Archive for January, 2016

Melodious Strains

January 31, 2016

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Once a year, I have the privilege of listening to an assembly of vocalists forming a choir and rehearsing Renaissance polyphony music for a Latin mass. I’m now seated in the basement of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Dallas, listening as they practice Tomas Luis de Victoria’s “Missa Quam Pulchri Sunt” along with related motets and Gregorian chant.

I just finished reading William Butler Yeats’s “Ego Dominus Tuus” while listening to the beautiful strains of music from the rehearsal in the adjoining room, and I’m convinced that I should acquire some CDs or dial up YouTube to listen to this kind of music while reading or making art in the studio. I’m so glad I brought along my sketchbook and pencils. I drew this tree as I listened with a grateful heart.

Thanks for reading.

Puttin’ on the Show

January 29, 2016

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Beauty in art reminds one what is worthwhile.

Ezra Pound, “The Serious Artist”

I don’t know where the week went, seems yesterday was Monday and yet today is already Friday. School has been a joy despite the work crunch. Engaged students really make a difference in a teacher’s daily attitude.

I’ve posted above the final four watercolors I have shipped to the coast for framing. They will complete my one-man-show to be held at the Art Center in Corpus Christi during the month of March. I suppose this will close as well my memorable chapter of experiences at the Laguna Madre last summer. Whether or not I continue painting the Texas coast beyond this show still remains to be seen.

I am pleased to announce that I have been asked to teach two watercolor workshops while I’m in Corpus Christi for a week of my show. The Art Center of Corpus Christi has already posted one of the workshops on their website.  https://app.etapestry.com/cart/ArtCenterofCorpusChristi/default/category.php?ref=364.0.11100181&pos=10

This show will run March 15-17, and the fee is $250 for the 2 1/2 days of instruction.

An additional workshop will be held on the island in the Laguna Madre where I served my residency last June. Only six artists will be accepted for this one, as a boat is required to transport everyone along with gear on the 20-minute trip. The overnight adventure will last two days and cost $290. Anyone wishing to sign up for that one needs to contact the Center for Coastal Studies, and make a check payable to the Laguna Madre Field Station. http://ccs.tamucc.edu/

Before the weekend is over, I plan to return to the studio, but first I have a considerable amount of work to do for this weekend’s Academic Decathlon meet to be held in our city. This is an annual event for me, and I love working it, love seeing the dedication and enthusiasm of young minds striving to excel.

Thanks for reading.

 

Drawing into the Night

January 26, 2016

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Two arduous school days have taken me out of the studio completely. It’s getting late and I’m sleepy, but I wanted to take a moment to sketch before turning in for the night. My sincere hope is to pick up the watercolor brush tomorrow.

Sunday Morning Sketch

January 24, 2016

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An artist learns by repeated trial and error, by an almost moral instinct, to avoid the merely or the confusingly decorative . . . to say what he has to say with the most direct and economical means, to be true to his objects, to his materials, to his technique, and hence, by a correlated miracle, to himself.

Irwin Edman, Arts and the Man

My morning has been given to the richest reading imaginable–Lewis Hyde’s The Gift and Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis. After a couple of hours of easy-chair reading and scribbling ideas into my journal, I felt the urge to draw, and pulled up on my computer one of many photos I’ve taken in past weeks of winter trees, and begin to draw. This is as far as I have gotten. I have an obscene stack of papers to grade for school tomorrow, classes to prepare, and so on. Time to get back to my job.

Thanks for reading.

 

When the Imagination is Flat, Draw Anyway

January 22, 2016

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Books are for the scholar’s idle times. When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted in other men’s transcripts of their readings. But when the intervals of darkness come, as come they must, — when the sun is hid, and the stars withdraw their shining, — we repair to the lamps which were kindled by their ray, to guide our steps to the East again, where the dawn is.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

This advice from my beloved New England sage I have taken seriously throughout my adult life. As a schoolteacher, at least one idea begins percolating in my consciousness while getting ready to go to work every morning. That way, if the classroom dynamics are flat, I have something going on in my head worth exploring that makes the day better, anyway.

But this morning, of all rare times, nothing came. And as I moved through my classes, it never did come. Now that I am into my Friday night, with a welcoming weekend stretched out before me, I still have no idea to pursue. Following Emerson’s dictate, I now have a stack of quality books at my elbow. But before opening one of the volumes, I was struck by the thought: “Hey! You haven’t drawn or painted today! Do it.” But I didn’t feel like it. I did it anyway, and the drawing is posted above. Things are already looking up, and I am ready to read and relax into the rest of the night now. If nothing happens tonight, I’m confident that I’ll wake up with an Idea tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Quality Hours before the Fire

January 21, 2016

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Texas has been cold, dark and rainy the entire day. Once home from school, I built a nice fire, brewed a pot of coffee and then got under the blankets in front of the fireplace and read with a glad heart. My imagination has been fueled by an article I read today in Culture that popped up on my facebook: “The Death of the Artist–and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur.” I found the article very engaging, as it traced the history of the artist, from artisan to genius to institution to our current digital age of entrepreneurship. Some of it could have been disturbing, but it rang true, and provoked me to think soberly about what I’m attempting to do at this point in my life. After I read the article, I turned to something I had heard about my entire adult life but never once read: Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman.” What a probing, sober-minded piece of work! The rest of the afternoon found me thinking and scribbling in my journal.

I finally went to my drafting table and worked further on something I started between class periods this morning and posted earlier today:

Jan 21I’m still intrigued by the tangle of winter trees, and never seem to tire of their twisted, gaunt anatomy.

Thanks for reading.

When the Day is Jammed . . .

January 21, 2016

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There are times like this day, when the public school schedule is so jammed with details, that one cannot find quality moments even to think, but just react. So . . . I decided to see what I could do during the mindless passing periods between classes (about seven minutes). Even when one has seven minutes here and seven minutes there, opportunities for sanctuary still present themselves. And so I retreat into the start of another drawing, with delight, knowing I could always finish the piece tonight in the studio, or tomorrow night, or . . .

Pushing Ahead on the Island Painting

January 20, 2016

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Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me.

D. H. Lawrence

I suppose that is about the best way I could describe my feelings when I am seized with the impulse to make art. All day today at school, I could only think about returning to this watercolor I started recently, and I couldn’t get to it till late, late afternoon. But once I got down to it, everything else in my life seemed to melt away, and I got to the point where I wasn’t even thinking about what I was doing as the brush continued to move. For me, that is often what happens when watercoloring or drawing.

Jan 20

Once the watercolor got too wet and soupy to continue working on it, I set it aside and took out another photo I took recently of a tangle of trees in my back yard. I didn’t stay with this one very long until I got sleepy. But still, there are moments when my hand is moving, the pencil seems to be having its way, and I’m no longer thinking about what I’m doing. I like that feeling.

Thanks for reading.

Evening at the Parisian Café

January 19, 2016

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At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement.  And do not call it fixity,

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.

And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

T. S. Eliot, “Four Quartets

Today I finished reading one of the most satisfying books in a long time: Bernard Jacobson’s Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant. The text is comprised of 120 pages of fine print, and I do not like reading fine print, but this was a genuine feast, begun Saturday and finished today (Tuesday). I simply could not put it down. I have been a devoted student of Motherwell’s life and work since the late 1980’s, and have chafed that there were no biographies written on him. Last year marked the centennial of his birth, so this book has come out, and another is coming out the first week in March, which I have already ordered pre-publication, compliments of Amazon.

I share almost nothing in common with Motherwell’s style of painting and collaging, but I absolutely love his writing, and he wrote prodigiously. The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell remains one of my favorite art texts of all time. I love his lifestyle which combined reading, writing, publishing, editing, teaching and making art across multiple genres. He was a contemplative, quiet man, and I have felt an affinity with his solitary side during my own hours of work and study. Nearly every day when my job is done, I retreat to my home and studio-my sanctuary. Tonight, as temperatures drop outside, I am enjoying this fireplace and re-reading all the notes I took in my journal from the reading of this excellent book. I posted the drawing of the tree above in a brief blog earlier this evening. I went to La Madeleine Cafe on the north side of Arlington to meet some kindred spirits, and got there a half hour early. So I took out my sketchbook, and with a cup of coffee at an outside table, did this 5 x 7″ drawing with great pleasure and gladness of heart. For years I have stared at winter trees, and questioned myself why I was not studying them with a pencil. Last November I got in the groove of this, and don’t want to get out, I enjoy the practice and discovery so much.

Once my friends arrived, we repaired ourselves indoors to the warmth of the cafe and excellent, spirited conversation. It has taken me decades to find such rich camaraderie and verbal exchange among artistic spirits. The French Impressionists had their Café Guerbois. Picasso and friends had their Les Deux Magots. The Ash Can School had 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The Abstract Expressionists had the Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village. I myself have ached for an art cafe where I could show up once a week or so and just talk with other creative people, and finally I found a married couple who possess this overflowing zest for art, ideas, music, literature and film. Their enthusiasm is contagious and I could listen to their ideas all night. How marvelous to have this space on Tuesday evenings for sharing a table, cups of coffee, and an abundance of dreams. Thanks Z and Elaine. You are truly the best! I’m still buzzing with the things we talked about this evening.

Now back at home, I’m enriched in front of the fire with memories, a journal, good books and a glad heart.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

Another Winter Tree Drawing

January 19, 2016

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Between appointments, I found some space to draw another tree.