Archive for October, 2015

Applying the Brakes

October 12, 2015

imageThe simple act of going out for a walk is completely different today from what it was fifteen years ago. Whether you’re walking down a big-city street or in the woods outside a country town, if you’re carrying a mobile device with you, the global crowd comes along.

William Powers, Hamlet’s Blackberry

This evening I went out to do some necessary errands, and as I backed out of my driveway, realized I had left my phone in the house. I didn’t even think for a moment of getting back out and going inside to retrieve it. Instead, I thought “Good!” and went on my way for about an hour’s worth of errands. Funny how I kept reaching for my pocket for a phone that wasn’t there. In response, I’ve set up a lesson plan for tomorrow involving social media and how distracted it has made us. I’m looking forward to the responses. At the end of this month, I’ll be giving a public talk on the book quoted above and what its message has come to mean to me.

For an hour before bedtime, I decided to push aside my assignments that are never completed (and probably never will be, as long as I remain a teacher–funny how the world expects us to work on this stuff throughout the school day, and until bedtime each night). Taking out my pencils, I began working on sketches again to relax and unwind. The one posted above I began several weeks ago, and then pushed aside, forgetting about it until now. I’m placing it inside a 5 x 7″ window mat that fits an 8 x 10″ frame. I’m going to offer it for $40. I’m surprised at how drawing has slowed down my frantic world, and I’ve taken the practice up almost daily. Maybe I’ll crank out a series of 5 x 7″ pencil drawings and see how they package. I had no idea they would look this fresh, torn out of the sketchbook and matted.

Thanks for reading.

A Weekend Filled with Gods

October 11, 2015
A Night's Stroll on Sundance Square

A Night’s Stroll on Sundance Square

No one suspects the days to be gods.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I believe Emerson called that one right, but despite my monster load of grading that endured throughout the weekend, I determined that the chore would not rob me of quality, so I found things to do to keep my mind from dulling as I read paper after paper after paper.

Last night I published a blog about grading alongside the fountain. As the hour grew later, I was pleased to see throngs of people still strolling about. After all, it was a Saturday night, and the temperatures were cooling delightfully. I intentionally omitted him from the photograph posted above, but a street preacher was standing atop a step stool near this clock, delivering a sermon to the passersby. I listened for awhile, sympathetically. Being a preacher myself a long, long time ago, I cannot say that he mentioned anything I haven’t heard throughout my life. And I don’t write any of this to cast a negative light on him. Two police officers were nearby, perhaps to keep the peace. At any rate, I was glad no one verbally abused or accosted him in any way. A few stopped to talk with him, and the conversations seemed irenic. I sat close enough to hear most of the sermon, and wondered if the setting had parallels with first-century Jerusalem or Athens or Rome. I wondered how often Luther heard such public proclamations during his sixteenth-century wanderings through urban settings. I wondered if Shakespeare heard these kinds of sermons along the streets outside the Globe Theater in his day. The longer I sat, the more prompted I felt to write in my journal these ideas about days being filled with gods, much as Emerson wrote.

Waking this morning after a good night’s sleep, my first thoughts again were on “higher laws” (Thoreau’s words).

Coddled Eggs for Breakfast

Coddled Eggs for Breakfast

If I was going to spend the day grading, I at least deserved a decent breakfast before entering the grind. A few hours after breakfast, noticing that the sun was bright and temperatures were moderate, I decided to return to Sundance Square.

On my way into Starbucks for coffee (and grading!), I passed last night’s fountain, and found it full of people! What a way to wash away the heat, eh?

After grading another large chunk of essays, I packed my gear and decided to stroll downtown Fort Worth as I had the evening before. And like the evening before, the city streets seemed to be filled with gods. I drank in the sunshine, sat on shaded benches, scribbled in my journal, and took in the occasional shop. The day was a genuine delight.

Now, as night descends, I have finally finished the grading. I would be in a sour mood had I allowed the grading to fill up my entire weekend, leaving nothing for me to savor. I believe the breaks for Sundance Square strolling were a good decision. Many speak of stopping to smell the flowers; I just chose to stop and feel the gods filling the hours.

Thanks for reading.

Grading on a Saturday Night. Ugh

October 10, 2015


With how many unnecessary words have over-clever writers of modern times sinned in the cause of the ideals in plastic arts.
Wilhelm H. Wackenroder

Today’s craft show left me exhausted, so I had to take a power nap before settling into a long Saturday night of grading.

Deciding against sitting in my house on a Saturday night, I journeyed to my favorite downtown Fort Worth spot on Sundance Square.

I’m very pleased tonight to read essays from my A.P. Art History students, analyzing works from Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gaughin, Munch, Matisse and Picasso. Thanks to a set of chrome books provided for my classroom, students are given opportunity to research and write during class while I intermittently insert lectures and initiate dialogue. I am working hard to steer them away from “bookish”, critical essays that employ the same worn-out terminology, by supplying them instead with philosophical paradigms from the likes of Plato, Hegel, Nietzsche and Husserl. I’m also encouraging them to look at this art with a fresh set of eyes, daring to mesh their observations with what they’ve gleaned from other disciplines-math, science, language arts, social studies, etc. For years I’ve heard the catch phrase “writing across the curriculum”, but that is not going to happen until they begin thinking across the curriculum. Paul Tillich urged that the border line was the truly propitious place for acquiring knowledge.

I think my idea is paying off-though these essays cover the same subjects, they are not reading the same from one paper to the next. And in that I am taking utmost delight.

Thanks for reading.

At the Craft Show

October 10, 2015


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 every deep a lower deep opens.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

Sitting in my booth 45 minutes before we open has advantages that surpass an extra cup of coffee. Emerson has been my patron saint for as long as I can remember. I love sitting in the company of other artists and craftspersons. As I overhear conversations murmuring throughout the building, I find myself listening to a great conversation that has cycled through the corridors of time. I join Emerson this morning in celebrating these circles of creative exploration.

Thanks for reading.

Muses Stirring at Dawn

October 10, 2015

Then came the sound of a musical instrument, from behind it seemed, very sweet and very short as if it were one plucking of a string or one note of a bell, and after it a full, clear voice-and it sounded so high and strange that he thought it was very far away, further than a star. The voice said, Come. 

C. S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress

I cannot find my way: there is no star           

In all the shrouded heavens anywhere;          

And there is not a whisper in the air  

Of any living voice but one so far     

That I can hear it only as a bar                    5

Of lost, imperial music, played when fair      

And angel fingers wove, and unaware,         

Dead leaves to garlands where no roses are. 

No, there is not a glimmer, nor a call,

For one that welcomes, welcomes when he fears,             10

The black and awful chaos of the night;        

For through it all—above, beyond it all—     

I know the far-sent message of the years,     

I feel the coming glory of the Light.

Edwin Arlington Robinson, “Credo”

By the close of the work week, feeling hammered, I decided to retire to bed on a Friday night around 9:30. Grading papers for two campuses while restocking my art inventory had pretty well mashed me into the ground. Knowing I had to rise by 7:00 to be on time for a Saturday craft show opening at 9:00 am, I retired to bed around 9:30 pm. Alarms were set. No need. At 4:30 this morning I was wide awake and sleep would not return. After rising and putting on coffee, I settled into a comfortable reading chair with Don Quixote, bathed in the peace of knowing I would not have to go out the door for another four hours.

Pre-Dawn Watch

Pre-Dawn Watch

Some time ago, I purchased the soundtrack CD for the motion picture “A Beautiful Mind.” I find the music very enchanting, and thought of it this morning as I re-read a portion from C. S. Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress. Something about the quality of the musical strains of the soundtrack certainly pluck my deepest strings of desire. A few nights ago, before the crush of grading and art preparations descended upon me, I devoted a few hours to tracing out passages from ancient texts that discuss that quality of desire that makes us lean forward, expecting something better than what we have. When I asked myself what I wanted, I of course could not come up with a simple answer. But one thing I desired then was a space in time of a few hours to let my mind drift over good reading, good thoughts, quality ideas. That gift was presented at 4:30 this morning, and I am currently at peace, very grateful to receive that gift. Later, I’ll go to the craft show, most likely in good spirits.

Thanks for reading. Now I’ll pursue mine . . .

Late Nights Prepping for Shows

October 8, 2015

imageI will write on the door of my studio: School of drawing, and I will make painters. . . . Drawing is the probity of art. . . . Drawing includes everything except colour. It is the expression, the interior form, the plan, the modelling. . . . A thing well drawn is always adequately painted.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Funny that my mind is on drawing, though I find no time to pursue the craft this night. Tomorrow night I will set up for the Saturday festival “Stop the Shots” at Arlington Texas’s St. Stephen United Methodist Church on Randol Mill Road. The show will run from 9:00-3:00 one day only. $5 admission will be charged at the gymnasium door.

The hours have stretched long into the night, printing, matting, sleeving and processing stacks of greeting cards and 8 x 10″ prints. I’m always happy to have good sales as I did in the last show a couple of weeks back. Restocking the inventory can be a challenge, but at least I get to look at artwork while I’m doing it. I’m glad I’m not licking envelopes or looking at columns of figures.

Tomorrow is along one, so I need to call it a night.

Thank you for reading.

Drawing from the Shadows

October 8, 2015
Charcoal Drawing from the Shadows

Charcoal Drawing from the Shadows

Good morning! One of my blogging friends posted, asking if I had ever drawn something, beginning with the shadows. It prompted me to remember something I tried only once about a year ago. Below I have posted the link to the blog entry I did back then.

So, why did I not repeat this effort? A worthy question. Simply, I forgot! I suppose life happened and I re-entered a crazy, convoluted world that combined high school and university teaching, along with art festivals and business in general. I just simply did not go back and repeat a successful charcoal attempt of covering the paper with a shade, and then using an eraser to draw the highlights. I recall that the last thing I did was take a stick of vine charcoal and draw a few dark details.

I am certain that I have this drawing lying flat in a darkened closet somewhere, waiting for a mat and frame. I never sprayed it with any kind of fixative, fearing it would stain the paper. I suppose it is time to find it and frame it. I did like the result then, and, looking at the photo, still like the overall appearance of the composition.

My thanks to your inquiry!

Thoughts Spurred by Re-Reading “84 Charing Cross Road”

October 7, 2015
At my Writing Table

At my Writing Table

“Have you got De Tocqueville’s Journey to America? Somebody borrowed mine and never gave it back. Why is it that people who wouldn’t dream of stealing anything else think it’s perfectly all right to steal books?”

Helene Hanff, 84 Charing Cross Road

Re-visiting this beautiful literary work has colored my day with the best hues. I even watched the conclusion to the movie on my DVD over breakfast this morning before dashing off to school. All day long, the story lingered with me, convincing me to come home from work this afternoon and completely re-do my bedroom/study area. The picture above was taken about a year ago. Below is how my room looks tonight:

I posted the quote above because I know all-too-well the experience of books walking off. I keep a collection of books the size of the one pictured above in my high school classroom. I have recently purchased my third copy of Kirk & Raven’s The Presocratics and my second copy of Steven Watson’s Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties. I have yet to replace Robert Richardson’s Emerson: Mind on Fire. But there are worse things in life than losing a book. Having already read them, I can still go back into fresh copies and find what I culled from the first reading (if it is not already scribbled in a journal somewhere). And though a few volumes have walked away, I will never in this lifetime read all the books in my possession. I saw the inscription on somebody’s coffee mug recently: “So little time. So many books.”

This particular night has been idyllic. I finished refurbishing my special room a little after 7 p.m., and then decided to plant myself at the table to write in my journal, and read if so induced, and not stop until bedtime. Throughout the hours, I took off from the opening line of Aristotle’s Metaphysics: “All people, by nature, desire to know.” Grateful for the rich opportunity of studying the Greek language years ago in graduate school, I pursued Aristotle’s use of the word translated “desire” through its use in the Book of Psalms as rendered in the LXX (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) and in the Greek New Testament. This prompted me to scribble out quite a few pages in my personal journal as I meditated on this notion of “desire” and how it drives us as human beings. This was not only an enrichment to me personally; it set the table for what I plan in tomorrow morning’s A. P. Art History classes. It also gave me a measure of insight concerning my own internal drive to pursue the arts.

This evening has been a genuine gift after such a grinding schedule of late. Thanks for staying up with me.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Slowing Down

October 6, 2015

imageWe’re living in a very fragmented culture. We’re bombarded with images from morning till night unlike the world has ever seen. We’re making enormous demands on people’s ability to organize and process information. With drawing, you really slow it down. It’s almost a polar opposite of our normal way of viewing the world.

Juliette Aristides, Lessons in Classical Drawing: Essential Techniques from Inside the Atelier

This afternoon offered a respite from the crazy school schedule I’ve endured recently. Pushing some calendar issues around, I managed to open a space for drawing and gladly sat before a pile of sea shells and began drawing and shading carefully and deliberately, with no deadlines looming and no voices surrounding me. Just a sea of calm. I love the way drawing slows down the world that continually whirls about me on a daily basis.

Thinking Across the Boundaries

October 6, 2015


The border line is the truly propitious place for acquiring knowledge.
Paul Tillich

While students in A. P. Art History were researching and writing in their reflective journals about the fin-de-siecle era of art history, I scratched out some quick sea shell sketches, while thinking back over my recent Laguna Madre visit. Looking up at a quote from Paul Tillich taped to my cabinet in the front of the classroom, I found my mind moving from Tillich to the lagoon environment to the issue of thinking, and wrote the following in my journal (I’m repeating it now, in case the photo is bad or my handwriting illegible):

While thinking back on the Laguna Madre experience, I found the littorals separating sand from the hypersaline waters an interesting metaphor. Paul Tillich always claimed that his knowledge was gleaned “on the borderline” that separated disciplines. I can make the same claim for myself. I have always been absorbed deeply by the arts, literature, philosophy and religion, but many times did not enjoy the actual classes that were taught by those who seemed to know nothing except the subject they taught. Now as a public school teacher, I hear the administrators stressing “writing across the curriculum”. Well, how about “thinking across the curriculum”? I detest the bell schedules and passing periods when they become barriers separating the subjects. I believe that students can gain genuine knowledge and insight in those borders that link the subjects. When studeents enter my art history class, I do not want them to think that literature, science and math are now closed. Thinking should transcend the borderlines imposed by learning institutions.

Thanks for reading.

I draw in order to relax and think.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.