson.  Again, Blues make fro great companionship in the watercolor studio.

Thanks for reading.

Return to William Wordsworth and the Tintern Abbey Feeling

April 19, 2012

Closeup study of Saint Ignatius Academy

Good evening from the garage studio.  The skies are darkening, and the suburban sounds are quieting as the neighborhood settles into another balmy spring night.  I’m finally refreshed after taking a power nap today.  I should feel guilty about those, but cannot.  I don’t sleep well at night, rise at 6:00, and today the Kimbell Art Museum field trip with the Martin High School Art Club sucked all the energy out of me.  The students were the very best–I’m always proud to be associated with them in public places.  This is my third museum tour with them during this past year, and always they have shown wonderful, mature decorum in the art venues.  As far as “energy sucking” I must admit that I cannot casually look at art in a museum.  I feel as though I have read a stack of volumes in a university library by the time I emerge.  Our museum docent today was first rate, and of course the Clark collection of French Impressionist and Barbizon School paintings just took my breath away.  Now I wish I could take off a year and try to learn landscape painting in watercolor, studying Pissarro, Monet and Sisley.  What an epiphany today was.

I managed to crawl back into my garage studio shortly after 6:00 this evening, and have just now paused to photograph, step back and look at today’s work (which started this morning shortly after 6:00 a.m.–I already posted that) and reflect.

I wish I could do for Saint Ignatius Academy of Fort Worth what Joseph Mallord William Turner did for Tintern Abbey in 1794.  Tintern Abbey was a Gothic church rebuilt in the 13th and 14th centuries, but then fell into ruins after the 1530’s when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.  William Wordsworth in 1798 was moved to write that beautiful poem “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” as he felt the overwhelming sense of presence and recollection while standing among those ruins.  If you have followed my blog and website ( you understand that this is the kind of thing I try to do in watercolor with our 1950’s America–recover a sense of recollection while standing in the presence of these relics of our own landscape.

I believe this Saint Ignatius structure was erected around 1886 (I’ll have to go back and re-check my notes on this).  As I worked on those upper story windows this morning in the pre-dawn darkness, I mused over the Jesuit scholars that perhaps sat behind those windows in the pre-dawn, lingering over manuscripts and preparing notes for classes.  I was of course reminded of my own seminary studies in the 1970’s and all those times I had to pull “all-nighters” just to stay caught up with the daily assignments and deadlines.  I still recall having to set clocks for 3 and 4:00 a.m. just to translate Hebrew for an 8:00 class.  I worked as a welder till 10:00 or midnight the night before, and the schedule was absolutely numbing.  But I do look back on it now with a serene sense (that I certainly did not hold then!).

I guess my next step is to tackle the pale green tiles of the mansard roof.  I already gave the ones to the extreme right a shot.  I’m not sure how I’m going to balance them with other colors I’ve chosen.  Perhaps I’ll shift my lavenders to a pale rose and see if that better complements the greens on the roof.  So many decisions.

Thanks for reading.


In the Studio with Watercolor of Saint Ignatius Academy

March 16, 2012

Saint Ignatius Academy, Fort Worth

With regret, I watch this Spring Break drawing to a close.  I have just gotten my second wind with the watercolor endeavors.  I wish I could close out this large watercolor before returning to school Monday, but that isn’t going to happen.

I photographed this structure in downtown Fort Worth, south of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, a couple of weeks ago while out taking photographs with another watercolorist buddy.  I am fascinated with the Mansard roof (reminding me of my favorite Edward Hopper watercolors) and the overall look of this architectural French Second Empire style. 

I feel that I may have bitten off a bit more than I can chew, as I am devoting most of this 28 x 22″ surface to the church’s facade.  I’m already getting lost in this composition, and I barely have the top of it underway.  There is so much more detail to draft and pursue.  But I love the look of the sunlit facade so far.

Tonight, the Dallas Museum of Art stays open till midnight.  I have an itch to head over there, having learned that there are some Edward Hopper paintings in the new exhibition that has just opened, covering the Jazz Age.  Perhaps I’ll have enough energy, and renewed inspiration, to pursue this studio work later tonight.

Thanks for reading.