Posts Tagged ‘Pepsi’

Painting a Moving Target in Still Life

January 18, 2013
Completed 8 x 10" Still Life of Pepsi Carrier

Completed 8 x 10″ Still Life of Pepsi Carrier

“‘The truth, to be sure,’ [Nietzsche] once wittily put it, ‘can stand on one leg; but with two it will walk and get around.’  He was persuaded that there is no such thing as an absolute Truth, and that even in dealing with limited ‘truths’ the philosopher’s first task is to lift each one up and turn it around, like a stone, to see what might be lurking underneath.  And it was what lay below, in the inner depths of each spoken or written ‘truth’, that interested Nietzsche far more than the patent, superficial, often deceptive surface.”

Curtis Cate

Last night I wrote about my recent dual interest in focusing on one subject in a composition and in exploring the quality of the zone that lies between the highlights and the shadows.  I read with amusement the quote posted above, about Nietzsche’s conviction that Truth was something on the move, rather than static.  It reminded me of graduate school days, when I read with considerable interest the theological contributions of Karl Barth, who said that speaking of God was like painting a bird in flight.  You can only follow the movement with your eye, but you cannot arrest it.  And so, this afternoon as I finished up another small (8 x 10″) still life in watercolor, I immediately turned my attention to my next subject, and how I could work on these two new areas involving accents and half-lights.

I enjoyed the past two evenings, working on the watercolor posted above, and am anxious to learn new things with the next endeavor. I’m thankful that school is out now for a three-day weekend.  I need some time to explore

Thanks for reading.

“Thinking Out my Pictures” during the Hiatus

January 17, 2013
22 x 28" Charcoal Still Life from 10th Grade

22 x 28″ Charcoal Still Life from 10th Grade

“What are you doing, Mr. Hopper?”

“I’m thinking out my next picture.”

(Fellow artist asking Edward Hopper what he was doing, as he was spotted wandering aimlessly around Washington Square in Greenwich Village)

I didn’t paint or post to the blog yesterday.  A late-afternoon conversation at my school gave me much to think over, and I had a heavy academic load of classes to prepare for today, so all I managed yesterday were thoughts and musings about what I am trying to accomplish now with my art.  Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth (two heroes of mine) spent hours and days “composting” between paintings, and always believed that what they pondered would seep into their compositions in some fashion.

“Look until you become fascinated; trust that you will see something. If you learn to wait, the objects will slowly sink into your consciousness and they will acquire a significance that can be measured in color and feeling…”

–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It was said that Edward Hopper carried this quote scribbled on a piece of paper in his pocket as he walked about.

I have posted above a charcoal still life that I set up in my bedroom while in high school.  The Art I and Art II classes featured still life drawing on a large scale, and I always wanted to work on one at my own leisure, even if it was set up on my desk at home for weeks or even months.  The art teachers let me take these objects out of their massive storage collection and bring them to the house for this project.  I would work on this composition in the afternoons and evenings after school, with my bedroom door closed, and Crosby, Stills, Nash spinning on the turntable (I still love “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”!).

My bedroom I shared with my younger brother, and so at night, I would lie on the top bunk bed and look down on my desk, half-lit by the hallway light streaming through our half-closed bedroom door.  The play of light and shadows fascinated me, but more than that, the dynamic of what was happening between the highlights and deep shadows–how would an artist render those zones lying in the half-light?

Leonardo da Vinci recorded the following from his ever-fertile imagination:

Remember: betwixt light and murk there is something intermediate, dual, belonging equally to the one and the other, a light shade, as it were, or a dark light.  Seek it, O artist: in it lies the secret of captivating beauty. . . . Beware of the coarse and the abrupt.  Let your shading melt away, like smoke, like the sounds of distant music!

I titled this post “Thinking Out my Pictures” because I have been preoccupied with two matters in the past twenty-four hours, while not painting.  One is this notion of half-light, a transitional gloom hovering between highlights and deep shadows.  I was taught that Michelangelo Caravaggio made use of tenebrism, a dramatic shift from extreme dark to light in order to capture attention from the viewer across the room. Leonardo, on the other hand, worked subtly between the lights and the darks, in a soft-focus effect.

In my recent observations of Andrew Wyeth watercolors, I have been intrigued by his dim interiors, where the overall composition is dark and low-contrast, allowing only a few accentuated objects to capture the light.  This is what I have wanted to accomplish, but so far, it isn’t happening.  I’m still trying to find a way there.

The second observation that has been holding my attention recently is this notion of focusing on one feature in a still life, and letting the peripheral objects melt away, either out-of-focus, or partially painted, or merely sketched in, or something–I want to find a way to focus on one particular object, and let the others support the composition, rather than fight for attention with all their details and contrasting colors.  Always in paintings, I have gotten lost in a myriad of details, wanting to capture all of them.  All the objects vie for my attention, and the viewers as well, so it seems.  This second observation got my attention because I’ve been reading from The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell, and I was fascinated with his citation of Alfred North Whitehead and Henri Matisse on this subject.  From Whitehead, he quotes:

Abstraction is a  form of emphasis, expressing what one wants to without being involved in everything else.

Then from Matisse:

Superfluous details would, in the mind of the beholder, encroach upon the essential elements.

Henry Adams echoed my sentiments when he wrote the following about Andrew Wyeth and his drybrush compositions:

While in my mind I know that [Wyeth’s] reputation rests primarily on his remarkable tempera paintings, I have always personally responded less powerfully to them than to his drawings and studies—particularly to the studies that don’t attempt to cover the whole surface of the paper as in a conventional watercolor, but instead focus on a few elements, so that the image seems to emerge magically from the empty white paper, rather like a photograph that we observe in the process of development.

So, tonight in the Man Cave, I continue to pick away at the 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch I started night-before-last.  I’m not sure that I’m giving this composition my undivided attention–the details of today’s classes are still flooding my memory with good things worth saving.   I also have the TV/VCR playing old Woody Allen films (“Interiors” is now playing), and I’m mulling over in my mind these ideas about the half-light and the need to focus on just one object in a composition.  Meanwhile my eye keeps moving over these objects before me, and my hand keeps reaching for brushes, pencils, sandpaper, salt, spritz bottle, towel, etc.  I’m having a good time out here tonight.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll close with a few pictures of what’s happening in the Man Cave:

Pepsi carrier close up

Pepsi Carrier Thursday night

Man cave Pepsi carrier from above


Painting Past Bedtime Again

January 15, 2013
Painting a Still Life Late on a School Night

Painting a Still Life Late on a School Night

Good evening, once more.  I don’t have anything of substance to write at this time tonight.  I’m laying down the brush and taking some books to bed to give reading a chance.  But I am happy with how this still life is shaping up, and wanted to share it with anyone who has time to take a look.

Thanks for looking.

Six Still-Life Subjects in Search of a Painter

January 14, 2013
The Beginnings of a Small Watercolor Still Life

The Beginnings of a Small Watercolor Still Life

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travelers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

With temperatures outside dipping to 34 degrees, I find the Man Cave still tolerable, as long as I wear this hoodie, and keep pouring the coffee.

I left this blog last Wednesday, boarding Amtrak on the following day to St. Louis to spend the night at my sister’s house, then drove four hours north to Hamilton, Illinois to say Good-bye to my friend Steve Mullins.  The funeral was difficult, but much love and comfort were offered, and I had the opportunity to visit once again with some whom I had not seen in over forty years.  Then it was time to return to St. Louis, board the train for the 16-hour trek back home and sleep a little before returning to classes today.  After an exhausting afternoon spent preparing for tomorrow’s classes, I finished my work around 8:30 tonight and decided it was time to re-enter the studio, set up a new still life arrangement, lay down the preliminary drawing, throw down some watercolor washes and hopefully find time to post a new blog.  And of course, the entire time I labored (played, really) over this task, my mind moved down a number of scattered paths.

I borrowed the title of this post from a 1921 Italian play by Luigi Pirandello–“Six Characters in Search of an Author.”  In the play, a director struggles to manipulate six unfinished characters seeking an author to finish their story.  As I search for a new still life arrangement to paint, I realize that I myself am also working to manipulate the pieces of my own life, my job, my relations with others, and now the sorting out of feelings and memories surrounding the friend we just buried.  Steve and I produced a plethora of scattered fragments–stories, shared wisdom, life observations–waiting now for an author, waiting for direction, for placement, for meaning.  As I work on still life arrangements, drawings and paintings, plenty of memories blister to the surface of the hours Steve and I spent in the studios of our high school, the makeshift studios in our bedrooms during those high school years, and then the university studios in later years.  We spent plenty of late weeknights together in the painting studio on the third floor of Baldwin Hall at Northeast Missouri State University.  Those memories are giving me comfort and warmth in the midst of this cold night in the Man Cave.

Thoreau wrote above about losing something earlier in life, and of his struggle to recover it.  None of us know what it was that he lost, and I suppose it is just as well–it makes it easier for us to pour ourselves into the subject he addressed.  There are plenty of things I have lost in my past, and have sought to recover in the succeeding years.  But I suppose we all are doing that–arranging, interpreting, re-arranging, re-interpreting our memories, priorities, life pursuits, and, oh yes, those New Year Resolutions.  So many floating, fleeting, flickering synapses of thought seeking order, meaning.  Six Characters in Search of an Author.

Thanks for reading.  I’m grateful to be back in the studio tonight, grateful for an opportunity to put my thoughts on the page, and grateful to know that someone else will read this and connect in some way.

Watercoloring a Custom Bamboo Flyrod with Thougths of Hemingway

December 17, 2012
Vintage Fly Fishing

Vintage Fly Fishing

Soon I’ll be posting new images of watercolor sketches and drybrush attempts done over the weekend involving kerosene lanterns, vintage suitcases and coffee cans.  Tonight in the Man Cave I have chosen to focus on this vintage fly rod I began sketching last week.  A Colorado man gave this gift to me years ago.  He was an amazing Renaissance man–fishing guide, horseman, farrier and story-teller.  His equestrian ranch and bed-and-breakfast businesses took him completely away from fly fishing, so I he gave me two custom bamboo rods made for his father and him back in the 1940’s, along with an assortment of fiberglass fly rods and vintage reels.  I leaned one of his rigs against this Pepsi case and immediately got lost in all the dynamics of it.

Reading the Hemingway biography over the weekend by Carlos Baker has also been enlightening.  I am amazed at the theories spun by Hemingway in the company of Ezra Pound and Sherwood Anderson.  Reading those while perusing drybrush illustrations by Andrew Wyeth, and then turning to the sketchbook and watercolor field box has had my head spinning for several days.  As I posted earlier, rainbow trout are already being stocked near where I live here in Texas.  It looks as though I may have to wait until Saturday or Sunday, but I have my own fly fishing gear, waders and boots packed, and I’m ready to get out there.  But until then, I’ll keep chipping away at this 8 x 10″ watercolor and see what emerges.  I’m already excited over the possibilities.

Only four more days of school left until we leave for the holidays.  I really hope I have a surge in watercolor interest when there is the time to pursue it then.

Thanks for reading.