Posts Tagged ‘Titian’

He’s Out of His Tree

September 3, 2013
Laumeier Tree House

Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis

After a grueling first week of school, I found the opportunity to scamper home to St. Louis to visit my parents for a couple of days over the holiday weekend.  I had not had a real visit with them since Christmas, and was long overdue.  Time spent with Mom and Dad was a quiet respite from the weeklong frenzy I had just experienced at school, and on the second day of my visit, I retreated to Laumeier Sculpture Park, found this tree house, and decided “Why not?”

Inside the Tree House

Inside the Tree House

Taking my Titian volume, I climbed the ladder, sprawled inside, and enjoyed my reading and journaling in the peace and quiet above the beautiful sculpture garden.  I read of Titian’s idyllic youth spent in the mountainous region north of Venice, in the remote township of Pieve di Cadore.  The quiet Sunday afternoon in Laumeier yielded the perfect enclave as I read and reflected on the early influences of that remarkable painter.

Jonathan Borofsky Sculpture

Jonathan Borofsky, “Man with Briefcase at #2968443”

I also took some time to stroll around the grounds, taking dozens of photos of the monumental sculptures and recording notes from them.  Eyeing this Borofsky monument, I determined not to allow myself to be another number, another cog in this impersonal workforce that engulfs me daily.  The school where I teach has over 3,000 students and over 200 faculty in one large building.

Drawing with a Ballpoint Pen

Drawing with a Ballpoint Pen

Sitting on a park bench in the shade, I took out my ballpoint pen and tried to render a cedar in my Moleskine notebook.  I don’t draw nearly enough in my later years, and enjoyed this moment of relaxation, though I preferred to have my watercolor block in hand.  The Jeep was parked a long distance away however, and I didn’t feel like walking the distance (and risk losing the urge to sketch).  Besides, I had an earlier opportunity to kick out a quick plein air watercolor sketch the day before . . .

Roadside Park along Historic Missouri Route 66

Roadside Park along Historic Missouri Route 66

I got a late start to St. Louis over the holiday weekend, choosing to drive through the night.  When I realized that I was going to reach my parents’ house around 5:00 a. m., and that I was growing drowsy, I chose the safety of a roadside park along I-44, parking in the midst of a row of seven or eight cars, reclining my seat, and drifting off to a welcoming sleep.  When I awoke, the sun had just risen, and I looked out and saw this bluff across the divided highway.  I didn’t have to think twice about it–retrieving my backpack, I dug out my watercolor supplies, found a picnic table, and went to work sketching this out on an 8 x 10″ D’Arches block.

Winsor & Newton Field Box

Winsor & Newton Field Box

I worked very quickly, enjoying every moment of the encounter, and musing over the works of Joan Miro as he rhapsodized over the rural Catalan landscapes of his environment.  I don’t emulate the style of Miro, but my heart beats faster every time I read of an artist who works at capturing the landscape of his youth.  The cliffs carved for the thoroughfares of Route 66 always held my attention as a young boy, gazing out the window from the back seat of the passing car.  I always wished I could sit atop them, look across the land, and attempt to paint them.  Finally I’m getting that chance.

After the rhapsodic moment with the morning cliffs, I climbed back into my waiting vehicle, knowing Mom and Dad would have fresh coffee waiting.  It was good to go home again.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Taking a Hiatus on the Saint Ignatius Watercolor

April 25, 2012

Saint Ignatius nearing finish

Good evening.  Last evening I completed the monumental sculpture and base, and worked a little further on the portals, steps and handrails.  Finally I splashed some wash on the lower left part of the foreground for balance.  Then I got hung up.

After consulting with a number of trusted artist friends, I’ve decided how to complete this.  I will deepen the shadows on the receding walls, enrich some of the fire escape shadows, but most important of all, re-draw the architectural details on the perimeter of the composition.  For that I need to go back and take another long look at Andrew Wyeth and his drybrush techniques.  What I have always wished to accomplish in a major watercolor is to render in as much detail as possible the focal points of the composition, and then as the eye moves toward the perimeter, dissolve the picture into wash, and finally pencil rendering.  I have always loved that dimension of  Wyeth’s work.

I’m going to spend a day or two “composting” this picture, the way our Venetian painter Titian did over 500 years ago, and Wyeth did in our last century.  I’m borrowing that metaphor from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.  I am referring to a habit of Titian and Wyeth in their manner of gazing at their works for days near the end, determining what exactly had to be done to “finish” the piece.  Goldberg, in the task of writing, speaks of how important it is for a writer to grow still, and allow thoughts to make their way to the surface, much in the same way that energy builds over time in a compost heap.  All that is needed is time.  And so I will give this picture time.  I don’t want to lose it.  I’m very, very excited about bringing it to closure, and right now have this burning desire to pore over the Wyeth work and glean ideas from his exquisite pencil renderings over watercolor.

Thanks for reading.  I hope the next time I publish this painting, that I present it to you as a fait accompli.