Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Monday, December 29, 2014
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Saturday, December 27, 2014
Friday, December 26, 2014
Thursday, December 25, 2014
A couple days ago I started to do pen and ink drawings of Brooklyn. They have a few touches of pastel and water. I think I will concentrate on doing a few for a while. Merry Christmas!
(Corner of Grand and Fulton, Brooklyn)
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
An 8x10 pastel on paper of the pond at Field Farm, partly frozen.
In Landscape Into Art, Kenneth Clark writes that "... landscape painting, like all forms of art, was an act of faith..." I hate that past tense. As people lost faith in the systematic orders of religion, the 19th century landscape painters placed their faith in "nature" but even that now has faded away. Clark writes, "In the last few years we have even lost faith in the stability of what we used hopefully to call 'the natural order'..." Where does that leave us?
To me, it comes down to whether one sees the universe as ultimately benevolent, or indifferent. Faith is still necessary.
Monday, December 22, 2014
An 8x10 pastel of the North Trail, looking south, at Field Farm. When I draw or paint "nature" the challenge is how to make sure what originally moved you is still present, even though what you do is only a ghost of what is "real". Nature is messy, so that it's easy to be messy in response, or the exact opposite, so unmessy that the point is missing.
Kenneth Clark in Landscape Into Art writes how, starting with Gauguin, artists made "museum art" basing their art upon the images of other artists and cultures instead of working from nature. But using nature as a direct source of inspiration only started sporadically in the late 18th century, paralleled academic art throughout the 19th century with Corot and the Impressionists, and now runs parallel to the new academicism of "museum art". The idea of going to nature for inspiration may seem an ancient tradition, but it really isn't.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
An 8x10 pastel of the corner of the pond at Field Farm. After weeks of no sun (at least that what it seems like), the sun shone yesterday for most of the day, so I was out.
As I continue to read Kenneth Clark's Landscape Into Art, I find thought provoking comments, such as, "Impressionism is a short and limited episode in the history of art, and has long ceased to bear any relation to the creative spirit of the time." A lot of people today call themselves "Impressionists". The plein-air movement sees itself as a continuation of Impressionism. What are all these people doing working outside the "creative spirit of the time"? Yes, the next question is, "What is the creative spirit of the time" as far as painting is concerned?
Friday, December 19, 2014
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
I keep doing these ink drawings when wandering around the landscape. These are two of the best from the recent group. Both are 8x10.
For a much needed refresher, I've been rereading Kenneth Clark's Landscape Into Art. He writes, "Facts become art through love, which unifies them and lifts them to a higher plane of reality; and, in landscape, this all embracing love is expressed by light." A little further on, in Chapter 2, he adds, "Bellini's landscapes are the supreme instance of facts transfigured through love. Few artists have been capable of such universal love, which embraces every twig, every stone, the humblest detail as well as the most grandiose perspective, and can only be attained by a profound humility."
I've never tried to paint like Bellini, nor do I think it's necessary to be able to pursue the love that Clark writes about. It's a stance, an attitude that one has to be awake to.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
An 8x10 oil on canvas of a view through the Sweet Brook garage window with Mount Greylock in the distance. The workbench is covered with plastic bins, tools and tubes. Actually it's a painting of a lot of paint marks, touches, and blotches that might resemble the above. Actually, it's a painting of not much. The kind of stuff we see everyday.
Friday, December 12, 2014
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
One thing leads to another, sometimes quickly. Here's an 8x10 oil on canvas painting of a view in the Sweet Brook Farm garage. Artists have been painting folding chairs for a long time. I was looking on Pinterest today. Folding chairs everywhere.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
An 8x10 pastel on watercolor paper of a tiny portion of the interior of the barn at Sweet Brook Farm. The weather outside is terrible, so I'm working inside. But I've been wanting to do interiors for a while. I'm starting out by doing a bunch of drawings and pastels, and will try to do different kinds of interiors to see what happens.
Monday, December 8, 2014
Three drawings, 9x12 charcoal, pastel, (and ink in the last one) of interiors, with and without windows. I'm visualizing out loud, feeling my way forward with some new (and old) ideas for me.
An essay by Robert Hass on the photographer Robert Adams led me to the book Why People Photograph by Robert Adams. I discovered that he's as brilliant a writer as a photographer. He writes,
"The plateau [north of Denver] has been a focus of my work for twenty years both because it was near my home and because the location was and is characteristic of the American West in general, and even of the world. Though not many landscapes are at once as beautiful and as damaged as this one, most are, as we have invaded them, similarly discordant. A typical vacant lot today is likely to have in it not only scattered vegetation but broken asphalt, styrofoam, and abandoned appliances; the air many times smells of wildflowers and rain, but as likely also of oil or sewage; there may be audible the call of the dove, but often against some sterility as the flapping of a plastic bag caught on barbed wire.
If the state of our geography appears to be newly chaotic because of our heedlessness, the problem that this presents to the spirit is, it seems to me, an old one that art has long addressed. As defined by hundreds of years of practice--I think this history is vitally important--art is a discovery of harmony, a vision of disparities reconciled, of shape beneath confusion. Art does not deny that evil is real, but it places evil in a context that implies an affirmation; the structure of the picture, which is a metaphor of the Creation, suggests that evil is not final."
Indeed, this is what I believe, and want to believe, despite the often encountered contrary evidence.
Friday, December 5, 2014
I've been working on some new things, which may not be ready for a while. Here is a selection of the ink drawings that I have done in the last month while out walking. They are basically a collection of marks, mostly well-placed, which might resemble landscapes. I like the challenge of doing them with what are crude instruments. The second one from the top is the Hopper.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Sunday, November 30, 2014
Lately, I keep wondering if I've run out the string on the Hopper, but it keeps going on. This is a 9x12 pastel.
You may have noticed that I've been reading again. My current book is Forty-One False Starts by Janet Malcolm. I will refrain from commenting now on the title essay. In her essay on the photographer Thomas Struth, she quotes him as saying about his art school experience, "When I came there, it was a shock to realize that I had to regard art as a serious activity and develop a serious artistic practice. Painting and drawing was no longer my hobby, a private activity that I enjoyed. It was something that had categories. Artists were people who took positions and represented certain social and political attitudes. It was an intense experience to realize this. There was intense judgment by the students--who is doing something interesting and who is an idiot painting lemons as if he were living in the time of Manet and Cezanne."
It's not clear in the essay if Struth still agrees with this confused attitude about making art. Certainly the early-mid 70's was a confusing time for art students, especially this one. But idiocy oftentimes is a sign of wisdom.
Friday, November 28, 2014
A 9x12 pastel of the Hopper, this time from Field Farm, on a winter afternoon, located a considerable distance from Haley Farm, which is directly on the other side of the ridge on which that v-shaped clearing is visible.
Since I've been reading the essays of Robert Hass, I want to focus on one, "Notes on Poetry and Spirituality," in which Hass discusses the Emily Dickinson poem that starts, "There's a certain Slant of light / Winter Afternoons--". He writes, "So a young woman in Emily Dickinson's world had seen that moment... that astonishing moment when a person becomes a body; it's an unmistakable experience. She's talking about, very accurately about, a thing she's seen more than once. When this feeling of despair, this hurt, comes on her, the landscape is alive, and when it goes, when the hurt goes, it's like the soul leaving the body. And deadening it just that way."
He goes on, "So, in this poem... she's talking only about only being alive with this painful sense of absence, but a divine sense of it, or at least it seems to me a sense of absence, or at least a sense of an intuition whose namelessness is its quality, so much its quality that it hurts... the choice is between a kind of pain and a kind of deadness, and she would choose the pain any day."
Dickinson's poem is about light in a winter landscape, in which the landscape is like a person on the edge of life, and the beauty of the lighted landscape suggests to her a wonderful supernatural presence that she feels is missing, absent, gone, unresponsive, a painful image that she would rather experience than give in to any comforting explanation.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
A 9x12 pastel of the Hopper long view.
Robert Hass in his essay on "Mary Austin and The Land of Little Rain" writes, "Paysage moralise is the name art criticism has given to the fact that, when human beings describe a landscape, in words or paint, they are usually, perhaps inescapably, describing a vision of the world." Vision, from the above French term, means a moral view. I'm not sure what my landscape "vision" is yet. Elsewhere, in an essay on the poet Robinson Jeffers, Hass writes, "It seems to be the fate of American poets to reinvent the religions of their childhoods in their poetry." As always, substitute "painting" for "poetry." This might be a clue.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
A large painting, 18x24 inches, oil on canvas, of the Haley Farm barn at the end of Hopper Road. You can see the barn in the painting showing the whole Hopper area done a few days ago. I was struck by the sunlight illuminating the barn, but also by the ladder going into the barn. You can see the old truck on the left just above the cute old tractor.
I've been reading an essay by the poet Robert Hass on the landscape photographer Robert Adams. Hass writes, "We live our lives, each of us with differing but usually deep attachments to place or to an idea of place, while forces larger than our lives are changing those places faster than we live them out. There may be places in America... that have not changed much in our lifetime. But for most Americans change and loss are part of the landscape we hold in mind and have anesthetized ourselves to. Many of the forces of change have been destructive. Some, at least, have made a possible life for people excluded from the pastoral romance of an earlier republic. It's our task to make of this as we can what we can. But first we have to be able to see it."
The Hopper is a locale that has changed much, but still gives the impression of being old and stable. I spoke recently with a park ranger, who was on his day off and planning a quick hike up the Hopper trail. He talked about the feeling of an old place evoked by the Hopper, but then he told me that the barn was fairly new, the old one having burned down. New or old, there is so much to see.
Monday, November 24, 2014
I've been sitting on this pastel for a few days, another in the Hopper series. It shows one side of the trees that line both sides of the tree-lined aisle leading to the hiking trails. I wanted to show the sky on the other side where it becomes visible at the upper left. The Hopper is actually hidden by the glowing branches in the center. I have one more large painting to complete.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Monday, November 17, 2014
This time the large painting on my easel was completed (or feels completed at this moment) on the same day as the pastel. The painting is a 12x24 oil on panel of another view of the Elysian field at the Hopper, while the 9x12 pastel shows the trail path, which is inside the trees that are on the left of the oil painting.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
This was the painting on my easel, a 12x24 oil on panel. It depicts the Hopper late in the afternoon, as the sun streams over the mountain from the far upper right behind my shoulder to illuminate the trees and the Elysian field next to them. The two hay wagons remind us that this is really a mundane hay field, not a place of the gods. Except it feels so much like a holy place.
Friday, November 14, 2014
There's a larger painting on my easel but this isn't it. This is a 9x12 pastel of the Hopper from the field to the left of the beginning of the hiking trails, where the trees hide the bottom of the 'v'. This view shows the sunlight late in the afternoon penetrating the trees from the right.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Both are 9x12 oils, the first on canvas, the second on panel. If you approach the Hopper straight on, it is formidable and not necessarily paintable, so I move to the sides to find objects, whether trees or ridges or shadows, to offset its imposing starkness.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Monday, November 10, 2014
Lately, I've been obsessed by the Hopper. This afternoon I did a small oil sketch, but the paint's too thick and wet to photograph. This is an 8x10 pastel from mid-morning. I am hoping to get to a point where I can attempt a large painting. But the Hopper, even though it's so large, may only work as a small image. I did finish another large painting, but am letting it sit for a day.