Posts Tagged ‘plein air’

Addled

August 16, 2016

pine lorraine

Second Plein Air Sketch from Rolla, Missouri

Curly:  You city folk, you worry about a lotta shit . . . . You all come here at about the same age, with the same problems. Spend about fifty weeks a year getting knots in your rope, and then you think two weeks out here will untie them for you. None of you get it. Do you know what the secret of life is?  . . .  One thing. Just one thing.

City Slickers

I awoke this morning with this motion picture dialogue in my head. Yesterday was the first day of Inservice as I returned to my high school job. As expected, the day dumped a myriad of details on our heads, and life by last evening was everything but simple. My college job resumes tomorrow. But I’m happy tonight, because all the knots in the rope of my online course got untied today, thanks to timely help again from Texas Wesleyan University’s CETL department–they are always, always there to assist, thank you Natalie and Linda.

A parallel dialogue to Curly’s (minus the profane language) is found in The Gospel According to Luke, chapter ten. In that text, Jesus offers a calming word to a frantic Martha, pointing out that she is distracted over many things, but only one thing is necessary. Both of these dialogues flooded my heart with peace this afternoon as I sorted out school matters, preparing to begin a new year, and remembering what exactly this is all about.

addledAddled

I will never, ever successfully dot all the i’s and cross the t’s that are demanded of me. But I’ll still pour my best into the task, as I have for nearly thirty years. And at the end of most days, I’ll look back, satisfied that I did the best I could with what time and resources I had.

Posted at the top is the second plein air watercolor I began in Rolla, Missouri a few weeks ago with my friend Lorraine McFarland. I suppose I’ll always be enchanted at the site of a stand of pines. I cannot call it “finished” yet, and probably didn’t give it the best of my attention as I was “distracted” on that day as well (story of my life). I was on my way Home when I began the work, but now that I have arrived, I’m looking at it every day, trying to figure out what to do next.  I’ll post it again when it’s finished.

Thanks for reading.

I paint, wondering what I’ll learn next.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog, always grateful that I am not alone.

 

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The Source

August 1, 2016

pines (2)

Plein Air Beginnings in Rolla, Missouri

pines photo (2)

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.

pine (2)

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.

Musing Across the Miles

July 24, 2016

Shell 11921 Shell Station from New Cambria, Missouri

new cambria (2)

Early Watercolor Attempt

When the vessel is full and fixed, uniform throughout; there is neither vessel nor contents: nothing to pour in, nothing can pour out. With this degree of fusion, the vessel can no longer serve its function of temporary container, and the contents become unacceptable because of the growing staleness of their permanence.

Peter London, Drawing Closer to Nature

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:13

This splendorous Sunday morning has filled me with a desire to pour out the last few weeks of my summer life. My blog posting has stalled, but daily enchantments have unfolded in the most fascinating manner. My friend Stacy and I were browsing Half Price Books a few weeks back, and the Peter London book caught me off guard.  I had never heard of the author, and the book was in the art section of the store. When I sat at a table with it, my pulse quickened as I read his opening words:

Suppose Genesis misspoke.

We never left Eden.

Nature, just as it is, is Eden,

And we are still there.

We remain in our first, our only, our exquisite home.

And we behave otherwise.

We must awaken to where we are,

And thus who we are.

Having just returned from a week in Colorado where I refueled my spirits in plein air painting and fly fishing, I embraced this book, and it has been a soul-stirring companion ever since. I opened this blog with his musings over what happens when an artist becomes stagnated, and the words recalled the Jeremiah text that I had tucked into my soul since university days over forty years ago. When I look back over my recent art activity, I know I have been prolific, but the content of my work was emanating a staleness to me, and I have been pondering ways to get the streams flowing again. Prolific is better than being blocked, but when you reach a point that you feel you are doing little more than whipping out art pieces for the trade, satisfaction wanes.  Moving waters inspire me, filling me with ideas about life and its effervescence. But just because I am making stacks of art doesn’t guarantee a freshness in the product. I love this book because he extends what I love the most from Emerson, Thoreau and Dillard.  I just cannot seem to find enough of these kinds of texts.

My dear friend Linda from high school days alerted me on facebook weeks ago about this restored Shell gas station from New Cambria, Missouri, dating back to 1921.  I knew I would be returning to Missouri for another vacation before school resumed in the fall, so I tucked the station into my memory, and decided to find it once I set out on my trek across the Midwest.

Locating the site did not prove easy, and thanks to my friend Mark sending the Google Map coordinates, I finally caught sight of the station, far to the south of highway 36, with no road leading to it.  The exit from the highway is a driveway leading to the house of the lady who owns the station, and the only reason I finally walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell was due to the experience I had trying to access the old highway 36 that actually reaches the station.  To get there, one must navigate a stetch of old blacktop road strewn with wrecked cars, wrecked residences, and a large sign reading:

IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU ARE IN RANGE

How does a Texas watercolorist wishing to photograph a landmark convince a community of idiots that he means no harm? I am infuriated to this day at the thought that someone may have been aiming a rifle at me as I navigated that waste land, trying to find my way to the station. Finally, I turned back and drove up to the house above the property, just off the main highway, and reluctantly rang the doorbell.  To my relief, I encountered a beautiful soul who was gracious and willing to lead the way as we drove our vehicles over the rough terrain descending several hundred yards into the valley where the station is nestled.

Since I’ve been at my parents’ house, I’ve made some attempts to watercolor this station.  It’s bloody hot outside, and using their carport as a studio has its advantages with the sounds of the outdoors fueling my imagination, but the heat index makes long sessions prohibitive.  Hence, not much has been done yet.  I may have to wait and get this work back into my own studio back home.

flowers tree

During an Austin weekend, I sat outside and sketched part of a large tree in front of me.  But again, heat prohibited me from staying with it for very long.

flowers easel

On this Missouri vacation, I found some very cool shady mornings last week and tried my hand at some lovely cone flowers.  As the sun climbed late into the morning, temperatures convinced me to stop.  The painting above was my first attempt, and I enjoyed the layers of masquing to get the layers of flowers and stems I enjoyed viewing. The painting below I tried on the second consecutive morning, again finding the shade trees to provide a temporary respite.  This summer is brutal in Missouri as well as Texas.

flowers

 The vacation reading has been restorative to my soul, and for that I am deeply grateful. There are a number of other watercolors I have begun but not yet posted.  I’ll go ahead and post below a train in Eureka Springs, Arkansas with which I also got an early start, but haven’t had the time to return to and work futher:

esrxr

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.

Early Morning Colorado Musings Over Coffee

June 26, 2016

tree drawing

Experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow; you catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Something spiritual and exciting floods the atmosphere in Colorado.  I rose at 5:09 yesterday morning, and 5:05 this morning, unable to sleep any later. The world outside is already filled with bird choruses, the South Fork of the Rio Grande is never quiet as it flows over the boulders below my cabin, and I cannot picture a better morning than one spent in the halo of my desk lamp with a cup of coffee and Annie Dillard’s writings, waiting for the light to break.

Plein air painting, fly fishing, reading and journaling are on my mind while I spend quality time here. Yesterday was busy with driving the final six hours to this destination, unloading, moving into my cabin and getting into the river.  The water is way up from what I’ve been used to in years past, as the snow melt is still underway and daily rains have added to the flow. Entering the stream proved difficult and treacherous, as I managed to slip and fall headlong already (an early baptism), but did manage to bag a beautiful brown trout, while missing three additional strikes. I would have photographed the trout, but I had returned to the cabin to change clothes and dry out the phone (which fortunately did not die) and deliberately left the phone in the kitchen. On my second stream visit, where I managed to stay on my feet, I found plenty of trout action, and the Caddis hatch was so thick in the air that I dared not breathe with my mouth open.

I forgot to pack Off! mosquito spray, so the sketch above had to be done hastily while mosquitoes ate away at my face and neck. By the time I got a can of spray, it was nightfall, so I plan to bathe in the repellent today before going out for my next plein air attempt. The Colorado light is so crystal clear and enchanting, with sun bathing the mountains and stream, that I feel intimidated to sketch it. I’m tingling with excitement as I think of this day’s prospects.

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.

 

Beaver Bluffs Sketch

May 24, 2016

Beavers Bluff

Bosh! Stephen said rudely. A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

James Joyce, Ulysses

Breaking down the weekend festival on Sunday night made rising early Monday to drive six hours to Eureka Springs an arduous task.  I’m glad that I had no responsibilities when I arrived late on Monday. My first working day in Eureka Springs today involved a drive out of town to find Beaver Bluffs. I’ll be conducting my first workshop on these premises tomorrow afternoon. The directions given were good, and a stiff hike around the lake brought me face to face with towering bluffs and cedars shooting out of their crowns.  I still haven’t solved the problem of watercoloring cedar trees, and I so love their appearance.  The colors elude me as do the foliage patterns, though I feel I am getting the hang of the colors of the twisted trunks and branches. The striations in the rocky surfaces below the cedars revealed some interesting compositional patterns, and I was sorry I didn’t have time for a second one today.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll get a second shot at this scene, either before or after the workshop.

It has been a long day, and tomorrow will be longer, so I must call it a night.

Thanks for reading.

Closing Out the White River Plein Air Competition

May 7, 2016

image

Best of Show winner, Susan Hurst

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.  I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.  It’s thin current slides away, but eternity remains.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

This week in Cotter, Arkansas has been so enchanting for anyone wishing to pursue artistic bliss.  As for myself, I’ve enjoyed the perfect balance of plein air watercolor sketching and fly fishing in the White and Norfork Rivers.  The artists and fishermen surrounding me throughout the week have had their ways of affecting the quality of the day (Thoreau’s words) and I appreciate the special memories each has planted in my heart. I frequently return to Thoreau’s sentiments, posted above. All the sensations I enjoy throughout the passing of my days stand in bold relief against that backdrop of eternity.  The engagement of actvities is always in motion as I continue to pursue that moving target, especially the target of making art that satisfies.  And all the while I pursue the artistic dream, I realize that my works of art always pale against that backdrop of Art.  Art is eternity.  Matthew Arnold wrote it best: “Art still has truth. Take refuge there.”  As long as art remains my refuge, then I suppose I could testify that I am “living the dream.”

Today I had the formidable task of judging the works in oil, watercolor and pastel created throughout this past week.  I have posted above the Best of Show winner Susan Hurst with her exquisite oil landscape.  The cool, atmospheric colors of her distant hills along with those fabulous warm colors in the foreground took my breath away.  I should be taking plein air lessons from her.  I found her to be a precious soul when we got to chat after the judging.  It always bothers me that I don’t get to spend quality time bonding with these artists throughout the week, but playing the role of judge, I feel that they need to be free of my presence, and certainly should not feel that I am hovering about their easels as they create.  So, I remain as incognito as possible, finally stepping into their circle to talk frankly once the judging is done.  I’m glad I finally got to talk at length with Susan, with Marty Coulter (who won last night’s Quick Draw competition along with today’s first place in works on canvas), and Lorraine McFarland (featured below).  I also got to meet over a dozen other artists during this afternoon’s gathering.

Below, I have posted the winner of the works on paper category, Lorraine McFarland, with her pastel landscape.  In talking with her afterward, I learned a great deal about underpainting pastel works with watercolor, and the different looks created by soft, buttery pastels scumbled over the hard ones.  I am delighted to learn that Lorraine, along with one and possible two of the other artists, will be attending the week-long Eureka Springs plein air event coming up in just a few weeks.  I will be there as well.  What a reunion!  For years I have loved the camaraderie of fellow festival artists as we see each other annually at art festivals that mean so much to us.  But this will be the first time in a few years that I have gotten to bond with other plein air artists at such events.

Lorraine McFarland

First Place winner, works on paper, Lorraine McFarland

Before leaving Cotter, I just had to post this adorable photo I took of a ground hog munching bread right outside my cafe window a few days ago.  He ate so much, that he eventually had to sit while eating, and then recline as he continued to eat!  I laughed so hard, taking as many pictures as I could.  This one is my favorite.

ground hog standing

I don’t know what else to add, but to say Thank You to the White River Artists, especially the officers of the organization, for making my stay so delightful, and for providing such a rich forum for these plein air painters to pursue their passions.  The week has been so enriching to my soul, and I love every one of you.

And thanks to all of you who take time to read these words.

I paint in order to find myself.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Up early for another round

May 3, 2016

image

It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do.  To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.  Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Rarely do I retire to bed before 9:30, but I hardly remember last night.  Driving through severe rain storms from Arlington to Tyler, Texas for a one-day workshop, and then driving another six-and-a-half hours to Cotter, Arkansas for a two-day workshop took its toll finally.  My hosts have offered wonderful accommodations and hospitality, but finally I physically and mentally cratered.  Last night I wanted to blog, and did in fact put something up, but don’t care to return and read it.

The six o’clock alarm found me refreshed, optimistic and oh so happy to go the next round.  Today will be my final workshop day, followed by some days of demonstrating and judging a plein air competition, but the hardest part of the schedule is just one full day away from completion.  So glad to be rested!  And so glad I set the alarm for a three-hour cushion before going to class. Can’t wait to see the participants again, absolutely love their drive to paint!

Henry Thoreau is a man I wish to God I could have met and spent time with.  So grateful am I that he cared enough about us to leave behind such precious words.  I’m angered every time I read of how his fellow citizens regarded him as a waste of a life when he died at forty-four without ever holding down a regular job.  His two books were failures in his lifetime.  Yet when his family opened his locked trunk after his death, they found over four million words of publishable print.  Why did he write and save all those manuscript pages after his failed publications? Because he believed he had something to say and that someday there would be grateful souls with hands outstretched to receive his message.  I am one of those hungry souls. His every word nourishes me.

My waking thought at six a.m. was the quote I’ve posted above.  I love carving out pieces of the world to put onto paper for myself and others to view, but wish all-the-more to carve and paint the atmosphere through which I peer daily and thereby to live a more artful, satisfying life for myself and others.

Trout Lodge bridge

Early morning attempt

It is a chilly fifty-one degrees early this morning in Cotter, Arkansas.  Yet the sun is bright and warm enough that I decided to pull up a table outside my lodge door and do a quick watercolor study of this magnificent Cotter Bridge just one hundred feet from my door. My fingers finally stiffened enough in the cold that I decided I pushed this one far enough and have a good record to take back to the studio.  No doubt this subject would make a beautiful painting to frame one day.

It’s nearly time to leave for class now.  Thank you always for reading and spending some of your morning with me.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Workshop Ponderings

May 2, 2016

image

The Bible opens with the words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That is an adequate summary statement, but the curious reader wants more.  And the following verses provide more:

And the world was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved over the face of the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.

There is a quality image: a world of chaos, a Mind that is brooding, moving, and suddenly creation occurs.  As one continues to read the account, the record shows God creating the world by a series of divisions, organizations.  The artist Robert Motherwell said that drawing was the division, the organization of space.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in “The American Scholar” testified that the scholar of the first age received into himself the world around, brooded thereon, gave it the new arrangement of his thought, and uttered it again.  It came into him life.  It went from him truth.

In about an hour, I will stand before my second watercolor workshop in the midst of this circuit I’ve been traveling. This will be a plein air watercolor workshop.  And my sincere hope is that the participants experience this parallel that Emerson drew from the opening verses of Genesis. They will stand enveloped in a world swirling with myriads of visual stimuli, holding before them a void, a square white rectangle.  As they ponder this visual world of complexity, their minds will begin to sort, to sift, to edit, and as their brushes move over the surface of the papers, worlds will begin to flow out of their brushes, first the wash, then the divisions, and finally the focused details.  There is little more rewarding than watching a world flow out of the tip of your brush, and realize that you are the one creating this world.

The Bible says that God created humans in his own image.  What is that image of God, that imago Dei?  I believe it is that essential urge to create.  The first word written about God identified him as a creator.  And he created people after his image.  My position is that people, by nature, create.  They have to, because it is in their essential nature to create.

Gotta go.  Workshop begins in one hour and five minutes, and I still have to drive to the location.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

The Call of the Island

March 10, 2016

Having dashed out a quick watercolor sketch of the morning seascape with as much deep color as possible, I then turned my attention to a bag of assorted seashells that Dinah Bowman had gathered and presented to me the day before. They had been hanging overnight from a hook on the front porch. Taking out a few and pushing them around on a white sheet of watercolor paper in the bright sun, I delighted in the strong shadows cast by the small forms, and felt that I had returned to the discipline of closely-scrutinized still life disciplines.

Lifted from my Laguna Madre journal from June 2015.

Tripp painting number 16

My Second-to-Last Day at the Laguna Madre Field Station

Village Beneath the Lagoon $425

“Village Beneath the Lagooon”

The past several mornings I have awakened to those recurring feelings of being on the island again in the Laguna Madre. Next week I will be privileged to take a group of watercolor artists back to that location for a two-day, overnight plein air watercolor workshop, with the anticipation of reliving those sensations of breathing that air and feeling those breezes. I am posting the pictures above, celebrating my shift from the macrocosm to the microcosm–I had painted and repainted the vistas of cloud-clogged skies with shimmering blue salt water underneath and scattered foliage and sands in teh foregrounds. The sketch above was my first still-life attempt, looking intently at a collection of shells and finding a different kind of delight as I thought of life beneath those waters–a life that only showed its remnants in broken homes.

Thanks for reading.

Another Video of One of my Past Workshops

February 9, 2016

Sorry to be on such a posting rampage tonight! In searching through my files, I just now came across this video that I had forgotten, produced several years ago to advertise one of my workshops conducted for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. I will be teaching a plein air workshop for them later in May of this year. Details will be released later. I love this video, and hope you will enjoy it as well.