Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Heat Lightning (also known as Landscape with Grey Clouds), ca. 1962; watercolor, charcoal, and white chalk on joined paper, 58 x 45 inches; DC Moore Gallery, New York
Charles E. Burchfield, Journals, Vol. 60B, August 8, 1962
Saturday, August 8, 2015
A dark brooding day—only at evening did the sun come out clear and strong —
All day on the “Heat Lightning” — the morning spent on completing the addition of the four inches at the top, which came out well –
The early part of the afternoon spent in making the change in the main thunderhead; putting the constellations and the North Star higher in the sky – Then my inventiveness seemed to wane, I could not think how I was going to get the flicker of the lightning; I tried dark rhythms near the cloud, but had to remove them; then it came to me, I tried pale blue-green rhythms cutting across the white flashes, and it seemed to pull the whole sky together — Such a little thing!
Bertha came out with me after 4:00 to look, and thought it  was progressing well —
Evening music — Handel’s Water Music and two Sinfonia by J. C. Bach.
And “The River” by Virgil Thomson.
* First Tree Cricket —
My head is “in the clouds” because I have launched the “Heat Lightning” picture so well — It might be said I have been brooding over the subject for over 30 years — Almost at once it makes the launching of another idea nearer — that of a large “Genesis” * Picture — added impetus to the launching of such a picture comes from the fact that the 1920 “Thunderclap” was destroyed by fire — somehow the two ideas can be united — the “Thunderclap” can be the “Spirit of God moving over the face of the waters” and the reverberations of the thunder can be echoing and re-echoing thru the up-thrusting mountain peaks and volcanoes. It may not readily fit in, but somewhere in the foreground I want to put The Garden of Eden, symbolized by an enchanted island. (* The Genesis picture idea goes back to 1923 or 1924, when we were living at 459 Franklin, Buffalo — We had started our married life by reading from the Bible every day, beginning at Genesis and going through. The opening chapter of Genesis impressed me then (as it does even more now) with it[s] simple grandeur. “And the Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters” —)
Going back to the “Heat Lightning” — I am considering other titles for the picture, such as “Lightning in the North: or “White Fire of the Northland” or perhaps just “North” — This would suggest then companion pictures – “South” (an arc of sunlight beyond snowbound hills signaling the return of Spring) “East” (winter rain from the east) “West a fleet of wind-driven cumulus clouds over hayfield waves — And then there would be Northeast (Star rising in the Northeast over mysterious woods) Southeast — November Sun early morning — Southwest A southwest wind and rainstorm such as in the “King of the Golden River.” Northwest — In June, twilight over low marsh-lands – fire-flies —
This brings to mind the projected Season Transition Pictures — as well as Month-transition – two of the latter may be said to be completed: “Gateway to September” and “Oncoming Spring—”
Charles E. Burchfield, August 8, 1962