Posts Tagged ‘Maxwell House’

Lingering in the Shadow

April 13, 2015
Raw Photo of a Watercolor Sketch Attempted Months Ago

Raw Photo of a Watercolor Sketch Attempted Many Months Ago

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

WIth an art festival approaching this coming weekend, I came home from school today in a burst of energy and began cranking out reproductions of my recent watercolors, in images 5 x 7″, 8 x 10″ and custom greeting cards. This task ate up a number of hours of the late afternoon and early evening. Finally, I slumped in a rocking chair with coffee, deciding it was time to stop for awhile. An image suddenly flashed into my mind’s eye, and before I thought better, I was out of the chair and back at the computer, photoshopping, cropping, and playing around with one watercolor that I had forgotten completely over the past several months. Below are two cropped, photoshopped compositions of this painting:

Back in the rocking chair, I sipped my coffee and stared at these two images alongside my original, and like Andy Warhol, found myself fascinated in the abstract possibilities of the shadows and negative areas, not just the subject matter. I don’t know how much time elided as I sat, sipping and thinking, pondering these possibilies, But I was truly “drawn in” by these compositions. Since adolescence, I have looked at Andrew Wyeth watercolors, popularly called “vignettes”, and loved the way he allowed his colors to bleed off into a white wasteland beyond the focused subject matter. As for myself, I have often been too timid to leave my work this way, fearing that it would be judged “unfinished.” But I am changing my mind tonight. I’ve determined that I will eventually have this piece custom framed, leaving the unfinished boundary. After all, I’m not entering it into a competition. I’m not subjecting it to another judge’s opinion. And I really have no interest in selling the piece. I have not been “attached” to any single painting of mine for over a decade, but this one is definitely clinging to me tonight. And I am beginning to feel stirred by the idea of creative authenticity. After all these decades of practicing my craft, I feel that I could be drawing nearer to finding my own voice.

Another Partial Watercolor Sketch from Months Ago, and Forgotten

Another Partial Watercolor Sketch from Months Ago, and Forgotten

I decided I needed to get out of the house and do at least a two-mile exercise walk in the park. This habit of the past couple of weeks will hopefully provide a boost of energy that I’ve felt sagging in recent months. The longer I walked, the more my mind spun with ideas gleaned over the years from Paul Tillich, Robert Motherwell, Richard Diebenkorn, Andrew Wyeth and one of my high school art teachers, notably that compositional strength is frequently discovered in the boundaries, rather than the heart of the subject. No doubt, I have plenty of matters to ponder as I venture closer to the art festival, but these things definitely have my attention.

The borderline is the truly propitious place for acquiring knowledge.

Paul Tillich, Religiöse Verwirklichung (Religious Realization)

I did manage to return to a watercolor I began over the weekend, experimenting with some foreground texturing and figuring a way to transition from the painting itself to the surrounding white ground. My studio lacks decent photography lighting at night, so this is the best I can muster:

I close with this note from Irwin Edman that has lodged into my consciousness throughout this fertile evening:

An artist learns by repeated trial and error, by an almost moral instinct, to avoid the merely or the confusingly decorative . . . to say what he has to say with the most direct and economical means, to be true to his objects, to his materials, to his technique, and hence, by a correlated miracle, to himself.

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.


Knowing When to Stop, Even After You’ve Been Drawn In

November 9, 2014
Watercolor Sketch Completed Long Before Expected

Watercolor Sketch Completed Long Before Expected

The essence of this whole artistic enterprise is to focus your attention on what caught your attention in the first place. Respond to what is yours.  Your truth.  It doesn’t matter the subject matter, or the style.  You must strip the thing back to the basics of what you feel about your response.  What is the kernel here that you want to express?  Get to the foundation  . . . 

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

Well, this Sunday evening closes with a surprise.  After days of assembling a still life, staring at it from all angles, making adjustments, then attempting several charcoal sketches of it, today I decided to do a small watercolor sketch of just the Maxwell Coffee tin perched on the edge of the old chair.  I had decided to let the complex composition delay awhile longer, and fully expected to fiddle with this small watercolor until the middle of the week.  This afternoon, I felt “drawn in” by the subject, chuckled to myself and decided I may stay up awhile tonight, past bedtime.  Surprise–around 6:30 I stepped back from what I had done and decided, That’s It.  Done.  I can always begin another tomorrow.  But for now, I’m just going to study this sketch and figure out what to attempt on the next endeavor.

Below I’m posting a photo I took of the piece in the middle of the afternoon:

Sketch in Progress

Sketch in Progress

And finally, the studio environment in which this piece was incubated:

studio complete

This has been a satisfying day.  I think I’ll read awhile now.  Thanks for reading me.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

What are the Ideas that Lie behind these Things? Musings for the New Year 2013

January 1, 2013
Still Life on New Year's Day

Still Life on New Year’s Day

“People who don’t look at my work think I’m a painter of old oaken buckets.  I’m anything but that!”

Andrew Wyeth, interview with Richard Meryman, First Impressions: Andrew Wyeth

I got a late start in the studio today, January 1, 2013.  No regrets–I got to spend the best part of this day engaged in meaningful conversation with a kindred spirit.  There seems to be not enough of that in my life these days, and good conversation is a gift.  Now I find myself conflicted between painting and reading (that is nothing new).

I did find enough energy to work on the lettering at the top of the Mobilgas sign, and then painted in the Pegasus, then finally scarred up the sign itself, to depict decades of weathering and abuse.  I also devoted considerable attention to working on the shadows and deeper colors falling across the Maxwell House tin at the lower right.  I have the desire to work on other parts of the composition, but the night has arrived and the daylight that I depend on, coming through the garage door windows, has vanished.  The lighting on the still life itself is inadequate for me to proceed, so I suppose I’ll let this one compost for another night.  I have been moving it to a bedroom easel so I can spend evenings looking up at it, from a good book.  Andrew Wyeth always preferred to put his work in progress up on a wall somewhere in his home, where he could glance up at it occasionaly and get a “glimpse” of it “out of the corner of the eye.”  He was convinced that those fleeting impressions of a work told him more than hours of staring all over the composition.  I tend to agree.

I’m grateful for such an affirming start to 2013, and hope all of you have had a wonderful first day as well.  That first movement, that first revolution of the wheel, I believe, is significant.  It sets the tone for what follows.

Thanks for reading.


Final Art Studio Posting of 2012–Watercolor Still Life Still Growing

December 31, 2012
Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

The drilling machine for the Aargau lecture (“Biblical Questions, Insights, and Vistas”) is going at full strength and an unbroken pillar of smoke is rising from my pipe to the ceiling as in the best times of my life. 

Karl Barth, letter to friend Edouard Thurneysen dated March 17, 1920

What an amazing age in which we thrive today!  The above fragment is from a letter sent by one Swiss pastor to another.  They lived on opposite sides of the mountain and traveled once or twice a week to see one another for hours of conversation.  Between visits, they sent letters almost daily back and forth.  In this letter, Barth paints in words the picture of a day in his study where he worked furiously on a lecture and the smoke from his pipe never ceased.

Well, today, the water and pigment in my watercolor brush never ceased or dried up.  And as I painted alone in my Cave, I was inundated with phone calls, emails, text messages, Facebook messages and Blog comments from dear, dear friends and associates, all of them kindred spirits.  Thank you, I love you all.  You made this day very, very meaningful.  I can close out 2012 and move with confidence into 2013.  You’ll never know what a Gift you gave this day.

I have posted my last picture for this year.  I spent most of this afternoon and evening tinkering with the Maxwell House coffee tin, the stove top percolator, the Texaco oil can and the kerosene lantern.  Of course, I continued to play all over the rest of the composition–the darkened background, chips in the paint on the doors, the locking plate, the Mobilgas sign, the frying pan.  I work all over the composition, even while focusing on one key object.  And all of it was just as grand as the conversations I enjoyed with friends.  I can retire to bed happily tonight, thank you again.

Thanks for reading.  All of you have made me even more enthusiastic about blogging my painting experiences.


Maxwell House Memories, with Touches of Andy Warhol and Marcel Proust

September 7, 2012

Maxwell House with Touches of Andy Warhol and Marcel Proust

O.K., so I’m not drinking Maxwell House tonight (actually, it is Starbuck’s Pike Place Roast).  But I like the Maxwell House commercial layout much better than Starbuck’s, and it is probably safer to paint their copyrighted image and publish it than it would be to copy Starbuck’s.  This is another watercolor I am trying to finish so I can matte and shrinkwrap it by festival time.  I got the urge to watercolor some still life objects carrying commercial brands several weeks ago while I was lost in Andy Warhol research for my art history classes.  This just happens to be one that got abandoned and forgotten.  Today I have pulled from my storage area about eight “in-progress” watercolors started over the past three months and forgotten.  It would be nice to add them to my inventory next week when I put my art out on the streets.  We’ll see what happens.

Oh well, it is already 9:30.  Looks like it’s going to be another late one tonight.  So much still to pursue.

Thanks for reading.




Maxwell House Coffee Tin in the Painting Studio

August 21, 2012

Feeling Andy Warhol’s Muse

Hello again.  I’m settling into the mood to read, and my eyes are getting a little weary of all the close work demanded by this 12 x 14″ watercolor just begun today.  The details are tight, and I’m getting tired of staring so closely at it.  So, I  believe I’ll put it up on the easel next to the Lucky Strike painting and see how it looks across the reading room.

I’m surprised by this sudden obsession to paint still life objects in more exacting detail than I’ve formerly done.  But I am enjoying the results.  The nostalgia that surrounds objects such as these gives me a warm feeling as well.  However, I have an inviting stack of books at my elbow, good things to drink, and believe I’ll shut down the art for the evening and let some of the literary muses tickle my imagination before bedtime.

Thanks always for reading.

Uh-Oh. Another Warhol in the Making

August 21, 2012

Maxwell House Watercolor in Progress

Good evening from the studio.  As some of you know, I am now neck-deep in back-to-school Inservice meetings (some of them as interesting as watching paint dry).  I am determined that school this year will not derail my blogging.  I had too many excuses for my blog going on semi-hiatus this summer (all of them poor ones).  I will not let this happen again.  This year’s school schedule will not be the black nightmare of last year’s.  I am happy to return to only six classes to teach, all of them subjects I enjoy.

Andy Warhol still resonates with me.  He died at the age where I find myself now (58), and this is sobering.  I have not made the mark yet that I wish to make with my contribution to the artistic enterprise, and perhaps I will not.  But right now, the inclination to explore and experiment is very strong with me, so I am making a concerted effort to explore alternatives while at the same time developing the genre that I have tried to anchor in recent years (and still remain a somewhat-decent school teacher).

I went to the Man Cave and fished out this Maxwell House tin that I purchased a long time ago in an Oklahoma antique store along Route 66.  My earliest “Proustian” childhood memories include the sound of the stove-top percolator gurgling in the pre-dawn, and my sitting in a high chair at the breakfast table, watching my father eat bacon and eggs before leaving for work as a garage mechanic.  I still remember the aromas and the warmth I felt in that safe world.  I don’t believe my parents drank Maxwell House (actually it was 8 O’Clock Bean) but that goofy commercial that made the percolating sounds musical will be stuck with me throughout my life, I confess.

Thanks for reading.  I think this painting has dried enough for me to push it further down the road to completion.  I started it this afternoon as soon as I got home from school, and I hope to have quite a bit more done before retiring to bed later.

Studio Experiment in Pop Art with Watercolor and Pencils

August 18, 2012

Pop Art in the Second Man Cave

My detour into Pop Art has extended into a second day.  I cannot exactly explain how this has happened.  For about a year, I have been bothered that my genre for painting has anchored in landscape and nostalgic items of architecture, signage and vehicles.  I’ve been contemplating still lifes, but never made the effort until yesterday.  And I ended up backing into it because of my ongoing interest in Andy Warhol and the Pop Art phenomena.  For over ten years I have purchased objects from antique stores and nostalgia shops to support my Fifties interests (my company is, because the Fifties were my years of growing up, and my eyes were always filled with wonder at my surroundings.  I read that Henri Matisse as a young boy was enchanted at the sight of colorful birds, tropical fish in bowls, and his first set of watercolors.  Well, I too recall my pre-literature years and the fixation I had with commercial color schemes, most notably cereal boxes, coffee tins, gas station signs and billboards.

When I first saw the Stuart Davis Lucky Strike painting, I marveled at the dark green and bright orange-red color scheme, recalling that my growing up only witnessed Luckies as a red target on a white background.  About ten years ago, I found this cigarette tin in an antique store and couldn’t reach for my wallet fast enough–there were the colors that I found so enchanting in the Davis painting at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth.

Yesterday I began this 12 x 14″ composition in watercolor, Prismacolor and watercolor pencils with occasional ink.  My eye has always focused on details, colors and textures, whether I was staring at a landscape or building en plein air or an enlarged photograph.  But now I am staring at a cigarette tin, hand-sized, on the table in front of me, that keeps changing as the northern lights outside my studio windows change from sunny to overcast (it’s trying to rain in Arlington, Texas at this moment; yesterday it was bright and sunny throughout the day).  I am fascinated with the highlights coming off the painted surfaces of the tin, as well as the dynamics of all the rusted spots, scratches and imperfections.  And  I am trying to record these observations the best I can on paper with the materials at hand.  And I am enjoying the experience.

I have finally completed a second Man Cave environment.  My garage will not be available again until probably late September (Texas temperatures are deadly this time of year).  So I have moved a second drafting table to my living room, where I have an entire wall of windows to the north, providing excellent lighting.  As I’ve worked today, I have listened to a 120-minute DVD documentary titled Painters Painting.  The film features interviews with New York artists from the Fifties onward, including DeKooning, Motherwell, Newman, Warhol, Johns, Rauschenberg and many others.  I am particularly enjoying the discussion of the shift in the art world from Abstract Expressionism to Pop.  I am sympathetic to both sides, and find myself particularly anchored in neither school, as I still find my comfort zone in the realm of Regionalism as I’ve enjoyed the works of Homer, Hopper and Wyeth.  But still, as a student of art history, I love all periods, and enjoy their contributions to art and the ideas we enjoy.

Thanks for reading.