Posts Tagged ‘Wyeth’

Leaning into the New Year with Renewed Watercolor Resolve

December 29, 2012
Still Life in the Man Cave

Still Life in the Man Cave

Art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass.

–Walter Pater, Studies in the History of the Renaissance

I have returned from my St. Louis Christmas vacation, spent with Mom, Dad and siblings.  I was privileged to have my son accompany me from Austin on the trip to and from as well.  The white Christmas was beautiful, travel was safe, and I’m glad to be back in my Man Cave for the next chapter.  I’m caught rather flatfooted, realizing it is already December 29, and I have yet to record a single New Year Resolution in my private journal.  I take those seriously every year, and for the life of me cannot figure out why I have yet to think these through.  Perhaps later today.

I have been in the Man Cave since about 8:30 this morning, when it was 23 degrees outside.  Now, at 10:00, it has warmed up to 33, and with layers of  clothing along with a space heater, I am making out quite nicely here.  I have posted a photo taken last night of my drafting table, tilted and positioned in front of the still life that I began assembling before I left for St. Louis.  I am choosing to work on a 28 x 22″ composition, and am thrilled to the bone to be attempting this.  Throughout yesterday evening and this morning I have drawn, erased, re-drawn, erased, re-drawn, constantly working to get the proportions and details right.  I firmly believe that the success of this large watercolor is going to depend on the strength of the drawing, and I am determined not to do it halfway.  So, I continue to revise, often feeling like Willem de Kooning, who didn’t hesitate to scrape off three hours’ worth of painting and start over.

I am nearly finished with Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, and am enthralled with his work ethic and discussions of the discipline of writing.  Those remarks are giving me the impetus I need to push ahead in my studio and crank out the paintings, believing in what I do.  The objects I have selected for this arrangement all have Proustian “ghosts” lingering about them.  I’m not ever sure if I’m on the same page as the Imagist writers and their philosophy “No Ideas but in Things,” but I certainly feel an inner compulsion to go after this still life arrangement.  I have checked out two more Andrew Wyeth volumes from our local public library as well.  I know there is much gold to be mined there as well.

There are two or three additional watercolor compositions I have churning about in my head, so I could very well be starting some additional works before this day comes to a close.  Once I actually start pushing watercolor pigments around on this enormous paper before me, I’ll certainly be posting those pictures as well.  I’m excited to be back on task.

Thanks for reading.


Seeking Andrew Wyeth’s Help with the Pine Trees

June 24, 2011

Early Summer Morning at Stovall Park, Arlington, Texas

I rose at sunrise earlier this week, and tried my hand at plein air watercolor at Stovall Park in south Arlington, Texas, about 5 minutes from where I reside.  I found the warm sunlight alternating with cool shadows extremely delicious and wanted to try and capture some of that on paper.  I worked on it long enough to realize that I had no clue how to render the pine needles in the foreground tree.  So I finished blocking in the rest of the composition with wet-on-wet layers and called it quits for a few days.

Late this afternoon, I set up my easel in the garage, took another look at this sketch, and decided to consult Andrew Wyeth, my patron saint, my guiding force, my all-around heroic drybrush Meister.  Perusing a series of his drybrush sketches rendered en plein air at Kuerner’s farm led me to take another crack at this quick composition.  I pushed it about as far as I could go, then worked to get the background shadows much deeper, hoping to set off the pine needles more effectively.  I think I’m going to return to Stovall and try another of these.  Pine trees have intimidated me for too many years now.  It’s past time to do something about them.

Thanks for reading.  It’s been a delightful day painting.  Glad there is still plenty of summer left.

Distilling the Essence of a Summer Tree en Plein Air

June 24, 2011

Summer Tree en Plein Air

It’s bloody hot in Texas already, registering daily triple-digits for about two weeks now.  I was spoiled in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas the past two weeks, waking to morning temperatures in the 70’s.   Today I decided to give plein air a try anyway, from the open door of my garage.  Standing in the shadow, I looked at my next-door-neighbor’s tree in the sun, taking in the warm sunlit leaf patterns, and peering into the cool, dark shadows where limbs and boughs were barely visible.  Quickly assembling my portable easel, I gave it a try.

I have always been dissatisfied with my watercolor handling of leafed-out trees (naked ones too–I just don’t like the way I “do” trees).  Nature’s green has frustrated me as a painter my entire life.  Therefore, I decided to wrestle only with the crown of this one tree, and do my best to match colors with its grandeur.  I spent the entire morning trying to sort out the reddish-tinted greens from the gold-tinted ones.  I also tried to find out what combinations of colors will “work” in the shadows.  I took my sweet time on this one, thoroughly enjoying the experience, though not certain of the painting’s outcome.

I spent some time during rest breaks (allowing the watercolor to dry) reading Xie He’s Six Canons of painting from the early 6th century.  I was trying my best to distill the essence of this particular tree crown that I was studying all morning.

Maybe I’ll decide by tomorrow what I think of this one.  I’m not satisfied, but am not sure just yet what is bothering me about this painting.  I believe it a worthy goal this summer while out of school to attempt to “solve” my tree-and-natural-green problem.

Thanks for reading.  It was an enjoyable morning for painting.


Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, Loss and Presence

April 23, 2011

Sketches in the Studio

1887 relic of 4th Methodist Church Fort Worth, Texas

Today, Friday morning, April 22, 2011 begins a 3-day weekend for me.  While in classes yesterday morning, I suddenly was seized with this notion to visit this relic from the edge of downtown Fort Worth, Texas.  It is what remains of the 1887 Fourth Street Methodist Church (today First Methodist Church, in a different location).  The ruins were discovered a few years back when demolition began of a storage facility, with no knowledge that the skeletal remains of this vestry were within the old structure.  The Bass brothers decided not to destroy the relic.

For the past two weeks (is this serendipitous?) I have been mulling over William Wordsworth’s “Lines.  Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour.  July 13, 1798.”  I have also lingered over a watercolor by J. M. W. Turner, composed while the painter was quite young and visiting that same Medieval ruin of a church.  The poem and the painting have been on my mind the past few weeks, again with all those Proustian notions–of memories, of loss and of presence.

Other writers have expressed this better than I, but I know these heart-shuddering sentiments of standing in the midst of something left over from the past, with the wreckage of decomposition prevalent, and I simultaneously feel a profound loss and an exhilarating “presence.”  This is what I feel when I look on this church ruin adjacent to a thriving Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Texas.  At the close of the 19th century, worshipers, mourners, seekers–people of all persuasions–lingered on these grounds and worshiped within the sacred space.  I tried to focus on those matters while the traffic of downtown Fort Worth whizzed past me.  One memorable moment during this 30-minute sketching exercise was a courteous bicycle security guard working for the city stopping by and chatting with me for a few minutes.  Her presence, and the knowledge that there were “many of them” about the town, made me feel safer to return here and sketch again.  Indeed I shall.

Thank you for reading.  It is now Saturday, and I hope to get some quality work done in watercolor by the close of this day.


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!


A Shout Out to the little town of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois!

March 10, 2011

Turvey's Corner

I am posting a watercolor that I completed in 1999, the first completed watercolor from my intensified quest to become a “professional” watercolorist, rather than a novice or Sunday Painter type.  The actual setting is a composite of three places I had visited throughout my life.  The Switzer building I always knew from downtown St. Louis, near where I grew up (sadly that building/landmark  has since been torn down).  The buildings on the left margin came from New Bern, North Carolina, a town I visited only one time in the mid-1990’s, and actually used the interior of a coffee shop there (the Trent River Coffee Company) to compose a mural at Arlington Martin High School (that mural can be viewed under the “Murals” tab of my website

The building on the right, with the Budweiser and Busch ghost signs, I only knew as coming from a town in Illinois.  I scoured a number of those towns very early in the 1990’s with my father, but did not take good notes in my journal.  Since 1999, I have been unable to tell people specifically where I found that striking building to anchor the right side of this composition.

All of that changed at Open House last Monday night.  Parents of one of my A. P. Art History students were visiting with me, and as we shared our backgrounds, it was established that the father had grown up in Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, near  Fort de Chartes.  I recognized those names immediately as two of the places I had scouted with my father during that summer excursion in the early ’90s.  I told this gentleman about my painting titled “Turvey’s Corner,”  explaining that one of the buildings came from a small Illinois town in his general area.  Today I received the surprise email from him, informing me that he had looked up my painting on the website and immediately recognized this “phantom” building as Lisa’s Market Street Grille in downtown Prairie du Rocher!

How thrilling to meet someone who connected with one of these small towns far, far away that connected with me in my travels!  Having an identity now for that building means everything to me, as I now can tell people more about the painting and what generated the idea for it.  I am adding the Facebook link to Lisa’s Market Street Grille, encouraging any of you interested to check out this business.  I was a patron there when I took my photographs of the establishment with my 35mm camera long ago, and still have fond memories of the place.  How happy I am to re-discover the business, and I cannot wait to return some day.

Thank you, Mike and Karen, for providing this information for me.

And thanks to all of you for reading.



Another Route 66 Service Station Relic from a Dying America

March 3, 2011

Cold Desolation, Robertsville, Missouri

I have decided to post an older work now featured on my website (and the original is still for sale at the Weiler House Fine Arts Gallery  A demanding school schedule has jerked me out of the studio for a minimum of two days, it appears, and I really wish to blog daily.  I’m having to work hard to make this possible.  Hopefully tomorrow I can return to my Spencer’s Grill painting and (maybe) finish it by the weekend.

My father has always taken an interest in my art work, even from my early childhood.  Once I launched Recollections 54, he was even more diligent in scouting for me these out-of-the way, forgotten towns that had once flourished throughout the fifties.  During one Christmas visit, he took me on some county roads west of St. Louis, adjacent to Route 66.  Stopping in Robertsville, I photographed this abandoned station from every possible angle.  It was about 10 degrees out, and snow was everywhere, and my 35mm camera lens was continually fogging up.  But I managed to get some decent photos, and put these images in the back of my mind’s eye to “compost” for a few years.

Of course, there were no signs left on this abused structure.  I added all of those, using props I’ve collected over the years.  The automobile was actually found alongside Route 66 in New Mexico, somewhere near Santa Rosa.  No such vehicles were to be seen on this property.

Once I finished the wintry, stormy sky and was ready to begin painting the building beneath, I had an accident in the studio.  Pushing a pile of books off my desk to clear room for an armload of “junk,” I hadn’t counted on the books bouncing along the floor and hitting this painting which was on the floor, propped against the wall.  I prefer to work on D’Arches paper, soaked in a shower and stapled on canvas stretchers, as though I were preparing a surface for oil or acrylic painting.  When dry, this surface is stretched tight as a drum skin, and delightful to work on with wet-on-wet watercolor.  Anyway, the books tore three holes in the painting.  My first reaction was to rip it off and throw it away, but it was the best sky I had ever painted!  So, I turned it over, scotch-taped the rips from behind, and proceeded onward with it.  I’m glad I did.  The painting won Best of Show in a competition the following year and a handsome check.

Something that attaches me to this painting is the reality that it was painted all over the Midwest, West and Southwest.  The summer that it was painted was a time when I decided to do a “Kerouac-style” road trip.  I loaded my Jeep and drove from Dallas/Fort Worth through SE Oklahoma, across Missouri and to St. Louis where I stayed awhile and visited with my family, painting on this from time to time.  Then I drove west to Kansas City, and onward to Denver.  From there I fly fished my way west to Kremmling, and then all the way down the Arkansas River, from its headwaters in Leadville, and on down through Buena Vista, Salida and Canon City.  Then it was on to Santa Fe, New Mexico and finally back home to Arlington, Texas.  I finished this watercolor in Canon City, Colorado, but enjoyed thoroughly working on it in St. Louis, Kremmling and Leadville as well.  All of this is to say–I saw much of this kind of “abandoned town” setting throughout my lengthy road-trip excursion that summer, and all of those sights fed this painting.

Incidentally, I had another “accident” in my garage studio day before yesterday–my French easel collapsed (a small piece of wood with 2 screws tore loose on the back leg) and crashed to the floor with “Spencer’s Grill” on it.  The result is two holes in this painting, now.  Anyway, I scotch-taped those from the back as well, and hope this will be alright.  I like the painting too much to throw it away.

Thanks for reading.


Eureka Springs Sidewalk Cafe Finished!

February 27, 2011

Downtown Eureka Springs

What a thrill finally to finish this big one!  Just before the thunderstorms arrived, I laid in the final washes on the sidewalks and streets and declared it finished.  It’s been quite a weekend.  A long fly fishing excursion, a painting on location, time well-spent in conversation with a friend (and watching him attack and successfully complete his first watercolor) and finally, finishing this composition.

The Crescent Hotel is featured on the ghost sign high above the gathered lunch crowd.  “Ghost sign” is appropriate, as the Crescent Hotel is famous for its resident ghosts.  I did not know until my second night there last summer that I was staying in a haunted room.  That provided plenty of imagination at night when the lights were out and I heard creaking noises in the corridor just outside my door!  At any rate, I survived, and would love to stay there again.  I’ve been invited to participate in a faculty show at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts, and feel strongly that I should enter this piece, once I get it framed properly.  I can’t wait to show it to my gallery director.  I think this could be a good piece for my One Man Show this coming fall.

Thanks for reading, and for following the progress on this one.  Glad it’s done.  Time to move on to the next!


My Friend’s First Attempt at Watercolor–Railroad Trestle

February 27, 2011

Good-Bye Today

How about this for a first-timer?  My guitar buddy, David Slight, has been asking me for some time if I thought he could create a decent watercolor.  I always thought so.  He picked up the guitar really fast, and I saw him fly fish for the first time, handling a fly rod with dexterity and landing a 3 lb. largemouth bass from a farm pond.  So I shouldn’t have been surprised to see him knock this one out inside of two hours in my garage studio this afternoon.  The painting measures approximately 12 x 14″ without the frame.  I stood by to show him the basics–wet-on-wet, drybrush, graphite rendering, masking, scraping with x-acto knife, and he went right after it.

He was so pleased that he’s decided to come back Tuesday after school (David is also a public school teacher in Tarrant County).  Both of us probably wish that we could draw decent salaries by painting in the garage!  So, here’s looking to next Tuesday!

Thanks for reading.  Thanks Dave, for a fabulous afternoon of art and quality conversation.


Fly Fishing on the Brazos Watercolor Sketch Finished

February 27, 2011

Fly Fishing the Brazos

I decided to add a diminutive fly fisherman working the currents in the lower left-hand corner of this sketch.  If I decide he doesn’t “work out,” then I’ll crop him out when I mat and frame the composition.  I’m glad to have another watercolor sketch “in the box,” and delighted that I had yesterday’s outing/odyssey.  But now I’d like to finish up that Eureka Springs BIG painting.  I’m getting kind of tired of looking at it and want to sign it off and drop it off.

Thanks for reading.