Posts Tagged ‘St. Elmo’

Preparing for Grapefest, (Grapevine, Texas) September 13-16

September 10, 2012

Wednesday night, I will be setting up my booth for the four-day Grapefest art festival at Grapevine, Texas.  All the pieces are nearly in place, but it looks like I could still be putting in some late nights today and tomorrow.  There is still some matting and shrink-wrapping to complete, and I have two watercolors still to finish (I would like to have them ready by festival time).

This is a painting of the ghost town of St. Elmo, Colorado, near Tin Cup Pass.  I photographed it on 35mm slides about ten years ago, and finally got around to painting it this summer on a full-size sheet of watercolor paper.  I’m getting ready to shrink-wrap it and matte it for sale in the booth this weekend.

Thanks for reading.

Still Chipping Away at the St. Elmo, Colorado Watercolor

June 7, 2012

St Elmo, Colorado, Still in Progress

The longer I work on this, the further away the finish appears to me.  I worked pretty well into the night last night, with details of the storefront, and I continued laying additional glazes onto the facades of the building.  Finally, I drew in the outlines of the boardwalk out front.  I have been unable to paint today–to many business details to tend.  I would love to return to it tonight, and finish it, but at this point, I just don’t know.  I have plenty of appointments tomorrow to keep as well, so the finish is still up in the air.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll get back to all of this ASAP.

Painting in the Man Cave as the Rain Pours and Temperatures Drop

June 6, 2012

St Elmo, Colorado

I had expected to make more headway on this watercolor today.  The details are slowing me down.  Having only slept three hours last night, I succumbed to the Texas heat around noon, and decided to take a refresher nap after a late lunch.  One of my painting buddies came and worked with me in the man cave during the latter hours of the morning.  It is always rewarding, working next to another artistic spirit.

I awoke to thunderstorms around 5:00 and the temperatures had dropped to 70.  That I can handle.  So, I’m back in the man cave, the garage door is open and it’s pouring down rain outside.  The skies have darkened deliciously and I so love the sounds of the heavy raindrops glancing off the hoods of the Dodge Ram pickup and Jeep, just fifteen feet behind me.

My next step is to contrast the red and gold buildings that anchor the left side of this composition.  Then I’ll lay down the boardwalk in front of the stores, finish detailing the windows and doors on the structure to the right, and I will be nearly finished.  Perhaps I’ll post this finish work after all, before the night is through.

It is so nice to be out of school now.  Thanks for reading.


Returning to St. Elmo Watercolor in the Man Cave

June 6, 2012

Working on St. Elmo, Colorado in the Man Cave

After re-working my Edward Hopper painting, I next turned to another painting that needed finishing, which I choose not to post, maybe some other day.  Now, I turn my attention to the third painting of the day–St. Elmo, a ghost town in Colorado, where I took a number of 35mm slides years ago.  I have to use a Kodak carousel projector to put this image up to where I can study it.  It’s nice that I can darken the garage sufficiently this morning (now 8:31 a.m.) to project the slide onto the wall in front of my drafting table.

My goal is to complete this painting today, so I can move on to something new.  I’m ready for a new challenge, and wish to get some quality painting done before summer school begins Monday, and then my Eureka Springs watercolor class, a week from Monday.

Thanks for reading.

Return to the Man Cave, Ezra Pound and the St. Elmo Watercolor

June 5, 2012

St. Elmo, Colorado

Sandi plans to leave around 5:30 a.m. to work horses.  It’s good to see her pursuing her bliss as retirement commences.  I’ve decided to rise early as well, and see if the man cave is cooler than the 92 degrees it was at 11:00 this evening.  I loathe Texas summers.  Sure, the sunlight creates potentially pleasing landscape subjects to paint.  But it also invites heat stroke, skin cancer and plenty of other assorted wholesome features.  At any rate, I’ll work in the man cave in the morning for as long as the temperatures allow, then move my work inside and work under whatever light I can set up.  I’ve posted the St. Elmo painting that I started and abandoned over two weeks ago.  I would love to finish that one in the morning.

Today I stood in a 45-minute line at Arlington’s Municipal Court to settle up on a traffic violation from last month.  I brought with me Literary Essays of Ezra Pound.  It was good reading while I stood and waited.  I’m extrapolating his three tenets of Imagist poetry and applying them to my ideas of watercoloring:

1. Direct treatment of the “thing” whether subjective or objective.

Edward Hopper, when referring to his earlier days of plein air painting, said that he used to work “from the fact,” but in later years, relied on his memory and imagination.  In my plein air work of recent years, I have tried to focus more on a single, concentrated subject on which to build my composition.  My greatest challenge in painting on site is learning to focus on one subject, and trying to disregard all the other objects in front of me, all clamoring for my attention and focus.

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

I am trying to return to the “vignette” approach of watercoloring, allowing the perimeters of my composition to go out of focus, and eventually fade to white.  Taking a step further, I am trying to avoid detailing elements that are not central to my subject.  I’ve always been attracted to the words of Andrew Wyeth, saying that the strength of a composition is not what you put in, but what you leave out.  I also liked Henry David Thoreau writing that a person was rich in proportion to what things he could leave alone.  I’m still working on this, the idea that less is more.  My watercolors too often have too much in them, competing for the viewer’s attention.

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

I may be misinterpreting all of Pound’s tenets, but I’m at least using his words as a springboard for my own ideas as I pursue my place in the art enterprise.  When I read statement #3, I think of my notion that there are no sequential rules to painting out a composition.  I don’t always start with the sky.  I don’t always lay down my planes of color before detailing.  I don’t always draw out every detail in pencil before laying down water and pigment.  I just don’t follow a sequence of steps from start to finish in a painting; I work on what I feel like working on, from one moment to the next, and the only time I am forced is when the painting becomes too wet in one area, and I must devote my attention to another place where it is dry and controllable.

So.  There is my though of the day.  Ezra Pound’s tenets for Imagism (I like William Carlos Williams: “No ideas but in things.”) applied to my own watercolor ideas.

In less than two weeks, I have the privilege of traveling to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to teach a one-week plein air watercolor workshop.  I have already spoken to seven of the nine students enrolled in the course, and found them all to be fascinating and engaging in conversation.  I cannot wait to meet them and get to work.  This will be my third year to do this, and I absolutely love that school, its staff, its Board, and that town.  I cannot wait to get there.

Thanks for reading.

Lost in Colorado Wonder

May 20, 2012

Painting St. Elmo, Colorado, late night in the studio

I always laughed at the stories of Pablo Picasso working in his studio at 3 a.m.  Long ago, I lost the ability to pull all-nighters.  I miss them.  But this could be a late one.  I took a nap this evening (had a pretty miserable afternoon) and now am waking more as the hours roll by, and am getting lost in the rustic architecture of this Colorado mountain town.  I recall it as vividly as if it were yesterday.  Four of us were about to embark on a foolhardy trip over Tin Cup pass in a Jeep Grand Cherokee 4-wheel drive.  We made the trip, but I still think the decision was foolish.  I don’t bother to sport the bumper sticker “I Survived Tin Cup Pass”‘; I don’t take a lot of pride in doing that trip with a vehicle not quite cut out for it (Geez, 4-ply tires even!  What a fool).

I lingered around St. Elmo for quite a long time that afternoon, shooting my old 35mm camera, using Kodachrome slide film.  I’m glad I saved the slides, though technology in the schools has all but made them obsolete.  I don’t know how much longer this Kodak carousel projector is going to hold up.

I took a break from painting to read a bit (I’m re-reading Basquiat by Phoebe Hoban), and to look at this work-in-progress on an easel across the room from my man cave.  I like the habit of Andrew Wyeth, putting up his work so he could glance up at it while doing something else, or while entering a room, and thus get a snapshot impression of it to know what works, what doesn’t, and most of all, figure out when to quit the thing.  I’m making myself stop right now because I’ve crawled into the painting to the point that I’m focusing on all these minute details and forgetting to see the entire work, compositionally.  That’s how I lose a painting.  There is a haunting soliloquy in the motion picture Six Degrees of Separation, where Donald Sutherland muses over how it feels to “lose a painting.”  I have no words for this.  But I regret those countless times when, signing a painting, I sighed and admitted to myself that it “looked better a week ago.”  I pushed it too far.  Right now, I have questions about this Colorado painting, and so I’ve decided to set it aside while I muse over it, and meanwhile, continue reading Basquiat. 

Thanks always for reading.

Watercoloring the Colorado High Places

May 20, 2012

Colorado Mountain Town

I tried to make today count, studio-wise.  But it got intolerably hot in the man cave this afternoon.  Now with the Texas night temperatures dropping, I find myself wishing for some of those St. Elmo, Colorado mountain temperatures right about now.  Despite the bugs everywhere around me (they must really like these citronella Tiki torches), I am finding the opportunity to paint again.  Posted is what I managed to do during the morning hours when it was cool and pleasant.

I’m working overtime, trying to “fold” these buildings with better contrasts.  There is a deep shadow between them.  I’ve decided to render the one on the right in gold and the one on left (not in this picture yet) in brick red.  The siding is peeling badly, which is just what I like in watercolor rendering.  I’m trying to use my brushes more as pencils, taking advantage of the cold-press texture of this paper, in capturing the blistered wooden surfaces of the buildings.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll have this painting finished in time for the weekend show at Levitt Pavilion.  That was not my design, but I’m surprised at how fast this one is shaping up.  It is not as large as the ones I’ve done previously, this one measuring 16.5 x 22.5 inches.  Thanks to an afternoon nap, I just may be able to stay with this one late into the night.  We’ll see how it goes.

Thanks always for reading.

Sunday Morning Watercoloring in the Studio

May 20, 2012

St. Elmo, Colorado

Awoke around 7:30 this morning to a beautiful Sunday.  The man cave is nice and cool, and it has been a pleasure, chipping away at this watercolor of St. Elmo’s Colorado.  During the morning hours, I’ve enjoyed working on the paint-peeled facade of this building and the decrepit windows.  So far, I’m moving rather slowly through this as I keep “feeling it out.”  I seem to have more of a Willem DeKooning rhythm, as I spend more time stepping back and staring at this than I do actually painting it.  I keep making compositional decisions as I move along, and it results in very slow progress.  But . . . I don’t feel any kind of deadline looming, and my next art festival is still five days away.  Eventually I will have to break away from this and get back to organizing, packing, printing new greeting cards and post cards, and doing all those tasks that precede an art festival.

I had the pleasure of meeting Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price last night at the Weiler House Fine Art Gallery’s open house.  I was delighted to find her very personable and communicative, despite being hemmed in by so many admirers.  There was quite a crowd present.  I did have a photo taken with her, and will post it if it gets forwarded to me.  It was also a good night for meeting patrons and other artists.  The Arts Goggle festival in south Fort Worth was also fun.  It was a street festival with plenty of artists’ booths in place.  I had the pleasure of visiting with Steve Moya (who will also participate in next weekend’s festival along with me).

Next weekend I will be set up Friday-Sunday at the Levitt Performing Arts Center in downtown Arlington.  (  The music will be fabulous, featuring Michael Martin Murphey (Friday), Ray Wiley Hubbard( Saturday), and Asleep at the Wheel (Sunday).  There will be approximately 20 vendor booths set up on the perimeter.  The event is free, so I would love to see you if you have the time to come out and have fun with all of us.

Thanks for reading.

New Watercolor Beginning of St. Elmo, Colorado

May 19, 2012

St. Elmo, Colorado

I managed to make some headway on this new watercolor today.  I laid in the sky, then worked on some basic wash techniques for the mountain horizon, and finally did some shadow work on  some of the foreground buildings and sheds.  I’m starting to get a feel for this one.

Studio time was at a premium, as there was some art business to tend as well.  I have new limited edition giclee prints coming out of my recent painting of Saint Ignatius Academy, as well as one I did over a year ago in Eureka Springs, titled “Ghosts of Eureka Springs Past.”  I also made a trip to the Weiler House gallery to drop off my original painting of Saint Ignatius Academy (  I will stop by their open house this evening, honoring Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.  Afterward, I plan to attend the spring ArtsGoggle festival on the southside of Fort Worth (  My artist friend, Steve Moya, will have his booth set up on Daggett, near Main St.  (  I hope also to snap some quality photos of some of the Fort Worth south side sites around Magnolia.  So, I have a busy art evening planned, but am glad I got to put in some studio time nonetheless.

Thanks for reading.

Beginning a Colorado Watercolor, in the Man Cave

May 19, 2012

Saturday Morning in the Studio

It is a delicious sunny Saturday morning in suburban Texas.  The sun is bright, and temperatures have not yet risen.  I’m in my new studio/man cave beginning a watercolor of St. Elmo, Colorado.  I took a number of 35mm slides years ago, using my SLR camera, and thanks to an old carousel projector, I am able to project the image nice and large in the back of my garage.  The portable antique doors have shielded the bright Texas sun from this rear wall, so the projection is quite good.  The two bucket candles of citronella seem to be driving the mosquitoes away (they’ve sucked plenty of blood out of me the past several days and I’m sick of them).

I have a Mystic Fire Video playing of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  Reading that novel changed my life back in 1988, convincing me to turn to art and teaching as a profession.  I read it while dispatching for the Fort Worth Police Department late nights.  I am so grateful that someone produced a film of it–a quite moving one.  It has convinced me that it is time to read the novel again.

But now, I turn my attention to painting.  I took a number of slides of St. Elmo before taking my 4-wheel drive Jeep Grand Cherokee on a foolhardy climb over Tin Cup pass.  We survived, but I still marvel at my stupidity in that effort.

Hopefully, I’ll have more to show you before this day ends.  So far, I have only drawn the composition and blocked in the cerulean sky.  I have masking drying on the highlights of the evergreens, and will turn my attention to the distant horizon next.

Thanks for reading.