Small Steps Back to the Winter Man Cave

September 14, 2014
Clearing Out Space to Work Again in the Man Cave

Clearing Out Space to Work Again in the Man Cave

Current wisdom, especially that propagated by the various schools of psychoanalysis, assumes that man is a social being who neeeds the companionship and affection of other human beings from cradle to grave.,  It is widely believed that interpersonal relationships of an intimate kind are the chief, if not the only, source of human happiness.  Yet the lives of creative idividuals often seem to run counter to this assumption.

Anthony Storr, Solitude: A Return to the Self

Texas weather brought quite the surprise in recent days, notwithstanding the news of the Canadian cold front pushing its way southward.  Friday after school, temperatures dropped to the lower sixties in the afternoon, and brisk north winds picked up to the point that I was forced to leave a Starbuck’s patio and go inside (the short-sleeved Tshirt wasn’t getting the job done).  By morning, temperatures were around 55 degrees and the world so much more beautiful outside than it had been in months.  A Texas garge is off-limits during the summer months of triple-digit temperatures, and so today with great delight I re-entered my garage and began reclaiming the “man cave” half that had been abandoned nearly two years ago.  So much stuff had accumulated that it took a couple of hours to hew out a good working space at my drafting table, sit on the sofa with coffee and an excellent book, grade papers, and listen to the Gregorian Chant playing on the garage stereo.  As the winter arrives, I have these aspirations to return to serious still life studies as I did two winters ago.   Throughout the interim, I have collected many, many antique objects to add to my studio collection, and I am more than ready to do some new studies.

My desire to resume the blog activity is increasing of late.  For several weeks the high school and university claimed the lion’s share of my daily attention, and I have found great satisfaction in the efforts there.  My memory has to go back a number of years to recall such a satisfying start as this.  At the time of this writing, I still have quite a stack of grading to complete before going to bed tonight, but none of the resentment that used to attach itself to such assignments as before.  Things are different now, and I’m pleased with the changes.

Recent watercolor attempts have been revolving around private lessons, and I indeed found much joy in those encounters as well.  I have a festival approaching in a couple of weeks, and trust that I’ll get my watercolor chops back by that time.  With great enthusiasm I am also anticipating the fall colors that should arrive soon, and I have pledged not to let the fall season escape without significant plein air study this time around.

This is good time of the year, and I look forward to sharing more of these delicious experiences on the blog.

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.

A New School Year, and New Horizons

September 9, 2014

A New School Year, and New Horizons.

A New School Year, and New Horizons

September 9, 2014

A Recent Watercolor Demo

A Recent Watercolor Demo

There is the new movement.  There always has been the new movement and there always will be the new movement.  It is strange that a thing which comes as regularly as clockwork should always be a surprise.

In new movements, the pendulum takes a great swing, charlatans crowd in, innocent apes follow, the masters make their successes and they make their mistakes as all pioneers must do.  It is necessary to pierce to the core to get at the the value of a movement and not be confused by its sensational exterior.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I acknowledge my silence over the past week as I’ve settled into the third week of a new school year with a host of new challenges.  I am teaching my first online course at a local university and am settling into a new high school environment (for me)–AVID.  Both of these enterprises are a challenge (I am not the quick-study that I was at the age of 25 or 30).  Both are offering unprecented rewards.  I wish I would have made the decision to do these tasks earlier in my educational career.  I am beginning to feel more now that my work actually matters.  And these two new venues are sending me in new directions though I am studying much of the same subject matter as in prior years.  I am happy to write that all classes are going very, very well–Advanced Placement Art History, Regular Art History, Philosophy, Logic and AVID.  I pause tonight, wondering what I ever did to receive a gift of such value.

I am posting the Henri quote (I am so loving the experience of re-reading this book) because I have moved far enough into the year where I no longer hear in the “ears” of my memory all the horse-hockey jargon that filled the air the week before school started, when teachers were forced to sit in meetings and listen to all the “wisdom” gathered from data and statistics, then handed down by “educators” on state and national levels.  Theories advanced by those who have never stood before students (or did so long ago that they have forgotten the reality of the day-to-day experience) always ring hollow to me.  This year was no different.  The new books and articles coming out are not filled with new things at all, just new words to encapsulate the same theories that didn’t work under the old words.  And yet, someone is making a pile of money copyrighting and circulating this recycled trash.

After twenty-five years, I still love the life of an educator.  I love looking into the students’ eyes daily.  I love their feedback, verbal and nonverbal.  And I am still astonished at their insight and zest to know more.  As for me, I still love learning, and live to know more.  Recently my watercolor activity has been curtailed because of all the reading and research pursued, and I have loved every late night of it, including tonight.  Since graduate school, my heart and mind have found joy in the enterprise of learning, and I’m grateful to have a job where I can pursue this without apology.  All I can hope is that should the day ever arrive when I am too old and tired to be inspired that I will do the students a favor and get out, hoping they can still remember the good years.  

Tomorrow I have AVID and Philosophy students to encounter.  I’m ready, and appreciative.

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.

 

Labor Day Wanderings

September 1, 2014

Plein Air Watercolor Sketchin in Hico, Texas

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch in Hico, Texas

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,

Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,

Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,

Strong and content I travel the open road.

Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road”

Monday.  Labor Day.  At around 11:00 this morning, I suddenly felt the window slamming shut on my three-day holiday.  I had not yet taken to the open road, and determined that it was today or not for a long time.  I gassed up my Jeep and felt the whisper of Hico, Texas, a town I had not visited in several years, but could still remember that quaint boulevard running down the center of historic downtown, replete with park benches and a gazebo.  The afternoon drive proved to be a long and arduous one, with termperatures lingering right at a hundred degrees, but I loved the old boulevard the moment I saw it. Once I began work on the sketch, I found the nonstop traffic rumbling along the highway through the middle of town to be a comfort, and I focused on the rough-cut stone facade of one of the historic buildings replete with a Coca-Cola ghost sign.  I had tried this composition a few years back and was glad to rest the watercolor block on my knees for a second try.

My Littered Work Area

My Littered Work Area

The play of the hot sun off the rusticated facade delighted my eye, and I spent most of this afternoon peering at those textures and colors, attempting to capture them on the page.  Throughout the afternoon, Walt Whitman’s words resounded in my memory, and I was grateful for his companionship.

Hico, Texas bench with watercolor and the view

Hico, Texas bench with watercolor and the view

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.

 

 

 

 

 

First the Blade, then the Ear, after that . . .

August 31, 2014

My High School Classroom, First Day

For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

Mark 4:28 (King James Version)

Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been.

 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I want to offer a few thoughts about “a little at a time.”  While regarding life’s growth in small, unobservable links, Thoreau wrote that he himself was developing as “corn in the night.”  Hemingway, in A Moveable Feast, revealed that he could write for an entire morning, and finish with only “one true sentence”.  when experiencing fears associated with writer’s block in Paris between 1921 and 1926, he found ways to speak sternly to himself:

“Do not worry.  You have always written before and you will write now.  All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence that you know.”

I am now reading with great delight Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire.  I have read nothing from Nabokov before, though I acknowledge that his greatness has been sung in my hearing for years.  As it took me until this summer to read Melville’s Moby Dick in its entirety, I now turn, in my later years, to another legendary author and his work.

Pale Fire, in the Foreword, speaks of the meticulous work of John Francis Shade in constructing his final poem in four cantos.  As I read of his meticulous daily work, I recalled testimonies from Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound, men devoted to the meticulous craft of writing.

Today, over the Labor Day holiday, having finished my first week of high school and second week of college, I am thinking of the necessity of working daily and consistently on my projects, even though it means incremental gains.  At least there will be something to show when my projects roll off the assembly lines, whenever that may be.  I do have some deadlines one week away.  My painting, my reading, my journaling, my writing, and (hopefully) my publishing shall be completed, only if I am willing to give them daily attention.  For a couple of weeks now, I have felt overwhelmed at the projects I have wanted to accomplish, and all of that has translated into an inertia, and nothing was done from day to day aside from the chronic demand and grind of accomplishing my classroom responsibilities.  I am just as busy now as I have ever been before, except that I am not managing to get my “artful” projects accomplished.  But I shall, little by little, and will watch with delight as my work grows “like corn in the night.”

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.

I Am Still Here

August 19, 2014

Practice Drawings from an All-Day Workshop during Teacher Inservice

Practice Drawings from an All-Day Workshop during Teacher Inservice

He is the rich man and enjoys the fruits of riches, who, summer and winter forever, can find delight in the contemplation of his soul.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, December 26, 1841

In the quiet of this night I finally reach out to my WordPress, Twitter and facebook friends.  My last post was over two weeks ago, as I was preparing to leave on a two-week vacation, not wishing to advertise that my residence was uninhabited. During that space, I have drafted a number of blog posts, but am still editing them, not wishing to publish a pile of crude first drafts. I cannot express my deepfelt gratitude for the two-week sojourn in Missouri and the visits with family and friends from long ago. The relaxation and repose were qualitatively unexplainable–no deadlines, no appointments, no alarm clocks, just rest. My whole world slowed down considerably.

As I write this, I am nearly halfway through a week of mandatory Inservice meetings provided by my school district.  I wish I could write that they have presented quality instruction and inspiration, but I try to keep my blog honest.  But I will say, without reservation, that today’s all-day workshop in colored-pencil drawing was one of the finest I have ever attended, and I cannot sufficiently praise the high school instructor who led this–Ryan Willingham of Arlington High School.  This man is a master draftsman and even better communicator and demonstrator.  His work throughout the day made me want to quit my job and spend entire days, weeks, months in the studio, attempting to get better in drawing skills.  In this, I do not exaggerate. Above, I posted my own attempts, and though I obtained permission to photograph his work, I didn’t think to ask permission to publish his, so I will not.  But if I did, my work in the photo above would certainly diminish.  I have spent hours this evening, poring over the photos I took of his demonstration drawings created this day before our delighted eyes.  Wow. What a day, and what an artist!

Tomorrow begins the first day of the semester at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, and with it, the launch of my first ever online course in Logic.  Naturally, I feel jitters waiting to see how this is going to play out.  And then Monday begins the first day of high school, with my courses in Advanced Placement and Regular Art History, Philosophy and AVID.  AVID will be a new experience for me, as will the college online arena.  I only hope to retain sanity and a measure of success in those new endeavors.

More art will be posted in the future.  I did engage in some plein air watercolor activity during my vacation, dashing out two small studies, and I have nearly finished that large Fort Worth Scat Jazz Lounge watercolor as well.  Oh–and I finished reading Moby Dick–WOW!!!! More on that later as well.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone (and did a ton of that over the past weeks)

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Images that Evoke Memories

July 28, 2014

Scat Jazz Lounge, Fort Worth, Texas

Scat Jazz Lounge, Fort Worth, Texas

Every true artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and color and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture.

Piet Mondrian

A few years ago, I paused one night in a Fort Worth alley and photographed the lighted sign of this sub street-level jazz club.  Finally I am getting around to painting it, because the brightness of the lights and color against the smoky brick walls attracted my attention, and took my imagination back to my pre-literate childhood.  

My father worked at a Chevrolet dealership on Kingshighway in St. Louis when I was a small child. I cannot shake those memories of the lit-up signs downtown that I was not yet old enough to read. And I still recall those smoke-stained brick walls everywhere, colored by the downtown smog. The eyes of my memory still can see the signs, hear the traffic, and smell the stench of burn barrels on virtually every corner of that working-class district.  

The first time I saw Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie-Woogie, I knew I wanted to attempt to paint neon signs and light bulb signs in watercolor.  The clash of the primay colors was always scintillating to my visual perceptions.

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.

Working on the Fort Worth Scat Jazz Lounge Sign

July 26, 2014

Saturday Work on the Jazz Watercolor

Saturday Work on the Jazz Watercolor

Wallace Stevens is America’s great poet of the endles cycles of desire and despair.

PBS, Voices and Visions, “Wallace Stevens: Man Made Out of Words”

I could never have planned a better Saturday.  The light is bright coming through my studio windows, and I’m finding it a pleasant challenge distnguishing cool yellow light bulbs from the warm yellow sign from which they protrude.  This is calling for quite a bit of experimenting and study in color theory, but I love the exploration.  When I’m learning something new, I am inspired as an artist.

On days like today, I find it difficult, deciding between painting and reading.  Wallace Stevens and his poetry have been burning on my mind since the awakening hour this morning.  Fortunately, PBS has posted their Voices and Visions series on the Internet, and I have been thrilled listening to the readings of Stevens’s poetry during this sixty-minute documentary.  I played it through completely, twice, as I bent over this watercolor and made decisions.

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.

 

The Affirming Embrace of a Saturday Morning

July 26, 2014

Coffee: the Perfect Companion in the Art Studio

Coffee: the Perfect Companion in the Art Studio

For I have known them all already, known them all:–

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

July 26, 1992 marks one of the more perfect days of my earthly odyssey, especially when I measure out my life with coffee spoons.  That historic day was spent in Oregon, as I neared the finish of a blissful five-week seminar on the writings of Emerson, Thoreau and Margaret Fuller. To mark today’s anniversary, I’ve decided to begin with a cup of Hood River Coffee.  I ordered the beans from that company in Portland, Oregon, and was pleased to receive them on my doorstep yesterday.  This is only the second time in twenty-two years that I have ordered from them, but believe I’ll make a practice of it from here on out.  And today I will let the memories of Oregon, the mountains, the tall trees, the Pacific coast and the writings of those three bards flood my soul while I work on watercolor, read, scribble in the journal, and know from the heart the gratitude of feeling fully alive.

More later . . . thanks for reading.  It’s a beautiful Saturday in Texas.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not really alone.

 

The Coleridge Syndrome

July 25, 2014

Slow Excavation on this Large Watercolor

Slow Excavation on this Large Watercolor

I must forge ahead, and stop only to finish the Velasquez.  The human mind is strangely made!  I would have consented, I believe, to work at it perched on a belfry; now I can think of the finishing of it only as the greatest bore.  All this, simply because I have been away from it for so long.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal

I read somewhere that Samuel Taylor Coleridge was criticized on two fronts: 1) that he was a dreamy child given to long spells of contemplation, making him an easy target for accusations of indolence, and 2) as a writing adult, his room was perpetually littered with unfinished literary projects.  Today, as I let out a sigh, looking at a number of my unfinished watercolors, I was bemused to come across this quote from Delacroix as I was reading in his journals.  How hard it is to breathe life back into a work of art that has lost its initial spirit due to neglect.  I enjoyed lunch with a good friend and colleague earlier today, and we shared a laugh about our A.D.D. tendencies (he also has more interests than time to devote to all of them fairly).  Both of us admitted that we wish we were better “finishers” in all our endeavors, but we do enjoy our lives and all these avenues that seem to present themselves to us simultaneously.  Thank God for these three-day summer weekends.

There is a thick crust that must be broken before I can take heart in anything; a rebellious piece of ground that resists the ploughshare and the hoe.  But with a little tenacity, its unfriendliness suddenly vanishes.  It is prodigal with flowers and with fruit.

Delacroix, Journal

I know very well this “thick crust” of which Delacroix wrote.  After a few days, I finally feel that a sense of momentum is returning on this large Fort Worth Jazz piece I began a few months ago. Returning to it has required some strong talk and even stronger coffee, but I’m glad I stayed with it. The detailing on the sign is coming along very slowly, with plenty of stops and walks across the studio to view it from a distance and see if what I am doing is O.K.  Not having a deadline is a good thing for me right now, and I’m glad to take my time and watch this develop slowly and naturally.

I wish that I could write interesting things about the Logic course I’m developing, as it’s taking large chunks out of my day.  I am loving the study of it, but cannot find a way to rhapsodize about the subject in my writing.  So I’ll just let that one simmer in the background.

Thanks always 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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