Posts Tagged ‘plein air’

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.

Architecture of Trees

December 24, 2015

 

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Life is a dream already over.

Jack Kerouac

Happy Christmas Eve, dear friends.  The drive to St. Louis was long and laborious, but I’m glad to be settled now with my parents, siblings and extended family about me.  My sister has been such a gracious host during my family visits.  Seated with coffee this morning, looking out her back patio door, I could not stop looking at the trees across the neighborhood.  Reaching for the sketchbook/journal, I again attempted to draw a single tree, studying its structure, its natural architecture, as closely as possible.  I always get lost in the process, but just love the act of drawing.

My reading throughout the morning has followed quite a labyrinthe–from Harold Bloom to Martin Luther to the Greek New Testament to Karl Barth, and finally to recording my own musings.  I cannot express the depth of gratitude I experience when I have the time and space and quiet about me to read, to reflect, to record what I feel is worth remembering, and finally, to write, in my own words, what is on my heart.  Harold Bloom often speaks of “overhearing” oneself.  When I experience that, I feel a genuine desire to adjust some things in my day-to-day life, to improve, to grow, to write a new chapter.

Christmas eve

Thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays to all of you.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

Thanksgiving Hangover

November 27, 2015

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drawing

Throughout this lovely Thanksgiving holiday season, I have managed to awaken every morning without an alarm and rise around 6:00.  I felt every morning that the muse was stirring, and I usually responded with a watercolor attempt, followed by quality reading and writing.  This morning I awoke again around 6:00 to a dark, rainy climate, and immediately sensed a Thanksgiving Hangover–no appointments today, no time to spend with friends or family, no culinary feast to enjoy, just a quiet, dark day to do as I please.  I found myself in the mood to read first, then sketch later.  The dim morning light never did intensify, so I finally looked out the window at a tree in the neighborhood and decided to give it a try with pencil.  The effort contained its own reward;  I always enjoy the process of making art, regardless of the outcome.  The process is always more fulfilling than the final picture viewing, for me.

I pulled a book from my library that I have enjoyed immensely since the mid 1980’s: Heinz Zahrnt, The Question of God: Prostestant Theology in the Twentieth Century, published in 1966.   It opens with the theological revolution of Karl Barth, and these words really resonated with me today:

Once it has pleased God to speak, all theology, being human speech about God, can only be a stammering repetition, a spelling out of what God has said, a thinking over of his thoughts.  

A long time ago, when I was in the pastoral ministry, I harbored these ideas as I went about the task of preparing weekly for the church pulpit. Convinced that God had spoken, I tried faithfully to reproduce in word and action the essence of the New Testament message.  Today I feel similar sensations as a plein air artist–the creation before me speaks in all its grandeur, and I haltingly attempt to capture its essence on paper with pencil and watercolor.  The response never reaches the heights of the primary stimulus, but boy, what a rush to participate in the task!  This morning has already been sublime, just from moments spent trying to record the essence of a tree in a sketchbook and writing in my journal responses from the heart to what I’m reading this morning.

Thanks for reading.

I make art to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Tweaking the Balloon Sketch

September 22, 2014

It was time to “flesh out” the right-hand portion of this sketch.  I began watercolor sketching the trees adjacent to the Plano Balloon Fest site, but did not get a chance to finish before the balloons began to launch.  Once the balloons lifted, the trees had become silhouettes in the western sky and I decided to call it quits for the evening.

Today after school, I took out my supplies and worked on the right side, signed the piece, and declared it “finished.”  I’m glad to have a record of that memorable evening last Saturday.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.image

The Return from Galveston

November 13, 2011

I have the privilege of sitting in the back of a Suburban full of art educators for the seven-hour return to Arington, Texas. Not having to drive (to me) is a luxury.

The Texas Art Educators Association annual conference was held at Moody Gardens in Galveston. I enjoyed the beach daily, the palm trees, and the numerous “plein air” watercolor opportunities. After I get home, I’ll gladly post my experiments on the blog. None of the watercolor sketches turned out a successful “frameable” piece of art, but what I learned in the attempts was immeasurable.

I do not wish to diminish the value of the workshops I attended; I found them indispensable for all the freshness and inspiration they offered up to an exhausted public school teacher. But the real highlight of my four-day conference was the invitation to spend Friday in the Prismacolor vendor booth, demonstrating their new watercolor pencils. I would not have traded that time exchanging ideas with, and answering questions from other art teachers, for anything. My heartfelt thanks goes out to representative Shelley Minnis for that privileged invitation. Very soon, I will post pictures of the paintings I did that day.

Thanks for reading.

William Carlos Williams and Rural Colorado Mailboxes

July 5, 2011

Colorado Mailboxes

This morning,  my mind has drifted back to the poetry and legacy of William Carlos Williams, whose theory now known as Imagism was laid out in a line from one of his poems: “No ideas but in things.”  Williams chose to remain in the quiet town of Rutherford, New Jersey, where he worked as a physician and created as a poet.  I love this statement from his Autobiography: “All that I have wanted to do was to tell of my life as I went along practicing medicine and at the same time recording my daily search for . . . what?  As a writer, I have been a physician, and as a physician a writer; and as both writer and physician I have served sixty-eight years.”

This small town physician drove from residence to residence throughout his working days, his eyes always taking in images that seemed to contain the stuff of revelation in them–a red wheelbarrow, shards from a broken green bottle, a housewife stooping outside her front door to pick up milk bottles–all of these images were recorded on prescription pads, and long after nightfall would grow into poems.

For several years I have wanted to do with watercolor vignettes what Williams did with small poems–record objects that I take in during the day that strike some kind of chord of recognition from my past.  So, with this current posting, I began by sorting through my plein air sketches from the past, and stopped with this tree top in my neighbor’s yard that I painted from my garage studio view early one morning.  Turning to my digital library, I pulled up this pair of rural Colorado mailboxes that I photographed last summer as my wife and I stopped alongside the highway to admire a railroad bridge and the deep gorge cut between two mountain ranges.  After photographing the bridge a dozen times, I turned and my attention immediately fastened on this pair of mailboxes.  I probably looked like a stooge,  shooting pictures of old mailboxes when all the natural beauty of the Colorado mountains lay sprawled before us.

Twice in my life, I have lived in an isolated rural setting, and depended on a mailbox much like these to keep me in contact with the civilized world.  In 1973, I worked for a summer at J. P. Coleman State Park near Iuka, Mississippi.  The postmaster arranged for me to use an abandoned mailbox along one of the county roads, but it required a 3-mile walk for me to reach it from the interior of the State Park where I resided.  I daily made that 3-mile walk.  I was a college student on summer vacation and was blessed with a plethora of “writing” college friends that led to “something in the box” almost daily.

In 1986 I lived in rural Whitesboro, Texas,  on a Farm Market road seventeen miles out from the nearest city.  Again, the mailbox kept me in touch with my remote friends and working associates.  While living there, I spent many afternoons in the shade of the front porch, watching the mailbox down the dirt road and the approaching mail truck to see if the driver was going to stop.  Letters, packages, anything left was a “connection” with my working world beyond the horizon.

Although the sight of rural mailboxes has held my attention for years, it is only now that I pause to paint a pair.  I’ve selected another photograph from my Arkansas odyssey of last year, and am considering a small watercolor sketch of that one as well.

Thanks for reading.

Eureka Springs Railroad Environment

July 4, 2011

Eureka Springs RxR

The 4th of July has turned out to be a decent day for painting.  Once my thermometer reached 106, I decided it was time to get out of the garage and retreat to my indoor studio (I cannot bear the dim light of the indoors, once I’ve indulged in plein air, nevertheless I’m not inviting heat stroke either).  It’s nice to work in an air conditioned place now.

I began this small 11 x 14″ piece on the last day of class with my Eureka Springs School of the Arts group.  It was Friday morning, and I felt a heaviness, knowing I was going to leave Eureka Springs and all its beauty that day, yet anxious in my heart to get on to the next appointment.  I felt that great things were just ahead.

Once I took out this piece today, I realized that the antique steam engine really needed a set of wheels.  So I fortunately had a reference photo taken on location, and set to work today trying to finish out the bottom of this composition.  I’m glad to bring closure to this work.  Again, I have too many conflicting feelings co-mingled, as this painting takes me back to the end of Eureka Springs and the transition back to life as I know it today.  It has not been an easy shift, and I’m still working to get my feet back underneath me.

I have filled out an application for the 2012 academic year at Eureka Springs School of the Arts, and hope I can return to this remarkable mountain town next summer.  This quaint Victorian mountain town is a plein air artist’s dream.

Thanks always for reading.

Colorado Dizziness! Durango-Silverton Railroad Watercolor Finished!

July 4, 2011

Durango Silverton RxR finished

This 4th of July finds me somewhere between Vincent Van Gogh’s steam locomotive and Andy Warhol’s factory.  I’m possessed with an energy to kick out some art work on an assembly line.  I frequently allow a number of watercolor partial attempts to accumulate in my studio–some that I regarded as “finished enough” en plein air and others that just started out badly and I abandoned them but did not throw them away–just threw them aside.

Now and then a day comes along like this one, where I choose to line up the unfinished pieces and resolve to bring them to their conclusions, sign them, blog them and move on.

This painting began during the Art in the Park festival in Kennedale, Texas.  During a slow moment in sales and traffic I sat on my stool and began this work, using a small reference photo (3 x 5″).  I never thought anything significant would come of it–just passing time (festivals can become rather long when the sales taper off).  In the months following (this began in April), I took the sketch out now and then and “diddled” with it.  I thought it was finished last week, but then saw some more things in it that bothered me.  Now I’m satisfied.

I long for the next time I get to board the Durango-Silverton.  My wife and I are thinking seriously about a trip to Colorado when the Aspens start to turn.  We’ll see.

Oh well, I have another railroad composition awaiting-one that started badly.  We’ll see if anything positive can come out of that.

Thanks for reading, and happy 4th of July.

Finished the Cotter Cabin. Time to Move On

July 4, 2011

Historic Cabin, Cotter, Arkansas

To those of you who have followed my blog, this picture may look no different than the one posted late last night.  Exactly the reason for me to sign it and leave it alone.  I have worked an additional 90 minutes on it this morning, but once I realize that each stroke I add does not radically improve the overall composition, and indeed may diminish it, it is time to let it go.  Perhaps I held on to this painting too long because it reminded me of things in my life that I need to let go.  So, there it is.  Ironically, I have another of the same size started, but I have decided for the moment not to pursue it.  Time to look at something else.

The morning of the 4th of July has started early for me.  I’ve chosen to paint in the garage because of the wonderful light, though I’ve been shirtless for an hour and am still mopping my brow frequently with my gym towel.  But I do love the light.  Funny–I’m not a guy who takes sun well, and doesn’t particularly like it.  Yet when I watercolor outdoors, I find a way to tolerate it.  Granted I would not enjoy pulling weeds or painting the siding of my house in this climate.

I am listening with my whole being as the VCR plays behind me “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”  That book by James Joyce touched my life at the very core when I read it back in the late 80’s.   I really need to read it again, but I’m hung up in Proust right now, hoping to finish him this summer.  Joyce and Proust both put me in touch with the important elements of my upbringing, and with summer vacation present, I have tried to spend more time pondering those matters.  Unfortunately I let other elements intrude, and they managed to keep me away from my quality reading and painting.  Perhaps Independence Day will be doubly poignant for me if I allow it to mark the first day of my return to what matters.  All I need to determine at this point is–what matters?!

Anyway, for the moment, painting matters.  And having said that, I have a couple of unfinished works at my side that need tending, so I will pursue those.  With some good fortune, I’ll be posting them in the hours ahead.

Thanks for reading, and I hope your 4th of July brings good things your way.  I’m happy to be painting this morning while my wife rides.  The garage studio space is working, for the moment.

Watercoloring the Hot Summer Town of Hico, Texas en Plein Air

June 29, 2011

A Hot Summer Afternoon in Hico, Texas

After the morning plein air excursion into Granbury, I next turned my Jeep further south, and arrived in Hico, Texas as the sun waxed hotter.  What a fabulous town for painting!  Ghost signs were everywhere to be found on the sides of buildings of brick and rusticated stone.  I turned down a major street, and was delighted to find it divided, with a tree-shaded island featuring park benches and gazebos.  I found plenty of space to set up my easel on the island, without blocking sidewalk traffic (not that there was much, in that small town!).  As I painted, I found the residents of Hico to be exceedingly friendly.  A number of men and women approached me, looked at my work, said affirming things, and chatted with me about life in the small town, and also asked how things were in my large city, and I found it pleasing to cover a number of conversational subjects with them, all of the talk pleasant.  I even had the pleasure of meeting an acrylic studio painter who owned a business on the street where I painted.  A lady in a passing car rolled down her window, took a look at my work, and expressed admiration for my attempt at architecture.  She was a painter of animals and thought it would be difficult to paint buildings.  I guess I should have mentioned to her that I find it difficult, painting animals!

I loved this street intersection vista.  The light rusticated stone building contrasted nicely with the darker buildings across the street on the left, and I was fascinated with the tree on the right invading the compositional space.  I took a reference photo of this site and am seriously considering taking another shot at this in the studio.

The day was hot, the travel exhausting, but I’m glad I got out and did this.   Last night I looked at the website of the Weiler House Gallery (http://www.weilerhousefineart.com/#events) and saw that my Solo Show for this fall has been posted.  My first reaction was that it was time to “find another gear” in producing art work.  Showtime is in two months.

Thanks for reading.