Archive for November, 2013

Completed the Cafe Watercolor

November 29, 2013
Completed Watercolor of The Shed Cafe--Edom, Texas

Completed Watercolor of The Shed Cafe–Edom, Texas

I’m pleased to have finished this watercolor in time to reproduce it in the form of greeting cards and matted prints.  I will spend Saturday at The Shed Cafe in Edom, Texas as the business’s featured artist for the town’s Art Jam.  The holidays have provided plenty of down time, great food, a little television and plenty of studio opportunity.

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.

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Nothing “Black” About this Friday

November 29, 2013
Edom Shed Cafe Watercolor in Progress

Edom Shed Cafe Watercolor in Progress

As time is measured by the lapse of ideas, we may grow of our own force, as the mussel adds new circles to its shell.  My thoughts secrete the lime.  We may grow old with the vigor of youth.  Are we not always in youth so long as we face heaven?  We may always live in the morning of our days.  To him who seeks early, the sun never gets over the edge of the hill, but his rays fall slanting forever.  His wise sayings are like the chopping of wood and crowing of cocks in the dawn.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, February 7, 1841.

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is  a beginning, that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under eery deep a lower deep opens.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles” (published in 1841)

I couldn’t believe the clock read 5:50 when I awoke in this morning’s darkness.  The covers were warm, the air felt chilly, and I was filled with these warm sentiments of turning over and letting sleep take me back under.  But my mind began sorting out the details of the new day and all its possibilities.  This would not be a day for post-Thanksgiving shopping.  It would be a day of preparations for an all-day Saturday art event.  An unfinished watercolor was waiting on the drafting table.  A stack of prints and greeting cards were waiting to be matted and sleeved.  Crates of art work were lined up in the workroom, waiting to be loaded into the Jeep.  A suitcase was open and ready.  And I realized that I was not going back to sleep.

By 7:00 a.m., the shower had happened, laundry was started in the washer, a breakfast of sausage and eggs had been polished off, the kitchen tidied and dishwasher started, and I was at my writing table, reading from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau.   How serendipitous to find these words.  Immediately I recalled an essay of Emerson I had loved from so many years back, and I’ll be darned if those ideas weren’t published in the same year.  The shared communion of Emerson and Thoreau is well-documented.  Oftentimes, I forget which one I am quoting, their ideas and vocabulary co-mingle so seamlessly.

I’m glad I responded to the Oracle and rose before the morning light.  I’m ready to get back into the studio and see what I can do with this Shed Cafe painting.

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.

Thanksgiving–Thankful for Some Quiet Space and Time to Watercolor

November 28, 2013
Beginning Watercolor of The Shed Cafe.  Edom, Texas

Beginning Watercolor of The Shed Cafe. Edom, Texas

There is in me something that is often stronger than my body, which is often enlivened by it.  In some people the inner spark scarcely exists.  I find it dominant in me.  Without it, I should die, but it will consume me (doubtless I speak of imagination, which masters and leads me).

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, October 6, 1822

The holidays could not arrive too soon.  Since I walked out of the high school Tuesday afternoon, I have managed to teach a college course, tidy-up three rooms in my house, tend to several pressing business affairs, prepare a Thanksgiving feast and even linger over a new watercolor.  This is my third and final of a series focussing on the Edom, Texas business district.  In two days, I’ll be there for the entire day, painting and (hopefully) selling my art work.

The Shed Cafe is undoubtedly my favorite place to dine in all of east Texas.  Every fall, when I attend the Edom Festival of the Arts, my highlight is taking meals from The Shed.  The entrees and desserts alone are grand enough, but I swear that every vegetable side they offer tastes like it came out of my Grandmother’s garden, and her garden vegetables have always been my standard for gauging the quality of restaurant foods.  Right now, I am stuffed with Thanksigiving food, but I cannot wait to spend the entire day Saturday inside The Shed Cafe.

My quiet reading times during vacation have been focussed on the Journals of Eugene Delacroix, French Romantic painter from the nineteenth century.  The older I get, the more I appreciate the great artists of history who cared enough to journal, took their work seriously enough to commit their theories to writing.  Delacroix was undoubtedly a great mind blooming on this side of the European Enlightement, and as I pore over his pages, I am frequently stunned by his insight.  I plan to share some of those on the blog as the holiday unfolds.

Thanks always for reading.  How wonderful to have this time to pause and reflect, and be thankful for the gift of life.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Doing Something that Matters

November 24, 2013
Completed Edom Painting #2

Completed Edom Painting #2

Seated at my writing desk, looking out at the glittering lights, I strive for a sense of optimism, a feeling that as small as I am, what I am doing still matters in the scheme of things.

Julia Cameron, Finding Water: The Art of Perseverence

I enjoy reading Julia Cameron publications, even though I don’t regard myself as a “blocked” artist.  Sometimes I have trouble finding quality time to pursue my craft, but that is because of long and demanding job hours.  My mind is always on the art I want to make, I just don’t always have the space in my daily grind to go about the task as I would like.

Right now, I am still waiting for the promised ice storms that have been predicted for twenty-four hours now.  I keep hoping school will be canceled due to all the icy streets that still haven’t occurred.  Texas meteoroligists have always thrown darts, and very seldom hit the bull’s eye when forecasting severe winter weather.  I am amazed to think of how much they must be salaried for getting it wrong.  And I wonder why people such as I still listen to them.  Hope, I guess, is what keeps us listening, and believing, expecting, wanting.

Back to Julia Cameron, I like to think about the creative life, and why it matters.  I spend little time wondering if my art will ever have widespread impact.  In fact, I’m not sure I ever went down that path of wondering whether my work would be widely-known.  For about the last five years, all I know is that making art has mattered to me, has given my own existence meaning and a sense of joy.  Days that include making art are always better than days that do not.  And I guess that’s why I find myself wishing tonight that school tomorrow would be canceled–I would much rather give tomorrow to making art than filling up classroom hours with chatter, grades, and goals, knowing that the students are already focused on the vacation at hand (and so are we teachers).  We all need the break from the relentless grind that has worked on us since August.

I am posting the watercolor that I completed a little while ago.  It is the second in a series of three 8 x 10″ sketches I’m doing of the Edom business district.  I’m happy that I was able to “rescue” a watercolor that started off rather badly.  I managed to get some colors to pop with contrast, and to correct some of the goofs I made in the early stages.  This one took some sweat to figure out, but I think I got it looking O.K.  At least, I’m happy enough to sign off on it as a finished piece.

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.

 

Preparing for an All-Day Show in Edom, Texas

November 23, 2013
Edom Festival of the Arts

Edom Festival of the Arts

Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world.  No amount of skillful inention can replace the essential element of imagination.

Edward Hopper

We hear so often that the artist’s temperament is restless, irritable, and discontented.  All of that is very true–when we are not working.  Let us get in a good day at the page or the easel and we are suddenly sunny and user-friendly.  It is the blocked artist who is such a study in malcontent.  Artists have an itch that nothing can scratch except work.

Julia Cameron, Finding Water: The Art of Perseverence

I’ve had a delicious evening, picking up the brush and giving watercolor yet another nudge.  This is an 8 x 10″ sketch I started quite awhile back, and then got “blocked” by job-related deadlines.  The subject is the entrance to the annual Edom Festival of the Arts, a festival I have been privileged to join for four years now.  This year, following the festival, I was invited to be the feature artist at Edom’s Shed Cafe on Saturday, November 30 (right after Thanksgiving).  The town will be sponsoring Art Jam, and artists will be featured in the local businesses.  The Shed serves about 1500 patrons on any given Saturday, so I am excited for the opportunity to get my work out in the public on that day.

I gave the bulk of this Saturday to a day trip to Tyler, Texas, a two-hour drive one way, to see Christmas in the Village at the Breckenridge Village of Tyler.  I took a number of photos, but have misplaced the cable that connects my camera to the laptop.  Hopefully I’ll get the photos posted tomorrow.  There was a live nativity scene, and I did have the fun of having my picture taken with a live camel.  I told him my name wasn’t Mike-Mike-Mike-Mike-Mike.  He was adorable–as I scratched his neck, he buried his head into my chest and made contented sounds.  I wanted to bring him home with me.

Texas weather threatens to close schools Monday.  There is a forecast calling for freezing rain and ice accumlation starting Sunday.  All I can think of is the potential for unrestricted studio activity.  It’s been so long since I’ve known that reality.  What timing if we get an extra day off during next week’s holiday week.  We’re only scheduled for Monday-Tuesday in the public school and college.  I’m ready for the break so I can get back to what I love.

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.

 

 

Ah, the Friday Night Blog . . .

November 22, 2013
Entrance to Edom Festival of the Arts

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.

Oscar Wilde

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"

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

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"

“One Last Road Trip” 2006

"Oklahoma Reflections (After Proust)"

“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.

In the Depths of the Night, a Respite in the Studio

November 15, 2013
Entrance to Edom Festival of the Arts

Entrance to Edom Festival of the Arts

Often the work we have not done seems more real in our minds than the pieces we have completed.

David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making

Another delicious night.  I was able to watercolor for ninety minutes while the velvety quiet of the night enshrouded me and affirmed the drifting of my consciousness backward over the conversations of the school day.  The philosophy class delivered again as they took turns offering their observations gleaned from the “Reading” chapter of Thoreau’s Walden.  What transpired that first ninety minutes of the school day set the tone for success that seemed to roll through the remainder of the class load.  I cannot express the gratitude that I feel for young inquisitive minds willing to strike out and find new ground for ideas.

I’m posting the watercolor sketch that I began last night and pushed along for another hour-and-a-half tonight.  In true spirit of the quote posted above, this painting is more real to me in my imagination than what I see emerging beneath my brush, but I just need to be patient, and to keep believing.  This is the entrance to the annual Edom Festival of the Arts.  The composition will be an extremely busy one, with highway signs, carved hand-made signs, arbors, potted plants, and assorted objects marking the entrance to this festival.  As I get further into it, I’ll try to find some way to harness, or unify the composition.  Right now I’m just fascinated with all the little objects crying out for the attention of any passing pedestrian or motorist.  Every year I laugh when I look at this entrance, so eclectic, so fun, so inviting.  I’m only sorry that I still have to wait a couple of weeks before getting back out there.

Well, midnight has arrived.  My eyes are getting droopy.  I have some heavy A. P. Art History to address the first two periods of tomorrow (Late Antiquity–Roman Christian art of the first few centuries).  I’m glad I got those preps finished early enough tonight that I was able to pick up the brush, even if it was for only ninety minutes.

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.

Carving out a Niche in this World

November 13, 2013
Edom Tire Shop Finished

Edom Tire Shop Finished

Most people with whom I talk, men and women even of some originality and genius, have their scheme of the universe all cut and dried,–very dry, I assure you, to hear, dry enough to burn, dry-rotted and powder-post, methinks,–which they set up between you and them in the shortest intercourse; an ancient and tottering frame with all its boards blown off.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

In recent days, I am drawing unspeakable riches from my students in philosophy and art history.  I sense a drive in many of them to articulate a personal philosophy, to design their own thought paradigms, to construct a meaningful worldview.  They share with me what they are reading from thinkers they choose to pursue, they bring to me their discoveries from the school and public libraries, epiphanies they’ve experienced at exhibits in local art museums.  The more I see them constructing their own worlds, the more driven I am to continue building my own.  I love this quote from a recent reading in Thoreau, the dry wit directed at worn-out, second-hand ideologies.

I am so pleased these past couple of days to find a little space, a slight crack in my professional routine, that has allowed some stolen moments for reading, reflection and painting.  Today I finished my first of at least three Edom, Texas subjects–the small tire shop at the main intersection of town near where I will set up on November 30 for an all-day Art Jam.  I finished out the surrounding foliage, darkening the perimeters of the composition, then tried to put in some accents in the pavement at the bottom of the picture plane.  I re-worked the dark shadows under the awning, laid some more rust and corrugated textures on the roof, and finally worked on some geometric shapes on the right side to give some kind of “pop” to the composition overall.  Finally, it was time to sign the darned thing and move on.  Already I have sketched out my next composition and tonight am ready to lay down my first watercolor washes on it.  It will be a second 8 x 10″ composition.

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 Late Night in the Studio

November 12, 2013
Tire Shop in Edom, Texas

Tire Shop in Edom, Texas

There are times when thought elbows her way through the underwood of words to the clear blue beyond.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, December 12, 1837

Today was Henry David Thoreau day in my high school Philosophy class.  Years ago, I feigned myself a decent lecturer–in these later years I’m not so sure.  But one thing I do know–it’s hard to muck up a Thoreau lecture, although I seemed to try that several times this morning.  I’m not sure why I was “off”, but I certainly saw determination, eagerness and enthusiasm in my students to get us through the ninety-minute segment.  The result was one of the best classes I have ever experienced in my high school career.  When students are “on”, it’s difficult for a teacher to fail.

Among the many facets of discussion this morning, there was a particularly good moment when we examined the idea of a Word emerging, like an Oracle, from the morass of words that daily engulfs us.  In public education, hoards of figures, statistics, spread sheets, surveys, audits, and every possible collection of numbers imaginable are hurled at me.  I often feel that I need a raincoat to protect me from the stains of such garbage.  In addition to the numbers are pages and pages of goals, objectives, directives, assessments–on and on and on.  Reading the plea from Walden to “Simplify, simplify,” I thank the sublime that a mind such as Thoreau is still capable of reaching through the tempest and uttering the Word with power sufficient to improve our lives.  Thanks to Thoreau, and thanks to my Philosophy students, I captured a warm sentiment early this morning that managed to accompany me throughout the day, even through my 7:00 p.m. Logic class at the university.

The hour is drawing late, Texas temperatures are expected to reach down into the twenties tonight, I’ve managed to cover my outdoor faucets, finish my A. P. and regular Art History preparations for the morrow, and even find time to pick up the brush and push this 8 x 10″ watercolor of the tire shop in Edom, Texas toward its conclusion.  On November 30, I will spend the day in Edom for their Art Jam, setting up inside The Shed Cafe, and attempt to sell some paintings, greeting cards and prints of my small-town subjects.  This is my first Edom composition.  I plan to move on to a painting of The Shed next.

This has been a most affirming day, and I’m proud that I had the space to share it with you, thanks for reading me tonight.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Picking Up the Brush Again

November 10, 2013
Tire Shop in Edom, Texas

Tire Shop in Edom, Texas

You are anxious and troubled about many things; few things are needful, or only one.

Luke 10:41-42

As the weekend draws to a close, I reflect with gratitude on the Jenny Wood Art Festival that just concluded in Bullard, Texas.  The festival organizers facilitated a fine show, the art work I saw across the gymnasium was first-rate, and the camaraderie amongst the artists left me with nothing but warm feelings.  I’m also warmed by great conversations I enjoyed with long-time friends from Athens, Texas who were gracious enough to provide me with a place to stay while I was two hours away from my own home.

In three weeks, I will be the featured artist for The Shed Cafe in Edom, Texas, as the businesses in the community hold their Art Jam.  I have been invited to display and sell my work out of their boutique during cafe hours on that Saturday, November 30.  Between now and then, I hope to create a few local watercolors of the establishments in Edom.  Above is the tire shop that is across the intersection from The Shed.  I was able to begin work on this during the festival on Saturday.  My booth provided me with enough space to work as well as sell my art.  I photographed this tire shop while I was participating in the Edom Festival of the Arts about three weeks ago.  The sun was bright on that day, and I managed to find a good contrast of light and shadow amidst this strucxture.

Between now and November 30, I will have some free weekends and hopefully enough time to work in my studio.  I have missed it so.  The school load over the next two weeks still promises to be more-than-pleasant, but I at least will not have to fight my way through weekend festivals during this interim.  And perhaps I will find some evening hours to resume my art passion.

The words of Jesus posted above have haunted me over this past week.  I have tried to find a way to focus on a single goal.  I do not like a life of clutter, a calendar loaded to the margins, or a parade of deadlines.  My profession currently has me jammed far beyond what I like or enjoy.  And my weekly/weekend schedule too often has squeezed off the channels of creative energy, replacing them with dank cisterns filled with insipid tasks.  I’m trying once again to find my way back to the creative flow, the current of energy and creativity.

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.