Posts Tagged ‘Saint Ignatius Academy’

Scattered to the Winds

March 25, 2014
Saint Ignatius Academy Fort Worth, Texas

Saint Ignatius Academy
Fort Worth, Texas

In a traditional school setting, intensity is diluted by short and widely-separated class meetings, continuity is lost as everyone scatters to the winds at the end of each class period, and ideas dissipate before they ever develop.

Ted Orland, View from the Studio Door

Since graduate school days, I have been regretfully aware of a lifestyle too hurried for ideas to settle and compost.  Having been a teacher now for twenty-five years, things have not changed.  Ideas sprout, but time is not allowed to water and cultivate them.  The bell rings, another class begins and the subject changes.  Even as a teacher, I face that issue–something comes up in class that gets my attention, but I cannot walk away and sit in silence, record it, modify it, work on it.  Soon the bell rings, they leave, others file in, the bell rings, and we begin another cycle (with me, often another subject from period to period).  One advantage that I do have as a teacher, though, is that I don’t have to dash out the door at the bell, and while students leave and others enter, I often scribble down the abbreviated notes of ideas that have seized me in the moment, and (sometimes) return to them later in the day when things have quieted.  But still, I often turn back to old journal pages to find these notes abandoned as well.  But thanks to the journal, they have at least been snared in the net, and I can disentangle them and re-work them.

Today in Advanced Placement Art History, we looked at the English Romantic painters, and I had to pause when we viewed Joseph Mallord William Turner’s Tintern Abbey.

Tintern Abbey by J. M. W. Turner

Tintern Abbey
by J. M. W. Turner

This medieval wreck had stirred the imagination of William Wordsworth to the extent that he revisited the memory five years later and composed the poem “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tinern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798”.  The poem then inspired J. M. W. Turner to create this marvelous pencil and watercolor rendering.  My painting above is of Saint Ignatius Academy, located at 1206 Throckmorton Street in Fort Worth, Texas.  A few years ago, I had traveled to the city with the intention of painting Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, only to find the building in too good condition for a rustic painting.  I turned in surprise to see this neighboring structure, from 1889, erected in the French Second Empire style.  The facility was no longer in use, and as I strolled the grounds, looking in windows, sitting on steps, observing closely the weathered portals and window frames, I felt the same sense of loss and presence that floods the minds of romantics when they look upon ruins that once thrived.  And I had to paint it.

Memories and significant ideas are always visiting us, and if we don’t find a way to hold them, mold them and preserve them, they scatter to the winds.

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.



An Andy Warhol Twist to my Catholic Architectural Watercolor

May 23, 2012

Saint Ignatius Academy (red)

I just received my limited edition giclee prints of my recent watercolor of Saint Ignatius.  The printer, a Photoshop veteran, decided to have some fun with variations on my print, and this is what resulted.  I love the variations Andy Warhol did with his reproductions, and I find it amusing to know that he faithfully attended Catholic mass, (and I seem to recall that he visited his local parish frequently to pray in silence).  At any rate, I wish to post these images.  I will be bringing them into the public view during this holiday weekend at Arlington, Texas’s Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts.  They are holding their first ever art festival, in conjunction with Friday through Sunday night concerts featuring Michael Martin Murphey, Ray Wiley Hubbard and Asleep at the Wheel.  The event is 5:30-10:30 nightly, and is free to the public.  I would love to see any of you there who can make it.  I have been guaranteed a prime booth location.

Saint Ignatius Academy (yellow)

Here is the “Yellow Warhol” variation on my theme.

Saint Ignatius Academy (sepia)

. . . and the “Sepia” look gives it a nice antique, vintage appearance (perhaps my personal favorite).

Saint Ignatius Academy (orange)

. . . and finally my orange version.

Thanks for reading.

Finished the Saint Ignatius Watercolor

May 9, 2012

Saint Ignatius Academy, Fort Worth, Texas

I’m pleased finally to fix my signature on this composition that has developed for a little while now.  I determined this evening while working in my garage studio that I wanted to finish this before retiring to bed.  I have a feeling that this is not my final look at Saint Ignatius Academy, truly I have enjoyed laboring over this and have strong feelings about giving it a few more tries from different perspectives.  The character of this late nineteenth-century building holds me in ways I cannot put into words, reminding me of William Wordsworth and J. M. W. Turner coming under the spell of Tintern Abbey.

Thank you for reading.

Epiphanies in the Artist’s Studio

April 28, 2012

Saint Ignatius Drawing in the Studio

This is a blog that I began this morning, and then decided to “cook” throughout the day.  I have had this habit of not editing my blogs, but rather posting them as rough drafts, and so by day’s end, I have ended up posting two or three of them.  Today, I have chosen to experiment to see if I could send out a stronger blog at the end of the day, after it has had plenty of time for composting and editing.

At the moment I am listening to Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful.”  I love spinning vinyl in my garage while working in the studio.  And the Blues are serving me well as I work.

I have declared today a study day, perhaps my first ever, deciding to keep the brush and pencil in the boxes for as long as possible, and spend my time instead researching Andrew Wyeth’s drybrush and pencil techniques, in an attempt to “solve” the conclusion to this Saint Ignatius painting.

I have a considerable body of Andrew Wyeth material–monographs, biographies, criticisms, museum catalogs, interviews and videos.  Recently,  I have locked onto a special Drawing edition of American Artist from Spring 2004.  It contains an article by Henry Adams: “Seven Secrets of Andrew Wyeth’s Technique.”  The writer was inspired by a show of Wyeth’s drybrush studies and drawings at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum in 1963.  There are  a couple of quotes I wish to post from this, because the writer unequivocally echoes my own observation and conviction:

While in my mind I know that his reputation rests primarily on his remarkable tempera paintings, I have always personally responded less powerfully to them than to his drawings and studies–particularly to the studies that don’t attempt to cover the whole surface of the paper as in a conventional watercolor, but instead focus on a few elements, so that the image seems to emerge magically from the empty white paper, rather like a photograph that we observe in the process of development.”

This is precisely the nature of Andrew Wyeth art that has held me since the ninth grade–that unfinished quality that allows white space to creep into the composition, and also allows the detailed renderings of his subject to fade into washes and sketchy lines as they move to the perimeter of the piece.  I like the writer’s comparison of Wyeth drybrush compositions to a photograph “in the process of development.”  My description of the experience has run along these lines: as we look at a subject, our focus is on a very small area, while everything on the perimeter moves out of focus and eventually leaves our field of vision altogether.  That is how I myself have justified detailing the heart of my composition and letting the rest of it fade into a soft-focus effect, and eventually to white.

Another quote from this article that held me was this:

“Perhaps equally as beautiful as the pencil work of the drawing, however, is the use of empty space.  As in many of his other drawings, Wyeth abruptly stops just at the point where we are eager to know more about the subject.  There are two reasons for this.  One is that Wyeth is not interested in tediously filling things in . . . .  The other is that what is there serves to evoke what is not there even more powerfully than if he represented it in detail.”

In interviews, I have heard Wyeth declare that the strength of a composition depends not on what the artist puts in, but what s/he can leave out.  As this article further points out, “most artists try to describe too much.”  Ouch.  I stand convicted.

So, after repeated cups of coffee and wonderful Blues music played by Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Albert Collins, Son House,  Big Bill Broonzy and Robert Johnson, I got out the pencils, eraser and brushes and went to work, drawing and re-drawing the windows to the left of this composition, and some of the cut stones making up the wall.  I laid in some light washes to suggest mansard roof color and rough-cut stone color.  And I thoroughly enjoyed the fundamentals of drawing once again.  It has been much too long.  I have gotten away from the sketchbook and the core values of drawing for drawing’s sake.  I like Andrew Wyeth’s fencing metaphor as he speaks of the sharpened pencil and the need to be decisive where you thrust the point of it, and how you move it across the surface of the picture plane.  He’s right–it’s not for the timid.  I have been timid too long.  Thanks to a day with Wyeth, this large watercolor is becoming fun again, as I find my way back to the fundamentals of drawing.  I wonder why I waited so long to return to the “graduate school” of art.  This study has been very invigorating for me.  I cannot wait to see what tomorrow holds.

Thanks for reading.

Taking a Hiatus on the Saint Ignatius Watercolor

April 25, 2012

Saint Ignatius nearing finish

Good evening.  Last evening I completed the monumental sculpture and base, and worked a little further on the portals, steps and handrails.  Finally I splashed some wash on the lower left part of the foreground for balance.  Then I got hung up.

After consulting with a number of trusted artist friends, I’ve decided how to complete this.  I will deepen the shadows on the receding walls, enrich some of the fire escape shadows, but most important of all, re-draw the architectural details on the perimeter of the composition.  For that I need to go back and take another long look at Andrew Wyeth and his drybrush techniques.  What I have always wished to accomplish in a major watercolor is to render in as much detail as possible the focal points of the composition, and then as the eye moves toward the perimeter, dissolve the picture into wash, and finally pencil rendering.  I have always loved that dimension of  Wyeth’s work.

I’m going to spend a day or two “composting” this picture, the way our Venetian painter Titian did over 500 years ago, and Wyeth did in our last century.  I’m borrowing that metaphor from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.  I am referring to a habit of Titian and Wyeth in their manner of gazing at their works for days near the end, determining what exactly had to be done to “finish” the piece.  Goldberg, in the task of writing, speaks of how important it is for a writer to grow still, and allow thoughts to make their way to the surface, much in the same way that energy builds over time in a compost heap.  All that is needed is time.  And so I will give this picture time.  I don’t want to lose it.  I’m very, very excited about bringing it to closure, and right now have this burning desire to pore over the Wyeth work and glean ideas from his exquisite pencil renderings over watercolor.

Thanks for reading.  I hope the next time I publish this painting, that I present it to you as a fait accompli.

Approaching the Saint Ignatius Portal

April 24, 2012

Saint Ignatius West Portal

You can mark out this week, as far as educating students in Texas goes.  It is TAKS testing.  Four hours a morning, our students are taking state standardized tests that are being phased out, and then our district runs the students through their regular classes throughout the afternoon for another four hours (30 minutes a class), assuming that they are getting further educated.  In two weeks, we will wipe out another three days, with the new (and improved?) STAAR testing–same thing–test them all morning, then pretend to educate them further by forcing them through their abbreviated afternoon classes.  Texas thinks it is educating students with all these standardized tests, when in reality the state continues its slide to the bottom of the nation with the SAT scores.  Our state-mandated tests appear to have little-to-nothing to do with SAT success (when did they ever?).  But tell that to our governor and legislature.  They are the education experts.  Just listen to our Texas governor speak publicly, and you know immediately what kind of premium he places on an educated mind.

Teachers are allowed one day duty-free from the testing.  This is my day.  I will begin my fake classes at 12:15.  So, the morning has been spent in the watercolor studio, and I’m just about to finish the west portal of Saint Ignatius Academy.  Looking at the remains of this bastion of education probably has me bemoaning the condition of Texas public education.  The Jesuits knew how to train the intellect, and students passing through their corridors exited with trained minds.

It still bugs me to watch our Republican-majority legislature and tax payers hold their noses when “public education” is brought up, while they look for every possible means to starve that beast, revenue-wise, and at the same time insist on higher standards.  Makes sense, huh?

After school today, I hope to begin work on this monumental sculpture just outside the Saint Ignatius portal.  I have admired this monument, studying closely the photos I took, but kept procrastinating the rendering of it in watercolor, probably because I’m concerned about how to make her stand out against that facade background.  But, I guess her time has now come.  We’ll see what transpires this afternoon.  I still have less than two hours to shower, dress, groom, fix lunch, and then head to school to pretend to accomplish something in each 30-minute class originally designed for 90 (I’ll have four of them in a row, in four different classrooms, on two floors, without a break–groan).  But hey, at least the students got to take that phased-out TAKS test throughout the morning, so the day wasn’t a total waste, right?  I believe this is the final year of TAKS testing before we move on to the new-and-improved STAAR standardized test.  Bring it.  Texas can brag all she wants about her state-mandated, standardized testing scores, but as long as this state remains the bottom-feeder of the nation with its SAT results, all that bragging will be nothing more than political showmanship.  Our universities and corporations could not care less about Texas high school test scores.

My musical company throughout the morning has been Neil Young’s “Live Rust” and Rare Earth’s “Get Ready” (both on vinyl).  Great stuff to listen to while painting in the studio.  And the weather this morning has been cool, the sunlight bright and clear, and the ambiance positively delicious.

Thanks for reading.

Watercoloring Saint Ignatius, One Window at a Time

April 23, 2012

Saint Ignatius South Facade

Having managed only three hours’ sleep last night, I found myself rather sluggish today.  However, I managed to shrug some of it off late this afternoon and returned to work on my waiting Saint Ignatius watercolor.  Today I worked on the windows on the top two stories, adding color to the panels that are still visible, and continuing to refine the rusticated exterior of that magnificent facade.  I don’t know how much later I can stay with it tonight, but the neighborhood is certainly quiet and peaceful in the darkness, with soft muffled occasional sounds drifting my way.  The air has turned quite cool, and I love that about the Texas spring evenings.  Muddy Waters is keeping me company with his punctuated vocals and guitar.  I love listening to “Same Thing.”

Thanks for reading.

Close-up of the Saint Ignatius Academy Watercolor

April 22, 2012

Saint Ignatius Academy Fire Escape

Well.  It appears that it’s going to be another late night (my choice).  I took a cat nap around 5:00, and once I rose and stretched my limbs, I knew what I wanted to do–return to the garage studio (where I’ve already spent the day) and pick up the brush again.  This time I poured all my concentration into the fire escape, all the geometry, angles, irregularities of the rusticated exterior behind it, shadows–the works!  And I have loved every minute of it.

My companion this evening has been Son House.  I have his legendary 1941-1942 recordings in chronological sequence on vinyl.  Yesterday when my band played at J. Gilligan’s Pub, I found myself enjoying immensely a Keb’ Mo’ blues tune we hadn’t played in a couple of years–“Keep It Simple.”  I have gotten away from playing acoustic blues on my guitar, and it was so fun to come back to it.  So, Son House is flooding my soul this evening with good things as he hammers on his acoustic.

I still have some art history to finish up for tomorrow, but I’m quite sure that I’ll return to the watercolor (or else read a book!).  I don’t know why, but staring deeply into the facade of this bastion of Jesuit scholarship always makes me want to read theology!  My volumes have been neglected recently.  I have had an itch to re-study some of the theological trends that blistered between the World Wars (that’s where we are in A. P. art history right now).

I believe this will be my last post tonight, even if I do continue working on the watercolor.  The light in this garage has been fine for painting, but it’s giving me fits when I try to photograph this piece for blogging.

Oh well, it’s 10:00, so I’ll say Good Night to you, and thanks always for reading me.  Oooohhhh . . .  I put on Howlin’ Wolf’s London Sessions and he’s now singing “Sittin’ on Top of the World.”  That one always hurts.  Hopefully, I’ll write you tomorrow!

Sunday All Day in the Watercolor Studio

April 22, 2012

Saint Ignatius Sunday

Good afternoon.  Saturday came and went without watercolor pursuit.  I was privileged to participate in a fundraising event at J. Gilligan’s Pub in Arlington.  I donated a limited edition print for a silent auction, and my band played a short gig.  That pretty much wiped out my Saturday.

Today, however, I got to spend most of the time in the garage studio.  I worked on A. P. Art History for quite a few hours, re-arranged my studio, then redirected my energies toward this full-size watercolor.  I worked all over the composition, so I cannot isolate a small area for detailed analysis.  Today I did windows, foliage, fire escape, rusticated stone work and various assorted details.  The painting is starting to tighten up in detail, and it’s time for me to make some compositional decisions before it gets out of hand.  I’m starting to get lost in it again.

I’ve decided to walk away from it for a few hours, and just may return to it tonight.  If I do, then I’ll probably post a blog once more before bedtime.  My companions today (besides my watercolor buddy and bandmate David Slight) have been Albert Collins and Robert Johnson.  Again, Blues make fro great companionship in the watercolor studio.

Thanks for reading.

Saint Ignatius Watercolor in Progress

April 19, 2012

Saint Ignatius Academy

It has been awhile since I posted this entire watercolor in progress (28 x 22″).  I’m lost in the size of it, and today have only worked on a few square inches along the top story windows to the right.  Even I myself don’t see the forest for the trees, as I work on those windows, and completely ignore everything happening down below.  I’ve determined that when I next approach this (tonight or early tomorrow morning) I’m going to see about balancing the mansard roof green tiles with the green landscaping below, and make some decisions about reds or pinks to complement.  I always have trouble balancing out my compositions, especially when they are monstrously large and complex as this one is.

Before I close this out, I have to say that Muddy Waters has been a phenomenal studio partner this evening.  I’m listening to vinyl and enjoying my old turntable.  Tonight I have been playing his Fathers and Sons album, featuring Muddy along with Otis Spann, Michael Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Sam Lay and Buddy Miles.  I had never before paid much attention to his “Mean Disposition” but it really go hold of me this afternoon, and I cannot seem to play it and listen to it enough.  Anyway, nice to have Blues music playing while I crawl all over the side of this magnificent Catholic structure.

Thanks for reading.  I’m going to take a break before returning to this.