Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia’

Silence

March 11, 2017

creel-redone

Elected Silence, sing to me

And beat upon my whorlèd ear,

Pipe me to pastures still and be 

The music that I care to hear.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Habit of Perfection”

One of my precious friends, Dian Dar, a retired English teacher, recently shared with me poetry from Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the timing was sublime. Spring Break has arrived, and I slept in soundly this Saturday morning, waking to a dark and rainy day.  The watercolor above I have just delivered to the Texas Friends and Neighbors Regional Art Exhibit to open in Irving, Texas April 29.  About half of the remaining 75 pieces had already been submitted and I was able to peruse the gallery and see them up close.  The show is a very strong one, and I am honored and humbled to be included. This evening I plan to attend the gallery talk given by the juror and view the slide show that has been assembled of all the works. I’m sorry to wait a month and a half for the exhibit to open.

Spring Break has arrived and I certainly need the rest.  Today has been burned up by delivering art work and catching up on all my college grading that was a week old.  I still have week-old high school stuff to grade as well, but I guess it can wait another day or two. Strangely, I’m not in the mood to paint today though my heart is filled with artistic aspiration, strange as that may sound.  I have been more inclined to read, and especially to spend time lingering over poetry.  Hopkins certainly has not disappointed me on this gray day.  He and Paul Tillich have filled my weary soul with ideas that are uplifting and satisfying.

I devoted some considerable time to staring at this painting before delivering it, because I won’t have it around for viewing for quite a long time.  That is the downside of exhibits–it’s nice to know others are looking at my work, but I do miss some of the images when they are no longer on my living room wall.  I still remember the hours spent in the garage (man cave) studio when I worked on this one.  And I recall the thrill of finding the creel in a Missouri antique store, of my good friends and fly fishing buddies lending me the antique fly box to open and include in the show, of the bamboo fly rod given me by an equine instructor in Colorado whose father had it custom made for him when he was a teeanger.  The hat has spent years on my head, and I took delight in baptizing it in the Atlantic, Pacific, Aegean and Adriatic waters.  The chair I found in a Missouri antique store. This picture just overflows in personal memories, and I was attached to it ever since I saw it taking shape beneath my brush.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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Art as a Healing Balm

March 4, 2017

home

“Art still has truth, take refuge there!

Matthew Arnold, “Memorial Verses April 1850”

Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking before an adult Sunday School group at a local church. Most of this day was given to preparing my remarks, taking Matthew Arnold’s statement as my point of departure. A number of things have happened around me that have saddened a large number of people whom I love, and the tragedies have been mine as well. We lack satisfying answers when grief invades our lives, and sometimes it is all I can do to pick up the brush and go through that portal into the sanctuary of art, and give healing a chance. Thanks to time spent watercoloring, and resuming my reading of Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be, I have managed to find some quality in this day.

The day has been cold and rainy, and I felt it necessary to keep a fire burning in the fireplace. In the comfort of that warmth, and ignoring the grayness outside as much as possible, I returned to this watercolor and have nearly finished it. The setting is the farmhouse where my grandparents lived in southeast Missouri. The old building is barely standing today, and no longer has the front porch where I have positioned myself with a guitar I purchased from my late uncle’s estate. Of course, being twelve hours away from this location, I had to settle for a selfie taken in my backyard. Only in my memories can I place myself on the porch of that ramshackle house where I used to spend the summers of my childhood.

I’m pleased that this painting has turned out good enough to frame and put into my March 24th show. Barring any unforeseen difficulties, I’ll complete it tomorrow and deliver it to the frame shop on Monday.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to cope.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Rubbing the Cold off the Object

December 30, 2016

door

These great men [Thoreau, Goethe, Emerson, Tolstoy] forever radiate a sharp sense of that profound requirement of the artist, to fully understand that consequences of what he creates are unimportant. “Let the motive for action be in the action itself and not in the event.”

I know from my own experience that when I create with any degree of strength and beauty I have had no thought of consequences.  Anyone who creates for effect –to score a hit–does not know what he is missing!

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

Finally, after a considerable hiatus, I am delighted to re-enter my studio.  It has taken a few days to get over the weariness generated by a drive from St. Louis to Dallas/Fort Worth following my holiday visit with family. It takes me longer to hit the reset button following those long drives than when I was younger.

The watercolor has gotten cold on me since I left it last week.  But I have been excited to return to it, and am confident that the warmth and confidence will emerge once I give it a few strokes. I am painting this composition for my own pure pleasure, and thus the “commission pressure” is not present. And I’m not painting it with a market in mind; I just want to explore this subject that has been residing in my mind’s eye for quite a long period now. Hence, the quote from N. C. Wyeth above. I did not realize until later in life that I received far more joy and fulfilment in the making of art than in the attention or selling that followed. As my holiday draws near its close, I’m delighted, in this quiet studio, to pursue what gives me the most satisfaction. I’ll continue to post blogs as the painting runs its course.

I wish all of you an exciting and promising New Year.  Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Seeking Aurora

October 4, 2016

claude-unfinished

I have been as sincere a worshipper of Aurora as the Greeks.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

No matter how old I get, the visual effects of a bright sun will always arrest my gaze. The watercolor with which I struggle now focuses on this derelict gas station in Claude, Texas that my eye has engaged for over a decade of travels to and from Colorado. My previous attempts at painting it have been satisfying, but this time I’m struggling to catch the quality of the warm sun glancing off the gas pumps. My first wash of colors appeared too dirty and drab for my satisfaction. I’m wanting to capture that burnished glow of sun glancing off the rusty facades. As the sun waned that afternoon when I photographed them, the pumps seemed to wax. I thought that Apollo was lending his strength to any object with the stillness and strength to reflect it. The complementary clash of blue and orange has always been pleasing to me, and if I can get these pumps to complement the sky colors, then I’ll be more satisfied.

The foliage texture in the trees has pleased me, but again, the flickering fireflies of colored sunlight reflecting off the leaves didn’t happen this time either. I’m pushing myself to let the sun paint this watercolor, and so far I seem to be getting in the way.

claude-changes

Introducing some changes . . .

Once I got home from school, I had some more time to spend on the painting, using prismacolor pencil colors of yellow, scarlet and orange to try and bring some glow to the gas pumps and the tiled roof. I then added the concrete and asphalt of the sidewalk and street in the foreground, along with some fringe grasses.  The foliage was darkened and extended as well, and finally some deepening of the shadows beneath the roof.

Once tomorrow arrives and I can get some natural light back on this painting, I’ll have a clearer idea of how it is looking.

Thanks for reading.

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.

 

 

Creating Worlds

September 10, 2016

eureka-springs-rr

The blank canvas is the blank page. You start with nothing. It’s hugely provocative. It’s frightening because you may have too much to put on it. Or not enough of yourself.

Wim Wenders

This cool, dark, overcast, rainy Saturday morning put me in the mood to continue a watercolor I worked on last evening. I’m getting close to finishing it. While painting, I like to listen to some kind of creative stimulus, often spinning LPs on my turntable, or using the laptop to dial up a YouTube presentation. Choosing the latter, I was shocked to discover a nearly hour-long documentary on Edward Hopper titled “Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas.” What jolted me after all these years was to discover how much film footage remains of Hopper’s television interview with Brian O’Doherty. The presentation is very engaging, and filled with plenty of interviews with film maker Wim Wenders (who was deeply influenced by Hopper’s scenes and collaborated with his photographer to re-create many settings reminiscent of these paintings). The above quote from Wenders is still working on me as I pour myself into this most recent painting.

Eureka Springs is the setting, and their historic railroad depot provides a lengthy section of abandoned trackage where derelict rolling stock has been parked. Every time I visit the town, I love to stroll the length of these tracks, taking pictures and making sketches of the rail cars. As I painted this afternoon, watching my blank paper slowly develop into a painting, I felt the sweet memories of last summer’s excursion flowing through me. Of course, I’m never sure if my feelings come out in the paintings (and Edward Hopper never knew, or perhaps didn’t even care, whether his thoughts were recognized by viewers of his work). I think what engages me the most, thinking of the Wim Wender quote, is when I should declare a painting finished, whether or not I have pushed my feelings far enough into the process. Of course, that is something I’ll never know. But I still think about it as I work.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

dark-studio

Memories of an Arkansas Vista

July 7, 2016

arkansas finished (2)

There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.

Thomas Merton (quoted in Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

On this quiet Thursday, I completed my second reading of this magnificent Annie Dillard book, and am closing in on completing this watercolor I began yesterday. I am not happy that my Jeep is suffering difficulties, and was taken to the dealership Saturday, and as of today, they still have not even looked at it.  Six days is too long for anyone to be without their sole possession of transportation. Nevertheless, being housebound, I am completing other tasks, that I hope are not “itsy-bitsy” by Merton statndards.

This truck I photographed while traveling across Arkansas last May on my first of two trips out there to conduct watercolor workshops and judge plein air competitions.  The sight of the sun glinting off the corroded steel of the abandoned vehicle, as well as the liveliness of the surrounding landscape, filled my imagination with such delicious satisfaction, that I turned my Jeep around after traveling an extra mile, and returned to this spot, got out, walked as close as I could to the vehicle, and took several photos with my phone.  Only now, two months later, do I get around to painting the scene.  I was not able to get it out of my mind.

Painting over the past two days has yielded a large quantity of satisfaction for me, as I stared very closely at this composition, crawling around in the weeds and foliage, examining the barbed wire, and scrutinizing every square inch of the faded truck.  The only breaks I took were to read more from Annie Dillard and rest my eyes from the visual details of the painting.

Today I am tired, and still waiting for word on the Jeep.  But I’m happy to have finished a book, and am staring across the room at this watercolor to determine what else needs to be done to it, if anything.

Thanks for reading.

Finished the Sketch

January 3, 2016

image

Tomorrow, I return to work after this delicious two-week Christmas/New Year vacation.  I took out last night’s watercolor sketch and looked at it with rested eyes, and decided it needed some “finish” work.  Now it is signed, sleeved at 5 x 7″ in an 8 x 10″ white mat and for sale.  $50.  Im ready for the next experiment.

Thanks for reading.

A Loving Tribute to a Story-Teller

January 2, 2016

fieplace

Uncle Paul Holds Court

On this New Years Day 2016, I’ve successfully built and maintained a fire in the fireplace, and have spent the winter morning soaked in primal feelings while gazing into its flames, listening to the crackle and reliving years of memories beside a bonfire, listening to my Uncle Paul.  My father’s older brother always believed that he was better than the life offered him in rural southeast Missouri—a Mississippi River tenant farm culture.  He served in the Navy during World War II, and when discharged in 1945, chose not to return to the farm, but to continue serving the Navy as a civilian for another nine years, living in Guam.  Once that connection dried up, he returned to the United States, but chose to begin life anew in San Mateo, California.  Fancying himself as a writer, he managed to freelance and publish for magazines while opening an automotive repair shop, and then later entered the employment of Greyhound where he worked his way up to night manager, and remained till retirement.  He never stopped writing.

Paul came home to southeast Missouri once a year, traveling free on a Greyhound bus, and taking up residence as a guest in the squat little house of his sister Bea and her husband Bus, overlooking Little Indian Creek rolling by below.  Paul had become a celebrity to the rest of the Tripp clan, consisting of his eleven siblings along with their children and grandchildren, a number increasing to scores of people pouring into that little house.  Paul had developed quite an art to humor and storytelling in the grand manner of Mark Twain.  His snarly, nasal voice sounded like William Burroughs, and Uncle Paul acquired the persona of a sage.  His annual arrival eventually morphed into an event–a bonfire/wienie roast at Bea and Bus’s.  This became the ideal forum for Paul to launch his stories.

Paul’s visits have now commingled with my own special teenage memories of hiking and fishing Little Indian Creek all day and returning to Bea and Bus’s house at sunset, sunburned, with a stringer of bluegill, catfish and memories of the day.  The driveway already filled with cars, I knew what I was going to encounter when entering through that kitchen door: a living room packed with uncles, aunts and cousins, and a cigar-chewing Uncle Paul seated before them all, clutching his can of beer, and holding court with his stories and anecdotes.  And what I noticed from the start is that Paul never spoke to anyone—he spoke to everyone.  Paul never showed interest in engagement; he only wanted an audience.  The evening would always be a sustained roar of laughter, fueled by cases of beer and soda.  Once it grew dark outside, it was time to withdraw to the bonfire and wienie roast.  Uncle Paul was just getting warmed up for his Second Act.  The curtain would always close around 4:00 a.m.

  1. My senior year in high school. My final bonfire with Uncle Paul.  Bea and Bus were older now, retiring to bed at twilight, and no longer tolerant of Uncle Paul’s late nights.  When the day arrived for Uncle Paul to visit, they announced the close of an era.  No wienie roast this time.  No bonfire.  Not here.  We’re going to bed.  Paul arrived around noon.  He was told the news.  One hour later, cars began pulling into the driveway.

“Why is everyone coming?”

“Wienie roast.”

“No!” said Bea firmly.  “Not this time.”  More stations wagons arrived, and Tripps were discharged.

“Where’s Uncle Paul?”

“Down at the creek, cuttin’ limbs for the wienies.”

“No!” shouted Bus.  “We’re not doin’ that this time!”

“Where’s Uncle Ralph?”

“Gettin’ wood for the bonfire.”
“No!” repeated Bea. “We’re not havin’ a fire tonight!  We’re goin’ to bed this time.”

More cars arrived.  Trunks opened.  Crates of beer and soda were unloaded.

“Might as well pack ‘em back up!” drawled Bus.  “We’re not partyin’ tonight.”

“Where’s Denzil?”

“Gone to the store to get wienies.”

“Wienies?!” cried Bea.  “We’re not havin’ a wienie roast!”

The skies darkened.  The fire ignited.  Dozens of Tripps skewered their wienies and approached the altar.  Libations were poured.  Bea and Bus yawned loudly enough for all to hear and ignore.  And Uncle Paul’s stories began.

4:00 a.m.  Everything has grown deliciously quiet save for the sounds of tree frogs overhead and the crackling dying embers of the fire in front.  Paul has gotten quieter, more reflective.  Only a few of us are still there, staring quietly into the fire.

“You have a fine vocabulary.”  Paul was talking to me.  For the first time.  Ever.  “You should write.”

Thanksgiving Musings

November 26, 2015

imageBefore I sign off for this Thanksgiving Day, I thought I would post to the blog once more, about the question of beauty.

I knew while I was taking art classes in high school that I was attracted to abandoned buildings, and wondered how one could call such a subject matter for art “beautiful.”  The Andrew Wyeth drybrush studies drew me in, because he was always painting ruined architectural structures in Pennsylvania and Maine.  Every time I looked at his paintings, I thought of the outbuildings on my grandparents’ farms in all their ramshackle appearance.  I liked the look, and still do.  I think that stories ooze from the details of such buildings.

This tire shop I came across in Atoka County Oklahoma arrested my attention to the point that I turned my vehicle around several miles down the highway and went back to see it and photograph it.  Now, leading up to this Thanksgiving Day, I have watercolor sketched the site three times, and feel that I am just now “getting into” the subject.  I think it deserves some short stories, some poems, some word sketches to depict it.  And it is highly possible that I will be doing something further with the subject before I return to work next Monday.  In the meantime, I am looking over these three watercolor attempts and pondering my next move.

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.