Posts Tagged ‘Winslow Homer’

Taking Risks in Watercolor

July 22, 2015
Laguna Madre Painting

Laguna Madre Painting

The life that I have chosen gives me my full hours of enjoyment.
-Winslow Homer

Taking a page from Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light, I am pushing the envelope, exploring possibilities in watercolor I never dreamt before. Homer tried out so many experiments and techniques throughout his lifetime that he became am able technician with his materials. I feel that I have become too settled in the ways I’ve been doing things in recent years. When I discovered that I was going to be Artist-in-Residence this summer, I decided I needed to venture into new frontiers of techniques, subject matter and compositional decisions. After all, I did not accept this assignment so I could keep whipping out paintings the way I had been doing. The purpose of the new assignment was to strike forth and find new ground. And so, I have to keep reminding myself to do exactly that. At my age, it takes courage to try something new, to gamble on a watercolor well under way. But I am getting bored with seeing the same results. All of us wish to keep growing, keep maturing.

With this painting, I am grinding my modified brushes into the surface of the stretched watercolor paper, scouring, and staining the colors into the paper. I’ve tried this in the clouds and am now trying it on the land. I have also decided to try out a pair of new colors in my palette, because I am once again exploring possibilities in nature’s green. I have added Winsor Green (Yellow Shade) and Permanent Sap Green to my Transparent Yellow washes, to see if I can get a different nuance when attempting to color broad expanses of grasses. I also tightened up my building a little more, working on the window frames. I’m still not quite satisfied with them. As for the clouds, I am a little shy about tinkering with them any further at this point. I may have done all I can with them. I’ll look at all this with fresh eyes tomorrow.

I have lost the natural light of the outdoors, so it appears that I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to work on the problem of separating the foreground sand from the grasses, and figure out how to texture up the sand patterns further.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Today, I Proudly Accept the Liebster Award

May 7, 2013

Not long after the midnight hour, I discovered that I had been nominated for the Liebster Blog Award, and wish to express a heartfelt “Thank You” to Zeebra Designs & Destinations ( for this honor.  I have been a follower of this site for awhile now, and marvel at the energy this creative artist exudes in day-to-day designing.

Contingent to accepting this award, I have been asked to submit five random facts about myself:

1. I turned 59 years of age April 20, and though I have a Ph.D., I regard myself as a “gray spirit yearning in desire to follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bound of human thought” (“Ulysses”).

2. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Art in 1976, but went to work in various professions, from pastoral ministry to law enforcement and ultimately to part-time university and full-time public school teaching.  I returned to art in the late 1980’s and chose to focus on watercolor, the medium I loved the most, but could never seem to master.  My guiding spirits are Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer and J. M. W. Turner.

3. I am an avid fly fisherman, wishing I could live in the Colorado mountains.  My breathing changes the moment I step into a crystal clear mountain stream, and see rainbows and browns lying in the current, watching the bugs go by.  When a trout rises to sip at my dry fly, my pulse flutters.  I don’t know how many times I have read the novella A River Runs Through It, or how many times I have watched that film.  There is nothing like fly fishing in a mountain stream.

4. I perpetually suffer from Wanderlust.  I love going on road trips, have read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road at least once all the way through, and could not begin to count how many times it has been read to me (I have the 10-CD set on audiobook, and I play it on long road trips).  My lifestyle is to take my watercolor supplies on the road and record the places I go, the things I see, in watercolor.  I am an avid plein air painter.

5. I love to read and keep a journal.  As a teacher for twenty-four years in Philosophy, Art History and the Humanities, I have always had a Faust-like obsession to search out everything that is out there, to pick the minds of the best writers and thinkers throughout the centuries.  I love reading Greek and translating the ancients.   I love American literature.  I love poetry.  I love the essay.  My patron saints are Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Carlos Williams, Henry David Thoreau, Friedrich Nietzsche and Paul Tillich.

Five questions to answer:

  1. What 3 words best describe you?  driven, multi-interested, curious
  2. What is your most prized possession?  my Martin D-35 dreadnought acoustic guitar
  3. If you had 10 minutes to evacuate your house what 5 things would you take with you (not including family members or pets)?  My five best framed watercolors (the only possessions that could not be replaced)
  4. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?  When you entered this life, you were dealt five cards.  You played the hand you were dealt the best you could.
  5. What is the one food item you can’t live without?  Sorry.  I just can’t take that question seriously.

My nominations for the Liebster Blog Award are:

These are the five bloggers who really keep my work going, in addition to the five nominated already by zeebra designs.

I apologize that I don’t have new artwork to post today.  It was a four-hour state-mandated testing day at school today, followed by two hours of regular classes.  It wiped me out (again).  We’ll do this every day this week.  This afternoon when I got home, all I felt like doing was rearranging and reconfiguring my man cave, getting it ready for the next watercolor composition.  I hope to have that one set up and ready to paint by tomorrow afternoon.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


March 12, 2013
Inspired by WInslow Homer's "The Whittling Boy"

Inspired by Winslow Homer’s “The Whittling Boy”

We must reserve a little back-shop, all our own, entirely free, wherein to establish our true liberty and principal retreat and solitude.”


I have borrowed (again) from a Winslow homer oil painting, “The Whittling Boy.”  I needed a fishing subject, so I took the jack knife and stick out of his hands, replacing it with a fishing pole.  This could very well be a portrait of myself, holding a cane pole, age eight, fishing one of the holes of Little Indian Creek down the slope from Aunt Bea’s house in rural Jackson, Missouri.  It was there that my father, of Cherokee descent, taught me to fish, and instilled in me the love for the solitude that accompanies it.  I still remember the first time he took me to the creek, threaded a grub worm on my hook, and showed me how to toss the line out into the current.  The bobber immediately went under, and my very first fish was a blue catfish.  I caught ten fish that day, thinking they were all giants, until I noticed all of them swimming comfortably in a single jar filled with water.  We had no stringer with us.  But that was O.K.  I had the privilege of releasing them, watching all of them scurry back to their dark refuge in that waist-deep hole.  I painted this boy in memory of my first time on the creek.

I am happier with the simultaneous contrasts in this composition.  I had struggled with them in the prior work.  I relied on my standby–Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson for the darker areas.  In the mid-tones I tried Winsor Blue (Red Shade) with Transparent Yellow, then glazed Winsor Red over the top, once the colors underneath had dried.  The results were tints of gold and bronze.  I’m going to try this again with a different composition.

It’s been another good Spring Break day for painting.  Thank you for reading.

Cozied in the Man Cave with Winslow Homer and Color Harmonies

March 12, 2013
Attempt to Emulate Winslow Homer

Attempt to Emulate Winslow Homer

Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius; and the uniformity of a work denotes the hand of a single artist.

Edward Gibbon

No one will ever hear me claim to be “self-taught.”  I took art as soon as it was offered in my school (8th grade) and continued to take it until I graduated high school, then obtained my undergraduate degree in art.  Though my professional life has taken several detours, I have always remained a student of the arts.  Watercolor, however, is one medium where no one could seem to help me, though I took classes from accomplished watercolorists in high school and at the university.

My teachers in watercolor have been primarily Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, J. M. W. Turner, and Winslow Homer.  I have pored over more images of theirs and read more biographies and catalogues on their works than of any other artist.  I have been called a professional watercolorist, and I like the sound of that, but frankly, I’m a public school teacher.  That salary puts a roof over my head so I can explore watercolor.  I still feel very much the student, and sometimes feel too timid to be that fearless explorer.

During this week’s Spring Break, I have spent delicious hours in my Man Cave, devouring the watercolors of Homer.  My two favorite books in my possession are Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light (I saw this exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago) and Winslow Homer: Artist and Angler (that show I got to view at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth).

It comes as a surprise to many to learn that Homer “received almost no formal artistic education” (Martha Tedeschi’s opening article in The Color of Light).  Tedeschi testifies that his nearly 700 watercolors, produced between 1873 and 1905, “were also his classroom, a way for him to learn through experimentation.”  I have spent most of today in the classroom of Winslow Homer, trying to absorb all he learned from Michel-Eugene Chevreul’s theory of simultaneous contrasts of color, particularly the reds and greens.

The sketch posted above, an 8 x 10″, is a study of one of Homer’s early oils, titled “Fishing.”  I am astounded at his use of greens and reds, and tried to explore some of those relationships in this sketch.  Some of it worked alright, much of it didn’t, to me.  I’m still trying to solve this puzzle, and am very intrigued by it.  I have tried for several years to pursue plein air watercoloring, and even teach it in the summers at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts (I’ve been invited for my fourth consecutive year, June 17-21).  The greens of nature still leave me spellbound and searching for ways to catch that wonderful dynamic on the white rectangle that lies before me.

I’m working on a second Winslow Homer study, that I’ll try to finish and post later today.

Thanks for reading.

A Second Attempt to Emulate Winslow Homer

March 10, 2013
Winslow Homer, Second Attempt

Winslow Homer, Second Attempt

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it.  Action has magic, grace, and power in it.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This has been a good Spring Break/Cave Day.  I’m working on a second Winslow Homer composition.  I’ve always been intrigued by his greens, and still haven’t solved that problem.  I love the way you can see the warm soil colors through the tall grasses in his works.  Currently, I’m experimenting with a number of reds (Winsor Red, Permanent Rose, Cadmium Red), to mix with a number of blues (Winsor Blue–Green and Red Shade, Pthalo Turquoise) and Transparent Yellow.  Occasionally I drop in some Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson. So far, none of it is working, but at least I’m eliminating some choices!  In line with Goethe’s remark, I am finding wonderful power in action.  Truly, I’m having a good time as I chip away at portions of this composition, attempting to solve some color combination problems.

Thanks for reading.

Between the Idea and the Reality

March 10, 2013
Winslow Homer Studies

Winslow Homer Studies

Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow

                                    For Thine is the Kingdom

            Between the conception

And the creation

Between the emotion

And the response

Falls the Shadow

                                    Life is very long

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

I suppose what I enjoy the most about art is the creative process.  I have frequently returned to Emerson’s statement when he delivered his “American Scholar” address:

 The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It came to him, short-lived actions; it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry.

When my attention turned to watercoloring fishing subjects, I thought immediately of Winslow Homer and spent some time poring over his magnificent pieces.  When I was in college, I chafed every time an art professor made us copy a masterwork.  I always thought it was plagiarism and demonstrative of a lack of creativity and imagination.  Now I know differently.  In 1400, Cennino Cennini published Il Libro dell’ Arte (The Artist’s Handbook), explaining to his students the difference between imitation and emulation.  I finally realized that we learn an incredible amount of new information by forcing ourselves to focus on every square inch of a master’s composition, especially that of a watercolor.  Somewhere in the midst of the imitation, we find our own voice, our own technique and emulate what it is we enjoy so much from the master.  I have had this privilege when copying Andrew Wyeth drybrush renderings recently, and now have turned to Winslow Homer, especially hoping to learn something new in the area of color composition.

This work in progress is based on his watercolor of a boy whittling.  I chose instead to put a cane pole in his hand, place him on an undercut bank and make him appear as a fisherman.  I am not sure where exactly this is going to lead, as I am still in the “shadow” of T. S. Eliot, “between the idea and the reality.”  But I”m listening, observing, waiting to see where this will take me.

Thanks for reading.  It’s been an O.K. day in the Cave.

On the Pulse of the Morning

March 10, 2013

In the Man Cave with Winslow Homer

Here on the pulse of this new day

You may have the grace to look up and out

And into your sister’s eyes,

And into your brother’s face,

Your country,

And say simply

Very simply

With hope—

Good morning.

Maya Angelou, “On the Pulse of Morning,” (Read by the poet at the Inauguration of William Jefferson Clinton 20 January 1993)

I thought it appropriate to open Daylight Saving time with these immortal words, remembering how I shivered the morning I listened to May Angelou deliver this poem.  My body clock, of course, is not adjusted to this.  Retiring to bed around 2:00 this morning, I awoke without an alarm at 7:58, feeling that it was actually 6:58, but got up anyway.  The Man Cave is chilly, requiring a heavy sweater and plenty of coffee, but I like the lighting now, and I am immersed in Winslow Homer watercolors of fishing subjects.  He was an avid fly fisherman and I love his watercolor renderings.  I have decided to pursue some fishing compositions, and have gotten some encouragement from a friend on this.

This morning, I am using two of Homer’s watercolors as a reference, still trying to find my own sense of vision and composition (yesterday I quoted Proust, speaking of one who wrote with a “watercolor touch”.  I’m seeking a watercolor touch in painting as well as writing, still).  I am looking at two Homer compositions, one of a boy whittling, and I’ve chosen to put a cane pole in his hand instead.  The other is a young boy and girl standing in the sunlight, fishing.  Hopefully, I’ll have enough completed on this pair of 8 x 10″ sketches to post for any of you interested in looking.

The reading has been delicious up to this point.  In addition to reading Maya Angelou’s poem in its entirety, I have continued what I began late last night–Ernest Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River.”  Knowing what I know of Hemingway’s life when he wrote that short story, I find these words particularly striking:

He felt he had left everything behind, the need for thinking, the need to write, other needs.  It was all back of him.

There have been several moments like that in my own personal odyssey.  I take comfort in reading these thoughts from another’s hand.  I have always believed that Henry David Thoreau moved to Walden Pond to clear out all the cobwebs and debris in the duct work of his consciousness–a Harvard degree that did not translate into a job, a school teacher stint that didn’t work out, whispers about his accident in the woods that burned off 300 acres of prime Massachusetts forest, and the general sentiment of those around him that he was an idler.  I am convinced that moving to Walden Pond allowed him to flush out all that negative debris so that epiphany could take place.  I read those same sentiments into the mindset of Nick Adams as he backpacks along the road, leaving the remnants of a burned-out town behind him, heading to the river.  He is moving toward epiphany.

It has been a few years since I read the texts of two of my treasured volumes on Winslow Homer: Watercolors by Winslow Homer: the Color of Light and Winslow Homer: Artist and Angler.  I took them off the shelf this morning, and have spent this entire first part of the day immersed in them, along with Hemingway and Angelou (oh, and also the voice of Garrison Keillor on cassette–a real American treasure with wonderful homespun stories!).

I guess that’s about all for now.  The Man Cave is providing nice support for what I’m trying to do.  More later, I hope.

Thanks for reading.

I Would Rather Be Fly Fishing

April 5, 2012

I Would Rather Be Fly Fishing

Again, I admit a blog hiatus.  After last weekend’s three-day art festival, I was exhausted, returning to school at 7:35 the next morning, still ill from the allergy symptoms suffered last week, and totally run-down. I’ve spent most of this week in school and in bed, with little in between.

Two days ago, tornadoes destroyed over 400 homes in my city, coming within 1/4 mile of my house.  Surrounded by destruction, and looking at the faces of many of my students who have lost their homes, I’m devastated at this turn of fortune.  There is no describing the loss that I see all around me now.  There is so much pain.

I think I have finished this watercolor sketch that I began while in my booth at the last festival (Kennedale’s Art in the Park).  While my Art I students are finishing an assignment before sailing into the three-day weekend, I’ve been at my desk fiddling with it.  I changed the color of my shirt in order to make me stick out a little more.  Also I darkened and salted the water more for contrast and drybrushed lightly more weeds about my feet and landing net.  More tree foliage needed to be drybrushed as well.  I think I have done about all I can.  The setting of this sketch is Troublesome Creek, northwest of Denver, and east of the town of Kremmling.  The creek flows into the Colorado River.  Trophy trout cruise those waters, and I have pulled out dozens of them–rainbows, brookies, cutthroats and browns.  I even hit a grandslam the last time I visited there (all four species caught in the same day).

Soon, I hope to pursue a series of watercolors on the fly fishing theme.  I have dozens and dozens of digital photos on file that I have taken over the years during my own excursions to Colorado, north Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas in search of trout.  I am looking over a museum catalog I purchased on Winslow Homer’s fly fishing watercolors.  I attended that show when it came to Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum, and saw another major retrospective of his watercolors at the Art Institute of Chicago a few years ago.  I need to  devote more time to studying his techniques.

I miss Colorado so much that I ache.  It has been two summers since I last enjoyed those mountain streams and the thrill of painting the front range.  I wish to God I could get there this summer, but I’ll have to wait and see.

Tomorrow I will visit Malakoff, Texas for the first time and experiment with some plein air painting.  I am thrilled to have been invited to teach a two-day workshop there next Thursday and Friday.  I’m going there tomorrow to “scout” the town so I can know in advance what kind of landmarks my workshop participants can sketch in watercolor.  I really hope to meet some of the participants tomorrow when I get there.

Though I have been under the weather for a considerable time (and doing very little blogging) I have been immersed in the writings of Paul Gauguin (The Writings of a Savage).  I don’t have the itch to go to Tahiti, but I would love to adopt his “savage” lifestyle in the mountains of Colorado, if only I could go there for awhile.  I have no foolish ideas about living off the land and the trout I catch–I would be satisfied with canned goods.  But I would love to study the color and light there, the mountains, rock formations, streams and Aspens.  I really need to find new directions in my work.  I hate it when I feel that I am doing “hack” work, whipping out watercolors for the trade.  I’m only happy when I’m a student of this craft, always learning new things.

Thanks for reading.


Trying to Return to the Studio, Watercolors are Waiting to be Born

January 18, 2012

Chicago Impressions

The hiatus from the studio is drying me out!  School has  been better lately, and I have found myself pouring more time and effort into classroom preparations (I’m teaching four different subjects this semester–ugh!) which has been good for school but bad for the studio.  I’m trying my dead-level best to return to studio tonight (after prepping for two more subjects for tomorrow).  The student whom I’ve been giving private lessons in the evening is ill right now, so I will not be teaching this evening.  Perhaps I’ll pick up the brush.

I’ve posted an original watercolor that I still have in my possession: Chicago Impressions.  I photographed this composition while in Chicago a few years ago, visiting the Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer watercolor exhibits at the Art Institute.  Though I’ve priced it at $250, and have it in a professionally prepared mat, it hasn’t managed to find a home.  So, I continue to look at it.

Tonight, I hope to return to the Fort Worth Flat Iron building I started last week, and have already posted repeatedly.  But my next plan is to create a large railroad composition, larger than any watercolor I’ve done to date.  I have been restricted to the full-page layout of 22 x 28″ but now plan to cut a longer piece off a roll, and see where that takes me.  I have painted quite a few train compositions, and often felt I was too hemmed in by the restricted size.  The more I think on this, the more enthused I am about going after it.

Thanks for reading.  If you would like to check out my online store at cafe press (still a work in progress), you can log on to

Preparing for the Waxahachie Paint-Out

May 27, 2011

Lyndon Acres plein air tree

I have posted my last “practice” plein air watercolor sketch before the Big Event.  This was done yesterday late afternoon at Lyndon Acres in Burleson, Texas, where my wife rides.  As she worked her horse, I tried once more to capture the colors of sunwashed pastureland and deep verdant shadows off the trees.  I still haven’t found what I’m seeking, but I’ll keep experimenting.

Today (Friday) begins the Paint Historic Waxahachie plein air event, which will extend from today May 27 until Sunday, June 5.  Last year, I managed to create nine paintings in that space of time.  I hope to hit that mark again this year, though I confess I’m still not quite as “fast” as I was this time last year.  I have spent so much time in the studio these past few months, and less time outdoors, that I realize I have grown slower and more methodical in my painting.  Maybe I can break through all that this next week.

I promise to post tonight what I manage to get done this afternoon, on the first day of this event.

Thanks for reading.