Posts Tagged ‘road trip’

Memories of an Arkansas Vista

July 7, 2016

arkansas finished (2)

There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.

Thomas Merton (quoted in Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

On this quiet Thursday, I completed my second reading of this magnificent Annie Dillard book, and am closing in on completing this watercolor I began yesterday. I am not happy that my Jeep is suffering difficulties, and was taken to the dealership Saturday, and as of today, they still have not even looked at it.  Six days is too long for anyone to be without their sole possession of transportation. Nevertheless, being housebound, I am completing other tasks, that I hope are not “itsy-bitsy” by Merton statndards.

This truck I photographed while traveling across Arkansas last May on my first of two trips out there to conduct watercolor workshops and judge plein air competitions.  The sight of the sun glinting off the corroded steel of the abandoned vehicle, as well as the liveliness of the surrounding landscape, filled my imagination with such delicious satisfaction, that I turned my Jeep around after traveling an extra mile, and returned to this spot, got out, walked as close as I could to the vehicle, and took several photos with my phone.  Only now, two months later, do I get around to painting the scene.  I was not able to get it out of my mind.

Painting over the past two days has yielded a large quantity of satisfaction for me, as I stared very closely at this composition, crawling around in the weeds and foliage, examining the barbed wire, and scrutinizing every square inch of the faded truck.  The only breaks I took were to read more from Annie Dillard and rest my eyes from the visual details of the painting.

Today I am tired, and still waiting for word on the Jeep.  But I’m happy to have finished a book, and am staring across the room at this watercolor to determine what else needs to be done to it, if anything.

Thanks for reading.

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Escape Velocity

February 4, 2016

image

I tingled all over; I counted minutes and subtracted miles. Just ahead, over the rolling wheatfields all golden beneath the distant snows of Estes, I’d be seeing old Denver at last. I pictured myself in a Denver bar that night, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was “Wow!”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

In 1856 Walt Whitman gave us “Song of the Open Road.” One hundred one years later, Jack Kerouac gave us On the Road. Finally completing a collage this afternoon while listening to the film “The Source”, that old itch rose again to hit the open road. But alas, it is Thursday. Another work day stands between me and a coveted opportunity to drive across open country. Though it is February, the winter is so mild here in Texas, with temperatures at this moment in the mid-fifties and sunny. Truly if it weren’t for another work day tomorrow, I would push my vehicle down some open roads somewhere if for no other reason than just to gaze across the “raw land” (Kerouac’s phrase) and enjoy the things of life that really matter.

In the second month of a new semester, school is long on demands and short on praise. No matter what one does, there is always another directive coming down the pike. We reach a point that we’re convinced we can never do enough to satisfy the demands. I don’t want to turn into one of T. S. Eliot’s “Hollow Men” by devoting all my time to preparations, grading, paperwork and assorted tasks that satisfy account books but not souls. At this point of the late afternoon, I’m glad that tomorrow’s demands have already been met in preparation, and perhaps I can settle into making some art or reading some quality literature (but I’d rather be on the road!).

Thanks for reading.

 

Painting into the Holiday

November 23, 2015

imageI am not interested in art as a means of making a living, but I am interested in art as a means of living a life.  It is the most important of all studies, and all studies are tributary to it.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

After nearly two weaks of a nasty sinus infection and demanding school schedule, I am delighted to emerge intact, and most grateful for this opportunity to pick up the brush again!  When I feel sick to the point that I cannot use my eyes, life is so bleak, and the past two weeks without art and reading were dismal.

On a recent road trip, I experienced a moment described about our famous painter Edward Hopper–it was often said that he would pass by a subject worthy of painting, and, a few miles later, would turn his car around and go back to the location, so powerful was the lingering mental image of the subject. This happened to me.  An abandoned tire shop alongside a quiet highway arrested my attention, and I drove a good five miles before turning around to get back to it and take some pictures–I felt that the structure just bristled with stories. Photographing it from a multiple of angles, and so grateful for the bright sunlight, strong shadows, and cold bracing weather, I determined that I would begin studies of this as soon as I felt sound in mind and body again.

The holidays are approaching, and I decided not to wait until Thanksgiving to get out the watercolor supplies.  This is a small study–approximately 8 x 10″ in size, but I kicked it out in half a day today and am itching to begin another.  It feels splendid to be sketching again.  I have worked exclusively in Texas coastal subjects since my artist-in-residency last summer.  I’m glad to return to this nostalgic strain once again–it’s been awhile.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving!

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Springtime Wanderlust

February 24, 2012

One Last Road Trip

It just occurred to me this morning, while driving to school in the pre-dawn, that Spring Break is two weeks away.  It couldn’t be more timely, for me.  That is a week on the school calendar that always whispers “road trip” in my ear.  Fantasies of plein air painting, fly fishing, reading stacks of books, journaling and blogging flood my soul (as well as sleeping in!).

Since I just posted a completed painting of a defunct gas station, I thought it apropos to post this Spring Break painting from 2006.  I had gone with friends to fly fish the White River in northern Arkansas, then traveled to visit a retired principal/friend in Bentonville, and then, in a surprise twist, journeyed into Oklahoma to re-visit a town where a member of my traveling party had grown up as a child.  She said she “wanted to do the Proust thing,” an idea that had to be explained to me, and now remains with me forever.

French novelist Marcel Proust spoke of how certain moments stir our senses to recall primal memories from our early childhood that are profoundly warm and worth recalling.  Yet, any attempt to seize those moments will lead immediately to their dissolution.  They are gifts, and they only remain a moment, often surprising us with what the painter Robert Motherwell called the “shock of recognition” and then vanishing.  But the warmth remains.  I had known this experience throughout my life, and always cherished such gifts, but not until my friend introduced me to Proust did I have a way of describing it.  Incidentally, my friend on that day re-visited her childhood town, and in the end concluded that “Nothing happened.”  Sometimes it is that way.  We cannot make it happen.  We don’t always know Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” sentiments.

This painting is virtually all that is left of Binger, Oklahoma–two buildings at a crossroads.  When we travelled Oklahoma, we were seized by the sight of these buildings and thought they possessed a certain “Edward Hopper” isolation.  So we took a number of photos and I later worked this into a composition.  In fact, I have included this gas station in three of my paintings (the other two can be found on my website: http://recollections54.com).

The 1924 Oldsmobile (what is left of it) is parked behind a restored auto showroom in Hillsboro, Texas, on E. Elm Street.  I thought this abandoned filling station needed an abandoned car for a companion.  Overall, I was happy with the composition, though no one has yet purchased the original watercolor.  I have managed to sell a good number of limited edition giclee prints of it, however, and dozens of greeting cards.

This is the time of year that I am bitten by the Jack Kerouac On the Road sentiment.  Fantasies of Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri and Arkansas flood my being, and I begin looking at the calendar, contemplating the nine days and wondering if I can pull one off this year.  I always look to that time as one of restoration, decompression and retooling (and recovering some sleep!).  Whatever happens, my priority is to create at least one decent watercolor, hopefully en plein air.

Thanks for reading.

Wide Open Spaces in New Mexico

February 11, 2012

New Mexico Landscape

I’m taking a break from my business-related paperwork to re-post a New Mexico favorite I created last fall during an art festival in Mineola, Texas.  I took a series of photos in New Mexico at the end of a summer road trip about 3-4 years ago.  This is the second composition I painted from this abandoned structure I found along the road while a storm was gathering.  In the earlier painting, I darkened the sky, but chose to lighten up this particular composition.

I was happy with the way the salt textured the roadway as I kept sprinkling new layers and spritzing with a spray bottle.  I was also pleased with the way in which the masquepen left the dead limbs intact in the midst of the darkened cedar behind the building.  The painting came along rather quickly, and I hope to try a third composition from it in the near future.

Thanks for reading.

Locomotives in Fall Colors, Grand Saline, Texas

November 7, 2011

Grand Saline UP and GATX in Fall Colors

One day after the Mineola Holiday Bazaar, I find myself decompressing (still pretty exhausted from the return trip and unloading all my freight late last night) and trying to finish this watercolor sketch I began yesterday afternoon.  The fall foliage back-dropping the bright road colors of this pair of diesels I found very striking on an early autumn morning last weekend.  I’m glad the fall finally has arrived (although a dreary one, color-wise–I made up some of the colors in this composition, recalling the vistas I enjoyed last year).  I hope to get in plenty of plein air activity this year.

Railroads have held my attention since childhood.  The bright color schemes fascinated me as a small boy.  They still do, of course, but I also find myself musing over where these huge diesels pull their freight daily, weekly, annually.  I always wondered about what the railroad crew got to see as they road the rails across this country.  I know there has to be the issue of boredom and bone-weary stretches of miles over time, but still, I would love to see American from the perspective of the rails.  And so, every time I’m driving in my Jeep and I look up to see a sight like this, I am filled with wonder and wanderlust.

In a few days, I’ll leave for Galveston, Texas for a four-day conference.  I’m not sure if I’ll have time or space to create art over that time span, but I’ll soon find out.  Meanwhile, I’ll try to push out another watercolor sketch or two in the next couple of days before I leave for that trip.  Incidentally, this watercolor sketch measures 12 x 16″, was done on a watercolor block (D’Arches 140-lb. cold press), using Winsor and Newton watercolors and Prismacolor watercolor pencils.  I’m enjoying this blend of materials for creating quick sketches.

Thanks for reading.

Looking Forward to Fall Colors and Plein Air Watercoloring

September 18, 2011

Looking Forward to Fall Colors and Plein Air Watercoloring

The cool, autumnal temperatures that lightly kissed the four-day Grapefest have left me yearning for the changing colors that announce the plein air season for passionate watercolorists.  Though the art festival season will be extremely heavy from September through October, I am of a mind to commit my weekday afternoons to plein air watercolor sketching.

This is an open meadow across Business Highway 287 on the north side of Waxahachie, Texas.  I had stopped by Zula’s Coffee House late one autumn afternoon in 2010, and enjoyed my coffee outdoors at a picnic table while watching the sunlight sweep across the field across the highway.  I took out my watercolors and made quick work of this vista.  Now I’m ready to chase autumn colors with the brush again.  They cannot come soon enough.

Thanks always for reading.

 

In Memoriam Route 66 Villa Ridge, Missouri

August 17, 2011

In Memoriam Route 66 Villa Ridge, Missouri

I finished this watercolor about 2:00 a.m. this morning.  It’s a relief to have it finished, knowing it only took five days.  As I look on the finished composition, I still feel the sadness of a civilization that has died.  I’m old enough to recall Highway 66 road trips when I was a child, and I cannot help but listen for the ringing of bell cables every time I see the husk of a service station such as this one, languishing on vacant property adjacent to a county road or service road that was formerly an artery carrying traffic across this nation.

As a teacher, I’ve returned to my campus this week to honor my contract.  The students will appear next Monday.  Whether or not I begin a composition before then, I just don’t know at this point.  I have my first One Man Show beginning on September 10.  A part of me wishes to continue painting up till the day that we open, but another part says I already have enough work ready to hang, and that a hiatus might be the healthy road to take right now.  Maybe I’ll decide by tomorrow!

Thanks again for reading, and helping me see this one through.

Defunct Route 66 Gas Station after a Hard Rain

August 14, 2011

Abandoned Route 66 Zephyr Station after the Rain

The painting is slowing down, now that I’m nearing the end of my third day.  Painting water reflections is completely new territory for me, and I spend more time studying the reference photos, applying masquing fluid to the paper and mixing pigments than actual painting.  But I am enjoying the process, and today is the first time I’ve felt “lost” in the painting, in a good sense.  School begins tomorrow for me, but I’ll continue with the painting daily until it’s finished, hopefully before this next week runs its course.   Tonight before retiring to bed, I hope to enrich further the shadows in the water reflections and attempt to render the grasses sticking up out of this enormous parking lot swamp.  For any of you reading this for the first time, the location of this station is Villa Ridge, Missouri, on Route 66 southwest of St. Louis.  Currently the station is at county road AT, about a mile off Interstate 44.   I saw it for the first time in the summer of 2010 and did two plein air watercolor sketches, one of the end of this building, and the other of a rusted-out, foliage-covered billboard advertising Zephyr detergent gasoline.

Thanks for reading.

Route 66 Zephyr Station making Progress

August 13, 2011

Route 66 Zephyr, Villa Ridge, Missouri

I’m feeling glad that I was able to chip away at this watercolor throughout a long and solitary Saturday.  It’s time to put Route 66 to bed for now, but I’m looking forward to rising tomorrow and resuming the enterprise.  This will be my first full-size watercolor of a Route 66 composition.  I’m now hoping the painting will have enough quality to include in my One Man Show next month.

Until tomorrow then.  Thanks for reading.