Posts Tagged ‘New Mexico’

Sensing the Splendor of Georgia O’Keeffe

April 18, 2018

canyon rock

Plein Air Watercolor of Canyon Rock, Ghost Ranch

Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded . . . the mountains are home.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I sensed the mountains calling out to me last week, and blogged that I was going to respond. Two days after the blog, I was in Taos, New Mexico, for the first time. The Goji-Berry Farm outside Taos provided a wonderful place to stay.  The cabin available was built in the 1880’s and the English artist Dorothy Brett resided there. The cabin next door was the one occupied by Georgia O’Keeffe at one time.  I felt a genuine stirring deep within, realizing I was visiting this area ninety years after Georgia O’Keefee first arrived.

The watercolor above I painted en plein air at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, O’Keeffe’s residence wonderfully preserved. The hike up the ridge was a steep one, and the icy mountain winds made the thirty-nine-degree day feel worse than it actually was. I managed to find a spot behind a large bush that partially shielded me from the blasts, and worked on this 10 x 8″ watercolor for about forty-five minutes.

As I worked, I understood Georgia’s sentiment that she felt she had come home at last. There was an intimacy I felt as I gazed into the facades of the ring of mountains around Ghost Ranch, and the huge sky filled me with a depth of wonder I could never capture in words.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Recollections 54 Redivivus

September 19, 2016

abandoned-cafe

The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

On February 7, 2002, over fourteen years ago, I was convinced that I had finally found my artistic voice, and responded by launching my sole proprietorship Recollections 54, creating a market for my watercolors (www.recollections54.com). My passion has always been to travel  county roads through the sleepy towns of America, my watercolor block riding at my side like a faithful travel dog. Always on the lookout for something to paint, I experienced every day as a new opportunity for discovery of some artifact reminiscent of earlier decades of energy and prosperity. Today, only the shells and husks remain of filling stations, general stores, movie theaters and other public buildings formerly stirring with conversations, stories and glimpses of life. The writer Marcel Proust has pointed out the thrill of beholding an object capable of triggering profound memories from youth, and being filled with a sense of warmth and gratitude.

Holding down two jobs has made painting with any kind of regularity a challenge, and should I be fortunate enough to retire one day, I have this fantasy of pursuing my watercolor passion with fewer restrictions. In addition to working full time, I have also taken a number of detours throughout the past fourteen years, traveling roads that involved significant changes in my signature genre–still life painting, plein air painting, Texas coastal themes and fly fishing, to name a few. But lately, I’ve found joy in returning to this Recollections 54 genre, selecting scenes from vanishing America.

I have nearly completed another watercolor of this favorite genre, and posted it above. This relic of a roadside restaurant flooded me with a sense of loss and presence when I stopped and photographed it in New Mexico years ago. Loss, because the business was dead; presence, because the structure resonated with stories as I stood gazing at it from every possible angle, near and afar, taking dozens of photos and trying to imagine what it was like to pull into the gravel parking lot hungry and eager to enter a comfortable zone and be served.

Emerson wrote that detachment was the virtue of a piece of art, that ability to detach the subject from the surroundings that tried to draw away attention. Frequently that is what I do when selecting something to draw or paint. From buildings such as this, I frequently remove windows, air conditioning units, graffiti, dangling cables–anything I regard as taking away from the simple integrity of the subject. The surroundings often present that annoying tree or trash dumpster that is in the way. The fun thing about making art is the ability to make those decisions in framing up a composition. And so this subject also presented its own unique set of possibilities.

I believe the painting is nearly finished. As was the practice of Andrew Wyeth, I’ll put it up in my home somewhere, and glance at it as I enter or leave the room, always evaluating, figuring if there remains something to do before signing off on it.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Ecstatic Revision

September 19, 2016

new-mexico

Perhaps I feel happiest when, during the creative process, I simply let work “pour out”, so to speak, without critical intervention or editing . . . 

Robert Motherwell

After a weekend tour of five Texas universities with the senior A.V.I.D. students from my campus, I found myself quite exhausted and mellow when I finally awoke in my own bed Sunday morning. My gas station and passenger rail car watercolors are nearly complete, and I really was not in the mood to look at them and make final decisions. So, instead, I picked up this demonstration piece I began a couple of years ago, to see if I could edit it and pull out a finished painting. The site is an abandoned restaurant in New Mexico that I photographed a number of years ago while passing through from Colorado.

My first painting of this location has already sold to dear friends. I’m always glad to sell to a friend, but I missed looking up at that framed painting that hung in a prominent place in my living room. So far, this one is not living up to the standards of the first, but we’ll see what happens as I bump it a little more.

The original painting was titled New Mexico Closure, and it is featured on my website recollections54.com. With this current attempt, I am attempting to put more foliage around the back and enrich the foreground textures. So far, the bread crumbs and salt are not creating the effects I’m seeking, but I’ll give it another go this evening, hopefully.

I posted the Robert Motherwell quote above, completely affirming that joy in pouring out spontaneously all the richness of my emotions as I begin a work, then revising later. Oftentimes, the earlier joy far exceeds the work of revision. However, there are times like now that my ecstatic high is reversed, and I find more joy in the revision. That is true on this occasion because this painting began as a demo for a local art society. I fielded numerous questions as I put down the preliminary colors and shapes, and of course, was conscious of an audience, so I could not experience that “high” that I know when alone in the studio and pouring out a new work.

William Wordsworth opined once that “all good poetry is the spntaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” But he then later wrote that “the imagination must learn to ply her craft by judgment studied.” What makes this current watercolor experience enjoyable for me is the time I’m spending staring at the work from across the room, making compositional decisions. When I see something I don’t like, I don’t despair but wonder “can it be improved, and if so, do I have the skill”?  So far, I’m saying Yes and Yes.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Wide Open Spaces in New Mexico

February 11, 2012

New Mexico Landscape

I’m taking a break from my business-related paperwork to re-post a New Mexico favorite I created last fall during an art festival in Mineola, Texas.  I took a series of photos in New Mexico at the end of a summer road trip about 3-4 years ago.  This is the second composition I painted from this abandoned structure I found along the road while a storm was gathering.  In the earlier painting, I darkened the sky, but chose to lighten up this particular composition.

I was happy with the way the salt textured the roadway as I kept sprinkling new layers and spritzing with a spray bottle.  I was also pleased with the way in which the masquepen left the dead limbs intact in the midst of the darkened cedar behind the building.  The painting came along rather quickly, and I hope to try a third composition from it in the near future.

Thanks for reading.

New Mexico Memories, painted during an Art Festival

November 5, 2011

New Mexico Wanderings

It has been a pretty good day for art sales at this Mineola Texas Holiday Bazaar.  We’re in the Civic Center all day Saturday and Sunday.  The crowds are rather sparse, but nevertheless, art is being sold, and I always delight in that.

I began this composition this morning, using a digital reference photo I took while traveling New Mexico about three summers back.  It looks like I just may finish it before we close at 5:00.  I took the photo when a storm was brewing, and loved the darkening sky and the cedars turning nearly black in the diminished light.  All of this made the stucco building glow all the more, and I’m trying to catch the reflective quality of the abandoned dwelling with this painting.

I have no idea where this dwelling rests in New Mexico today.  All I recall is that I stayed at the Peter Hurd Ranch, enjoying for a couple of days his paintings, along with those of Henriette, Andrew and N. C. Wyeth.  Driving to Lubbock from there, I came across this dwelling in the middle of a New Mexico wasteland.

It’s been a joy to paint today, and hopefully I’ll begin a second one early tomorrow.  I’m glad we get an extra hour to sleep tonight with the time change.

Thanks for reading.

Nostalgic New Mexico Road House Watercolor

May 15, 2011

New Mexico Road House

The Weiler House just framed this watercolor for me, in preparation for the One-Man Show this fall.  See http://www.weilerhousefineart.com for the gallery’s website.  I saw this abandoned road house several years ago while traveling New Mexico during the late summer.  I painted it once before, putting railroad tracks in the foreground.  This time I thought I would let the “Mother Road” roll past the front.  I seem to recall that this collection of buildings was near historic route 66.

Thanks for reading.

Kerouac Country, November 15, 2010

November 15, 2010

Kerouac Country

I have posted similar information in another entry today, so I will try not to duplicate (much).  I began this painting Saturday morning during the first of a 2-day art festival, where very few patrons were coming around the booth.  Too much time on my hands, so I figured I needed to do something constructive rather than stand around.

I have painted this site before.  I wish I took better notes on my travels.  All I know is that this structure is in New Mexico and I spent plenty of time on historic Route 66 on the day that I photographed this site.  I just don’t know for sure if it was on Route 66, or on a connecting highway.  I believe it is northwest of Santa Rosa.  If any of you readers recognize it, perhaps you could help me.

The weekend art festival was a one-hour drive for me, and I listened to CDs of Kerouac’s On the Road as I drove through the country.  Thus I was prompted to paint some of those “open-country” themes.

I miss the independent cafes and diners that were such an important part of our road trips in the fifties.  I was saddened years ago to find that the “Owl Shanty” along Route 61 in southeast Missouri was only a concrete slab barely visible among the weeds.  Most of our American roadside past is buried beneath the weeds and concrete.

This particular diner looks like the kind I enjoyed in the days of my youth.  When I drove past it on that particular day, and saw the gathering thunder clouds in the distance, I felt a Proust-like “recollection” of childhood moments that were profoundly important to me then, and still are.

Thank you for reading.

Finding My Way Back, September 26, 2010

September 26, 2010

Route 66 Road House

It’s been along time since I’ve posted.  I have managed to do some painting, but mostly I’ve been teaching on two campuses and participating in art festivals.  The one posted above was done during the Jazz by the Boulevard festival in Fort Worth the weekend of September 11.  The sales were a little slow, and the crowd thin at times (and the heat and humidity absolutely despicable!).  So I worked on this throughout the Saturday portion of the event, and finished it early Sunday morning just after the gates re-opened for day two of the festival.  For anyone looking at my website (www.recollections54.com), you will notice that I’ve tried this composition before, only the website version has railroad tracks cutting off the bottom of the composition.  That was due to cold feet–I couldn’t make up my mind how to lay in the foreground highway.  The website version sold, and I decided I would give this composition another shot, only this time put in the highway as it appears in the photograph I took several years ago while cruising about in New Mexico.  I think this one is much improved.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll try to post more frequently, as I have other works now in progress.  However, I do have four festivals approaching over the next four consecutive weekends.

The Dimming of a New Mexico Day, February 8, 2010

February 8, 2010

The Dimming of a New Mexico Day

I’m excited to have a few new watercolors in progress–they’re just not far enough along to post for viewers yet.  As a rule in 2010, I have not been posting finished works already on my website.  But I’m making an exception because this evening I entered three watercolors in the Arlington Visual Arts 34th Annual Regional Juried Art Exhibit.  This is one of them.

Two summers ago, I finished a 3,000-mile plus road odyssey beginning in Texas and going through Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and finally New Mexico where I connected with my wife who had been vacationing with her daughter.  As we drove back toward Texas together, I was mesmerized by the quality of the New Mexico sunlight, especially during a gathering storm late one afternoon.  This abandoned structure was just ablaze with light in the field, and I could not stop staring at it.  We drove up close, and I got up and walked all around it, photographing it from every conceivable angle, all the time intoxicated by that light.

Watercolor has always intrigued me because of the reflective possibilities of light reflecting off the bright paper through transparent layers of wash.   I read in a book long ago (and wish I had documented it!) “the paper is the atmosphere in which the watercolor breathes.”  That thought has been a consuming passion with me as I have experimented with colored washes in the watercolor world.  With this particular painting, I was spending a great deal of time looking at Edward Hopper paintings and noting his extreme contrasts between sunlight and shade.  I kept layering pigments into the shadows, trying to get this painting to “pop” with that same kind of Edward Hopper contrast.