Plein Air Beginnings in Rolla, Missouri
Reference Photo for Unfinished Pine Sketches
It is the sense of the sublime that we have to regard as the root of man’s creative activities in art, thought and noble living. Just as no flora has ever fully displayed the hidden vitality of the earth, so has no work of art ever brought to expression the depth of the unutterable, in the sight of which the souls of saints, poets and philosophers live.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion
On Saturday morning, my new friend Lorraine McFarland–a remarkable pastelist residing near Rolla, Missouri–led me to the side of a lily pad-infested pond where we set up our easels in the cool morning and looked into the depths of the forest beyond. Surprisingly, the Missouri sun heated with enough intensity to chase us from our spots after about an hour of work, so we had to take reference photos with a vague promise that this work would be completed later. Returning home the next day, I discovered my A/C had quit, and the interior of my house was at 95 degrees. This morning, from yet another hotel room, I at least reside with the gladness of knowing an A/C man is arriving this morning to repair it.
Above, I have posted lines from the latest book that I read with a sense of amazement. I am only five pages into the text, but I have re-read and re-marked them four separate times already, because I am unable to move beyond; this man’s words are going straight to my heart. I was experiencing these words as I gazed into the forest two days ago, my eyes moving all over the contours of three pines reaching upward through the dense growth, all the while sketching, correcting, blotting Annie Dillard’s “color patches”, and constantly catching my breath as snatches of beauty came and went across my paper just as fleetingly as they did across the highlighted trunks of those pines. For the space of one hour as I labored over this pair of compositional sketches, I realized as before that the forces surging through the artist’s eye and soul never translate onto the painted page. I have come to accept that. As a guitarist, I still laugh at the story of the master asking his pupil why he was frustrated. The pupil replied that he could always hear the music better than he was capable of playing it. The master asked, “And why do you think that is ever going to change?”
As a Romantic, I am held captive by the Sublime. My expressions always fall far short of my experience, and I just have to accept that. I enjoy trying, nevertheless. Every painting, every sketch, every line of words I scribble into the journal are merely footprints, ciphers, eidolon, of what is happening to me as I encounter the Sublime. My vacation travels have ended, I am home, but not yet Home. In my soul, I am still journeying, wandering, and the odyssey far exceeds in beauty what I am able to express.
I close with a re-post of the pine tree that greeted me every morning in Colorado as I sat drinking my coffee on the porch. I do indeed miss those 39-degree mornings, having returned to this triple-digit Texas hell.
Earlier Sketch of Pine Tree from South Fork, Colorado
Thanks for reading.
I paint in order to encounter.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself I am not alone.