Posts Tagged ‘still life’

Not the Rooftops of Paris, but Dark and Rainy Nevertheless, and Quite Good

February 20, 2017



Second Day on a 20 x 16″ Watercolor

But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the litle oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made.  I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.  All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence that you know.”  So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Waking early this morning to a dark and rain-soaked world, I was glad not to go to work but to do as I please for the entire day.  Late last night I had begun work on a new watercolor of a Blues theme that I used to pursue fervently, but had stopped doing in recent years.  Soon I’ll release details on a new One-Man-Show that has been offered me, and I would love to complete some Blues art to hang in this venue.  I chose as a backdrop for the painting my grandmother’s abandoned house.  Then I took some selfies in my backyard, holding my late uncle’s pre-World War II Gibson archtop guitar.  I have high expectations for this composition and have already enjoyed a full morning of layering washes and drybrush details into the piece.  I’m taking my time with it.

As I worked, I dialed up on Netflix “Papa Hemingway in Cuba.”  When I’m painting, I love listening to movies, documentaries, and YouTube lectures.  They keep my mind engaged. And as this film rolled, my mind went back to some intense reading I enjoyed a few winters ago: Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and Carlos Baker’s Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story.  And as I worked, I thought of all those times when I’ve struggled over whether to make art, read, or write when I had time to myself.  This weekend has produced another one of those environments for me that I love so much–what Paul Tillich referred to often as “creative eros”, an urge to create, period.  And when I find myself unable to resolve whether to paint, draw, read, write, or just sit in a comfortable chair with coffee to think and do nothing else–I realize that life could not possibly be better.


Working on a New Lecture Series

Just before the weekend arrived, I discovered that among the post-retirement options offered to me this coming fall is a chance to teach Ethics at the university for the first time. Pulling from my shelf a volume from The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, I was surprised to find myself absorbed in a very lengthy History of Ethics article.  This came as a surprise because I seldom find myself interested for very long in an encyclopedia entry, particularly one that goes on for page after page after page, four columns staring back at me every time I turn the page.  But this article has really taken me in new directions.  For decades I have been interested in the history of philosophy, but usually focused on metaphysics and theories of knowledge, never ethics.  Now, as I read the ethical portions of these philosophers and schools, I am amazed at the new ideas I’m grafting onto the structures already learned.  The new directions are quite exciting.

Reading this article has also led me back to a famous book that I have never successfully stayed with over the decades: Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be.  Now, having read twenty-seven pages and scribbling out a pile of notes, I feel that I am finally into this book as well. The reading of just these two sources has already produced pages and pages of journal entries, paragraphs, diagrams and illustrations of new ideas waiting for further development.


“Thinking About the Next Catch”

Last night I received my email notification that the piece pictured above has been accepted to show in the 32nd Annual Texas & Neighbors Regional Art Exhibition to be held at the Irving Arts Center April 29-June 3. There were 585 pieces juried, and 75 selected.  Over the years, I have visited this show and always wished to participate, but continually missed the application deadline.  Thanks to an artist friend, I met the deadline this year, and now am very happy for this opportunity of hanging one of my pieces with works selected from Texas and several neighboring states.

The weekend has been full and rewarding.  Thank you for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Pushing Further into the Portal Experiment

January 3, 2017


And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Today marked the first day of the spring semester and my second day of reverie in the writings of John Steinbeck. I read before my A. P. Art History classes the opening paragraph of chapter 13 of East of Eden, a passage pointed out to me by my ninth-grade English teacher, Lon Simmons. The students overall expressed approval, and one of them actually engaged me in conversation over the significance of the passage, a little later in the period. I found the first day of classes very satisfying.

Once back home, I began experimenting with the large watercolor I’ve posted above. Several days ago, I created for the first time my first batch of watercolor pigment–cobalt blue, combining the powdered pigment with gum arabic, honey and distilled water. I felt like a mad scientist in the laboratory, laughing at my cavalier venture. I managed to create a warm gray tone for some of my background by blending this newly-mixed cobalt blue with Winsor Violet and New Gamboge. I also applied India ink to some of the lettering on the burlap sack at the base of the composition. So far, I am pleased with the results of these latest experiments. I feel that I am getting bolder with these attempts.

Tonight I had the deeply satisfying pleasure of meeting with five of my artist friends at a cafe to exchange ideas over dinner. We have been gathering for these weekly discussions for over a year now, and I cannot express how rewarding these times are for me emotionally. Without fail, I come away from these meetings with a renewed sense of purpose and joy.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Entering the Portal of a New Year

December 30, 2016


I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

As 2016 slowly slides into a chain of memories, I’m happily painting my way into a New Year, hoping to make new discoveries. Returning to this watercolor begun last week has not been without its interruptions and now that I have a couple of days left before this holiday ends, I’m glad to come face-to-face with the composition, yet feel somewhat lost and out of practice.  I suppose the momentum broke. I paused late into this evening to re-read a book by Hemingway that I have always loved. This passage I’ve cited is one of my favorites. The setting is Paris in the 1920s when the young Hemingway was seeking his literary “voice” and seething in self-doubt. I love this soliloquy and have claimed it as my own. Yes, I’ve done this kind of work before and I shall again. All I have to do is begin with the simple, honest strokes that I have known for decades. To me, drawing and watercoloring can be simple and direct. Upon that foundation I’ll return to form, I’m confident. I love the subject I’ve chosen this time, and am looking forward to entering through this new portal and seeing what happens when I come out the other side.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone. 

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Rubbing the Cold off the Object

December 30, 2016


These great men [Thoreau, Goethe, Emerson, Tolstoy] forever radiate a sharp sense of that profound requirement of the artist, to fully understand that consequences of what he creates are unimportant. “Let the motive for action be in the action itself and not in the event.”

I know from my own experience that when I create with any degree of strength and beauty I have had no thought of consequences.  Anyone who creates for effect –to score a hit–does not know what he is missing!

N. C. Wyeth, final letter to his son Andrew Wyeth, February 16, 1944

Finally, after a considerable hiatus, I am delighted to re-enter my studio.  It has taken a few days to get over the weariness generated by a drive from St. Louis to Dallas/Fort Worth following my holiday visit with family. It takes me longer to hit the reset button following those long drives than when I was younger.

The watercolor has gotten cold on me since I left it last week.  But I have been excited to return to it, and am confident that the warmth and confidence will emerge once I give it a few strokes. I am painting this composition for my own pure pleasure, and thus the “commission pressure” is not present. And I’m not painting it with a market in mind; I just want to explore this subject that has been residing in my mind’s eye for quite a long period now. Hence, the quote from N. C. Wyeth above. I did not realize until later in life that I received far more joy and fulfilment in the making of art than in the attention or selling that followed. As my holiday draws near its close, I’m delighted, in this quiet studio, to pursue what gives me the most satisfaction. I’ll continue to post blogs as the painting runs its course.

I wish all of you an exciting and promising New Year.  Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Last-Minute Holiday Painting

November 26, 2016


After letting this small watercolor sit idle for a couple of weeks, I decided this afternoon to haul it back out and see if I could beef it up by texturing the knob and locking plate.  So far, the details I am adding with India ink, prismacolor pencils, graphite and X-acto knife. The texturing process has been fun and I’m happy with the way the painting is progressing.

The window is rapidly closing on this wonderful Thanksgiving vacation.  I’ve been grateful in spending quality time with family and friends, traveling quite extensively, reading quality literature and experimenting with drawing and watercoloring.

Thanks for reading.

Thanksgiving Meditations

November 24, 2016


Why not make a little collection of detached ideas which come to me from time to time completely molded and to which it would thus be difficult to attach others? Is it absolutely demanded that one produce a book, keeping within all the rules? Montaigne writes by fits and starts. Those are the most interesting works. 

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, Tuesday, May 7, 1850

This Thanksgiving holiday has been warm and cozy, and I’m always grateful to come back home and see family again. As the aromas of food cooking filled the house, I relaxed in a chair, reading from the writings of Delacroix, and came across this passage I’m posting.  I was so inspired by it that I laid the book aside, pulled an old doorknob and locking system from my bag and began sketching it in my journal.  My dad, liking what he saw, went out to his shed and returned with a second door knob. I removed mine and inserted his into the box and attempted a second sketch before dinner time. The time was rewarding, and I enjoyed the feeling of putting something like this on paper.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Drinking from the Artistic Fountains

December 29, 2015

finished door knob winter 2015

Completed Still Life Watercolor Sketch of Vintage Door Knob

What the verbal artist would like to do would be to find out the secret of the pictorial, to drink at the same fountain.

Henry James (quoted in Eric Karpeles, Paintings in Proust)

I find myself early this morning on the opposite shore of Henry James. From the banks of the pictorial, I gaze longingly across this vast sea at the distant verbal horizon.  As I drink from the literary fountains of Shakespeare, Yeats and Proust, I wonder how one could tap that artesian well of words and produce such wondrous prose and poetry.  I acknowledge that I’ve been blessed with a pictorial imagination since early childhood, and have had the good fortune of acquiring a toolbox of skills to reproduce some of this in works of visual art.  But still, I feel so enriched when I read texts from these immortal authors who still tug at my heart strings long after they have passed from this earth.  Returning this morning to Proust’s Swann’s Way and reading a delightful volume titled Paintings in Proust, I felt the urge to enter the studio and complete a watercolor sketch that I’ve had on my mind since before the Christmas holiday commenced.  I’ve finally signed off on it and will price this 8 x 10″ watercolor at $150, matted.

hemingway desk closeup

Hemingway desk

My Morning Sanctuary

I suppose it would have been amazing to live in Paris during the days of la belle epoque.  True, the society artists were disappearing, and only the museum-worthy ones are accessible to most of us today, but nevertheless the age was amazing, because the poets and novelists of that period were slowly yielding to the painters in the public’s eye.  As cafes began to fill with writers and artists in dialogue, the age became so rich in the arts, and today I still wonder over what it must have been like to sit at the table hearing those discussions.

Currently I am blessed to meet almost weekly with a pair of visual artists over coffee, and the exchange of ideas and dreams really fuels my own artistic output.  I often wonder if Arlington, Texas could ever become such a garden for fertile minds wishing to explore more deeply the literary and visual arts.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Watercoloring on a Winter Night

December 28, 2015


door knob winter 2015

My fiftieth year had come and gone,

I sat, a solitary man, 

In a crowded London shop,

An open book and empty cup

On the marble table-top.

While on the shop and street I gazed

My body of a sudden blazed;

And twenty minutes more or less

it seemed, so great my happiness,

That I was blessed and could bless.

William Butler Yeats, “Vacillation”

Returning from my St. Louis Christmas vacation through torrential downpours while engulfed in darkening skies, all I can say is that Sunday was forgettable. Awaking this morning in the pre-dawn to find snow all over my Jeep was exhilarating and the first thing I did was build a fire in the fireplace–a fire that still burns tonight as I write this.  Aside from a few business errands, today was a truly quiet and rewarding day before the fire with excellent books to read and only the best thoughts to think.

Rediscovering the work of Harold Bloom has returned me to a number of writers I abandoned years ago, and I am now re-reading them with a renewed sense of vision and satisfaction.   I’m still recording ideas in my journal from a recent reading of “Hamlet.”  This morning I chose to open a volume of William Butler Yeats from my personal library.  I began with “Sailing to Byzantium”, “Byzantium” and “The Second Coming.”  But then I read “Vacillation” for the first time and felt moved in the best way.  I loved his description of a peak experience similar to what Emerson referred to as a “transparent eyeball” when everything is perfect for a short season.  Proust also writes warmly about the way childhood memories revisited lifted his spirits to a different zone.  I have known this throughout my life, and today enjoyed a series of such visitations.

My research took me to a 1917 essay Yeats wrote titled In Per Amica Silentia Lunae.  In this work, Yeats explores the creative process from a number of angles, and I could see portions of the essay making their way into the 1932 poem “Vacillation.”  These words came at a good time for me.

My time spent pondering lines from William Butler Yeats were comingled with long meditative moments gazing into this fire that has burned the entire day, filling my living space with lovely crackling sounds and the luxury of warmth penetrating my sweater.

Finally this evening, I resumed poking at a watercolor still life set up before I left for St. Louis.  With renewed interest, I redrew some of the door’s locking system and began laying in details on the rusted surface.  I’m beginning to rough up the door as well, combining pencil, watercolor wash, and smudging with my fingers and Q-tips to get different textures on the abused wood.  Bach music has played through most of the evening as well, lending a quality to the atmosphere that I cannot describe except wtih words like “sublime”.


This has been a beautiful day for reflection, thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Astonished at a Painting of an Apple?

February 23, 2015


With an apple I will astonish Paris.

Paul Cezanne

I will admit I have yet to understand Cezanne’s sentiment in that statement. Paris and the rest of the world would be astonished at his innovative style and the way he ushered in a new century of modernist painting, but I’m still not sure how he believed his work on the apple would create astonishment. Nevertheless I have wanted to watercolor an apple for years and finally got around to attempting it this winter, and hope to continue improving in that subject. The garage has felt progressively colder the past three hours I’ve been at work there, so I’ve decided to return to the warmth of my house and spend the rest of the day “nesting” (and grading) inside. I’m glad I worked up the initiative to enter the garage and attempt to get the watercolor groove back. Perhaps I’ll get some more accomplished at my living room drafting table. We’ll see. At any rate, this has been an excellent start to the day.

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 Gratifying Return to the Watercolor Studio

February 23, 2015
Return to the Garage Studio in Winter

Return to the Garage Studio in Winter

Abstraction’s original meaning is “to select from,” in the Latin; though I will not say, as is so easy for defenders of abstract art, that consequently all art is abstract because all art is selected; this is simply to win a dialectical point–in the Socratic sense of dialectical. Au Contraire. What is selected is selected on the basis of the most concrete, personal feeling.

Robert Motherwell, October 1959

With today’s school closure, I just learned that the grading deadline has been extended an extra day. With a shout, I returned to my garage studio that I had not visited in nearly a month. Yes, it is 28 degrees outside and ice has covered everything, but this electric space heater works in the garage, two still life arrangements are still set up out here, and the paintings have been waiting my return. So far, I have spent all my time this morning darkening this fly fishing composition over more than 50% of its area, making the background darker and deepening the tones of all the middle values, leaving the highlighted areas untouched. The overall look of the painting has changed profoundly to my eye, but I like the change, and there is certainly no going back. I’ll let it dry out awhile and then return for another look. Meanwhile I have other paintings in progress that have languished for weeks. I’m ecstatic now for this opportunity to get back to them.

Motherwell’s argument posted above has been buzzing in my head today while working on this still life, trying to bring it to fruition. One of my high school art teachers, Mr. Scucchi, was always trying to get me to understand this–no matter how naturalistic my style in rendering subjects in paint, the quality of the composition would always come down to abstraction, particularly to selection. I tried to listen, but didn’t really come to appreciate this until much later. My college painting professor, Dr. Unger, also urged this lesson upon me. Both instructors are now deceased, and I regret that I cannot tell them personally that I now get it, and wish I could tell them directly. I’ll always be grateful for their patience and belief in me as I struggled with these matters. Lingering over this still life today has drawn me closer to their spirits and I’ve enjoyed this feeling of kinship. In many ways, their spirits hover about my work.

What a wonderful way to spend a day off. Incidentally, I still graded for two hours this morning, and will do quite a bit more today. But what a joy knowing that the deadline is no longer tonight.

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.