Posts Tagged ‘N. C. Wyeth’

Finished Lonesome Dove Sketch

August 29, 2021
Hat Creek Cattle Company (and we still don’t rent pigs), Watercolor 11 x 14″ framed. $350

His plan had been to observe and sketch a cattle roundup for Scribner’s. But as soon as Wyeth was mounted and facing a herd, he became a cowpuncher. Outfitted from hat to stirrup, he hired on at the Gill Ranch and set out with thirty-five cowboys to “hunt and to bring together thousands of cattle scattered over a large part of the country known as the free range.”

N. C. Wyeth: A Biography

Reading the N. C. Wyeth biography along with Larry McMurtry’s four novels unfolding the Call and McCrae saga has motivated me recently to put out a group of watercolor studies of cowboys, horses, longhorns, bison, etc. This is the last one completed and now displayed in our lobby window of The Gallery at Redlands. My next adventure is to paint mules against some magnificent scenery sent to me by a teaching friend, thank you Peggy Kirkland!

And I thank the rest of you for reading.


Pulling Out all the Stops in the Studio

August 4, 2021
Several art projects in progress in Studio Eidolons

A great truth is like a mountain that one walks around, and the changes of its contour as one moves his position only emphasize and revivify its majesty.

N. C. Wyeth, final letter to his son Andrew Wyeth, February 16, 1944

A few years ago, I purchased a volume containing the complete letters of N. C. Wyeth. I have always known that he was a prolific reader and allowed great literature to fuel his artistic imagination. His life as an illustrator has inspired me for years, and frequently in the studio when I find my assignments and commissions stacking up, I return to him for added inspiration and encouragement.

As stated previously, I will return to Texas Wesleyan University this fall as an adjunct instructor to teach an online course in the Humanities. Since learning this, wave upon wave, layer upon layer of rich memories of teaching this discipline has overwhelmed me. Days in the studio are now divided between the academic and creative arts disciplines and so far I am liking that feel, though I am getting tired more easily.

Working on the Humanities course

I will be teaching art, literature, philosophy, religion and music from antiquity to the seventeenth century. I have done this dozens of time throughout my life, but since my last go around in 2019, a number of new realms have opened for me that I would like to pass on to the students. We’ll see if I can get these tucked into my new curriculum.

5 x 7″ image will be priced at $100 once it’s installed in an 8 x 10″ frame

The first of several horses is signed and ready to frame. I’m still puzzling out new ideas for color schemes on the horses’ bodies.

First quick sketch of cowboy

My artist friend and former teacher colleague Stacy Campbell presented me yesterday with a Stanley for storing my daily coffee. In response, I’ve kicked out this quick sketch of Sheriff Walt Longmire from the Netflix series, toting his Stanley and Winchester. My immediate plans call for watercolor sketches of horses, bison, longhorns and cowboys. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes from them.

I am excited that our new website is under construction for The Gallery at Redlands. Dave Shultz has been blazing away at it for several days and it appears to be well over half completed already. As soon as it is ready, we’ll launch it for all of you to see.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Channeling N. C. Wyeth at Studio Eidolons

August 19, 2020
Beginning a New Commission

Well, the past month has been one of the “revival of energies” so to speak. I have determined and have got well started on a plan of action that is one of the most serious I have ever contemplated, not excepting a thing.

N. C. Wyeth, letter dated June 7, 1907

Working in the Studio Eidolons this fine Wednesday has spawned a myriad of fresh ideas and plans for the coming days and weeks. N. C. Wyeth has visited my working space in spirit daily, and currently I am enjoying a Youtube presentation as I work on my projects. The title is America’s Greatest Illustrator: Paintings of Robinson Crusoe & Treasure Island (1999). While listening to the lecture covering the biography I read over this past year, I have broken ground on a second dry fly painting, of a Royal Wulff pattern. I’ll post it as soon as there is enough detail to show off. Working in the studio is inspiring when I imagine N. C. entering his sacred creative space early every morning, picking up his palette, and striding up to his enormous painting surface. As for myself, I am contented working small–8 x 10″ lately.

Next week, I will teach two watercolor classes, three hours each, on Monday and Wednesday (Aug 24 & 26) from 2 till 5:00. Monday’s subject will be a Route 66 Motel. Wednesday will be watercolor renderings of evergreens. Classes are restricted to five participants, masks are required, and social distancing is facilitated with seating and tables. The classes will be at Show Me the Monet art gallery in the Gracie Lane complex in Arlington, 4720 S. Cooper St. Cost per class is $55. Anyone interested needs to register in advance by phoning (817) 468-5263. All supplies are provided and the paintings will be 8 x 10″ on stretched watercolor paper.

Time to return to work. Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

In the Studio Eidolons with Thoughts about Color

August 17, 2020
Watercolor from the 1990’s

In every case have they mentioned the poetry that I succeeded in getting into the pictures and not the effect or action–I consider that a big victory! . . . It has thoroughly stirred up in me the desire to make that poem a life work . . .

N. C. Wyeth, letter dated June 7, 1907

[Andrew] Wyeth’s depictions of commonplace visual realities are always charged with high emotional content. Without tricks of technique, sentiment or obvious symbolism . . . he can make a prosperous farmhouse kitchen or a rolling pasture as bleak and haunting as a train whistle in the night . . .

Elaine de Kooning writing in Art News about Andrew Wyeth’s work

This morning’s reading in the studio involved N. C. and Andrew Wyeth books side-by-side. Andrew has been my hero since ninth grade; N. C. only in the past few years. Throughout my life of watercolor experiments, I have tried to focus on the drawing aspects of the medium as well as the neutral color schemes favored by Andrew. Only in the past decade have I dared to venture into more high-key color combinations favored by N. C.

I am still trying to figure out color. Whether I linger in the neutral palette or try for spontaneity in higher key colors, in either case I have far more questions than satisfactory answers. And I am certainly open to any ideas, insights or suggestions my readers wish to contribute.

Most recent example of Andrew Wyeth palette
Most recent example of higher-key palette

One major difference in my neutral palette of today (the trout fly) vs. one from the 1990’s (pictured at the very top of this post) is that my palette of the old days was loaded with colors including Yellow Ochre, Sepia, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, and Raw Sienna. Those colors disappeared from my work several years back. The trout fly above is primarily Winsor Violet and Transparent Yellow. When needed, I’ll stir in Winsor Red or Winsor Blue. For the blackest hue, I mix Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson. I have found much more satisfaction with my restricted palette of recent years.

As soon as I feel safe to travel again, I intend to revisit canyons in west Texas and Colorado. When that day occurs, I have a fistful of new colors I am ready to try out, all of them Daniel Smith quinacridone colors (I’ve exclusively worked in Winsor & Newton since the 1980’s). My new quinacridone colors include Gold, Deep Gold, Sienna, Coral, Burnt Orange, Rose, Purple, and Burnt Scarlet. I’m excited to see what kind of combinations I can produce from these.

I am beginning work on my second trout fly, an 8 x 10″ of the Royal Wulff. The colors will be much brighter on this pattern than the one posted above. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

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.

Saturday Morning in the Studio Eidolons with N. C. Wyeth

August 15, 2020
Finished this Commission of Elk Hair Caddis Fly

Nothing can discourage me as I know too well the deficiencies in my work. How I hope the time will never come when I shall feel satisfied. To reach the goal of one’s ambitions must be tragic. And another thing I hope is that I will always be able to judge my own work with a sane and unprejudiced mind.

N. C. Wyeth, letter dated January 18, 1907

This morning in my Studio Eidolons I am warmed by reading the letters of N. C. Wyeth in his mid-thirties while he was carving out his identify as an illustrator trained under Howard Pyle. When I was that age, I was starting out as a public high school teacher, musing that I had failed to reach the professional mark I had targeted for myself. Now, more than thirty years later, it feels good no longer to feel those regrets but to find richness in this life as it is.

I hope to read N. C.’s letters in their entirety. So far I have covered 211 of the 844 pages published. I would not have stayed with them this far had they not been so electric. What a man of passion! I loved reading his adventures traveling out west to sketch on location the commissions he was fulfilling for magazines. He was a man of enormous appetite for the outdoors, and right now he makes me miss the canyons of west Texas. Nevertheless, in my suburban home, in a studio with windows looking out across a sun-kissed neighborhood, I can still enjoy the richness of literature as N. C. did his entire life. The inspiration he gleaned from the American classics he was hired to illustrate seemed to know no bounds.

The letters to his mother that I’ve been reading this morning address that tension he always knew between illustrating and fine art–he never felt he arrived as a painter, instead being paid to do hack work. I understand that; it just doesn’t eat me up the way it did him. I guess it’s because I no longer have these dreams of being famous; I just love the process of making art, even when I think it’s bad art. Most of my work this summer has been commissions, and I’ve found endless satisfaction making pieces to please others, and especially hearing back from them on how pleased they were with the results. All the while I’m making art for others, I feel that I am nevertheless making art. And giving it up to someone else’s possession stopped bothering me long, long ago. Currently I have such a deep inventory that I dream of a possible day when all of it goes away. I really don’t need to collect my own art. My house is full, my galleries are supplied, and still I have so much work in storage. But, I digress . . .

The main point I wish to make this morning is that I absolutely love the task of making art. In the act of drawing and painting, time elides and I experience genuine bliss. And now, when a work is complete, I no longer feel flat or spent; there is another piece waiting, another idea waiting to be formed, another dream to fulfill. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am living the dream.

I spent a good part of the day this past week with Kelly Wilson, a friend I knew since junior high school. We went our separate ways at high school graduation, but thanks to social media, found one another again, and now have had two pleasurable in-person visits over the recent years. I hope there are many more. We shared our visions and how grateful we are still to be alive, retired, and gifted with quality time to do what pleases us.

I am posting a pair of pictures of the works that have had me occupied recently. One is finished and the other should be completed this weekend. Meanwhile, I wish all my readers well, pray that you remain safe and enjoy the life you’ve been given.

Still working on this one.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

The Search for an Anchor

March 13, 2019


A Second Snow Scene in Progress

            He kept trying to find among his peers the degree of emotional intensity he had achieved with Howard Pile. “It is the search for living co-workers and the everlasting failure to find one that can measure up to one’s active standard that is the constant source of my depression,” he wrote.

. . .

            Yet he continually wished Chapin would hold him to higher standards. He wanted to be challenged, not only aesthetically but morally, spiritually. Wyeth’s search for an omnipotent male figure had an Eastern quality; he felt that the ideal master should be something of a mystic.

. . .

            “I’m not crazy,” he insisted to Stimson, though as N. C. began his thirties, his search for a spiritual guru often left him feeling unreal. “I’m not holding a living or dead man up as an example of what I should be; I go beyond that—I want to be myself, and better, to be myself without the whole damn world knowing anything about it!”

            But he was holding up a dead man as his model. Taking Walden as his guide, he contended that Thoreau “is my springhead for almost every move I can make” . . .

            He liked to think that if Thoreau were alive, if they could talk an hour every evening, Thoreau would understand him. With Walden in hand, N. C. could “feel his approval surging within me now, and I lay my hand on his precious book . . . with the deepest reverence I am capable of.”

David Michaelis, N. C. Wyeth: A Biography

These quiet winter mornings have recently been a genuine salve for my soul. As I sit over a fresh cup of French-pressed coffee, the aroma filling this dark room and Bach playing softly in the background, I am preparing to launch into yet another small watercolor, allowing the one posted above to sit quietly awhile, waiting to see what next to do with it. Five watercolors are scattered about the room, a couple of them probably finished, the other three sitting there saying, “Well?! . . .” My spirit soars when I sense that my creative blood is stirring once again. When I’m on hiatus, I don’t really want to say I am “blocked”, rather I am reading, journaling, thinking, and musing over what to pursue next.

Having ventured over 200 pages into this N. C. Wyeth biography, I feel a primal connection with much that he expressed in his letters and diaries. Currently, I am reading of his constant quest for a spiritual partner or mentor to complete his personhood. As I reflect over my past, I recognize that he and I both circulated between the living and the dead for role models. And we weren’t really looking for someone to imitate, but rather assimilate, absorb and re-apply to the things we were attempting to do in our own lives. N. C. Wyeth did not want to paint like Howard Pyle; he was trying to find his own style and character in his paintings and illustrations. Pyle was a genuine inspiration and guide for him in his early career, and a sounding board when Wyeth wished to road test his new techniques and compositions.

While writing my own memoir, I am constantly sifting through all the men and women who have been my spiritual guides and sounding boards, and like N. C., I often felt that shock of recognition when reading the works of those who had passed in the centuries before me. Much of what N. C. admired in Thoreau’s writings have also smitten me in the past three decades. And frequently, I think of what it would be like to sit in intimate conversation with a Thoreau, an Emerson or a Tillich. So many times when I read them I feel they are writing directly to me, addressing my current condition. And I revel in these encounters. And then, when I am permitted an intimate conversation with a living being in my present, I count that among the richest gifts in life. Such conversations are rare.

I am just a few days from a monster pair of beginning watercolor workshops. More than thirty have already registered for my Saturday event to be held in the Redlands Hotel lobby in Palestine, Texas. I am trying to limit the 10:00 session to twenty participants. It will last three hours (including lunch) and the fee is $30. Then I will hold a second 1:00 session for two hours (no lunch this time) for $20. I already have four committed to the afternoon session. Twenty-eight are trying to crowd into the 10:00 group, but perhaps some of them would prefer to move to the 1:00. We’ll see. The bottom line is that I am pumped to do this! I absolutely love exploring the wonders of watercolor with willing participants. I anticipate a great time together.

Well, let’s see if we can kick some life into this new fledgling painting . . .

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Back in the Hunt

February 13, 2018


The Oxbow General Store, Palestine, Texas


The sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city, going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes—no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests.  He moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook, a box of oils with a few small panels, the fit of his pocket, or on his drawing pad.  Like any hunter he hits or misses.  He is looking for what he loves, he tries to capture it.  It’s found anywhere, everywhere.  Those who are not hunters do not see these things.  The hunter is learning to see and to understand—to enjoy.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

A couple of weeks ago, I began this watercolor of one of my favorite store facades in Palestine, Texas. The watercolor began after a series of rough sketches and fumbled attempts. After I blocked in some of the major parts of the composition and added details, I got hung up on what direction I wanted to take compositionally, so I set it aside for about ten days. Today I resumed it and worked off and on throughout the afternoon and evening. I’ve decided it’s time to lay it aside awhile once again, and re-think how I want to finish it out. I am very attached to this subject, always loving the sights and memories associated with “mom & pop stores” of the 1950s that I frequented as a child. Every detail, every nook and cranny of this facade excites me, and I fear that if I paint everything rather than select an area of focus, that the entire work will be a monotonous congeries of details.


The greats in all the arts have been primarily romanticists and realists (the two cannot be separated). They interpreted life as they saw it, but, “through every line’s being” soaked in the consciousness of an object, one is bound to feel, beside life as it is, the life that ought to be, and it is that that captivates us! All great painting is something that enriches and enhances life, something that makes it higher, wider, and deeper.

N. C. Wyeth, letter to his son Andrew, February 16, 1944

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.

Post-Christmas Musings

December 27, 2016


Holiday Hotel Insomnia

 Ut pictura poesis (“as in painting, so in poetry”)

I am slowly waking to a most unusual day. For reasons unknown, I awoke a little after 3:00 this morning and could not return to sleep. The hotel was dark and quiet.  Finally, I rose, showered, and spent two hours at the writing desk recording my thoughts, reading and reflecting in the stillness of the post-Christmas pre-dawn. Finally, I went to a 24-hour diner for breakfast, then to Starbucks where I have remained until now (8:14 a.m.), reading and enjoying this cold winter morning (dropped to 34 degrees in St. Louis this morning).

My reading has been an extraordinary experience, finishing the Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life biography, then resuming The Wyeths by N. C. Wyeth and beginning Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings (a much-appreciated Christmas gift).

I read the following in a letter from the young N. C. Wyeth to his parents, regarding a challenge just given him from his teacher Howard Pyle:

“Wyeth, I’ve been watching your work very closely and I see you have a great deal of talent but what you need is knowledge, that is, you have not had a good training and thereby no foundation.” 

Pyle then invited the young N. C. to enroll in his school for illustrators.  I purchased this book, because I’ve been astounded at the erudition of N. C. in his letters written late in life.  Here I am clearly reading of the turning point in his experience, when he was identified as basically unlettered though talented, and requiring intellectual development and maturing.

I am moved by this reading, and recall my own experience forty-four years ago,  when starting out in college on a scholarship granted because of my artistic abilities, but discovering quite quickly that my mental laziness throughout high school had finally outed me.  Some of the painful conversations with my professors still haunt my memory. Looking back, I’m now very grateful for my years in graduate study that poured a foundation beneath my art that now gives me more of a purpose to pursue what I pursue. Though I cannnot yet articulate a particular theory of aesthetics of philosophy of art, I nevertheless am aware of a much deeper motive for making art than I knew in younger years. And of course I still study and practice technique as much as possible and will never neglect this important part of the artistic enterprise. But the message still needs to be explored. Gladly, I still have some holiday vacation time to do this.

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.

Warming to the Christmas Holiday

December 19, 2015


I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end.

But I do not talk of the beginning or end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,

Nor any more youth or age than there is now, 

And will never be any more perfection than there is now.

Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,

Always the procreant urge of the world.

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

Today marks the first day of my two-week Christmas vacation, and I regret that I am observing it with my second nasty sinus infection this season.  Today marks the fourth day of the corruption.

At any rate, I scraped together sufficient energy to spend the day working on a watercolor commission and doing basic chores about the house.  Now that the sun has gone down and I’ve lost my natural light, I lay the watercolor aside and pursue my passion, reading and writing in the journal.

While painting today, I played a couple of DVDs about the Beat Generation, and felt a rush from their energy.  Much as those writers did in their day, I tire of the antiseptic environment that surrounds me daily in the public school sector.   I shared with one of my classes recently the quote from N. C. Wyeth about how education frequently levels the students: “We are pruned to stumps, one resembling the other, without character or grace.”  All I can hope for my students is that they understand their creative growth depends on many factors outside the classroom walls.  My own educational experience gave me the essential tools to expand my horizons, but the creative urge came from a different source.

library painting

Last week, I worked on a commission for the City of Kennedale, near where I live.  I chose not to post this watercolor image before the city delivered it to the recipient–a librarian who was retiring from service.  I failed to photograph the finished work, and now it is out of my hands!  The finish work included considerable darkening of the foreground grass, some fall trees to the right of the clock tower, and toning down the overall redness of the brick building.  I also added consierable mass to the tree limbs at the top of the composition, as well as more clusters of dead leaves.

winter tree

I have also made about ten more 5 x 7″ tree drawings that I’ve been pricing between $25-40 (matted with 8 x 10″ around the outside).  Drawing has proved relaxing, especially with the way things have gone the final three weeks of school leading up to the holidays.

winter tree & fence

This particular drawing was purchased by a dear friend this past week.  I’ve appreciated all the encouragement offered by friends recently, and really look forward to more opportunities over the holidays for making art.

Thanks for reading.

When the Light Fades and the Temperatures Drop

January 21, 2013

Still Life in the Night

Still Life in the Night


Great painting is like Bach’s music, in texture closely woven, subdued like early tapestries, no emphasis, no climaxes, no beginnings or endings, merely resumptions and transitions, a design so sustained that there is no effort in starting and every casual statement is equally great.

N. C. Wyeth’s final letter to his son Andrew, February 16, 1944

The three-day weekend has offered so many gifts to me, and so many pleasures, as I immersed myself in quality reading and took advantage of several opportunities to enter the studio.  Tonight, after the school preparations were made, I withdrew to the Cave and resumed this watercolor sketch I began early this morning.  As stated in earlier blogs, I am poring over a collection of Andrew Wyeth drybrush watercolor sketches of dim interiors, and am trying to find a way to break away from the light that has bathed my watercolor compositions for years.  I honestly do not know how to paint a dark composition, with light playing on only an object or two.  I’m finding this a very difficult adjustment, but am intrigued with what I’ve already discovered today.  D’Arches watercolor paper is so exceedingly bright and reflective, that I feel as though I am violating its properties by working over the surface with glaze after glaze of dark colors, seeking to drive away the light.

Tonight, I worked the reds and yellows into the coffee can, and now have to figure out how to deepen and darken the can, except for the small part that catches the light.  The same issues arise from the percolator, which sits in the semi-darkness, and has very little highlighting present on its surface.  I’ll be intrigued to see how this one shapes up in the days ahead.

Thanks for reading.