Posts Tagged ‘pine tree’

The Source

August 1, 2016

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Plein Air Beginnings in Rolla, Missouri

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Reference Photo for Unfinished Pine Sketches

It is the sense of the sublime that we have to regard as the root of man’s creative activities in art, thought and noble living.  Just as no flora has ever fully displayed the hidden vitality of the earth, so has no work of art ever brought to expression the depth of the unutterable, in the sight of which the souls of saints, poets and philosophers live.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion

On Saturday morning, my new friend Lorraine McFarland–a remarkable pastelist residing near Rolla, Missouri–led me to the side of a lily pad-infested pond where we set up our easels in the cool morning and looked into the depths of the forest beyond. Surprisingly, the Missouri sun heated with enough intensity to chase us from our spots after about an hour of work, so we had to take reference photos with a vague promise that this work would be completed later. Returning home the next day, I discovered my A/C had quit, and the interior of my house was at 95 degrees. This morning, from yet another hotel room, I at least reside with the gladness of knowing an A/C man is arriving this morning to repair it.

Above, I have posted lines from the latest book that I read with a sense of amazement.  I am only five pages into the text, but I have re-read and re-marked them four separate times already, because I am unable to move beyond; this man’s words are going straight to my heart. I was experiencing these words as I gazed into the forest two days ago, my eyes moving all over the contours of three pines reaching upward through the dense growth, all the while sketching, correcting, blotting Annie Dillard’s “color patches”, and constantly catching my breath as snatches of beauty came and went across my paper just as fleetingly as they did across the highlighted trunks of those pines. For the space of one hour as I labored over this pair of compositional sketches, I realized as before that the forces surging through the artist’s eye and soul never translate onto the painted page. I have come to accept that.  As a guitarist, I still laugh at the story of the master asking his pupil why he was frustrated.  The pupil replied that he could always hear the music better than he was capable of playing it.  The master asked, “And why do you think that is ever going to change?”

As a Romantic, I am held captive by the Sublime. My expressions always fall far short of my experience, and I just have to accept that.  I enjoy trying, nevertheless.  Every painting, every sketch, every line of words I scribble into the journal are merely footprints, ciphers, eidolon, of what is happening to me as I encounter the Sublime.  My vacation travels have ended, I am home, but not yet Home.   In my soul, I am still journeying, wandering, and the odyssey far exceeds in beauty what I am able to express.

I close with a re-post of the pine tree that greeted me every morning in Colorado as I sat drinking my coffee on the porch.  I do indeed miss those 39-degree mornings, having returned to this triple-digit Texas hell.

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Earlier Sketch of Pine Tree from South Fork, Colorado

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to encounter.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Decompressing After a Satisfying Day

June 29, 2016

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The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

 

When I began plein air painting about seven years ago, the first lesson I had to learn was to abstract from the visible world that overpowered my vision and intimidated me before my easel.  Robert Motherwell wrote that “abstract” comes from a Latin word meaning “to take from”, and that a painter abstracts every time s/he selects an object and reconstructs it on a two-dimensional surface.

When I stepped out of my vehicle at South Fork, Colorado last weekend, I was overwhelmed at the complex beauty of this mountain environment that I have enjoyed for over a decade now. This was the first time I was determined not only to bring along my art supplies, but to give plein air just as much attention as trout fishing.

The first object I selected was a solitary pine tree directly in front of my cabin porch.  I sketched it in pencil the first afternoon I was here, and mosquitoes chewed me up as I worked quickly.  After several subsequent days of sketching forests and mountain bluffs, I returned to this lone pine and gave it my full attention after lunch today with my friends.

Annie Dillard’s references to the “color patch” in her excellent book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek flooded my consciousness this afternoon as I stared at this tree and attempted to capture the colors threading through the bark and the limbs.  Much of what Annie wrote about the “color patch” reminded me of ideas gleaned from Paul Cezanne and Camille Pissarro in the early days of French Impressionism.  The longer I stared at this tree bark the more amused I was at recalling Jasper Johns’s statement that an artist paints things that other people look at but never see.  It was true that I was indeed seeing the bark of a pine tree for the first time up close in concentrated study. I still have so much to learn.

Looking back over this past week, I can honestly say that I have not been as successful fly fishing in the stream as I’ve been in previous years here, but I’m willing to chalk that up to high waters and very fast currents.  I refuse to feel badly about that because I am delighted that I’ve had the finest opportunities for plein air painting, and I’m so glad I took advantage of those opportunities.  I feel I have learned a great deal, just as I did recently while spending a week on the island in the Laguna Madre.  I’m certain that my studio work will improve as a  result.

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.

Dry Brush Watercolor Study of a Pine Tree in Star Harbor, Texas

April 6, 2012

Star Harbor Pine

On the first night of my three-day weekend, I found sleep very difficult.  So, today I’m fatigued, though I did make the two-hour drive south into Star Harbor to meet two leaders of the watercolor society there: Judy Ellis and Rosalie Babler.  We had a nice meeting, and they then took me around Star Harbor and Malakoff to scout potential plein air sites to take our workshop participants to next week when we do our two-day plein air workshop.  The facility where this society meets is extraordinary–connected to City Hall.  I am inside there now, blogging this post.

After a brief lunch following our excursion, I found myself quite sleepy from last night’s aborted rest and today’s drive (still have the return ahead of me).  So instead of embarking on a full-bore plein air painting, I decided to settle on a tree that still vexes me to this day–the pine.  There is a beautiful golf course adjoining City Hall, and a majestic row of pines.  So, I selected the closest one and did this posted drybrush sketch of it.  I find if challenging, trying to capture the texture and reddish coloration on the tree bark, as well as the particular color and general directional flow of the clusters of pine needles.  I’ve also always found the twisting, curling limbs fascinating to view.  So, I tried my hand at all three of these, combining Winsor and Newton pigments, various water-soluble graphite pencils and the X-acto knife.  Some of this I like, the rest of it I could do without.  It’s going to take me a long time, I fear, to capture the essence of the pine.  But, fatigue notwithstanding, I did very much enjoy focusing on this one tree.

Funny connection–all the while I worked on this pine study, I thought of Andrew Wyeth and his masterful drybrush renderings of pine trees.  And thoughts of him led my mind to Laura Hartman, a delightful former student of mine (from back in the mid-90’s) who now works for DuPont, learning the craft of art preservation.  She has seen many of Wyeth’s works up close and personal, from the conservationist standpoint.  Just as I was finishing up this piece, I got a message from her on Facebook.  Funny that she saw my post and commented.

Thanks for reading, especially you, Laura!