Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Mallord William Turner’

Morning Coffee with Joseph Mallord William Turner

August 26, 2018

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A Relaxing Morning in a Remote Place

With dark shadows cast across the lives of his family and friends, the compulsion that drove Turner to paint hardened into something closer to insularity. Turner’s own career was marching forwards. He reduced his exposure to domestic life to its most basic function, the environment in which he slept, or ate, otherwise keeping it distinct from the professional life that so engrossed him.

Franny Moyle, Turner: The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J. M. W. Turner

My intention was to spend the day in the country. And I did indeed spend most of the morning on the porch of this special place, enjoying my coffee, quality reading, and a magnificent spread of land under the east Texas sunny skies. Some events arose, however, that made it necessary for me to return to the gallery, and that is why I am able to post this blog after all (I do enjoy being off the grid when I go to this special retreat, however).

So, before I return to the wilderness, let me write a few quick words about the wonders of this Turner biography that I am reading. In 1794, Turner made a plein air watercolor tour that led him to “experiment with an emotive and dramatic response to scenery.” As I read these portions describing how he stepped into that experimental stage of painting romantic landscapes that would eventually help shift the French painters to Impressionism, my heart was stirred by a recent experience in Colorado. Having come to a dissatisfaction with how I rendered trees in watercolor, I spent a day throwing caution to the wind, using pigments I seldom use, and allowing for a great deal of spontaneity and chance by working with wet paper and unconventional tools. This ushered me into a new era, and I wish next to do some plein air sketches of landscape, applying some new techniques learned from another artist friend. It won’t be long before the fall foliage begins to emerge, and I want to be ready to try some things never tried before.

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A Recent Experimental Sketch

Since high school, I have been amazed with Turner’s atmospheric techniques, even more than those of the French Impressionists. I am now hoping with the reading of this biography to learn more of his approach to paintings. I read somewhere that he created some 19,000 watercolors in his lifetime. If that is accurate, then I have new incentive to generate more pieces.

The afternoon is growing late, and I have quite a drive ahead of me to get back into the country.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with Dave & Joseph

August 17, 2018

jmw turner

Turner had already learnt that part of the job of the artist is to improve on the actual view as it is reimagined on paper.

Franny Moyle, Turner: The Extraordinary Life & Momentous Times of J. M. W. Turner

Reading the Joseph Mallord William Turner biography this morning over coffee yielded several of those Ah-Ha! moments for me, especially the quote posted above. I have to face the reality as a musician as well as an artist that I am often bound tightly by my subject matter. As a guitarist, I am often “page-bound”, unwilling to allow spontaneous flourishes into my music because I am focused on the notations in the book before me. I can also be “recording-bound” if I am trying too hard to copy a particular guitarist’s riffs on the song I am playing instead of trusting my own inner voice. I must learn to let the music flow within me and respond to what I hear internally.

The same goes for painting. Whether I am working en plein air or from a reference photo, I often find myself sticking strictly with the subject before me instead of trusting my “inner eye” to edit a composition on the paper before me and create a quality painting rather than a strict copy of the subject I am viewing. I needed this word from the Turner reading to remind me that this is my composition, and as the artist, the prerogative is mine to put in what I wish and leave out what I choose.

And so, returning to a commission that has held my attention for several weeks, I made the conscious decision today to excise certain details and furnishings in the original photo that I believe bring unnecessary clutter to the composition before me. I am happy that this painting is taking on a “clean” look rather than the typical urban look with its assortment of trash cans, signs, gutters and lamp posts. I learned long ago that I have the ability to render these extraneous objects. But are they necessary in this particular painting? I have decided they are not.

Santa Fe depot

Should be completed in a matter of days . . .

Another Ah-Ha! moment from the Turner reading this morning came from remarks delivered by Sir Joshua Reynolds, first president of the Royal Academy of which the young Turner was a member. In one of  the president’s discourses, he urged that “invention, strictly speaking, is little more than a new combination of those images which have been previously gathered and deposited in the memory.” This reminded me of Emerson’s line from “Experience”–

The history of literature . . . is a sum of very few ideas, and of very few original tales,–all the rest being variation of these.

Years ago, I gave up trying to be original and innovative. I have come to embrace the reality that “I am a part of all that I have met” (I lifted this from Tennyson’s “Ulysses”). Being an artist involves sifting and sorting among all the tricks and gimmicks we have collected over the years with hopes of finding a decent recipe for combining those elements. Yesterday, while listening to the Ken Burns documentary on Frank Lloyd Wright, a commentator, in discussing Wright’s early work at the drafting table, said that he was “developing his grammar.” I like the sound of that! In my senior years as an artist, I suppose I am still trying to develop my grammar.

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Reading Turner made me feel that I’d returned to graduate school

And finally, the Turner biography discussed Edmund Burke’s notion of the “sublime” which played a role in the changing aesthetics within the Royal Academy by the time Turner studied there. In his pivotal work A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, Burke attacked the classical notion of his day that assumed the most important part of a work of art was its clarity and clean definition.  I turned to The Encyclopedia of Philosophy for further discussion of  Burke’s ideas:

What is greatest and noblest is the infinite, and that the infinite, having no bounds, cannot be clean and distinct. He argued that the imagination, moreover, is most strongly affected by what is suggested or hinted at and not by what is plainly stated.

Reading those words reminded me of the advice given by the late Andrew Wyeth–the strength of a composition lays not in what you put into the picture, but what you leave out. A judge at one of my competitions years ago told me that she had a particular eye on the drawings and paintings that left “space” in the picture plane that invited the viewer in to complete the narrative. I’ll never forget that piece of advice. And so, in future watercolor endeavors, I will be exploring this idea of leaving certain areas of the composition undeveloped while choosing to detail other parts. I’m interested in seeing where this is going to lead.

This morning has been an enriching one. Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Commission for a Gorilla Drawing

May 17, 2012

Gorilla drawing

O.K.  This is not what I do.  But for money, I’ll do anything.  I had a commission to draw a gorilla and this is what happened.  No comments necessary.  I just always wish to post a picture with my blog.  So, now with that out of the way, I can write about what’s on my mind today.

With the weekend approaching, my time will be divided between preparing my inventory for next weekend’s art festival at the Levitt Pavilion in Arlington, and beginning a new watercolor.  I wish I could focus on the latter, since I still have not made up my mind what to paint next.

First Methodist Church Fort Worth

I am giving serious consideration to a watercolor of First Methodist Church of Fort Worth.  For years, I have wanted to paint a French Gothic cathedral, but having never journeyed to France, I keep considering an American clone of one.  I have eyed this church for over a decade, and am closer to a decision.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Catholic Church I completed last week, and have mused over the possibility of leaping into another one immediately.  In fact, I photographed this church on the same day as I did the one just painted.

I cannot say that there is a church structure to strike me the way the medieval ruins of the Tintern Abbey church moved the likes of William Wordsworth and Joseph Mallord William Turner.  I only attended this church twice in my lifetime, but spent a most rewarding afternoon in conversation with a former pastor of this congregation, the Reverend Barry Bailey.  He studied under Paul Tillich at Union Theological Seminary–the only human I know personally who had this experience.  I will never forget the observations that Rev. Bailey shared with me, and the sensitive way that he entertained my endless questions that afternoon.  I have always found it difficult to find a minister so willing and interested in discussing theology and the directions it took during the twentieth century.

So, perhaps I’ll turn my attention to this edifice this weekend, and thus begin my new adventure in watercolor.

Thanks for reading.

 

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.

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 (http://www.recollections54.com) 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.