Posts Tagged ‘pine cones’

Striving After an Andrew-Wyeth Kind of Drybrush Watercolor

April 25, 2013
Working on a Wyeth-style Still Life in the Man Cave

Working on a Wyeth-style Still Life in the Man Cave

Trying to Emulate Andrew Wyeth wtih a Watercolor Still Life

Trying to Emulate Andrew Wyeth with a Watercolor Still Life

I paint so I’ll have something to look at.

Barnett Newman

Since high school, I have loved looking at Andrew Wyeth’s drybrush watercolor sketches and pencil drawings of a World War I German helmet inverted and filled with pine cones.  Some years back, I purchased this pail from a friend who deals in antiques, filled it with pine cones, and tried two small watercolors of it at the foot of a tree.  Neither painting satisfied me (apparently not the buyers either–I still have both of them).  But since I’ve set up the studio in garage and started spending more time in it, I have gazed at this pail of cones sitting in front of this dark door, and often wondered why I was not trying to paint it more seriously.

Last night I sketched it out and laid down a few basic washes, but was too sleepy to go any further.  Coming home from school this afternoon, I had more energy and went after it with more focus  I did much more drawing, and tried to put some detail into the pine cones as well as deepen and layer the washes on the door behind.  I still have a long way to go, but at least I feel that I have this one underway now.

Thanks for reading.

I paint to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Andrew Wyeth in the Art History Class

February 14, 2012

Wyeth Overturned

Good morning.  Though we covered Venetian Renaissance in my high school art history classes this morning, I could not resist dragging Andrew Wyeth into a key discussion over the art of Titian.  Titian used a method I like to call “composting,” as he would rough out a composition with four oil colors while the model posed, then turn the canvas to the wall, and walk away for months.  Helen Gardner wrote of this technique.  During his time away, he would think through his painting, then return to the studio and complete it, drawing from the image in his mind’s eye.

Edward Hopper seemed to take this approach as well.  When his sculptor neighbor would see him strolling through the park, he would ask: “What are you doing, Mr. Hopper?”  The answer: “I’m thinking out my painting.”  His wife Jo said he would take months thinking about a particular composition before he finally got around to stretching the canvas and beginning it.

Andrew Wyeth revealed the following in an interview: “I’ll take weeks out doing drawings, watercolor studies, I may never use.  I’ll throw them in a backroom, never look at them again or drop them on the floor and walk over them.  But I feel that the communion that has seeped into the subconscious will eventually come out in the final picture.”  I’ll never forget the time I read of Wyeth and a curator pulling some 1600 watercolor and drybrush studies from his storage drawers and cupboards.  Such an extensive body of work lies beneath Wyeth’s egg tempera paintings, like 90% of the iceberg lying concealed beneath the waves.

For years, I have carried in my mind’s eye the images of Andrew Wyeth’s drawings and drybrush renderings of pine cones piled up in a German helmet, no doubt belonging to Karl Kuerner from the first World War.   One day I purchased in an antique store this baby blue pail for the precise reason of filling it with pine cones and attempting an Andrew Wyeth-style drybrush.  But I let this pail sit in my garage for nearly a decade.  Finally, I took it out to a horse pasture, filled it with pine cones, turned it over beneath a tree, and gave it a try.

I believe I still have this sketch somewhere among my piles of watercolors in the studio closet (not 1600 of them!).  I need to look for it and give it a second look.  I was pleased at the time I painted it, but completely forgot its existence until this morning, when I lectured my classes.  I have always shied away from still life compositions in my watercolor attempts, and think it is time to give this genre a try.

Thanks for reading.

Watercoloring in the rain, June 25, 2010

June 25, 2010

Drybrush of overturned pale of pinecones

The morning rains brought the temperatures down to a cool 84 degrees this morning.  I managed to find enough tree shade and use of my broad-brimmed hat to keep the light drizzle from interfering with this piece.  I had a delightful hour-and-twenty-minute period of focusing on this subject, thinking of Andrew Wyeth, and trying really hard to concentrate on the details and drawing skills.

I apologize in advance for a long and probably tedious blog.  But I had plenty on my mind as I worked through this piece, and wish to share:

1. I’m delighted to return to some of the muted, earth tones that marked my signature style during my earlier body of work (2001-2009), but this time managed to get those colors on the page by using primary colors only (with the exception of one green).  I have completely stopped using ivory black, burnt umber, sepia, yellow ochre, naples yellow, raw umber–pigments which were my staple during the last decade.  Now I’m using only Winsor Green, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red Medium and Alizarin Crimson.  I’m delighted to get muted, natural earthy colors from these pigments.

2.  I have gone “minimalist” on the supplies I haul with me in extreme situations.  Tomorrow I fly out to Lake Tahoe for a four-day International Baccalaureate conference.  I am scheduled to begin teaching the Theory of Knowledge course at Martin High School beginning fall 2011.  Our afternoons will be free, so my intention is to get to Squaw Valley, then take a tram or nature trails up to where I can capture some mountain range vistas.  For the trekking, I have managed now to get all my watercolor supplies (Winsor & Newton field box, Watercolor block, Brush tube, Water bottle) inside a small leather pack I purchased off a hot dusty street in the shadow of the Acropolis in Athens back in 2001.  I’m very pleased now that I can complete a painting with just those essential elements in a light pack about 1/3 the size of a popular school backpack.

3. I’m happy to complete a plein air 9 x 12″ painting in under two hours now.  I’m still working on speed, accuracy and painting more directly.

4. I enjoy the kinship and communion I feel with Andrew Wyeth, who left his home around 8:30 every morning, returned around 5:00 and laid out a body of work he had completed in the field.  If I complete one painting in the field, then I’m very happy and satisfied.

5. Having worked exclusively in landscape settings over the years, I had grown fearful of close up still life studies and the discipline they seem to require.  I’m happy now to have settled into that genre, outside my comfort zone.  I have now done two watercolor drybrush studies and one pencil drawing of this pail and pine cones.

6. I save the best for last–at any point of my painting activity, all I had to do was look up to see my beautiful wife and soul mate, Sandi Jones, riding Andante and leading him over jumps out in the arena.  I cannot explain the depth of satisfaction that I feel when working en plein air and having her nearby.  Our journey to and from this location at Lyndon Acres is always satisfying, and the communion I feel with her as I paint goes too deep for words.

I hope I will find the technology to blog from Lake Tahoe.  Unfortunately, I still do not have a laptop with Internet access.  And I’m not sure if I’ll have computer access in the lodgings where I’ll be staying the next several days.  If I don’t blog from California, then I’ll certainly catch up the blog when I return home next week.

Thanks for reading.

Homage to Andrew Wyeth, June 17, 2010

June 17, 2010

Wyeth pine cones

It isn’t an easy maneuver, trying to explain the depths of my feelings over this 5 x 7″ drybrush watercolor sketch.  In one sense, it took 45 minutes to create; in another, it took 56 years to create.

I still grieve over the passing of Andrew Wyeth.  His drybrush studies captured the imagination of a bored ninth-grader in 1968.  To this day, I can think of few significant Proustian moments from my own public schooling, but that day in 1968, when my Art I teacher Robie Scucchi placed his brand new coffee-table book of Andrew Wyeth on the table before me, and invited me to peruse its contents–I could never be the same since.

Wyeth’s deep-seated fascination with Kuerner’s farm in Pennsylvania seemed a mirror reflection of my own obsession with my grandparents’ farm in Southeast Missouri.  Every object strewn about the expansive property seemed to contain the “stuff” of revelation–that Proustian magic capable of transporting one back in time to early childhood memories filled with warmth and meaning.  From 1968 until now, I have spent countless hours poring over my own collection of Wyeth books, catalogues, prints and magazine articles, soaking like a thirsty sponge the visual details of his sensitive drybrush renderings of everyday objects.

Several years ago, in a Hillsboro antique shop connected to the gallery representing me, I purchased this blue pail with the white interior, and immediately filled it with pine cones.  I was determined to create some Wyeth-style drybrush studies from it.  Years passed, and the moment just did not present itself.  I’m too busy, it seems–too distracted with daily details.  But today marked the pleroma kairou–the fulness of time.   I took my wife Sandi to Lyndon Acres to ride her horse.  The temperature was nearing triple digits.  I had only 45 minutes.  So I set this pail of cones in the shade of a tree, and leaped right into the task, without taking time to think about it or change my mind.  Before I knew it, the 45 minutes had expired, I had a watercolor sketch to serve as a record of the moment, and my communion with Andrew Wyeth was too profound for words or tears.

This is the second watercolor still life I’ve attempted since 10th grade.  The prior attempts are not worth recording.  This one is.  Tomorrow I’m going back out to do “something” en plein air. Maybe Wyeth will visit me again.  But if not, today was enough for awhile.  I’m still trembling.

Thanks for reading.