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.

 

Fly Fishing Retreat

June 25, 2022
Largemouth Bass Prior to Release

Rising at 5:30 was worth the effort as I prepared to journey north for forty-four minutes to join my new fishing buddy and Queen Street Grille’s chef extraordinaire, Joe Massa. We began rigging up our flyrods around 7:00, and had our lines in the water shortly after. Joe was immediately pulling up all manner of bream, many of them frying pan size. The temperature was 79 degrees and we knew we had only a couple of hours before the Texas heat would drive us away. I only managed to land one of the three bass that hit my assortment of woolly buggers and San Juan worms; one of them got loose as I half-heartedly set the hook, the other broke me off despite my giving him a good thirty seconds to tire out. He was a strong one, and I hope one day to get a closer look at him. The excitement of watching him zig-zag through the waters before breaking free still stirs me hours later.

Tomorrow begins a new adventure. I’ve been invited to participate in a mural project in downtown Crockett, Texas, and I’ve been chomping at the bits for the day to arrive. I’ll have more to share as the task unfolds. Most of all, I’m excited to see that part of the Texas countryside that I’ve been away from far too long.

The Gallery at Redlands is quiet at this point of Saturday evening, and that is a good thing for me; I’m still trying to iron out final details for the Crockett project, and the quiet is soothing.

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.

Clawing my Way Back

June 24, 2022
Surprised to find this on Facebook! My gratitude to artist Dale Diane Hedgecough

What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music.

Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or

My sincere gratitude to those who’ve reached out to me in past days/weeks to find out if I am OK. I am. I haven’t been active on social media. There is a simple reason: I’ve been flat. Not depressed or unhappy, just not creative. Instead, I’ve been drifting/slogging through my days. I’ve been absent from The Gallery at Redlands for almost two weeks. This afternoon I returned and found myself so exhausted that I went upstairs in The Hotel Redlands to take a nap; I didn’t want to see or speak to anyone. I’m glad I took that step. As soon as I re-opened the gallery at 5:00, everything and everyone began to happen at the same time, and I’m so delighted that I am awake and grateful for all of it. In short, I’m glad to be back and am ready to face new creative challenges.

For starters: I was stunned to scan Facebook and find the drawing above! The artist, Dale Diane Hedgecough, is a key player in an artists circle in Arkansas that I had the pleasure of meeting years ago during workshop and plein air activity, and I’m fortunate in getting to meet up with some of those artists in Mountain Home, Arkansas later this fall for a plein air adventure.

I’m always touched when I find myself the subject of someone else’s artwork, but even more so when the artist selects me while in my “element.” The setting for the picture above is an old general store in east Texas where I often resided when I needed a weekend getaway from my teaching job. I spent long weekends there during my final year of teaching high school before the owners opened this Gallery at Redlands in 2017. I haven’t stayed there for a couple of years or more, and am pleased that I may get that opportunity in just a few days. Hence, the timing of the pencil drawing stunned me.

Heidi (playing guitar) accompanying her student at piano

The activity in The Redlands Hotel is heating up. Heidi Mays, a music teacher, opened a studio upstairs next door to us. Tonight her students are holding their first recital. The music is filling the hotel lobby and the audience is loving it! I need to get some pictures . . .

What a terrific event! I got to hear a young fellow who plans to take sketching lessons from me in the near future. Since he is here on Thursdays for music lessons, we’ve worked out a schedule where he can take some art lessons on the same day while his siblings are taking their own music lessons.

I’ll keep the gallery open till 9:00 tonight. Then, at 7:00 a.m., I’m going to join up with our chef, Joe Massa, for some fly-fishing in Athens, Texas. Joe is not only an outstanding chef; he is a genuine man with an abundance of interests, including fly fishing. I was excited when he invited me for tomorrow morning’s adventure. I’ll have plenty more to say about that tomorrow. And then . . . I’m going to have to wait to tell you what’s coming down the pike Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday! My adrenalin is already surging. More later . . .

Thanks for reading. It feels good to come back.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Embarrassing Trout Tale

June 16, 2022

Journals are nets for organizing wonder.

author unknown

All week long, I have been neck deep in my old journals, dating all the way back to 1985. I am pulling this one out for my readers, acknowledging in advance that during this episode, I prayed that no one was on the banks of the South Fork of the Rio Grande in 2017 watching me . . .

I was tired and ready to stop after six small trout caught and a monster I couldn’t land. Then a twelve-inch rainbow hit my tiny bead head pheasant tail nymph trailing behind a dry fly. After playing him a bit, I unfastened my net and tried to lead him into it. I did, but then the net somehow slipped from my hand and drifted swiftly downstream. The trout darted out. Twice I managed to steer him back into the floating net, hoping I could drag both toward me, but the water was swift and twice more he got free. Eventually I reeled him in close enough to get him in my hand and hold tight. Then my dry fly that I was using as a strike indicator caught in my shirt. Pulling the nymph from the trout’s lip, I then waded to the bank and laid down my rod, and with my free hand tore the dry mayfly from my shirt. Then, lurching downstream over slippery, treacherous rocks, I chased the floating net for one hundred feet or more before finally overtaking it. Feeling stupid, I placed the trout in the net and again waded ashore. Then I discovered that the stringer had become entangled inside my wader’s bib. Working it free, I then attached the trout, tied the stringer to a tree and lowered the fish back into the stream. Then I retraced my steps to retrieve my flyrod. Then it was back downstream again to find the stringer and bring my dinner up to the cabin. All the while I climbed the hill, I scanned the porch decks of the other cabins, hoping not to see people seated in lawn chairs clapping and jeering at the moron in the stream with the flyrod.

Hope you enjoyed this. My face is red as I type it.

Thanks for reading.

Starting a Blues Theme in Watercolor

June 11, 2022

The weekend has passed so quickly. I managed a 5 x 7″ watercolor of a Royal Wulff fly pattern that I posted earlier today, and now have decided to lay aside the beginning to a Blues theme that I’ve had on my mind for several weeks now. There is a decaying building in Palestine along the Union Pacific mainline that once belonged to Hyman Pearlstone over a century ago. It was a wholesale grocery with loading docks for the freight trains moving through. I’ve been wanting to create a large composition but have decided to begin with an 8 x 10″ to see if I can solve all the complications I anticipate with this one. After tinkering with the small piece for several hours, drawing, erasing, re-drawing, and then laying down the initial washes, I’m growing weary of the work and have decided to close out this night by reading and scribbling in my journal, something I haven’t been able to do much lately.

I’m looking forward to the drive home after I close the gallery tonight at 9:00. I’ve been away too long.

Thanks for reading.

Completed a new watercolor in the gallery.

June 11, 2022
8×10″ framed watercolor of Royal Wulff

It has been a nice quiet Saturday morning in The Gallery at Redlands. I have just completed framing a 5 x 7 inch watercolor of a Royal Wulff pattern. I suppose I have my mind on Colorado, where I will travel within the month. It has been a year since I have entered a mountain stream to fly fish, and I have missed it so.

Before I close The Gallery at 9 tonight, I hope to have another watercolor completed and framed. We shall see…

Finding Ground after the Travels

June 10, 2022
Awash in Patti Smith and Martin Heidegger ideas

Like Sartre, Heidegger is prepared to see the human situation in terms of ontological homelessness, meaning that on this earth we have no abiding home since we are not embedded in the world as a part of nature.

George Pattison, The Later Heidegger

Finally rested from my ten-day St. Louis odyssey, I’m feeling genuine serenity, seated once again in Studio Eidolons, looking out my windows across Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood while reading, journal scribbling and collaging. While in St. Louis, I purchased a pair of Patti Smith books. I finished her Just Kids during my return drive home, stopping at rest areas and truck stops along the way. I am currently about halfway through her M Train, drawing just as much inspiration and sustenance from it as from the first volume. I’ve also enjoyed reading The Later Heidegger as I find the author writing with great lucidity about this philosopher’s “turn” following his Being and Time magnum opus. After repeated attempts over the decades, I’ve drawn very little from Being in Time, but the writings of the later Heidegger I cannot lay aside. Whether he translates the Presocratics, writes poetry, addresses language, lectures on Nietzsche or discusses the nature of creating art, I find Heidegger most engaging.

Morning Journal Musings

Reading from Homer’s Odyssey during my St. Louis travels has also been profoundly enlightening. I often mused over the Greek texts rhapsodizing about Odysseus sailing over the “broad back” of the open seas, and found myself driving over the broad back of our U. S. highways, gleaning parallels with the wanderer as he sought his way back to Ithaca. With my sentiments passing to and fro from my current home in Arlington, my second home in Palestine and my childhood home west of St. Louis, I have been writing extensively in my journals about where home actually is for me. I’ve not yet been able to draw a satisfactory conclusion; that is why the quote opening this blog arrested my attention over morning coffee today.

During my decade of pastoral ministry, I grew familiar with the New Testament texts addressing the Christian as not having a real home in this “present age.” I’ve also studied the Jewish Bible, gleaning their longings for their homeland. Yet in my preaching I never could really address these themes, because I didn’t really identify with them. It’s only been in recent years, while attempting my own memoirs and writing this book I started twenty years ago that I have come to understand the restless feeling of not having a home, but driven to perpetual wandering.

Journal Collage

I feel blessed finally to reach this stage in my personal life where I actually have a home, a family, and can wander safely, knowing I always have a place to land. I haven’t been in Palestine for several weeks and am glad to have this extended weekend to spend in The Redlands Hotel and The Gallery at Redlands. This morning is quiet and I’m getting plenty of things done that needed tended. And I still have time to read and reflect. My plan is to make art during the evening hours, keeping the gallery open till 9:00.

Thanks for reading. It’s wonderful to be back . . .

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Sailing toward Ithaca

June 4, 2022

Rolling out of bed at 6 a.m., I packed and loaded for my trip back home. Nearing the Oklahoma border, I could feel my pulse quickening at the thought of being home by Nightfall.

I shall attempt to voice text this blog while rolling along the Will Rogers Turnpike across Oklahoma. I have been enjoying Patti Smith’s book Just Kids while vacationing in my hometown the past week or so, and happily finished reading it in a Truck Stop in Joplin, Missouri just a little while ago.

I find it difficult to express the deep-seated satisfaction and inspiration I drew from Reading Patti’s book. Years ago, Neil Young inspired me to buy a Martin guitar, and now Patti Smith has inspired me to write songs. Even while driving cross-country, I have frequently stopped to scribble out phrases of poetry that I intend to set to music.

Also, thanks to Patti, I have purchased a couple of books of poems by Baudelaire and Rimbaud. It goes without saying that I am enjoying these New Frontiers of literature.

Sandi has been running The Gallery at Redlands in my absence this weekend, and will not be home until late tonight. Thanks to truck stops, coffee, roadside parks, good books, and space to stretch my legs, I am managing to shake off lethargy on this long road trip.

Here’s a truck stop instead of Saint Peters

I am closing this blog with a photograph of the same truck stop I photographed on my trip to St Louis last week in the dead of night. I find the premises more upbeat during the daytime hours.

Thanks for reading.

Rite of Passage

June 1, 2022
Where it all began . . .

The ten-year-old boy stood on the ledge of Rocky Ford, the most talked-about fishing/swimming hole of Indian Creek in rural Jackson, Missouri. With his rod & reel, he tossed an earthworm dug up from his grandparents’ farm and watched it settle in front of the opening beneath a huge slab of rock in the bottom of the pool below. Immediately a perch darted out, seized the prey, and the boy pulled up his first fish. In later years, visiting grandparents, he would return repeatedly to this same spot, dreaming of one day standing there with a fly rod. Nearly sixty years later, it happened.

My buddy since second grade, Wayne White traveled with me yesterday to southeast Missouri. Accepting the offer from my cousin, whose farm backs up to Indian Creek, we drove onto his property, rigged up and descended the steep banks to the stream. For four hours, we hiked, waded, and climbed our way upstream from my cousin’s farm, then to my uncle’s, to Rocky Ford, and I was ecstatic to see that it still looked the same.

Rocky Ford, viewed from where I stood above

The creek looked the same, but the population was different. No sign of largemouth bass, perch, bluegill, sunfish or carp suckers. Only gar, and plenty of them. The result of all our efforts amounted to four gar.

The only one in hand

The first one broke me off

OK, now what I am about to relay sounds like a lying fish story, but it isn’t. Wayne witnessed it independently and will testify that it really happened. The photo he took above was my first gar nearly landed. He broke me off. I was using a white Clouser minnow, and he struck on one of my early casts. Bye-bye.

Four hours later, after wading, climbing and clawing our way upstream we reached Rocky Ford. We had nothing to show for our efforts except one landed gar, another that broke off, and two more that threw the hook (it’s extremely difficult to embed a hook in their long hard beaks). We reached the end of my uncle’s property, noting the barbed wire fence stretched across the creek. Fishing the last hole, I was startled by a huge splash on the opposite bank. An enormous, fat gar swam straight to me, then turned in front of me and hesitated in the water, chomping at something white in his beak. At first I thought it was a minnow, but then I saw the strands of white bucktail fluttering in the current. My white Clouser minnow! The fish had worked its way upstream the same distance as we! I kept my mouth shut, knowing Wayne would never believe me. But the fish then turned back downstream and drifted past him, twenty feet away, and Wayne saw it too. So there it is. No BS. And I’ll never forget the moment.

Thanks for reading.

Working on a New Story

May 29, 2022
Watercolor Sketchbook exercise

For days now, stories have been blistering up in my imagination to add to the book I’ve been working on these recent years. I’m thinking about adding a third character to the Hank and Randy saga. Not sure of his name yet, but for now he is Sonny . . .

Sonny was in a rage this morning. Standing at the bandsaw in the maintenance shed of POCO Graphite, his blood pressure continued to surge. It wasn’t spurred by any particular incident of this day or the day before; he had merely reached the end of his rope in this careerless job that was making his graduate education possible. His Bachelor’s degree from Northeast Missouri State University was funded by his parents’ blue-collar support, and he knew that they expected more from him than landing a mere teacher’s position in a public school. So he had made the pledge to pursue a Masters of Fine Art degree in North Texas, which was going to be expensive. To support this effort, he hired in as a maintenance helper at this industrial plant, and was now in the midst of training as a welder.

As a budding artist, Sonny had hoped that acquiring metalworking skills would help him find his niche in the art world, but it wasn’t happening. Instead, every day found him standing at the bandsaw, cutting stainless steel two-by-four channel iron at forty-five-degree cuts, each one requiring forty minutes of standing and staring at the saw in case something happened–the blade binding or snapping, or the piece of stainless steel shifting under the grip of the vises holding it in position on the cutting surface. Boring. As Sonny stood there, he found himself sketching the images of bison with soapstone on the cutting table as he watched the saw grinding away. Every night after supper, he wearily sat at his apartment dining room table and sketched in watercolor herds of bison that he hoped he would one day see if he ever fulfilled his lifelong ambition to visit Wyoming or Utah, or any state preserving bison herds.

Watercolor Sketching Outdoors

May 29, 2022

Temperatures rose in the St Louis area today, making it difficult to paint during the afternoon hours. But I did manage this small sketch in my watercolor SketchBook.