Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Whitney Memorabilia...

Frank Webb recently shared two pieces of Ed Whitney Memorabilia from his personal collection of letters and images. The first, a Whitney letter in which Ed espouses on the virtues of Aldous Huxley as the result of a book gifted by Frank. As anyone who has carefully read Whitney's writings can attest (or viewed his bibliographies), Ed was a voracious reader and didn't shy away from the deeper philosophical works. He not only "devoured" books, but dissected them, making sidebar notations of what he strongly agreed with, or vehemently contested!

The second, a 1974 workshop brochure inviting participants to Mexico (in January...sounds like a great idea!). Frank remarks that Carl Molno is responsible for the wonderful Whitney portrait on the brochure cover, "I believe that Carl Molno designed this. He was one of the most advanced of Ed's students. I have always believed this to be the essential Ed. Many capable students drew or painted Ed, but this is the magnum opus."

I love the Huxley quote that Ed refers to in his letter to Frank:
The quality of a mind was best proved by the pertinence of its analogies

As always, thanks Frank for sharing this with us.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ed Whitney, Deep in the Heart Of Texas...

A while back I began corresponding with a wonderful woman and watercolorist, Naomi Brotherton of Carrollton, Texas. Naomi has a long history as a fine painter, instructor, Whitney student and colleague. She has also been a major contributer on the organizational front of advancing the medium and to fellow watercolorists in general. It is always a delight to hear from her. Naomi's energy and enthusiasm for watercolor and making art still shines through, even across cyberspace! Naomi's friend Anne Bedford has generously forwarded me a collection of vintage Whitney Workshop ads from the pages of 1956-1969 Artist's Magazine. Her contribution to the site is greatly appreciated as well. It is with pleasure that I allow Naomi to share her story with you for the Whitney archives. In addition, I am able to illustrate her story with her beautiful watercolors. Clearly, Ed's design influences are apparent in her skillfully executed work. I suppose he is somewhere saying
Thank God for scholarship!

Hi, Wes, Here at last is my story... my association with Ed Whitney and the resulting organization, Southwestern Watercolor Society, now 45 years old and very Alive and Well. They recently had a "This is your Life" program about my part in all this.... a nice reward. I am glad this will go in the records as to how Ed happened to come this way.

Best wishes,

How Edgar A. Whitney started teaching in Dallas and the South

While living in New York City in the early 1950s, I discovered an ad in the American Artist Magazine. It offered a two week watercolor workshop in New England traveling in the teacher’s station wagon. It sounded very interesting, but I knew nothing about this person, nor about his work. About that time his first book was published and the paintings were exciting. I wanted to learn more about watercolor from this teacher, Edgar A. Whitney.

Having written for information about the workshop, I was on Ed’s mailing list, and received a post card inviting me to join his class for Memorial Day week end out on Long Island. Cars were needed to transport some of the other students.
I had a car, so planned to go. The thought was that If I found myself in the wrong company, I could come home. Well, of course I had a ball, and was eager to learn more about painting from this dynamic teacher. I immediately signed up for one of the summer workshops in 1953. The trip was with 8 students and Ed in the station wagon. Luggage and plastic water jugs rode on top and watercolor bags were strapped on the open tailgate. Rain brought out tarps, to protect the exposed baggage. I recall that as we made our way up to New Hampshire the first day, Ed announced in his booming voice, “There will be no “lolly pop” trees painted on this trip.” Shocked, this little Texan was in awe of the man.

The two lane asphalt roads were higher in the center than on the edge, so Ed drove down the middle of the road, so as not to wear the tires unevenly. That was scary at times. Each day consisted of painting at two different locations with “tailgate lunch” between, and a group critique ending the day. Ed took pride in painting a demo in one hour or less to get students started at each location. One day, he painted an entire painting of a light house using only his 2 inch brush in the actual time of 5 minutes. Going from location and in the work clothes of the day, the class was welcomed at the best seafood restaurants in the area. Idlease Motel in Kennabunk Port, Maine was the longest stop, but the area provided a wide variety of subject matter including woodlands, light house, surf and rocks, lobstermen’s shacks, ocean vistas, boats, etc.

A one week trip was planned for the week after Labor Day, and I decided to take advantage of that one also. Before the next summer my husband and I had moved back to Dallas, TX, but that year I flew up to New York to make another trip with Ed’s workshop. By then other cars were joining the caravan, as his class was becoming popular. Lem and I settled into life in Dallas and began raising a family.

About 9 years later I learned from one of my workshop roommates that Ed and his wife, Opie, were planning a trip to California to visit some of the west coast watercolorists and for Ed to paint as they traveled. I invited him to return through Dallas to participate in an Art Fiesta put on by the Artists and Craftsmen Association (ACA) of Dallas. He timed the trip so as to do so. He took a booth in the show and later did a demonstration for their regular program. Plans were immediately forming for them to return to Dallas the next March for him to teach a workshop.
I worked up a class for him, found suitable locations to paint out, or in case of inclement weather, a place to paint indoors. Maps had to be made and mimeographed. The cars would meet at a location near downtown Dallas, and caravan to location. Ramon Froman, a Dallas portrait painter, would follow the procession of up to 25 cars, and try to keep anyone from getting lost. The class was held on Saturday and Sunday, and two week days… for 3 weeks each year. At the end of each workshop, Ed and Opie hosted a party for the group at their motel room. That was cozy and fun.

After they had made the trip from New York to Dallas and back the first year that they came to hold a workshop, Ed and Opie decided getting out of the north in March was a good thing. Word got around and he was invited to teach in Florida, so he combined it with the Dallas trip. Then the New Orleans area wanted him, and Houston, Ft. Worth, San Angelo and Pittsburg, TX were other workshops that evolved out of the Dallas trip. One year Jo Taylor and I followed him to his Joplin, MO workshop.
About 1962 I asked Ed if he thought I knew enough about watercolor to teach it. He said, “Teaching a subject you will learn more about it than just practicing it.” I did so, phasing out my commercial art, and found myself constantly quoting the man in my own classes. In 1963 the Dallas Whitney class plus students of Bud Biggs and Reese Kennedy organized the North Texas Watercolor Society, which was soon renamed Southwestern Watercolor Society. With Reese Kennedy as the first president of SWS , the organization got well established, and they started sponsoring Ed Whitney’s annual trip to Dallas relieving me of the responsibility. Ed was very proud that he had “Spanked the baby” to get SWS started.

Whitney introduced the use of the demonstration mirror. He carried one in his station wagon along with a portable rig to suspend it over head. He claimed that 100 people could see the demo using that rather small mirror, which was proved so, by the attendance at his demos. Having found that it worked, SWS soon had one of their own.
Ed continued to make these winter/spring journeys well into his 90s. Cataract surgery and hip replacements through the years didn’t slow him down. In 1984, the last year that he taught in Dallas, he hired a driver for the trip. He realized that his reflexes were not as good as they should have been, but the dynamic teaching process was still there.

Edgar A. Whitney died in 1987 at the age of 96.

Submitted by Naomi Brotherton July, 2008

Thanks so much Naomi for your important historical contribution to the site! I have several other posts coming soon with contributions from Barbara Nechis and Frank Webb. I also welcome Ward Hooper to the site, a Whitney student and fine watercolorist (who maybe can be talked into a submission?). Please be sure to Subscribe to future posts and as a site Follower at the new links on the left column. As the site grows this will enable you to get automated notices of new posts (and I will not have to manually send out notices). Stay tuned!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Thirty-nine Edgar Whitney works featured at new Baylor University facility...

Greetings all! My apologies for a dry spell in posting. Summer seems to have gone by at warp speed for me with the "art season" in full bloom here in Boone, N.C. I did my best to convert a few new Whitney followers during the Cheap Joe's Annual Trade Show workshops and also gleaned a few possible contacts. Unfortunately, this will be the last Trade Show on the agenda as it had become a rather huge undertaking logistically. The good news is that I have received some great Whitney info and have at least 2-3 postings to work on, so lets get started!

One of my ancillary goals in creating this site in addition to collecting personal info about Whitney's workshops and followers, was to track down where some of his original works currently reside. Last summer Frank Webb connected me with Whitney collector, student and personal friend...Dr. Faber McMullen of Texas.

Dr. McMullen remains an avid watercolorist and was the personal physician to Ed and Opie Whitney. To say that he was a collector of mid-20th century watercolorists is an understatement (as you will soon find out). On the Baylor University Campus at Waco, Texas, a Faculty Center will be dedicated October 3, 2008. This my friends is no ordinary Faculty Center, but one that will house and display McMullen's extensive collection of works (280 pieces) in a variety of mediums spanning 40 years.

I will name a few artists featured in the collection in addition to Edgar Whitney: Charles Burchfield, Gerald Brommer, Rex Brandt, Cecile Cardman, Phil Dike, Don Dennis, Henry Fukahara, Polly Hammett, Dong Kingman, M.S. Kaneko, Ray Loos, Carl Molno, Barse Miller, John Marin, George Post (extensive), Elliot O'Hara, Carlton Plummer, Millard Sheets, Zoltan Szabo, Jo Taylor (extensive), Frank Webb, Edgar Whitney (39 works), Robert Wood, Frederick Whitaker, Milford Zornes...and others. Does it sound like a trip to Baylor is in order? It is my guess that this may be one of the (if not the) most extensive and cohesive collections of historically significant American watercolorists of this era.

Dr. McMullen took the time to respond thoughtfully to my inquiry and I will share a portion of his letter below:
Unfortunately time changes things dramatically and irreversibly, even though we wish that this would not be so. Even in the academic world one can not imagine that generations that follow would not know our professors. Each generation has its teachers, beloved professors, shared experiences and times. Those that follow in ten or twelve years have theirs and then the whole situation changes again. Ed Whitney was ours, not the possession and gift of the generation that follows. The other day I was looking at the art that was accepted for the 2008 American Watercolor Society Show and I realized that the art submitted by Milford Zornes, Dong Kingman, Edgar A. Whitney, Barse Miller, George Post, Phil Dike or Robert E. Wood thirty years ago would not be accepted today with the emphasis on photographic realism. ...What really is the legacy of Edgar A. Whitney? I believe that this one person cut through the raised, confusing dust of the art teachers, meaning nothing words of the so called critics, and the cataract of misinformation published in design textbooks, to make all of the truth known about art discovery understandable to our generation. While Edgar A. Whitney lived, more of his students were members of the American Watercolor Society and the National Academy of Design than those of any other living teacher. It is my hope that this collection which includes most of the very best Whitney produced will be a tribute to this splendid teacher and that this effort will inspire future teachers to not only know, but teach, the principles and the essentials of design order. ...Kindest Regards, Faber McMullen, Jr.

This enormous gift to Baylor and the world of watercolor has been funded by the McMullen Charity Family Partnership.

To view Dr. Mullen's response letter (in full) and to see the entire collection listing that will be housed at this site, I have provided a PDF link below. You will need Adobe Reader plug-in if you do not already have it. Enjoy and begin planning your trip to Baylor! P.S...I am still seeking information from anyone re: Robert Conlan, the executor of Whitney's estate and a long time personal friend and student of Whitney. My emails and letters of inquiry to Mr. Conlan have gone unanswered thus far, and I find it unusual that he would not be interested in this effort if he has received them. I certainly don't wish to aggravate Mr. Conlan, but just wondering if any one has info about his status? Stay tuned... my next post will introduce you to a bit of Texas Whitney history.

Here is the link to the complete info: McMullen Letter and Collection Listing (pdf)

One last aside...I added a new Google Gadget on the left sidebar, a Follower feature that will allow you to be notified of new postings. Please sign-up to stay informed of progress with this effort!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Edgar Whitney's on Location Set Up...

Dear Wes, Here is a piece of blog:
(Blogspot Photo and text by Frank Webb)

This image shows Ed's gear used on location. The right side shows a masonite panel that sits on folding legs and is within reach of Ed from his seat on a 16 inches high campstool, At top center is his palette box that has only a two inch alley between color banks for gathering color. This palette was originated by Eliot O'Hara and the idea is that the painter should mix color on the paper and not so much on the palette.You will notice that the palette is separate from the box and is slanted in two directions to keep sullied color from the mounds of fresh paint. This box was made by Grumbacher and I believe it was item no. 964. The palette box shows an array of brushes. His workhorse of a brush is shown at bottom, center. It is a two inch flat squirrel hair, Grumbacher Mottler. The rectangular, cellulose sponge is used for adjusting the amount of charge in the brush by touching the sponge after charging. Ed's water pan is shallow. This facilitates his banging his brush on the bottom to speedily clear away the paint in his brush.
Not shown in this picture is Ed's painting board which he usually placed on top of his half sheet painting bag. This was placed on folding legs and was therefore level with his gear to his right. In future blogs I expect to show other images that might help to focus on the production and the aesthetics of watercolor.
On a philosophic note: One day Ed asked me to shared my shortest definition of art. I thought a moment and then replied,
"Embodied meaning"
This was a quote from Louis Reid. Ed then shared his favorite shortest definition which was from Santayana,
"Pleasure objectified"
Conversation with Ed was often peppered with quotes and aphorisms.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sandy Sandy thinks Whitney was Dandy...

Happy summer all! Its nice to feel a renewed sense of interest in our Whitney effort as we enter the prime workshopping season. I acknowledge having back-burnered the effort for a while myself...funny how a new one-year old daughter in our household seems to keep me off the computer and away from the watercolor slab a bit more than I anticipated. But..with the Cheap Joe Tradeshow and workshops around the corner I am having to rally my rusty instructional skills. I look forward to help from a number of persons who have expressed interest in tracking down new contributers to the site over the next while. Especially any great Whitney workshop stories and photos. Sandy Sandy (yep that is her real name) provided another Whitney testimonial and a few great quotes from others about Whitney. Also, a great photo of a very happy Frank Webb. I hope to set up a linked page soon that will compile the many Edgar Whitney quotes that have provided inspiration and insight for multitudes of painters. Don't give up on us and keep checking back. If anyone has any insight into the status of Mr. Robert Conlan, or a means of contacting him we would love to gain his support and possible contributions for archiving.
From Sandy Sandy...
I'm proud to call myself: "third generation Edgar Whitney". Years ago, I was permanently changed by his book,"Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting". It provided many insights into my craft and the principles of design. His writings continue to inspire and direct me. I am also grateful to have studied under some of his star pupils
including; Tony Couch, Joan Rudman, Tony Van Hasselt, Mel Stabin and Frank Webb. All these people carry on with Ed's Creed in their own way, as I do in mine. Today, over twenty years after his death, Whitney's spirit, enlightenment and craft are still gaining momentum and flourishing in the hearts, minds and work of in his many disciples. "Once students had passed through his hands,they were never the same again, and seemed to become completely indoctrinated with his ideas and convictions." ~ Ron Ranson.

From Sandy Sandy's blog...
Dear Friends ~
Edgar A. Whitney spent twenty-five years in commercial art before
devoting himself full time to painting and teaching. He taught at Pratt
Institute in NYC and lectured at New York University. Twenty years
after his death, his book, "Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting"
continues to be one of the foremost and extensive manuals on philosophy,
design, and watercolor technique. In his golden years, Ed demonstrated
and taught workshops from Maine to Florida, producing many extraordinary
modern day watercolor masters while establishing himself as a legend in
the art world hall of fame.

Quotes On Ed Whitney:

"I wish Edgar Whitney was around today. He was so much more than
a teacher of watercolor technique." ~ Monte Guynes

"His critiques were always good theater. He would use any device,
a gesture, description or word to drive home a point." ~ Frank Webb

"On finishing a workshop, Ed would conclude by ending on a philosophical
note. Remember you're the elite who have chosen to spend your time and
money on esthetics he'd say. Others can cheat you, a craft cannot. It's the
only area in life where you get back what you put in." ~ Joan Rudman

Thanks Sandy and sorry for the really bad title pun!

Whitney Demo on the Rocks, Kennebunkport 1979

Whitney Demo on the Rocks, Kennebunkport 1979
photo courtesy Shirley Langraf