Posts Tagged ‘man cave’

Autumn Return to the Cave

October 25, 2016

man-cave

First Night back in the Man Cave Studio

The man who is forever acquiring technique with the idea that sometime he may have something to express, will never have the technique of the thing he wishes to express.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

clutter-3

Studio Drawing and Debris

clutter-2

More Studio Art and Debris . . .

clutter-1s

. . . and even MORE STUDIO DRAWING AND DEBRIS!!!  (guess it is time to tidy up!)

trees

Sketchbook Pages from my recent Festival

tree-bentOne of my Preferred Sketches

tree

Experiment with a Variety of Pencils

The fall routine of school has overtaken me to the point that I cannot seem to find quality time for painting, and scant time for sketching.  I have however managed to participate in a major art festival and have another coming up quickly.  In addition to a few tree sketches, opportunity has also presented itself to do some serious museum study, as the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth has just opened up a major Monet exhibit featuring his early works.  Three visits to that exhibit have put me back in the mood to fight for studio time.

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Relaxing at the Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth after seeing the Monet exhibit at the Kimbell

With the fall temperatures dropping ever so slightly (Texas is so screwed up, with temperatures reaching the mid-80s daily as we close out October), I have managed to re-enter my garage and clear out two years’ worth of debris that filled in my Man Cave to the point where I could no longer work in it.  Tonight I sat down for the first time with charcoals and worked on some sketches of a woven fishing creel that I picked up a couple of years back in an antique store.  The surge of artistic desire returned, and I have now planned a weekend of plein air painting, thanks to this precious garage/studio time.

This evening, I have much on my heart for which I am thankful.  The school year is off to a better-than-usual start, and aside from some bureaucratic debris that crowds the schedule more often than it should, I can at least say that I am enjoying my students immensely, and I love the subjects I am teaching.  The same may be said for my college class.

I am also happy to feel the sentiments expressed above by Robert Henri.  For years throughout my artistic endeavors, I have fretted over technique, always thinking I had too few tools in my toolbox. At my current age, I now am convinced that making art (for me anyway) is much more centered on the feelings and emotions swirling about my subjects than on the techniques I employ in trying to render them.  Tonight in the Man Cave, I didn’t worry about how the creel was looking on my paper.  Rather, I reveled in the feel of the cold charcoal between my fingers, the smooth surface against my hand, the sound of the charcoal dragging across the rough paper, and the haunting words emerging from the Robert Frost documentary that was playing in the background as I sketched.

I am sixty-two years of age, happy to be closing out my third decade of classroom encounters, and extremely grateful that I still have the strength to pursue this daily and still draw sustenance from the educational dynamics.  I still thirst for knowledge as much or more than I did in graduate school days, read prodigiously, and cannot scribble enough pages in my personal journal.  I am now sketching with the pencil more than I ever have before in life, and finding abundant joy in this as well.  Once the weather cools some more, I will enter the countryside and watercolor en plein air, and experience the rush that that activity has always brought me in the past.

This evening I read with great pleasure Walt Whitman’s poem “Eidólons” from his Leaves of Grass collection.  In true Platonic fashion, he argued that behind every physical fact and wish we pursue, there lingers that spiritual perfection, always more than what we seek to attain.  This led me to think of all the phantoms I chased throughout all my life, all the disillusionments I suffered when I felt I had failed in reaching my ultimate goal.  A person could waste an entire lifetime seeking those things that remain out of reach, or worse still, attain to something, only to discover that it diminished once possessed.  When that happens, a person often gives chase to yet another eidólon.

At this stage of living, I am extremely grateful for health, for employment, for a home, and for time to explore and enjoy the arts and scholarship.  I’m happy that a school pays me to learn, pays me to share what I learn, and affirms my attempts at creation.  Life is good.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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Rising Above the Swamp

November 8, 2014
Late Night "Bedtime" Sketch

Late Night “Bedtime” Sketch

In the morning, sitting in the forest.  I was thinking of those charming allegories of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, those cities of God, those Elysian fields full of light, peopled with gracious figures, etc.  Isn’t that the tendency of periods when beliefs in higher powers have preserved their full strength?  The soul rose ceaselessly above the trivialities and miseries of real life into imaginary dwellings which were embellished with everything that was lacking around you.

It is also the tendency of unhappy periods when dreadful powers weigh upon men and cripple the flights of the imagination.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, May 22, 1847

I cannot describe this “transcendent” feel that I have when I’m in my element.  Throughout my years of life, I have seen more than I like of the oppressive side of the world in which we live.  But something always manages to buoy me above that dismal swamp.  This is not to say that I don’t experience seasonal moods of depression–I do.  But days like today, when all seems right in my corner of the universe, I find myself filled with a gratitude that cannot be couched in words.

My Saturday began with the reading of fine literature, journaling, thinking, exploring memories and experiencing gratitude.  I later entered the Man Cave and kicked out a charcoal compositional sketch that I did not like.  So, I just walked away from it, thinking I would just redirect my attention back to reading and journaling.  But less than an hour later, it suddenly dawned on me that I was trying to conquer a composition by drawing–something I do not practice enough– and composition is complicated anyway.  The word came to me: simplify.  Returning to the Cave, I picked up the charcoal again and concentrated on just one still life object, then another.  Things improved.  I realized composition would come later, when I was ready.  When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

Sitting later in the open doorway of my garage, I enjoyed the cool breezes of the late afternoon, and felt my body cleansed by the auburn glow of the waning sun.  I returned to my reading of Eugene Delacroix’s Journal and the passage posted above just seemed to pull my day together perfectly.  Aside from one more quick sketch right before bedtime (posted above), I just gave the best part of my evening to reading and reflection.  Perhaps tomorrow I will get an early start on the day.  I have done enough today to fill three days with a sense of accomplishment.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Coming to Terms with my Vocation

November 6, 2014
Carving out a Space for Art

Carving out a Space for Art

I am born a poet, of a low class without doubt, yet a poet.  That is my nature and vocation.  My singing, be sure, is very “husky,” and is for the most part in prose. Still am I a poet in the sense of a perceiver and dear lover of the harmonies that are in the soul and in matter, and specially of the correspondences between these and those.  A sunset, a forest, a snow-storm, a certain river-view, are more to me than many friends and do ordinarily divide my day with my books.  Wherever I go therefore I guard and study my rambling propensities with a care that is ridiculous to people, but to me is the care of my high calling.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, February 1, 1835

The first time I seriously read Emerson in 1989, I felt that he was writing exactly what I was feeling.  It was true then, and it is true now.  Since that year, I have used every excuse to bring him into my classes–Humanities, English, Philosophy, Art History–I have trouble choosing between him and Paul Tillich (aside from the host of visual artists in history) for the number one muse that drives my ideas and feeds my art.  I am able to cope with a solitary existence because of Emerson’s affirmations (and it goes without saying that I am surrounded by people during the normal working hours of the day).

I love what Hannah Arrendt referred to as “the life of the mind.”  Throughout each day of my existence, I have been unable to shut down my mind from the flurry of ideas that crowd it, and I frequently feel that need to retreat from the noise of the public and sort these things out, either in my journal, my blogging or my attempts to create art.  Emerson referred to that lifestyle as one of a “poet” and perhaps he was referring to the Greek term (he was fluent in that language) which is more loosely applied to a “creator.”  In that sense, I could call myself a poet.  And, looking back over the past four decades of my employment history, I have always been a poet.  It didn’t matter if I was welding, delivering packages, dispatching for police departments, preaching from pulpits, or lecturing in college and high school classrooms, I always lived for those moments when I was “off the clock” so I could read, think, and make art or music.  I have always breathed my purest air when living the lfe of the mind.

Today I introduced Emerson into my high school philosophy class.  Though I did not put the above quote on the blackboard (I had others), these words have lingered with me throughout this day and throughout this evening while tidying my home, my studio, and my office space.  I have posted above a small piece of my garage (man cave) where I have been assembling a still life and adjusting a drafting table to get the angle I want to pursue in my next serious endeavor.  The hour is drawing late, and I still have to finish preparing art history for tomorrow morning, so reluctantly I leave this space and return to the responsibilities of my job.

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.

Small Steps Back to the Winter Man Cave

September 14, 2014
Clearing Out Space to Work Again in the Man Cave

Clearing Out Space to Work Again in the Man Cave

Current wisdom, especially that propagated by the various schools of psychoanalysis, assumes that man is a social being who neeeds the companionship and affection of other human beings from cradle to grave.,  It is widely believed that interpersonal relationships of an intimate kind are the chief, if not the only, source of human happiness.  Yet the lives of creative idividuals often seem to run counter to this assumption.

Anthony Storr, Solitude: A Return to the Self

Texas weather brought quite the surprise in recent days, notwithstanding the news of the Canadian cold front pushing its way southward.  Friday after school, temperatures dropped to the lower sixties in the afternoon, and brisk north winds picked up to the point that I was forced to leave a Starbuck’s patio and go inside (the short-sleeved Tshirt wasn’t getting the job done).  By morning, temperatures were around 55 degrees and the world so much more beautiful outside than it had been in months.  A Texas garge is off-limits during the summer months of triple-digit temperatures, and so today with great delight I re-entered my garage and began reclaiming the “man cave” half that had been abandoned nearly two years ago.  So much stuff had accumulated that it took a couple of hours to hew out a good working space at my drafting table, sit on the sofa with coffee and an excellent book, grade papers, and listen to the Gregorian Chant playing on the garage stereo.  As the winter arrives, I have these aspirations to return to serious still life studies as I did two winters ago.   Throughout the interim, I have collected many, many antique objects to add to my studio collection, and I am more than ready to do some new studies.

My desire to resume the blog activity is increasing of late.  For several weeks the high school and university claimed the lion’s share of my daily attention, and I have found great satisfaction in the efforts there.  My memory has to go back a number of years to recall such a satisfying start as this.  At the time of this writing, I still have quite a stack of grading to complete before going to bed tonight, but none of the resentment that used to attach itself to such assignments as before.  Things are different now, and I’m pleased with the changes.

Recent watercolor attempts have been revolving around private lessons, and I indeed found much joy in those encounters as well.  I have a festival approaching in a couple of weeks, and trust that I’ll get my watercolor chops back by that time.  With great enthusiasm I am also anticipating the fall colors that should arrive soon, and I have pledged not to let the fall season escape without significant plein air study this time around.

This is good time of the year, and I look forward to sharing more of these delicious experiences on the blog.

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.

The Dawn

May 5, 2013
Working on a Watercolor of a Screen Door

Working on a Watercolor of a Screen Door

The Vedas say, “All intelligences awake with the morning.”  Poetry and art, and the fairest and most memorable of the actions of men, date from such an hour.  All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are the children of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise.  To him whose elastic and vigorous thought, keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning.  It matters not what the clocks say or the attitudes and labors of men.  Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me.  Moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I awoke to a beautiful Sunday morning, before 8:00.  After a quick shower, grooming and breakfast, I entered the Cave with delight and began whittling away on this screen door study which has gotten hold of me.  My companion this morning is this watercolor song sent me several weeks ago.  I cannot get it out of my head, and it has apparently been enriching many bloggers.  I enclose the link below:

http://shygemini.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/watercolor/

Rae Hering has written a song here that really moves me, really helps get the creative juices flowing when I’m alone in my Cave.  I like her notion of “Getting to Know Myself Again.”

I’m hoping for another splendid day like yesterday.  I have a stack of books ready to be opened, a journal open and ready for recording thoughts, and of course, watercolors in progress.

Thanks for reading.  I should be posting later in the day.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Another Crack at the Screen Door in Watercolor

May 4, 2013
Beginning a more serious study of the screen door in watercolor

Beginning a more serious study of the screen door in watercolor

There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual–become clairvoyant.  We reach then into reality.  Such are the moments of our greatest happiness.  Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom.  

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I consider myself most fortunate to have this three-day weekend without appointments, without deadlines, without tasks.  The leisure time spent lingering over the words of artistic muses (this weekend has included Robert Henri, Robert Motherwell, Annie Dillard, Andrew Wyeth, Wallace Stevens and Ernest Hemingway) has left me more refreshed than a good night’s sleep.  The Man Cave environment has been perfect, the DVDs, VHS tapes and CDs have provided the best music, the best documentaries that any painter would have craved.

Now I am getting down to work on a more serious study of a screen door, and main door behind it.  I have already finished the preliminary sketch, all the masqued screen wire and the first few coats of wash.  Now I am trying to get serious about the drawing, dry brush and texturing that bristles all over this composition.  The last attempt went by quite fast–just a couple or three days, I lose track.  Lately I have been shocked (though pleased) that my work is running from start to completion quite fast.  Now I wonder if I’m truly putting everything I can into a composition, am I quitting too fast.  Probably all of us wonder over those things.  At any rate, my intention is to linger longer and more studiously over this one, to see if I can actually make the work better over time, by adding more layers, more textures.  I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Thanks for reading.  This is going to be fun.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The Pulse of a Holiday Morning

May 3, 2013
Man Cave on the Holidays

Man Cave on the Holidays

Imagination is the outreaching of mind.  It is the individual’s capacity to accept the bombardment of the conscious mind with ideas, impulses, images, and every other sort of psychic phenomena welling up from the preconscious.  it is the capacity to “dream dreams and see visions,” to consider diverse possibilities, and to endure the tension involved in holding these possibilities before one’s attention.  Imagination is casting off mooring ropes, taking one’s chances that there will be new mooring posts in the vastness ahead.

Rollo May, The Courage to Create

There were obstacles to clear before creating this morning.  I am a sucker for NHL hockey and stayed up late watching Stanley Cup playoffs last night.  School is out today for a Texas holiday, but I set the alarm for 6:00 anyway so I wouldn’t waste a good day with studio potential.  However, it is 41 degrees outside and gusting winds, and I knew the garage studio would be chilly, so I lingered awhile longer under the quilts, trying to talk myself out of getting up.  I’m glad I pushed through anyway.  A breakfast of fried potatoes, grilled onions and scrambled eggs shook loose the cobwebs, the coffee is made, and I’m ready now to face this screen door and see about redrawing the screen wire in front of the white areas of the coffee can, and then finding out how to diminish the starkness of the lighter masqued areas.

Rollo May was my companion this morning, as I reached for inspiration and camaraderie in the studio.  I’m ready to paint now.

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.

So what, if you have to move the whole thing over just two inches?

May 1, 2013
Close Up View of the Screen Door and Coffee Can in Progress

Close Up View of the Screen Door and Coffee Can in Progress

He would work on paintings for enormously long stretches of time, just simply be dissatisfied.  I would come in and there would be a terrific painting of a man, and Bill would grudgingly admit that it wasn’t bad, but then say: “But he has to be moved over two inches”, and he just eradicated him.  He was very discontented constantly.  It was what kept him going.

Elaine De Kooning, describing the painting habits of her husband, Willem De Kooning

This anecdote always amused me about Willem De Kooning and his constant studio revisions.  Long ago, I had been taught that some revisions were just not possible in watercolor.  Slowly, I’m finding all of these statements to be untrue.

Andrew Wyeth relayed the story that he was working on this composition of Karl Kuerner in drybrush, and it sported a gigantic moose head trophy on the wall.  When Anna walked in on him, perturbed, snapping at him in German, “Why didn’t you come down to breakfast when I called,” Wyeth was fascinated at the sight of the man turned away from his wife and the high-powered rifle pointing at her.  She allowed him to put her into the portrait, and he sanded the moose head trophy off the wall between them.

When I read that account, I thought, “Wow! They always told me that you could not erase watercolor, you’re just stuck with what you’ve got.”  So, I went back to a painting that I had recently finished and regretted.

Blues on the Corner

Blues on the Corner

Once this watercolor was finished, I regretted not having put a guitar player seated in a chair on the corner.  Having read of Andrew Wyeth’s revision, I purchased 150 grit fine sand paper from my local hardware store, sanded a full circle out of this painting until it was white, and then drew and painted this guitar player inside the circle, finally retouching all the background colors and textures I had obliterated.

Why am I going into all this detail?  Well, when I awoke this morning and looked at my current painting before leaving for school, I realized to my dismay that I had drawn the left frame of the screen door too narrow in proportion to the coffee can and the horizontal screen door slat below the can.  I was 3/8″ of an inch too narrow.  And I had already painted in the dark screen interior with masquing and painted the left margin as dark as I could get it.  My first reaction was “Too bad.  Nothing can be done about that now.”  Then I remembered Andrew Wyeth’s “Kuerners” and my own “Blues on the Corner” and thought “Why not?”  I laughingly recalled Willem De Kooning saying his man had to be “moved over two inches.”  I came home from school, measured the new margin for the left frame, and sanded the devil out of it, turning the entire page surface blue-gray.  A good scrubbing with the eraser turned the page white again, and then I started all over “aging” the wood with drybrush and graphite work.  I’m happy I decided to do it.  The widened door frame looks right now.  (Incidentally, the door frame is straight; when I shoot close-ups with my camera, the lines curve, and I don’t know enough yet about Photoshop to straighten those lines again.  The painting of the door frame is actually straight-edge straight).

I had to stop painting to put this stuff on the blog.  I really wanted to share it, with all the fun and laughs.  I feel “madder” than ever, as the scientist noodling around in his laboratory again.

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.

Feeling Like a Mad Scientist in the Painting Studio

April 29, 2013
New Still-Life Set Up

New Still-Life Set Up

Wet and Soupy Watercolor in its Initial Stages

Wet and Soupy Watercolor in its Initial Stages

The picture was no longer supposed to be Beautiful, but True–an accurate representation or equivalence of the artist’s interior sensation and experience. If this meant that a painting had to look vulgar, battered, and clumsy–so much the better.

Tom Hess,  ArtNews

Two weeks ago, when I purchased my antique screen door, I immediately knew that I wanted to try painting the screen with an object visible in the gloom behind it.  Then I took my temperature, fearing I was crazy.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Yesterday I posted my first experiment in masquing the screen-wire pattern on a small portion of my screen door to see if I could capture a screen door appearance on my watercolor.  I was satisfied enough with the effect to take this next step–painting a Kimbell’s Coffee can behind the screen.

It took awhile for me to adjust the doors and lighting to get the gloom I was seeking in the composition.  Then I had to draft the screen door frame and draw the Kimbell’s can with all the lettering in place as best as I could. Then came the tedious task of taking the Masquepen Supernib, placing a ruler on a couple of  books, one-half inch above the surface, and zipping the pen along, squirting out the fluid in parallel ruled lines all the way across the composition.  After letting it have plenty of time to set up and dry, I then had to repeat the process with the series of 90-degree cross lines.  This took a considerable amount of time out of my afternoon.  Once all of it was dry, I then began to flood the entire screen area with washes of Winsor Violet, Transparent Yellow, Cadmium Red and Phthalo Turquoise.  Now the painting is very wet and soupy, and since it is on a block, there is no place for the water to go, so the lake is going to have to sit quite awhile before it is dry enough for me to proceed.

Feeling the role of the mad scientist, I have to acknowledge that this experiment might fail.  I have a notion of what I’m going to do, and think my strategy is sound.  But I’ve never tried it before.  So it’s going to be exciting watching in the days ahead to see if this is going to work.  If not, then it will be back to the drawing board.  Because I have decided that I do indeed wish to develop a technique of watercoloring dim, dark interiors with dramatic lighting the way Andrew Wyeth did.  And the screen door is such a profound part of my childhood memories that I really want to work it into some future paintings.  We’ll see how it goes.

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.

A Wider Look at the Reconfigured Workspace

A Wider Look at the Reconfigured Workspace

Musing About Andy Warhol’s Factory

April 28, 2013
Finishing the Cafe Still LIfe

Finishing the Cafe Still LIfe

Cafe Still Life

Cafe Still Life

I think Kerry Cash is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, luthiers in all of north Texas.  I have taken guitars to him a number of times for him to work on, and noticed that he would easily have more than fifty guitars arranged around the shop, with work tickets, waiting their turn.  My father, a retired auto mechanic, said that was how you could always tell a good and trustworthy independent mechanic with his own shop–if you saw his entire lot filled with vehicles waiting their turn.  People were willing to wait, knowing the mechanic was excellent and honest.

What always surprised me about Kerry, is that he would take my guitar, tell me he had 50-75 guitars in the shop already, and it could be a couple of weeks before I would hear from him.  Yet, I would always get his phone call in two-to-four days.  One day I asked him how he did this, and his response was that, when the guitars stacked deeply as to 50-75, he would dedicate a particular day to “cleaning up” by moving to the top of the list all the “small jobs” that didn’t take long to complete.  By day’s end, he was delighted to have more than twenty guitars leaving the shop.

That is how I feel about the watercolors that have been stacking up the past week-and-a-half.  I’m ready to start cleaning some of them out.  Hence my blue pail and my cafe still-lifes.  On this cafe piece, I’ve been working all over on the table cloth, pushing it more around the perimeter of the composition, extending the pattern in all directions.  I’ve also tweaked the shadows and definitions on the spectacles case.  I think I am very near finishing it as well, and will lay it aside for now.

I have titled this blog entry “Musing About Andy Warhol’s Factory,” because I have loved for over ten years every story I could read about Warhol’s Factory before his 1968 tragedy.  I was always amazed at his output, his energy, and the way he kept so many art projects going at the same time, and kept cranking them out, as though on an assembly line.  Ever since I have set up this garage studio, this Man Cave, I have laughed at it being my Factory, without the parties, the company, the drugs, the rock music, all the craziness with which Warhol kept himself surrounded during those wild years.  My Factory is quiet, especially at night, and even now during this Sunday. And I’m glad to be finishing up some work.

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.