My two painting that didn’t make the cut into Archway Gallery’s juried exhibition opening tonight in Houston. Almost three hundred pieces were submitted and forty made it in. These two are is each 11″ x 14″. Graphite underdrawing and watercolor on Arches 140lb. cold press. My first entry in a juried show since 1962. Yes, 1962. I was a child; taking adult painting classes. My teacher, Mrs. Keen, encouraged me to submit a pastel still life. I got a ribbon. What kind I don’t recall.
These are inspired by my walks on White Oak Bayou about a mile from my home. The pile of tires is, or was, under Interstate 10 on the White Oak Trail. I was inspired by the shadows and light, and intrigued by the subject matter. The pedestrian bridge is very close by on the same trail. The smell of the creosote railroad pilings evokes some childhood memory, and I thought would be challenging to paint. Last year some graffiti artist spray painted three cute umbrella on the metal supports.
I’ve always admired the art of, and particularly this painting done in 1516, by Albrecht Dürer from the National Gallery in D.C. Particularly when I read this description of the painting from the Gallery’s voluminous volume of selected works, and Dürer’s ability to:
“lay open the fine net-work of the heart and brain of man”…”to make us see deep into the soul until we understand, for example, the character of this ugly, resolute individual, whose personality, flashing out through luminous and asymmetrical eyes, exerts a powerful spell. His is the face of the Reformation”.
So I thought I would make my own attempt to capture him.
I painted this en plein air yesterday afternoon. An abandoned rice mill and warehouses have been converted to artists studios, just a five minute drive from my home. They are now called Winter Street Studios. There’s a great view of the silo across a huge field. Whenever I drive by, I think to myself “I’d like to paint that.” So late on a very windy, cloudy afternoon, I set up my gear on a sidewalk on this quiet street and painted for about two hours. It’s not as loosely rendered as I wanted it to be, but it was lots of fun. I’ll probably tackle it again.
…I painted in watercolor.
We’ve visited Round Top, Texas regularly since 2008, and regularly stay at the wonderful Elisa’s Sunday Haus. There’s lots of things to paint there. Unfortunately, when contemplating an on-the-spot watercolor, I sometimes get overwhelmed. Time and weather are not on your side when trying to capture a moment in a landscape. More often than not, I admire a scene but talk myself out of trying to capture it. This time, I was determined to paint something. So I picked a single copper planter on her front porch in early morning. I love painting dramatic shadows, and was drawn to the long but increasingly shorter one being cast by the container. I also loved painting the wood grain and how the transparency of the shadow shows through. After viewing the photograph of this, I realized that the green copper patina leaned much more toward blue than was rendered. File away for next time.
This is the final studio watercolor, along with my working sketch of a commissioned work, one of my more challenging. Final size about 18 by 13 inches. There was a lot going on with this home. I took many reference photos from different angles and spent quite a bit of time consolidating and compressing the placement of the many prominent items in the yard as to get them all in the image in a pleasing way without overly compromising their actual placement in the landscaping. I’m a bit reluctant to say that this work took many months to complete. Fortunately, the homeowner was very accommodating and understanding. It just so happened that about the time I was commissioned, my graphic design business really took off. But I should also admit that I intermittently suffered from the “crisis of confidence” that I suppose every creative person goes through. In my experience, the only way out is to go through it.
I set up my easel at Winter Street Studio last Sunday afternoon and painted this watercolor. I’m not necessarily a transparent watercolor purist, meaning that I use opaque white when the need arises, especially out-of-doors when I’m having to paint quickly and don’t really have time to mask small areas of paper so that they will stay paint-free. So it was freely used here, apparent in the sunlit telephone lines, but not as much so in the highlighted areas of the transformers and the fence.
I went to Glenwood Cemetery off Washington Ave. to paint this watercolor yesterday. It’s one of my favorite places. The most beautiful place of its kind that I’ve ever seen. Opened in 1871, it’s terraced, hilly, haunting and mysterious, I get a real sense of history when I’m there. Today I craved a different subject than angels and tombstones. My thoughts turned to the many mausoleums there. I chose one on top of a very steep hillside, so steep from the road that I couldn’t get a good setup from in front. So I climbed to the top and set up my gear behind it, sitting on a low cement grave barrier. I’ve always loved the challenge of painting dappled sunlight. And a challenge it is. The sun kept going behind a cloud, but it stayed out long enough. This took me about an hour and a half to paint.
I painted this watercolor at the Houston Arboretum yesterday. It was a nice late summer afternoon and the place had quite a few people. I toted my equipment around for a while, thinking I didn’t want to spend the whole time looking for the “perfect” spot. I ended up where I usually do, at the little pond covered with lily pads. I sat on a bench with a railing and trees behind. I didn’t necessarily want the curious standing over my shoulder. Once I penciled the general shapes, I realized what a daunting subject I’d chosen. Although sunny, clouds intermittently blocked the light. And those lily pads! Dappled light, then clouds, tree shadows, sky reflection in the water. It was all very hard to visualize on paper. Once I got the first tentative washes down, I was ready to give up. To me, this is one of the hardest times to push on. I know from experience (or I hope) that at some point this will start to resemble a painting, but I’m not always mentally prepared to persevere. But I’d gone to a lot of preparation to be out there and I had looked forward to it. Before I knew it, I had laid in some darker washes for the trees and I started to have hope. But I was overwhelmed with all the detail before me, Many years ago, my drawing teacher told me to squint my eyes to better see the values. This time I did something more drastic. I removed my eyeglasses. My nearsightedness blurred the scene just enough so that I was able to concentrate on the mass shapes and colors. My confidence strengthened and I pressed on, and about an hour and a half later, just as a light sprinkle started, I was done.
Painted this afternoon in Houston’s Memorial Park. This is an expanded view of the same scene from an earlier post (opens in new window). The colors are more intense and the sun’s out. This took about two hours.