Posts Tagged ‘trees’

Welcoming 2019

January 1, 2019

20170527_1436486034852067296088498.jpg

The passions are a kind of thirst, inexorable and intense, for certain feelings or felt states. To find or invent ‘objects’ (which are, more strictly speaking, relational structures) whose felt quality satisfies the passions,- that for me is the activity of the artist, an activity which does not cease even in sleep. No wonder the artist is constantly placing and displacing, relating and rupturing relations; his task is to find a complex of qualities whose feeling is just right – veering toward the unknown and chaos, yet ordered and related in order to be apprehended.

–Robert Motherwell

What an exhilaration to awake to a 19-degree winter morning on New Year’s Day 2019! With no appointments on the books, I felt a soothing calm as the day presented itself with leisure and books. Reading passages from Abstract Expressionist artist Robert Motherwell put me in the frame of mind to explore drawing with renewed vigor. He defined drawing as a method for organizing space on a two-dimensional plane.

The first day of the new year often witnesses a different trajectory in my art. Currently I am working on commissions, and will begin posting them, but I also laid down a New Year resolution that I would draw more. So . . . a few years ago, I drew one winter tree per day for the month of January, then matted each 5 x 7″ drawing, framed a few, and sold a large quantity of them. This year, I’m not thinking about the sale, only the hope to improve with the careful discipline and repetition of drawing. My intention is to spend January with a focus on drawing nature.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Working Sometimes from the Fact

November 17, 2016

20161116_100144

I can’t work completely out of my imagination. I must put my foot in a bit of truth; and then I can fly free.

Andrew Wyeth

It was 85 degrees in north Texas yesterday, November 16.  I have been impatiently waiting for fall weather and winter to follow.  One of the reasons is that I enjoy so much gazing at winter trees with their core anatomy on view.  Leaves, like clothing, conceal the tree’s essence, and I regret that living in the southwest, I see the bare trees for such a short span of the year.

I have posted the Andrew Wyeth quote because I feel those same sentiments.  Beginning last winter, I drew trees in pencil, rendering them as accurately as I could see them.  I know that Wyeth and Edward Hopper said that in later years they could work out of their imagination, no longer requiring the “fact” in front of their eyes for scrutiny.  I am not there yet; if I try and draw or paint something that I am not looking at, then it comes out looking like a cartoon or cheap illustration.

The tree above, I guess, is a hybrid.  I began drawing it from life Tuesday evening, as I awaited my artitistic friends for our weekly gathering at the cafe.  I didn’t get very far before they arrived.  So, I finished the drawing yesterday, using my imagination rather than a reference photo.  I’m satisfied with the result, and am now ready to move on to the next tree.  Unfortunately I spend my workdays indoors in an interior room without windows.  So I’ll have to wait . . .

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

When the Imagination is Flat, Draw Anyway

January 22, 2016

image

Books are for the scholar’s idle times. When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted in other men’s transcripts of their readings. But when the intervals of darkness come, as come they must, — when the sun is hid, and the stars withdraw their shining, — we repair to the lamps which were kindled by their ray, to guide our steps to the East again, where the dawn is.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

This advice from my beloved New England sage I have taken seriously throughout my adult life. As a schoolteacher, at least one idea begins percolating in my consciousness while getting ready to go to work every morning. That way, if the classroom dynamics are flat, I have something going on in my head worth exploring that makes the day better, anyway.

But this morning, of all rare times, nothing came. And as I moved through my classes, it never did come. Now that I am into my Friday night, with a welcoming weekend stretched out before me, I still have no idea to pursue. Following Emerson’s dictate, I now have a stack of quality books at my elbow. But before opening one of the volumes, I was struck by the thought: “Hey! You haven’t drawn or painted today! Do it.” But I didn’t feel like it. I did it anyway, and the drawing is posted above. Things are already looking up, and I am ready to read and relax into the rest of the night now. If nothing happens tonight, I’m confident that I’ll wake up with an Idea tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Quality Hours before the Fire

January 21, 2016

image

Texas has been cold, dark and rainy the entire day. Once home from school, I built a nice fire, brewed a pot of coffee and then got under the blankets in front of the fireplace and read with a glad heart. My imagination has been fueled by an article I read today in Culture that popped up on my facebook: “The Death of the Artist–and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur.” I found the article very engaging, as it traced the history of the artist, from artisan to genius to institution to our current digital age of entrepreneurship. Some of it could have been disturbing, but it rang true, and provoked me to think soberly about what I’m attempting to do at this point in my life. After I read the article, I turned to something I had heard about my entire adult life but never once read: Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman.” What a probing, sober-minded piece of work! The rest of the afternoon found me thinking and scribbling in my journal.

I finally went to my drafting table and worked further on something I started between class periods this morning and posted earlier today:

Jan 21I’m still intrigued by the tangle of winter trees, and never seem to tire of their twisted, gaunt anatomy.

Thanks for reading.

When the Day is Jammed . . .

January 21, 2016

image

There are times like this day, when the public school schedule is so jammed with details, that one cannot find quality moments even to think, but just react. So . . . I decided to see what I could do during the mindless passing periods between classes (about seven minutes). Even when one has seven minutes here and seven minutes there, opportunities for sanctuary still present themselves. And so I retreat into the start of another drawing, with delight, knowing I could always finish the piece tonight in the studio, or tomorrow night, or . . .

Pushing Ahead on the Island Painting

January 20, 2016

image

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me.

D. H. Lawrence

I suppose that is about the best way I could describe my feelings when I am seized with the impulse to make art. All day today at school, I could only think about returning to this watercolor I started recently, and I couldn’t get to it till late, late afternoon. But once I got down to it, everything else in my life seemed to melt away, and I got to the point where I wasn’t even thinking about what I was doing as the brush continued to move. For me, that is often what happens when watercoloring or drawing.

Jan 20

Once the watercolor got too wet and soupy to continue working on it, I set it aside and took out another photo I took recently of a tangle of trees in my back yard. I didn’t stay with this one very long until I got sleepy. But still, there are moments when my hand is moving, the pencil seems to be having its way, and I’m no longer thinking about what I’m doing. I like that feeling.

Thanks for reading.

Learning from Repetition

January 11, 2016

image

Motherwell is ruefully aware that the “Elegies” are regarded by some as a formula. (“When he gets stuck, what should he do but make another ‘Elegy’?” he quotes one critic as saying).

Grace Glueck, “The Creative Mind; The Mastery of Robert Motherwell,” The New York Times, December 2, 1984.

My art history reading of late has taken me back to Robert Motherwell, an Abstract Expressionist painter who has always fascinated me because of his erudition. I’ve had the pleasure of reading his Collected Writings and have perused many volumes of his work that I’ve purchased over the years.  The Youtube interviews with him are also rich in ideas, and after wearing out the VHS tape, I purchased the DVD of his “Storming the Citadel.” Yesterday I found this New York Times article and read it with great interest as well. He painted the “Elegy” series well over a hundred times, and sometimes took criticism that he just fell back on the pattern when he was out of fresh ideas. In response, he said in an interview:

. . . the reason I’ve made so many of whatever I’ve made that could be called a series–because I detest serial painting–is simply because I feel that I’ve never really solved any of them, and so they remain a challenge.  The day I can make an Elegy that really satisfies me, then I’ll stop.

In the past month or so, I have become absorbed with drawing. Throughout my artistic life, I have believed in my heart that drawing is fundamental to art, and yet have felt like a hypocrite, because I have always drawn so little.  Finally, I am obsessed with the practice of drawing.  And for many years, I have stared at the anatomy of trees in the winter, when they are so exposed and accessible to the naked eye, yet never pulled the trigger in deciding to fill up sketchbooks with tree drawings.  That has changed.

All I wish to say is that I am not falling back on tree drawings because I have no fresh ideas.  Like Motherwell, I’m still trying to figure them out, still trying to find a satisfaction with my own efforts.  Meanwhile, I have learned a great deal by this repetitive exercise.  Following is an abbreviated list of what I’ve come to understand while attempting to draw trees:

  1. Tree boughs are not silhouettes; they have a range of tones.
  2. In watercolor, the tree’s wood is not uniform throughout in color and value.
  3. Tapering the boughs and limbs, for me, is extremely difficult and requires much concentration and repeated checking.
  4. The snarls of twigs are similar to scribbles with the pencil.
  5. There are always more twigs at the ends of the tree that I tend to notice in early glances.
  6. I do not want the tree to look badly pruned.  I must taper the twigs all the way to the point that they nearly disappear into the sky.

My attempt at watercoloring the tree tops in my back yard is coming along much more slowly than the drawings, but I’m happy in the struggle.

tree wc

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Sunday Pondering

January 10, 2016

imageWhile gazing heavenward through the tops of winter trees, I note the complexity of limbs partitioning the sky, as lead tracings in stained-glass cathedral windows partition theology.

trees

There is plenty of schoolwork to accomplish this Sunday, but I’m trying to put in some quality studio work as well.  I completed a 5 x 7″ drawing of the tree tops in my back  yard. I have also begun an 8 x 10″ watercolor of the same composition.

Thanks for reading.

Cozying into a Perfect Friday Night

January 8, 2016

foodieAs Texas temperatures drop to around forty tonight and into the twenties over the weekend,  I stacked the firewood in delightful preparation for a cozy weekend at home. School went very, very well this first week of the spring semester, and I celebrated by preparing one of my favorite meals.

deskie

Now I retire happily to my favorite piece of furniture in the house and spend quality time writing and digging into the delicious literary works from authors that drive my imagination (lately Joyce, Shakespeare and Marvell). The philosophy and art history classes this past week have lit a fire beneath me, and I’m grateful for time and space to explore new avenues.

tree january 8

I am re-posting this tree drawing I did early this morning before school, when things weren’t going as great.  I think drawing did a great deal to lift me into better spirits.  In many times, art has been a healing friendship that has improved my outlook on this world.

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.

The Poetry of Winter Trees

January 8, 2016

2015-12-25-11.00.54.jpg.jpeg

Perhaps the purpose of leaves is to conceal

the verticality of trees which we notice in December

as if for the first time: row after row of dark forms

yearning upwards. And since we will be horizontal

ourselves for so long, let us now honor

the gods of the vertical: stalks of wheat which

to the ant must seem as high as these trees do to us,

silos and telephone poles, stalagmites and skyscrapers.

but most of all these winter oaks, these soft-fleshed poplars,

this birch whose bark is like roughened skin against

which I lean my chilled head, not ready to lie down.

Vertical – Poem by Linda Pastan

I could never thank Linda Pastan enough for creating and publishing such a poem that makes me catch my breath.   For years I have looked at winter trees, wishing to capture them in pencil or watercolor, but could never find the words to express my sentiments. Now in this poem of hers, I feel an overwhelming gratitude that someone thought it, wrote it and published it.  Thank you Linda Pastan.