Posts Tagged ‘rural’

A Shout Out to the little town of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois!

March 10, 2011

Turvey's Corner

I am posting a watercolor that I completed in 1999, the first completed watercolor from my intensified quest to become a “professional” watercolorist, rather than a novice or Sunday Painter type.  The actual setting is a composite of three places I had visited throughout my life.  The Switzer building I always knew from downtown St. Louis, near where I grew up (sadly that building/landmark  has since been torn down).  The buildings on the left margin came from New Bern, North Carolina, a town I visited only one time in the mid-1990’s, and actually used the interior of a coffee shop there (the Trent River Coffee Company) to compose a mural at Arlington Martin High School (that mural can be viewed under the “Murals” tab of my website http://www.recollections54.com).

The building on the right, with the Budweiser and Busch ghost signs, I only knew as coming from a town in Illinois.  I scoured a number of those towns very early in the 1990’s with my father, but did not take good notes in my journal.  Since 1999, I have been unable to tell people specifically where I found that striking building to anchor the right side of this composition.

All of that changed at Open House last Monday night.  Parents of one of my A. P. Art History students were visiting with me, and as we shared our backgrounds, it was established that the father had grown up in Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, near  Fort de Chartes.  I recognized those names immediately as two of the places I had scouted with my father during that summer excursion in the early ’90s.  I told this gentleman about my painting titled “Turvey’s Corner,”  explaining that one of the buildings came from a small Illinois town in his general area.  Today I received the surprise email from him, informing me that he had looked up my painting on the website and immediately recognized this “phantom” building as Lisa’s Market Street Grille in downtown Prairie du Rocher!

How thrilling to meet someone who connected with one of these small towns far, far away that connected with me in my travels!  Having an identity now for that building means everything to me, as I now can tell people more about the painting and what generated the idea for it.  I am adding the Facebook link to Lisa’s Market Street Grille, encouraging any of you interested to check out this business.  I was a patron there when I took my photographs of the establishment with my 35mm camera long ago, and still have fond memories of the place.  How happy I am to re-discover the business, and I cannot wait to return some day.   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisas-Market-Street-Grille/274360247861

Thank you, Mike and Karen, for providing this information for me.

And thanks to all of you for reading.

 

Summer Morning Odyssey along Missouri Highway 79

March 7, 2011

Sun Rising on Winfield, Missouri

I have completely re-written my opening blog page “Hello and thanks for entering my blog.”  That was long overdue.

I posted yesterday that it seemed unlikely that I would get into the studio today.  I have high school all day, and Open House tonight.  However, I got an early start on this day, and it now seems possible that I could get in some studio work this afternoon during the interim.  If I do, I’ll certainly post my progress.

Meanwhile here is a piece I have at the Weiler House Gallery (http://www.weilerhousefineart.com/#home).  I came across this location during a 2009 summer odyssey I took from my home town of St. Louis, north up Highway 79 en route to my college alma mater.  The location is Winfield, Missouri–a sleepy little Mississippi River town.  The sun was just rising over the Mississippi when I came across this abandoned store front–to me the most perfect setting for a watercolor study.  I photographed it at least twenty times from every conceivable angle, totally delighted at the warm early light of the sun and the cool shadows dancing everywhere.  The bright reds made me think of Edward Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning. I have painted this store a second time–the other from a frontal perspective like Hopper’s painting just mentioned.  Very soon, I hope to return to this and capture it from yet another angle.  I wish there were more structures like this in our small towns.  It seems they have all been cleared away and replaced with Seven-Eleven or comparable stores.

Thanks for reading.

Another Route 66 Service Station Relic from a Dying America

March 3, 2011

Cold Desolation, Robertsville, Missouri

I have decided to post an older work now featured on my website (and the original is still for sale at the Weiler House Fine Arts Gallery http://www.weilerhousefineart.com).  A demanding school schedule has jerked me out of the studio for a minimum of two days, it appears, and I really wish to blog daily.  I’m having to work hard to make this possible.  Hopefully tomorrow I can return to my Spencer’s Grill painting and (maybe) finish it by the weekend.

My father has always taken an interest in my art work, even from my early childhood.  Once I launched Recollections 54, he was even more diligent in scouting for me these out-of-the way, forgotten towns that had once flourished throughout the fifties.  During one Christmas visit, he took me on some county roads west of St. Louis, adjacent to Route 66.  Stopping in Robertsville, I photographed this abandoned station from every possible angle.  It was about 10 degrees out, and snow was everywhere, and my 35mm camera lens was continually fogging up.  But I managed to get some decent photos, and put these images in the back of my mind’s eye to “compost” for a few years.

Of course, there were no signs left on this abused structure.  I added all of those, using props I’ve collected over the years.  The automobile was actually found alongside Route 66 in New Mexico, somewhere near Santa Rosa.  No such vehicles were to be seen on this property.

Once I finished the wintry, stormy sky and was ready to begin painting the building beneath, I had an accident in the studio.  Pushing a pile of books off my desk to clear room for an armload of “junk,” I hadn’t counted on the books bouncing along the floor and hitting this painting which was on the floor, propped against the wall.  I prefer to work on D’Arches paper, soaked in a shower and stapled on canvas stretchers, as though I were preparing a surface for oil or acrylic painting.  When dry, this surface is stretched tight as a drum skin, and delightful to work on with wet-on-wet watercolor.  Anyway, the books tore three holes in the painting.  My first reaction was to rip it off and throw it away, but it was the best sky I had ever painted!  So, I turned it over, scotch-taped the rips from behind, and proceeded onward with it.  I’m glad I did.  The painting won Best of Show in a competition the following year and a handsome check.

Something that attaches me to this painting is the reality that it was painted all over the Midwest, West and Southwest.  The summer that it was painted was a time when I decided to do a “Kerouac-style” road trip.  I loaded my Jeep and drove from Dallas/Fort Worth through SE Oklahoma, across Missouri and to St. Louis where I stayed awhile and visited with my family, painting on this from time to time.  Then I drove west to Kansas City, and onward to Denver.  From there I fly fished my way west to Kremmling, and then all the way down the Arkansas River, from its headwaters in Leadville, and on down through Buena Vista, Salida and Canon City.  Then it was on to Santa Fe, New Mexico and finally back home to Arlington, Texas.  I finished this watercolor in Canon City, Colorado, but enjoyed thoroughly working on it in St. Louis, Kremmling and Leadville as well.  All of this is to say–I saw much of this kind of “abandoned town” setting throughout my lengthy road-trip excursion that summer, and all of those sights fed this painting.

Incidentally, I had another “accident” in my garage studio day before yesterday–my French easel collapsed (a small piece of wood with 2 screws tore loose on the back leg) and crashed to the floor with “Spencer’s Grill” on it.  The result is two holes in this painting, now.  Anyway, I scotch-taped those from the back as well, and hope this will be alright.  I like the painting too much to throw it away.

Thanks for reading.

Fly Fishing on the Brazos Watercolor Sketch Finished

February 27, 2011

Fly Fishing the Brazos

I decided to add a diminutive fly fisherman working the currents in the lower left-hand corner of this sketch.  If I decide he doesn’t “work out,” then I’ll crop him out when I mat and frame the composition.  I’m glad to have another watercolor sketch “in the box,” and delighted that I had yesterday’s outing/odyssey.  But now I’d like to finish up that Eureka Springs BIG painting.  I’m getting kind of tired of looking at it and want to sign it off and drop it off.

Thanks for reading.

 

Escape to the River for Plein Air Painting and Fly Fishing

February 27, 2011

Highway 16 Bridge over the Brazos

Plein air study of Brazos River Bridge

Saturday offered a break-out day for me.  I set out early in the morning for a two-hour drive west to the Brazos River near Possum Kingdom dam.  Rainbow trout are released there on five different occasions throughout the winter months.  The day was wide open, as my wife Sandi was attending two separate equestrian events in Weatherford.  Along the way, I had to stop at a classic auto show, where I photographed a row of six Hudsons from 1937-1956.  I will no doubt be creating some watercolors of them sooner rather than later.  I also encountered an “Edward Hopper” painting composition–a magnificent Victorian house high on a hill, bathed in the morning sunlight.  Stopping also for a breakfast add-on, as well as a gasoline fill-up, cooler of ice for (hopefully) rainbow trouth and some bottled water, I began to wonder if I would make it before noon.  I did.

Last weekend, I was distracted by fly fishing, and at the end of the day, too pooped to get out the easel and paint, so this time I decided to reverse my priorities.  I set up my French easel alongside the boat ramp and tried to capture this magnificent Highway 16 bridge over the Brazos.  I worked as quickly as possible, mostly wet-in-wet, and then did some sharper definitional work, enough to capture where the details would lie.  The sun grew hotter, my back and neck started to ache, so I broke down the easel, rigged up the fly rod, struggled into my waders and boots, and descended to the river.  Like last week, I lost four and managed to get one on the stringer.  I guess that’s what comes with a barbless hook (for me, anyway).  The size 20 elk-hair caddis does manage to lure 10-12 inch trout to the surface, and I’ll never cease feeling the thrill of watching a riser bust the surface.

By 3:30, I was feeling weary, and knew that I had a two-hour road trip waiting for me, so I packed it in.  On both legs of the trip, I thrilled to the reading of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, narrated by Matt Dillon.  The timing was funny, as I encountered the row of parked Hudsons in Weatherford, just 15 minutes after Sal Paradise asked Dean Moriarty how he had gotten across the United States so fast to visit him.  Answer: “Aw man, that Hudson goes!”

Thanks for reading.  I’m still tweaking this watercolor and may have a different “look” by tonight.  Either way, I plan to be through with it by today’s end.  I have bigger fish to fry!

Winter Watercolor progressing, February 2, 2011

February 1, 2011

Labadie, Missouri snowscape

I posted the information to this watercolor on the previous post.  I’ve been picking at this watercolor most of this day.  I’m thrilled to have my first one-man show this coming September, and have found another gear to pursue watercolor with larger compositions.  This one measures 12 x 18″. I’m trying to solve the dry brush problems of winter foliage.  I’m not sure how to finish this one out, so I believe I’ll turn my attention to the other two paintings for a little while.  Luck for me, school has been canceled tomorrow as well (two days in a row).  The snow and ice have not been too heavy in this part of  Texas, but the falling temperatures have kept them in place, making travel hazardous.  It is 14 degrees as I write this, at 9:00 p.m.  I’m lucky to have a couple of days in a warm studio!

Thanks for reading.

The Woods are Lovely, Dark and Deep, February 1, 2011

February 1, 2011

Labadie, Missouri Snowscape

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

I have always felt dreamy when hearing these Robert Frost words from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”  For any of you who have followed my blog, you have seen this composition before: while Christmas vacationing in Missouri, I paused at the back door of the apartment we stayed in while visiting with Wayne White on his Double D Acres ranch.  Seeing the lovely woods shrouded in snow, I had to capture them quickly in drybrush watercolor, on a block measuring 8 x 10″.  As soon as I returned to Texas, a dear friend purchased the small sketch, but I could not forget the scene.  Hence I pulled my digital photo of it, printed off an 8 x 10″, and went quickly to work on this 12 x 18″ composition.  I have a good feeling about this one, though it has come along very slowly, which I guess isn’t a bad thing.  Sometimes a long gestation period works with my paintings.

The interruptions have meant plenty of “down time” for this piece: I have two other large watercolors in progress (already posted on this blog).  I have also spent time in L.A. on school business (sketches from there already posted as well).  I’m also teaching two college courses at night, in addition to my “day job” at the high school.  Hence I have had problems getting back to this one.  So why is today different?

Well, this morning we were awakened by a 5:15 phone call that school was canceled for the day.  Looking outside at the solid sheet of ice that covered everything in my neighborhood, I was seized with delight, made coffee and returned to bed with an excellent book:  Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. While enjoying this remarkable book, my BlackBerry tinkled a Facebook message and what did I find? A former student’s photograph of her lovely little daughter watercoloring in the living room, titled “The artist in residence: snowy day watercolors.”  That was enough!  I returned to my studio, since piled high with books and journals, cleared a path for my art work, and resumed work on this piece.

Always I am amazed when I pore over an Andrew Wyeth snowy drybrush piece.  Naturally, as I tinker with this one of my own, brushing, dragging, salting, spattering and drawing, I will ruminate over his magnificent contribution and how much it has enriched me since the first time I saw his work in 1968 as a curious, yet awkward high school freshman Art I student.  Thank you, Mr. Wyeth.  I miss you, and will always treasure your Chadds Ford and Cushing meditations.

New Year 2011, My Sleeping Cat and a Winter Landscape en plein air

January 1, 2011

 

Missouri Winter Landscape

Happy New Year to anyone who reads this.  I have just returned from a St. Louis Christmas holiday, and though the family activities kept me busy, I did find a brief opportunity to paint.  My eye was filled with wonder the entire six days I spent in the midst of the snowy Missouri winter.

 

One of my profound blessings of recent months was renewing a friendship with Wayne White, a classmate I knew since second grade but lost contact with following high school graduation.  Thanks to Facebook we found each other again.  Wayne is a farrier who works on his beautiful spread at Double D Acres in Labadie, Missouri (not far from historic route 66) southwest of the St. Louis area where both of us grew up.  You can read all about his life and work at http://www.doubledacres.com/.

Wayne graciously put my wife and me up in a comfortable apartment on his ranch, and we spent a quality morning with him in the frigid barn temperatures, watching and photographing as he worked, shoeing one of his horses.

The morning of the shoeing, I awoke to a gorgeous snowscape, and could not stop admiring this view of his property behind his house.  I was filled with an Andrew Wyeth drybrush-sense of wonder, and could not stop gazing at it, all the while hearing the words from Robert Frost–“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”–

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

I was not going to let this opportunity pass.  It was frigid cold outside, but the view through the kitchen apartment door was fine enough for me.  I laid my supplies on the table, held the block in my left hand, and sketched, brushed with my right.  I only spent about 30 minutes on it (a small 8 x 10″ sketch), but was happy with the results.

I am back home now in Arlington, Texas, in my garage studio (man cave!), with the door shut because of the 35 degree temperatures.  I finished this work a few moments ago, adding only the tree trunks and their shadows at the bottom of the page.  I believe that is all this needs.  Hopefully I can work on some more snowscapes this winter, if not from Texas landscapes, then from photos I took while in St. Louis this past week.

Meanwhile, in the company of my sleeping cat, I believe I’ll move on to another watercolor.

Thanks for reading.

 

Kerouac’s Dream, December 18, 2010

December 18, 2010

Kerouac's Dream

I have already painted this vintage car several times, but thought it was time to put some fall foliage around it.  It is a 1950 Chevy Sedan Special Delivery, parked in a field north of Hillsboro, Texas, along Highway 77.  The owner has graciously permitted me to come onto his property and do watercolor sketches en plein air of his collection of vintage cars.  Hillsboro is a one-hour drive from where I live, across beautiful sprawling Texas country.  I have Jack Kerouac’s On the Road that I listen to on CD as I drive and let my mind drift across the American landscape.  With my company’s name, Recollections 54, I still look for ways to translate the memories of the American fifties into watercolor compositions and vignettes.  Even if I never reach the standard of quality that I target, I can already say that this journey has been a profoundly rewarding one.  Soon I will journey to my hometown St. Louis for Christmas, and look forward to finding new vistas to record.

Thanks for reading.

Cahill Cemetery Peace, December 17, 2010

December 17, 2010

Cahill Cemetery Peace

This is a small plein air watercolor sketch I did rather hastily as the sun was setting south of Fort Worth.  This cemetery is behind the lovely Cahill Methodist Church east of Interstate 35 on F.M. 917.  I have painted the church three times, and one of the paintings is now the cover of a fiction novel published a few years back (the painting is “First Night in Waterford” and can be found on my website http://recollections54.com/).  Though I painted this in the fall of the year, the sun was hot late that afternoon, and I worked rather quickly so I could retreat to an air-conditioned room and drink some kind of an icy beverage.  I just didn’t get around to finishing it and posting it till now.

Thanks for reading.