Posts Tagged ‘vintage fishing tackle’

A Late Night in the Studio with Ernest Hemingway and Winslow Homer

April 16, 2013
8 x 10" watercolor sketch of vintage lures

8 x 10″ watercolor sketch of vintage lures

“The hardest thing to do,” said [Hemingway], “is to write straight honest prose on human beings.  First you have to know the subject; then you have to know how to write.  Both take a lifetime to learn, and anybody is cheating who takes politics as a way out.  All the outs are too easy, and the thing itself is too hard to do.”

Carlos Baker, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story 

I am not a slow reader.  I am a ponderous reader.  I linger over passages for days before moving on, extracting ideas from them that seem to compost slowly.  I read somewhere that Alfred, Lord Tennyson was a plodder in his thinking, leading some of his contemporaries to believe he was intellectually dim.  I started this Hemingway biography at the end of last year, and am now only 285 pages in, because I keep stopping and ruminating on its contents.  I’m fascinated with the man’s drive, his discipline in learning the writer’s craft, his conviction that if it took the entire morning to create one good prose sentence, that the time wasn’t wasted.  I opened with the passage above, because for two days now, I have slowed way down on what is supposed to be a watercolor sketch, to study my subject, and learn how to use my materials better.  Hemingway made me do that.

Winslow Homer has also been a great companion recently.  The book Watercolors of Winslow Homer: The Color of Light has returned to my Man Cave drafting table.  I am absorbed with all the ways Homer pushed his media to its limits.  Every time I study his watercolors and read of his methods, I realize that I have been approaching my task with one hand tied behind my back, that I have assumed a position of self-limitation, for no other reason than just mental laziness.

For the past day and a half, I have spent more time looking at my subject and my painting, and in addition to painting, I have been drawing and re-drawing over it, salting it, re-wetting it, sponging it, scraping it, blotting it, rubbing it–all the techniques Homer employed to get a different look, to push my painting to the edge of the envelope.  After all, it’s just a sketch, right?  And sketches are laboratory experiments, right?  And sketches don’t have to be framed, right?  Don’t have to be gallery worthy, right?  I am just having to relearn and reapply what I’ve already known for over a decade.  And I’m having fun with it.  I have already settled it in my heart, that this vintage tackle box overflowing with lures is not going to be a one-shot composition.  I have much to learn from this still life, much to figure out about form, composition, color arrangement, and who knows what else.  And I have the time, the space and the interest to pursue it.

I received word also tonight, that my private art student from last year, who entered the Booker T. Washington School of Performing and Visual Arts, took first place with the oil still life that I posted last week!  The exhibition that I viewed last week during its reception was actually a competition.  I did not know that.  And this remarkable 15-year-old took first place!  Words cannot express my pride for her.  I look forward to our next time together to make art.  She is going to go far, and always inspires me with her drive and focus.

The hour has gotten late.  The past two mornings I have risen between 4 and 5 a.m., to get an early jump on the school task, and now I feel the energy beginning to wane.  I have a heavy teaching load tomorrow, and am already concerned about potential regrets.  I cannot let that happen.

So, thanks for reading, for staying up with me, with Hemingway, with Homer.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Painting a Still Life with Thoughts of Hemingway, Cezanne and Jasper Johns

April 15, 2013
Watercolor Sketch in Progress of Vintage Lures

Watercolor Sketch in Progress of Vintage Lures

The French novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans, writing of Cezanne, described one of his still life paintings as “set down quickly in crude strokes and smudged with a thumb: seen from close to, they are a wild mess of bright red and yellow, green and blue.”  From the correct distance, Huysmans, wrote, the work was pleasing, “and suddenly one becomes aware of altogether new truths, truths one had never paid attention to before: unfamiliar yet real shades, patches of colour with a character all their own.”

These are some of the sentiments I feel as I scrutinize the colors and forms of this vivid assembly of vintage fishing lures.  I was amused earlier to day when I read of the Pop Artist Jasper Johns, that he wanted to paint objects “seen but not looked at.”  From my youth, I was taken by the bright colors of the wooden fishing lures that filled my dad’s tackle box, long before I was old enough to learn how to fish.

Hajo Duchting, in his book Paul Cezanne describes the dynamics of one of the artist’s still life arrangements: “The various contrasts of reddish-orange and green recur in paired formations throughout the canvas, setting up echoes and correspondences.  The slow transition from light to shadow means that in every colour there is a wonderful range of deep, velvety nuances.  The shades range from the delicately transparent to patches of thick pigment, ever-changing yet nonetheless contributing to a consistent overall texture.”

I am trying to take a page from Cezanne as I figure out how to make these intense colors “pop” in company with one another.  I still have so much to figure out about how to arrange the warms and cools, the complementaries, the high and low intensity of colors.  Such a complicated set of possibilities!  And before I began, all I thought I had to do was try to match my colors to my models!  Already, this composition is intriguing me, and I can hardly wait to resume it tomorrow after school.  Tomorrow will be my first day to breathe freely.  As I testified earlier, I finished all my income tax research Saturday night.  What I didn’t mention was that it took until tonight to get my tax preparer to sort all of it out and file it, which she did this evening.  I drove home a free man (but too tired to paint for more than an hour).

Tomorrow, then.  Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Closing Out a Weekend of Quality Studio Time

April 14, 2013
The Man Cave on Sunday Afternoon

The Man Cave on Sunday Afternoon

Still Chipping Away at the Tackle Box Assortment

Still Chipping Away at the Tackle Box Assortment

Right now a moment of time is fleeting by!  Capture its reality in paint!  To do that we must put all else out of our minds.  We must become that moment, make ourselves a sensitive recording plate . . . give the image of what we actually see, forgetting everything that has been seen before our time.

Paul Cezanne

I cannot recall a more pleasant day of painting and reading.  The Man Cave has been still since 7:00 this morning.  The Hemingway biography, and reading I’ve been doing in Cezanne has me feeling serene, and this explosion of color in the vintage tackle box before me has filled me with a boyish sense of wonder.   I know it’s selfish to say, but . . . I regret having to set the alarm and return to my “real job” in the morning, what I would give for another day in the studio!  I envy those who are blessed with retirement, and regret that I started my profession so late in life.  Oh well, in good time.

Cezanne is noted for saying “Treat nature in terms of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone, all in perspective.”  That’s all I’ve had to concentrate on, with this composition before me, that and the arrangement of bright color combinations.

Regretfully, I have to close the studio.  Tomorrow is the “heavy” end of my teaching schedule, and I have much to prepare.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Painting on a Sunday Morning with Hemingway

April 14, 2013
Sunday Morning Painting in the Man Cave

Sunday Morning Painting in the Man Cave

Ernest remarked that there was no such thing as fiction.  He talked of his “autobiographical short stores” and of the “combinations of characters,” he had used to make up one character in a book.  “He was making the point, and very forcibly, that there was no such thing as pure imagination in writing, that we simply did not pull ideas and characters and concepts out of left field.  He intimated that his own novels could be called biographical novels rather than pure fictional novels because they emerged out of ‘lived experience.'”

Carlos Baker, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story

I awoke without an alarm at 7:00 exactly.  Breakfast was quick and simple, because I wanted to get back into the Cave as soon as possible.  Brewing a carafe of coffee, I began the Cave morning, reading from the Hemingway biography (267 pages into it, still a long way to go).  I was delighted with the above passage.  He was drinking Irish whiskey and chatting it up with Irving Stone, who has just published Lust for Life, the story of Vincent Van Gogh.  When Stone remarked that his biographical work was difficult because he had to research facts and stick with them, Hemingway responded with the comments posted above.

I find this true in painting, the blending of fact and manufactured composition.  I have arranged this jumble of lures in the tackle box countless times, trying to make them look as they would with a spontaneous opening and shaking of the box.  But of course, they never “shake out” quite the way I want them to, so I spend long stretches of time, pointing them in the direction I want them to point, uprighting the ones that have turned over, overlapping the ones that won’t, etc.  And then, as I try to paint them as truly as I see them, I look for ways to make them “pop”, intensifying contrasts, enriching primary color contrasts, using all the tricks I have learned over past experiences.

This has been a glorious morning.  While staring at these and making decisions with my brush, I have heard in my mind conversations from my past–Mr. Scucchi in 9th grade, Mr. Hoeh in 10th, Mr. Karl in 12th, Professor Unger in college–all these men giving me counsel in drafting, color, composition–the things that go into a successful painting.  I find myself working at this very deliberately, though I remind myself it is only a sketch, only a dry run, only a practice session.  I feel as though I have returned to the art class, and these great men of the past (two of whom are now deceased, sadly) are now whispering their encouragement, their affirmation, in my ear.  I’ll never forget the way they gave themselves to make moments like this possible.

Thanks for reading.

Applying the “Hemingway” Rule after a Delicious Night in the Studio

April 13, 2013
Quick 8 x 10" Watercolor Sketch of Tackle Box

Quick 8 x 10″ Watercolor Sketch of Tackle Box

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next.  That way I could be sure of going on the next day.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Wow.  After more than a full-week hiatus from the studio, it felt great to pick up the brush again this evening.  Last weekend I had a three-day art festival, followed by a heavy week of school, and every evening spent gathering tax data to file my Income Tax returns.  I managed to get that out of the way this afternoon, and the evening was pure bliss in the Man Cave.

I decided to follow Hemingway’s rule and stop while I was hot with desire on this new watercolor sketch.  As soon as I am out of bed in the morning, I’ll have no trouble returning to it.

So, until tomorrow, thank you for reading.  I’m really getting into this new painting.

Taxes Done. Return to the Man Cave to Watercolor with Gladness

April 13, 2013
Beginning an 8 x 10" Watercolor of Tackle Box

Beginning an 8 x 10″ Watercolor of Tackle Box

I could be biting off more than I can chew, but I’ve ached to paint for over a week now, and the durned tax data gathering has been my focus for well over a week.  Finished this afternoon at 2:35 and immediately re-entered the Man Cave.  Ugh!  My booth gear from last weekend’s festival was stacked all over my drafting table, due to the threat of hail several nights ago, and the need to clear space to get my Jeep into the garage.  It took a good hour today to hollow out space for my Man Cave once again.

I am barely underway with this, and hope I’ll have more to post and say later tonight.  But for those of you who follow me (thank you) I just wanted to post something to let you know I am back in the watercolor mode with gladness.

Thanks for reading.

I paint to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.