Welcoming 2019

January 1, 2019

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The passions are a kind of thirst, inexorable and intense, for certain feelings or felt states. To find or invent ‘objects’ (which are, more strictly speaking, relational structures) whose felt quality satisfies the passions,- that for me is the activity of the artist, an activity which does not cease even in sleep. No wonder the artist is constantly placing and displacing, relating and rupturing relations; his task is to find a complex of qualities whose feeling is just right – veering toward the unknown and chaos, yet ordered and related in order to be apprehended.

–Robert Motherwell

What an exhilaration to awake to a 19-degree winter morning on New Year’s Day 2019! With no appointments on the books, I felt a soothing calm as the day presented itself with leisure and books. Reading passages from Abstract Expressionist artist Robert Motherwell put me in the frame of mind to explore drawing with renewed vigor. He defined drawing as a method for organizing space on a two-dimensional plane.

The first day of the new year often witnesses a different trajectory in my art. Currently I am working on commissions, and will begin posting them, but I also laid down a New Year resolution that I would draw more. So . . . a few years ago, I drew one winter tree per day for the month of January, then matted each 5 x 7″ drawing, framed a few, and sold a large quantity of them. This year, I’m not thinking about the sale, only the hope to improve with the careful discipline and repetition of drawing. My intention is to spend January with a focus on drawing nature.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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Workshop Afterglow

June 10, 2019

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Summer Rapture, 8 x 10, in 11 x 14″ white mat, $100

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Summer Rapture II, 8 x 10, in 11 x 14″ white mat, $100

. . . even the brightest and most creative aren’t immune to this nagging sense of dread–a feeling that, eventually, someone will pull back the curtain and reveal just how untalented and unworthy they truly are. Maya Angelou once confessed, “I have written eleven books, but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'”

Rich Karlgaard, Late Bloomers

Quality sleep eluded me last night. I retired to bed around 1 a.m., and then REM activity aroused me at 4:50. Wishing to hold on to these details, I turned on the light, retrieved my journal, and recorded the dream for over thirty minutes. The time was well-spent, I believe. Turning the light out, I tried to return to sleep, but realized thirty minutes later that it wasn’t going to happen. So . . .

My morning in the Gallery at Redlands has been quiet and very satisfying. I have nearly finished reading Late Bloomers, and am so enriched by it. I used the quote above for a portion of my “talking points” that opened the weekend’s watercolor workshop in Flint, Texas. I shared with the group my embarrassment when introduced with glowing words such as my host had just used. After all these years of painting and workshops, I still feel that Toto from the Wizard of Oz is going to pull back the curtain, and the workshop participants will see that the “artist” is just a bent old man pulling levers, not accomplishing anything of value.

The format for this workshop was a first for me. I pre-planned every step of the painting process, and thought through how I could present this one-day session without making the participants think they were merely taking a “Painting with a Twist” class. The image sent me was taken from an Italian setting:

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I received the image via email, and as I painted it ahead of time, I recorded in my journal the steps I took from start to finish. I emailed the line drawing, encouraging the participants to trace it onto their watercolor paper before coming to the workshop.

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Next, I determined that I wished to render the top portion with Winsor & Newton Transparent Yellow, the bottom with Winsor Violet and a touch of Transparent Yellow, and the center with an even blend of the two colors.

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From this point forward, I would take the students from the top of the composition to the bottom, demonstrating various techniques for rendering details.

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I took my finished painting to the workshop for them to see as a reference painting, then began a second one from the initial line drawing, and demonstrated the stages in the same order as I had done just a few days earlier. I was astounded at the quality of all the paintings that emerged, and the enthusiasm of the participants still has me feeling warm inside.

All of this is just to say–this is not the way I paint. I have always disdained a formulaic approach to making art, and so have struggled with the pedagogical aspects of the artistic enterprise. Reading Late Bloomers has brought many of my feelings to the surface and I am attempting to get them out in the open. Because I didn’t learn the way I was expected to from my youth, I always harbored self-doubt about my abilities. And as a public school teacher, I always loathed the formulaic approaches handed me–lesson plans, teaching students the “steps” to the process, data analysis, grade distribution, ad infinausea. I still believe curiosity is the student’s greatest resource, and if s/he has the drive and courage to explore the frontiers of knowledge, this student should not be confined to “steps” of a process.

So. For the first time, I took my students through “steps” to a painting, but tried all along to convince them that following the steps wasn’t what made them an artist–each one had her own vision, and that vision is sacred. I didn’t expect identical paintings from them, and I didn’t get them. What I did get was an amazing array of paintings of an Italian scene. And each student seemed satisfied that she had created a quality piece of art and not a cookie-cutter reproduction of the teacher’s work.

I believe that all legitimate art is a synthesis of Apollo and Dionysus, the two competing gods behind Greek drama. Apollo represents the steps, the discipline, the rules of the craft. Dionysus represents the spontaneity, the passion, the individual’s creative eros. Last weekend, I brought Apollo to the session, but the students allowed their own Dionysus to enter the arena of creativity. And I still smile at the memories of that day.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Jerry’s Texaco

June 9, 2019

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Jerry’s Texaco

Over-worked and under-rested, the aging men of Turvey’s Corner began their early-morning drive to St. Louis, twenty-seven miles east on Highway 30. Around the first bend of the highway out of town, they found a welcoming stop at Jerry’s Texaco. The bell cables clanged as the sedans rolled up to the gas pumps, and Steve, the young attendant, pushed aside his college books to hustle out and service the vehicles. The aroma of coffee brewing inside usually lured the men out of their cars and inside for caffeine stimulation and the exchange of local news stories. Visits here always seemed to make the workday go a little better.

Six Subjects in Search of a Painter

Six Subjects in Search of a Painter

Steve was up late again, bedding down in the storeroom of the old filling station.  He had closed the place at dusk after the last of the Turvey’s Corner work force drifted in and out, their work in the city done for another day. Steve himself could have called it a day but was too engrossed in his college studies to pack up the books and head for his garage apartment in the next county. So, with the owner’s permission, he would spend another night in the back storeroom where he kept his cot, amidst the smells of gasoline, oil, pit grease and the grime that had built up over two generations. The Texaco station was anchored on the first bend of the highway out of Turvey’s Corner. Interstate commerce had all but obliterated this sleepy town, and as soon as this young man graduated from the community college, he would depart as well. The local townspeople and patrons had no knowledge or regard for the things that stirred the soul of Steve. In their eyes, his purpose in life was to pump the gas, check the oil and keep the coffee pouring. But beyond the daily work of the station, Steve’s volumes of Thoreau, Frost, Whitman and Twain had opened to him worlds beyond this community. And his few camping possessions stored in this back room (Griswold frying pan, stove top percolator, kerosene lantern, Maxwell House tin) were the tether that kept him bound to the wild. He would be packing up his gear in a week and leaving without notice. It was time to emerge from this cocoon and embrace the world that was calling out to him.

. . . . .

Unable to sleep tonight, I decided to write a piece to go with my recent gas station painting, then revise the earlier segment I had written to accompany the still life painting. I’m in the mood tonight to put some more pieces in place for my Turvey’s Corner series.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog, reminding myself I am never alone.

 

Sunday Morning Thoughts in the Gallery at Redlands

June 9, 2019

We have learned things which are not in the scripts. . . . We have come to see how great is the unexplored, and many life-times will not bring us to the end of our quest. But we wish no end to our quest. We wish nothing, save to be alone and to learn, and to feel as if with each day our sight were growing sharper than the hawk’s and clearer than rock crystal.

Ayn Rand, Anthem

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Working Sunday Morning in the Gallery at Redlands

In 2016, a year after my Artist-in-Residency at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, a group of artists from east Texas signed up for a three-day watercolor workshop with me on a spoil island in the Texas Laguna Madre. I had no idea then what a wonderful relationship would develop with them. This weekend I was invited to conduct another workshop with this core group in Flint, Texas. This morning finds me back in Palestine’s Redlands Hotel, ruminating over all the new insights that were exchanged among us the past couple of days. I posted the Ayn Rand quote above because I am reading Anthem for the first time, and the passage I read during this quiet reflective morning reminded me instantly of what was so precious this past couple of days.

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Saturday Workshop in Flint, Texas

My workshop group was composed of beginning watercolor students along with well-seasoned artists in watercolor and other media as well. I had the privilege of gaining new insights from a photographer, an oil painter and a colored pencil artist, along with many other kindred spirits. And the joy I felt from the weekend of conversations did not stop with art, but also included great books and ideas related to religion. Most of this morning has been spent scribbling these memories in my journal so I can develop them further at my own leisure. Though a day has passed since I was with them, I can still hear their eager voices in my head and the atmosphere about me right now seems to crackle with intensity and approval.

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One of Two Glorious Fishing Retreats

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Amazing Colors in the Late Afternoon Light

The wonderful family that lodged me during this weekend also took me fishing three times. I am way behind in my fishing quota this year, but thanks to them, I am catching up. We spent a pair of evenings on this beautiful pond, enabling me to fly fish from a boat, working the lily pads and landing quite a load of bluegill. Later last night, we went to Lake Palestine, and I managed to pull in half-a-dozen catfish with the fly rod. That was an experience!

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Possibly Finished with this One

This gas station painting I began recently after finishing the first of my new series titled “Turvey’s Corner 63050”. Years ago, I composed a short prose piece of a young man working in the old station, and have now decided to insert him (and the station) into the narrative of my new series. I haven’t yet come up with a title for this painting, but I have decided to include it, along with the still life below, to my new series. The still life was painted in my garage “man cave” a few winters ago. Here is my story:

The young man was up late again, bedding down in the store room of the old filling station.  He had closed the place at dark, but was too engrossed in his college studies to pack up the books and head for his garage apartment in the next county.  So, with the owner’s permission, he would spend another night in this station store room, amidst the smells of gasoline, oil, pit grease and the grime that had built up over two generations.  The Texaco station was anchored on historic Route 66 in an obscure town east of Amarillo, Texas.  Interstate commerce had all but obliterated the sleepy town, and as soon as this fellow graduated from the community college, he would depart as well.  The local townspeople and patrons had no knowledge or regard for the things that stirred the soul of this young man.  His volumes of Thoreau, Frost, Whitman and Twain had opened to him worlds beyond this community.  And his few camping possessions stored in this room (Griswold frying pan, stove top percolator, kerosene lantern, Maxwell House tin) were the tether that kept him bound to the wild.  He would be packing up his gear in a week and leaving without notice.  It was time to emerge from this cocoon and embrace the world that was calling out to him.

Six Subjects in Search of a Painter

Six Subjects in Search of a Painter

I am very happy today to announce that the inaugural painting of “Turvey’s Corner 63050” found a home this weekend. One of my workshop participants, a very accomplished photographer and oil painter, fell in love with it and purchased it on the spot. So I will post it once more as I say goodbye to another piece that meant a great deal to me while creating it.

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Turvey’s Corner 63050

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Quiet Day to Work in the Gallery at Redlands

June 6, 2019

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Finished Watercolor Sketch for Workshop Activity

Creativity is not the sole province of the young. Some of us simply need more time, experience, and experimentation to develop a path and realize our talents. Life is often defined by snags and setbacks, by detours and disappointments. Purpose and wisdom, strengths of the late bloomer, come from a portfolio of these experiences, making late bloomers more reflective, more considerate, and more patient.

Rich Karlgaard, Late Bloomers

Today has been a rich day for me. The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas has been nice and quiet, offering me plenty of time for reflection and painting. I finally finished the preliminary sketch I will use as a sample during Saturday’s watercolor workshop in east Texas.

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View from the Gallery Desk

I have several more watercolors in progress that are waiting for my attention, so . . . Thanks for reading!

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Gearing Up for the Next Workshop

June 4, 2019

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In Progress Watercolor for Workshop Reference

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”
This coming weekend, I will be working with some of my favorite artists in east Texas. Every time they invite me to judge an event or conduct a workshop, I count the days till I get to see them again. They recently sent me a reference photo of a location in Italy that they wish to paint. Before settling on the composition, they had already decided that they wanted to be instructed in architecture and foliage. I began work on this yesterday and poked around with it for a few hours, then returned to it today, spending more time looking at the reference photo than actually painting the composition. I felt like the carpenter who followed the dictum: Cut once. Measure twice. I always feel dissatisfied when my brush goes on automatic pilot because I am painting something I had attempted many, many times before. With this particular subject, I encountered many first-time objects and surfaces and had to concentrate on how to render them on paper. I always receive so much more enjoyment when engaged this way, constantly questioning, second-guessing. I am reminded of the sentiment of T. S. Eliot–the shadow falls between the conception and act of creation. And I feel something deeply satisfying when I linger in that shadow.

I am preparing to go on the road again, so I am not sure when I will post the next blog. But I always appreciate knowing there are people who look forward to the next installment. Thank you always for reading.

I make art, hoping to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog, reminding myself I am not alone.

Rolling Out a New Series

May 30, 2019

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Turvey’s Corner 63050 (First in a New Series)

Leaning into the polar winds that snapped through the narrow valley of the sleeping Missouri town, Denzil Tucker emerged from the Terra Lounge bar with his snow shovel. Frigid overnight winds had hardened the drifts across the walkway. As he bent to his task, the piercing cacophonous whistle from the Frisco Railroad F9 diesel signaled its approach to the crossing, half a block from the tavern, and Denzil felt beneath his boots the vibrations of the thundering freight cars as they rolled by.

Turning his head, he looked back up the empty street to regather his thoughts. It was a sixteen-degree December morning in Turvey’s Corner, and his mind was numb to the possibilities of anything memorable happening on this particular day. The Korean Conflict was two years behind him, the 38th parallel over 7,000 miles away. But his first-born son, not yet a year old, was slumbering in a dark bedroom on the second story above, and these thoughts offered him a measure of serenity in the face of the frozen morning. 

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My blog has been silent for several weeks, not due to writer’s or painter’s block, but because of days spent in the studio painting and at the desk researching and writing. Since the early 1990’s, I have had this compulsion to paint a series of watercolors illustrating the quintessential American town.  My inspiration has been the literary contributions of Garrison Keillor, Thornton Wilder, Sinclair Lewis, Sherwood Anderson, Edgar Lee Masters, William Faulkner and others. In addition to the paintings, I have sought to develop a cast of characters with their own stories, hoping to come up with my own work combining painting and literature. This project has now spanned nearly three decades, with countless paintings done and just as many stories written. Now that I have begun chipping away at my memoir, I have decided to pull together these fragments from years gone by, and contribute new paintings and stories to the growing collection. Back in March, I held my first gallery talk on “Art in Small Town America” and announced to that audience my intentions for this project.

My town is named Turvey’s Corner, and the zip code falls between two Missouri towns that shaped my upbringing–High Ridge 63049 and House Springs 63051. The painting above is taken from a forgotten corner of lower House Springs, where Highway MM intersects with a recently altered old Highway 30. Over the years I have photographed this row of buildings in all seasons of the year and decided this time to focus on one of my winter compositions.

The narrative for this collection of paintings is loosely constructed from my personal life experience, the man shoveling snow above is my father (with a fake name). The Korean conflict is true, and I am the infant sleeping upstairs. The year is 1954. My father was never a tavern owner, but I thought that story would yield more character than his work as a mechanic for St. Louis car dealerships. I’m still fleshing out the details, and deeply enjoying the work as it unfolds.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Serene Morning in a Railroad Town

May 13, 2019

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Watercolors Completed over the Weekend

The Gallery at Redlands always provides a quiet, serene Monday morning after a weekend of painting and keeping gallery hours. I just finished matting and pricing seven new watercolors completed over the weekend, then stepped out into the cool, sunswept Palestine morning to pick up a few office supplies, and of course, stop to pick up coffee somewhere, anywhere.

Choosing a local donut shop in the same shopping center as Kroger, I went inside, paid for coffee, and held the door open as I was leaving to let in a middle-aged couple. The man looked at me, smiling broadly, and I thought for a moment that he was someone I had encountered in the gallery or at some public function recently. I was stunned when he shouted:

I knew it! Soon as I saw ya comin’ out of that Jeep, I told my wife: “Now see, that there’s a man goin’ after coffee right now!”

I am still laughing as I type out this encounter. I grew up in a midwestern town where strangers never spoke, seldom even made eye contact. But here in Palestine, Texas I encounted a man that still has me laughing and feeling light and lively about the morning. I don’t know what his full-time occupation is, but I certainly hope his fellow workers experience that same light-hearted humor. He reminds me of Shorty Lee, a funny man I worked alongside on a maintenance crew during my graduate school years.  I’ll be thinking and smiling over this morning’s encounter for years, I am confident.

On Smooth Rock 93.5 FM we just shared for the first time a special event coming up soon. On Saturday, may 25, the Texas State Railroad will hold its “Celebration of Steam” event. The excursion train from Palestine to Rusk will run on that day, and ticketholders will get in free. For anyone not riding the train, a $10 gate fee will be charged. Three historic locomotives will be on display throughout the day for photographing. The steam locomotives will be #610 and 30. The refurbished diesel #125 will also be on view. I  have been invited to set up my tent and sell my train art from 8:00-11:00 with the option of staying open when the excursion train returns at 3:00. I am posting below the paintings I have done of the steam locomotives. I have also painted the diesel, but it has since changed its road colors and number.

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After a busy weekend, it feels good to relax in the Gallery for awhile this morning. The watercolors are packaged, priced between $75 and $125 each, and are in the bin. Now, I catch up on some quality reading and reflection.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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Perusing Old Journals and Creating New Paintings

May 12, 2019

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Mother’s Day Morning in the Gallery at Redlands

The daemon knows how it is done.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (journal entry)

There are large modulations of tone throughout fifty-seven years of musing in the journals, yet Emerson seems perpetually in quest to hear his daemon speak to him.

Harold Bloom, The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime

Waking early on Mother’s Day in the Redlands Hotel, my first thoughts surrounded the question over whether or not I would have a second prolific day of painting. Yesterday, I completed four watercolors that had been started en plein air while I was traveling in El Paso and the surrounding areas. Often when I spend an entire day of painting, I feel somewhat emptied and wasted on the following day and resort to reading and journaling. I don’t expect every day to yield fertile thoughts and visions. Our great American poet Wallace Stevens stated it eloquently:

It is not every day that the world arranges itself into a poem.

Wallace Stevens

Harold Bloom, citing examples from Walt Whitman’s experiences while trying to push out the great body of poetry titled under the umbrella Leaves of Grass nailed the phenomena with these words:

No man, no woman, can live in a continuous secular ephiphany.

Throughout my creative years, I have learned the lesson that there are bursts of creative energy, often followed by moments of quiet restoration. Looking back over the decades, I find a measure of satisfaction that a large body of work has been created, and I am more aware of the prolific periods than I am of the fallow ones. I spent some time this morning reading from my old journals, and came across extensive notes I recorded four years ago from reading the published works of the painter Robert Motherwell, and came across this:

An artist has to be a long-distance runner, and the thing I’m most proud of is my most recent work is as fresh as the first.

As the morning hours passed in the quiet Gallery at Redlands, I felt my urge to create beginning to build, thanks to Harold Bloom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wallace Stevens and Robert Motherwell. Suddenly, I knew what I was going to approach next.

As always, the studio was the space of revelation.

Bernard Jacobson, Robert Motherwell: the Making of an American Giant

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Several weeks ago, I was surprised by the colors falling across some vacant undeveloped land adjacent to a new Kroger store built near the neighborhood where I live in Arlington. On this particular late afternoon, with the weather being pleasantly temperate, I chose to drive to the Kroger store and take a seat in the patio area on the southwest corner of the complex. No one else was seated out there, and I anticipated some quality reading and journaling time with coffee. But as I looked up, I was astonished at the quality of colors the late afternoon sun cast down over the field with the dark horizon of trees in back. I took several reference photos, and next time I was at The Gallery at Redlands, I began three 8 x 10″ studies of this composition. I found none of the three satisfying, and abandoned them.

When I traveled to west Texas and New Mexico last week, I brought the three watercolor sketches with me, and took them out once during the trip to take a closer look. I still felt nothing as I looked at them. Yesterday, I spent the day in the Gallery working on the four mountain sketches I had begun during my travels. This morning, I went out to the Jeep and retrieved the three “Kroger” paintings, and after about an hour of reading my old journals along with some new reading from Bloom, Emerson, Stevens and Motherwell, I suddenly had an idea for the three discarded paintings. They are wildly experimental, but I have posted them above and believe I will go ahead and put mats and plastic sleeves on them, and maybe even frame one of them, it’s still too soon for me to decide.

At any rate, I’ve had a great Mother’s Day in the gallery/studio and feel like quality time has been enjoyed.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Rainy Saturday in the Gallery at Redlands

May 11, 2019

Follow your genius closely enough and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect at every hour.

Henry David Thoreau

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Signal Peak, Guadalupe Mountains

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Franklin Mountains, El Paso

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Franklin Mountains, El Paso

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Valley of Fires, Carrizozo, New Mexico

I have chosen to ensconce myself in The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas for Mother’s Day weekend. A recent trip through Cloudcroft, Corrizzozo and El Paso still floods my imagination, and I wanted to have some quiet time in the gallery to complete some plein air watercolor sketches I attempted this past week. It has been pouring down rain most of the day today, so foot traffic through the Redlands Hotel has been quite sparse, allowing me hours of uninterrupted time working at the watercolors. In my hometown neighborhood, an art festival is in progress, and I made the decision after nine straight years not to participate this time. I think I made a good call, considering the heavy rains and soaked parks in this part of Texas.

The Thoreau quote posted above I have engraved on a wooden desktop ornament that my friends the Darrs surprised me with last summer in Crested Butte, Colorado. I chose this weekend to pack it in my bag to keep on the gallery desk for inspiration. Looking up at it throughout the day, I mused over this motto that has shaped a large part of my adult life. I always hesitate to use the word “genius” because people today often equate the word with I.Q. and think of Einstein-type personalities. The word had different connotations with Emerson, Thoreau and their fellow New England Transcendentalists. They regarded genius as that independent, inner voice that introverts know all-too-well, that compulsion that Thoreau described as “marching to the beat of a different drummer.”

In the quiet of the gallery, I have delighted in this opportunity to gaze at reference photos I took of the locations I visited to paint. I have so much to learn when it comes to painting mountains in watercolor, and I am enthusiastic to pursue this for awhile. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I will keep the gallery open throughout the day. But if the weather is anything like it was today, then I may find myself dashing out several more watercolor sketches. I am grateful for quality times such as these.

Thanks for reading

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Cold Winds Over West Texas

May 9, 2019

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Signal Peak, Guadalupe Mountains

The power depends on the depth of the artist’s insight of that object he contemplates.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

Forty-seven degree temperatures and a stiff wind greeted me as I stepped out this morning. I found a cafe with available Wi-fii and coffee. Pulling up photos I took of Signal Peak (8751 ft.), the highest summit in Texas, as I drove past the Guadalupe range recently, I decided I would later today attempt some sketches of this magnificent site, using my photos as a reference.

I regret resorting to reference photos when I watercolor; I have had this reticence since discovering the dynamic of painting en plein air. For several years now, I have endured a seething compulsion to paint mountains, but alas they are nowhere near my residence. Two or three times a year, I manage to visit mountain ranges, yet standing in their eternal presence, I always feel like a mere bird flitting past their exterior, then quickly returning home. This morning, Emerson’s quote above has my full attention; I believe that an artist needs to spend time in the presence of his/her subject, allowing the subject matter to compost in the consciousness in order to paint it authentically.

Emerson’s magnificent meditation from “The American Scholar” I have read and recited to students for decades. I post it below, now rendering in bold print the same sentiment from his statement in “Art” that I posted at the top:

The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him life; it went out from him truth. It came to him short-lived actions; it went out from him immortal thoughts. It came to him business; it went from him poetry. It was dead fact; now it is quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Precisely in  proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.

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My sketchbook journals are replete with pencil studies of trees that are improving because I have paid my dues, sitting in the presence of them, working diligently to render their unique figures and portraits as I gaze upon them. Trees are everywhere I live and work. But mountains–how I wish I could sit in their company with the ease that I find in trees. Perhaps one day I could move to an environment where I could gaze upon them and know more fully what Emerson professes, that depth of artistic expression comes with time and familiarity.

The theologian Paul Tillich, when addressing an audience celebrating an anniversary of Time magazine, mused that the American public of his day was driven by a horizontal force to produce quantities in faster time, and that the results were a shallow product. He observed that it takes time to develop a vertical dimension, one of depth and profundity. I am going to take that to heart, and see if I cannot produce better renderings of mountain ranges in watercolor as I continue to study them. This summer I have made some serious plans to vacation among mountains and canyons. But in the meantime, I will continue to study my plein air sketches and photographs, and continue my practice of painting these subjects.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.