Posts Tagged ‘watercolor sketch’

Andrew Wyeth in the Art History Class

February 14, 2012

Wyeth Overturned

Good morning.  Though we covered Venetian Renaissance in my high school art history classes this morning, I could not resist dragging Andrew Wyeth into a key discussion over the art of Titian.  Titian used a method I like to call “composting,” as he would rough out a composition with four oil colors while the model posed, then turn the canvas to the wall, and walk away for months.  Helen Gardner wrote of this technique.  During his time away, he would think through his painting, then return to the studio and complete it, drawing from the image in his mind’s eye.

Edward Hopper seemed to take this approach as well.  When his sculptor neighbor would see him strolling through the park, he would ask: “What are you doing, Mr. Hopper?”  The answer: “I’m thinking out my painting.”  His wife Jo said he would take months thinking about a particular composition before he finally got around to stretching the canvas and beginning it.

Andrew Wyeth revealed the following in an interview: “I’ll take weeks out doing drawings, watercolor studies, I may never use.  I’ll throw them in a backroom, never look at them again or drop them on the floor and walk over them.  But I feel that the communion that has seeped into the subconscious will eventually come out in the final picture.”  I’ll never forget the time I read of Wyeth and a curator pulling some 1600 watercolor and drybrush studies from his storage drawers and cupboards.  Such an extensive body of work lies beneath Wyeth’s egg tempera paintings, like 90% of the iceberg lying concealed beneath the waves.

For years, I have carried in my mind’s eye the images of Andrew Wyeth’s drawings and drybrush renderings of pine cones piled up in a German helmet, no doubt belonging to Karl Kuerner from the first World War.   One day I purchased in an antique store this baby blue pail for the precise reason of filling it with pine cones and attempting an Andrew Wyeth-style drybrush.  But I let this pail sit in my garage for nearly a decade.  Finally, I took it out to a horse pasture, filled it with pine cones, turned it over beneath a tree, and gave it a try.

I believe I still have this sketch somewhere among my piles of watercolors in the studio closet (not 1600 of them!).  I need to look for it and give it a second look.  I was pleased at the time I painted it, but completely forgot its existence until this morning, when I lectured my classes.  I have always shied away from still life compositions in my watercolor attempts, and think it is time to give this genre a try.

Thanks for reading.

Third Plein Air Watercolor Sketch on a Rainy Texas Day

October 9, 2011

View from the Man Cave 3 of 3

And here is my third watercolor sketch from the Man Cave on a rainy Texas day.  Again, I used Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils along with my Winsor & Newton field box.  I’m ready to pop these three sketches into pre-cut 8 x 10″ white mats.  This next weekend will find me at Edom Festival of the Arts.  I’m pleased that I’ve managed to complete and matt more than half a dozen new watercolors.  My One-Man Show just closed yesterday, so I will also have some framed paintings ready to take to the Edom festival as well.

Tomorrow is Columbus Day–no school.  My sincere wish is to kick out a few more watercolor sketches before classes begin on Tuesday morning.  I’m in the mood.

Thanks for reading.

Rapid Watercolor Pencil Sketch of Methodist Church Tower

September 21, 2011

Provincetown Methodist Church Tower

Quality time for art work today was near-zero.  Another lousy public school day–too many classes and responsibilities and bureaucratic crap to tend.  Tonight was a grading night till near midnight.  I will rise at 5:00 tomorrow morning, as I did the last two mornings, for no other reason than catching up on school responsibilities.

During a lull in one of my classes today, I attempted a super-quick rendering of this, taken from Edward Hopper’s 1930 watercolor of a Methodist Church in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  He accomplished this feat from the backseat of a Dodge, somehow folding his 6’5″ frame inside that small space, and balancing a vertical 25 x 20″ watercolor page.  At least I had the luxury of standing at a teacher’s desk.

I used Prismacolor watercolor pencils exclusively on this quick study.  I’m trying to open up another avenue of watercolor exploration, working only in watercolor pencils, and avoiding the Winsor & Newton tube paints or cakes from my plein air hand-size palette.  I’m still trying to get used to the new experience, and feel that this is the best of my pieces in the past three days.  I only have 20 minutes  total invested in this one, and think that if I could give one, uninterrupted hour to an endeavor such as this (I think I never got even 5 minutes of non-interruption on this one), that I could crank out something halfway decent.  I’m starting to get a feel for the pencils on architectural details.  Who knows, maybe tomorrow?  I wouldn’t bank on that.  Tomorrow I have 4 classes in 4 classrooms on 2 floors–worse than today’s ridiculous schedule.

So, why am I doing this?  For a number of reasons.  One:  school this year is a farce.  I have an assignment to teach four different subjects, and every-other-day I have to change classrooms with every bell.  I’m not a pediatrician who is able to stroll briskly from one examination room to the next, keeping separate the prescriptions and diagnoses of male and female children from infancy to pre-teen.  I just cannot do that the way I did twenty years ago.  My brain is scattered and I’m having problems keeping the disciplines of Art I, Advanced Placement Art History, Regular Art History and Philosophy flying in proper, linear formations.  Aside from the teaching there is the grading, accountability, attendance, disciplinary and intervention issues.  How could any administration, locally or statewide, really believe such a feat possible?  And this will last the entire academic year.

Two.  My passion now is to make art.  I used to live for the classroom.  My heart used to beat for the classroom.  Posturing politicians and political administrators managed to kill that for the time being.  Right now, making art matters to me, not crossing all the “t’s” and dotting all the “i’s” for administrative, vacuous political paperwork and bureaucracy.

Three.  For the past several years, the issue of productivity has weighed heavily on me as a practicing visual artist.  I finally realize that talent doesn’t matter.  If one doesn’t produce, who cares if s/he has talent?  If one does not make art, who cares about his/her aesthetics or theories?  No one.  If an artist is going to be authentic, s/he has to be prolific.  I used to average 10-15 watercolors a year, and used my school job as an excuse.  I didn’t have time.  I made a New Year’s resolution in January 2010 to create 30 watercolors by year’s end.  I made nearly 100.  I have not bothered to count the watercolors of 2011, but one day I will.  Maybe I will not reach 100, but I certainly have made more than 10-15.  Sometimes I average one a day.  Many times I average one a week.  Large 20 x 30 compositions I have managed to complete in less than two weeks.  I am now making art more than ever before in my life, and in that I do find a genuine delight, even if the world around me crumbles.  This is one thing over which I can exert control.

I’m inspired when I learn that Bach wrote a cantata a week, in the service of the church.  Some of them were not that good, but he still produced.  I learned that Jean-Paul Sartre and T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound were capable of churning out unheard-of numbers of manuscript pages per day.  And yes, some of the work was sub-standard.  But they produced.  Artists produce plenty of good work along with plenty of bad work.  But they produce, period.

Four.  The blog.  This daily exercise in blogging keeps me working in the enterprise of making art.  I feel an accountability.  Though I’m not a copy editor of a newspaper facing daily deadlines, I do feel the interior deadline of the blog, daily, and have for a long time.  When I don’t put out a blog for the day, I feel that I have not turned in my homework.  I feel that I have not completed my 40 hours for the week.  The blog is always there.  I’m grateful for all my subscribers, for all my daily readers, and for the wonderful network connections that continually find ways to fling my words and images out before an audience.  And so, I continue to make art to feed the blog.

Five.  10,000 hours.  That is the magic number from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.  It takes 10,000 hours of practicing one’s craft to achieve excellence.  This is a fascinating book.  I don’t know if I’ve turned in my 10,000 hours, but I’m conscious that I will not improve on my art if I don’t repeat the practice, the discipline, and at the same time push myself in new directions, flexing aesthetic muscle.

And so I keep at it, and this is a Quality part of my life right now.  Thanks always for reading.

Finished Store Rooftop Watercolor at Grapefest

September 16, 2011

Watercolor of Store Rooftop at Grapefest Art Festival

I arrived at my festival booth early this Friday morning, relishing the 72-degree temperature and overcast skies.  The cool breezes are delicious too.  I managed to open my booth a good 30 minutes before the gates opened, so I took out this sketch I began yesterday and finished it up just in time to hurl onto the blog.  During the slow moments of the art festivals, it’s rewarding to be able to have something creative to do with all that down time.  If the crowds don’t pick up this morning, I’ll begin another plein air sketch.  I do love the festival atmosphere.  The people here were lovely yesterday.  I’m looking forwards to more of the same today.

Thanks always for reading.

90 Minute “Quick Draw” en Plein Air, Waxahachie, Texas

May 28, 2011

90-Minute Watercolor Sketch of the Ellis County Courthouse

The winds were fierce this morning, but the Quick Draw was fun.  The event lasted 90 minutes (8:30-10:00) and I was pleased that this painting brought a fair price at auction.  The winds and the 100-degree heat got to me after lunch, so I chose to make the 40-minute drive back home, and return in the late afternoon to attempt a second painting.  I’ll post that one next.

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.

Sketching Los Angeles Palm Trees, January 22, 2011

January 22, 2011

Manhattan Beach Blvd., Los Angeles

Los Angeles Palms

I’m in the midst of a fabulous four-day conference in Los Angeles.  I’m training for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program which will be coming to my high school in 2012.  After the conclusion to today’s sessions, I took the trolley from the Sheraton Gateway Hotel near the LAX airport to Manhattan Beach, with about an hour of sun left.  After struggling with a row of storefronts, I decided to abandon the architectural sketches and see if I could generate something with a row of palm trees along the boulevard.

I was thinking of the principles of painting expounded by the 6th-century Chinese historian Xie He.  I’m not sure that I’m translating his ideas correctly, but from #1 and #3 I have come up with this idea of trying to capture the essence, of the subject under scrutiny.  I only had about ten minutes of daylight left when I began these two watercolor sketches, but I think by working quickly I was able to get more quality onto the page than I did with my first palm tree attempt yesterday at poolside.  Hopefully tomorrow I can give it one more try before returning to Texas.  The attempt I found very rewarding, the sun was pleasant, and the breeze coming off the Pacific was scintillating, to say the least.

Thanks for reading.