Posts Tagged ‘tree’

Drawing Trees over the Holidays

November 22, 2016

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Get one form that looks like the tree, rather than little pickings at the branches. Give the tree its gesture. Some trees are heavy, ample and full. In a tree there is a spirit of life, a spirit of growth and a spirit of holding its head up.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Now that the trees are casting their leaves up here in Missouri, I’m pulling out the pencils and sketchbook and trying to capture some of their movement, their essence.  Since I was a child, I stared at bare trees more than leafed-out ones, and I’m really not sure why.  I wasn’t drawing them as a child, and when I became an adult, I foolishly drew and painted trees for years out of my imagination rather than the way I do now–gazing at them, studying them, contemplating each one’s figure and portrait.

Andrew Wyeth for years has fascinated me with his tree studies in pencil and dry brush. More recently, I have purchased a book on Leonardo da Vinci’s tree studies. I could spend he rest of my life learning this craft, I believe.

Thanks for reading.

Partial Tree Portrait

December 25, 2015

imageThe sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes–no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

While reading, I glanced up at the view out the window, found myself staring at a tree against the morning sky, and decided, “Well, why not?”  I never feel boredom when I stare into a network of tree branches, trying to discern their basic direction, and capturing it on a page with pencil.  The trees I draw from life are always much, much better than what I draw from out of my own imagination, because the trees are always doing much more than I perceive in my memory.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of looking at them and trying to capture parts of them for the sake of future drawings and watercolors.

Thanks for looking . . .

Good Morning and Merry Christmas

December 25, 2015

image. . . the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light . . . 

Matthew 4:16

Traditionally, Christmas is celebrated by my family on Christmas Eve, with the festivities lasting literally into Christmas Day.  And so, coming back to my sister’s house well after midnight, full of food, images, memories and sounds, I finally collapsed into bed, thinking I would sleep till noon today, satisfied.

By 8:30, I  realized I was not sleeping any longer.  I’m glad I rose to the quiet Christmas Day, with a beautiful sun rising in the East.  Before retiring to bed around 1:00 a.m. I had read the Christmas Story from Luke’s Gospel.  Now, freshly rising from a quality sleep, I have chosen to spend the morning lingering over the Greek text of Matthew’s Christmas Story.  After all these years, I’m still very fulfilled, reading the New Testament from its original language and savoring words layered in meanings.

The passage that arrested me this morning (a portion quoted above) was lifted from Isaiah 9:2 and resonates with the warmth one knows when emerging from darkness and confusion to a world of light and understanding.  As I spent time pondering this and writing in my journal, I turned to Psalm 119:130 to read “The entrance of thy words giveth light .”  I still love the King James Version, and spend more time recently reading texts from Shakespeare and savoring the language from that era.  A better translation of the Psalms passage would be “The unfolding of your words gives light . . . ”  That text takes me back to my early college years, as I was drawn into the ministry.  Feeling the compulsion to study the scriptures, I spent hours at my desk working on the passages required for exposition on Sundays, and hoping for a day that I could learn Koine Greek.  When the day finally arrived in 1977, I felt that a change had come that would bear fruit the rest of my life.  So far, none of that has diminished.

Being far from my personal library, I regret that I did not pack my Latin Vulgate or Biblia Hebraica or Septuagint.  This would be a morning that I would have all the volumes open at my desk, grazing from the words and writing personal observations till I could hold no more.  At least I brought a couple of Luther biographies, so I suppose I could vicariously enjoy his pursuits during those early Erfurt days in the cloister.

Thanks for reading.  I’m not sure that I put out much of a “Christmas” greeting, but I’m loving the warm sentiments of this quiet morning, and all the feelings that accompany the holiday season.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Drawing of my Drawing

December 8, 2015

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Seated in my classroom after hours, I wanted to draw, but my room has no windows.  So . . . I took out my Sunday drawing of the tree and decided to draw from the drawing.  Unfortunately, the lighting is not good for photography here, but I’m happy with the result of this drawing-of-a-drawing.  At least this will hold me till I can get outdoors again to draw from the real subject.

I will forever be grateful for Youtube!  Listening to Harold Bloom discussing Emerson in an interview gave me great company during this quiet afternoon.

Thanks for reading.

Plein Air Painting in a Cemetery during a Stormy Afternoon

May 24, 2011

Plein Air Painting in a Cemetery on a Stormy Afternoon

In just a few days, I have a major plein air painting event taking place in Waxahachie, Texas.  For several weeks now, I have been brushing up on plein air practices, which are profoundly different from studio approaches.  This afternoon, as the north part of the city of Fort Worth grew dark with gathering storms, I traveled to the Greenwood Cemetery and attempted a quick sketch rendering of this monument.  I worked on it for one hour and ten minutes.  I’m getting faster, but last summer I was finishing plein air watercolors in as fast as 45 minutes.   I still have a ways to go.

This is the first time I’ve attempted to capture Greek-style columns in watercolor.  I enjoyed the experience, though I’m not too pleased with the result.  However, I remind myself that this is a first.  I’ll eventually get to where I want to go with Greek monuments.  I’m just glad the storms held off till I was finished with this piece.

Thanks for reading.  Hope to see you in Waxahachie beginning this weekend.

Part 3 of the Entire Saturday of Plein Air Watercolor Painting

May 8, 2011

Andrew Wyeth Meditation on a Tree

This was my final successful stop on my all-day Saturday plein air excursions.  I stopped occasionally for coffee, journaling, and a little book store browsing.  There are two more tree studies in progress, but not good enough to post and blog.  Perhaps I will return and make something better of them.  The winds really got up, and thank goodness for a good Winsor & Newton watercolor easel with a successful mechanism for clamping the watercolor block in place.  Everything else, including my leather art bag, was getting knocked over by the gusting winds.

All I can say about this work is that I got totally lost in the bark of the trunk.  I felt as though I were “channeling” Andrew Wyeth, though I realize how arrogant that sounds.  I don’t pretend to approach his greatness, his eye, his technique.  But what I intend to say is–I feel for the first time in years that I have a sense of how he must have felt when he got lost in a dry brush study to the point where he lost all track of time.  I honestly don’t know how long I lingered over this work, but it was totally satisfying and I didn’t want the day to end.  When I get lost like that, or “in the zone” of watercoloring, I wish that I could seize the tail of that comet and ride it forever.  But alas, Proust has reminded us that all attempts to seize such Gifts result in their dissolution.  And so this study came to an end, but I cannot wait for the next time such a Moment arrives.  I’m still grateful for the experience this day as I think over yesterday’s activities.

Thanks for reading.

Part 2 of “An Entire Day of Watercolor Plein Air Painting”

May 8, 2011

Foot of a Tree in a Sunny Saturday Park

I have already posted Part One of my Saturday plein air activities, where I began in Sundance Square.  From there I moved on to Chisholm Park in Hurst, Texas.  The sun was getting up and I required shade (sun block was starting to get drippy!), so I thought I would try to capture some trees.  I liked the mottled sun spots all around the base of this tree, but once I got into that, I lost interest in the rest.  High up in the tree was a juncture that I found fascinating, and I knew I could not fit it onto this page.  So I aborted this one and moved on to “part three.”

Thanks for reading.

William Burroughs–Life is a Cut Up

April 19, 2011

Dry brush study of a tree

So, what does the Beat writer William Burroughs have to do with a tree?  I’m spending some time in the book Ports of Entry: William S. Burroughs and the Arts.  I have always gotten a kick out of his “cut ups” and I myself used to pursue collage quite seriously.  But during this past week or so (while the blog has unfortunately lay dormant) some disparate elements have been “composting” within my consciousness, and I’m now trying to find a way to bring them to the surface.

I don’t want to say I am facing dissatisfaction with my watercolor work.  Rather, I am creating a rather unsatisfying body of work as I’m experimenting with new images and studying new techniques and approaches.  Currently I am trying to solve some “tree” problems–I have never, ever, been satisfied with my watercolor trees, though many have spoken very well of them.  My actual foliage (to me) is nothing more than Jackson Pollock techniques that somehow translate into foliage.  Right now, I’m staring at leaf clusters of various trees in parks and in neighborhoods as I drive daily, and have decided it is time to figure out how to capture their structure, or “essence” if I want to go in the direction of the “canons” of Xie He.

I’m getting closer to what I want with the tree bark, though I must confess I spend hours gazing longingly at Andrew Wyeth dry brush studies.  What a Gift he was!

To return to my rambling discourse (perhaps I should edit this carefully before sending it up the flagpole), I’m comparing some of the remarks of William Burroughs in writing with statements I have pulled up from the Autobiography of William Carlos Williams and his ideas that launched Imagism in poetry, and also some real gems from The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell.  In all three of these brilliant minds, I see this idea of “abstracting” from daily life the elements that arrest our attention and rendering them artistically in some form or fashion.  This is what I am trying to do with trees (and Victorian homes and simple framed buildings, etc.–it never ends!).

I’m going to try again today to get some watercoloring done.  I did manage that on Sunday and Monday, but the work was really God-awful bad to look at, so I kept it off the blog (I know, it goes against my principles of what blogging is all about, but really, the recent work is really bad!).

Thanks for reading.

Druidic Texas Tree in Winter Dry Brush

March 15, 2011

Druidic Texas Tree in Winter Dry Brush

It’s nearly 10:00 p.m.  I have Muddy Waters playing on my turntable in the garage, and I’m suddenly seized with this compulsion to try an Andrew Wyeth-style drybrush of a Texas winter tree I photographed a few days ago while fly fishing in rural Hillsboro.  I was out fishing with a long-time buddy of mine from Lamar High School days–a custodian who always looked out for me in those days when I struggled as an inexperienced art teacher.

The crappie were hitting pretty good that day, but I couldn’t stop staring at this winter tree out in the overgrown pasture near the pond where I fished.  The Texas landscape is strewn with these druidic-looking trees, dripping with character.  The entire winter scene that afternoon looked like an Andrew Wyeth drybrush or tempera.  I have never been satisfied with my watercolor trees.  Something is still missing.  So, again I give it the old college try.  I need to capture that “essence” as the 6th-century Chinese painting master would have it.  I have a strong feeling that I will be giving this one multiple tries this week–it’s really gotten under my skin.  There are a host of subjects that hold my attention in watercolor, but these Texas winter trees always escape my brush and pencil.  So, let’s see what happens this week.

Thanks for reading.  Spring Break has been absolutely wonderful for a musing watercolorist!