Posts Tagged ‘Paul Cezanne’

The Perpetual Turn of the Crank

August 16, 2020
Sunday Morning Meditations

In precipio creavit Deus caelum et terram . . .

Genesis 1:1 Latin Vulgate

Genesis 1:1 Septuagint

Sunday mornings for me usually mean translating from the biblical texts. Before going into the studio to paint, I decided to do some work on the Genesis creation story, always inspiring to me. On this day I chose to work from the Latin Vulgate alongside the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The opening verses describe how God looked upon a chaotic mass and then spoke a world into order, by degrees. I always think of this when I approach a white rectangle of paper and make my first marks upon it, whether it be strokes from a pencil or a brush. As Robert Motherwell put it, each mark calls out for another, and drawing involves the organization of space. After about an hour of reading, I turned my attention to completing another commission that has been before me for several weeks now.

Just a few more adjustments to complete this work

I always seem to enjoy painting more after spending some time reading early in the morning. Paul Cezanne’s habit was to rise at 4:00 a.m. and read for two hours before painting. I choose not to set an alarm, so my rising from bed usually occurs somewhere between 7 and 8:00. Coffee is made first, then leisure time reading over coffee and recording ideas in the journal. In these simple pleasures I find the greatest joy and satisfaction, the beginnings to a potentially perfect day.

While painting this morning, a passage read recently from Zola’s Masterpiece stayed planted in my mind:

Paris? What were the others doing in Paris? Oh, nothing particularly new, really. Still, they were putting up a pretty good fight to see who would get to the top of the tree first. And, as might be expected, folks who stayed away from Paris were making a sad mistake; Paris was a good place to be in if you didn’t want to be forgotten altogether. But surely talent would out, wherever it was, and didn’t success depend to a great extent on strength of will? Oh, there was no doubt about it that the ideal was to live in the country and pile up masterpieces and then go back to Paris and swamp it with them!

What I am about to write is an example of the kind of stuff I scribble daily in my journals, what Harold Bloom would refer to as “overhearing myself.” Warning to the reader: you might be finished with this blog, and if so, thanks for reading!

Zola was referring to the cadre of artists we now call the French Impressionists as they clustered in Paris, the epicenter of the art world, and tried to make their mark. This reminds me of days long ago, through high school, college, and then later in my early stages of the “emerging artist.” There was that perpetual scramble for recognition–awards in competitions, interviews for newspapers and magazines, public exhibitions in art galleries that continually stirred us all up with ideas and aspirations of fame.

Some years ago, I happily settled down. I no longer chafe at the notion of art being a solitary enterprise. I have always enjoyed solitude, and now I find more satisfaction than ever before with just the mere act of creating, of turning the crank, rather than reaping some reward in the form of public recognition. I still enjoy the company of fellow artists and really miss them now with all this social distancing. But I’ll see them again, soon I hope. In the meantime, I plan to continue enjoying the quiet time in the studio and leisure reading of art history, literature, philosophy or whatever sparks my interest.

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 completed work


Flitting from Painting to Painting

July 11, 2020
In progress watercolor of an abandoned caboose

Maybe I really shall finish it this time, just to show myself I’m not completely hopeless!”

Emile Zola, The Masterpiece

The quote above is the self-deprecating remark of a painter to his writer friend as they looked at one of his canvases in progress. Popular opinion holds that it is Cezanne speaking to his friend Zola. After years of reading about this novel, I am finally reading the work itself and finding it very engaging. I’ve always been interested in the creative synergy between Paul Cezanne and Emile Zola, from their childhood till the rupture of their friendship right after this novel came out. However, despite decades of reading about Cezanne’s work and gazing at it in museums, I have never until now read a word from Zola.

The quote above got my attention this morning because of my own habit of leaving many, many works incomplete. Last month while moving my studio to another room, I finally gathered all my scattered “in progress” watercolors and stacked them in two drawers of a lateral file cabinet. I didn’t count them, but I estimate there are over fifty. When I saw the quantity for the first time all in one place, I recall a jibe I heard once from an acquaintance who was observing my work in the studio: “Dave, do you ever finish anything?”

Maybe I have an Attention Deficit Disorder when it comes to painting. I doubt it though, seeing that I do indeed finish many of my pieces, and do a pretty decent job of pulling one from the stacks that is several years old, and finishing it with renewed interest. At any rate, I started two watercolors on the same day recently, and now decided to move to painting #2 while the fly fisherman remains unfinished in the midst of the stream.

This old wooden caboose is on the property of E & J Smokehouse and Grill at Spirit Ranch in Lubbock. We dined there a few evenings ago while it was cool outside, and afterward strolled the property. The setting sun cast an amazing light on this old car and I’m glad I climbed the hill for a closer look.

The reason I shifted away from the Colorado landscape to this painting is because this morning I was seized with the interest to pursue detailed, painstaking work in watercolor. This is something I definitely have to be in the mood to do. I love the medium of watercolor because it allows me to be splashy and spontaneous as a painter, and at the same time allows me to focus and work more as a serious draftsman. I especially enjoy doing both tasks within the same painting. And so, as I shift between the architectural details on the caboose and the splashy clouds and foliage enveloping the composition, I enjoy feeding both sides of the artistic enterprise.

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.

Quality Studio Time

February 28, 2020

Well, here in New York I cannot live the life I want to. There are too many appointments, too many people to see, and with so much going on I become too tired to paint. But when I am leading the life I like to in Paris, and even more in Spain, my daily schedule is very severe and strict and simple. At six a.m. I get up and have my breakfast–a few pieces of bread and some coffee–and by seven I am at work . . . until noon . . . Then lunch . . . By three I am at work again and paint without interruption until eight . . . Merde! I absolutely detest openings and nearly all parties. They are commercial, “political,” and everyone talks so much. They give me the “willies” . . .

Joan Miró

Quiet Morning in The Gallery at Redlands

As the night stretched into the late hours, I finally fell asleep to the ambient sounds of Union Pacific freights lumbering through downtown Palestine. Taking down my solo show in Dallas had proved to be an all-day affair, and I was exhausted once I finished the two-hour journey to The Gallery at Redlands. It felt terrific to sleep in this classic hotel again, I had been away so long. Waking at four this morning was not my plan, but once the light broke, the gallery downstairs took on that lustrous look that never fails to wake up my imagination.

I am thrilled to return to Palestine, and would like to announce to any of my friends in the area that I will be in the gallery all day and evening Friday and Saturday. I have brought back thirty framed paintings from my Dallas show and have them arranged in the Queen St. Grille across the hall as well as in The Gallery at Redlands. I’m creating new work at the drafting table, and would love to visit if you have the opportunity to stop by.

The quote above by Joan Miró made me smile. I do not detest the social moments the way he did, but when I have control of my own schedule, I love to pursue studio time much the same way as he–I just don’t follow that regiment daily. Having said that, I now lean forward in anticipation of a quality day in the gallery/studio with plenty of time to make art.

Yesterday I closed out my solo show at C C Young Senior Living in Dallas. I’m thrilled that a pair of my framed watercolors found a home. Last week, while painting at the bottom of Ransom Canyon in west Texas, I was surprised when my cell phone went off. C C Young was reaching out to notify me that someone had purchased “Cogar, Oklahoma”.

Cogar, Oklahoma

I painted this back in 2006, and afterward learned that the comical phone booth scene in the movie Rain Man was filmed at this location. After all these years, I am thrilled that the painting has finally found a home.

When I arrived yesterday at C C Young, I learned that someone else had wished to purchase this same painting, and wanted to know if there were copies. As it turns out, yes, I have made limited edition giclees of this piece, the same size as the original. The pleased patron purchased one of my editions.

As I was taking down the show, another gentleman approached me, and expressed his desire to purchase one of my paintings that I have favored over the years because it features me fly fishing in South Fork, Colorado, a place that alway stirs the deepest delight in my memories.

Finding the Seam

Before leaving for Palestine, the director at C C Young invited me to conduct watercolor classes at their facility during the summer. Details will soon follow, but I have been scheduled for weekly classes during the months of June and August. In addition to this, they would like me to conduct some workshops as well. Stay tuned!

Now, in the quiet morning light of The Gallery at Redlands, I return to several paintings in progress. While trying to figure out how to finish the plein air sketch begun at Caprock Canyon last week, I’ve been puzzling over color selections. These comments by Paul Cézanne make sense:

Light cannot be reproduced, but must be represented by something else, color. I was very pleased with myself when I found this out.

Paul Cézanne

Caprock Canyon still in Progress

When I began this 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch, I worked hard to match my colors to what I saw on the distant rocks as the sun began its descent. I thought I had something positive going here, until it dried and I took a look at it later. The dullness I find very unsatisfactory, and looking back over some recent reading from Robert Motherwell’s collected writings brought this to light:

A painter’s pigments are duller than light, forcing a series of substitutions, the brightest pigment becoming the equivalent of the brightest light, analogous structures.

So, it appears that I’ll be devoting a portion of this day to figuring out the “substitutions” necessary to wake up this dull painting of the canyon.

I framed my recent plein air sketch done mostly on location at Ransom Canyon. The frame measures 14 x 11″ and I am offering it for $150.

Ransom Canyon Rhapsody–$150 framed 14 x 11″

I have also added my recent coffe cup composition done in watercolor. I have it in the gallery and am offering it for $75. The frame measures 8 x 10″

Coffee Ruminations, $75, 8 x 10″ framed

Friday has kicked into high gear. I finally replaced all the paintings I took out of the Queen St. Grille for my Dallas show. The rest of the collection is stored here in the hotel. The Gallery at Redlands is still featuring the show of Elaine Jary’s beautiful watercolors. They will remain on view and sale through the Dogwood Festival coming up at the end of March.

Thanks for reading and please check out my website

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with Dave & Paul Cezanne

August 22, 2018


Within the painter, there are two things: the eye and the mind; they must serve each other. The artist must work at developing them mutually: the eye for the vision of nature and the mind for the logic of organized sensations, which provide the means of expression.

Paul Cezanne, quoted in Emile Bernard in “Cezanne’s Opinions,” 1904

Throughout my life, Cezanne’s work washed over my consciousness in successive waves. I was introduced to his work while taking art history as a senior in high school, and recall those days of fixation on one of his Card Players paintings:

cezanne card players

Continuing my study of art history into the college years, I became more aware of his still life arrangements.

cezanne still life

But while teaching the Humanities in my early years as a teacher at Lamar High School, I twice visited the Barnes Foundation while it was traveling, first to the National Gallery in Washington D.C., and later to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. It was during that exhibition that I was smitten for the first time by the work of Cezanne, notably because of this piece:


I was smitten because the oil colors were so rich that the painting, ninety years later, still appeared wet. I also was amazed because I recognized some kind of Arcadian presentation, unlike the natural plein air landscapes or studio nudes of the Impressionist painters of his company. I then wondered what exactly was going on in Cezanne’s imagination to frame such a presentation.

Throughout the nearly three decades of teaching art history in high school, I never gave Cezanne the attention he deserved. I was honest with my class, explaining that he had many theories going on throughout his life, and I never quite understood them, aside from the popular explanations of his attempting to find a relationship between form and color. I believe in that regard I was more honest and direct than Hemingway was in his early Paris years as an emerging writer:

. . . I could walk through the gardens and then go to the Musee du Luxembourg where the great paintings were that have now mostly been transferred to the Louvre and the Jeu de Paume. I went there nearly every day for the Cezannes and to see the Manets and the Monets and the other Impressionists that I had first come to know about in the Art Institute at Chicago. I was learning something 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 have laughed so many times over that passage! I scribbled in the margin of my book: “and you STILL are not articulate enough to explain it!” As for my teaching, I didn’t try to explain what I did not comprehend about Cezanne’s theories. And I will not attempt that this morning. Rather, I just want to share what his work and ideas have come to mean to me in my own pursuits.

Since retiring, I have taken up a number of famous artists in my leisure, grateful for the time and space now provided me to read quietly, reflectively, and not have to scurry about writing lectures and meeting three classes every day. I have taken up Motherwell, Rothko, Newman and Cezanne in these past two years, and poured countless hours into reading their interviews, biographies, criticisms, and poring over their images. Other artists will follow, I am sure, but I chose these particular individuals because they were serious, independent thinkers, not just skilled painters. And the Cezanne quote that opens this blog this morning has arrested my attention. As an artist, I have tried in recent years to focus my mind as well as my eye on the task of painting in watercolor. In studying the works of great artists, I have always been enamored with their talents, but their serious thoughts and constructions of theories have been just as fascinating to me.

While discussing three different ways of studying history in his Untimely Meditations, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche expounded his preference for the “monumentalistic” approach which concentrated on past heroes in order to confront contemporary mediocrity with the possibility of greatness. That has been my practice since finishing graduate school, to fasten my attention on great figures of the past in order to better myself. I like that the graduation exercises are called “Commencement” because I truly believe that a person’s real education commences once s/he crosses the threshold of the stage, diploma or degree in hand. And since my commencement, I have continually sought out the words of visionaries, all the time feeling that I was climbing the mount and approaching the temple to consult the Oracle.

Late in life, after his first one-man show, in 1895, at the age of fifty-six, things began to change. Awestruck young artists would make their way to Aix, as if on a pilgrimage, to seek him out and hear him speak–and if they were very lucky, see him paint. As accounts of these meetings began to leak out, so the word spread. The sayings of Cezanne circulated like the fragments of Heraclitus.

Alex Danchev, Cezanne: A Life

It was not until I read this biography this summer that I learned Cezanne was a serious scholar, rising at 4:00 a.m. and entering his studio by 5:00 to read for at least two hours before going out to paint. He was classically trained, and loved translating Greek and Latin texts. I was fascinated to read of his fixation on Virgil and Horace, and his ability to quote them in their original tongues, from memory. As a lover of Greek, I had always hoped that my hours spent translating would in some way feed my artistic eye as well. Now, I receive encouragement to continue from Cezanne.

During my senior years, not only have I fastened my attention on the words of famous artists, seeking some kind of Oracle to direct my own efforts, but I have also returned to nature to look at it with fresh eyes in an attempt to come up with a theory or method to capture what I see and place it on paper. I was delighted to read Cezanne’s encouragement to study the masters but always give priority to nature:

The Louvre is the book in which we learn to read. We should not, however, content ourselves with retaining the beautiful formulas of our illustrious predecessors. Let’s take leave of them to study beautiful nature, let’s undertake to disengage our minds from them, let’s seek to express ourselves in accordance with our personal temperaments. Time and reflection, moreover, modify vision little by little, and finally comprehension comes to us.

Paul Cezanne, letter to Emile Bernard, 1905

As he discussed his pilgrimage to Cezanne’s hometown of Aix-en-Provence and his trek to Mont Sainte Victoire, Martin Heidegger remarked: “These days in Cezanne’s home country are worth more than a whole library of philosophy books. If only one could think as directly as Cezanne painted.” While traveling to New Mexico and Colorado this summer, I managed to finish the book Cezanne: A Life, by Alex Danchev. And it was Cezanne’s influence that moved me to spend an entire day on the cabin deck in South Fork, Colorado and do nothing but study and experiment with watercolor, rendering the evergreen trees that were bathed in that splendid Rocky Mountain atmosphere.

I painted “on the motif” (Cezanne’s favorite expression about painting en plein air). And as I gazed at the evergreens in the changing light and intermittently fed the birds and chipmunks that gathered on my deck, I eventually developed some experimental steps to painting trees as I had never tried before in watercolor. Below is the page of my journal that I scribbled on August 5 at 2:34 p.m.:


s painting 6

s painting 4

s painting 1



Because Cezanne was absorbed with blue pigments in his rendering of atmosphere, I experimented with blues that I had not used with much frequency before: Winsor Blue (Green Shade), Winsor Blue (Red Shade), Indanthrene Blue, Cobalt Blue, Phthalo Turquoise, Prussian Blue, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Antwerp Blue and Payne’s Gray. Previously, I had only worked with blue in my skies, and a little with color mixing. But I had never worked so much with blues in and around my green palette. I was truly in a different zone, and now that I have returned to Texas, am looking forward to experimenting further with this.

I just finished my first day in Logic class, and so marks the transition into my university duties. I have three courses this semester, but two are online, so I won’t have to invest as much in travel time and lecture writing. I believe focusing on logic will be a good thing, as I work to organize my mind as well as my eye and continue in this artistic enterprise. Reading always thrills me, but so does picking up the brush.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Musing with Cezanne: Focus on the Pine

July 30, 2018

There would be other trees, but his first love was the pine. For Cezanne, the pine itself was a lieu de memoire, a memory place, redolent with mythology, packed with history, and charged with feeling. 

Alex Danchev, Cezanne: A Life

cezanne pine

Cezanne, “Large Pine and Red Earth”

This Large Pine and Red Earth is more than a tree: it is a personality. It is also a vision. Cezanne painted the treeness of the tree, as Kandinsky said. The branches are twisted or contorted; the foliage shimmers.

Alex Danchev, Cezanne: A Life

pine photo

This is my third consecutive summer at Riverbend Resort in South Fork, Colorado. I have been coming to this place since 1999, but am now on my sixth visit. My favorite place to reside is the Brookie Cabin with this view from the deck overlooking the stream. And every year, my time has been divided deliciously between fly fishing in the stream and plein air painting from this deck.

In 2016, I spent every sunrise on this deck, with fresh coffee, reading essays from Martin Heidegger and translating Greek Pre-Socratic fragments. Every time I looked up from my reading, I was smitten with this rugged pine in front of me, the rusty-red texture of its bark, and its needles against a hazy mountain backdrop. Finally, I attempted a 5×7″ plein air watercolor sketch of it. Liking what I saw, I framed and matted it, and before I knew it, the painting had become the property of someone else. In all my years, I have never regretted a sale, but in the two years passing, I have regretted letting this one go.

pine 2016

And so it happens, I’ve been reading this Cezanne biography, and learned that the pine was his favorite tree, for many of the same reasons that I have been so smitten with this solitary Colorado pine from the past three summers. As is my custom, I’ve spent nearly every morning on the Brookie deck this visit, with my coffee and books, and have decided to give this painting another try.

pine me

I have spent the past two mornings working on this 9×12″ plein air composition. I always quit once the sun gets high enough that the bark loses its intense color. When painting en plein air, I usually work quickly, completing an 8×10″ composition within the hour. But this one is different. Like Cezanne, Leonardo da Vinci, and Willem de Kooning, I am now spending many minutes between brushstrokes, and often laying the painting on the deck floor to look at from time to time while reading and sipping coffee. I guess you could say I am composting. This painting is coming along very slowly, but every layer, every brushstroke, and every pencil stroke is studied. And I am greatly enjoying this process.


Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Thoughts Meandering between Nostalgia and the Present

June 21, 2018

white sands

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

The places we have known do not belong only to the world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; the memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.

Proust, Swann’s Way

Nearly three hundred pages into Cezanne: A Life, by Alex Danchev, I’m completely absorbed by this intense artist’s life of painting. Cezanne certainly personifies the “driven” artist, and I’ve uncovered a host of amazing facts I never knew about the man and his ideas, though I’ve read about him since I was in high school. Last week while visiting the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, I thought of Cezanne’s fixation while painting Mont Sainte-Victoire. My feeble attempt to render the sand dunes at sundown with the San Andreas range behind them made me smile. I believe Cezanne attempted his mountain sixty times, and here I was, expecting something grand with my initial attempt.

However, I have been immersed in Cezanne’s theories of mountain painting, and have been reading of Martin Heidegger’s repeated visits to Cezanne’s home town and treks to Mont Sainte-Victoire as well as his writings about the mountain experience, and I have engaged in some serious mountain sketches of my own, beginning with my recent visit to Cloudcroft, New Mexico. In time, I plan to launch these activities and musings onto my blog.

Reading of Cezanne’s break with his lifelong friend Emile Zola was sobering, though. And the timing of this reading was poignant. A few days ago, I chose to unfriend over 150 people who were on my Facebook. I’m not going into the details here, but I’m sure it comes as no surprise to any reader that it was over politics; America is as deeply divided now as I’ve ever known her to be. I made a decision to eliminate scores of daily negative postings on my Facebook timeline, and in the days since, have thoroughly enjoyed a sunnier climate of expressions. I am working now to return to what I prefer writing and posting–art and daily musings.

The Proust quote above crossed my radar this morning while reading of the Cezanne/Zola split and I’m going to try now to put this into words. As Proust pointed out, our past experiences have been stitched together to create the complex individuals we find ourselves to be in the present. And when we find ourselves awash in those memories, we know the gratitude of warm memories as well as the melancholia of knowing those moments remain no longer, except in memory. When I discovered Facebook some years back, I felt genuine gratitude when over a hundred friends from high school and college came onto my page. Many of them I have had the privilege of re-visiting in person and enjoying warm conversation that included plenty of reminiscences. And, in line with Proust, that is how I choose to remember those friends, with grateful stories of things we encountered long ago. Unfortunately, it has to end there. The daily flow on Facebook of belittling discourse and political intolerance is not what improves my life, and I reached the conclusion that it would only be these kinds of postings waiting to greet me every day when I pulled up my page. So, I made my decision and there is no looking back, only forward.

My blog will still go to Facebook, and it won’t be political. And, as I’ve written before, my friend Wayne White and I only hope that readers will feel good when they read our musings. The world has too much hatred and vitriol already. It doesn’t need to hear that from us.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


Closing out the Art Festival

May 28, 2017


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


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,


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.