Posts Tagged ‘Robert Motherwell’

Coffee with David & Robert Motherwell

October 3, 2018

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Any painter knows that empty space is his most powerful artistic weapon., if he can adequately animate it. The void need not be terrifying. 

Robert Motherwell, “Kafka’s Visual Recoil: A Note”

When the afternoon shadows stretch long across my back yard, and I finally submit that final grade, capping a day-long stretch at my desk, I am happy to know that I have an entire week before I will have to grade another college paper. I did not post a “morning coffee” blog today, because I decided from the moment I rose from my bed that I would make grading my number one priority, and it took most of the day to accomplish it. But now I am happy to sit at the desk, and spend some delicious time reading from my three-volume Catalogue Raisonné of Robert Motherwell, a retirement gift I gave myself last year when I finally hung up my high school teaching tenure.

The quote posted above has captured my attention, because I have returned in my own painting to compositional “vignettes”, paintings that open empty spaces around the perimeter of the picture plane, rather than covering every square inch of the surface with color or detail. I recall Andrew Wyeth saying that the strength of a composition lay not in what an artist put into it, but what he could get away with leaving out. I am seeking more ways of creating those types of watercolor.

I am getting ready to re-enter my studio this evening, very happy that my chores have been swept away and I don’t have to think about them for awhile.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Morning Coffee with Dave & James

September 28, 2018

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Another morning spent reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Towards Findlater’s church a quartet of young men were striding along with linked arms, swaying their heads and stepping to the agile melody of their leader’s concertina. The music passed in an instant, as the first bars of sudden music always did, over the fantastic fabrics of his mind, dissolving them painlessly and noiselessly as a sudden wave dissolves the sandbuilt turrets of children. Smiling at the trivial air he raised his eyes to the priest’s face and, seeing in it a mirthless reflection of the sunken day, detached his hand slowly which had acquiesced faintly in that companionship.

As he descended the steps the impression which effaced his troubled selfcommunion was that of a mirthless mask reflecting a sunken day from the threshold of the college. The shadow, then, of the life of the college passed gravely over his consciousness. It was a grave and ordered and passionless life that awaited him . . .

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The abstract artist Robert Motherwell assessed James Joyce as “the Shakespeare of modernism.” As for myself, I was reading James Joyce long before I encountered the art and life of Motherwell. I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man while dispatching for the Fort Worth Police Department. As a call taker on the police non-emergency line, there were long gaps of quiet between phone calls, and I was tethered to the work station with a headset, so there was plenty of space for quality reading and thought. The book changed my life and prompted me to keep a journal, which I have done since the late 1980’s.

Over the past few days, I have been re-reading journals of mine from years past, and an entry from December 2014 recorded the Joyce text above, and my comments about it that particular morning. What strikes me today is a recurring theme from my own past life that Joyce prompted me to recall, that notion of a “mirthless” countenance. In describing myself, I would never use words such as “ebullient” or “joyful”. I have often envied those who exuded such qualities, but always felt that if I myself tried to project such an image, I would be just as repulsive as . . . well, I won’t complete that sentence. I’ll just say that I abhor certain public figures who try to sell a particular product or lifestyle with facial expressions, specific words and general posturing that I think are phony. I never wanted to be one of those.

A friend from my past always referred to me as “that gloomy guy.” It was all in fun, and the friend respected me, knowing that I often wished I could naturally reflect a more cheerful countenance. Now, with all that being said, I don’t describe myself as mirthless, joyless, or unhappy with life. Quite the contrary. I believe that life is a precious gift, and as I continue to grow older, I am grateful for every day of it, and wake each morning, happy to be handed another gift.

Looking over my past, I am haunted by a myriad of memories of college, pastoral ministry, graduate school, and public school teaching, where I was surrounded by mirthless expressions depicting genuinely unhappy people. And I always fought aggressively against that outlook, swearing I would never let it pull me beneath the waves. I don’t believe that one’s profession in life guarantees a mirthless life; rather, I believe unhappy people tend to bring that into the workplace, into the family and into the friendship circles.

Much of my inspiration in life comes from reading, and that has been true for most of my life. Making art also brings joy that I cannot explain. Soon, I will return to Palestine and occupy The Gallery at Redlands along with the music that Smoothrock 93.5 now brings into the environment. And I look forward to picking up the watercolor brush once again. For the past two days, my life has been tied up with college grading and printing over one hundred new greeting cards of my art (I will post a couple of the cards below). I sell these 5×7″ cards (blank inside) with envelope in a plastic sleeve for $5 each or 5 for $25. Printing off the images the past couple of days has made me ache to make new work, so I plan to resume that this afternoon and throughout the weekend.

Christmas card workspace 2nd version

Dryden scan

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Evening(!) Coffee with Dave and Robert Motherwell

August 22, 2018

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One might say that the triumph of modern artists in our society has been the capacity to protect one’s own modes of being. These modes may be well or sick or both, I do not precisely know; but you must recognize that to choose a mode of existence within modern society, and to be able to maintain it, is a considerable accomplishment. It is as though a few gifted children were able to outwit the adult world and protect their own felt necessities.

Robert Motherwell, “Lecture with Charles R. Hulbeck”

The French mathematician Poincare said, “Thought is only a flash between two long nights.” Artists work by these flashes of thought.

Robert Motherwell, “Symbolism”

I had to leave very early this morning to tend a number of university details before my class, and the blog was unfinished. So here it is . . . . I hope this “morning coffee” theme is working O.K.  I thought of it Tuesday morning, August 14, while still away from my home. Since that day, I have been on a routine of reading every morning, early, for inspiration, starting a blog draft of my reading, and launching it the day after, in hopes that letting the ideas “compost” twenty-four hours could lead to something more significant to share. I got out of my routine today, because I was off to school much earlier than usual, then much unscheduled business crashed in on my day, and now I find myself still looking at this Motherwell draft begun yesterday morning right after launching the Cezanne blog.

I do enjoy the quiet of the night, when the rest of the world has seemingly gone to bed and no one is trying any longer to get my attention.  I wish I could paint in my studio, but extensive home maintenance is holding my days hostage lately, and I just wish to get on the other side of it as quickly as possible. And, of course, the first week of college also involves much problem-solving as I settle in with new groups of students and get the subjects rolling down the track. Perhaps next week I’ll find myself in a workable routine again. I have largely missed my life, my “mode of being” today.

The main thing I wish to write tonight is this: Motherwell has held my undying respect since my first year of teaching in 1988. When I recognized the depth of his scholarship in addition to his painterly output, I just wanted to live his kind of dream. He served on twenty-seven college faculties throughout his career, wrote and published heavily, and was in great demand as a public speaker. I have always loved his erudition, and  when I learned that he was perpetually conflicted between his library and his studio, I knew him to be a man after my own heart. I wish I could have sat down and had chats with him as a friend. His quote about the artist’s “modes of being” that I posted above to introduce this blog continues to abide with me; I love living the artist’s contemplative life, love living the dream. Every morning I awake, expecting an Oracle, anticipating inspiration from some divine source, and I am seldom disappointed. This to me is the Life of the Mind.

“Well, to me, James Joyce is the Shakespeare of modernism.”

Robert Motherwell, interview

I was amused to learn that Motherwell had a copy of Ulysses in every room of his house, and he was constantly picking up the book to read at random, having already read the text once in its entirety. To date, I am halfway through the book, and have yet to draw the depths of inspiration from the volume that Motherwell did, but I’m still hoping . . . Motherwell’s devotion to Joyce did lead me to A Porrait of the Artist as a Young Man. That volume I have read twice, and it is that volume that I continue to pick up at random and read with great pleasure; I just don’t have a copy in every room of the house yet.

The hour is drawing late, so I’ll close this one, and thank you for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal, feeling alone.

I blog, knowing I am not alone.

 

 

Morning Coffee with Dave & Barnett

August 16, 2018

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An artist paints so that he will have something to look at; at times he must write so that he will also have something to read.

Barnett Newman, “The Ides of Art”

Barnett Newman has been an effective vitamin pill along with my morning coffee recently, providing plenty of inspiration for me as I continue work on my painting and ideas. For several decades I have been absorbed with the art and milieu of the Abstract Expressionist painters, also known as The New York School. I have read The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell and parts of  Mark Rothko’s The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art. Ian Watson, a former student of mine and now an artist emerging in the gallery milieu, presented me with this copy of Newman’s writings when I attended the opening of his show in Amarillo last month. And I have found his ideas very engaging.

The present painter can  be said to work with chaos not only in the sense that he is handling the chaos of a blank picture plane but also in that he is handling chaos of form.     . . . it can be said that the artist like a true creator is delving into chaos. It is precisely this that makes him an artist, for the Creator in creating the world began with the same material–for the artist tried to wrest truth from the void.

Barnett Newman “The Plasmic Image”

When I read this quote, I had to close the volume and catch my breath. For a number of years I have mused over a theological approach to creation. I have even used it in talking points during workshops I have conducted recently.

    In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 

    The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And          the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

    And God said,“Let there be light,” and there was light. 

    And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

When reading these opening verses of Genesis, I still tingle at that description of the world without form and void and darkness moving over the face of the abyss. Then God spoke, and as he spoke, the chaotic mass began organizing as he divided light from darkness, day from night, earth from sky, etc. Robert Motherwell said that drawing was a way of organizing space. God did that by dividing, and so also do we, as we look at the white expanse of surface and begin dividing it into a composition.

In verse 26, Genesis records that God made people in his own image. For centuries, thinkers have mused over the Imago Dei, wondering what it means to be made in the image of God. I answer the question with another: what is the very first thing recorded in Genesis about God? He created. And he made people to be like him. What do humans do? They create. Personally, I delight in that mandate. And I love rising to the challenge of confronting chaos and seeking to organize it into something worth seeing.

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Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to be like God.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Portals

December 13, 2016

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A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

James Joyce, Ulysses

With one week of school remaining before Christmas holidays begin, I was delighted this morning to be seized with the inspiration to begin a new series of work I will call “Portals.”  I have studied with interest Robert Motherwell’s “Open Door” series as well as the motif used in Henri Matisse.  As I look toward the New Year, I’m thinking of new horizons, or new portals of discovery for artistic expression and I took some time this afternoon to research my blog through the months of October through December 2012 when I first began painting vintage doorknobs. Over past years, I have collected a number of vintage doors, doorknobs and locking plates and plan to begin a new series of watercolors on these subjects this winter.  All the ones I’ve painted from the past have sold, and I’m excited at the prospect of beginning this new series.

The above painting was finished over the weekend at my favorite retreat, several hours outside the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.  Dear friends of mine own an old general store that is not in business, but still has a residence attached to it..  They have been gracious in allowing me access to this dwelling over selected weekends, and I thoroughly enjoyed my restful, quiet stay this past weekend.  The door separating the storeroom from the residence was one of my subjects for study the last time I stayed there, and I managed to complete the work this time.  This afternoon I took the painting to a frame shop to be custom framed and I’m excited to see how it looks when ready.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Ecstatic Revision

September 19, 2016

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Perhaps I feel happiest when, during the creative process, I simply let work “pour out”, so to speak, without critical intervention or editing . . . 

Robert Motherwell

After a weekend tour of five Texas universities with the senior A.V.I.D. students from my campus, I found myself quite exhausted and mellow when I finally awoke in my own bed Sunday morning. My gas station and passenger rail car watercolors are nearly complete, and I really was not in the mood to look at them and make final decisions. So, instead, I picked up this demonstration piece I began a couple of years ago, to see if I could edit it and pull out a finished painting. The site is an abandoned restaurant in New Mexico that I photographed a number of years ago while passing through from Colorado.

My first painting of this location has already sold to dear friends. I’m always glad to sell to a friend, but I missed looking up at that framed painting that hung in a prominent place in my living room. So far, this one is not living up to the standards of the first, but we’ll see what happens as I bump it a little more.

The original painting was titled New Mexico Closure, and it is featured on my website recollections54.com. With this current attempt, I am attempting to put more foliage around the back and enrich the foreground textures. So far, the bread crumbs and salt are not creating the effects I’m seeking, but I’ll give it another go this evening, hopefully.

I posted the Robert Motherwell quote above, completely affirming that joy in pouring out spontaneously all the richness of my emotions as I begin a work, then revising later. Oftentimes, the earlier joy far exceeds the work of revision. However, there are times like now that my ecstatic high is reversed, and I find more joy in the revision. That is true on this occasion because this painting began as a demo for a local art society. I fielded numerous questions as I put down the preliminary colors and shapes, and of course, was conscious of an audience, so I could not experience that “high” that I know when alone in the studio and pouring out a new work.

William Wordsworth opined once that “all good poetry is the spntaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” But he then later wrote that “the imagination must learn to ply her craft by judgment studied.” What makes this current watercolor experience enjoyable for me is the time I’m spending staring at the work from across the room, making compositional decisions. When I see something I don’t like, I don’t despair but wonder “can it be improved, and if so, do I have the skill”?  So far, I’m saying Yes and Yes.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Filling the Lacuna

April 7, 2016

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Motherwell’s formidable intelligence was matched by his capacity for deep feeling, and the conflict between intellect and instinct formed one of the richest undercurrents of his art. He approached the situations of his life and of his art with a remarkable flexibility–constantly alert, his thought constantly in motion, his attitudes toward the world around him continually in a state of reappraisal.

Jack Flam, Robert Motherwell: 100 Years

There has been a considerable gap since my last blog posting, because I’ve felt that nothing was going on worthy of a post, though I have been extremely busy chasing school-related and income tax deadlines. I seem to be currently slogging around in the swamp water, yet life is good. Grateful for so much good that has washed over me in recent weeks, I still find myself fumbling over what to do just now with my life with this overload of stimuli. Still, that is a good thing, right?

Last Sunday, I stumbled on a Robert Motherwell installation at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the timing couldn’t have been better–Amazon just delivered to me the book I quoted above. I am immersed in the reading of this remarkable text, always in awe of this marvelous, spiritual man.  And I have already returned to visit the show a second time. Thanks to Motherwell, I am drawing more in my sketchbook and plotting out my next series of watercolors. With an art festival approaching in eight days, I doubt that I’ll be able to pursue painting for another week-to-ten days. But at least my mind and heart are fixed on the notion.

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My Tuesday night “Parisian Café” is one of the most precious events to enter my solitary life. As I’ve stated before, “the French Impressionists had their Café Guerbois. Picasso and friends had their Les Deux Magots. The Ash Can School had 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The Abstract Expressionists had the Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village. I myself have ached for an art cafe where I could show up once a week or so and just talk with other creative people . . .”  This gathering of artists and writers fills my cup to overflowing every time I sit down with them. I have gone most of my adult life without a close circle of friends, and I cannot describe the joy and warmth I feel now that I have been embraced. Stacy (seated on the left) is the most soulful poet I have ever known personally, and conversations with her always leave me with an overflowing sense of gratitude.  To make things better, she teaches in the same school as I. Here is a link to Stacy’s blog:

stacycampbell1010.wordpress.com

 

laguna madre poster

Since my last blog post, I’ve cranked out thirty-nine pages of typed rough draft on a book I’m trying to write, recording my Laguna Madre experience of last summer. All my adult life, I’ve wanted to write a book, but never knew how to go about getting it published. I’ve decided I’m writing this one anyway, for me. I’m enclosing the draft of my introductory chapter, and trust me, it’s rough.

Cleansing the Eye:

Recollections from a Grateful Artist-in-Residence

PROLEGOMENA

“Gauguin returned from his first Tahitian sojourn in 1893 with enough canvases and carvings to constitute a one-man show; but he knew that the strangeness of his Tahitian imagery would require some stage-managing if it was to be a success. He had in mind the idea of producing a book that would introduce and explain his imagery to a Parisian audience.” (page X, Writings of a Savage)

How do I introduce myself as quickly as possible and then get out of the way?  I hope that this is not a book about me, but a book about you, dear Reader. I have never believed that quality reading is a passive exercise; you the reader create your own world as you read my words and interact with this text.  Upon completion and release of this book, I will not go forth into the rest of my life, wondering whether or not I am understood; I just want to make a contribution.  I want someone’s life to improve because they spent time with me in this book.

So, what exactly am I?  An unfrustrated public school teacher who has had the pleasure (for the most part) of doing as he pleased for more than a quarter of a century.  My only real issue has been how to make a gift of the knowledge and experiences that have enriched me throughout these years.  My lifestyle, as I’ve sojourned in this world, has been to absorb knowledge, Faustlike, and embed these observations in lesson plans, lectures, and paintings, hoping always that others received something significant from the encounters.  I never expected others to see the world my way, but always hoped to deal an ace worth picking up and inserting into someone else’s poker hand.

Why did Henry David Thoreau go to Walden Woods?  My perspective has been this: he received a vaunted Harvard degree, and with it a skill set, an academic toolbox.  But early in life, he reached the conviction that all knowledge he had received up to that point was secondary.  All the divines whom he had read received their truths directly from nature, he from their books and lectures.  He had lived out Emerson’s complaint that opened Nature in 1836:

The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes.  Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?  Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?  Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe?  The sun shines to-day also.  There is more wool and flax in the fields.  There are new lands, new men, new thoughts.  Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.

Travelling to Walden Pond to live, Thoreau decided it was time to learn directly from nature, to find out what he could learn from her, and then to publish those results to the world.

And hence I find myself this day at the Laguna Madre.  This is a gift.  My education over my past sixty-plus years has been a gift, but nearly all of it secondary.  Now, for the first time, I hope to scoop primary experience and pass it on to other outstretched hands.  Hopefully, by the end of this sojourn I will echo Nietzsche’s words that I have become weary of my wisdom as a bee that has gathered too much honey, needing hands outstretched to receive it.

Quoting Thoreau, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan- like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

My conviction has always been grounded in the notion that solitude is the studio for creativity.  I myself have never found fulfilment in collaborative projects in the visual arts, nor have I found my inspiration in the vortex of think tanks.  The school of solitude is where I have always mined my ideas for painting.  Anthony Storr has argued:

The creative person is constantly seeking to discover himself, to remodel his own identity, and to find meaning in the universe through what he creates.  He finds this a valuable integrating process which, like meditation or prayer, has little to do with other people, but which has its own separate validity.  His most significant moments are those in which he attains some new insight, or makes some new discovery; and these moments are chiefly, if not invariably, those in which he is alone.[1]

“Alone” is the key word that describes my life, though I have been in relationships for most of my years.  I have always required space for my own thinking, writing and creating.  This was true in public school, the university, graduate school, the ministry, and all my subsequent years devoted to the classrooms and lecture halls.  I still look back with gratitude at those times spent in library study carrels, in my own study, under trees, beside flowing streams, in hotel rooms and lobbies, coffee bars and book stores, in roadside parks or staring through a windshield while driving across the country.  My private study cubicle has been wherever I could pause, alone, and pull out a journal or laptop or sketchbook, and pour out my thoughts on the pages.  And throughout my years, I have looked at those file drawers filled with stuffed manila folders, those computer files filled with data, the over one hundred volumes of handwritten journals on my shelf—and wondered how to distill those memories and research efforts into some kind of a book, my life, my philosophy, my love.  Volumes and volumes, pages and pages, layers and layers of themes and threads seeking some kind of resolution, some kind of synthesis, some kind of understandable “story” for others to read and use as desired.  My clusters of recorded ideas have milled about over the decades, as actors on a stage waiting for a director.

As shared in the opening of this chapter, Gauguin returned from his island excursion with a stack of canvases and sought a way to “stage-manage” his public exhibition. So I too returned from the Laguna Madre with nineteen plein air watercolors, with a plan to show them in two exhibitions, conduct a series of watercolor workshops, deliver some public addresses, and attempt to relay to my audiences what I gleaned from this peak experience.

And so, this book will be my first effort, since my doctoral dissertation, to engage in an extended essay, synthesizing the ideas that have meant so much to me over the years and found a way to crystalize while sojourning on a small spoil island in the Texas Laguna Madre.

When Hemingway accepted his Nobel Prize, he declared that “writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”  I would propose the word “solitary.”  I don’t feel lonely when I make art, though I am alone, solitary.  I find those moments soothing.  When the boat pulled away from the dock that first Sunday morning on June 6, 2015, and I waved good-bye to my new friends, watching as they diminished in size on the horizon, the first thing I noticed was that the island was quiet, very quiet.  And I could feel myself beaming inwardly.  I was in an unspoiled paradise, though standing on a spoil island.  It was time to go to work.

[1]Anthony Storr, Solitude: A Return to Self (New York: The Free Press, 1988),  p. xiv.

Thanks for reading.

 

Evening at the Parisian Café

January 19, 2016

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At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement.  And do not call it fixity,

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.

And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

T. S. Eliot, “Four Quartets

Today I finished reading one of the most satisfying books in a long time: Bernard Jacobson’s Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant. The text is comprised of 120 pages of fine print, and I do not like reading fine print, but this was a genuine feast, begun Saturday and finished today (Tuesday). I simply could not put it down. I have been a devoted student of Motherwell’s life and work since the late 1980’s, and have chafed that there were no biographies written on him. Last year marked the centennial of his birth, so this book has come out, and another is coming out the first week in March, which I have already ordered pre-publication, compliments of Amazon.

I share almost nothing in common with Motherwell’s style of painting and collaging, but I absolutely love his writing, and he wrote prodigiously. The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell remains one of my favorite art texts of all time. I love his lifestyle which combined reading, writing, publishing, editing, teaching and making art across multiple genres. He was a contemplative, quiet man, and I have felt an affinity with his solitary side during my own hours of work and study. Nearly every day when my job is done, I retreat to my home and studio-my sanctuary. Tonight, as temperatures drop outside, I am enjoying this fireplace and re-reading all the notes I took in my journal from the reading of this excellent book. I posted the drawing of the tree above in a brief blog earlier this evening. I went to La Madeleine Cafe on the north side of Arlington to meet some kindred spirits, and got there a half hour early. So I took out my sketchbook, and with a cup of coffee at an outside table, did this 5 x 7″ drawing with great pleasure and gladness of heart. For years I have stared at winter trees, and questioned myself why I was not studying them with a pencil. Last November I got in the groove of this, and don’t want to get out, I enjoy the practice and discovery so much.

Once my friends arrived, we repaired ourselves indoors to the warmth of the cafe and excellent, spirited conversation. It has taken me decades to find such rich camaraderie and verbal exchange among artistic spirits. The French Impressionists had their Café Guerbois. Picasso and friends had their Les Deux Magots. The Ash Can School had 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The Abstract Expressionists had the Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village. I myself have ached for an art cafe where I could show up once a week or so and just talk with other creative people, and finally I found a married couple who possess this overflowing zest for art, ideas, music, literature and film. Their enthusiasm is contagious and I could listen to their ideas all night. How marvelous to have this space on Tuesday evenings for sharing a table, cups of coffee, and an abundance of dreams. Thanks Z and Elaine. You are truly the best! I’m still buzzing with the things we talked about this evening.

Now back at home, I’m enriched in front of the fire with memories, a journal, good books and a glad heart.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

Laguna Madre Work in Progress

January 18, 2016

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Motherwell’s attitude to spontaneity was always complex, painting and then painting out, modulating the first impulse, correcting, so that the initial freedom yields to a shaping spirit which is more formal and architectonic.

Bernard Jacobson, Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant

My reading of this excellent book on Motherwell has been feeding my impulse to paint, so the day has been spent running back and forth between the reading chair and the drafting table. I’ve enjoyed the same rhythm about which he testified, as I have poured, spattered and rubbed paint spontaneously across this page, then revised with masquing, drawing and line painting, a constant back-and-forth between spontaneity and control.

 

Late Night Reading and another Tree Study

January 17, 2016

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They went through me like an arrow, and from that moment I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Robert Motherwell, upon seeing for the first time Henri Matisse’s paintings

This delicious Sunday night has been spent before the fireplace, reading more than forty pages from this new Motherwell book I just received. I posted his observation above of what happened when he was in his early twenties and saw paintings by Matisse in the home of one of Gertrude Stein’s brothers in Palo Alto, California. His testimony echoes what I felt when I saw my first Andrew Wyeth book in my ninth-grade art class. What a rush to recall that moment.

I closed the book and returned to my drafting table to experiment some more with the rendering of winter trees in pencil. I purchased a sketch book in an antique store last month, and am enjoying the qualities of the aged, darkened paper in the book. I’m still cutting lines into the surface of the paper with a ballpoint pen that has run out of ink, then dragging a 9B pencil over the creases. In addition to the soft pencil and dry ballpoint, I just just used a No. 2 pencil manufactured by Papermate–a Mirado classic. I have fallen in love with these, and find them in Albertson’s grocery stores and H-E-B stores as well. For the really fine and light lines, I use a 6H pencil, and from time to time I drag a blending stump through the pencil work. I’m still not sure what I’m doing, but loving the experiment.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.