Posts Tagged ‘Paul Gauguin’

Clarity of Mind

June 21, 2015
My Thoughts are Still at the Laguna Madre

My Thoughts are Still at the Laguna Madre

Hilary Spurling, in her magnificent two-volume biography of Henri Matisse, pointed out that he traveled to exotic places for the same reason as Eugene Delacroix before him–to cleanse the eye. He also took his cues from Paul Gauguin in his visits to Tahiti. Spurling wrote that Matisse’s year in Tahiti led to “clarity of mind”. This is what I am hoping to experience, compliments of a week spent on the spoil island in the Texas Laguna Madre. The quiet, the space, the ability to paint daily unhindered, with no appointments–all of these added up to a terrific week of watercolor output, plenty of journaling and blogging, and my eye was never weary of what surrounded me.

Now that I have been back home for a week, I desire to compost this island experience and translate it into worthy writing and a collection of paintings. Currently, I am carrying with me the Hemingway wistfulness from his book A Moveable Feast–“Maybe away from Paris I could write about Paris as in Paris I could write about Michigan.” My mind is locked on the Laguna Madre, and daily in my journal, new ideas are pouring out, whose seeds were sown that week. The only aggravation I’m experiencing is my return to these demanding appointments that try to make me think of other things. I just finished 32 hours of A.P. training for Art History, which was a daily grind last week, and tomorrow I face a three-day (all-day) conference for A.V.I.D. training in Dallas. As I came home whupped every day last week from T.C.U., I anticipate coming home everyday this next week from Dallas, whupped. And throughout these days, voices will be hammering in my ears, urging me to think on a different objective than the one that owns my heart and will right now.

Realistically, nothing we achieve is performed under ideal circumstances. We give our best, working as best we can with what is given us. So, I guess I’ll just suck it up, and do what I can these next three days. BUT!!!!! Beginning Thursday, my calendar is completely clear for a few weeks. And I’ll certainly be ready to churn out some serious “island stuff” once I am free of all these appointments. There. I feel better already.

Thanks for reading (and listening to the whining).

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Taking Whitman Onto the Open Road

March 17, 2014
Plein Air Sketch in Portland, Texas

Plein Air Sketch in Portland, Texas

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

 

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,

Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,

Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,

Strong and content I travel the open road.

Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road”

There is a reason for my recent hiatus in blog posting.  Spring Break arrived and I drove south to Portland, Texas, adjacent to Corpus Christi.  Whitman’s poem flooded my heart with joy as I made the 6 1/2 hour road trip down state highway 77 (avoiding the Interstate), meandering my way through small towns and rolling prairie all the way.  I was scheduled to teach a two-day watercolor workshop there, and decided to spend a couple of extra days learning important details about custom framing and matting from Mike Catlin of Bowman Design and Framing.  Time spent there was filled with adventure, and I met ten new friends who took the workshop with me.  Above, I posted a small watercolor sketch I worked on during the final day.  We were scheduled for plein air activity that day, but the sun was overcast all morning and the rain was intermittent throughout the afternoon.  So, we took our easels just outside the gallery and painted/sketched as we could.  I had to bring my sketch in twice out of the rain before finishing it.  I worked on a flower-filled bush with a dramatic gnarled tree twisting upward behind it.  Time spent on it was relaxing, and I enjoyed plenty of laughter and conversations with the workshop participants as they all took joy in their painting.

More Watercolor Work while in Portland, Texas

More Watercolor Work while in Portland, Texas

Between sessions, I found some time to continue work on this large Hermann, Missouri painting that I have been chipping at for over a week now.  I spent most of my time darkening the lower left-hand portion of the composition and adding texture to the brick on the side of the main building.

Bowman Design and Framing, Portland, Texas

Bowman Design and Framing, Portland, Texas

Our workshop was held inside and outside of Bowman Gallery, pictured here.  I also learned a great deal about framing and presentation, thanks to Mike’s patience and willingness to demonstrate.  The facility offered fine studio space for quality work after business hours as well.

A Quiet Evening's Walk along the Coast

A Quiet Evening’s Walk along the Coast

On one of the evenings, after a few hours of painting in the studio (I’ll post that pair of paintings when I get further along with them–the subject is saltwater flies for fishing), I took a long, satisfying walk along the coast.  The water’s edge is only about 200 yards from the studio, and I found the vistas positively delicious.  There was a gentle, humid breeze blowing and the evening was unusually quiet for one who’s grown too accustomed to life in the suburbs.  I found a quiet place to nest for awhile and enjoyed reading from the writings of Paul Gauguin.  I am nearly finished with The Writings of a Savage.  

Today finds me back in school, rested enough to return to the weekly routine.  I’ll be forever grateful to Mike Catlin and Dinah Bowman for offering me the workshop this past week.

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 a Winter Midwestern Town

March 11, 2014
Resumption of the Hermann, Missouri watercolor

Resumption of the Hermann, Missouri watercolor

But at the same time this question arises and I am perplexed: where does the painting of a picture begin and where does it end?  At the instant when extreme feelings are merging in the deepest core of one’s being, at the instant when they burst and all one’s thoughts gush forth like lava from a volcano, doesn’t the suddenly created work erupt, brutally perhaps, but in a grand and apparently superhuman way?  Reason’s cold calculations have not led to this eruption; but who can say exactly when the work was begun in one’s heart of hearts?  Perhaps it is unconscious.

Paul Gauguin, letter to Monfreid, Autust 15, 1989, Papeete

I’ve poured a ton of energy into the watercolors today, and am starting to feel the fatigue.  So, I believe I’ll let this painting lie as it is for awhile.  There is always tomorrow.  This particular work leaves me feeling as though I’m working a jigsaw puzzle.  I’m starting to get lost in all the interlocking pieces.  I spent most of today’s efforts on the left side, working on the cupola and foliage.  I also added more pieces to the developing town at center right.  But my eyes are starting to say “Enough.”

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.

Bait Shop Watercolor Finished

March 11, 2014
Completed Bait Shop Watercolor

Completed Bait Shop Watercolor

Reading allows me to be in communion with other people without having to mingle with the crowd, which always frightens me.  It is one of the adornments of my solitude.

Paul Gauguin, letter to Andre  Fontainas, August 1899, Tahiti

The day began deliciously at 6:00 with plenty of quality studio time.  Then 9:00 came, businesses opened, and I had to take my Jeep to a couple of establishments for some routine maintenance.  Unfortunately, the wait was long.  Fortunately, I brought my Gauguin, Writings of a Savage.  Good thing too–I spent more than two hours sitting in reception areas, waiting for work to be completed.  I found Gauguin’s writings very engaging, and didn’t fret the long wait hours.

After two more stops beyond Jeep maintenance, I finally got back home to my studio and picked up the brush a final time, finishing this watercolor.  It’s been satisfying.  The painting started very badly, and finished alright.  I’m pleased.  Now, I turn my attention to the large Hermann, Missouri composition.  What a satisfying Spring Break!

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 Late into the Spring Night

March 10, 2014
Painting Late into the Night

Painting Late into the Night

As best we could, we have just pointed out and then explained color as living matter; like the body of a living being.  Now we must talk about its soul, that elusive fluid which by means of intelligence and the heart has created so much and stirred so much–about color that helps our imagination to soar, opening a new door onto mystery and the infinite. We cannot explain it, but perhaps indirectly, by using a comparison, we can suggest its language.

Paul Gauguin, “Miscellaneous Things,” from The Writings of a Savage

This night is getting late, but I am enjoying the mix of reading from Gauguin and exploring color in this small 8 x 10″ watercolor.  Funny how I feel that the older I get, the less I know about color, even though I seem to be learning things at a much faster pace than when I was younger.  In a few days, I’ll teach a watercolor workshop, and already wonder how much these new discoveries will disrupt my comfort zone as a teacher.  That is no doubt a silly anxiety.  We are all in pursuit of improvement, and just need the constant reminder that teachers aren’t expected to know it all.  The truly educated never graduate.  I am, for all practical purposes, still a student, and an enthusiastic one at that.

So far, this Spring Break has provided a delicious respite from the daily grind.  It is pure joy to soak up the quiet of the studio late at night, to enjoy reading, to enjoy chipping away at a watercolor.  Life is good.

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.

Spring Break and Time for Quality Reflection

March 10, 2014
Using Spring Break to Catch up on some Watercolor Endeavors

Using Spring Break to Catch up on some Watercolor Endeavors

My God, what childish things will be found in these pages, written either for personal entertainment or for the sake of classifying favorite if somewhat foolish ideas, rather than trusting a poor memory, and so many rays reaching to the vital center of my art.  But if a work of art were a work of chance, all these notes would be almost useless.

I don’t think it happens like that at all.  I believe that the line of thought which has guided my work, or part of it, is very mysteriously linked to a thousand others, either my own or those heard from other people.

Paul Gauguin, Noa Noa 

Yesterday I celebrated the beginning of my Spring Break from school, spending about six hours reading from Paul Gauguin’s journals as well as writing in my own.  My own journals date from 1985, and have grown to about 120 volumes.  I still go back and re-read them, finding plenty of junk, but also plenty of quality quotes and ideas that would have been forgotten (amazing at how much we fail to retain in our memories over the years).  My personal journals are my own thoughts co-mingled with what I read and experience in daily life.  Reading back over them reminds me of connections between writers, artists, musicians and philosophers that I have forged from my own perspective.  One thing hasn’t changed through the years–I still journal in an attempt to find myself and determine what I want to do in this life.  The journals have been my greatest source for teaching in the public schools and universities, and have also helped me come to grips with this artist quest that consumes me.

I am re-posting the large watercolor that I resumed during the last week of school, glad now for an opportunity to poke at it without a daily schedule to obey.  It would be wonderful to finish it this week, but I have my doubts about that.  I am enjoying the slowness of its development, intrigued at the possibilites that emerge with each successive stroke of the brush or pencil.  Truly, the process of creating a watercolor excites me far more than looking at the finished product.

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.

The Nightingale’s Song

March 10, 2014
Revisiting an earlier start on a Texas Coast Bait Shop

Revisiting an earlier start on a Texas Coast Bait Shop

A given arrangement of colors, lights, and shadows produces an impression.  This is what we might call the music of the painting.  Often you are seized by that magical harmony before you even know what the subject of a painting is, as when you enter a cathedral and are too far away from the painting to make it out clearly.

Paul Gauguin, Miscellaneous Things” from The Writings of a Savage

This afternoon, I returned to a watercolor abandoned a few months ago.  I abandoned it because it started out badly.  The reason I chose the composition was because I was enchanted with the abundance of blue tones I found on site when I took the photograph.  And I was confident that I could solve the overall blue composition.  But the painting went south in a hurry, and I tossed it aside in disgust.

Oftentimes, I’ll look at a discarded work repeatedly as months go by, and sometimes I’ll give the composition a second chance.  This is one of those times.  Taking my lead from Paul Gauguin, I am trying to bring out the “music” in the subject that so captured my fancy last November when I was on the coast.  I am more pleased with how the painting is shaping up today, and think I’ll stay with it some more.  Sometimes I find a way to rescue a painting that starts out badly.  Maybe this will happen again.  At any rate, I’m not attached to it, so we’ll see what happens.

Yesterday, while reading Gauguin’s journals (I’m nearly 200 pages into them now, and astounded at his erudition and vision), I came across his criticism of the French Impressionists for relying on the eye more than the intellect.  In the final analysis, he dismissed much of their work as merely “the song of the nightingale.”  This prompted me to revisit Hans Christian Andersen’s 1844 story “The Nightingale.”  As I read, I sighed at the thought that in my studio, my works of art are strewn about, and outside my window, the nightingale of Art sings a sublime music that lifts my soul to another level, much like in the Andersen fable.  For years in my study of art history, I have distinguished Art from works of art.  Our landscape is strewn with works of art, and all those creators had one thing in common: they were striving to create Art.  We fashion singing nightingales, but are always moved at the song of the real one just outside the window.

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.

I Would Rather Be Fly Fishing

April 5, 2012

I Would Rather Be Fly Fishing

Again, I admit a blog hiatus.  After last weekend’s three-day art festival, I was exhausted, returning to school at 7:35 the next morning, still ill from the allergy symptoms suffered last week, and totally run-down. I’ve spent most of this week in school and in bed, with little in between.

Two days ago, tornadoes destroyed over 400 homes in my city, coming within 1/4 mile of my house.  Surrounded by destruction, and looking at the faces of many of my students who have lost their homes, I’m devastated at this turn of fortune.  There is no describing the loss that I see all around me now.  There is so much pain.

I think I have finished this watercolor sketch that I began while in my booth at the last festival (Kennedale’s Art in the Park).  While my Art I students are finishing an assignment before sailing into the three-day weekend, I’ve been at my desk fiddling with it.  I changed the color of my shirt in order to make me stick out a little more.  Also I darkened and salted the water more for contrast and drybrushed lightly more weeds about my feet and landing net.  More tree foliage needed to be drybrushed as well.  I think I have done about all I can.  The setting of this sketch is Troublesome Creek, northwest of Denver, and east of the town of Kremmling.  The creek flows into the Colorado River.  Trophy trout cruise those waters, and I have pulled out dozens of them–rainbows, brookies, cutthroats and browns.  I even hit a grandslam the last time I visited there (all four species caught in the same day).

Soon, I hope to pursue a series of watercolors on the fly fishing theme.  I have dozens and dozens of digital photos on file that I have taken over the years during my own excursions to Colorado, north Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas in search of trout.  I am looking over a museum catalog I purchased on Winslow Homer’s fly fishing watercolors.  I attended that show when it came to Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum, and saw another major retrospective of his watercolors at the Art Institute of Chicago a few years ago.  I need to  devote more time to studying his techniques.

I miss Colorado so much that I ache.  It has been two summers since I last enjoyed those mountain streams and the thrill of painting the front range.  I wish to God I could get there this summer, but I’ll have to wait and see.

Tomorrow I will visit Malakoff, Texas for the first time and experiment with some plein air painting.  I am thrilled to have been invited to teach a two-day workshop there next Thursday and Friday.  I’m going there tomorrow to “scout” the town so I can know in advance what kind of landmarks my workshop participants can sketch in watercolor.  I really hope to meet some of the participants tomorrow when I get there.

Though I have been under the weather for a considerable time (and doing very little blogging) I have been immersed in the writings of Paul Gauguin (The Writings of a Savage).  I don’t have the itch to go to Tahiti, but I would love to adopt his “savage” lifestyle in the mountains of Colorado, if only I could go there for awhile.  I have no foolish ideas about living off the land and the trout I catch–I would be satisfied with canned goods.  But I would love to study the color and light there, the mountains, rock formations, streams and Aspens.  I really need to find new directions in my work.  I hate it when I feel that I am doing “hack” work, whipping out watercolors for the trade.  I’m only happy when I’m a student of this craft, always learning new things.

Thanks for reading.

 

New Year’s Day with Coffee, Andrew Wyeth and Watercolor Sketching

January 1, 2012

Wyeth Studies

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape–the loneliness of it–the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it–the whole story doesn’t show.  (Andrew Wyeth, 1987)

Though I have left the Oklahoma wilderness behind, my mind’s eye still sees the winter trees that filled my imagination the past few days.  Today was a good quiet day for putting on the coffeepot, opening a stack of large Andrew Wyeth volumes, sketching with pencil and finally attempting a drybrush sketch of autumn or winter trees.

This image posted is the beginning attempt of some gnarled trees I examined closely in one of my larger “coffee table” Andrew Wyeth books.  Again, taking a lead from Xie He’s Six Canons (mentioned in the previous post and marvelously researched and posted by one of my devoted readers) I am attempting to work directly from Andrew Wyeth drybrush illustrations and extract the essence of his dense forest renderings.  Yesterday while looking into an Oklahoma forest, I noted how the trees stood out in light relief against a dense and dark neutral background of foliage and atmosphere.  As the day progressed, I watched those tree trunks and limbs wax brighter as their backdrop waned in the setting sun.  I wanted to stop and sketch the scene then, but I had camp appointments intruding and chose to meet my appointments.

Today however, I am fascinated with the idea of drybrush and pencil renderings of tree bark showing up lightly against a darker, denser background of tangled and confusing foliage.  So, I chose to lay in the background first, and it is now so wet and soupy that I fear I’ll be waiting about an hour or more before I can lay my hand on the page and begin the detailed renderings of the tree textures (dinner perhaps?).

Among my resolutions this year is the notion of studying abstract compositions and applying what I have learned to my current representational watercolor subjects.  For years I painted abstract acrylic compositions on canvas, and once I turned to watercolor, I ditched those compositions in favor of copying representations as faithfully as I could.  For years I have been aware of how successful artists seemed to have the knack for doing abstract work within the confines of their representational scenes.  And I have undoubtedly done that with reference to tree foliage.   But now I would like to look at overall composition in abstract fashion and see if I can push my watercolors in a new direction by applying abstract principles of design to my paintings.  We’ll see how that one pans out.

While working in my studio in the back of the house today, I have been playing and replaying a video of “Paul Gauguin: The Savage Dream” produced by the National Gallery of Art in Washington D. C.  What a sad, sad human being!  I have often been haunted by those feelings of torment and have tried to reject the label “temperamental artist.”  Granted my feelings have been worn on the sleeve more often than not, I still have always hoped to find a way to cope with life even when it is beset by disappointments.  Again, I feel that these are worries that have a way of surfacing during the holidays and opening the New Year, and again I need to find a way to work through them.

In closing I wish to share something precious from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “The American Scholar.”  This has lifted me for a couple of decades now.  Though I assume he speaks of the writer, I find this tribute applicable to anyone who creates, no matter what avenue is employed:

The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It came to him, short-lived actions; it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought.

 

Thanks for reading.