Matisse’s Backs

Matisses Backs

This week we look at Matisse’s Backs, a series of four sculptures designed by the artist which were hosted in the Tate Museum in London at the time of drawing.

Matisse’s Backs

By Warren Cullar

Kitty and I were sitting on a black leather bench in the new Tate Museum in London listening to a tape about Matisse’s bronze sculptures, titled “Four Backs.” It was an awesome experience because I was seeing the majestic backs, drawing them, and listening to an art historian on tape. What a multi-sensory experience!

These larger than life bronze sculptures were produced first in plaster and then, 60 years later, cast in bronze. They were cast when Matisse was 80 though he started them back when he was very young. Each back is a little more abstract as he goes into his later years. As his mind matured, so did his art.

Several days later, we were in England at Stonehenge. My mind superimposed Matisse’s “Four Backs” onto the massive strong pieces of the huge monoliths. My own work in bronze is definitely inspired by these bronze relief sculptures. This is what art is all about: seeing things as they are, but interpreting them in a different way.

Matisse's "Four Backs." Created from left to right in: 1909, 1913, 1916, 1931.

Matisse’s “Four Backs.”
Created from left to right in: 1909, 1913, 1916, 1931.

Jacob’s History Notes:

Matisse was a contemporary of Pablo Picasso and another great artist of the time. He was born in 1869 as the eldest son of a prosperous grain merchant. Unsurprisingly, his father was not happy when Matisse decided to pursue a career as an artist.

Personally, I am fascinated by Matisse’s relationship during the world wars. He himself was largely apolitical and avoided controversy, but both his son and daughter fought in the French Resistance, his daughter even being captured and tortured by the Gestapo before escaping. Several of his students were also involved in the war or ended up as casualties during it. I can hardly imagine the hardship he must have gone through seeing friends and family risk their lives. German and Russian forces were not kind to any artwork they came across, and I suspect that Matisse’s silence was partially a result of trying to protect everything he created.

Next week we’ll be looking at some of Warren’s own drawings, inspired by Picasso’s own works.



For the next few weeks we’ll be doing a serious of Sketchbook entries while Warren focuses on being an artist. Jacob has contributed by adding his own history notes when appropriate, providing some background to the images. We hope you enjoy this series of sketches.


By Warren Cullar

Stonehenge is a colossal mystery. This architectural feat was on my list to see since my freshman year in college. Inspired by Professor Sasser who showed us photos of her standing at the base of several of the wonders of the world, I dreamed of someday seeing such places. I finally saw Stonehenge in May of 2001.

Stonehenge is so awesome. It minimizes man. Around 2500 BC, 82 large, rough-hewn bluestone monoliths were moved from southwestern Wales to design an altar or calendar. It confirms the will and determination of mankind. Anything is possible. Each stone weighs about 5 tons and was placed approximately 6 feet apart. To draw Stonehenge from several angles gave me a great deal of pleasure and inspiration. It is austere, magical, mystical, and mysterious.

Stonehenge, England

Stonehenge, England

Jacob’s History Lesson:

Stonehenge is one of those mysterious sites dating so far back into the mists of time we can’t really be sure when it started. Archaeological evidence suggests it was a burial site as far back as 8000 BC, even before the monument itself was built. The henge itself is a mystery to this day. Theories about its purpose range from the practical – a place of worship, a calendar, or a monument – to the downright outrageous – an alien landing or a relic of Atlantis. We’ll probably never really know why it was built, but we can still marvel how stone-age men with nothing more than flint tools were able to quarry, cut, haul and assemble these enormous stones.

Stonehenge as it might have been at the height of its glory. The stones marked in Blue are all that remains standing today.

Stonehenge as it might have been at the height of its glory. The stones marked in Blue are all that remains standing today.

Next week we’ll be looking at Matisse’s Backs, a collection of sculptures made over Matisse’s lifetime and an inspiration for some of Warren’s sketches.

Introduction to Sketch Book

We’ve posted a lot of excerpts from Warren’s Sketchbook here on An Artist Who Thinks He Can Write. This week we’ve decided to share the introduction with you. Please enjoy.



I draw to see, to explain my visual world, to remember the place, the event. I need to express the feelings I witness. My world is a kaleidoscope of images that stirs my imagination and from this I abstract my drawings. Time stands still when I draw and I am lost in the experience.

In this book, all of the drawings are created with an ink pen. The single ink line has been executed with purpose and intent. There’s no going back, no erasing. This way the viewer is seeing the simple shape, simple statement. The book is a collection of drawings I have selected. They represent a short period of time, with a variety of different types of emotions, events and ideas. They range from line work drawn during holiday travels – to pure whimsical doodles – to value drawings of abstract figures.

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Ship, Flag, Musicians


A band of musicians play aboard a cruise ship.

Warren and Kitty are on a two-week cruise. They are in Southhampton, England boarding the new cruise ship Quantum of the Seas for its maiden voyage. You can read about the Quantum in this article. Jacob has been hauling furniture in the depths of Vermont, where cell service is still something coveted and rare. Next week you can read about his experiences helping his grandmother move out of her home of 40 years.

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Shaman: Meeting the Shaman

Continuation of Shaman, by Warren Cullar. Nonfiction.

A tribesman in Amazonia cooking curare, the poison used on blowguns.

A tribesman in Amazonia cooking curare, the poison used on blowguns.

Our contact with the natives was a visit to three different villages. The first village was under government control, with government housing: basic, one-room concrete structures where the natives were wearing western clothing. I was able to buy a bow with three arrows from a young man. The second village was a long drive, then a hike on a path through the tall grass into a village. When we were spotted, all the women disappeared into their square huts, some covering their breasts. With patience we were slowly recognized as calm people bringing gifts. We placed mirrors at the entrance to each hut and gave fishing line and hooks to the men. We walked through the village of thatched huts, observing the people. One man was outside of his hut, sitting in his hammock, stirring an old cast iron pot. His two young sons stood behind him. The hard packed earth was home and necessities were modest:  A hut, a hammock, a blowgun, a cooking pot and a machete. When they needed food, they went into the jungle, found it, and then relaxed until the need to find food again was apparent. The expression on the man’s face making his dart poison was peaceful, relaxed, yet he was somewhat bothered by these white strangers.

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Update: My Dad, Napoleon and Me

Jacob and Warren

Jacob (left) and Warren (right) working on My Dad, Napoleon and Me.

Jacob Pousland here, Warren’s writing coach, editor, and all-around technology assistant. Warren and I have been working hard for the last few weeks editing My Dad, Napoleon and Me.

After all our hard work today’s the day: we’re sending My Dad, Napoleon and Me out to two editors and an agent who have agreed to take a look at it. If one of them likes the book we’ll be well on our way to publication. New books are usually slotted for publication a year in advance, so even when we are published it will be a while before you’ll see us on shelves, but we’re confident that My Dad, Napoleon and Me is as polished and well-written as we can make it at this time.

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Shaman: The Expedition

The following story is an excerpt from the chapter Shaman of Warren’s book My Dad, Napoleon and Me, currently in rewrite.

Location: Venezuela’s Amazonas State, 1991


 Dad: “The quicker you make up your mind, the better you are.”

Mr. Hill: “You have a brain and mind of your own. USE IT, and reach your own decisions.”

The crack of the billiard balls on the green felt tables at Erick’s Billiards was heard over the music, clinking beer bottles and noisy crowd as I pushed open the glass door. I had attempted to play pool when I was in the corps, but there was always some guy wanting to take your money. A soft layer of blue smoke hung below the pool table lights, like artificial smoke in a bad play. I was there on an invitation from a university professor, a strange place to meet for an appointment.

One of my collectors had told me about the expedition because the word was out I went on adventures. Raising my hand to join this adventure was a decision I had made on the barest of facts. The expedition was scheduled to go to Southern Venezuela’s Amazonas State with a group of men and women of science. They were to explore the indigenous people’s encampments along the Orinoco River on the Venezuelan and Colombian border.

The pool hall meeting was called by the professor in charge of leading the expedition. My job would be as the artist: to sketch and paint in watercolor, reproducing the native art that had been painted on ceilings and walls of the sheltered caves in the region thousands of years ago.

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"Warren Draws on Everything" JD. Moore

Warrens Doodles From Sketchbook

The following is an excerpt from Warren Cullar’s Sketchbook (ISBN 0-9747782-0-6) published in 2003.


Several times in elementary school, I was stopped from doodling in the margins of my notebooks. Today, I draw everywhere except in the margins – ha! I draw when there is a pen and paper and there is down time. For me, happiness is creating. When I’m doodling, there is limited awareness of what’s taking place. I focus on something else like a conversation or just relaxing. There is no concern for the direction or the outcome of the drawing. The only purpose is to make marks and images and follow my creative  muse. I am just enjoying life when I am doodling.

On an expedition to the Amazonia State in Southern Venezuela with the University of Texas I had real Indiana Jones Experiences.

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Sixth Street Festival

2014-09-24 08.55.21

The sketch taken from the Sketch Book  titled Sixth Street Festival was drawn in 1999 the same year I married Kitty Biel. A very good year. The festival has changed since I first went on the street some time in the early eighties but so have I. The turn of the decade also witnessed a new direction in my art career. I had turned to painting in acrylic instead of only watercolors. In the next couple of years I returned to casting bronze sculpture, something I first learned in Mexico.

The weekend of September the 27th and 28th I will be  in my double booth located at 6th and Trinity in Austin, Texas selling my acrylic paintings, bronze sculptures  and my prints. I have been asked  how many shows have I attended over the years, my answer is “too many to count.” I love the experience. Yes it is hard work but I love the people, enjoy telling stories and selling.

If you want a real experience in color, sound and the visuals go to the Pecan Street Art Festival. It’s A real people watching experience with the assortment of vendors selling everything from cactus jam to dog hats and bronze sculptures.

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