Kaleidoscopic Moments in Archer City, Texas

Coffee Mug from Larry McMurtry's Booked Up Inc. store

Coffee Mug from Larry McMurtry’s Booked Up Inc. Booskstore

While seated in Murn’s Cafe in Archer City, waiting for dinner, I was reading David McCullough’s “Introduction” to the book A Writer’s Eye: Field Notes and Watercolors by Paul Horgan.  While visiting with Horgan in his living room, McCullough noticed a large, beautiful topaz from India the size of a golf ball.  It was a gift from Senator Moynihan.

“Paul told me to put it to my eye and suddenly everything remarkable about the room was made infinitely more so, a magic multiple of images, vivid, full of surprise, and everything bathed in the gemstone’s own warm, clear light.  To call the effect kaleidoscopic is not enough.  The room was transformed.

It is what he has done with his life’s work.  He is his own kind of Moynihan topaz, transforming the world around with his warmth, his clarity, his gifts of observation and brilliant command of language.”

This metaphor left me breathless.  For most of my life since graduate school, I have wanted to construct a kaleidoscopic world view from my reading, my art, my thinking, my teaching and my journaling.  At my present age, I no longer feel jealousy when I read of the success of writers/artists such as Paul Horgan; instead I am fueled by inspiration from their examples. Today I marvel at the contributions of giants such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Paul Tillich, Sigmund Freud, T. S. Eliot (I pause because I am leaving out myriads of geniuses, but you get what I mean) . . . thinkers who moved beyond the conventional wisdom and facts distributed in their classrooms and lecture halls and had the courage to synthesize from a plethora of sources–literary, theological, aesthetic, musical, etc.  And the more I come in contact with the gifts of these fertile minds, the more I want to put out a few of my own.  I would love to weave my own kaleidoscope, symphony, fabric or composition from disparate sources and create something attractive.

Leaving the cafe, I was surprised at the thunderclaps that seemed to shake the old buildings on my block.  I dashed into my hotel room, retrieved my watercolor supplies, and took up a seat under the awning in the front of the Spur Hotel.  Looking out upon the darkening western horizon, I chose to do a quick watercolor sketch of the antique store and cafe across the street where I had just conducted my morning business.

Murns Cafe

Archer City Plein Air Watercolor Sketch

After about an hour, I decided to quit, because the winds were getting cold, though the temperatures were only in the low-sixties.  My short-sleeved Tshirt was not getting it done for me.  Bundling up with additional layers from my room, I next decided to walk along Highway 79 and follow up on an abandoned gas station that I painted over a year ago.  I found the front door still intact, and was in the mood to work with charcoal and sketchbook. I found a large rock under the awning, about ten freet from the front entrance, so I assumed a comfortable sitting position and worked quickly on this subject.

doorknob

I still kick myself that I do not sketch enough, on site or otherwise.  I just don’t sketch.  I always go directly to watercolor, which to me is a terrible way to paint.  I draw so much inspiration from the sketchbooks of the likes of Edward Hopper, J. M. W. Turner, Eugene Delacroix, Andrew Wyeth, and continually chafe at myself for being too lazy to pursue that kind of disciplined compositional study.  After my bout with this filling station door, I then walked back to the square and began a sketch of the facade of the Royal Theater, used in Larry McMurtry’s “Last Picture Show.”  The rain aborted this attempt, but at least I got a start on it and took plenty of reference photos in the event that I return to the subject.Royal TheaterThe day proved to be a pleasant one, and I was ready to return to my room and read for awhile (and work on the lantern watercolor sketch).  Inspired by David McCullough’s “kaleidoscope” metaphor I thought I would look for ways to capture my surrounding world in images and words, thus preserving the memories I wish to hold.

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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