Posts Tagged ‘Robie Scucchi’

Coffee and Thoughts about Art

October 30, 2015

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The artist is the origin of the work.  The work is the origin of the artist.  Neither is without the other.  Nevertheless, neither is the sole support of the other.  In themselves and in their interrelations artist and work are each of them by virtue of a third thing which is prior to both, namely that which also gives artist and work of art their names—art.

Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”

For three delicious evenings in a row, I was privileged to sit outside of La Madeleine’s Cafe in north Arlington, relishing the soothing autumn temperatures.  Drawing has become a relaxing past time for me, a quality time for unwinding after grueling classes each day.  In addition to my pencil sketches, I am loving this essay from Heidegger, which I have already read several times.  I am also reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy.  The latter I have known about since the 1980’s, have read many critical reviews and abstracts of it, but never actually read the book itself.  I started it several days ago and am enjoying it to the max.  Heidegger and Nietzsche wax eloquent when they write of aesthetics, and frankly, that is a subject that has always left me tongue-tied.  I know art theory in an intuitive sense, and understand the critical vocabulary that critics love so much.  But when it comes time for me to express it verbally, I am quite flummoxed.

I am saddened that my high school art teacher, Robie Scucchi passed away years ago, without my ever getting back to him to tell him how important those years have become when he patiently instructed me.  He was a master at abstract painting, and certainly understood the aesthetic principles undergirding that type of art.  When I was in tenth grade, he forced me into abstract painting, and I resisted harshly.  When I finally came around, I could not learn fast enough, and next thing I knew, he had moved on to Mississippi State College.  We only spoke twice after he left, and now I regret deeply that I cannot talk with him and thank him for what he instilled in me.  Last night, as I sat scribbling out the tree posted above, I employed many abstract principles into the design, weaving them into the drawing, and thinking of the master who taught me.

It saddens me further that the other student whom I knew since age 5 also wrestled with Mr. Scucchi over these principles, and also came around.  He and I were able to hold many subsequent conversations about abstraction, though both of us turned to making representational art throughout our lives.  But he too, has passed away, and I no longer have his conversation to engage.  I am fortunate still to have breath and strength within me to keep pushing this envelope, but at the same time, I really miss those two artistic comrades.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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A Gratifying Return to the Watercolor Studio

February 23, 2015
Return to the Garage Studio in Winter

Return to the Garage Studio in Winter

Abstraction’s original meaning is “to select from,” in the Latin; though I will not say, as is so easy for defenders of abstract art, that consequently all art is abstract because all art is selected; this is simply to win a dialectical point–in the Socratic sense of dialectical. Au Contraire. What is selected is selected on the basis of the most concrete, personal feeling.

Robert Motherwell, October 1959

With today’s school closure, I just learned that the grading deadline has been extended an extra day. With a shout, I returned to my garage studio that I had not visited in nearly a month. Yes, it is 28 degrees outside and ice has covered everything, but this electric space heater works in the garage, two still life arrangements are still set up out here, and the paintings have been waiting my return. So far, I have spent all my time this morning darkening this fly fishing composition over more than 50% of its area, making the background darker and deepening the tones of all the middle values, leaving the highlighted areas untouched. The overall look of the painting has changed profoundly to my eye, but I like the change, and there is certainly no going back. I’ll let it dry out awhile and then return for another look. Meanwhile I have other paintings in progress that have languished for weeks. I’m ecstatic now for this opportunity to get back to them.

Motherwell’s argument posted above has been buzzing in my head today while working on this still life, trying to bring it to fruition. One of my high school art teachers, Mr. Scucchi, was always trying to get me to understand this–no matter how naturalistic my style in rendering subjects in paint, the quality of the composition would always come down to abstraction, particularly to selection. I tried to listen, but didn’t really come to appreciate this until much later. My college painting professor, Dr. Unger, also urged this lesson upon me. Both instructors are now deceased, and I regret that I cannot tell them personally that I now get it, and wish I could tell them directly. I’ll always be grateful for their patience and belief in me as I struggled with these matters. Lingering over this still life today has drawn me closer to their spirits and I’ve enjoyed this feeling of kinship. In many ways, their spirits hover about my work.

What a wonderful way to spend a day off. Incidentally, I still graded for two hours this morning, and will do quite a bit more today. But what a joy knowing that the deadline is no longer tonight.

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.

Peeling Back the Layers of the Watercolor Still Life

January 1, 2013
Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

Ernest Hemingway could not write about Michigan until he was in Paris, and could not write about Paris until he had returned to the United States.  On this first day of the New Year, I am returning to my ninth grade in House Springs Missouri, at Northwest High School.  In Proustlike fashion, this still life with the kerosene lantern is transporting me back to my Art I class, period 1, when we walked into class and saw a collection of at least fifteen objects assembled in the middle of the classroom, and the table arranged in a circle about the perimeter.  Each of us was given a full-size sheet of newsprint paper (perhaps 18 x 24″), a charcoal pencil, a blending stump and a kneaded eraser.

Immediately, a girl protested: “Mr. Scucchi, I cannot fit all that on this paper!” Coolly, the teacher replied: “Did you ever draw a house?”  Discussion over.  Time to draw.

At college there was an ancient Greek vase on the table in the seminar room where our class in Greek was held.  Fresh from Michigan, I had never seen anything before with lines so simple and yet so beautiful, and I marveled at it day after day.  In those hours of a student’s trancelike wonder there was born the resolve, unconscious at first, to go to Greece. 

The Art I students would sit before this giant still life for three weeks, fifteen instructional periods.  And in those periods, I became lost in wonder at the kerosene lantern, the focal point (for me) to this immense pile of objects that included a jug, a Ruffino wine bottle with straw bottom, corn scoop, football helmet, antique water pump, bricks and drapery.

With charcoal pencil and blending stump, I became absorbed with the textures of the kerosene lantern, the complications of a smoky globe with highlights and scratches and thin wires wound about it, the rusted and pitted armature catching highlights and absorbing shadows, the thinness of the bail that arced above the lantern, and the issues of rendering this delicate piece of iron with charcoal as it presented itself as a string of highlights, mid-tones and shadows.  I realize now that, as a ninth-grader, I was not as dull as I and my peers had regarded me.  It is a certainty that I was not academically astute or interested, but during those days I realized that I was visually alert and interested in these objects.

No Ideas but in Things.

Christmas Vacation, Quiet Reflection, an Evolving Man Cave and Plans for a New Watercolor

December 23, 2012
The Reflective Side of the Man Cave

The Reflective Side of the Man Cave

Merry Christmas early, to anyone reading this.  Yesterday began my Christmas vacation from teaching school.  Very little got accomplished, I’m sad to say, but I did manage to roll up my sleeves during some down time and re-arrange my Man Cave while the temperatures were still mild in the garage.  I brought home five more vintage doors from my school classroom and re-installed them in the Cave, to close it off as a room separate from my Jeep.  All the steamer trunks and suitcases filled with watercolors, cards and prints are safely back home as well, where they belong.

Pictured above is my new seating area for reading, writing, thinking–something I have just gotten underway during this break.  Those moments can only get better as the days progress and I get used to the reality of not rising for classes every weekday morning in the pre-dawn.  I am ready to spend more time in Hemingway, Pound and Eliot.

Setting Up the Next Still Life

Setting Up the Next Still Life

Pictured above is the opposite side of my Man Cave.  This I also began yesterday, and am still tinkering with the arrangement and lighting today.  “No Ideas But in Things,” wrote William Carlos Williams.   These things are charged with personal history for me, and I plan on spending much quality time re-visiting and absorbing those ideas.  I am inspired to attempt a full-size watercolor sheet (22 x 28″) for this composition.  I have been too afraid for years to go after something of this magnitude, but as any recent blog readers will know, I have spent some time whittling away at still life objects in watercolor on a smaller scale, and I think it’s time to graduate to something larger and more focused.  Below I am posting the 22 x 28″ Andrew Wyeth watercolor that has fueled my imagination since I first saw the illustration as a freshman in high school, in Art I.  I will always be indebted to Mr. Scucchi, my Art I teacher, who believed in me enough to lay his massive Houghton-Mifflin Andrew Wyeth volume in front of me to peruse one day.  This particular watercolor of the interior of the house better known from Wyeth’s Chistina’s World was painted after the deaths of Christina and her brother, when this property was put up for sale, and Wyeth knew he was taking his last look at it.

The still life I have set up is an attempt to portray the belongings of one recently deceased as well, the residual property recording the decades of his life and the ideas/things enclosing his daily domestic domain.

http://planetalbany.typepad.com/.a/6a010536214f60970b0134867af004970c-800wi

Andrew Wyeth, Alvaro and Christina, watercolor 1968

Thanks for reading.