ddrees art

My art work and thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘watercolor’

Confluence of Influence Faculty Show 2010

Posted by ddrees on August 1, 2010

Our upcoming faculty show is themed Confluence of Influence. The concept is that we reflect on our strongest artist influences and write about how these are manifested in the works shown.  The show shall be up in the Catonsville Gallery at CCBCMD from August 30 to September 24.

Here is my influence statement, just submitted.

Lots of artists will tell you their best ideas came from beyond, were given. But I need the precious commodities of time and quiet spaces to bring the inspirations to fruition. I do a lot of slow synthesizing. Among my most important influences in the language of image making are Charles Burchfield, William Blake, Rembrandt Van Rijn and Arnold Bittleman. These fellows provide a tradition of notation that can be built upon to maintain meaning.

We are stuck in our bodies but we make trips to transcendent places all the time. We need to reaffirm this and put it in perspective as four-fold vision in works of art, as Blake said, “An eternity in a grain of sand”.  The transcendent is embedded in the actual in works of art.

William Blake’s classical archetypal figures all signify our identity. He embodies multilevel meaning from the particular of the streets of London to the eternal. My Dad quoted “The Tyger “ to me when I was a little child, which made me sit up and take notice. Blake connected verbal and visual as well as anyone ever has.

William Blake from Songs of Innocence and Experience

William Blake from Songs of Innocence and Experience

I saw and was influenced by Charles Burchfield at an early age. His evocative art was a personal inward response to creatures, sounds, weather and temperature of everyday life. His perceptions in the moment with total awareness allowed the connections to the vibrations of the universe to happen.

Charles Burchfield

Charles Burchfield

My college drawing teacher Arnold Bittleman took reality and observation and rendered it with a meaningful line system and a respect for the mark as the creative instant. He synthesized the aesthetics of the West and the East.

Arnold Bittleman Untitled

Arnold Bittleman Untitled

Rembrandt’s inner feelings and introspection were backed up by compositional choices, as in “David and Saul”. He used light to direct the viewer’s gaze and color and texture to set an introspective mood. Yet he worked “naar het leven” so the transcendent and real are connected.

Rembrandt, Saul and David, 1655-60, Mauritshuis, The Hague

Rembrandt, Saul and David, 1655-60, Mauritshuis, The Hague

My short artist’s statement is here. I need to update it sometime soon.

I want to make art that is beautiful, that addresses the viewer’s spiritual needs. Perhaps that is my role—to try to get people to look at the sublime and the beautiful again. I want to create works that show, as Blake said, ‘an infinity in a grain of sand.’ I like the idea of an art that is multi-cultural and multidirectional, connecting then and now, here and there, them, and us into images that show the transitional forms that bind. The more the artist can put into the work as potential meaning, the more the viewer will be able to connect with, no matter where or when.

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Trees replaced

Posted by ddrees on August 9, 2009

I inadvertently discarded this post from last August. So here it is back again unchanged except for order in time.

Trees and leaves are among my favorite image subjects. Trees loom large in my legend as well as on their own accord.  I just uploaded thirty tree art pictures to Flickr and I have more to add. (tree art set) I have tons of tree photos as well. Often on our trips (my husband Dana Fisher and me) we seek out famous trees to photograph. I have photos of some that are no longer with us, like the Liberty Tree in Annapolis. We are long time tree huggers and planters. Some of the trees we have planted have reached great heights. The tree photo set will take some time organizing.

The Beech tree in this watercolor is on the grounds at Hampton Mansion. We first spied it while scouting sites to take my summer landscape class years ago. I was delighted when my favorite all time colleague at CCBC, Ray Quigley, no longer with us, bought it. I like to think of it giving him pleasure.

Beech Tree, 3,2,1 other ©D Drees 1987

Beech Tree, 3,2,1 other ©D Drees 1987

This Beech tree and Yew are in back of the Hilton Mansion at CCBC Catonsville. I started a few offspring from blowbys of that yew but they are very slow growing. But what a great Yew it is.

Beech Tree and Yew © D Drees 1989

Beech Tree and Yew © D Drees 1989

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Illustrated Books in Baltimore 2

Posted by ddrees on June 21, 2009

a496lso during spring break, I went to the Walters Art Museum to see an exhibit called The Saint John’s Bible: a Modern Vision through Medieval Methods

I first read about The Saint John’s Bible in an article in the Smithsonian Magazine titled Inscribing the Word. Smithsonian Magazine. (December 2000). Named for Saint John’s Abbey and University in Minnesota, the Bible manuscript is an unprecedented project in modern times to make a superb new version of the Bible on parchment with entirely original artwork to reflect contemporary times.I made note and saved some clippings but I did not anticipate being able to see the real thing in the future.


This from the Walter’s brochure;

Since the earliest days of Christianity, scribes and artists have been creating beautiful copies of Holy Scripture. The Saint John’s Bible carries this tradition forward into the 21st century. This magnificent hand-illuminated seven-volume bible, commissioned by Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, is the result of more than 10 years of collaborative work between artists, scribes and theologians. This exhibition features leaves from the Books of Wisdom and Prophets, interspersed with examples of Christian and Jewish texts from medieval Europe, Islamic manuscripts from the Middle East and India and Buddhist scriptures from Thailand.

Designing this new handmade book was aided by computer in preliminary layouts. It makes it so much more of a wonder that handmade book production in the middle ages was so fine. The St. John’s Bible designers were able to do their copy-fitting on computer before  starting on the parchment sheets.The style is painterly and reflects various expressionist tendencies of contemporary times. I get the sense that early Kandinsky is an influence or sensibility. The typographic designs remind me a little of Paul Klee.  The illuminations are authored by more than one artist but the project is much specified by common goals. I really liked most of the images and by the time they were painted on the final parchments, they were beautifully crafted and I could see them first hand. There is a lot to be said for the textures of the real thing, the way raking light passes over areas of greater and lesser slickness and such. Screen pictures homogenize images and much is lost.


I bought the wonderful companion book Illuminating the Word; the making of The Saint John’s Bible by Christopher Calderhead ,which describes the project including tools, techniques and editorial decisions.The book has wonderful discussions of the grid system and typographic hierarchy that I shall be happy to use in Design and layout class when discussing the same. There are also facsimiles and prints of all these available, albeit expensive, to share the book with the world and to cover some of the vast expense of making it. Manuscripts were enormously expensive in the old days as well and the Gutenberg revolution was a massive shift as is the ability to publish blogs.


Official website for the Bible is so good as a resource it could be used to augment a college course in manuscript illumination.It has  videos of designers and calligraphers, materials,a great glossary of terms, bibliography, Internet resources, and page by page images of the book.

The largest images available on the site, but with watermarks across them, are in the custom print section of the site’s store.




The site is a little difficult to navigate  and there are areas hidden within a curriculum resources page which are worth pursuing. For example my search for illuminated D initials at the Hill Museum and Manuscript library yielded 1924 results. So much for my little folder of initials that I have been collecting from here and there for over ten years.

The Walters Museum where I saw the exhibit  has excellent manuscript and rare book collections, 18th and 19th Century art, Asian art, Egyptian, Nubian and Ethiopian art, to mention a few.

The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland is internationally renowned for its collection of art, which was amassed substantially by two men, William and Henry Walters, and eventually bequeathed to the City of Baltimore. The collection presents an overview of world art from pre-dynastic Egypt to 20th-century Europe, and counts among its many treasures Greek sculpture and Roman sarcophagi; medieval ivories and Old Master paintings; Art Deco jewelry and 19th-century European and American masterpieces.

The Saint John’s Bible show at the Walter’s also has a nice page, but I am not sure how long it will be there.The show was curated by Ben Tilghman, Zanvyl Krieger Curatorial Fellow, and Kathryn Gerry, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books. It included more than The St. Johns Bible as the Walter’s writes below.

Featuring nearly 40 volumes from the Walters’ world-renowned collection of manuscripts and rare books, this exhibition will examine the historical traditions of illuminated scripture in the context of a 21st-century manuscript, The Saint John’s Bible. Although it is still yet to be finished, The Saint John’s Bible has already been recognized as a masterpiece of contemporary calligraphy and book arts, and this exhibition marks the first time the manuscript has been examined in its historical context.

The idea of making a manuscript Bible may seem strange at the dawn of the 21st century, particularly considering the time and resources that go into making such a large book: when finished, the seven-volume bible will contain 1,150 pages and measure approximately three feet wide by two feet tall when open. But a quick glance at the illuminations throughout the book reveals that this is a project very much of its time. The artists use bold, abstract designs and collage techniques to create stirring compositions that often incorporate visual imagery from the modern world, such as computer voice-prints and images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The community at Saint John’s University and Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, which commissioned the manuscript, has a long tradition of scholarly inquiry and social engagement, and many of the illuminations reflect these concerns through references to the biblical past and current events. As a whole, the project represents an ambitious effort to envision a modern biblical art that is nevertheless deeply rooted in the long-standing tradition of manuscript production

That tradition, both in Christianity and in religions throughout the world, can be traced through the Walters superb collection of manuscripts and rare books. Featured in this exhibition will be manuscripts from many different religious traditions, including Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Particularly striking and beautiful is a Thai manuscript, in an accordion-folding format, that illustrates the many ways in which elephants were believed to bring good luck to the Thai royal court. The exhibition will also look at the history of calligraphy, both in the past and as it is practiced today. Fine examples of Medieval, Renaissance, and Islamic scripts will accompany works by highly-regarded contemporary calligraphers Sheila Waters, Julian Waters, and Mohamed Zakariya, vividly showing how contemporary lettering artists continue to build on the tradition they have inherited.

As a whole, the history of manuscripts, particularly as represented in this show, encourages us to reflect on how our understanding of what we read depends on the form in which we read it. In an age of disposable media—magazines, newspapers, and, above all, digital texts viewed on computers—it is easy to read things quickly and without much thought. When each book is a unique object, as all manuscripts are, both the maker and the reader are inspired to consider words and pictures much more carefully and deeply.




Picture 2




We can look forward to future shows relating to the Walter’s fine manuscript and book collection. So I am again enriched by having looked at the actual illustrations for books first hand.

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