My Salon des Refusés

Tires Under 10

Three Umbrellas over White OakMy 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.

The silo

Watercolor of grain silo

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.

Plein air in Round Top

Plein air watercolor study

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.

New watercolor

s_home

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.

The Great Wall of “China”

wall_of_china

This is a watercolor illustration that I painted for a promotional series to promote the printing capabilities of the company I was working for. My idea was to create a large-scale calendar and use a staged photo or illustration for each month with the theme as a visual pun on the word “wall”, since this is what the piece would be, a wall calendar.

I wanted this particular month to look like a very old Chinese silk painting. I bought a large sheet of extra-heavy litho paper, took it home and placed it in my bathtub, filled with instant coffee and water. I let it soak for a while, then let it dry. I finished up using watercolor dyes.

 

Dory shagged me

Sketch of goats and turkeyA few years back I went on a watercolor “paint out” to a dairy goat farm outside of Houston called Blue Heron Texas. There a young couple make wonderful goat cheese from Nubian goats and sell it regionally at farmers markets. It was a great experience. There were just about every species of barnyard critter you can imagine. Cats, dogs, pigs, chickens, and a giant male turkey by the name of Dory.

Large male turkey As I stood at my field easel, painting away, Dory sauntered up to me and began humping my leg. Not a little. A lot. This was a big turkey, and he just about knocked me off my feet. I was greatly amused, as was the young lady who was hosting us, and besides being somewhat embarrassed, decided to record the event for her blog. Dory followed me around for the rest of the day. I made a few sketches, but didn’t get much painting done. Alas, I found out a few weeks later that he ended up in a frying pot.

 

 

Trees in Memorial Park

In Memorial Park

I love nature. I went for a walk in Houston’s Memorial Park for the first time since the big drought several years ago. It had been too difficult to see the devastation. But the park’s coming back. I pulled out this watercolor I did there pre-2011. Those pines are all gone. Nature doesn’t experience time or loss. It just relentlessly goes on…and prevails. The thought gives me comfort in these uncertain times.

A Path in the Redwoods

Watercolor of Redwood trees

This is the first of several watercolors I painted recently for a benefit art show and sale. A few years ago, my wife and I took our first trip to California. We visited one of the parks and were very moved by the majestic trees. Inspired, I took out my trusty, cork-covered sketchbook and pen on the flight home and created the drawing that became the painting.

Pen and ink sketch of redwood trees

It took me quite a while get the look that I envisioned. I wanted to portray dappled sunlight, and I did a whole bunch of preparatory exercises. I was particularly challenged by the reddish path and the tree trunks. Once I took a deep breath and laid down that first wet-in-wet wash, I have to say I was less than satisfied. Exasperated, I quickly blotted out the still damp wash and let it dry. Having spent many hours practicing and still not achieving the results that I wanted, I was very frustrated. What worked was that the second time around I went at it with a devil-may-care fury. I realized that I was being too deliberate and tight with my brushwork and once I loosened up, the results were beyond my expectations.