Art, Music, Writing, Reading and Reflection–all Struggling for my Attention Tonight
The original idea, the sketch, which is so to speak the egg or embryo of the idea, is usually far from being complete; it contains everything, which is simply a mixing together of all parts. Just the thing that makes of this sketch the essential expression of the idea is not the suppression of details, but their complete subordination to the big lines, which are, before all else, to create the impression. The greatest difficulty therefore is that of returning in the picture to that effacing of the details which, however, make up the composition, the web and the woof of the picture.
Ah, Friday night at last! I bid a cheery “Hello” to any blog readers still checking in to see if anything is happening in my corner of the world. I have barely kept my nose above the flood of torrential waters this past week. So much has come my way, and I am still trying to sort out and shape these ideas into something beautiful. In a nutshell, I did make the drive south to the Lighthouse Coffee Bar in Midlothian, Texas last Friday night, and listened to a young singer-songwriter sharing his art on the guitar. I sat in the back of the audience, and began drafting words for a song of my own. In all my years, I have composed only one complete song for my guitar that I consider okay, so I thought it time to give birth to another. What I scratched out at the table a week ago I’ll post at the end of this blog. It is a rough draft, of course, but I am grateful for the Friday night experience that inspired me to give this a try.
Monday morning I had to rise at 5:30, catch a commuter train, and roll to Dallas for the first of a three-day Institute. The program I will begin this fall at school is AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), and I fully believe in the principles undergirding this endeavor. I will have one or two classes of 11th-grade AVID students and am thus required to train for what I will teach/mentor this fall. The commuter train experience was perfect for me–always a thirty-minute ride making it possible to read from Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. The contrast of Thoreau’s quiet, sage-like manner over against the bustle of a convention hotel overrun with thousands of educators created a great theater for this three-day week. I met some of the most precious souls I’ve known in years during these sessions, and miss them all already. Their students are so blessed to spend time with the likes of them. The general public (and especially state legislators) have no idea of the passion and good will that floods the hearts of public school teachers who live to improve the lives of students entrusted to them. Genuine teaching is indeed the pouring out of a life, the opening of a vein, and so few of the “leaders” of our society who spend so much time in front of the microphones and TV cameras, flooding our airwaves, know anything of such sacrifice. I receive so much more in fifteen minutes over a cup of coffee from an enthusiastic public school teacher, or from the pages of Thoreau, than I could possibly get from hours of listening to the braying of a popular radio talk show host during drive time or words from a sanctimonious legislator during prime time TV.
Thursday marked my return to the summer school classroom and Shakespeare. The bard is (for me) the highlight of the senior English curriculum. So I was enriched, spending five hours immersed in his soothing literary waters, always grateful to have quality seniors in my room during the summer, instead of the indolent that often enter the schoolroom to re-take a course already failed once. As soon as I exited the schoolroom, I received a call from Trinity Arts Guild in Bedford, a fascinating group of artists that featured me for a watercolor demo last fall. They want to schedule me for a weekend watercolor workshop perhaps as early as this fall. The details we discussed by phone excited me to the core, and now I have that element to add to my growing list of interests.
Following Thursday’s school, I was invited to join three beautiful people (all retired educators that I have know for decades) to return to Dallas and spend the afternoon and evening at the Dallas Museum of Art. After three consecutive days of commuter train experience, this time it was nice to carpool with folks I know. On Thursdays, the museum is open till 9:00 at night. We perused in delicious silence the current exhibit: “Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World”. To date, I have not given a fair amount of space in my Advanced Placement Art History course to the Islamic tradition, and I guarantee that will change this fall. What I gleaned from this current exhibit was a marvelous reinforcement of the ideas I had taught in the past, with amazing illuminating examples that really captured my attention this time. Part of this evening’s activity has been given to reviewing notes from past lectures and powerpoints and inserting details I gleaned from the museum exhibit.
After a lovely time strolling the Klyde Warren Park north of the museum (above R. L. Thornton freeway), we decided to re-enter the “art cathedral” and visit the permanent collection. To our surprise, a preview was offered to museum members of the exhibit opening Sunday: “Mind’s Eye: Masterworks on Paper from David to Cezanne.” From the moment we entered those galleries, I was stung in much the same fashion as I had been in recent months from my repeated attendance at the “Hopper Drawing” exhibit. I will be returning to this exhibit many, many times this summer and fall, grateful for my museum partnership that allows me to park and view the collection at no charge. I could not begin tonight to describe how my heart warmed as I gazed at drawings and watercolors by David, Gericault, Delacroix, Degas, Cezanne and many, many other giants of art history. And the supporting texts were as equally rich as the works of art themselves. Part of my reading over the past months has been from the Journals of Eugene Delacroix, and I could not believe the quality of the drawings selected from his hand to hang in this show.
While at the museum, my cell phone vibrated, and lo and behold, an art sale was transacted while I stood in that museum’s corridors. That business took a chunk out of today, but I am always thankful for a sale. Seated at last in my studio after a week’s hiatus, I am filled tonight with a spirit of good will, of delightful eudaimonia, and am happy for the quiet space in which to compose and share these musings. Much more will follow as I sort out all the ideas that filled my journal during this past week’s daily travels and conferences. Taking the opening Delacroix quote seriously, I am trying tonight to shape and structure some kind of aesthetic creation over these fundamental ideas that flooded my consciousness this past week. I close with a draft of the song I am trying to compose, that began exactly a week ago tonight:
Only the First Movement
Leaning closely over the table
Peering at the horizonless mess
The pencil carving out all the boundaries
Separating form from the formless.
How does the artificer do that?
Easier on paper than life’s skies.
On paper he does.
In life he tries.
Schools taught him to use tools,
But never to create.
Churches tried to teach how to live.
But only taught what to hate.
He can only start the first movement.
Thanks for reading.
I paint in order to remember.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.