Posts Tagged ‘screen door’

The Open Door. Imagination Preceding Technique

May 6, 2013
Completed Watercolor Study of Screen Door

Completed Watercolor Study of Screen Door

There is the heart and the mind, the Puritan idea is that the mind must be the master.  I think the heart should be master and the mind should be the tool and servant of the heart.  As it is, we give too much attention to laws and not enough to principles.  The man who wants to produce art must have the emotional side first, and this must be reinforced by the practical.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I wrote of some of this over the weekend when I discussed “Imagination vs. Technique.”  Henri’s words continue to thrill me as I read further into The Art Spirit.  He really fired up his disciples who became the nucleus for America’s Ash Can School at the turn of the century.  This book just crackles with intensity.

I really believe that I was more technician than artistic passion when growing up and pursuing my art.  From my childhood, I wanted to be good, wanted to excel in making art.  From the first junior high art class I took, on up through my college degree, it seems I tried to seize all knowledge, Faust-like, and translate it into technique to make better and better art.

Not long after the millenium turned, I became deeply dissatisfied with my art.  As I’ve reported in earlier blogs, I was moved profoundly by the offerings of Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth, feeling a deep-seated connection with their lives and interests, yet feeling that myown work was merely illustrative, merely exercises in technique and craftsmanship, and not truly art that would express my feelings or evoke feelings from observers.

Since the beginning of 2013, I have suddenly shifted to painting still-life compositions filled with objects that have stirred me from childhood.  Odd that I had not attempted a still-life watercolor since tenth grade, and the thought of trying it terrified me.  I started simply with one or two objects, and eventually grew to more complex compositions.  The transformation was slow at first, but now it is starting to make sense to me–I am painting things that truly “matter” to me, objects that stir my imagination, and bring to the surface, in Proust-like fashion, warm primal memories from my childhood, memories worth holding.  Passion is now driving my art, and technique just seems to be the tools in the box, ready and waiting for me to take up and use as needed.  Though I am not a mechanic, I think I feel some of the mechanic’s sense of satisfaction when he reaches for a socket wrench that happens to be the right size to fit the bolt that needs adjusting.  I too, feel a sense of satisfaction, when a particular brush is just what I need to scumble or glaze or detail a particular portion of the composition slowly emerging from the white plane before me.  I have the imagination burning, trying to give birth to an image, and the tools of the trade that have been taught me over the years stand by, ready for service.

Right now, in my endeavors, technique is serving imagination, precision is serving passion, thinking is following feeling.  It seems that this is the first time I have experienced this, in decades of making art.  And I like it.  I’m interested in seeing where this is going to take me.

Today after school, I put the finishing touches on this screen door composition.  I spent a large part of my day at school glancing at it (while students tested for four hours), trying to get a sense of what was still needing to be completed.  All I did was finish out the borders of the screen, texture the wood further, work a little more on the spring stretched across the bottom and re-do some of the area surrounding the door knob.  I’m ready to find another subject to paint now.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The Seer, Part 2

May 5, 2013
Re-Touched Watercolor, after Masquing Removal

Re-Touched Watercolor, after Masquing Removal

Art after all is but an extension of language to the expression of sensations too subtle for words.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Most of what we express creatively is prelinguistic.

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

Too subtle for words.  Prelinguistic.  Indeed.  I fumble for words, trying to blog what I find so appealing in these vintage doors, aside from the fact that they remind me in Proustian fashion of what I saw, visiting grandparents in rural southeast Missouri during my childhood years.  Over the past twelve years, I have acquired a total of nine vintage doors that are now hinged together in twos and threes.  They form the modular walls that shape and re-shape the space in my garage Man Cave.  I love hanging antique signs on them, attaching reading lamps to them, sitting among them reading, and for the past few months decided it was time to start putting them into my watercolor compositions.  I note with bemusement that for the past decade, as I’ve sat among them reading and journaling, I have often looked up from what I was doing, and found myself staring at the details of their abused surfaces, wondering how I could “solve” some of those textures in watercolor and drawing techniques.  I guess one could say I’ve been “composting” these recent watercolor experiments for over a decade now.

So, what is it exactly that I “see” in these compositions?  A potential sale?  A market?  A new style, new genre to pursue?  Not really.  I see character, I see history, I see volumes and volumes of stories.  When I look at the body of an abused, vintage guitar, I see stories.  I see the worn places along the neck, especially on the 3rd, 5th and 7th frets, and muse about the “boxes” this guitarist made use of when he worked on lead riffs.  I look at the cigarette burns near the nut, and realize the guitarist frequently inserted his cigarette up there while playing, a makeshift ashtray.  I have a pre-World War II Gibson archtop that belonged to my late uncle.  There are grooves above the frets, showing that he preferred the C chord, along with the G and D.  The nicks all over a guitar body tell the story of clubs, bars, campouts–all the places the guitar had visited during the player’s life.

When I look at these doors, I can tell which sides were interior and which were exterior.  I can tell which ones had a screen door in front. leaving the sun imprint as a stencil on the door.  I can see the key gouges around the locking plates, the grime on the porcelain door knobs, the dents in the metal ones.  I can see at the bottoms where they have been constantly kicked open, I suppose when one’s arms were laden with groceries or provisions.  So many stories.  So many lives.  Now they stand mute in my garage.  But I take up the brush and record their stories, adding my own as well.   And of course, I lay my memories over the tops of the stories, leaving a virtual palimpsest for readers to translate.

What I see in subjects such as these, and what I think about the art milieu are things that defy words, yet I managed to cover my blog with yet more words.  But what are my alternatives?  I love to paint, love to muse, love to stretch.  And I love to share what’s going on. I appreciate that there are those “out there” who take the time to look at these images, read these words and have something to say in return.  I’m appreciative of that as well.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


 

Objects Embodying the Stuff of Revelation

May 2, 2013
The Screen Door and Coffee Still-Life, Unmasked and Stained

The Screen Door and Coffee Still-Life, Unmasked and Stained

Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you advert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands?  Because it is up to you.  There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain.  It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin.  You were made and set here to give voice to this,your own astonishment.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

William Carlos Williams, the poet/physician, daily drove the streets of Rutherford, New Jersey, household to household, making his calls, and gathering images and ideas for his poems.  He was always engaged, always interpreting and re-interpreting his life.  Andrew Wyeth wandered the rolling hills of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, his eye taking in the images of his surroundings and the village life of Little Africa, all the while his romantic nature extracting meaning from the objects he found in everyday households.  Neither of these artists made apologies for the enthusiasm they felt as memories associated with the everyday mundane warmed their hearts.

Several blog readers have posted to me their warm memories of the slapping screen door from childhood, and the amusement they gained from annoying their elders with that irreverent pop.  All day long at school today, I could think only of getting back into the Cave and resuming work (play) on this screen door and coffee tin.   My mind drifted over all those popping screen doors (at both grandparents’ farms, Marlin’s general store in the grandparent’s vicinity, the wonderful old general store in Pine, Colorado where I stopped for provisions after a hot day of fly fishing at Cheeseman Canyon, feeling like Ernest Hemingway).  I cannot explain my fascination as a child with that screen door, and later as an artist when I looked more closely at its features–blistered painted wood, a hook that left its arc carved in the wood from its years of swinging back and forth, the cut of the spring into the wood, leaving its rust stains over the years, the sloppy paint job that left white paint around the perimeter of the screens–all those things excite me for reasons I can never put into words.  I guess I’m more of a painter than a writer.  These things I just cannot explain.

I removed the masquing first thing this afternoon.  Since then I have been re-staining the screen wire to get rid of the stark white left by the successful masquing.  It’s not going away willingly.  I still have more staining, more darkening to do.  I haven’t yet decided how to re-draw the screen wire over the white label of the coffee tin–I’ll have to experiment with that on separate paper.  I’m thinking about a hard-led pencil, perhaps even a mechanical pencil.  Perhaps a Prismacolor Verithin pencil which features a pretty decent hardness.  Again, since I’ve never done this before, I’ll have to experiment.

I have really enjoyed roughing up the wood and blistering the paint textures on the screen door frame.  I finally worked up the nerve to paint in the hanging spring and gouge the rusty imprints it left along the horizontal frame.  In all of this I am finding pure joy.  For years and years I have gazed upon the Andrew Wyeth drybrush renderings of whitewashed sidings of houses and window sashes blistered by the sun and weather, and always wanted to give it a try, using watercolor, pencil, fingerprints, smudges–anything that would simulate that weathered appearance.  Finally I am getting into it and absolutely loving it.

Yesterday afternoon, the Texas temperatures climbed to 83 degrees and I had to have a box fan running in the Cave to survive working out here.  Now it is 42 degrees with arctic winds howling outside the garage door, and I am wearing a heavy pullover sweater and drinking hot coffee to stay in the Cave.  But I love it.  The Cave environment has been welcoming, quiet, affirming.  I’m thrilled to enter a three-day weekend (no school tomorrow) and hope to have long, uninterrupted hours painting and reading in the cave.

I’m going to post a picture below of the painting after I removed the masquing, for anyone curious about this process.  When I apply the masquing to the untreated, white watercolor paper, it bonds well and does its job, but once it comes off, the stark whiteness is unacceptable.  I always know it’s going to happen, so I no longer feel those “uh-oh” moments when it comes off–I just know that there is plenty of work still ahead, staining the white areas, toning them down, getting them where you want them.  And that part does not come easily for me.  I have to keep applying more layers of wash, continue rubbing with my fingers, getting rid of that stark white.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The painting unmasqued, before re-staining and re-working

The painting unmasqued, before re-staining and re-working

The Man Cave Studio as I work Tonight

The Man Cave Studio as I work Tonight

So what, if you have to move the whole thing over just two inches?

May 1, 2013
Close Up View of the Screen Door and Coffee Can in Progress

Close Up View of the Screen Door and Coffee Can in Progress

He would work on paintings for enormously long stretches of time, just simply be dissatisfied.  I would come in and there would be a terrific painting of a man, and Bill would grudgingly admit that it wasn’t bad, but then say: “But he has to be moved over two inches”, and he just eradicated him.  He was very discontented constantly.  It was what kept him going.

Elaine De Kooning, describing the painting habits of her husband, Willem De Kooning

This anecdote always amused me about Willem De Kooning and his constant studio revisions.  Long ago, I had been taught that some revisions were just not possible in watercolor.  Slowly, I’m finding all of these statements to be untrue.

Andrew Wyeth relayed the story that he was working on this composition of Karl Kuerner in drybrush, and it sported a gigantic moose head trophy on the wall.  When Anna walked in on him, perturbed, snapping at him in German, “Why didn’t you come down to breakfast when I called,” Wyeth was fascinated at the sight of the man turned away from his wife and the high-powered rifle pointing at her.  She allowed him to put her into the portrait, and he sanded the moose head trophy off the wall between them.

When I read that account, I thought, “Wow! They always told me that you could not erase watercolor, you’re just stuck with what you’ve got.”  So, I went back to a painting that I had recently finished and regretted.

Blues on the Corner

Blues on the Corner

Once this watercolor was finished, I regretted not having put a guitar player seated in a chair on the corner.  Having read of Andrew Wyeth’s revision, I purchased 150 grit fine sand paper from my local hardware store, sanded a full circle out of this painting until it was white, and then drew and painted this guitar player inside the circle, finally retouching all the background colors and textures I had obliterated.

Why am I going into all this detail?  Well, when I awoke this morning and looked at my current painting before leaving for school, I realized to my dismay that I had drawn the left frame of the screen door too narrow in proportion to the coffee can and the horizontal screen door slat below the can.  I was 3/8″ of an inch too narrow.  And I had already painted in the dark screen interior with masquing and painted the left margin as dark as I could get it.  My first reaction was “Too bad.  Nothing can be done about that now.”  Then I remembered Andrew Wyeth’s “Kuerners” and my own “Blues on the Corner” and thought “Why not?”  I laughingly recalled Willem De Kooning saying his man had to be “moved over two inches.”  I came home from school, measured the new margin for the left frame, and sanded the devil out of it, turning the entire page surface blue-gray.  A good scrubbing with the eraser turned the page white again, and then I started all over “aging” the wood with drybrush and graphite work.  I’m happy I decided to do it.  The widened door frame looks right now.  (Incidentally, the door frame is straight; when I shoot close-ups with my camera, the lines curve, and I don’t know enough yet about Photoshop to straighten those lines again.  The painting of the door frame is actually straight-edge straight).

I had to stop painting to put this stuff on the blog.  I really wanted to share it, with all the fun and laughs.  I feel “madder” than ever, as the scientist noodling around in his laboratory again.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Afternoon Drybrush Study of Screen Door and Companion

April 23, 2013
Drybrush Watercolor Study of Pair of Doors

Drybrush Watercolor Study of Pair of Doors

I was confronted for the first time, I suppose, really with the thing that I did, whereas up until that moment I was able to remove myself from the act of painting, or from the painting itself.  The painting was something that I was making, whereas somehow for the first time with this painting, the painting itself had a life of its own in a way that I don’t think the others did, as much.

Barnett Newman, April 1965 Interview

Wow.  I am breathless right now.  This 8 x 10″ drybrush I began several days ago, having only about 45 minutes to begin it before I lost the light.  Today after school, being tired of the cafe piece I had been working on, I decided to set up the easel in front of my pair of doors and resume this, though the light was rather poor.  Didn’t matter–I decided to focus on the wood textures of the door on the right, and see if I could find a way to solve the screen door on the left.

I don’t know how to say this, except to say that I felt that this composition painted itself.  I felt that I put out very little effort, puzzled very little, hesitated almost not at all.  Next thing I knew, I was stopping.  I believe I worked on it only about an hour, certainly not any longer.  And suddenly, it looked “finished.”  Maybe tomorrow I’ll change my mind and push it further.  But I’m stopping for now and just looking at it.

I posted the Barnett Newman quote, because that is what I experienced this afternoon in the Man Cave.  It doesn’t come along very often.  I felt as though the picture was painting itself before my very eyes, and all I had to do was watch it happen.  Amazing.

I have so many Proustian memories of the screen door growing up–my grandparents’ houses, the country store I frequented when visiting grandparents.  How I loved the slap of the door slamming shut (it always angered my Dad when I let it “thwap” loudly like that). Perhaps later I’ll write more about those memories.

But for now, I’m pretty wiped out–the state-mandated testing at school today (with no relief break during the four hours, thank you very much), followed by regular classes in the afternoon, pretty much sucked the best out of me, and I’m surprised I had anything left to come home and paint today.  Glad I did.

And thank you for reading.