Posts Tagged ‘Neil Young’

Andy Warhol’s Factory & Neil Young Unplugged

September 24, 2015

imageThere are times like now when I have to laugh at the juxtaposition of ideas wafting through my consciousness while doing mindless tasks like printing, matting, shrinkwrapping and processing for an art festival to begin in less than twenty-four hours. Andy Warhol named his studio “The Factory” because he ran it like a production line, with his silkscreen images lined up across the floor and a number of hired workers assisting him in pulling them. Tonight I put an old VHS tape of “Neil Young Unplugged” into a small portable TV that has been a good companion in my man cave throughout recent years. Listening to him pound on his acoustic guitar while I snapped tape, lined edges, and matted prints, I felt a kinship between the two artists and myself. The only difference is that I am alone in the studio tonight, but quite content. I’m satisfied with the quiet solitude and space as I work, not needing the Pop musician or Pop artist’s adoring audiences. And I don’t feel lonely. I’m loving the sense of camaraderie that I feel as I listen to Neil, think about Andy’s legacy, and feel gratitude that tomorrow I get to enter the festival arena for three days, sit in my booth, and enjoy whatever conversations may transpire with patrons as they drift through the festival atmosphere. I’m starting to tire, and paused to rest and blog before making one final run at production before calling it a night. Tomorrow, early, I will load the Jeep, drive to the festival site, and begin setting up for a 4:00 opening.

Fort Worth's Scat Lounge

Fort Worth’s Scat Lounge

Browsing through some of my old portfolios this afternoon, I was shocked to pull out this unfinished watercolor that I abandoned long ago and completely forgot. I decided to go ahead and photograph it as is and make an 8 x 10″ print from it, along with some greeting cards. In addition to over twenty new images from the Laguna Madre I painted and drew this summer, I will add this to the “debut” section of my booth.

Still Life Watercolor

Still Life Watercolor

This one I also pulled from the portfolio with surprise. I wonder if getting old means that you forget things you once spent a great deal of time on and then put away for awhile. I also made a print and a selection of greeting cards from this.

Handley Neighborhood Caboose

Handley Neighborhood Caboose

Another surprise from the portfolio was this Union Pacific caboose I painted near a power plant in the old historic Handley Neighborhood in east Fort Worth, near Arlington where I live.

Lexington, Texas pumps

Lexington, Texas pumps

And finally, this pair of abandoned gas pumps in Lexington, Texas. This is the second time I painted these, but put them away in my portfolio and forgot about them. I’m pleased to be able to share some new work in this weekend’s venue.

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.

Prolific

August 7, 2013
Beginning of an Archer City, Texas Gas Station

Beginning of an Archer City, Texas Gas Station

“He’s like a source, you know.  It’s like somebody struck a rock and water flowed out.  You know, he’s just so prolific.”

James Taylor, speaking about Neil Young

“Urge and urge and urge–always the procreant urge of the world.”

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

I have laid aside my large watercolor of the Coca-Cola sign and vintage gate for the time being, and decided to begin a new piece today.  My output tends to be much better when I have several pieces generated simultaneously, and lately I have gotten away from that.  Years ago, at a hotel conference, gallery owner Jason Horejs seized my attention when, addressing the group of artists, asked the question: “Just how prolific are you?  How many works do you generate in a year?  That is all a gallery owner wants to know.”  By that time I was lucky to put out ten-to-fifteen watercolors a year, blaming my full-time job as a school teacher for my not being more prolific.  Since that day, I have averaged over a hundred watercolors a year, and feel much happier about my growth as an artist.  I have always been inspired by the flood of work that poured out of creative persons of the twentieth century, particularly Neil Young and Pablo Picasso.  Those men never seemed to quit.  I have always wished to know that spirit of drivenness.

I have been looking at photos taken about a month ago of an abandoned service station in Archer City, Texas, a composition I have already done once as a quick 8 x 10″ piece.   Going back through my archives, I also pulled a photo I took of a restored Hudson at an auto show several years back in Weatherford, Texas.  I just finished reading Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They’re Not What You Think) by John Leland.  My imagination soared as I recalled Dean Moriarty saying “Oh man, that Hudon goes!”.  Since I read that line several years back, I’ve wanted to paint a Hudson from that era.  So, here is my beginning.

I took the gas station photo on a scalding hot, 100-plus-degree day.  Looking at the photo, I decided not to put in the pasty white sky often found on such days, but a somewhat darker, stormier one, a sky that I hope would set off better the dead trees mixed with the live ones, as well as the crepe myrtle tree rising behind the  building.

The Hudson is going to be bright green, and I’m looking forward to rendering it.  All in good time.  I’ve lost my light for the day so must content myself now with reading and waiting for tomorrow’s light to return.  I think I hear Thoreau’s Journal whispering as a muse to me, from the dark corner of my studio.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Returning to Watercolor after a Hiatus

July 27, 2013
Still Life Set Up in the Studio

Still Life Set Up in the Studio

Large Watercolor in Progress

Large Watercolor in Progress

I don’t play with Crazy Horse all the time.  You can’t wear it out.  You know, it’s like you can’t constantly be doing everything.  You have to give it a rest.  It’s like planting stuff.  You’ve got to let the field rest for a year.

Neil Young “American Masters” PBS

I did not intend to get away from watercoloring.  Several things entered my life the past couple of weeks.  Summer school got busier (my class has grown by one-third this second semester, accompanied by a chronic absenteeism that wasn’t happening the first term).  I also picked up my guitar again and played in a live gig that required some rehearsals.  Then an unforseen series of events led to my standing in my waders, waist-deep in Windmill Lake at the LBJ Grasslands, flyfishing for largemouth bass.  It had been too long since I last enjoyed that avocation, and I was very grateful for the experience.  I also have become friends with a remarkable guitarist, Reid Rogers (http://reidrocks.com) who has me doing things with an electric guitar that I have never before accomplished.  Reading has also chewed into my lifestyle.  I took off three days to read Dan Brown’s Inferno, which then led me to Dante’s Divine Comedy.  I’m also reading The Andy Warhol Diaries.  And my mornings still begin with the Journals of Henry David Thoreau over a cup of coffee.

Texas temperatures are dreadful in the summer, so my garage Man Cave has been abandoned till probably October.  I brought my favorite vintage Coca-Cola sign into the house from the Cave, and set it up on an easel next to my northern light windows.  Behind it I positioned this gate that was a Father’s Day gift from a lovely friend.  The previous owner of the vintage sign sent me a photograph of it fronting an evergreen tree, so I am looking at that image on a computer and trying to paint it into the backdrop.

This watercolor is on a full sheet (22 x 28″) of 300-lb. D’Arches cold-press paper.  I usually don’t quake over a $20 sheet of paper, but since I hadn’t painted this large in over six months, and hadn’t painted at all since my last 8 x 10″ over a week ago, I felt somewhat timid as I approached this one early this morning.  Lacking the technical tools, I used a frying pan to draw the circle of the sign.  I had to re-draw the gate several times, fitting the sign to its dimensions in a satisfactory way to suit the composition.  Next came the odious task of all that masquing–so many bent, twisted wires, steel framework and scrollwork on the top.

Though I have been at this since 7:15 this morning (it’s 8:21 p.m. as I write this), I have never worked on it for more than forty-five minutes a session.  As I wrote earlier, I’m a little gun-shy since I hadn’t painted on this large of a scale for awhile.  I kept backing off from it and re-checking the proportions of the composition.  Like the carpenter who cuts once, measures twice, I kept erasing and redrawing the Coca-Cola bottle on the sign.  Since high school, I have found the drawing of bottles extremely difficult.  I constantly measured and put this bottle on a grid, to make sure the proportions lined up, and kept double-checking the symmetry of the opposing sides.  But I enjoyed every moment, truly.  During my breaks, I continued to read from Dante, Thoreau and Warhol.  And of course, I’m always scribbling in my own journal.

Once the masquing dried, I mixed a cool highlight for the leaves of the evergreen and began by spritzing the paper with a spray bottle and floating the light bluish-green pigments all over the gate.  Once it was dry, I used the Fine Line Resist Pen to draw the highlighted leaves.  Once that dried, I mixed a concoction of Winsor Green, Winsor Violet, Alizarin Crimson, Transparent Yellow, WInsor Blue (Green Shade) and Permanent Rose to make as-near-a-black as I could for the shadows in the tree.  I applied this liberally over all the tree, then sprinkled salt in it and used the spray bottle to break it up.  After all that dried (plenty of time to read today!) I came back and removed all the masquing, applied Transparent Yellow to some of the highlighed leaves, then rendered some of the twisted wire and metal gate framework.  I also did a tiny bit of work on the Coca-Cola bottle cap, and some staining of the damaged sign.

The light outside has gone away for the night, so I’m finished for now.  But I cannot wait to wake up to this again tomorrow.  Today has been splendid, with painting, reading, journaling, and guitar playing marking the time, all of it exquisite.  I actually feel that my breathing has slowed down somewhat.  And school doesn’t resume until Monday!

Thanks always for reading.  It’s nice to be back in this mode again.

Six New Watercolor Greeting Cards for the Festival

April 4, 2013
Lurking Bomber

Lurking Bomber

The ten-year-old boy looked bewildered as his uncle tied the red-and-white bomber onto his pale blue monofilament line.  “Why does it go backwards?”  His uncle paused, took one last deep drag before tossing his Lucky Strike, exhaled, and said “Dunno.  Maybe it’s supposed to look like a crawdad.”  The boy just shook his head, held down the button on his Zebco 202, and tossed the plug into the dark pool, just on the edge of the stand of cattails, and began his slow retrieve.

Darting Heddon Zara Spook

Darting Heddon Zara Spook

The sun rose hot that August day, on the final morning of the boy’s first fishing trip with his cousin.  They rowed the dilapidated dinghy to a quiet, shaded cove on Hunnewell Lake and anchored just on the edge of the brightly-colored lily pads.  The Zebco 202 whirred as he tossed his Heddon Zara Spook to the far edge of the floating foliage and the lure landed with a quiet plop, just six inches from the largest pad.  He began his slow retrieve, and his heart pounded as he saw the slow-moving shadow emerge from beneath the pad, closing on his lure.

Shallow Descent of the Lucky 13

Shallow Descent of the Lucky 13

“Trust me,” said the old man standing and peering over the surface of the lake.  “I’ve been on these waters my whole life.  I know these fish.  Just let that plug lay out there a full minute, till all the ripples are gone  Then jerk your rod to make her plop and go under, and reel as fast as you can for about four or five feet to make her dart back and forth.  That makes the bass mad.”  So he did it.  And sure enough, on the first cast and retrieve, he made a four-pound, nineteen-inch large-mouth bass mad.

Trolling the Tiny Lucky 13

Trolling the Tiny Lucky 13

It made no sense to the boy, tugging on a pair of oars, rowing a John boat across the spacious Hunnewell Lake. His uncle told him this is how trolling works.  “You just cast as far behind the boat as you can, prop your rod-and-reel in the stern, and let the jerking motions of the boat provide the action for the lure.”  No sooner than the uncle spoke those words, the boy let out a gasp as he saw the three-pound large-mouth bass launch from the distant wake of the boat, shaking his head back and forth, the brightly-colored lure flashing next to his gills.

"It's a Dream"

“It’s a Dream”

The Red River stills flows through my home town
Rollin’ and tumblin’ on its way
Swirling around the old bridge pylons
Where a boy fishes the morning away
His bicycle leans on an oak tree
While the cars rumble over his head
An aeroplane leaves a trail in an empty blue sky
And the young birds call out to be fed. 

(text by Neil Young, “It’s a Dream”)

Plein Air Botanical Gardens

Plein Air Botanical Gardens

The aging artist angled his Jeep into the diagonal parking lane at the Gardens.  It was Good Friday, the sun was emerging slowly from leaden, overcast skies, and the Gardens were beginning to come alive with walkers, joggers, photographers, and children at play. Setting up his easel in a stand of pines, the man trained his eye on the bark of one solitary trunk, and considered how he would go about rendering its gnarled portrait against a forest-green field of shaded pine needles.

Today concluded our four days of STARR testing.  As I walked about the room filled with ten students testing, monitoring their work, I composed five new narratives for these new greeting cards coming out at tomorrow’s festival.  It was a good way to spend the walking around time, and helped the day pass.

Time to pack and load.

Thanks for reading.

Watercoloring Saturday in the Man Cave

March 30, 2013
Plein Air Painting of Waxahachie Bridge

Plein Air Painting of Waxahachie Bridge

The Red River stills flows through my home town
Rollin’ and tumblin’ on its way
Swirling around the old bridge pylons
Where a boy fishes the morning away
His bicycle leans on an oak tree
While the cars rumble over his head
An aeroplane leaves a trail in an empty blue sky
And the young birds call out to be fed.

Neil Young, “It’s a Dream”

A couple of years ago, during the “Paint Historic Waxahachie” plein air event, I set up my easel beneath this 1930-era bridge as a storm gathered overhead.  I was happy with the results, and rather surprised that I have been unable to sell this painting.  Oh well.  A few weeks ago, as I drove along the highway, listening to Neil Young on my CD player, this song played, and I captured the image of what I wanted to do next.  I am usually disappointed in my efforts of painting from a painting, but nevertheless that is what I attempted in the Man Cave today.  I used the old painting above to create the one below.   I enjoyed the experience.  Now I’m drained, and I suppose that after a good night’s sleep, I’ll decide tomorrow whether I like this one or not.  It not, I’ll give it another try, because I certainly want to master this composition.

Neil Young-Inspired Watercolor

Neil Young-Inspired Watercolor

Thanks for reading.

Continuation of the Coffee Watercolor Series

January 28, 2013
Watercolor with Jadeite Mug in Progress

Watercolor with Jadeite Mug in Progress

Last night’s arctic blast clothed the weathered old man in an icy shroud that he sought to shed.  The patchwork quilt draped over his sagging shoulders hung like a duster down to his knees as he shuffled across the uneven wooden floor of his front room.  Holding his favorite Jadeite mug in both hands, he waited patiently for the gurgle to commence within his stove-top percolator.  In just a few minutes, the sun would be cresting the distant range to the east, and he wanted to worship Aurora this morning with an open book in his lap and fresh coffee in his mug.  On this day he had much to remember.  Today would be a day for remembering.

As the percolator hissed, steamed and finally began its chortling, his memory was carried back to a cold, pre-dawn morning in the small, cramped kitchen of a spare urban apartment.  It was 4:30 a.m.  He had only slept two-and-a-half hours, the result of another all-night study and preparation for his Humanities class that would begin at 7:35.  He still had to dress, eat, walk three blocks to catch a bus, connect with a commuter train, and meet his morning class.  He was only thirty-seven, but already felt that he was seventy-two and worn down by life.  He stood beside his small stove, staring at the stove-top percolator he had taken on many a camping excursion, waiting.  

Looking up from the percolator that seemed to be contemplating whether or not to  bubble, his eyes ranged over the pile of books, manila folders and hand-drafted notes taken the night before.  Hoards of writers and artists from the neo-classical and romantic persuasions, all struggling for his attention.  How on earth was he going to synthesize all this information within the next three hours?  All he could hope for was a percolating mind in synergy with the percolating coffee–but right now this just wasn’t happening.  As he stood, contemplating, vignettes drifted through his consciousness, remembrances of graduate study, of seminars, conversations in the study carrels and coffee shops of those days, mornings in the park with a soul-mate and late nights of discussions when ideas were born as muses stirred and whispered their affirmations.  

And then the coffee was ready.

As the solitary old man poured the brew, inhaling with delight the aroma, he couldn’t quite discern what it was that he was feeling this morning–contentment or melancholia.  He couldn’t determine whether the memories were filling him or emptying him.  And he wondered: is memory something you have or something you have lost?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

By now, maybe some of my readers are wondering what is going on with these snippets of stories of an old man waking up to coffee.  These are just my attempts at writing fiction.  I have had these stories floating in my mind for over a decade, and wondered what to do as I began writing them out.  So, I decided, why not just fling them out on the blog as well?

Right now, there are probably some tears on this painting in progress.  I often enjoy playing VHS tapes on my small TV in the man cave, or listening to a DVD on the laptop.  While painting this, I’ve been listening to Neil Young playing and singing “Bandit” at his solo performance of Greendale at Vicar Street in Dublin.  The song is about a painter.  And I am not crying out of depression, just a fullness of feelings (if that makes sense)–a good cry, actually, a cleansing cry.  I feel a real connection as I hear this song and meditate on the words.  Neil Young has done a lot of that for me over the decades.  It is turning out to be a good night.

Thanks for reading.