Holidays and the Fulness of Time

November 25, 2014
Anticipating the Holidays

Anticipating the Holidays

Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.

Truman Capote

On my final day of school, before dismissing for the holidays, I am flooded with feelings of good will.  In my art history classes today, we are focusing on Paul Cezanne and his struggles to find his own place in the Impressionist world, while at the same time opening the door to the twentieth century and modernism in painting.  I love this statement from Truman Capote because it fits the philosophy of Paul Cezanne and my best art teachers like a glove.  I wonder daily over where my life is going, in art as well as in the broad contours of things we must do.  And today I find myself thinking over how I can rearrange some of these rules to present my ideas better.

What bewilders me as I prepare to sail into these holidays is a series of messages received from several sources over this past week reminding me that others are looking at my daily work and blog.  This only makes me want to work more fervently in what I write and the images I post.  Last night, just before bedtime, I received notice that my blog was included in the website http://www.artmatch4u.com/wblogs2.html.  This alone makes me swell with a sense of pride, but much more, I want to be better at what I accomplish and publish.

Though my blog will probably silence over the holidays, it won’t be due to a hiatus–I’ll simply be working harder and trying to write better things in the weeks ahead.  If the blog is silent, the drafting table and journal will be busier than ever.  I’m so grateful to have some quality days away from the daily job.  Thanks always for taking time out to read what I post.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am never really alone.

Limits Yield Intensity

November 23, 2014
Sunday Morning Plein Air Watercolor Sketch

Sunday Morning Plein Air Watercolor Sketch

Limits yield intensity.  Beethoven said, speaking of Handel, that the measure of music is “producing great results with scant means.”

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

My weekend was fuller than usual, spent largely in east Texas at a Christmas event, and then with friends I’ve appreciated for many years.  During my escape from the city, I managed to toss out a couple of watercolor sketches, and felt very alive doing so.  This morning, I awoke to a world in Athens, Texas that was just exploding in autumn colors after more than 24 hours of rainfall.  I took a number of photos, but wasn’t satisfied until I worked on the small watercolor posted at the top of this entry.

Rapturous Colors in Athens, Texas

Rapturous Colors in Athens, Texas

Following breakfast, we went out on the back deck, looked across the property at these gorgeous colors, and drew out watercolor supplies to see if we could capture some of this essence.  My attempt was quick and small (about 5 x 7″) but my heart swelled with delight as I gazed at the natural beauty and reached for colors in an attempt to respond to what I saw and felt.  Despite many promises that I made to myself, this was in fact my first attempt this fall to attempt a plein air watercolor sketch of the changing of the seasons.  I saw it coming for weeks, but just never turned from my daily schedule to pursue this project.  Today felt good as I finally settled into it.  A part of me wishes for more time to pursue these interests, but seriously, most people lack this quality time, yet know how to appreciate it when the scant moments offer themselves up for creative exploits.  I’m happy to have received this gift this morning.

I think I’ll put this small watercolor into a 5 x 7″ window mat and place it inside an 8 x 10″ frame.  I believe that $50 will be a fair asking price for the piece.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Soothing Rains for the Fatigue

November 22, 2014
Posing with Godiva at Christmas in the Village

Posing with Godiva at Christmas in the Village

This Saturday has been a day filled with wonder.  I was invited to attend “Christmas in the Village” at Breckenridge Village in Tyler, Texas.  My artist-friend Bubba Norris, a resident of the Village, displays his art there, and this year I got to sit with him in his booth and watch him make original art.  Sometimes I get more of a thrill watching someone else labor over his/her creation than I do my own.  This day was no exception.  The unexpected bonus was learning that Bubba played in a handbell choir and I got to attend their afternoon recital.  This was my second year to attend “Christmas in the Village” and I was saddened to learn that Clyde, the camel that I posed with for pictures, died since last year.  He was 28.  He was replaced by Godiva, and I found her to be just as cuddly.

Watercolor Sketch of the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth--$100

Watercolor Sketch of the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth–$100

Following the event-filled day at Breckenridge, I found myself exhausted by evening but was delighted to sit quietly with friends.  Three of us experimented with watercolor sketching, and I found the company very affirming.  I did this quick sketch of the Ridglea Theater on Camp Bowie Blvd. in Fort Worth, about 8 x 10″ overall. I would seel this one, matted, for $100.  I’m quite proud of how it finished out.  I have painted the structure several times, but decided it was time to work on a small, quick one.  Once I laid down the brush, I decided it was time to retire for the night–I don’t bounce back from full days the way I used to do.

Thanks always for caring enough to read me.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Watercolor Sketching on a Rainy Saturday Night

November 22, 2014

image

Sometimes Wyeth; Sometimes Picasso

November 19, 2014
Looking for the Balance

Looking for the Balance

You can waste an awful lot of time farting around for great occasions.  Pete and Henriette carried on the social game . . .all the artists I’ve ever known did it, except maybe Edward Hopper.

Andrew Wyeth

Please don’t interpret tonight’s post as a complaint–it isn’t.  Over the past decades, I have sought this indefinable center between the public and private side of an artful life.  I love living after the examples of the Thoreaus, the Hoppers and the Wyeths of the art and literary world, one steeped in creative solitude and contemplation.  Winters are especially wonderful for that (especially now that my furnace is repaired, after six days of frigid living!).  But I also ache for that creative collaboration among kindred spirits.  I love the cafes, the salons, the gatherings of inquisitive minds who feed off one another’s inspirations.  Tonight I am headed for the latter, a monthly salon gathering that I enjoy to the depths.  What I wish is that I could return to my studio and work on some art pieces after the meeting, because a number of ideas have been percolating with me over the past several days and I just cannot seem to catch a break to pursue them in solitude.  Part of my teaching load this semester is an online college course and tonight I have promised myself that all assignments submitted over this past week will be graded before I retire to bed–the students deserve that.  And so, perhaps tomorrow I will get back into the studio.  Tonight I can only salute those artists that managed to balance their solitude with their society. I am just as much charmed by Thoreau’s Walden cabin as I am Picasso’s Parisian Cafe Gerbois.  The former looked into the face of nature and drew unlimited resources; the latter listened to the poets, artists and philosophers in the cafe around him and transformed their ideas into art.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Cogito Ergo Sum

November 18, 2014
My Collage of Rene Descartes

My Collage of Rene Descartes

(Reader beware: this could be a strange blog post.)

It is not enough to have a good mind.  The main thing is to apply it well.

Rene Descartes

In my high school philosophy class, I have sincere fun, and probably take too many liberties when we discuss the contributions of Rene Descartes, whom I regard as the Father of Modern Philosophy.  Possessing a weak constitution prone to tubercular-related illnesses, he suffered from a cold snowy night in Ulm, Germany on November 10, 1619. Crawling into the stove chamber of the building where he was housed, he spent the night deep in thought, resolved not to emerge until he had gotten to the bottom of some issues troubling him.  He did, and emerged with a changed life the following morning.

Last night marked my fifth night going to bed without a working furnace in my house, and as temperatures slid downward toward 27 degrees, I huddled closer to the electric space heater, drifting into sleep around 10:00, a good two hours before I generally retire.  At about 4:00 a.m. I awoke in the frigid darkness and lay there, thinking, waiting for a 6:00 alarm to convince me that it was time to crawl out from under the quilts.  Having a good memory for dates, I realized that I was lying in the cold, thinking, 395 years and one week after Descartes’s historic night.

Like Descartes, I thought about my life, my art, my ideas, and wondered about a firm, unified foundation, an Archimedean point for leveraging my efforts.  My mind drifted over to Thoreau’s Walden and his musings about finding a point d’appui, a point of support, a solid footing.  I had spent the prior night engaged in the most meaningful conversation over coffee with another artist seeking answers about the marketing side of the artistic enterprise, and was stirred by much of what we discussed. These matters were also percolating in my mind as I lay there in the darkness.

When I finally rose at 6:00, I was elated to find an email from the other artistic spirit with whom I had conversed the night before, and immediately I felt a profound sense of connection with that artist’s mind, along with the minds of Descartes and Thoreau.  What company!  What a conversation!  As Descartes recounted the thoughts he pursued throughout that historic night in 1619, he concluded that even if his thoughts were in fact dreams, even if they were in fact fallacious, that nevertheless he was thinking, and therefore he existed (cogito ergo sum).  And as I rose from my bed, feeling much better than I did hours before, I concluded that I have ideas, artistic aspirations, and authentic goals.  Though I still seek some kind of center, some kind of foundation, I am delighted to know that I am in motion and not static.  And as long as I strive, there is still reason for hope.  And to me, the journey is just as worthy as the destination.  I recall a book title in my library: Success is the Quality of Your Journey.  Perhaps it’s time to go back and take a look at that volume as well.

At any rate, I have school responsibilities now pending, so it is time to answer that call.  But I will return to this . . .

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

November 16, 2014
Rural Missouri Property in Winter

Rural Missouri Property in Winter

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”

The image posted above is the property behind a friend’s ranch where I stayed as a guest a few winters ago while spending Christmas holidays visiting my parents in the St. Louis area.  I stood in his kitchen and looked out through the glass patio doors at the beautiful snow across his sprawling woods, and worked on this quick watecolor sketch, so I guess I could say I was painting en plein air, though I was indoors, and warm.

I’m closing out a beautiful, though cold weekend (my furnace has been out of commission since Thursday–supposed to be repaired tomorrow), seated next to an electrice space heater (which is doing its job), working on an Andrew Wyeth power point for tomorrow’s art history classes.  While reading through my Wyeth materials this weekend, I came across a conversation he had with Robert Frost concerning the poem of which I’ve posted a portion above.  Wyeth assumed Frost had been standing in the snow when he came up with this idea, and that the poem had required long periods to compose. Frost surprised him with these words:

Andy, I’ll tell you about that.  I’d been writing a very complicated, long-drawn-out poem, almost a story type of poem entitled “The Death of the Hired Man.”  I had finished at two o’clock in the morning.  It was a hot August night, and I was exhausted. I walked out on the porch of my house and looked at this mountain range.  It came to me in a flash!  I wrote it on an evelope I had in my pocket, and I only changed one word.  It came out just like that.

About an hour ago, I was prompted on Facebook that it was snowing in south Arlington.  Though cold inside, I wrapped up and dashed outside in genuine joy, walking through my yard, out into the street, and then out into my backyard, looking up in wonder at the night sky filled with those beautiful flakes.  I just wanted to bring my coffee outdoors and spend time walking around in it.  But alas, I have promises to keep, a power point to finish, sleep to accomplish, and classes waiting for me tomorrow.  Promises to keep.  And miles to go before I sleep.  But I’ll still feel this gratitude.  It is a beautiful night, capping a beautiful weekend.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am never really alone.

Winter Closing In

November 15, 2014
Road Trip in the Crisp Cold

Road Trip in the Crisp Cold

I awoke today and found

the frost perched on the town.

It hovered in a frozen sky

then it gobbled summer down.

When the sun turns traitor cold

and all the trees are shivering in a naked row.

 

I get the urge for going

But I never seem to go.

I get the urge for going

When the meadow grass is turning brown

Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in.

Joni Mitchell

After a second shivering night without a furnace, it was a genuine pleasure to meet with a writer and creative spirit for a 6:30 breakfast in front of a roaring fire place.   The conversation was first rate, and there just doesn’t seem to be enough of those available today. So . . . (you know who you are!) . . . thanks for a fabulous breakfast and most soulful chat.  Thanks for a wonderful beginning to this cold morning.

I’ve posted these lyrics above that have haunted me for years now.  I had no idea that Joni Mitchell penned the words, as I’ve listened to the song performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash.  And though the song was never a hit, it remains one of my favorite, most soulful pieces.  I love the approach of the year-end holidays and the change in climate, mostly for the memories–an admixture of joy and sadness, gratitude as well as regret.  Soulful.  That is the best way I can describe the coming season.  And I welcome it.

Painting is the trade that takes longest to learn and is the most difficult.  It demands erudition like that of the composer, but it also demands execution like that of the violinist.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, September 18, 1847

Right now, the house and studio are too cold for painting, but at least I could study it further with the plethora of books I have surrounding me now.  And I have the time . . .

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Sundry Reasons to Smile Tonight

November 14, 2014
Friday Night at my Writing Table

Friday Night at my Writing Table

There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour.  For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem.  These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance, at a little height of thought.  One tendency unites them all.  The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks.  See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

It is turning out to be an excellent night for putting some thoughts down in my journal, despite the reality that my furnace broke down 24 hours ago, and will not be repaired before tomorrow.  Temperatures dipped to 30 last night, and threaten to do so again tonight.  The house is cold, but things are not so bad–in fact they are quite good.  A small electric space heater is adequate to warm the space that I occupy, and so I am finding ways to live in a smaller space until the cavalry arrives tomorrow.

As I shambled through my crowded chamber earlier this evening, I sensed that I was smiling, and wondered what exactly that was all about.  In my younger years, these physical circumstances would have left me fuming.  So why is tonight so good, after all?  Simply put, the recollections of all the experiences that wove together throughout this day to produce a beautiful existence.  All I have to do is recall them, one by one, and then smile at them collectively.

It was a profound honor this morning to be invited to sit beside a struggling, yet determined A.V.I.D. student wrestling with an assignment for A. P. English over an Emerson essay.  As she read aloud pointed texts from this sage and faced specific questions, I happily asked her questions the way these A.V.I.D. students do when collectively learning in their tutorial circles.  I didn’t have to give her any answers.  One by one, she solved each problem, then moved on to the next, and I just felt joy brimming inside me, watching her countenance brighten and her eyes focus every time she “got it.”  All I could hope is that she would come to love this man’s words as much as I have in my later years.

After that session, my Philosophy class came in for their scheduled exam (which may not have been a natural high), followed by a roundtable discussion on Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” essay.  I shall always remember and cherish what transpired in today’s discussion, watching the sincerity of students willing to explore difficult questions that took them to the edge of their own traditions.  I shall never forget the words of one of the girls expressing that Emerson’s “American Scholar” speech “resonated” with her.  She left me her journal to read which included a poem she composed about a particular experience of driving through the night that brought her to enlightenment.  The vocabulary was charged with Emersonian sentiment, and I felt tears as I read it, and recalled the expressions on her thoughtful countenance every time she responded to the discussions of today.

The bell rang.  It was time to go to lunch.  But one young man remained behind to talk, to give up the early part of his lunch period.  He talked of the values which so deeply stir him at this stage in his life, and then, as he was preparing to leave, told me that this class was undoubtedly the best he has ever had in his educational odyssey.  I believe him, and it stirs me deeply, because I have had this unspeakable honor to join his hands with those outstretched hands of Plato, Augustine, Descartes, Kant and Emerson among others.  And we still have a few weeks left to learn from others before this young man continues the rest of his journey without me.  I am pleased to know that he has been transformed, and grateful that he, the afore-mentioned young ladies, and all the rest of the students passing through, have given color and texture to my life. Who needs a furnace tonight?!

Yes, tonight I have sundry reasons to smile.  Life is complex with these myriads of details and decisions that zigzag our way through each day.  But I am convinced that we are going somewhere.  And the journey has quality.

Thanks for reading, and sharing this night with me.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Sketching on the Run, and Always Thinking

November 13, 2014
Another Quick Watercolor Sketch

Another Quick Watercolor Sketch

I’ll take weeks out doing drawings, watercolor studies, I may never use.  I’ll throw them in a backroom, never look at them again or drop them on the floor and walk over them.  But I feel that the communion that has seeped into the subconscious will eventually come out in the final picture.

Andrew Wyeth

I’ve been reaping a whirlwind the past few days.  My two schools are hurtling toward the close of the fall term with all its craziness.  Holidays are drawing nearer, temperatures have plummeted, and my afternoon/evening engagements seem to be increasing of late.  In the midst of all this, I still find the quiet center for art.  I sketch daily, either in charcoal or watercolor.  The one posted above was begun last evening at the Trinity Aritsts Guild gallery in Bedford, Texas.  Several of us gathered to paint, chat and enjoy one another’s company.  Following the ninety-minute sketching time, I was privleged to have a late dinner with more meaningful conversation.  All of the ideas exchanged last night, combined with the time making art, awoke me in the morning darkness, long before the alarm was to go off.  My mind was surging with ideas, all of them good.  I have good friends to thank for those mental resources.

School today is on a Pep Rally schedule and the football playoffs are underway.  Everyone’s mind seems to be on everything except education.  So . . . I have pushed my art history students into another day to study Andrew Wyeth’s work, and I pause for a moment between classes to photograph last night’s sketch that I’ve had on my desk before me all morning.  This is turning out to be an excellent day for rumination, reflection and recording.  My journal is filling up, and I am in the mood to start another sketch.  With each successive sketch, I feel myself getting closer and closer to beginning the large still life composition that still waits patiently in the dim recesses of my garage studio.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


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