Archive for September, 2014

Calming Reflections on a Cool Evening

September 29, 2014


Beauty suspends the desire to be elsewhere.
Ken Wilbur

The hour is drawing late, but I wanted to put on the blog some of the exquisite beauty I’ve known during these recent busy days. I’m glad to have some peace and serenity after such a frenzied extended weekend.

I bottomed out today, following the grueling 3-day art festival now in the books. The labor intensity extracts a heavy toll on my sagging body, but the affirmations pouring in from friends and patrons makes me feel 21 again. And I love that feeling. Those sentiments, plus a nap this afternoon, revived me.  It helps also that the business end of the festival paid financial dividends.

After a torrid evening of tidying the house and reorganizing my garage (I really make a mess of my environment during festivals), I required another shower, shave and shampoo (Texas humidity sucks even in September). But then it was 9:00, and I was awake, so I drove to one of my favorite outdoor haunts: Fort Worth’s Sundance Square.


Once seated with my journal and Starbuck’s iced coffee, the thoughts began flowing faster than my pen could write. This went on for an extended time, and it was refreshing to feel “alive” again.  The cooling breezes (temperatures dropped below 80 degrees) caressed my freshly – shaved face as though they were gentle, caring fingers, and the swishing of the fountains before me were just as hushed as the conversations of the couples seated all around me on this romantic evening.

At the top of this entry, I have selected one of the most intimate shelves of my personal library – writers and artists who were daring explorers pushing into unknown frontiers of creativity, and convincing people like me that it is OK to see the world differently than the conventional wisdom, that one doesn’t have to write and sketch the way pop culture demands.

Though I don’t think, write or paint along the same lines as these men did, and though I choose a lifestyle different from theirs, I still love them and feel them reaching out to me and making me believe that what I do matters. And if I, as an educator, can make one student believe in his or her abilities the way these men and my own teachers did me, then I’ll believe I did something worthy in this life.

Oftentimes I wonder about what I’m leaving behind, especially when I read the biographies, interviews and journals left behind by men like these whom I revere.  I especially wonder when I look at the trail of facebook quips and blog navel – gazings I’ve put out there in cyberspace. Ouch. No doubt I’ve had some fun and pushed out some rants (and of course so did they). But when the dust settles, I do hope to have some quality words lingering to stroke the young minds following in our wake.

Years ago, a graduating student wrote a Thank You note to me:

Shakespeare, Melville, Hawthorne and Joyce–these were only dusty volumes on forgotten shelves, until your class.  Now they breathe once again, so I suppose they are thanking you as well.


Historical Musings at an Art Festival

September 27, 2014


We should read history as little critically as we consider the landscape,  and be more interested by the atmospheric tints and various lights and shades which the intervening shapes create, than by its groundwork and composition. It is the morning now turned evening and seen in the west, -the same sun, but a new light and atmosphere.
Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

After years of grinding out festivals, I hardly know how to describe this one, which isn’t even half over. What I am now reading from the pages of Thoreau is indeed timely for this parri cular moment. I have had the first-time experience of meeting students whom I haven’t seen in 25 years, from Lamar and Martin High schools as well as TCU and Texas Wesleyan universities.  The emotions are overwhelming as I try and record the experience of meeting former-students-now-adults-with-spouses-and-children. I never realized how much I loved them all and what an impact they made on my life until now. It will take some time to sort all of this out and record all the memories and conversations in my personal journal. Teaching for a quarter of a century has its upside. I never really thought I made much of a difference anywhere. I guess it’s time to reconsider this, and be thankful.

In the Midst of an Art Festival

September 26, 2014


This past week has been a whirlwind of activity between all my classes and preparations for this 3-day art festival. Today’s load – in and setup was tough in the Texas humidity. We never expect fall temperatures till Thanksgiving, if even then. But now I can sit in my Director’s chair and enjoy the patrons as they drift in and out of my booth. And the evening temperatures are beginning to dip a little.

I am anxiously waiting for the foliage to turn, and am committed more than ever before to do serious plein air studies of the fall colors. The school term has been very invigorating, but I now have the itch to go on a weekend road trip and look for space for plein air watercoloring as well as some serious reading and writing. I’m still seeking ways to blend successfully my classroom encounters with creative exploits. I’m never happy when I find one world excluding the other.

Thanks for reading. I’m glad I found some space in the midst of this maelstrom to post something. (more…)

Late Studio Nights with an Art Festival Approaching

September 23, 2014
Preparations for an Art Festival

Preparations for an Art Festival

We are called upon to do something new, to confront a no man’s land, to push into a forest where there are no well-worn paths and from which no one has returned to guide us.  This is what the existentialists call the anxiety of nothingness.  To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize.

Rollo May, The Courage to Create

As I write this, I am looking across a room filled with scattered piles of unmatted watercolors created over the past several months, and a desk piled in handwritten and typed notes for tomorrow’s high school classes.  In three days, I will be loading my Jeep to travel to a three-day art festival featuring 75 artists and vendors along with plenty of live music–The South Street Festival in Arllington, Texas. (

This free event will be my final “large” art festival for the year 2014 (I will participate in two smaller ones later in October).  For a number of years now, my preparatory steps for festivals have had that old familiar feel that bordered on weariness and encroaching inertia.  But now that I have cut back severely on their number (from eight to only three this fall season), I’m feeling a resurgence of excitement along with the anxiety that accompanies the new and the unknown.  My output of artwork has not flagged over the months, but my public displays have, and now I feel a sense of the new as I prepare to travel to this next venue.  I don’t know when I’ve anticipated with more eagerness this chance to meet new crowds of people in the public marketplace with a chance of discussing and selling art as well as forming new friendships.  I have really missed that and am glad that the opportunity is returning.

Tomorrow promises to be another rewarding day at the high school as I have finished preparations for meeting my A.V.I.D. and Philosophy classes.  The students have shown remarkable motivation and resiliency these past five weeks, and I feel closer to them with each passing day, indeed I look forward to seeing them again and finding out what kinds of new things we can explore together in this evolving arena of creative inquiry.

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.

Tweaking the Balloon Sketch

September 22, 2014

It was time to “flesh out” the right-hand portion of this sketch.  I began watercolor sketching the trees adjacent to the Plano Balloon Fest site, but did not get a chance to finish before the balloons began to launch.  Once the balloons lifted, the trees had become silhouettes in the western sky and I decided to call it quits for the evening.

Today after school, I took out my supplies and worked on the right side, signed the piece, and declared it “finished.”  I’m glad to have a record of that memorable evening last Saturday.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.image

Pondering a Weekend of Beauty

September 21, 2014
Sunday Night, Looking over the Weekend's Mementoes

Sunday Night, Looking over the Weekend’s Mementoes

One thing is certain.  It is difficult to produce beautiful things, particularly to do so consistently.  I know.  I make paintings.

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

Tomorrow is the first day of autumn, and Texas will probably take another week or two or three before the foliage begins to turn. But I have determined not to sit this one out as a plein air wannabe.  As I have written before, my blogging slowed down sharply when I took my vacation at the end of the summer and returned just in time to resume teaching high school and college. Two new responsibilities became mine, and I did my best not to fall behind in either of them.  Hence, something had to go, and the watercoloring/blogging subsided.  But they never vanished from my consciousness, and I happily traveled to my first balloon launch yesterday for the sole purpose of getting out the watercolor Fluid block and seeing what I could do in the waning afternoon sunlight, as I blocked in the valley below and then watched those magnificent balloons, trying at the same time to capture a few of them in my composition.  The experience was refreshing beyond description, and now I am just aching to practice on the colors of turning leaves very, very soon.

Because of the new schedule I am holding down, I have curtailed my fall art festival participation to just three shows for now (I have done as many as eight in years gone by during the months of September-October). My first one will be next weekend, and I’ll try my best to put something up on the blog concerning those activities.  This coming Friday-through-Sunday will be the South Street Art Festival in Arlington, Texas, adjacent to the Levitt Performing Arts pavilion.  Artists and vendors will line the street just south of the concert stage.  This will be my third year in a row to exhibit in this venue, and it has always been a rewarding experience.

I still have a considerable stack of high school and college work before me that has to be completed before bedime (late again tonight, I am afraid).  But at least I put in an excellent weekend, filled with beauty and warm sentiments.  My deepest wishes are to have something memorable to blog again, very soon.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Quick Sketch of the Plano Balloon Fest.

September 20, 2014


Plein Air Practice

September 20, 2014


While waiting for a balloon launch (my 1st time going to one of these), I thought I’d get in some plenty air watercolor practice. The treeline adjacent to the launch is beautiful under western skies.

An Artful Life

September 20, 2014

It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue,  and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look,  which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of the arts.
Henry David Thoreau,  Walden

Negative sentiments have no space in my day-to-day life since my last blog post. I only regret to write that this past week was packed to the point that I never stopped to post blogs, though my daily journal continually piled up pages of written expostulations-all of them running over with gratitude.

For manifold years, the daily task of teaching (for me) was a solitary enterprise, and the occasional student crossed my path outside the classroom,  and intellectual/spiritual bonding occurred. When the school term ended, over 90% of those relationships severed, and I just accepted that – life goes on.

Last year witnessed a change – a core of creative, passionate students found me and would not let go of me. Not only did they comprise several of my classes, they dropped in at lunch, after school, and showed up at every art festival where I was a participant.

I fully expected this year to revert to the way things were before these beautiful minds found me last year. Gratefully, it did not happen. I am overwhelmed now with the spirit of good will emanating from more individuals than ever before in any given school year. There are no words to describe this new sentiment. This experience is leading this old man to examine new ways of defining “Art” as people around me are showing me symptoms of a more “artful life”. So, with all my love, I send out my deepest thanks to last year’s “core” of enthusiastic learners who have changed my life profoundly.

Trying out a New Phone for Posting to the Blog

September 20, 2014


Today I am planning a watercolor/writing excursion and am testing out a new phone to see if I have the ability of photographing, writing, composing and posting without a laptop and Wi-Fi access. If all goes well, then I could be blogging again today and launching it from my phone. We’ll see.  Stand by. Testing one, two, three . . .