W h i t b e c k N o t e s
Oranges and Grapes with Eastern Teapot
20" x 20" oil on canvas
Welcome to the 2017 Summer Whitbeck Notes
Chambers County, Texas, 08 June, 1999. The car pulls into the small trailhead parking lot. The foot paths here will lead them out to some hopefully good bird watching spots. It was a long drive, but totally worth it, even if just to get out for a while. A couple hours of driving each way, and in between some slow, quiet walking with binoculars in hand. Birds of course. Fluttering, flitting, darting, perching birds, hard to see, even harder to follow, these are the star attractions today. A small list of hopefuls to see sits in his shirt pocket, not to remind them of what they are looking for, but so they can mark them off if they are lucky enough to spot one. Even a sighting of just one on the list would make for a great day.
Matt and his wife, Michele step out of the car and into the hot Texas weather. They pick up their binoculars and strap them on, a bottle of water, sunglasses, brimmed hat for some protection are gathered as well, then they set out on their way, hiking boots crunching along on the hot dusty dirt. There are a few other cars in the parking lot, and before they get too far Matt, as is his custom, makes a quick check of the front bumper of his car, as well as the others. He is hoping to find a specimen that is still in pretty good condition. One that will have both wings, or mostly both and not be flattened by the impact. Not much here though, some bits and pieces, and a lot of the small little gnats that are inevitable on long trips. But on the grill of one vehicle, kind of folded up and tucked in between two fins is a little golden orange shape that catches his eye. Not wanting to spend too much time in front of a strangers car, he kneels down and carefully, oh so carefully pulls it out. Bringing it to the hood of his own car he sets it down, spreading the wings into a flat position. Before him lies a perfect little butterfly. The wind blows a little and the delicate wings flutter, as if still alive. He quickly puts it in the back of their car, just under the window where it cannot get damaged.
Back at home in Anahuac, Texas, Matt opens up one of his black boxes, about 12 inches wide and 10 inches long and 2 and a half inches deep. Inside are moths, butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies as well as various other insects. Three other similar boxes are labeled Other Lepidoptera, Papilionidae and Nymphalidae. He writes on a small 3/4 inch by 1/4 inch white card: Chambers Co, TX 08 June 1999 .010. M Whitbeck. Carefully sticking a pin through the body of 010 and through the card, he puts it in the box with the rest and closes the lid.
Detail of Tulips and Grasshopper
Montague, Massachusetts, 10 April, 2017. The new flower painting is nearly complete. The tulips have the most delicate red flames sliding up their petals, a white carnation lies on the stone table top at the foot of the glass vase. Peonies are here too, as well as an iris. All looks right and has come together just as he planned, the composition, the colors. But all is not yet finished. The painting will not be complete without these last little details. Details that will lend to it a whole new feeling, a new life, adding to its beauty. These details will crawl and hide throughout this bouquet of oil and pigment.
James opens one of the four black boxes his brother Matt brought for him a week earlier. Twenty butterflies of various sizes, wings open and ranging in colors of light golden orange to dark brown lie within. Beautiful, delicate patterns. Exquisite. Pulling out 010, he brings it over to his easel on the north side of the studio. Clipped to the easel frame is a foam block. Carefully he sticks the pin into the foam and twists it a bit to the left, putting the butterfly in its best position for the new painting. This butterfly will work nicely settled on the tip of the tulip leaf. Other insects from his brothers collection will also find their way onto this panel, some obvious to see, others more discrete.
14" x 11" oil on panel
There is much more to a painting then just what you see before you. The stories within the paint layers can add so much to the enjoyment of what you are looking at, even if you do not know the stories. They are still there, leaving their mark. One brothers passion for the collecting and examination of the winged insects combined with another brothers passion for painting is just but one of these stories.
Be sure to keep an eye on the show schedule for the fall art shows. Coming up next on September 15th through the 17th is the Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. I will be in a new location this year: booth number 55 on Rittenhouse Sq. St. Come by and see the new work and enjoy the city. My website www.jameswhitbeck.com will have the full show schedule, as well as some of the new work and other useful information.
All my best,