1921 Shell Station from New Cambria, Missouri
Early Watercolor Attempt
When the vessel is full and fixed, uniform throughout; there is neither vessel nor contents: nothing to pour in, nothing can pour out. With this degree of fusion, the vessel can no longer serve its function of temporary container, and the contents become unacceptable because of the growing staleness of their permanence.
Peter London, Drawing Closer to Nature
For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
This splendorous Sunday morning has filled me with a desire to pour out the last few weeks of my summer life. My blog posting has stalled, but daily enchantments have unfolded in the most fascinating manner. My friend Stacy and I were browsing Half Price Books a few weeks back, and the Peter London book caught me off guard. I had never heard of the author, and the book was in the art section of the store. When I sat at a table with it, my pulse quickened as I read his opening words:
Suppose Genesis misspoke.
We never left Eden.
Nature, just as it is, is Eden,
And we are still there.
We remain in our first, our only, our exquisite home.
And we behave otherwise.
We must awaken to where we are,
And thus who we are.
Having just returned from a week in Colorado where I refueled my spirits in plein air painting and fly fishing, I embraced this book, and it has been a soul-stirring companion ever since. I opened this blog with his musings over what happens when an artist becomes stagnated, and the words recalled the Jeremiah text that I had tucked into my soul since university days over forty years ago. When I look back over my recent art activity, I know I have been prolific, but the content of my work was emanating a staleness to me, and I have been pondering ways to get the streams flowing again. Prolific is better than being blocked, but when you reach a point that you feel you are doing little more than whipping out art pieces for the trade, satisfaction wanes. Moving waters inspire me, filling me with ideas about life and its effervescence. But just because I am making stacks of art doesn’t guarantee a freshness in the product. I love this book because he extends what I love the most from Emerson, Thoreau and Dillard. I just cannot seem to find enough of these kinds of texts.
My dear friend Linda from high school days alerted me on facebook weeks ago about this restored Shell gas station from New Cambria, Missouri, dating back to 1921. I knew I would be returning to Missouri for another vacation before school resumed in the fall, so I tucked the station into my memory, and decided to find it once I set out on my trek across the Midwest.
Locating the site did not prove easy, and thanks to my friend Mark sending the Google Map coordinates, I finally caught sight of the station, far to the south of highway 36, with no road leading to it. The exit from the highway is a driveway leading to the house of the lady who owns the station, and the only reason I finally walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell was due to the experience I had trying to access the old highway 36 that actually reaches the station. To get there, one must navigate a stetch of old blacktop road strewn with wrecked cars, wrecked residences, and a large sign reading:
IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU ARE IN RANGE
How does a Texas watercolorist wishing to photograph a landmark convince a community of idiots that he means no harm? I am infuriated to this day at the thought that someone may have been aiming a rifle at me as I navigated that waste land, trying to find my way to the station. Finally, I turned back and drove up to the house above the property, just off the main highway, and reluctantly rang the doorbell. To my relief, I encountered a beautiful soul who was gracious and willing to lead the way as we drove our vehicles over the rough terrain descending several hundred yards into the valley where the station is nestled.
Since I’ve been at my parents’ house, I’ve made some attempts to watercolor this station. It’s bloody hot outside, and using their carport as a studio has its advantages with the sounds of the outdoors fueling my imagination, but the heat index makes long sessions prohibitive. Hence, not much has been done yet. I may have to wait and get this work back into my own studio back home.
During an Austin weekend, I sat outside and sketched part of a large tree in front of me. But again, heat prohibited me from staying with it for very long.
On this Missouri vacation, I found some very cool shady mornings last week and tried my hand at some lovely cone flowers. As the sun climbed late into the morning, temperatures convinced me to stop. The painting above was my first attempt, and I enjoyed the layers of masquing to get the layers of flowers and stems I enjoyed viewing. The painting below I tried on the second consecutive morning, again finding the shade trees to provide a temporary respite. This summer is brutal in Missouri as well as Texas.
The vacation reading has been restorative to my soul, and for that I am deeply grateful. There are a number of other watercolors I have begun but not yet posted. I’ll go ahead and post below a train in Eureka Springs, Arkansas with which I also got an early start, but haven’t had the time to return to and work futher:
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.