Entrance to Edom Festival of the Arts
Art is not to be taught in academies. It is what one looks at, not what one listens to, that makes the artist. The real schools should be the streets.
I immediately acknowledge the legitimacy of Oscar Wilde’s perspective. It is too late for me to put his theory into practice, as I earned my Bachelor’s in Art in 1976. Since that year, I have held down several professions, and did not get back into the visual art world until the last couple of decades. When asked whether or not I am “self-taught”, I hedge a bit. I do have a four-year degree in the subject, have studied the masters seriously since that day, still immerse myself in art history, yet my search for a watercolor “style” is indeed my own private quest. Following Walt Whitman, “you shall listen to all sides and filter them through yourself.” I don’t want to label myself as “self-taught” as I have formally studied art at the university and received a degree. Yet, I feel that I have arrived at my “signature” by my own choices.
I apologize at the outset of this blog, inviting any reader to stop at any time s/he feels so inclined. I haven’t posted in many, many days, and have so much on my mind, that I am deciding in advance to talk about as much of it as I have the energy to do.
The promised cold front has arrived. Temperatures have dropped to 34 degrees in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and we’re covered in rain. The coffee is hot and inviting, and I am trying to finish this second of a series of three 8 x 10″ watercolor sketches of the Edom, Texas business district. I will travel there to The Shed Cafe one week from tomorrow, November 30, and spend the day as their resident artist for Art Jam. I am struggling with this composition, having difficulty unifying the composition. This could be a painting that I “lose”, but that happens in this enterprise, and I am not as uptight about losing a painting as I was a few years ago. We’ll see how it shakes loose. I still have some plans (tricks?) to apply to it.
Changing the subject–several days back, I came home from school, sat down to a late lunch, and turned on the DirecTV to scan movie channels, settling in on “Rain Man.” I hadn’t watched the movie in well over a decade, and decided to watch what was in progress for as long as lunch lasted. I was jolted by a shock of recognition as I watched the scene of the two actors in the phone booth, with the autistic Raymond agitating his brother who was trying to conduct business over the phone, reminding him that Judge Wapner was coming on in just a few minutes. Suddenly he warned: “Uh-Oh, fart.” I didn’t laugh this time, because I was staring at what stood behind the phone booth and parked car:
- Scene from the Motion
Picture “Rain Man”
I had been there! Cogar, Oklahoma! Friends had taken me across the state years ago, to reminisce over a town where one of them had grown up. We spotted this abandoned gas station, got out of the car and photographed it from a multitude of angles, thinking it was “Hopperesque” and perfect for one of my watercolor attempts:
Abandoned Gas Station in Cogar, Oklahoma, 2006
I have painted this station in watercolor a total of three times since 2006:
“One Last Road Trip” 2006
“Oklahoma Reflections (After Proust)”
What a shock to go online and verify that this scene from “Rain Man” was shot in Cogar, Oklahoma. And now, I have painted it three times. The bottom painting sold back in 2007, the other two are still in my possession. Now I am not sure if I wish to sell them! I am filled with excitement, just seeing this scene play out in a Hollywood film, knowing that I visited that location unknowingly, several years after the film had been made, found the setting inviting, and painted it three times.
The past week-and-a-half in the classroom has had its rewards, almost daily. Today one of my model high school students approached me at the door of my philosophy class at the beginning of school, and asked if I could count her absent. She explained that she had called in her absence that morning because her mother was in the hospital, preparing to give birth. “But I couldn’t miss today’s Nietzsche lecture! I’ll go back to the hospital after this class.” I told her that she modeled a genuine love of learning. To say the least, I don’t know when I’ve felt better delivering a lecture, with that kind of anticipation expressed in advance. And then, if that were not enough, I was asked to visit the UIL Ready Writing team over the lunch hour to give them a “crash course” on Western philosophy. Talking to eager students for the duration of a lunch period about Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Kant, Hegel, Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Sartre was a genuine feast for me, and the students’ responses made me feel that what I did today mattered. We never get too much of that in the public education milieu. Those two experiences today will carry me much, much further, emotionally and spiritually, than documenting emails, phone calls and correspondence to parents or filing documents of lesson plans or meeting minutes for someone sitting in an office somewhere to check off a list.
Since my last blog entry, I have made two visits to the Dallas Museum of Art to study the Edward Hopper Drawing exhibit. I’m still rocked by what I’ve seen there, his sketches, compositional studies and finished watercolors and oils. I don’t recall ever seeing a museum exhibit that so studiously curated works of art in their planning stages from plein air sketches to journaled, notated compositional studies to the final framed piece. Hopper was so studious in his work, and makes me want to do the same. Perhaps future blog entries will reveal a new side of me, thanks to my heroic Hopper.
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.