Archive for September, 2015

San Antonio River Walk Respite

September 18, 2015

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Before the evening light faded, I managed to find a stone fence upon which to perch and dash out a plein air watercolor sketch of the San Antonio River Walk. The climate was cool and breezy enough and the shade was welcome. I was privileged to tag along as a chaperone for thirty-one A.V.I.D. students visiting Baylor and University of Texas San Antonio campuses. We had to rise at five a.m. to begin this tour, do already it’s a long day. As soon as “r and r” was offered, all I wanted to do was find a beautiful location and sketch something.

Paying Yourself First

September 13, 2015
A Repeat of a Four-Year-Old Plein Air Sketch

A Repeat of a Four-Year-Old Plein Air Sketch

Because the soul is progressive, it never quite repeats itself, but in every act attempts the production of a new and fairer whole.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

After losing the natural light last evening, I decided to go ahead and see if I could kick out a rough watercolor sketch similar to the one I did in L.A. four years ago. I’m pleased that a musician has chosen the old one to decorate the cover of her CD, and thought that perhaps I should return to the subject. While working on it, I thought of Ezra Pound and his fondness for Chinese calligraphy and the Chinese brushwork with all its aesthetic qualities. It made me return to the Six Canons offered up in Helen Gardner’s more recent editions of Art Through the Ages. I love this sense of reaching for the bare “essence” of a subject and simply suggesting it with gestures rather than defining it with pictorial precision. As I worked on this last night I felt liberated, not constrained the way I often feel when working on the exacting details of my watercolor pieces.

Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch

After a relatively sleepless night (too many good things to ponder), I rose rather late this Sunday morning. With fond memories of my Saturday breakfast of coddled eggs with herbs of Provence and Canadian bacon, I decided to do a repeat even though it was already late this morning.

Paying Myself First Today

Paying Myself First Today

I have homework (yes, teachers always, ALWAYS have homework) in both college and high school courses, so I have to devote the lion’s share of today to getting ready for those responsibilities tomorrow. But I have decided to pay myself first, just in case the night falls and I’m still working on school stuff. Don Quixote has been a most engaging read, and I have this itch to return to a thickening manuscript that I reopened last night concerning my experiences as Artist-in-Residence on the Texas Laguna Madre last June. I still have plenty of writing and editing to do, and I’m in the mood. And I really want to burrow further into Don Quixote. So, I am going to pay myself first, and then answer to the school responsibilities after I have satisfied my own itch.

Thank you for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am never alone.

Morning Brings Back the Heroic Ages

September 12, 2015

The morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted; but few are the ears that hear it. 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

A Satisfying Saturday Breakfast

A Satisfying Saturday Breakfast

Waking at daylight without an alarm on a Saturday morning was a pleasant surprise, and even the greater surprise of learning that it was 65 degrees outside. I made coffee and sat on my back deck for the first time since last spring (Texas summers are beyond torrid) and felt the serenity of the world engulfing me. Going back inside, I decided to make a more satisfying breakfast of coddled eggs with herbs of Provence along with some fried Canadian bacon.

Following breakfast, I learned the sad news that the husband of a dear friend I’ve known for thirty years had just passed away. About an hour later, I was sitting with the family and listening for the most part–we are all so helpless when we sit with friends who have suffered such an unspeakable loss. There is no way I can describe the love I feel for this family, and frankly the rest of the day was just going through the motions for me. There is a gigantic hole in our world right now.

This evening, before the light faded, I decided to begin a new watercolor of the Laguna Madre environment. I barely got the sky and horizon laid in before the light was gone, and for such landscape paintings, I really hate working under artificial light bulbs. So this will have to wait until morning. It measures 14 x 20″.

A New Beginning on the Laguna Madre

A New Beginning on the Laguna Madre

There is plenty of Saturday evening still stretched out before me, and I have a number of books I have been reading. Last night Don Quixote was providing plenty of mental stimulation. Perhaps I’ll push him a bit further this evening. I still cannot make up my mind whether to sit in the comforts of my study or go out on the town–Fort Worth’s Sundance Square has been so delightful, especially with falling temperatures. And there are always the Starbuck’s Cafes. . .

Thanks for reading.

My Watercolor Featured on a CD Cover

September 11, 2015
My Watercolor on a CD Cover

My Watercolor on a CD Cover

I am pleased to share an image of a watercolor of mine now serving as a backdrop on a CD of Rachel Lahr’s latest release “Leaves in San Diego.” The watercolor of the palms is a quick plein air watercolor sketch I did in Los Angeles at the close of a spectacular day while I was training for the International Baccalaureate Program (that was later cancelled for my school). The cancellation of the program will always be a bitter pill in my mouth, but something beyond my control. I’m glad that at least something I did while in training that week went for a purpose in which I believe–marketing the skills of creative artists. Congratulations, Rachel, and I hope you go far with your spectacular music. I’m pleased to have purchased and downloaded this song. I love it!

Thanks for reading.

Late Night Muses Stirring

September 11, 2015

imageIt is a common point from which I start; for there again and again I shall return.

Parmenides

Thursday has been a grinder of a day, rising at 5:00, entering my classroom by 5:55 and responding to the snarling grading deadline. Once classes were over, I continued to feed the beast until about 8:30 at night. Then, there was nothing reasonable to do but go out into the night and feed my soul.

A Bottle of Pellegrino, a Book and my Journal

A Bottle of Pellegrino, a Book, my Journal, and Fountains

How enchanted I feel with this balmy evening, listening to the swish of the fountains, live music pounding a few blocks away, the conversations and laughter of lovers at tables scattered across the plaza, but most of all–the echoes of Socrates from the mountains of Delphi, through the streets of Athens and finally down through the corridors of Fort Worth’s Sundance Square tonight. I feel the power of his ideas now as I pause for the first time throughout this lengthy (boring) day of grading and meeting school deadlines.

I try to distill the legacy of Socrates in a few statements: (1) the unexamined life is not worth living, (2) the answer lies within you, not in the books or the teachers or authority figures, (3) there are valid principles to follow in order to maintain a quality life, (4) leave nothing unexamined. Much of what this sage has left us has been fleshed out in the writings of Aristotle, Descartes and Emerson, and already I look forward to opening their ideas before my students later in the semester.

Teaching is my job, but what I am doing beside the fountain tonight is my life–a life of the mind, a contemplative life. This is the food that sustains my spiritual body and keeps me alive. Hopefully in tomorrow’s philosophy class I can share this moment in a meaningful way, but if not, I still harbor this treasure in my heart.

Thanks for reading.

Eudaimonia

September 7, 2015

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“Eudaimonia” is Greek, and can be rendered as a “spirit of good will”. That best describes my sensations this Labor Day afternoon as I fiddle with this new 20 x 24″ watercolor of the island where I spent time last summer.

How do I express the sheer aesthetic delight I feel when I am drawing in watercolor with a sharp brush, adding accents to a field of wildflowers? Or the scratching, cutting sound of a sharp pencil skating over the surface of my drawing paper, as I watch a form of a shell or crab or fish skull emerge from the gloom? Or, the feel of a steel guitar string beneath my fingertips when I pluck it and feel the wood of my Martin acoustic guitar resonating in my arms? I have no words to describe these sensations, but they flood my soul with delight when I am trying to create.

Thanks for reading.

Close-up of Foliage Experiment

September 6, 2015

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Here is a closeup of my wildflowers and ground cover in the foreground of today’s watercolor. It will measure 20 x 24″.

A Day of Contemplation

September 6, 2015

imageIt is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.

Ezra Pound, “A Retrospect”

I open today’s bog entry with this word: I may be blogging with less frequency these days, but with time spent away from social media, I am discovering more quality time for reading and journaling. Hopefully this will result in a blog with greater quality, and not just a daily quota of words flung into the chattersphere, hoping for relevance.

Reaching the halfway point of a three-day Labor Day hiatus, my soul is awash with sentiments of gratitude–I needed the rest from the daily school grind, though school has only ground for two weeks. I must be aging and slowing. I have laughed and cried my way through 150 pages of Don Quixote. The book is an excellent mirror I suppose for any reader, but particularly for anyone who has devoted most of his/her life to public school teaching. I don’t believe I speak only for myself when I confess to living in a world partially constructed after my own imagination. Daydreams and fantasies aided me in coping with my own public education which I found largely boring and unimaginative. It would seem that karma induced my return to the public school arena once I completed my education. And now, twenty-seven years later, imagination and fantasies still aid me in coping with much of the boredom that surrounds me daily.

Sancho Panza mocked his noble Don Quixote of La Mancha with these words:

Sancho, my friend, know that I was born, by the will of heaven, in this our iron age, to revive the one of gold, or the Golden Age.

Anyone wishing to parody my persona could chant those same words in derision. But I own them. Classical studies and forays into the humanities saved my life at the university, and by the time I entered the high school classroom as instructor, they had become the blood that courses through my veins. When I was growing up in public school, some of my teachers tried to be cool, drawing daily soundbites and lesson ideas from Leave it to Beaver and later M.A.S.H. Pop culture didn’t mature me then, and it doesn’t feed me now, nor does it nourish the students of today, as far as I’m concerned. No student in my classroom will hear me reciting anecdotes from Miley Cyrus, lyrics from Justin Bieber or soundbites from Donald Trump. Pop icons such as these are not worth my time, and they contribute nothing of value to one wishing to improve life, as far as I am concerned. As a fan of Rene Descartes, I have always enjoyed leading my philosophy classes through his cogito ergo sum–“I think, therefore I am.” I used to have a bumper sticker on the window outside my classroom door that said: I think. Therefore I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh. I came to school of course one day to find it had been removed. Sometimes I wonder if the one who removed it thinks and finds a reason to be.

When it comes to course content, I am grateful that I get to select and share the works of those minds who tried to improve society, tried to challenge young minds to become better. I make no apology for anchoring my course content in the humanities. Talking heads of education can lay out all the data they please, crow about job training all they please, and lay out social programs all they please. But these days, I still glean value from the works of Emerson, Thoreau, Cervantes, Eliot, Pound, Aristotle, Augustine and Shakespeare, and will continue bringing ideas to my classes from these great minds who dared to think big, dream big, imagine big.

At the top of this post, I quoted Ezra Pound, and with his challenge launched my latest watercolor, begun this morning, always with the hope that this could be my best Image produced during my lifetime.

Working on Foreground Foliage

Working on Foreground Foliage

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Friday Night Insulation

September 4, 2015

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A delicious three-day weekend stretches out before me, following an arduous week in the public school arena. Harold Bloom’s book Genius has turned my attention to reading Don Quixote, and after reading 96 pages, I am absorbed by this notion of insula, the Latin word for “island”, used in an extended sense in literature to denote isolation or solitude.

Having just completed my reading of Hamlet’s BlackBerry, I am inspired by the author’s idea of nurturing “depth” in one’s everyday life by disconnecting occasionally from social media and social engagements to allow quality time for reflection. In my high school A.V.I.D. classes, we are already setting aside ten minutes from our 90-minute schedule for quiet solitary reading and journal reflection.

I am accepting this three-day gift with a heart of gladness, and expect wondrous things from Don Quixote and whatever my mind sees fit to pour into my own reflective journal.

Thanks for reading.

More Media Coverage

September 3, 2015

Good evening. This week has buried me in school assignments, both high school and college. I haven’t painted for days, but am welcoming this coming three-day weekend, hoping to pick up the brush again.

Happily, I finished reading Hamlet’s BlackBerry and am looking forward to delivering a public discourse on it October 4. Once I crawl out from under this pile of school-related assignments, I intend to put some of the principles gleaned from this book to work in my day-to-day life.

A full-page article was published in the magazine Arlington Today concerning my work on the Laguna Madre this past summer. I regret deeply that this article is not available online, and hope that what I post is readable to you. Kenneth Perkins is an excellent journalist, and I really appreciated how he handled this article.

Thanks for reading.