Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Fading Days Of Summer

                                                       One Last Ride To The Old Schoolhouse
                                                       An original acrylic painting, on gesso-primed panel
                                                        10" X 18", unframed

                                                          ( click on image to enlarge )

     The summer is already in it's waning days, and we wonder again why the time seems
to fly by so much faster with each passing year.  Some of us may have accomplished all
that we had planned to do in these warm  "carefree", fun days, but many of us are starting
to realize that many of our dreams and hopes of summer are fading sadly away, as our
attention focuses on preparations for students going back to school.  James Dent is
quoted as saying that "A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is
blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken."  But chores can't be
avoided forever, and now duty is calling, however unwelcome and loud the sound of
the school-bells may be.  It's time to dust off the books and try to prepare our young
people for whatever disasters are going to be handed to them by our willfully ignorant,
political leaders.

     The painting hearkens back to a time when life seemed much simpler in retrospect.
I have done several paintings of this historic, one-room schoolhouse, in the tall-grass
prairie of Kansas.   I would say these paintings are mostly mood pieces, trying to
capture the feeling of the isolation and loneliness of the little building's windswept,
hilltop setting.  However, in this version, I decided to give more structure to the
composition, by adding the figurative element in the lower left, which creates an
informal balance with the building in the upper right of the painting.

     Perhaps this version also lends more of a story element to the painting, as a
viewer might wonder whether the rider is an older rancher, making a nostalgic
visit back to the school where he learned his ABC's.

     For those who may be interested in having a print of this painting but who
require it to fit a more standard size frame, I believe the central portion of the
painting works fairly well as a print.  As I show below, very little of the mood is lost
in this 8" X 10" print of the painting.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer

                                                     The Summer Goldfinch
                                                     An original acrylic painting, on gesso primed panel
                                                     9" X 12", unframed

                                                         ( click on image to enlarge )

     The title of this posting comes from an early 1960's, popular-song recorded by
Nat King Cole.  The song itself was not a musical treasure, but Cole had a way of
making mediocre material more palatable for pop-music fans.  It was that song title
which came to mind again during this year's forth of July celebrations, as the thunderous
booming of neighbor's fireworks continued until 3 AM of the following morning, reminding
me that the crazy days of summer have definitely arrived. Those interminable, loud
blasts and explosions are one of the traditional, childhood joys of summer, which loose
all of their appeal as we age.  That song title tells something of our universal, love/hate
feelings about the traditional attractions of the summer season.

     Russel Baker expressed that dichotomy when he said, "Ah, summer, what power
you have to make us suffer and like it."  On the plus side of the traditional pleasures
of the summer season, we can enjoy such outdoor activities as; sports and games,
picnics and barbecues, camping out and watching the magic of the fireflies, going
hiking on woodland, nature trails, wild berry picking, and fishing and going skinny-dipping
in invitingly cool lakes and streams.  And many summer dreamers have fond memories
of backyard evenings spent making homemade ice-cream with a hand-cranked freezer,
or toasting marshmallows over an open fire.  But then on the other hand, we have all
of the discomforts of the summer, which tend to limit or ruin the enjoyment of those
traditional summertime pleasures.  There are always the days and nights of oppressive
heat and humidity, in addition to the mosquitoes, chiggers, ticks, and dozens of other
creepy crawlies and pests, as well as the poison ivy, and sticky thorns and burrs,
enough to keep us scratching our bites and wounds for hours after we have returned
from our summer outings.

     The Summer Goldfinch painting, shows a male American goldfinch after he has
discarded his dull, olive, winter wear, and put on his summertime, party plumage of
bright yellow.  This is a good time of year to put some extra sunflower seeds in the
feeder for them.  An then when you are seated in a shaded, comfortable, patio chair,
( while the humidity condenses on the sides of your iced beverage, and makes a puddle
on the patio table, and you swat a mosquetoe or two ), you can watch these flashy gold,
summer visitors and listen to their soft chirping.  Their gentle, little songs are much more
soothing to the soul than the exploding blasts of firecrackers.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

They say that it's always darkest before the dawn.

                                                        On Wings Of Hope
                                                        An original acrylic painting, on canvas panel
                                                        16" X 20", unframed

                                                                    ( click on image to enlarge )

     Last December, in my New Year's posting for this blog, titled On Wings Of Hope,
I said that the painting of that title had not yet been photographed.  I had a recent
reminder that I had still not shown the painting, so I am correcting that lapse today.
I only wish that I had something more encouraging to say about the state of the world
and our nation, than I could see ahead for us last December.  I know that there are
always those optimists who always see the cup as half full rather than half empty,
but considering the regressive ignorance constantly emanating from our nation's
executive mansion these days, I can only see the cup as half empty, and dropping
lower by the hour.  If a brighter dawn is coming, let that truth shine through soon.
But for now, again, on our fragile wings of hope, good luck to all of us.

                                    Exhibition note:
          This painting will be on view at the Buttonwood Art Space in Kansas City, Mo.
    from July 5th to September 26th, 2019.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Fair Reminders and Fond Memories

                                               The Chipmunk's Lunch-break
                                               An original acrylic painting, on canvas panel
                                               9 X 12", unframed

                                                   ( click on image to enlarge )

     Recently I received an Email reminder that I have not yet signed up to participate in the
art-fair, which has been a tradition for me each fall.  Last September I did a posting on this
blog, in which I said that I had probably done my last outdoor show.  That decision is not
set in concrete, but unless I develop some fresh new reserve of energy to undertake the
task, my participation is still questionable.
     In that same posting, I mentioned that the location of that fair, in the cultural heart of
the city, brought me full circle from my days as a very young, aspiring artist.  I also
mentioned that there was a little painting which needed to be photographed and posted,
as an old memory that place, in those early days.  I believe this is the little painting which
I had in mind, but anyone who is reading this, must be wondering what a chipmunk has
to do with that particular circle of life, so I will try to explain.

     The area which now contains such venerable cultural institutions as the University Of
Missouri, and Conservatory Of Music, the Kansas City Art Institute, and The Nelson-Atkins
Art Gallery and Museum, are all located in an area which was developed by William
Rockhill Nelson, the newspaper tycoon,  in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
Nelson was a believer in the City Beautiful movement, and he lined his streets with trees
and miles of rock walls, paralleling the sidewalks, including around his own, grand, thirty
acre estate, so that the entire area became known as The Rockhill District.  Nelson's great
mansion, Oak Hall, was demolished and replaced by the great art-museum which bares
his name, all before I was born, but his, wonderful, old stone walls still remained.

     When I was in elementary school and junior high, I was awarded some very nice
scholarships for Saturday art classes and summer art classes at the art institute, which is
located on the estate of another generous, benefactor of the city, adjacent to the grounds
of the Nelson-Atkins Museum.  Oftentimes, when I was on my way to those classes in
the morning, as I was walking along the sidewalks, beside those old walls, I would catch
glimpses of movement among the stones.  Then, if I would stand still in the shade of the
ancient oak trees, which towered up behind the walls, I could enjoy watching the
antics of a busy chipmunk or two, scampering along on the walls, in search of more
acorns to add to the larder.  There always seemed to be something a bit magical,
about the spirited appearance of the little creatures, on those ultra-quiet, still mornings;
while they were darting in and out of sight, it was almost as if they were playing a game
of peek-a-boo with me.

     The park where the art fair is held, is also located just across the street from the
grounds of the art museum, and it also still has a perimeter of the old rock walls. That is
why I said that being there was like coming full circle to those days long gone, when the
world seemed to be full of so many possibilities.  I sometimes wonder if any descendants
of those happy chipmunks I used to see so long ago, still inhabit those old walls, or if
thoughtless people and their pets made it impossible for the little creatures to survive
all of the increased, human activity there.


Saturday, April 20, 2019

The folly of painting, and the painting of The Folly

                                              The Folly's Fading Light
                                              An original oil painting, on stretched canvas
                                              30 X 24", unframed

                                                          ( click on image to enlarge )

     When people reach my age, they tend to spend some time reflecting back on the
choices they have made in life, and sometimes questioning what it has all been about.
For artists the question becomes whether or not it has been worth the struggle to have
a career in the fine arts.  Most young people who choose to become artists, are not
blind to the fact that art is not usually the pathway to great financial reward, so there
must be something else which is the compelling need to be satisfied, by making that
choice, and continuing the pursuit.  Perhaps that motivation could be described as the
ongoing quest to achieve the expression of a personal vision or visions, in a some
presentable and concrete form.

     The same questions might be asked about the subjects some artists choose to paint.
For example, this scene of a gloomy, rainy evening, showing a once grand old, theater
building, which sank into an advanced state of crumbling decay and abandonment, is not
likely to be the kind of subject matter which most people would appreciate as art for
their homes.  So again, that subject is a choice of the artist, with no expectation of an
immediate monetary gain, but still to satisfy some other personal interest or experimental
exploration of the theme or the techniques used to achieve the desired results.

     I hadn't thought about this particular work for years, but I was reminded of it by a
recent, gallery request to show paintings of Kansas City history.   It must have been
over four decades ago that I did a number of sketches and drawings of this old theater
building, because demolition seemed inevitable at that time.  Later on, those sketches
proved useful in doing paintings such as this, of a forgotten time in this city.  Before the
mid-twentieth century, Kansas City was a major hub of railway passenger traffic, and a
primary stop on the theatrical circuit.  The touring performers, actors and vaudevillians
all strode the stages of our grand old theaters.  When I was a child, every block in the
commercial heart of the city had at least one and sometimes two, theaters or extravagant
movie palaces, along with the numerous, elaborate department stores which dotted the
central business district.  And, all of that activity was served by an efficient, streetcar,
rail system.  But all of that was about to change, as the American way of life was
undergoing a revolution.

     After World War Two, automobiles and rapid suburban expansion, with convenient
outlying shopping centers, along with the advent of television, combined to drain all of
the life blood from the heart of the city.  The economical and efficient transit system was
killed off by General Motors; the department stores shriveled and then closed, and the
theaters were boarded up and abandoned.  That led the way to something they called
"urban renewal", during which dozens of beautiful, historic buildings were demolished
to make way for things as hideously uninspiring as parking structures, and thus further
reducing human presence on the streets of the central city.

     But history does not always have a completely unhappy ending.  Fortunately for the
theater in this painting, it was saved from demolition, and beautifully restored, largely
through the efforts of one woman, who was determined to save at least one of the city's
historic theaters from the wrecking ball.  When this building first opened, in the year 1900,
it was called The Century Theater, and then over the following decades the name
changed to fit the theatrical circuit's use, such as when it was known as the Schubert
Theater.  The Folly was the name that was in use when the theater was finally closed,
before the restoration, so that was the name that stuck.  But the efforts which went
into preserving that wonderful old gem were a very worthy quest, and certainly not folly.


Monday, April 8, 2019

Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers.

     For anyone who may have been wondering if I am still alive, I'm glad to say 
that I am still here.  I have recently had another of those uncomfortable reminders
that we are all here on borrowed time, and at my stage of life, those precious, 
borrowed days and hours are dwindling away, ever more rapidly.  My reminder
of the transitory nature of life, was a severe case of the flu, which evolved into a
persistent battle with bronchitis.  All in all, I have been out of commission for a 
couple of months, but I will try to post more art to my blog soon, now that I'm 
on the mend.  
     The brighter and warmer days of April are helping to lift the spirits of many 
of us, here in the center of the country.  February and March were unusually
cold and snowy.  Ice and snow were on the ground for so many days that it was
hazardous to try and get out and walk around, and being house-bound does not 
contribute to improving one's health or mood.  
      As so frequently happens here, where Mother Nature is so fickle and untrustworthy, 
the sudden, warm weather has tricked the flowering trees and spring bulbs to burst 
out into full bloom, before the danger of a freeze is over.   Now our weather 
forecasters are saying that a freeze is coming before this weekend.  So, when Saturday
morning arrives, the spectacular magnolia and daffodil blossoms will have been 
reduced to spoiled, brown decay-matter.  That will be yet another reminder for all of us,
to follow the poet's advice, and "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.", both literally
and figuratively.


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Sitting on a wall can lead to a fall.

( click on image to enlarge )

     Very old, nursery rhymes can sometimes acquire some unexpected, coincidental
relevance to our currant events.   For many frustrated and angry Americans, the
children's rhyme about Humpty Dumpty and his illogical wall, has come to mind again,
during this Trump, government shutdown of the last several weeks.
     That enduring, popular little rhyme dates clear back to the mid fifteenth century,
but its exact reference to a specific person or event has been lost to history.  Over
the passing years, Humpty came to be thought of, and portrayed as a self-obsessed
egg.  Lewis Carroll wrote of him as a character which can be seen as being uncannily
similar to the currant occupant of the White House.  In his Through The Looking 
Glass stories, from 1872, ( with classic illustrations by John Tenniel ) Alice encounters
Humpty Dumpty seated on his wall, and she soon discovers that he has a closed mind,
and that he thinks the truth is whatever he says it is.

             "When I use a word" Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,
     "it means just what I choose it to mean ---neither more nor less."
             "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so
     many different things."
             "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."

     For over two years now, Humpty Trumpty has been vowing to make America
backwards again, and doing his best to carry out that vow.   If Lewis Carroll were
alive today, he might be tempted to write a new version of little Alice's strange visit to
Wonderland.  In this modern rewrite, he might tell of the adventures of a new heroine
named Nancy, stepping through the looking glass, into Backwardland, to lead the way
forward to a path of progress.  He would probably write that Humpty will have to
take the offer of Nancy's hand, in order save himself from the fatal fall, off of his castle

     The illustration of Humpty Tumpty, above, is my adaptation of an illustration by
 John Tenniel, for Lewis Carroll's Through The Looking Glass.