Monday, January 30, 2012

Weekend's Work

This weekend I did one drawing and one painting that are posted above. Actually I did more, but I have to save some stuff for later. I have become enamored of the Hopper view from Sloan Road.

I am halfway through the De Kooning biography. Ca. 1950: He's incredibly poor, partly by choice, and has just created some of his best works. Heroic dedication. Like a saint, except he wasn't a saint.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Small Canals

The 5x12 pencil drawing is one of two from this morning's walk'n draw. The above is a 5x7 pastel worked in a similar fashion to the earlier see-if-it-sticks pastels.

In the De Kooning biography, there's mention of the drawing "Self-Portrait with Imaginary Brother." I always thought De Kooning was the older brother, but the writers indicate that he is the younger brother. What they say makes sense, but I was surprised at how easy it is to make assumptions. But after looking at the drawing again, maybe De Kooning is both brothers. The biography is wonderful, by the way. More to come as I progress through the book.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Full Barn View

This is a full view of the abandoned barn. 12 x 24 oil.

I have started reading the biography of Willem De Kooning by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. I didn't realize he was sort of like the Yogi Berra of painting. He made the following comments: "In da beginning was da void." and "[Water] reflects while you are reflecting." and "You must change to stay in the same place." I'll try to make a compilation.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Morning Canal

The canal images are mostly morning views because that's when I get out and walk along the canal. 8x10 pastel. Another thrown against the wall picture.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Early Canal

This is another pastel I tossed against the wall, quickly done, experimenting with different methods for underpainting, just to see if it sticks. I have been doing these on older pastels that I have washed off, so there already is an underpainting of sorts. Sometimes, the washed off pastel looks better than what I had before I washed it off.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter Hopper

This view is from a bit lower down Sloan Road facing the Hopper than where I usually hang out. Greylock is at the upper right. 12 x 24 oil.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Another Sticker

This is another that I tossed against the wall. 8x10 pastel.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Delaware River Sticker

This one I threw against the wall to see if it would stick. 8x10 pastel.

Regarding John Berger, he can write insightfully about his own experience painting and drawing, and then he can write about art history, and art as property, and the end of landscape painting etc. , in a way the contradicts his own experience. Here's what he says about landscape painting: "Certainly there are no great modern landscapes comparable to those of the past...Cubism when it broke painting broke the landscape too." Fortunately, there's no inevitability about what one can paint. I know more because of what has preceded me, but that doesn't mean I can do less.

Here's what he says about his experience of drawing: "To draw is to look, examining the structure of appearances. A drawing of a tree shows, not a tree, but a tree-being-looked at. Whereas the sight of a tree is registered almost instantaneously, the examination of the sight of a tree (a tree-being-looked-at) not only takes minutes or hours instead of a fraction of a second, it also involves, derives from, and refers back to, much previous experience of looking. Within the instant of the sight of the tree is established a life-experience. This is how the act of drawing refuses the process of disappearances and proposes the simultaneity of a multitude of moments." This passage suggests the constant renewal and possibility of creativity, no matter what has already happened.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Marks of a Landscape

John Berger wrote an essay titled "Painting a Landscape." Though he wrote that "landscape painting" is dead, painting a landscape can be a "starting point" for painting. He wrote, "As I work I am faithful to what I see in front of me, because only being faithful, by constantly checking, correcting, analysing what I can see and how it changes as the day progresses, can I discover forms and structures too complex and varied to be invented out of my head or reconstructed from vague memories." Also, "The marks on the canvas must have a life of their own." Again, "The thing interpreted becomes the interpretation." Further, "However short-lived, there are moments of triumph, incomparable in my experience to moments achieved in any other activity. They are short-lived because they depend upon a correspondence existing between the totality of relations between the marks on the canvas and those deducible in the landscape..." And finally, " is the consequent sense of the near impossibility of the task which allows me to take pleasure in the little that I have temporarily achieved."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Snow Barn

The abandoned barn yesterday in the snow. 9x12 oil.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reaching Tree

Another tree in the park. 8x10 pastel on pastelmat. I used a combination of dry and wet pastel. Why do I feel sometimes like the trees are watching me?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Crazy Tree

8x10 pastel on pastelmat paper.

Vincent died in his brother's arms, but he was a lonely man. The new biography tears down the romantic image of Van Gogh as a misunderstood, persecuted artistic genius, only in that the authors emphasize that his personality was a major factor in how he was treated by the world. He couldn't maintain a relationship with anyone. He would eventually argue with and offend everyone. He easily took offense. He neglected his appearance and his health. The authors even suggest that he didn't die at his own hands, which seems like the last blow to his romantic image.

But the art survived, at least most of it. Vincent was not a facile draughtsman. It's easy to see how his contemporaries thought he was a crude painter if we try to ignore all the art that was created after Van Gogh. Few of his contemporaries had the eyes and temperament to appreciate his art.

Yesterday, I mentioned the Saint-Remy Starry Night at MoMA. Unlike the earlier Arles Starry Night, this painting was done during the day because he was not allowed to leave his room at night. Despite the many obstacles in his life, Van Gogh travelled a great distance in a short number of years.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Late Day Canal

I have been recycling some older, less successful pastels using a combination of pastel and pastel wash. 8x10 on uart paper.

In the Van Gogh book, I am beyond Arles and Saint-Remy with Vincent now on his way to Auvers. The people in Arles treated Van Gogh miserably, though he didn't help much. I visited Arles in June. The hospital where Van Gogh spent many weeks, some of it strapped to his bed, is now a big gift shop specializing in Van Gogh reproductions.

Van Gogh probably had some kind of epilepsy, though his personality disorder seems to go back to when he was a youngster. His father died thinking his oldest son was not normal. His mother blamed him for his father's death. In the last two years of his life he went into periods of blackness losing his mind. When he would come out of these periods he would paint feverishly. In one stretch in 1889 in Saint-Remy, he averaged a painting every other day for eight months, according to the authors.

This weekend I visited MoMA to see the fantastic De Kooning exhibition, which ended today. I also saw Starry Night by Van Gogh. He thought the painting was a failure.

Early in 1890, an art critic named Aurier created a sensation with an article identifying Van Gogh as a great artist, and Vincent sold his first painting. I am near the end of the book. He has six months to live.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Park Road

Back to pastel. 8x10 on Uart paper. Uphill walk.

Van Gogh is now in Arles. Gauguin just arrived. I feel like I am watching a movie. I keep yelling at the main character, "Don't do it. Don't do it." But he can't hear me.

A Paintable Landscape

This is another view of the Hopper from Sloan Road in a 12 x 24 inch oil.

John Berger in a fascinating essay, titled "A Story for Aesop," discusses paintable and unpaintable landscapes. The Spanish landscape is "unpaintable," he writes. "A landscape is never unpaintable for purely descriptive reasons; it is always because its sense, its meaning, is not visible, or else lies elsewhere... Paintable landscapes are those in which what is visible enhances man--in which natural appearances make sense. We see such landscapes around every city in Italian Renaissance painting. In such a context there is no distinction between appearance and essence--such is the classic ideal."

He adds, "The scale of the Spanish interior is of a kind which offers no possibility of any focal centre. This means that it does not lend itself to being looked at. Or, to put it differently, there is no place to look at it from... A landscape that has no focal point is like a silence. It constitutes simply a solitude that has turned its back on you."

The only landscape like this that I have encountered is usually the site of a natural disaster in a forest area. Or the shattering descriptions of nature that Thoreau recounts in his trip to Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Moonscape Swamp

This is the same moonscape swamp with the thin sheet of ice.

Van Gogh has arrived in Paris. When his brother suggested he come, he was really hoping he wouldn't.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Moonscape and Van Gogh Update

What looks like a desert or moonscape is a barely frozen swamp at Field Farm.

In the Van Gogh biography I have reached 1885. Theo is urging his brother to move to Paris, to take heed of the Impressionists, and to do landscapes. Vincent wants to stay in Holland, thinks the Impressionists are facile and shallow, and wants to do figure paintings in brown and black.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Far Seen Hopper

The 9x12 oil painting of the Hopper looking east down Sloan Road.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Happy New Year! The bottom drawing is one of my walk'ndraws from this morning. It's a view looking north on Stratton Road. I was standing in the field. The top drawing is a study of the Hopper from Sloan Road in preparation for a painting. The painting is completed, and I will post it later.

I visit the Northshire bookstore in Manchester, Vt. frequently. This last time I found a copy of a book by John Berger, Keeping a Rendezvous. In an essay, titled, "drawing on paper," Berger writes about three kinds of drawing: "those which study and question the visible, those which put down and communicate ideas, and those done from memory." He goes on: "In the first kind of drawing...the lines on the paper are traces left behind by the artist's gaze, which is ceaselessly leaving, going out, interrogating the strangeness, the enigma, of what is before his eyes, however ordinary and everyday this may be. The sum total of the lines on the paper narrate a sort of optical emigration by which the artist, following his own gaze, settles on the person or tree or animal or mountain being drawn. And if the drawing succeeds, he stays there for ever..."

"In the second category of drawings the traffic, the transport, goes in the opposite direction. It is now a question of bringing to the paper what is already in the mind's eye. Delivery rather than emigration. Often such drawings were sketches or working drawings for paintings... Such meagre drawings still possess an artisanal interest..., but they do not speak directly to us. For this to happen the space created within the drawing has to seem as large as the earth's or the sky's space. Then we can feel the breath of life... To create such an immense space with ink marks on a sheet of paper one has to know oneself to be very small..."

"In a few great drawings...everything appears to exist in space, the complexity of everything vibrates--yet what one is looking at is only a project on paper. Reality and project become inseparable. One finds oneself on the threshold before the creation of the world. Such drawings, using the Future Tense, foresee, forever."