images and writings to 1979
january 19 1962 ada oklahoma
[had just turned 22]
Thoughts and feelings written down are embarrassing. Many should never be stated. I feel the need to write some thoughts down and yet I hesitate. Today I was very restless, wishing to paint but too weak to force myself to do so. I was told last month, a few weeks ago, to do more thinking about the subject and less painting. That is sensible to me and yet very scary. It shows the seriousness of painting and of making an important statement not just applying paint to a canvas or putting a favorite drawing on the canvas as I so frequently do. Driving to Dallas was very inspirational. I saw some lovely compositions and colors because the fog and mist simplified so nicely. Many things popped into my mind and practically developed into a 'finished' painting at the time. But now nothing is remembered that is substantial enough to start a painting. I can almost see one of the spirit of those landscapes in an abstract drawing done last year. It is strange that an old drawing can be seen in a new light and seem to fill the bill better than one drawn at the time.
I have been concerned with a not unusual design which emphasizes a large mass at the bottom covering the majority of the canvas suggesting land and grass, usually winter grass, a mention of sky at the top, and activity where they meet, usually trees or houses. Now I see this in upside down fashion consisting of a huge sky, light but pushing down upon the land which is small in size. Still there is an active meeting place. This is how I want to use the old drawing and express the land in the mist and fog. The colors which are exciting to me are very dark such as prussian blue and dark green but not straight from the tube, but mixed with blue and even with a. crimson or cadmium red deep. Also earth colors are at last coming back. This time with more strength and confidence after many months away from use or even thought of them.
Some of my favorite colors of last year seem very repulsive to me now. They seem to be without reason and purpose in my landscapes. White, too, seems to belong. Not in its purity but with a definite hue. Black however is still left out unless it is mixed with yellow for an interesting green. I like to use dark colors mixed together or placed side by side to suggest black though knowing that black isn't really there (from the tube).
The exhibition is Dallas, The Art of Assemblage, was very timely. I need to break away from my conventions in drawing and I think this will help. Also doing sculpture will I hope free my drawing. I still feel that I must study the figure and record my findings in some way. I am not sure if this is a good thing or not. It seems to be ruining my drawing, so I was told last week. I do not want to become a slave to this. But I think I will get a good basis to deviate from later on. And that feelings will come that will erase my concern for study only of the outward appearance of the figure. Already I feel a letting up of this concern. The sculpture of Rodin, Degas, Marini, and Butler is very exciting to me now as is the desire to work with clay. Michelangelo is tremendous also. I am already trying to see some of my drawings into sculptures now. This again sounds bad but I hope that it is only the positions of the bodies that I want to interpret and do not forget about volume and the third dimension. Rodin stresses movement very much and says it is the transition from one attitude to another and that we see a part of what was and we discover a part of what is to be. [perhaps a direct quote]
It seems that a student should have access to sculpture, painting, graphics, drawing daily so he [sic] can learn to put each idea into its proper medium instead of trying to put every idea into his specific field.
The freedom I have this year is good. I hope that I will learn complete self-discipline to work on my own and do a lot of it. There are many diversions from painting that are good to do when it becomes a chore or habit or is depressing. These are very important to do even if it is just building canvases to keep the body and mind going. Because once there is too much relaxation or unrelated activity then it is very hard to get going again.
january 26 1962 ada oklahoma
I tried that painting today that I have been thinking about for the past few weeks. I studied the drawing that has been haunting me, also trying to remember some of those colors. I find that I am only trying to approximate the same feeling that I once achieved in another painting and falling very short of it. The other one appeared somewhat personal and even original to a certain extent. Now I seem to be repeating myself. At the present it appears to be just another version.
It is very strange to start a new painting. After a few colors are laid on, then the white of the canvas becomes very distasteful and a campaign is started to cover the white areas as quickly as possible. Many times this is wrong because haste often brings confusion and thoughtlessness. Colors are used because they are near and shapes are made accidentally. However the canvas is at last covered and some relationship has been established which regardless of its quality sets up a second starting point from which to work. New ideas can sometimes come from this stage. Sometimes the planned idea needs the unexpected shape or color to interrupt the scheme. Also colors can be eliminated before the final stage is approached when because of close contact with the painting faults become less obvious or too familiar to eliminate. A recent infatuation with a color or a combination of colors is sometimes very irrelevant and can be disastrous to the ideas of a painting.
It is very hard for me at the moment to see the use of certain colors such as the cadmium reds and oranges in a landscape. Greens are not in keeping with my feelings of land either. Yellow is a color that fascinates me at the moment, not yellow in its purity but as in winter grass and fields with suggestions of orange, even a short sight of purple or violet. I cannot seem to find the green that is suiting. I have a desire to use very light colors and values but am not having too much success with them. They seem to fade away in a few weeks after they have been applied to the canvas or else the actual intensity is finally seen.
Some of my better combinations of color are usually in low key or close in value. Color is coming somewhat better though. I was told earlier in the semester that when one color was stated then the complement of that color was expected and it was usually there. I was very much influenced by strong colors, many times very harsh as used in some of the paintings of Matisse who also influenced a friend of mine, Al Mooser, and he in turn influenced me. I was also impressed by what I thought was the color of Bonnard. It is strange on looking back at paintings that I thought were close to someone else's to see how far from their ideals I was.
I was also attracted to the work of Cezanne especially by the way in which he applied the paint and the effect of the brushwork. This was brought to my attention through R. Monson. Cezanne's drawings were highly influential and were put to use while studying the figure from an academic point of view. The painting influences have completely disappeared now in terms of color and brushwork. For the moment the sable brush has been discarded for the larger bristle brush which allows blending of color and shapes by scrubbing the paint on the canvas instead of laying strokes next to each other. I hope that the colors will not lose their vitality and personality with this approach, especially now that I am adding earth colors to my palette.
The past semester was unusual because of the change that took place. I started it by doing work in the fore-mentioned styles in a somewhat conventional approach to subject matter. Most of this subject matter was taken directly from drawings of models with hardly any awareness of composition or an approach to design. I seemed to be proud of my drawings and wanted to paint them with no concept of feeling or thought in a symbolic or natural statement.
january 27 1962 ada oklahoma
As far as I can tell the environment in which I live does not offer many ideas to express in my work. People and their lives are not important enough or are they interesting enough to make any statement about. And this shows up very much in my work. The first works this semester were only painted drawings with no inner life to them. The approach or technique was not a desirable one either. I usually had a mixture of unrelated shapes and colors or plain drawings. Soon I discarded the figure completely in favor of landscapes which I have always enjoyed doing because of the growing personal relationship that was started last spring. (Although my early paintings last spring consisted of only a single tree or bush with not much thought going into the composition, I eventually saw how important the overall composition was.)
The first landscapes that semester were also taken from sketches although more care was given to the whole canvas; however they were very trite and done in a style not really my own. I would start a painting almost every day either to force myself to work and try ideas or many times because I wasn't able to complete or sometimes comprehend others that I had previously started. As a result I had thirty canvases going by the end of the semester. But of those thirty canvases only about 10 were halfway successful and just a few that were completely pleasing or showing progress. However I felt and still do to a certain extent that I had to get a lot of those ideas out of my system. I just had to paint them out to rid myself of them. At the time however I was pleased with most of them usually for a week or more. Then I was able to look at them more objectively and in time simply paint over them. (This seems to be a good way to begin instead of on a fresh white canvas. Sometimes the undercover can help in many ways.)
I was very much afraid of not being true to myself in my painting-- afraid not to be knowing exactly what I was doing. Therefore I steered away from abstraction even though I am in sympathy with it and had tried it and enjoyed working with it. However for some reason, maybe because of some of the trash I had seen I did not feel I should try it. I worried about this though, thinking I was too conventional and tied down to certain solutions. I was told not to worry at all, that maybe I was more honest than many. I was also told that maybe if I changed brushes (to a bristle) and enlarged the size of the canvas that this might help me think faster and bigger. Also, to think more in terms of personal color, simplification, and a limited palette. Gradually after considering those suggestions and trying to follow them my ideas became better. I spent more time outdoors gathering ideas. The first painting of any importance was a semi-abstract landscape with a suggestion of a tree and some houses on a hill. The colors and values were close, the colors primarily were yellow and light gray blue with contrast in a dull red. The composition was simpler and freer, and yet I felt I was also being honest. After that there seemed to be a slight progression. During the christmas holidays I was able to try several ideas, some of which did not hold up and some which I was able to see a new direction. Design has become important.
I sometimes wonder about ideas. I realize that the world and my environment are steeped in happenings and situations. But sometimes there seems to be nothing to stimulate a painting. Many times there are things which I enjoy but have no desire to translate them into color and form. Lately it seems that less and less I want to paint because I am not 'inspired' by anything. I often wish for a change of environment and scenery that will be fresh in new colors and landscape forms, although I love the Oklahoma landscape in its subtle colors especially in winter. However I can't at the moment translate this. I guess it's because I don't spend time outdoors looking.
february 24 1962 ada oklahoma
I began to get bogged down with my work during the last two weeks and only rarely did any idea come to me. However, one day I was able to make a statement about landscape that I had never done before and in a much freer manner. As is usually the case I was working on an old canvas (one that I had tried another idea on--the one I'm having so much trouble with) and some of the formlessness of it became a part of the form of the new idea, as did some of the colors and shapes come into place. There is an overlapping of shapes which creates an interesting space arrangement--one that is rather ordinary to many contemporary painters, but one that is difficult for me to do very well consciously, I guess, for reasons I suspect but am not quite sure about.
march 5 1962 norman oklahoma
I have been using enamels lately and have experienced a new freedom and approach. At first they seemed very clumsily and unpleasant. The unpleasantness came from the swirls that the mixing of two colors made--very interesting but very undesirable in painting to my way of thinking. I am able to work very fast with this paint using a large brush and my hands to apply and blend the colors and shapes. The shininess does not bother me too much, probably because of the use last year of much oil and varnish as a medium. The enamel dries very rapidly and allows for quick change.
Most of the time I use only enamel because of the variety of colors acquired. However, in some cases a little oil from the tube helps the colors. I have been able to work in the light range of colors much better than with oils. They have a nice body to them and do not appear to be thinned with white or turpentine as did some of my attempts with the light range in oil. However I have not been able to use the deeper colors, yet it is very good to change a process, medium, or tool at times because a new line of thought appears.
My senior exhibition is this week and I am very happy with what I have to put in it. I feel that I have learned many things in the last two years and am very happy about that also. Many of my paintings are weak in the realization of the idea but I suppose that is normal.
I am anxious to try using a figure idea in paint. I have tried several times but I am not very positive about what I want to say, therefore they seem rather weak. Today I drew from a model which was involved in a still life with a suggestion of a room and an environment. Maybe this will be a starting point. I feel that there must be a definite figure idea implied although there need not be a literal idea--just the feeling of a figure. I am not sure what are figure colors and shapes. I am aware of what Matisse, Bonnard, and Cezanne used with the figure. De Kooning used color which gives the idea of the figure or at least something does. Maybe color is not the factor. But it seems to be in landscapes. I have not been able to use some colors in landscapes.
I regret that such lapses of time pass without my putting down my thoughts. As unimportant as so many times they are, I still feel that I should have some record of them as well as benefiting from an outlet of expression.
I tried working with casein this past week or so and have not been able to find any direction at all. I am sure that part of the problem stems from the fact that the paint is intended for walls and therefore the quality of color is rather flat and weak. However there are assets which are worthy of its pursuit. The application is easy since the paint comes in quart sizes. It dries very fast within minutes of application and can be worked over quickly. But I am not fond of the surface quality at all and I may need to experiment with polymer medium and colors.
I am able to switch medium often which is very
stimulating and prevents boredom of an approach. Sometimes tube oils
and easels are uninteresting and I enjoy working with enamels with
a large brush and my fingers with the canvas on the floor. I feel
it is very important for a student to have plenty of room and time
for experiments and to be able to do horrible things without feeling
embarrassed by exposing/showing them to teachers or other students.
Given time these will soon be discarded, and yet something can be
learned. Too many times students are self-conscious about making mistakes
and therefore do not do enough experimenting with their ideas--too
concerned about what others will say. Approached in the right manner,
however, the student years (in school) can be the years of learning
about oneself and finding ways of expressing ideas.
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