Posts Tagged ‘Leonardo da Vinci’

Weekend of Leisure

October 30, 2017

300 in progress

Taking my Time on this New One

It seemed to him that the hand was not able to attain to the perfection of art in carrying out the things which he imagined.

Vasari’s account of Leonardo da Vinci

A weekend of rest was so welcome to my weary soul. Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci, after eighty-some pages, is a veritable literary feast. I have always been fascinated with the curiosity and endless journaling of this Renaissance Mind, and after reading several biographies already, am so thrilled at Isaacson’s way of bringing in new material on Leonardo’s life that I had not encountered before.

I posted the quote above because it fits what I’m wrestling with as I work on my latest watercolor. I had this notion of what I wanted to accomplish, and so far it is not happening. I’m not giving up, but rather, slowing down and spending more time looking at it, puzzling over it, than actually working on it. My November 11 show already has around twenty or so framed original watercolors of trains and doesn’t need this one to be completed. And, as a good friend said recently, it wouldn’t hurt for me to have this “in progress” painting in the gallery during show time. At any rate, I’m not under a deadline to complete it. I like that feeling: letting a painting emerge under its own time.

As to the Leonardo quote above, I’m reminded of a story I read several years ago about a guitar student frustrated while doing his lesson. When the guitar master asked him what was wrong, the student replied that he could always hear the music much better than he was able to play it. To this the master replied: “And why do you think that is  ever going to change?” That quote remains at the heart of my art work. I never complete a painting with the “look” that I was striving to achieve. Nevertheless, I love the process, and try not to let the end result frustrate me. Art is a gift. Art is life. And the thrill and leisure of making it successfully marks the time in my life as quality time.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

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A Weekend to Reset

October 27, 2017

gallery redlands

New Photo of Me Working in The Gallery at Redlands

This weekend, I’ve chosen to escape the whirlwind. I won’t bore you readers with all the details of the week, preparing for my Genny Wood Show in Bullard, Texas next weekend and then the opening of my “American Railroad Odyssey” show the following weekend in The Gallery at Redlands.

Dave Shultz is an amazing photographer, and was kind enough to come into the Gallery and shoot this photo yesterday. I have been an admirer of his work since March when I came into this Gallery, and only last week finally had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with him. I could spend a week in conversation with this Renaissance Man, and we’d never run out of material to discuss. He will be in Palestine for several months, but I already wish it were several years. I’m attaching the link to the page he attached to the website of The Redlands Historic Inn, featuring our new gallery:

http://redlandshistoricinn.com/artgallery.html

I have chosen to take this weekend away from the Gallery and Palestine, needing some down time. I have a new train watercolor in progress and may work on it this weekend, but I haven’t yet decided. Right now, I’m cloistered in a Barnes & Noble Cafe, loving this new Leonardo da Vinci biography by Walter Isaacson and catching up on some journal time. If I go silent for the rest of the weekend, it only means I am enjoying the quiet, and promise to return when next week.

My shipment of coffee mugs arrived and I’m happy that ten of them sold on the first day. There are still plenty more in stock, and if they all sell, then I’ll just order more. I have priced these at $15 plus shipping.

20171019_104852

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.

Predawn Portals of Possibility

October 25, 2017

leonardo

. . . Yet did I never breathe its pure serene 
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold: 
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies 
When a new planet swims into his ken . . . 
John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”
For a month, I’ve waited for Walter Isaacson’s biography on Leonardo da Vinci to come out. I have been enriched by two of his earlier works on Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein. Finally, yesterday, I purchased this latest work and pored over its pages until I could stay awake no longer in the night. Retiring to bed early, I set an alarm and rose at 5 this morning so I could return to it. Throughout my life, I have known the exhilaration of Keats when he happened upon Chapman’s translation of Homer. Indeed, I feel the thrill of the astronomer discovering a new planet. A new portal opens before me, welcoming me to a broader, more enchanting world.
Isaacson has chosen to focus on Leonardo’s notebooks, and I’m finding that to be a refreshing point of departure. I have had the pleasure of reading a number of Leonardo biographies, and I’m fascinated with Isaacson’s emphasis on the curiosity of this Renaissance Man. I myself have journaled since 1985, and now have over 130 volumes on my shelf. Some of the pages are worth re-reading, many are not. Nevertheless, my mind has stayed fresh because of this habit of scribbling constantly the ideas fleeting across the screen of my consciousness. I believe that journaling has contributed to the energy necessary for writing and making art, and above all, believing. Journals, to me, are nets for organizing wonder.
I could never exhaust the list of creative spirits who have inspired me throughout my years, either through their scholarship, their creative writing or their visual art. The ones I find myself continually rethinking and re-examining include Paul Tillich, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, William Carlos Williams, Robert Henri, Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Robert Motherwell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger . . . and the list continues to grow.
My interests, I admit, appear scattered. I make art. I read. I journal. I watch documentaries. I blog. I play my guitar. I get in my Jeep and drive. And I understand Leonardo’s attention deficit disorder that frequently left projects unfinished. But I take solace in Isaacson’s words: “Vision without execution is hallucination. . . . Skill without imagination is barren.”
The contemplative life has saved me repeatedly throughout the years. If finances go bad, relationships sour, employment stales, artistic momentum fades . . . I can always depend on this constellation of geniuses to inject new blood into my system. I am aware of the conventional wisdom urging us to maintain a broad network of friendships, and I believe my friendship network is rich. At the same time, I acknowledge that I am an introvert and many times find the need to draw my inspiration from the “dead heroes” who to me are not dead–they still reach out to me through the creative tracks they left behind.
Thanks for reading.
I make art in order to remember.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.
 

Saturday Morning Unscheduled Bliss

November 8, 2014
One of my Murals in Arlington Martin High School

One of my Murals in Arlington Martin High School

All which is beautiful, even humanly beautiful, dies, except in art.

Leonardo da Vinci

Waking to a bright and cold Saturday morning in Arlington, Texas, I decided at the start to spend some time writing in my journal, and that led me back to some old journals where I re-read with surprise some thoughts written long ago and forgotten (with over a hundred volumes of handwritten journals, I wish I had devised a way to index them in order to pull up ideas I had recorded going back to 1985).  I did find this, however, written in August 1988.  I had intended to hang the statement next to a public mural I had just finished (pictured above), but forgot all about it, until now:

Most of these creative spirits have left this world, yet their legacy remains with us.  And this mural is a visual record of how they made living here more worthwhile.  Dreams, visions and inspiration for books, plays, philosophies, songs and works of art were born in environments such as this.

My Favorite Artists

My Favorite Artists

My Favorite Musicians

My Favorite Musicians

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.

Sketching around a Full Schedule

January 12, 2014
Sketching a Hopper Composition

Sketching a Hopper Composition

Architectural Thumbnail Sketches

Architectural Thumbnail Sketches

Descartes Collage

Descartes Collage

The third characteristic of a symbol is that it opens up levels of reality which otherwise are closed for us.  All arts create symbols for a level of reality which cannot be reached in any other way.  A picture and a poem reveal elements of reality which cannot be approached scientifically.  In the creative work of art we encounter reality in a dimension which is closed for us without such works.

Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith

The hour is very late.  I’ve spent an entire Saturday in social contexts that provided no space for art, but now am enjoying a quiet sanctuary environment, looking over recent sketches and designs I have scribbled out while musing over the past week’s subjects covered.  I posted yesterday evening the afterglow of students discussing poetry in my classroom over the lunch hour.  I haven’t yet gotten around to talking about my past week’s classes in Philosophy and Art History.  In A. P. Art History, we’ve looked at Romanesque and Gothic architecture, discussing the symbols of that era, and about architectural aesthetics in general.  In Regular Art History, we are in High Renaissance, and devoted the entire week looking at the remarkable creations of Leonardo da Vinci.  In Philosophy, we’ve discussed theories of knowledge, focussing mostly on  Socrates and Plato, while preparing a foundation for Descartes.

Three personalities who have occupied my attention the most in recent days are Leonardo da Vinci, Edward Hopper and Robert Motherwell.  Da Vinci, to me, is the quintessential sketchbook/journal artist–the only artist I think of immediately who balanced writing with drawing.  For over a decade I have chafed at my own practices, knowing that I scribble in journals almost daily, and paint almost daily, but never on the same page.  My journals are 100% written and my sketchbooks are 100% drawn. I have recorded in earlier posts that I have a set of twins in my A. P. Art History classes who faithfully sketch and record observations in their Moleskine journals.  They say that the practice helps them concentrate on their subjects better, and that is what I have believed to be true for years, yet I cannot seem to stay with the practice.

So.  After spending time lingering over the Hopper/Drawing exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art yesterday afternoon, I began sketching and writing in my own Moleskine, and began reworking some collage ideas on Rene Descartes.  I have a strong notion to begin a watercolor sketch of the historic Fort Worth Flatiron building from a different angle than the one depicted in the watercolor I sold recently.  My intention is to study the details better, and become better versed in the technical names for the architectural elements peculiar to this building.

I am going to add this to my growing list of New Year Resolutions: draw more, sketch more, and find a balance between writing and sketching in the same journal.

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.

“Thinking Out my Pictures” during the Hiatus

January 17, 2013
22 x 28" Charcoal Still Life from 10th Grade

22 x 28″ Charcoal Still Life from 10th Grade

“What are you doing, Mr. Hopper?”

“I’m thinking out my next picture.”

(Fellow artist asking Edward Hopper what he was doing, as he was spotted wandering aimlessly around Washington Square in Greenwich Village)

I didn’t paint or post to the blog yesterday.  A late-afternoon conversation at my school gave me much to think over, and I had a heavy academic load of classes to prepare for today, so all I managed yesterday were thoughts and musings about what I am trying to accomplish now with my art.  Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth (two heroes of mine) spent hours and days “composting” between paintings, and always believed that what they pondered would seep into their compositions in some fashion.

“Look until you become fascinated; trust that you will see something. If you learn to wait, the objects will slowly sink into your consciousness and they will acquire a significance that can be measured in color and feeling…”

–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It was said that Edward Hopper carried this quote scribbled on a piece of paper in his pocket as he walked about.

I have posted above a charcoal still life that I set up in my bedroom while in high school.  The Art I and Art II classes featured still life drawing on a large scale, and I always wanted to work on one at my own leisure, even if it was set up on my desk at home for weeks or even months.  The art teachers let me take these objects out of their massive storage collection and bring them to the house for this project.  I would work on this composition in the afternoons and evenings after school, with my bedroom door closed, and Crosby, Stills, Nash spinning on the turntable (I still love “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”!).

My bedroom I shared with my younger brother, and so at night, I would lie on the top bunk bed and look down on my desk, half-lit by the hallway light streaming through our half-closed bedroom door.  The play of light and shadows fascinated me, but more than that, the dynamic of what was happening between the highlights and deep shadows–how would an artist render those zones lying in the half-light?

Leonardo da Vinci recorded the following from his ever-fertile imagination:

Remember: betwixt light and murk there is something intermediate, dual, belonging equally to the one and the other, a light shade, as it were, or a dark light.  Seek it, O artist: in it lies the secret of captivating beauty. . . . Beware of the coarse and the abrupt.  Let your shading melt away, like smoke, like the sounds of distant music!

I titled this post “Thinking Out my Pictures” because I have been preoccupied with two matters in the past twenty-four hours, while not painting.  One is this notion of half-light, a transitional gloom hovering between highlights and deep shadows.  I was taught that Michelangelo Caravaggio made use of tenebrism, a dramatic shift from extreme dark to light in order to capture attention from the viewer across the room. Leonardo, on the other hand, worked subtly between the lights and the darks, in a soft-focus effect.

In my recent observations of Andrew Wyeth watercolors, I have been intrigued by his dim interiors, where the overall composition is dark and low-contrast, allowing only a few accentuated objects to capture the light.  This is what I have wanted to accomplish, but so far, it isn’t happening.  I’m still trying to find a way there.

The second observation that has been holding my attention recently is this notion of focusing on one feature in a still life, and letting the peripheral objects melt away, either out-of-focus, or partially painted, or merely sketched in, or something–I want to find a way to focus on one particular object, and let the others support the composition, rather than fight for attention with all their details and contrasting colors.  Always in paintings, I have gotten lost in a myriad of details, wanting to capture all of them.  All the objects vie for my attention, and the viewers as well, so it seems.  This second observation got my attention because I’ve been reading from The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell, and I was fascinated with his citation of Alfred North Whitehead and Henri Matisse on this subject.  From Whitehead, he quotes:

Abstraction is a  form of emphasis, expressing what one wants to without being involved in everything else.

Then from Matisse:

Superfluous details would, in the mind of the beholder, encroach upon the essential elements.

Henry Adams echoed my sentiments when he wrote the following about Andrew Wyeth and his drybrush compositions:

While in my mind I know that [Wyeth’s] reputation rests primarily on his remarkable tempera paintings, I have always personally responded less powerfully to them than to his drawings and studies—particularly to the studies that don’t attempt to cover the whole surface of the paper as in a conventional watercolor, but instead focus on a few elements, so that the image seems to emerge magically from the empty white paper, rather like a photograph that we observe in the process of development.

So, tonight in the Man Cave, I continue to pick away at the 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch I started night-before-last.  I’m not sure that I’m giving this composition my undivided attention–the details of today’s classes are still flooding my memory with good things worth saving.   I also have the TV/VCR playing old Woody Allen films (“Interiors” is now playing), and I’m mulling over in my mind these ideas about the half-light and the need to focus on just one object in a composition.  Meanwhile my eye keeps moving over these objects before me, and my hand keeps reaching for brushes, pencils, sandpaper, salt, spritz bottle, towel, etc.  I’m having a good time out here tonight.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll close with a few pictures of what’s happening in the Man Cave:

Pepsi carrier close up

Pepsi Carrier Thursday night

Man cave Pepsi carrier from above