Posts Tagged ‘Paul Cezanne’

Closing out the Art Festival

May 28, 2017

booth

Art on the Greene, Booth #30

There are two things in painting: the eye and the brain, and they have to help each other; you have to work on their mutual development, but painter-fashion: the eye, for the vision of nature; the brain, for the logic of organized senesations which give the means of expression.

Paul Cezanne

tree.jpg

During a quiet moment in the festival yesterday afternoon (humidity and temperatures exceeding 90 degrees thinned the crowd), I sat in the shad behind my booth and sketched the trees above me, applying Cezanne’s two-pronged theory of making art.  My eye studied the textures and tones of the bark on the tree trunk above, but my brain knew that the composition needed more than a diagonal tree trunk.  So I selected a network of limbs from someplace else, as there were no limbs to fill out the composition I felt was needed here.

Today we close out Art on the Greene.  It’s raining this morning, but preliminary reports indicate it could quit by noon (we open at 11:00) and the duration of the day will be twenty degrees cooler than yesterday.  I’m bringing along my Cezanne biography just in case bad weather chases away patrons for the day.  We close at 5:00, and six hours with few-to-no patrons is a long stretch if one has nothing to do.

Thanks for reading.

No Time to Paint, but Always Time to Think

September 30, 2015
watercolor sketch/journal from my first day on the Texas Laguna Madre

watercolor sketch/journal from my first day on the Texas Laguna Madre

His skies, whether pure or cloudy, gay or melancholic, resonate with the mysterious sounds of the universe. He forces the spirit to think and to soar above these magisterial representations . . . of reality . . . In front of this seductive painting, you have the impression of a full and benevolent life which makes you recall the intoxication one feels with the dawning of a new day.

Desiré Louis, L’Événement, May 19, 1891, (writing of Claude Monet’s paintings)

This week, I have been jammed by school responsibilities, but cannot take my mind off of painting. I got behind in my school work preparing for last week’s festival and now there is the devil to pay. I am hoping to be caught up by the end of tomorrow. The studio has been calling my name, and I have had to turn my back. But I cannot turn my back on thoughts of painting.

At school the past two days, I have taken time between classes, over lunch, and during conference periods, to do some serious reading on French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. My subjects have been Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne. The above quote I lifted from a nineteenth-century publication, loving the rhapsodic discussion of his clouds. This brought to my memory the exhilaration I felt when I surveyed the cumulo-nimbus clouds that hung suspended all day every day over the island in the Laguna Madre where I stayed for a short while last June. Before those days, the only attempts I had ever made at rendering clouds were quick, slap-dash happy washes and blots on my watercolor paper. I was racing toward the main subject, which was always something in the foreground, and the sky was just a nuisance to get out of my way as quickly as possible. All of this changed with my arrival at the Laguna Madre, where I attempted my first “cloud portraits”, actually devoting the majority of my time on rendering the cloud formations I saw hanging in the sky. And once I returned to my home in Arlington, I continued to study the photos I took on location, making new attempts to paint these remarkable portraits. The artist-in-residence experience has changed me profoundly in many ways, and this is just one of them–my taking skies and clouds far more seriously in future paintings.

Another look at my past still life sketches, with thoughts of Cezanne

Another look at my past still life sketches, with thoughts of Cezanne

I should like to astonish Paris with an apple.

Paul Cézanne

This quote from Cézanne brought a smile to my face, when I was painstakingly arranging and rendering sea shells and lagoon debris while on the island. I never had serious designs of astonishing Arlington with sea shells, but I found myself in a state of suspended wonder as I worked and reworked these shells. I found the flowing lines and contours very challenging as my “errant hand” (Cézanne’s angry words!) continued to stumble at drawing them. And then, there was the issue of modeling them to “pop” into that three-dimensional form appearance on the page. None of this came easily. Finally, the words from Cézanne came home to me:

There is neither line nor modelling, there is only contrast. Once the colors are at their richest, the form will be at its fullest.

Thank you, Claude and Paul, for being such kindred spirits, and for being such a comfort to me in this century. The greatest joy I know in painting is feeling this connection, this succession in a tradition of painters, all of us struggling to get nearer to our subjects.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

In Search of a Theory of Aesthetics

December 20, 2014
Painting on the First Night of Christmas Vacation

Painting on the First Night of Christmas Vacation

I was learning from the painting of Cezanne that made writing simple true sentences far from enough to make the stories have the dimensions that I was trying to put in them.  I was learning very much from him but I was not articulate enough to explain it to anyone.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I cannot explain the deep-seated satisfaction I’m drawing from my second reading of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.  I don’t remember how I got alerted to reading this book a couple of winters ago, but am so glad it’s come across my threshold.  This book was published posthumously, and contains Hemingway’s manuscript written while in Paris from 1921-1926.  He was contacted by the management of the Ritz Hotel in Paris in November 1956 to take possession of two small trunks he had left behind there since March 1928.  The contents of the trunks contained this manuscript.

I laugh when I read the quote I’ve posted above, especially the final sentence.  He certainly was not able to get across his theory to me, the reader.  Perhaps this is why I still haven’t published my own theory of aesthetics–I don’t quite know how to put it into words because I sitll don’t know quite what it is.

Nevertheless, I did manage to get in some quality studio time tonight and am anticipating more opportunity tomorrow.  I would like to finish this before Christmas arrives, though I have no deadline for it–I’m painting it for my own pleasure, not for a commission.  And I still have so much to learn as I wrestle with this composition.  Tonight I worked exclusively on the left-hand portion of the painting, trying to darken the values.  I still don’t have any of it as dark as I wish, God knows how I struggle to darken watercolor, adding wash after wash of warm and cool colors alternately.  Eventually I’ll get there, I hope.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Thoughts Emerging Late in the Night

July 1, 2014
Continued Work on the Waxahachie Caboose

Continued Work on the Waxahachie Caboose

Last night, the hour stretched long past bedtime, but I could not “stop the machine.”  I recorded in my journal the ideas flooding my mind at the close of a long day of reading Shakespeare and Hemingway, and watercoloring as well:

Why merge disjunctive spirits as Shakespeare and Hemingway?  And why as artificer absorb the works of artists Robert Motherwell and Edward Hopper?  How do these disparate spirits conjoin?  They focused on the sere, rudimentary elements as they composed: words, colors, strokes of the pen, pencil and brush.  Erasing, effacing, distasting, they urged themselves on and on and on, never ceasing to believe, never ceasing to love.  Penetrating beneath the visible stratum, these excavating spirits focused on the underlying foundation, der Grund.  And, rising above this foundation, they erected their structure of words, drawings and brushstrokes, connecting the elements with strong yet supple tissue, allowing the composition to flex into its desirable form.

And so I look upon my own watercolor endeavor of the Waxahachie caboose,

Distinguishing warm reds from cool reds,

Jamming complementary reds and greens,

Contrasting darks and lights,

Cleaving between warms and cools.

All the time, stretching the flexible connecting tissue,

Examining links,

Rivets,

Punctuations, conjunctions, disjunctions.

Prufrock’s indecisons, visions and revisions.

Hopper identifies my style, but Motherwell shapes it, reminding me that two marks cry out for a third, and then the triad wants a fourth, and so on.  Cezanne also prompts me: the world is complicated, so the purpose of composition is to make the world less complicated.  He wanted to astonish Paris with an apple; I want to astonish my contemporaries with a caboose.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

 

Wrestling with Hofmann’s “Push-Pull” in Painting

January 14, 2014
Slow, tedious work on the flatiron

Slow, tedious work on the flatiron

Creative expression is . . . the spiritual translation of inner concepts into form, resulting from the fusion of these intuitions with artistic means of expression in a unity of spirit and form. . . . Imitation of objective reality is therefore not creation but dilettantism, or else a purely intellectual performance, scientific and sterile.

Hans Hofmann

What a gift this evening provided–I managed to dust off tomorrow’s class preparations late this afternoon, and am now finishing a deliciously quiet evening of watercoloring and studying.  It’s been frustrating lately, working late into the nights doing school stuff and having little-to-no quality time to paint.  I managed to insert quite a few more details into the crown of this Fort Worth flatiron as the evening progressed, then stopped abruptly awhile ago, realizing that I was falling into my paint-by-number syndrome.  When my mind starts ranging about in extraneous ideas while only my eye responds to details on the watercolor, I feel suddenly that I am on auto-pilot, and am merely whipping out another watercolor for the trade.  At this age, I am more hungry to learn, to experiment, to push the boundaries, and not repeat what I’ve done before.

sketching-and-watercoloring

Nice Quiet Evening in the Claustrum

Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hofmann found his way to the United States in 1934, the same year as Paul Tillich.  Both men fled World War II Europe, set up shop in New York City, and began changing our world by bringing European avant-garde thought to our early twentieth century.  Both men had an engaging way of applying dialectic to their disciplinary homes.  Paul Tillich was fascinated with the “boundaries” separating disparate realms, and Hans Hofmann alike spoke of that energy emerging from the “push-pull.”  Among Hofmann’s discussions of “push-pull”, I have decided to play with contrasts in color, both warm vs. cool and complementary pairs as well.  As I worked in the shadows of the cornice of this flatiron building, I continually balanced my Transparent Yellows with my Winsor Violets, and juxtaposed my Winsor Reds with mixtures of Transparent Yellow and Winsor Blue (Green Shade).  My photography is quite primitive, and I hate it that my blog cannot really put the painting before my reader’s eyes in the same way that this raw watercolor gazes back at me.  But I’m loving what I see with these colliding pairs of colors placed side-by-side.  My shadows are showing much more dynamism than they did in the days when I relied on Payne’s Gray for cool effects or Sepia for warmth.  There is so much more going on now, in the shadows, plenty of push-pull.

I’m glad I stopped earlier this evening.  The theories I’m reading from Hofmann and Paul Cezanne regarding complementary colors and warm vs. cool colors are giving me fresher ideas that I intend to apply to this experimental painting.  Just before stopping for the evening, I looked at the work and began to realize that it was becoming academic and tight.  I’ve done more than enough of that throughout my life.  I want to discover new worlds in watercolor, and wish to learn something new from every painting excursion.  I fear that art will become boring to me if it ever reaches a point where I am cranking out product.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remember that I am not alone.

Rolling a Rock up the Hill?

October 24, 2013
Fly Fishing at Beavers Bend

Fly Fishing at Beavers Bend

I am rolling a rock uphill, Zola!  And either I keep on rolling it forever or I let it roll back on me and crush me.  But the thing that keeps me going is the hope, the belief that one day I will pick up the boulder with my hands and hurl it to the stars.

Paul Cezanne

I regret the lengthy hiatus between my recent posts.  There have been too many details recently chewing out large chunks of my weekdays and weekends.  It has been difficult even to find time for quality sleep.  High school and university classes, studio time and weekend art festivals are all demanding attention.  I am never caught up.

Recently I have been re-watching The Impressionists, a BBC presentation that always fills me with inspiration. We are using the film in my Advanced Placement Art History class as a springboard for studying and writing about nineteenth-century French painting.   In a moving moment, the troubled Paul Cezanne pours out his heart to friend and novelist Emile Zola that he feels he is Sisyphus condemned to rolling a rock up the hill, only to have it return to earth, crushing him beneath its oppression.  I am moved by that sentiment, though I don’t regard my life as hopelessly chained to a task, long on toil and short on reward.  Rather, I acknowledge myself as one who pursues (perhaps?) too many interests.  I love scholarship, teaching, studying art, making art, and the business of marketing my art.  But I’m aware that people my age are expected to be settled, having found their place in the world.  I don’t feel that I have yet found that–I’m still chasing ideas, still filled with enthusiasm and aware that time is running out for me.  Granted I earned my graduate degrees nearly thirty years ago, and discovered my talent for painting even before that.  And I have been standing in front of classrooms for a quarter of a century.  Nevertheless, life is new daily, ideas are always emerging, and I find myself still searching, chasing, wondering.  And the search, particularly now, can wear me down physically.  I’m just grateful at this moment that I am not worn down emotionally.  I still like what I do–I just wish I possessed more energy to do it, and wish that time wasn’t so short.

As I watch the film and read of the historical accounts, I find myself wishing that I could have my own Cafe Gerbois as the French Impressionists did.  What I would give for my own think tank, a forum with kindred spirits, gathered for the daily or weekly task of sorting things out.  That is the one element missing from my life right now–decompression time, quiet time.  Descartes had his stove, Hume had his cottage and Thoreau had his Walden.  I have lacked the time recently to enter that sacred space, that sanctuary, and be still.  At this moment, I would give anything for my quiet alone time, or for time in a cafe with others engaged in the Search.

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.

Watercoloring on a Cool Autumn Saturday Morning

September 21, 2013
Second Attempt of Beavers Bend watercolor

Second Attempt of Beavers Bend watercolor

Those of you who have never painted a landscape probably don’t know how hard it is to hold together a green landscape; green is a really difficult color to give space to and to structure a landscape.  And therefore, if you paint a landscape that is predominantly green, you are risking failure.

Richard Brettell, “Cezanne and Pissarro in Pontoise” lecture

I knew I was asking for trouble, noticing that my photograph taken at Beavers Bend is predominantly green.  But still, I loved the composition, accompanied by the memories of that enchanting afternoon and evening standing in the Lower Mountain Fork River.  It remains one of my fondest of fly fishing memories.

Reference photo for the painting

Reference photo for the painting

My greatest challenge will be the task of separating the large, dark green mass of trees making up nearly 50 percent of the composition, weighted heavily on the right.  I still haven’t made up my mind exactly what I’m going to do, but I am absorbed with this composition, and am enjoying the delight of exploring every square inch of this picture plane.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Thoughts on Northern Hindu Temples and Cezanne’s Mont Sant-Victoire

September 20, 2013
Ink Sketch of Vishvanatha Temple, Khajuraho, India

Ink Sketch of Vishvanatha Temple, Khajuraho, India

We work in the dark–we do what we can–we give what we have.  our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task.  The rest is the madness of art.

Henry James

It’s been quite a week in Lake Wobegon.  I found myself teaching Southeast Asian Art in A. P. Art History at my high school, along with Buddhism in World Religions at the university.  My regular Art History class at the high school focused on Impressionism all week, and today looked at how Paul Cezanne transitioned from Impressionism into a modern style that served as a gateway for twentieth-century art.  All week my head throbbed with a thousand stimuli from all these courses, readings, musings of students–and then today something happened.

I have this amazing pair of twins in my A. P. classes.  They are both artistic, carry moleskine journals (as do I), and continually draw in them as well as record their musings.  They keep legitimate sketchbook/journals in true Leonardo da Vinci fashion, going back and forth frequently between drawing and writing.  One of them told me that it helped her concentrate better on the objects studied in art history.  Today, during a lull in the A. P. class, I opened my book to the Southeast Asian chapter, pulled out my ballpoint pen, and sketched this Hindu Temple that follows the northern style of architecture, with its towers (shikharas) bulging to emulate the Himalayan mountain range.  I experienced what I heard this young twin mention to me a couple of weeks ago–as I drew this structure, I was forced to look at architectural details I had never before noticed.  She was right–drawing something makes you stare at every cubic inch of the form, enabling you to take in details not seen before.  I was amazed to see this range of mountains emerge from the architecture, and especially loved the way the base flanged outward to meet the ground.

As I drew, my mind drifted over to Paul Cezanne and his theories, and his late fixation on Mont Sainte-Victoire.  As I thought of his attempts to contrast warm and cool colors across the face of the mountain he painted at least sixty times, I suddenly recalled the mountain I had begun as an 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch a week ago and abandoned.  Going home during my conference period, I found a 140-lb sheet of D’Arches cold-pressed watercolor paper, soaked it in the shower, and stapled it to an 18 x 20″ stretcher frame to dry.  This evening I have spent, bent over the composition, trying once more to capture the essence of this gorgeous mountain I stood beneath last weekend as the evening descended and the rainbow trout began to rise.  I’m so glad I lingered long enough to take photos of other fly fishermen in the stream beneath this outcropping of rock. I will put them in place later.

Beginning of an 18 x 20" watercolor of Beavers Bend.

Beginning of an 18 x 20″ watercolor of Beavers Bend.

I hate that I had to work on this under artifical light, but I just couldn’t bear the thought of waiting until morning.  I just hope the colors turn out to be O.K. when the natural light hits them in the morning.  I genuinely hope that this weekend will yield quality time to focus on this mountain, as I continue to think about Cezanne, the Hindu worshippers, and that amazing pair of twin artists that have helped me move in a new direction.

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.

Painting a Still Life with Thoughts of Hemingway, Cezanne and Jasper Johns

April 15, 2013
Watercolor Sketch in Progress of Vintage Lures

Watercolor Sketch in Progress of Vintage Lures

The French novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans, writing of Cezanne, described one of his still life paintings as “set down quickly in crude strokes and smudged with a thumb: seen from close to, they are a wild mess of bright red and yellow, green and blue.”  From the correct distance, Huysmans, wrote, the work was pleasing, “and suddenly one becomes aware of altogether new truths, truths one had never paid attention to before: unfamiliar yet real shades, patches of colour with a character all their own.”

These are some of the sentiments I feel as I scrutinize the colors and forms of this vivid assembly of vintage fishing lures.  I was amused earlier to day when I read of the Pop Artist Jasper Johns, that he wanted to paint objects “seen but not looked at.”  From my youth, I was taken by the bright colors of the wooden fishing lures that filled my dad’s tackle box, long before I was old enough to learn how to fish.

Hajo Duchting, in his book Paul Cezanne describes the dynamics of one of the artist’s still life arrangements: “The various contrasts of reddish-orange and green recur in paired formations throughout the canvas, setting up echoes and correspondences.  The slow transition from light to shadow means that in every colour there is a wonderful range of deep, velvety nuances.  The shades range from the delicately transparent to patches of thick pigment, ever-changing yet nonetheless contributing to a consistent overall texture.”

I am trying to take a page from Cezanne as I figure out how to make these intense colors “pop” in company with one another.  I still have so much to figure out about how to arrange the warms and cools, the complementaries, the high and low intensity of colors.  Such a complicated set of possibilities!  And before I began, all I thought I had to do was try to match my colors to my models!  Already, this composition is intriguing me, and I can hardly wait to resume it tomorrow after school.  Tomorrow will be my first day to breathe freely.  As I testified earlier, I finished all my income tax research Saturday night.  What I didn’t mention was that it took until tonight to get my tax preparer to sort all of it out and file it, which she did this evening.  I drove home a free man (but too tired to paint for more than an hour).

Tomorrow, then.  Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Closing Out a Weekend of Quality Studio Time

April 14, 2013
The Man Cave on Sunday Afternoon

The Man Cave on Sunday Afternoon

Still Chipping Away at the Tackle Box Assortment

Still Chipping Away at the Tackle Box Assortment

Right now a moment of time is fleeting by!  Capture its reality in paint!  To do that we must put all else out of our minds.  We must become that moment, make ourselves a sensitive recording plate . . . give the image of what we actually see, forgetting everything that has been seen before our time.

Paul Cezanne

I cannot recall a more pleasant day of painting and reading.  The Man Cave has been still since 7:00 this morning.  The Hemingway biography, and reading I’ve been doing in Cezanne has me feeling serene, and this explosion of color in the vintage tackle box before me has filled me with a boyish sense of wonder.   I know it’s selfish to say, but . . . I regret having to set the alarm and return to my “real job” in the morning, what I would give for another day in the studio!  I envy those who are blessed with retirement, and regret that I started my profession so late in life.  Oh well, in good time.

Cezanne is noted for saying “Treat nature in terms of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone, all in perspective.”  That’s all I’ve had to concentrate on, with this composition before me, that and the arrangement of bright color combinations.

Regretfully, I have to close the studio.  Tomorrow is the “heavy” end of my teaching schedule, and I have much to prepare.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.