Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Hopper and Idiocy

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

The Hopper and a Slant of Light

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

The Hopper and Visionary Landscape

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

Hopper Barn

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

Hopper Eleven

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

Hopper Ten

This is the ultimate view of the Hopper, late in the afternoon.  The Haley Farm barn is at the left, the parking lot for hikers at the right next to the old house.  A 12x24 oil on panel.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


This image is a 9x12 pastel of the entrance to the trails, Hopper, Money Brook and Haley Farm, at Haley Farm, at the end of Hopper Road, facing the Hopper.  Got that?  You might need a map.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hopper Forever

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

Elysian Field

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

Hopper 7

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

Spring Street Interlude

This is a painting I finished a few days ago, an 18x24 oil on canvas, another in the series of Spring Street in the fall.

Two More Hoppers

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

Two Hoppers

Instead of jumping around, I'm staying with the Hopper.  Both of these are 8x10 pastel on paper, showing the Hopper at late afternoon.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hopper Hopper

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.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Approaching the Hopper

The Hopper is the v-shaped cavity in the mountains.  It changes almost every instant depending upon the sun and clouds.  This is a quick 8x10 pastel.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

In Acadia

An 18x24 view from the Ocean Path in Acadia National Park.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Haley Farm Path

This is a view of the trail path headed in the direction of the trails instead of back to the parking lot: an 8x10 pastel.

Nevins Near Butler

Sounds like a scenario for a detective play.  This is a small 8x10 oil on canvas.  I like just suggesting without much information, though there's plenty of visual info after all.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hopper and Haley

This afternoon's weather was perfect for November.  I went to Haley Farm at the end of Hopper Road, where several hiking trails start.  While painting in the field, a friend who had been hiking came by, saying, I was wondering if it was you.  Have you ever done the tree-lined path leading to the trails?  No, but I've thought about it.  Well, here's a first painting of the tree-lined path.  The Hopper view is a 9x12 oil on panel, while the path is an 8x10 pastel.  Weather permitting, I'll be there again tomorrow.

It was pretty windy while I was painting.  Dropping a wet painting facedown onto the grass produces interesting results.  I won't scrape off the small debris until the paint dries.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Another view of Ogunquit, an 8x10 pastel.  I've been looking at the underpainting for this pastel for over a week, so I decided to finish it.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Fourth Near Dean

Trucks with open doors like this one appear to me like the openings to caves or tunnels.  They always grab my attention on a busy street, just like the steps down to a subway station.  I'll stay away from all the psychological meaning.   The is an 8x10 oil on canvas.  The composition also has a lot of interesting things going on too, but they are not so obvious.