Posts Tagged ‘Sinclair gas’

Still Scraping for Quality Painting Time

September 11, 2013
Pushing Ahead on the Sinclair Station

Pushing Ahead on the Sinclair Station

Good evening.  I did manage to put in a little work on this painting late this afternoon, but had no time to fling it up on the blog.  I worked on the pebbly textures in the pavement, enriched the seams a little more, then reworked the shadows under the truck and refined the tires some more.  I also worked more on the shadows on the left side of the building and the white columns between the gas pumps.  I’m still trying to make up my mind about the orange sunlit backdrop, how many more trees to drop into it, and how to transition the ground into the atmosphere in the back.  I’ll get to that later, maybe tomorrow.

While reading late last night, I came across this gut-wrenching passage from the Autobiography of William Carlos Williams.  I hated to go to sleep on such a passage, and indeed it contributed to the rough morning I endured shortly after I awoke this morning.  But here it is:

I’ll never forget the dream I had a few days after [Pop] died, after a wasting illness, on Christmas Day, 1918.  I saw him coming down a peculiar flight of exposed steps, steps I have since identified as those before the dais of Pontius Pilate in some well-known painting.  But this was in a New York office building, Pop’s office.  He was bare-headed and had some business letters in his hand on which he was concentrating as he descended.  I noticed him and with joy cried out, “Pop!  So, you’re not dead!”  But he only looked up at me over his right shoulder and commented severely, “You know all that poetry you’re writing.  Well, it’s no good.”  I was left speechless and woke trembling.  I have never dreamed of him since.

How horrible.  I had trouble sleeping after that, and I didn’t awake to the best of days this morning, probably largely because of that residual memory.  I am not very far into the Autobiography, but so far I have gleaned that his father wasn’t around much, always working to support the family.  I can identify with that.  My father worked long hours, came home late, and needed his space.  And he never said much to me as I grew up.  But I recall only a time or two when he verbally put me down, but never as seriously as this.  In fact, what I recall as a teenager is my father constantly bringing his mechanic buddies into my bedroom to show them my art pinned to the walls.  He always said good things about my skills to them, though not to me.  But it was O.K.  I knew he was affirming my work the only way he knew how.  I don’t know how I would survive if he ever would have said to me what WCW encountered in his dreadful dream.

Though it’s been twenty-four hours since reading that, I’m still feeling kind of heavy tonight, unable to shake that.  I guess we all go through this, but I find myself second-guessing many ways I handled younger people in my years as a father and as a public school teacher, and tonight I seem to be remembering those bad moments more than the good.  What we say to others indeed impacts, shapes lives and has a way of living on for years in memories, theirs and ours.   Perhaps this will find me entering the classroom tomorrow more sensitive and caring than I’ve been in the past.  I hope so.

Oh well.  I still have plenty of prepping to do for tomorrow’s classes and the hour is drawing late.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

What Could Painting an Hour a Day Bring?

September 10, 2013
Taking the Painting in Small Daily Bites

Taking the Painting in Small Daily Bites

He’ll tell you he has three books out, and then he’ll tell you how he wrote them–that he was working a job, he had four days a week he could be home for an hour and fifteen minutes.  After he ate lunch, he’d have an hour and fifteen minutes to work, four days a week.  He said, “Every year and a half, that should be a book.”  And darn, if he didn’t do a book every year-and-a-half, just writing like that.

Bruce Dobler, University of Pittsburgh, talking about Bob Downs, author

The above interview was taken from one of my favorite portions of the film “Stone Reader.”  When I am confronted with an author who has found a way to crank out novels on his lunch hour, I realize that I too should be able to put out watercolors on my schedule.  I teach four subjects at the high school full time, then six semester hours at a local university in the evenings.  With the semester now in the midst of its third week, I still haven’t really found my groove in this new lifestyle, yet I have made myself a promise that I would not use my job as an excuse to leave the watercolor studio.  So, if I can only muster an hour a day, I’ll do that until I find a way to open the time window wider.

One thing has not changed–it is the act of watercoloring that gives me a reason to smile, that puts the wind in my sails, that gives me something to look forward to each day.  The daily pace I now know in the educational endeavor would have found me in despair by now.  Finding quality time to grade, to prep for classes, and still sleep at night and eat regularly has not been easy, but still doable.  And in the meantime, I have continued to paint, and have found joy in those moments.  This is going to work after all, I’m confident.

Thanks always for reading.  Talk to you tomorrow . . .

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Fighting for Quality Watercolor Time . . .

September 9, 2013
Painting before Open House

Painting before Open House

Open House is tonight.  We always hate that it falls on Monday evenings, leaving us exhausted the entire week.  But there it is.  I had a number of errands to run between the end of classes today and the beginning of Open House, so here is the little that I did.  I worked on the door behind the truck, then enriched the yellow-orange backlighting behind the pumps.  Last of all, I began the gravel texturing in the lower left foreground–something I love to do, but it takes a long, long time, and plenty of patience.  I just barely got that under way before having to leave for tonight’s meeting.  After Open House I have plenty of grading to do still.  Fortunately I got the weekend grading swept away.  But today’s classes generated plenty more of it.  Perhaps tomorrow I can squeeze in a little more time.  We’ll see.

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.

In Search of a Daily Watercolor Rhythm

September 8, 2013
Closing Out the Weekend, Watercoloring

Closing Out the Weekend, Watercoloring

There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual–become clairvoyant.  We reach then into reality.  Such are the moments of our greatest happiness.  Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom.

It is in the nature of all people to have these experiences; but in our time and under the conditions of our lives, it is only a rare few who are able to continue in the experience and find expressions for it.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I wish I could call this a weekend of joy.  About ninety per cent of it was devoted to grading.  I am not yet finished early now on this Sunday evening, but I will be finished before bedtime, and I’m confident that that will give me an emotion close to “joy”.  Close.

I’m glad I rose early Saturday morning and spent about ninety minutes chipping away at this composition before laying down the brush for twenty-four hours.  Today I made a concerted effort to keep myself on a time budget, balancing grading and painting.  I came to this watercolor three different times–all the rest of the time was spent bent over a stack of papers.

The light is gone from my studio as I write this, so I will have to lay down the brush for good and return to the school work.  I’m glad I got to spend time working on the truck, nearly finishing it.  The truck would be “finished” if it didn’t appear to be too timid to me.  I feel that I got all the proportions right but that I didn’t lean into it much with the pigments or shadows.  I’ll give it another hit tomorrow.  The section of building behind the truck got plenty more work in the shadows and some detailing.  I also finished the apex of the gable roof of the station.  A little more warm shadow color was added to the pavement as well.

I am taking to heart the above words from Robert Henri.  I count myself as part of that minority that actually knows those feelings he expresses.  But I do find it hard to get into the zone when so many other duties pull at me.  This weekend I had to answer several bells, including household chores, laundry, and other uninteresting details.  But still, I managed to carve out some quality time to paint, and I consider those moments the highlight of my weekend.  I will consider this “practice” because I have a very long, demanding day of details to tend tomorrow, and already tonight I am determined to insert painting into that mix.  I will do everything possible to paint daily, even if it is for short sessions such as the recent ones.

Detail of the Sinclair Truck

Detail of the Sinclair Truck

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.

Imagination

September 7, 2013
Saturday Morning in the Studio

Saturday Morning in the Studio

I do recall one time when I got to know him a little better, he called me in the office one day and he says to me, “Brownie,” he said, “Can you give  me your idea of what imagination is?”  And I said,”No I don’t have any idea.”  He said, “Well, why don’t you think about it a couple of days and come back and we’ll talk about it.”  But he never brought the subject up again.  I’m very thankful, too.

Lynn Brown Jr., recalling a conversation with poet Wallace Stevens while working at Hartford Insurance Group.

Sleep did not come easily last night.  Though darkness had descended, this watercolor, along with its possibilities, was burned into my retina, and I really wanted to return to it, but I have really become attached to the natural light.  Before falling into sleep, I turned the light on one more time, and scribbled in my journal a reminder to check out the ideas of William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound on Imagism.

Waking at 5:30 this morning, without an alarm, I rose to a dark, pre-dawn world, and, waiting for the studio window light, I took out my copy of The Literary Essays of Ezra Pound.  In the early summer of 1912, he agreed with H. D. and Richard Aldington on three principles which would later be called Imagism:

1. Direct treatment of the ‘thing’ whether subjective or objective.

2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.

3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

I used these words as a reaffirmation of my current philosophy of watercolor composition: (1) to paint my subjects as directly as possible, (2) to purge ornamentation from my compositions, and (3) to work all over and around my painting, instead of following paint-by-number compositional steps from start to finish.

Reading further in Pound, I was moved profoundly as I contemplated the Subject, or Image, that I always chase in my watercolor pursuits:

An ‘Image’ is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time. . . . It is the presentation of such a ‘complex’ instantaneously wihich gives that sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits, that sense of sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art.

And then I laughed out loud when I encountered these words:

It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.

Wow.  In all my paintings, I am confronting some kind of Image that has held me spellbound, making me want to linger over it and use every means possible to capture its essence and put it on the page.  When viewers tell me they are “held” by a painting of mine, I’m gratified, knowing that what moved me got to them as well.  But as to presenting that “one Image” versus a great volume of work–well, how can one accomplish the former without the latter?  Frankly, I have no idea which painting from my past is my “best”, nor do I lose sleep wondering.  I find my deepest satisfaction in being prolific, and when my final painting issues from me, I can only hope that something in that “volume” can approach the notion of Quality, can meet the standard of Image in its ability to reach out to someone else besides me.

The “volume” is where I find my satisfaction, and for years now, I have enjoyed the process of painting much more than standing back and looking at my finished, framed work hanging on a wall or positioned on an easel.  My joy comes in the act of painting, and much of my struggle currently as a schoolteacher is the knowledge that the majority of my daily hours now is given to the classroom, along with all the attendant “stuff” necessary to support the classroom hours.  My reality this weekend is an enormous stack of papers to grade, because after all, I am paid to produce numbers on a spreadsheet to give an indicator of a student’s educational growth.  No pressure there.

I did manage about ninety minutes of uninterrupted, slow-moving work on my watercolor.  Using purples with some yellow, I worked in the shadows beneath the truck, finished the front end of the truck, worked on the curbing in front of and behind the truck, and then did further corrections with pencil, trying to make the drawing portions of this work as accurate as possible.  I’m still working on the complementary balance of a lavender pavement in the foreground against a warm gold background.  The complementary greens against the reds are also a constant challenge.  I’m enjoying these matters of composition and decision-making, and it was a good ninety minutes.

Now, wIth reluctance, I lay down the brush and wade through the stack of papers, hoping to return to the Image before the weekend runs its course and I begin the next five-day round in the classroom.

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

Robert Frost

Thanks for reading.  It has been a lovely Saturday morning.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Forfeiture?

September 6, 2013
Late Afternoon Studio Work

Late Afternoon Studio Work

Forfeiture, the third fundamental attribute of human being, means “ontologically” that we forget “Being” for particular beings.  In a human sense, it means the scattering of the essential forward drive through attention to the distracting and disturbing cares of everyday and of the things and people that surround us everyday.  Thus, inevitably and continuously, the forward driving “I” is sacrificed to the persistent and pressing “they.”  To the question “who is human being?” we must answer, “the indifferent and anonymous crowd–das Man.” Human being in its everyday mode is promiscuously public; it is life with others and for others in alienation from the central task of becoming itself.

Marjorie Grene, “Martin Heidegger,” The Encyclopedia of Philosophy

A second week of classes is now in the books, and what a storm this one was!  I’m not sure how long it is going to take before I feel that I am in the flow of it all.  I posted the Heidegger meditation because I have been conscious all week of chasing details totally unrelated to my painting, and regretting every frenetic moment.  Teaching is what I do, and it has always involved the chasing down of a myriad of details, and I do enjoy that kind of pursuit, but I do question daily whether or not I’m finding my core.  When painting, I feel that I am at my core, doing what I was created to do.  But, I have to do my job daily, and at the moment, the job is keeping me away from the drafting table.

I don’t know what I may seem to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing in the seashore and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Isaac Newton

When I finally did sit down to the drafting table, late this Friday afternoon, the Isaac Newton quote continued to rattle around in my head.  In my most sober moments, when focused on some detail such as this watercolor that I am now rendering, I think of the ocean of truth at my elbow that is getting no attention from me.  I have a stack of books next to me, a bundle of journals behind me, and dozens of scattered thoughts clattering around inside my head while I try to paint.  School does that to me.  In the past several days, students have dropped incredible thoughts on me, and I’ve been writing frantically in my journal, trying to chase down these ideas to see what new things I can learn from the experience.  When the painting begins, the musing just won’t stop.  And I like that.

Close-up of the Truck in Progress

Close-up of the Truck in Progress

Before the afternoon light faded from my studio windows, I managed just a little more detail work on this pickup truck.  The reflections in the windows I found a bit tricky, and I had trouble keeping my hand steady for the body molding and the door sign.  So far, I’m generally pleased with what’s emerging.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am never alone.

Too Little Time for Painting Today

August 26, 2013
A Little Bit of Work on the Truck

A Little Bit of Work on the Truck

There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers.  Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once admirable to life.  To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.  It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Good evening!  All I had time to do this evening was block in the Dodge truck, and then my light was gone.  I really don’t wish to paint under house lights at night, I have become so attached to the natural light coming in through my studio windows.  Alas, I’m having to re-adjust the hours of the day now, to allow space for doing my job.  Today was more about living an artful life than making a piece of art.  I’m not finding the adjustment easy, but will have to find a way.

The first day of school went very, very well.  Two enormous classes, and one moderate-sized one.  My two A. P. Art History classes show great promise, and I regret waiting two days before seeing them again.  Tomorrow will be Philosophy and Sophomore English.  The latter course I have never taught before, so I cannot say I am looking forward to that with enthusiasm.  But, we’ll see . . .

There is plenty of work to be done still to prep for tomorrow’s courses, so I’ll be signing off early this time.  I really hope I can hit this watercolor a little harder tomorrow.  What I feel, however, is that I will need some days to adjust to this full-blown school schedule.  One way or another, I will return to the blog with vigor, trust me.  I love communicating with you.

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.

A Little Bit of Watercolor Activity Before the Start of School

August 25, 2013
Day Before School Begins, Still Working on the Painting

Day Before School Begins, Still Working on the Painting

When you see the spark of ambition, water it.

Michael Molloy, Experiencing the World’s Religions

Fall term begins tomorrow at James Martin High School, Arlington, Texas, my professional home for twenty-five years now.  My A. P. and Regular Art History classes are ready now, and I did manage to get in some quality watercolor time this afternoon.   Today I found myself drawing, erasing and re-drawing quite a number of details related to the gas pumps, signage and posts as well as the concrete island that anchors them.  I really enjoy drawing and revising in the midst of watercolor, and I’m finding more and more ways to use graphite and colored pencil along with my brushes and Winsor & Newton pigments.  Today was no exception.  Finally, I managed to paint the red gas pump to the left, and finished the green one on the right.  I’m ready now to begin work on the truck, and am still unsure as to how to get its color right.  It is a pale sea green, quite unlike the Sinclair green that already has given me plenty of fits!  I’ll take my time on that.  I notice now that I have quite a bit of drawing left on the truck details as well, and plenty of decisions to make as to the rendering of the reflections on its windows.  I indeed wish I could put off school one more day.  I’m not sure if I’ll be able to paint tomorrow.  Tuesday (lucky me) I’ll begin teaching yet another subject never taught before (they sprung that on me last year too–fun).  It’s possible that I’ll still be making decisions tomorrow afternoon concerning the Tuesday load.

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.

Early Saturday Morning, Exploring a Large Watercolor

August 24, 2013
Early Saturday Morning, Working on the Watercolor

Early Saturday Morning, Working on the Watercolor

Education, I fear, is learning to see one thing by going blind to another.

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

The statement above by Aldo Leopold could be taken in a number of ways.  Having completed a week of Inservice before beginning the new year at my high school, I heard a number of pontificators telling the audience what was wrong with public education and how to take steps to remedy it.  As in former years, we were covered with enough statistics to make our heads swim, along with bullet lists of guidelines designed to correct the shortcomings perceived from the statistics.  From my perspective, every year a new educational flavor is passed down from officials on state and district levels, accompanied with new books, written by the latest education gurus.

My reason for posting the Leopold quote is this: education is a lifestyle, not an institution, and learning is always more comprehensive than the lesson plans and statistics that are printed up and passed out each year.  I awoke at 7:50 this Saturday morning, because my mind was overflowing with ideas spawned from what I ingested the past week, from art history, philosophy, literature, religion and music. My reading, as always, has been diverse, as I have pored over poetry, essays, private journals, fiction novels, short stories, histories and biographies.  I have also been soaking myself in watercolor theories found in books, DVDs, Youtube and my own experiments in the studio.  This past week, for me has been a stimulating education, and virtually none of it rose from my Inservice meetings.  None of the issues that  excite me right now were revealed by a speech, lecture, a stack of handouts or curriculum guides.  I love learning, I am starving to know more, I am obsessed with exploration, and unfortunately, I feel that I have to work overtime to safeguard that enthusiasm, while the machinery of public education continually finds ways to squelch it.  If it were not for the affirming, supportive administration and faculty within my own building, I would probably have walked away from this profession long ago.  Right now, I am as excited as I have ever been to meet my new students on Monday, and that excitement took root Thursday and Friday, when finally I was allowed time and space for privacy in my classroom, to set up my environment, read, reflect, and write up my strategic plans for the opening week of classes.

Rising early this morning, I entered my studio when the northen lights were clean and refreshing, and spent a long while poring over this watercolor before deciding what to do next.  I found myself in a “detail” mood, so I finished the Sinclair sign, painted the slogan under the roof and added the “Dino”, shaded the red post of the lamp, then went to work on the details under the awning, where shadows play among the I-beams and framework.  I also re-worked the reflections on the windows of the station.  Lettering is still my Achilles’ tendon, particularly Gothic lettering.  I didn’t fret much over the white Gothic “Sinclair” letters, knowing that a good flat brush would allow me to paint around the letters, leaving the white paper to stand alone.  But the red “Go with the Dino” lettering had me worried.  Since it was in deep shadow, I mixed Winsor Green with the Alizarin Crimson, hoping it would pass for “shadow red.”  I first outlined all the letters, continually sharpening a Tuscan Red Prismacolor Pencil.  Then I wet the insides ofthe letters and floated the Alizarin Crimson mixed with Winsor Green, letting the colors run to the waxy edge of the Prismacolor outline.  Maybe one day I’ll solve my lettering anxieties.  I certainly haven’t yet paid my 10,000 hours’ dues in that discipline.

Thanks for reading.   I hope to return to this painting tomorrow.  As for the meantime, Advanced Placement Art History is demanding my attention for Monday’s classes.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Early Evening Work on the Sinclair Watercolor

August 23, 2013
Evening Work in the Studio

Evening Work in the Studio

Reactivated, I’d go home to the eternally rewarding game of scribbling.  Thought was never an isolated thing with me; it was a game of tests and balances, to be proven by the written word.

William Carlos Williams, Autobiography

My heart beats faster when I read anything by William Carlos Williams, physician, poet, perpetual scribbler.  I spent my last day of this week of inservice, in my school classroom, getting materials prepared, the room arranged, and always scribbling my thoughts.  I found it difficult to work on this large watercolor as the evening light faded, for all the stopping and scribbling.  Now, the light is gone, and there is nothing left but to scribble.  I haven’t felt the compulsion to shift my blog into a “scribbling” blog (though it sounds like one tonight).  Tomorrow I’ll approach the watercolor with a fresh pair of eyes and see what it needs next.  I will certainly keep flinging it up on the blog, daily now, I hope.

Thanks always for being there to read me.

I paint in order to remember.

I scribble when I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself I’m really not alone.