Posts Tagged ‘mermaid’s winecup’

Clarity, Crystallization (Probably Over-Simplification)

July 7, 2015

imageThought is only a flash between two long nights.

Poincaré, French mathematician

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

How exhilarating that shock of recognition, that moment the light goes on in your head, that gleam of light that flashes across your consciousness! I experienced that last evening while sitting at my writing desk, working on an assignment. And today, the idea continues to take shape. Last night, I was completing paperwork forwarded to me by the radio station that will interview me tomorrow afternoon, and as they revealed their intention to tell my story, I asked myself: What is my Story? I asked the same question during my week’s stay on the Laguna Madre, knowing the media would come out one day, looking for a story. What exactly is my “story”? What have I done with my life? What am I seeking at this point?

I believe most of us, in our later years, look back and attempt some kind of a retrospective, some kind of effort to find meaning in what we have done. Maybe we think of this as our legacy. During graduate school days, I was required to read Lewis Joseph Sherrill’s book The Struggle of the Soul. All my colleagues chafed at having to read the volume, and I expected to be underwhelmed when it came my turn, but I actually found the book very engaging. It was he who first pointed out to me something I’ve heard many times since: that Jewish rabbis in ancient times were expected to summarize their respective lives in a short, pithy proverb before completing their life’s journey. From that early age, I myself have thought back on this time and again–what is my story? What have I done? How do I reduce my life to a short saying, or at least a paragraph?

Last night, I put down on paper my first effort to summarize, fully aware that this could change again and again as long as I’m still here. But here is my summary:

My life at this point is easily divided into thirds. The first third was spent developing my craft as an artist, assembling my toolbox, so to speak. Throughout my formal schooling, I had zero-to-little interest in academic subjects, or learning in general; I only wanted to make art. To that end I entered college to earn a Bachelor’s degree in art. The second third was spent pursuing ideas. Early in my Bachelor’s degree program, I experienced a Renaissance so to speak, and wanted to know everything. All subjects were fascinating. That led me to graduate school. I devoured religion, literature, philosophy, history and the arts, loving every semester of it, every term paper, every research project, even my dissertation. My final third, beginning quickly after I emerged with my doctorate, was synthesizing my craftsmanship with my scholarship. The visual arts and the world of ideas belonged together in some kind of relationship. That is where I am now, and loving it. Though he didn’t use the actual words, the philosopher Hegel pointed out history as a triad of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The first two movements are adverse to one another, and the third attempts to bring them together in something greater than either branch. That is my life: a craftsman, an idealogue, and now one wishing to express my reservoir of ideas with a visual representation. Had I not studied ideas seriously for decades, I would have been a mere craftsman. Had I not developed my artistic skills, I would be merely a speaker or writer. As I live out the remainder of my life, I seek to express my ideas in visual art, hoping I have something important enough to say or view.

Tomorrow, from 3:00-5:00, I will be on a live radio broadcast, http://www.dfwreallifetalk.com/. That’s when I’m expected to share my story the first hour, and discuss the adventures of the Laguna Madre experiment the second. For anyone interested in calling in, the phone number is: 214-431-5062. The link above will allow you to stream the broadcast, if you’re available and interested. I would love you to participate with me in this.

I don’t know what else to do with the painting posted above. It is the third one I started while in Athens, Texas over the Fourth of July holidays. I worked on the interior of the base shell today, and tweaked the background colors a bit more. I could be finished with it. Other paintings await.

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.

Contemplating the Mermaid’s Winecup

July 1, 2015

I have an appointment to meet, so I will put up today’s work just in case I get back too late to post more tonight. Finally, I am rendering the cups on the end of this alga specimen, as well as the shell to whicih they are anchored. The stems in between I have worked on just a little. While painting, I have been listening to Youtube interviews with Robert Motherwell, along with a panel discussion of his show covering the East Hampton Years, 1944-1952. Jack Flam, the one who assembled the massive 3 volume catalogue raisonné on Motherwell, drew an amazing parallel between the artist and a quote from the Romantic poet William Wordsworth. The latter said that in writing, he poured out all the richness of his emotion, and then revised the torrent to shape it into a poem. Motherwell also said that in abstract art, the artists pours out all his/her richness, and then steps in and edits or corrects the output. That is much of what is going on with this piece I’m working now. Yesterday I poured, salted, spritzed and played happily with the surface of the paper to create an environment for the subject. Today I am trying to make the alga emerge from the atmosphere. The result is that I am working much more slowly and thoughtfully today as my eye moves from detail to detail, puzzling out how to present this subject.

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.

Returning from a Hiatus

June 30, 2015
Poured Watercolor Attempt of the Mermaid's Winecup

Poured Watercolor Attempt of the Mermaid’s Winecup

I begin a painting with a series of mistakes.

Robert Motherwell

For I have known them all already, known them all:–

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons

T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

I am like a feather floating in the atmosphere; on every side is depth unfathomable.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, February 21, 1842

With joy and serenity, I return to the blog after a prolonged absence, combining travel with injury. An unexpected opportunity sprung up to travel to Kerrville and see the marvelous show of Dinah Bowman before it came down. Dinah has provided a wonderful wind at my back to help me set sail more vigorously in the past years. She accepted work from me in her gallery in Portland, Texas (Bowman Design and Framing), thanks to the introduction provided by her framer Mike Catlin, a former student of mine. She has also sponsored two watercolor workshops for me to conduct in her area, and then was the prime mover to land me in this recent Artist in Residence work in the Texas Laguna Madre. Below are a couple of photos from her show that closed last weekend, along with the link to her website:  http://www.bowmandesignandframing.com/

Dinah Bowman's Show

Dinah Bowman’s Show

Before I left for Kerrville early Saturday morning, I managed to wrench my lower back (a perennial problem) and I knew I was in trouble before I began the five-hour drive. I loved every minute of my time with Dinah and Dick, but suffered miserably from back issues. Driving back home Sunday only made things worse, hence no blog yesterday either. Now, after plenty of medication, I am functioning somewhat and really glad to return to my own studio.

Masquing the Mermaid's Winecup

Masquing the Mermaid’s Winecup

While I was at the Laguna Madre, the media came and visited me on the fourth day, and I am still warmed by every memory of that visit. Capt. Jay Tarkington waded out into the lagoon and brought back a specimen he pulled up from the bottom, presenting it to me as a gift. They call it the Mermaid’s Winecup because of the delicate cup shapes of the algae. I have already attempted two watercolor sketches of it, but am trying now to work larger and in more detail. I drew this specimen carefully this morning, and then spent a great deal of time masquing it so I can lay in a deep, dark background to make the light-green winecups and neutal stalks stand out more clearly. My intention is to pour the background–something I haven’t done for years and am looking forward to exploring again. The project has taken a lot of time already. First I had to soak and stretch the paper on the canvas stretchers, let it dry, then draw meticulously with pencil the entire specimen, then masque it (and the masquing took just as much time as the actual drawing). Now I need to let it dry thoroughly before soaking the paper and pouring colors onto the background.

Poured WInsor & Newton Transparent Yellow and Salt

Poured WInsor & Newton Transparent Yellow and Salt

This is going to take the entire day. Already it is 1:14 p.m. and I began this in the mid-morning. The masquing has dried, so I’ve soaked the paper and poured from a bowl Transparent Yellow from my WInsor & Newton pigments. I salted the edges as soon as the wet turned into damp, and now I wait for the puddles to dry before I apply the second layer (and at this moment, I have no clue what color that will be). I don’t like to push it with a hair dryer, and natural drying takes forever, but I’m enjoying my reading of Robert Motherwell: The East Hampton Years, 1944-1952. I am also writing a great deal in my journal today, and yesterday, I began indexing my journals, using Excel. That project will take years to complete, if I ever complete it, because I have over 130 volumes, and I am about 1/3 the way through my first volume. But I’m a patient man.

Second Poured Layer: Winsor Violet

Second Poured Layer: Winsor Violet

As the hour stretches into the late afternoon, I finally find the paper dry enough to work on a second poured layer. Using a spritz bottle, I sprinkle water, and adding water to a small squirt of Winsor Violet (Winsor & Newton) in a shallow bowl, I add water and pour it in places around the bottom portion of the watercolor. The spritz bottle I used for some additional acceleration, and sprinkled more salt around the damp areas. Now I need to let this sit and dry some more. Meanwhile, Motherwell reading and journal writing is keeping me content.

Introducing Olive Green (Luma Liquid Watercolor)

Introducing Olive Green (Luma Liquid Watercolor)

My third poured color is Olive Green from the Luma Liquid Watercolor series. After a full day of drawing, masquing, pouring, drying, etc. I’m probably finished with this until tomorrow morning. I need to make sure the surface is bone dry before stripping off all the masquing, otherwise, damp colors will be smeared into the white protected areas. Tomorrow I hope to do a good job detailing the algae and host shell to which it is anchored. The colors and patterns I see emerging from this background alone are so fascinating to my eyes that I just want to crawl inside this composition and explore possibilities awhile.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Completed the Algae Study

June 23, 2015
Mermaid's Winecup

Mermaid’s Winecup

I wish I could write something profound tonight, but my brain is fried after my second day of A.V.I.D. training in Dallas. I rise before daylight to catch a train, and arrive home well after 6:00 in the evening. I don’t know how I found enough starch to stare into this watercolor and try to bring it to a close after only two evenings spent on it. I may have pushed too hard, but in another couple of days I’ll be free of meetings and travel, and should be able to relax and explore some new angles in the Laguna Madre studies I’ve enjoyed so much.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Acetabularia Crenulata (Mermaid’s Winecup)

June 22, 2015
Beginning of the Mermaid's Wine Cup

Beginning of the Mermaid’s Winecup

At 9:00 p.m., the hour is already late for me. I rose before dawn this morning to attend an all-day A.V.I.D. Summer Institute and will have to do the same tomorrow.  The eight-hour sessions require plenty of rest.

I came home this evening exhausted to the bone, as expected. But the conference was inspiring, and I did decide to begin another watercolor study of the Mermaid’s WInecup. I regret for my readers that I have not yet started on the actual algae painting, and will not be able to until tomorrow night. I masqued the algae carefully, then flooded the paper with several deep-toned washes and sprinkled with salt. I will not be able to remove the masquing until the entire area is bone dry, and that is not going to happen tonight. My fear is that even if I wait until tomorrow night, when I strip off the masquing, the Alizarin Crimson is going to drag into the masqued areas, leaving them pink rather than white. I would hope I could preserve the white so I could then paint carefully the delicate greens of the algae and the cream and ochre colors of the dried out stalks. I don’t know if that  will happen, but we’ll find out tomorrow evening. Watercolor is always a labratory experiment, and I believe that is one among many reasons that I felt such an affinity with the scientists when I explored and painted the environment of the Texas Laguna Madre.

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.