Gallery Musings

July 15, 2017

gallery musings

We have an event at The Gallery at Redlands this evening, so I am still here at the desk, reading and keeping myself occupied. I have begun reading Paul Klee’s monograph, On Modern Art, a short treatise prepared as a lecture given in 1924. Right out of the gate, he began constructing a metaphor of the artist as a tree, and then overpowered me with this observation:

And yet, standing at his appointed place, the trunk of the tree, he does nothing other than gather and pass on what comes to him from the depths. He neither serves nor rules–he transmits.

His position is humble.  And the beauty of the crown is not his own. He is merely a channel.

I love this! And I love thinking about the process of making art as merely drawing something up from the depths, being a channel for something meaningful. Throughout my life, I have been surprised repeatedly by what flows out of my brush or drags out from under the point of my pencil. The process of painting and drawing has always been its own reward, and I’m happy that I’ve gotten to participate in this event.

Thanks for reading. I hope you draw as much inspiration from Klee’s observation as I did.


Finished my Night Train

July 15, 2017

The rains have turned this into a quiet Saturday in the gallery. I took advantage and finally finished one of my favorite “Christmas Trains” theme.

July 15, 2017

A Simple Life

A hard rain is pummeling Palestine, Texas currently, forbidding me to dash down the street to retrieve my art supplies. I’m cozied inside The Gallery at Redlands for the day, my recent train watercolors lined up before me, and I’m in the mood to complete a couple of them. But I wait . . .

I just finished reading Christina Baker Kline’s a piece of the world, a fictional memoir for Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting “Christina’s World”. I found so much to love as I read the details of the Olson’s 18th-centry house and the Spartan existence Christina and brother Alvaro endured there. 

Living in my suburban  neighborhood, I of course take for granted our current conveniences. But I spent my childhood summers on the modest farms of my grandparents, with no indoor plumbing, heated by wood-burning stoves.

The store/residence where I spent last night is one of my favorite places to get away from the everyday familiar. Above, I’ve posted the photo I took during breakfast, while fully enjoying the feel of the country kitchen.

Saying good-bye to the store . . . 

. . . and Hello to The Gallery at Redlands 

Thanks for reading.

Flight to the Country

July 14, 2017

I didn’t reach my destination till after 11:00 tonight, but I’m thankful to be in my favorite getaway for the weekend. I was invited to an Open Mic in Hillsboro, Texas earlier where I got to reconnect with a host of friends I haven’t seen in years. Once the event finished, I decided to drive across the country to this spot rather than return home (where the air conditioning still isn’t repaired–house temps reached 92 today!).

I’m thankful for gracious friends who have offered me a bedroom this past week, and always appreciative of the friends who have given me access to this store in the remote country where I can relax off the grid and let my imagination mingle with this interior filled with the furnishings from decades past.

Tomorrow I’ll spend in The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine. I miss seeing my friends in the historic Inn at Redlands as well. The weekend offers good things.

Thanks for reading.

Snatching at Happiness

July 13, 2017

20170713_092129 (1)

People have to snatch at happiness when they can, in this world. It is always easier to lose than to find . . . “

Willa Cather, O Pioneers!

Some memories are realities and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.

Willa Cather, My Ántonìa

Good Day, friends.  My blog has been quiet for several days. I left St. Louis last Monday, and drove all afternoon and into the night, arriving at my Texas home with 90-degree temperatures indoors.  Yeah.  The third time in a decade I’ve returned from a vacation to discover a central air conditioning unit on the fritz. The good thing about a home maintenance contract is the cost of only a service call.  The bad things include waiting (this time four days and counting) for a contractor to arrive, who frequently puts a band-aid on the unit rather than replacing it. So I’ve spent this entire week in air conditioned businesses by day and hotels or dear friends’ homes by night. Hence not much to express on the blog.

But I came across these Willa Cather quotes this morning while reading from a novel I just purchased, a piece of the world. The narrative explores the life of Christina Olson, the forlorn subject of Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting Christina’s World. Since high school, I have known this workand brooded over its layers of possible interpretation. In this engaging literary, piece, Christina muses over these quotes, and my heart was stirred as I recorded them in my journal and pondered their messages.

I won’t pretend to understand the notion of happiness, and have always wondered whether or not I myself could be regarded as a “happy” individual. Frankly, I’ve considered myself serious and (most of the time) contented. But happy?  I’m not sure. Throughout my life I have known multitudes of friends who exude a happy exterior that I feel I have never projected. During several occasions of my classroom encounters, when the subject was raised, I would muse aloud whether or not happiness was overrated.

Already, I feel that I am rambling, but I want to get this out: I have known countless moments of unspeakable happiness in my life. But the bursts of happiness were always ephemeral, and I always had to cope with the moments that were low or just benign. But I’ve never complained that life was overall unhappy. I guess what I am saying is that I agree with the first quote–happiness is easier lost than found. And oftentimes I feel that happiness finds me, surprises me, visits me, rather than claim that I successfully found it.

As to the second quote, I offer a resounding Yes. My memories are among my greatest sources of happiness. My life has been abundantly blessed with a myriad of memories that will never evaporate. And the memories are always there for the recall.  Unlike happiness that I find at will, the memories I can indeed call up anytime I need them.

Thanks for reading. I just wanted to get this off my chest, while I flit from place to place, seeking an air-conditioned environment!


The Long Road Home

July 10, 2017


. . . what I want and all my days I pine for is to go back to my house and see my day of homecoming.  and if some god batters me far out on the wine-blue water I will endure it, keeping a stubborn spirit inside me, for already I have suffered much and done much hard work on the waves and in the fighting.  So let this adventure follow.

Homer, The Odyssey

Forty years ago, on July 3, I made my first trek from St. Louis, Missouri to Fort Worth, Texas, a twelve-hour drive, to open a new chapter of my life as I entered graduate school. Of course, I assumed I would return “home” in a few years and begin my profession. Instead, I began it in Texas and only recently retired from it.

The intervening four decades have been marked by that back-and-forth highway odyssey of sustained windshield time and interior thoughts allowed to flow like a river through my consciousness. I suppose the most constant theme has been that notion of “home.” Where has that been?  Coming to St. Louis has always meant coming home, and seeing parents and siblings–all of them still living–and feeling the welcome embrace of homecoming. Yet, all the while here, while enjoying the comforts and conversation and new /old sights surrounding me, I’ve been conscious that my home is far away, and the day will arrive that I return. And so, this morning, that day has again arrived. Before me lays that unwinding road, with the undulating windshield cinematography and the unspooling thoughts drifting through my mind. As always before, I expect I’ll find comfort in all that.

As usual, I awoke too early this morning, without an alarm, and Dad won’t be getting up for breakfast for about an hour. This affords an exquisite opportunity to sit on the carport and gaze at yet another splendorous display of lemon yellow sunlight pouring through the tall trees surrounding my parents’ house, and listen to the winds and the chorus of the birds.

Dad and I always go to Dave’s Diner for breakfast on the mornings that I am up here, even though I sleep in my sister and brother-in-law’s house a half mile away.  Yesterday morning, while returning home, my 88-year-old dad, a Korean combat veteran, dropped a CD into the console, saying, “This is the only song I care to listen to anymore.”  It was Billy Joel’s “My Life”! And so, I awoke this morning with those lyrics still pulsating through my head. My dad is quiet, with a great deal of space always surrounding him. How my heart vibrated to know that these are the kinds of thoughts that matter to him, at his age. We always wonder what kinds of notions lie at the bottoms of deep pools of silence in the ones we love. Yesterday, by just playing a song, Dad parted the waters and gave me a glimpse of what was at the bottom. I’ll be thinking a great deal of that while I’m on the road.


My Dad

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’ 
We are not now that strength which in old days 
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; 
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”


Thanks for reading.

And Some of the Words were Theirs

July 8, 2017

big river dark

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Spending an entire day fishing the Big River, with Wayne White, the River Sage, has filled me with ideas that are still incubating. River metaphors continue to resonate with me, and waking shortly after 6:00 this morning, sitting outside in a 67-degree paradise with a journal in my lap, I decided to explore this theme further.

For a number of years now, I have combed the surviving fragments of the Presocratic thinker Heraclitus, and this morning I added yet another gem to my favorite quotes from him. Previously, I have discussed with others his famous sayings: “All things flow; nothing abides” and “You can’t set foot in the same river twice”.  In my classroom, I have often contrasted him with Parmenides, arguing that Heraclitus represented a worldview of change while Parmenides offered a world of permanence. Heraclitus was fond of river metaphors while Parmenides preferred the circle.  But this morning, I was struck from the following, Heraclitus Fragment B50:

When you have listened, not to me, but to the Word,

it is wise to confess: One is All.

Yes, at face value that offers little. Translations always leave far too much in the shadows. The Greek text, however, is loaded, and once we try to expound the layers of meaning within those few words, the explanation becomes so ponderous that listeners become just as bored with the elaboration as they were dismissive of the terse text.

Having written that, let me try to offer this: The first line contrasts the one speaking and the Word.  Heidegger has pointed out that the Greek notion of “word” (logos) can mean “the gathering together.” The idea is immense, with “word” referring to some kind of cohering force. Keeping that in mind, the first line contrasts listening to speakers’ scattered opinions with the force that coheres.  All my life I have heard the noise of conflicting voices, often as annoying as today’s talk radio, everyone arguing for the supremacy of his/her position. Behind the cacophony of those scattered remarks lies the truth, the word that is coherent, not divided.

Second line: wisdom is something that always comes with time, never early. So, following the first line, when one has finally learned to listen to the force that gathers, s/he makes the wise choice of “confessing.” The Greek term for word (logos) is echoed in this word for confession (homologein).  “Homo” is “the same”. “Logein” is an infinitive, often translated “to speak”, but you see that its root is “logos”.  “To speak the same word” is what we translate “confess.”  And, when one hears that gathering force, and speaks in the same vein, what exactly is this confession?  “All is one.”

To sum up, when one listens to the gathering force rather than the scattered voices, wisdom dawns, and s/he confesses that there is an ultimate unity. Yes, this is my take on the Heraclitus fragment, and I’m holding it up, still believing that in our age, as in all previous ages, confusion often arises from the chorus of conflicting opinions, many of them shouted, and some of them backed by physical force. But I believe that there is an ultimate ground, a unity, from which all these fragments have spawned. The only limitations I see are the small minds unwilling to accept that there is much more than the perspectives they champion.

A day on the river was what I needed, and today more than yesterday, I realize the value it has brought to my life.

Thanks for reading. Now, let me offer up a few photos from yesterday’s odyssey:

big rock david

I shuddered when I finally saw this bluff with my own eyes.  Wayne has christened it “The Rock of David,” honoring me for doing a watercolor sketch of it last year from one of his photos. I promise that, having seen it now with my own eyes, I will endeavor to do a better painting of it in the future.  We anchored and fished next to this magnificent edifice for quite awhile.

big black

Throughout my life, I have caught so many species of pan fish that I have identified as perch, bluegill, red ear, warmouth, sunfish, etc. But never before have I caught anything as black as this. Wayne caught one as well.  These were firsts for my eyes.

big sunnie

As I’ve written before, I used to catch many of these as a boy, but haven’t seen one now for decades. Yesterday I caught at least half a dozen of them.

big little sunny

Even as small as this!

big wayne

Finally, hats off to Wayne, my trusted River Captain. He and Mark Nelson are the ones who make me feel safe. Alone, I am capable of capsizing kayaks. With these gentlemen, I am always safer whether in a canoe or in a john boat. My heartfelt thanks goes out to both of them for two splendid river excursions.

big river light

Call of the River

July 7, 2017


Fly Fishing Big River Earlier this Week

At 2:51 this morning, I decided to rise from my bed with a bruising headache, take some Ibuprofen, and sit up to wait for the pain to subside.  Headaches for me are an extremely rare occurrence, but when they do arrive, there seems to be no dispatching them without medication and a period of time sitting upright.  As I wait, I suppose I’ll attempt this blog.

I have posted above a photo my friend Wayne White took of me during our first attempt at kayaking Big River–a comedy of errors involving my capsizing my own kayak more than once, and Wayne having some difficulty transporting supplies on a separate vessel. At this point, we decided to beach the yaks on a sandbar and spend some time fishing this beautiful stream of water.

The river still calls out to us, and I am supposed to rise at 6:30, in just a few short hours, to join Wayne again for another boating expedition.   Despite my current pain, I am eagerly looking forward to this event, as Wayne is going to take me to a bluff that I tried to render in a watercolor sketch last year from a photo he took and sent to me.  I look forward finally to seeing the bluff with my own eyes.

rock of david

Watercolor Sketch of Big River Bluff

Earlier today, I managed to work further on the Palestine Texas and Pacific #610 that I began a few days ago.  I am getting bogged down in the details of the locomotive and choose not to rush the process, as I still have a number of unanswered questions concerning the actual tones of this complex subject.


Night Train

Fortunately, my headache has ceased. Time now to return to bed and hopefully get some quality sleep before rising to meet the river again.

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.

Still Working on the Night Train

July 5, 2017

night train

I have had difficulty finding quality time to work on this old iron horse, but found a second wind late this evening, and decided to give it a few more nudges.  Hence I’m posting it for any of my blogging friends who have been interested in watching it take form. My biggest trials at this point are the rendering of all the details on this machine, as well as differentiating between so many shades of gray.

Thanks for reading.

Fourth of July Painting

July 4, 2017


Family is starting to arrive for our Fourth of July cookout, so I’m posting what I’ve done so far today.  Working on details becomes so tedious that I frequently turn my attention to reading and writing, taking breaks from the watercolor.  The biography on Cezanne is amazing, as I’m reading now of how captivated he was in his scrutiny of inanimate objects.  I have always felt that unusual draw, as inanimate objects hold my attention. Recently, it is all these steam locomotives that I have been photographing in Palestine, Texas and St. Louis, Missouri.  Throughout this day, I have pored over the minute, exacting details of the portrait of this old #610 Texas and Pacific loco of which I’ve already attempted an earlier painting.

I enjoy our all-too-rare family gatherings, and hope that posting this blog will bring a sense of release so that I don’t sit quietly thinking over it while others are trying to visit. I’ve always struggled between the private and social moments of my day-to-day existence.

Thanks for reading and happy Fourth of July!