Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Creating New Worlds

September 23, 2011

Early Morning in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Alas, I did not manage to begin a new watercolor today.  I try to start something new and fresh daily, but this day was given to matting, shrinkwrapping and labeling watercolors for the upcoming art festivals.  I will be participating in four art festivals over the next five weekends (not this weekend, fortunately).  I found a closet-full of forgotten work that never had been matted, so there went my day.  I still have plenty to mat tomorrow as well.

Taking a breather late this afternoon, I was delighted to return to an Emerson biography I read and loved a decade ago: Emerson: The Mind on Fire, by Robert D. Richardson, Jr.  This magnificent bard had the following to say regarding Napoleon Bonaparte:   Napoleon’s glory “passed away like the smoke of his artillery, and left no trace.  He left France smaller, poorer, feebler than he found it.”  On the other hand, Emerson wrote of Goethe that he stood “for the class of scholars and writers who see connections where the multitude see fragments, and who are impelled to exhibit the facts in order, and so to supply the axis on which the frame of things turn.”

As an artist and educator, I take delight in these sentiments.  The world’s eye (through the media) remains focused on individuals who sometimes create and heal, but oftentimes spread destruction across our world.  But in the quieter corners of this environ are souls who actually try to create, heal and thereby leave this world in better shape than they found it.  I don’t pretend to be one who does great things.  But I do take satisfaction in knowing that over the past 2 1/2 decades I have tried to grow students’ minds to think better, more responsibly, and to instill a sense of pride and ability to create a better world than the one that greets us.

At this juncture in life, I am certain of fewer things than what I thought 2 1/2 decades ago.  But I do possess a renewed resolve to create images reflecting the better parts of my daily environment.  The image posted above was one I captured early one morning in Eureka Springs, Arkansas last June.  I had risen at sunrise and descended to the lowest parts of that sleeping town, and came across this abandoned structure that exuded so much charm and beauty in the morning light.  As I worked on it in watercolor en plein air, I kept wishing that I had studio space inside!  I pictured how lovely it would be to step out on that porch with a cup of coffee and say “Good Morning” to a world full of promise, a world waiting to be healed, a world waiting to be re-made in a better image.

To me, mornings that begin with making art are better than mornings that do not.  Hopefully I can create a better morning tomorrow.  Thanks for reading.

The Next Day, Watercoloring Haltom’s Jewelers, Sundance Square, Fort Worth, Texas

July 12, 2011

Haltom's Jewelers, Fort Worth, Texas

I have decided to post this painting daily, as long as I am working on it daily.  The details are emerging slowly.  I worked on it in the studio late last night, until about 3 a.m.  Now I am back at it on a Tuesday afternoon.  For years, I have been fascinated with the monumental posture of this clock outside Haltom’s Jewelers in downtown Fort Worth, Texas (Sundance Square).  I had always had a fantasy of rendering it in watercolor, and now that I am at that point, I find myself frozen at the colors in the bronze, both shadows and highlights.  I’m still trying to find those colors in my palette.  Once I solve the “bronze” problem, I’ll resume the clock.  The reflections in the upper story windows of the jewelry store also have me fascinated.  Too often, I just paint the windows as black silhouettes, avoiding problems of reflection and distortion.  But these window patterns are too fascinating for me to do that.  At any rate, if I botch them, I could always come back and turn them into silhouettes!

Thanks for reading.

A Summer Morning in Sleepy Winfield, Missouri

April 27, 2011

Winfield, Missouri Store

I have put in two consecutive late nights in the garage studio, painting till past midnight.  It makes it a little rough, going to school the next morning, but there it is.  This is another full-size sheet of watercolor paper (22 x 28″).  I have painted this abandoned store twice before.  I discovered it in the summer of 2009 while driving highway 79 north of St. Louis along the Mississippi River.  The small town of Winfield is where this store rests, just along the west side of highway 79.  The light was so bright that August morning, the sun had just risen.

I’m having some struggles with this painting (I hate it when a watercolor starts out badly!).  I poured quite a few layers of pigment on the tree/foliage area at the top, wanting to get the woods very dark and deep.  I’ve decided to just let the foliage be for the time being, and go ahead and work on the store facade.  Tonight involved plenty of close, tedious drawing and drafting, but I’m still convinced that a strong and accurate drawing will yield a good watercolor (hope I’m right this time!).  I’m not sure that the pencil work can be seen in this photograph, I always have trouble getting a good digital image under light bulbs late at night.  Most of my blog shots are taken out in the driveway in the middle of the day.  I guess I’m admitting that as a photographer, I fly by the seat of my pants.

At any rate, I am finally settling into, and enjoying this watercolor composition.  And with the kind of school schedule I have this week, I reckon that I’ll be having to put in late hours in the garage studio (my least favorite time to paint).  I’ll take what’s offered.

Thanks for reading.

A Close Second to a Parisian Sidewalk Cafe

February 24, 2011

Sidewalk Cafe Life at Eureka Springs

Texas temperatures are getting better–80 degrees and sunny today.  My garage has turned into an art studio/man cave for me, with a portable TV/VCR playing an assortment of tapes for my listening pleasure while I paint–lectures on Friedrich Nietzsche, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams to name just a few.  I feel myself entering this composition that I’ve tinkered with for several months now.  I can almost hear the voices around the table discussing poetry, philosophy, theology, books–all the artistic elements that keep us alive and alert.

This setting is in downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where it was my profound privilege to teach a week of plein air watercolor classes for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.  It was my first time, and I have an application pending there now, hoping with all I have that there will be a class again this year.  My two favorite towns so far are Waxahachie, Texas and Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for on-site watercoloring.  Both towns boast streets lined with Victorian architecture, flower beds, cute shops around the downtown district, and compositions for painting in any direction one looks.

This particular painting is huge by my standards–30 x 22″–and it involves elements that are outside my comfort zone–people and a myriad of details.  I have avoided genre painting for a number of years, realizing that there are countless artists “out there” who do it so exceedingly well.  But I recently read something from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau that convinced me to go for this: “There is always room and occasion enough for a true book on any subject, as there is room for more light on the brightest day, and more rays will not interfere with the first.”  All I had to do was substitute “painting” for “book,” and I got his point.  My contribution to this genre of painting will in no way diminish what has been done by others, and yes, there is room in this world of art for me to contribute as well.  So . . . with that in mind, I was liberated to go after this composition.

Today was quite a full day–high school classes by day, a trip to the veterinarian this afternoon, and a college class tonight.  But there is still time to engage in the arts, and I so love returning to my studio, even when the day has been filled with “work.”  Thoreau said (I believe in Walden) “To effect the quality of the day is the highest of the arts.”  That I must remember.  Though packed to the rim, today has nevertheless been “artful.”

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