Archive for December, 2016

New Years Eve Contemplation

December 31, 2016

new-year

Reading from The Book of Ecclesiastes

The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

Ecclesiastes 1:8

We spend so much time on the hunt. But nothing ever quite does it for us. And we get so wrapped up in the hunt that it makes us miserable.

Dan Harris, author, 10% Happier

For two days, I have been covered in New Year musings, and it’s all good. Yesterday, searching out documentaries to hear while working on my painting, I came across a film that my artist friends have been praising for months: “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.” Dan Harris is one of the featured speakers throughout the presentation. Halfway through the film I laid down my brush, took a seat, and watched the remainder, and felt tears welling up as it concluded.

The message of the documentary is not new for me; I’ve been hearing these ideas since about 1972, just finishing high school. But I never grow weary of the discussion, and never stop hurting for all the lost souls caught up in the maelstrom of possession fever that can never feel satisfaction.

My personal ritual, since 1973, is to read from The Book of Ecclesiastes during New Years Eve. I just finished doing this a short while ago, and feel moved to post something. The treatise was written by an aged king who had concluded near the end of his life that “there is nothing new under the sun.” One of his most quoted summations is “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!”  This author had gained it all–political power, wealth, physical pleasure, knowledge. He held back on none of his pursuits and apparently never failed.  Yet, at the end of his life, he sounds deeply unhappy.

The New Year invites us to be retrospective and prospective. I like that.  And, looking back over my past, I acknowledge the many times I have shot for the moon, fell short, and suffered deep dissatisfaction.  But that is not what is on my mind this evening, pausing before the New Era arrives.  My focus now is on the beauty experienced during this earthly odyssey.  Two orbits have never left me impoverished: the pursuit of knowledge and practice of the arts.  In those two realms I have been blessed beyond measure. And during this recent holiday, my library and my studio have offered genuine solace. In these two areas I have drawn strength, and am still happy in the pursuits.

After months of soul-searching, I have made the decision to retire at the end of this school year. The five months before me, I am sure, will race by more quickly than the twenty-eight years behind me.  I anticipate the closing chapter with gladness.  Even more so, I anticipate with gladness the new chapter waiting to be written.  Retirement is the reason I’m pursuing a series of paintings now titled “Portals.”  There is so much waiting to be explored with any series focusing on the open door.

new-year-2

door-friday

Thanks for reading, and I wish all of you the very best in life as you prepare to write your next chapter, as you pass through the next portal.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Entering the Portal of a New Year

December 30, 2016

door-friday

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

As 2016 slowly slides into a chain of memories, I’m happily painting my way into a New Year, hoping to make new discoveries. Returning to this watercolor begun last week has not been without its interruptions and now that I have a couple of days left before this holiday ends, I’m glad to come face-to-face with the composition, yet feel somewhat lost and out of practice.  I suppose the momentum broke. I paused late into this evening to re-read a book by Hemingway that I have always loved. This passage I’ve cited is one of my favorites. The setting is Paris in the 1920s when the young Hemingway was seeking his literary “voice” and seething in self-doubt. I love this soliloquy and have claimed it as my own. Yes, I’ve done this kind of work before and I shall again. All I have to do is begin with the simple, honest strokes that I have known for decades. To me, drawing and watercoloring can be simple and direct. Upon that foundation I’ll return to form, I’m confident. I love the subject I’ve chosen this time, and am looking forward to entering through this new portal and seeing what happens when I come out the other side.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone. 

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Rubbing the Cold off the Object

December 30, 2016

door

These great men [Thoreau, Goethe, Emerson, Tolstoy] forever radiate a sharp sense of that profound requirement of the artist, to fully understand that consequences of what he creates are unimportant. “Let the motive for action be in the action itself and not in the event.”

I know from my own experience that when I create with any degree of strength and beauty I have had no thought of consequences.  Anyone who creates for effect –to score a hit–does not know what he is missing!

N. C. Wyeth, final letter to his son Andrew Wyeth, February 16, 1944

Finally, after a considerable hiatus, I am delighted to re-enter my studio.  It has taken a few days to get over the weariness generated by a drive from St. Louis to Dallas/Fort Worth following my holiday visit with family. It takes me longer to hit the reset button following those long drives than when I was younger.

The watercolor has gotten cold on me since I left it last week.  But I have been excited to return to it, and am confident that the warmth and confidence will emerge once I give it a few strokes. I am painting this composition for my own pure pleasure, and thus the “commission pressure” is not present. And I’m not painting it with a market in mind; I just want to explore this subject that has been residing in my mind’s eye for quite a long period now. Hence, the quote from N. C. Wyeth above. I did not realize until later in life that I received far more joy and fulfilment in the making of art than in the attention or selling that followed. As my holiday draws near its close, I’m delighted, in this quiet studio, to pursue what gives me the most satisfaction. I’ll continue to post blogs as the painting runs its course.

I wish all of you an exciting and promising New Year.  Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Post-Christmas Musings

December 27, 2016

hotel

Holiday Hotel Insomnia

 Ut pictura poesis (“as in painting, so in poetry”)

I am slowly waking to a most unusual day. For reasons unknown, I awoke a little after 3:00 this morning and could not return to sleep. The hotel was dark and quiet.  Finally, I rose, showered, and spent two hours at the writing desk recording my thoughts, reading and reflecting in the stillness of the post-Christmas pre-dawn. Finally, I went to a 24-hour diner for breakfast, then to Starbucks where I have remained until now (8:14 a.m.), reading and enjoying this cold winter morning (dropped to 34 degrees in St. Louis this morning).

My reading has been an extraordinary experience, finishing the Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life biography, then resuming The Wyeths by N. C. Wyeth and beginning Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings (a much-appreciated Christmas gift).

I read the following in a letter from the young N. C. Wyeth to his parents, regarding a challenge just given him from his teacher Howard Pyle:

“Wyeth, I’ve been watching your work very closely and I see you have a great deal of talent but what you need is knowledge, that is, you have not had a good training and thereby no foundation.” 

Pyle then invited the young N. C. to enroll in his school for illustrators.  I purchased this book, because I’ve been astounded at the erudition of N. C. in his letters written late in life.  Here I am clearly reading of the turning point in his experience, when he was identified as basically unlettered though talented, and requiring intellectual development and maturing.

I am moved by this reading, and recall my own experience forty-four years ago,  when starting out in college on a scholarship granted because of my artistic abilities, but discovering quite quickly that my mental laziness throughout high school had finally outed me.  Some of the painful conversations with my professors still haunt my memory. Looking back, I’m now very grateful for my years in graduate study that poured a foundation beneath my art that now gives me more of a purpose to pursue what I pursue. Though I cannnot yet articulate a particular theory of aesthetics of philosophy of art, I nevertheless am aware of a much deeper motive for making art than I knew in younger years. And of course I still study and practice technique as much as possible and will never neglect this important part of the artistic enterprise. But the message still needs to be explored. Gladly, I still have some holiday vacation time to do this.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Relaxing into Christmas

December 24, 2016

christmas

Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:–

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,

As the swift seasons roll!

Leave thy low-vaulted past!

Let each new temple, nobler than the last,

Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,

Till thou at length are free,

Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!

Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The Chambered Nautilus”

Happy Holidays to all my treasured blog readers!  I haven’t posted for over a week, as Christmas obligations and errands, along with the responsibilities of closing out the fall semester, left me with little time for communication.  I did however begin work on my first new series that I am titling “Portals.”  I dragged an antique door from my man cave into my living room studio so I could enjoy painting near the fireplace while listening to Christmas music this past week.  As with every Chrstmas season, I leave a fresh painting-in-progress behind in my studio as I flee to St. Louis and visit with family and friends.  But I always am able to return to my home free of post-holiday depression because of a painting still waiting for me that I’m excited to engage.

I am re-reading an Andrew Wyeth biography that I enjoyed years ago, Richard Meryman’s Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life.  My soul stirs deeply as I read of his life and legacy, and the life and ideas of his father N. C. have taken such a hold on me that I just ordered and received (thanks Amazon!) The Wyeths, by N. C. Wyeth.  That incredibly large man was so charged with literary ideas and philosophical sentiments that I cannot wait to read from the 1200 letters that he left behind, exposing his most intimate thoughts and dreams about art. So, in addition to enjoying my circle of family and friends, I’m enjoying some quality reading and times for reflection.  The holidays are such a warm and intimate time for these kinds of pursuits.

I wish all of you the very best of life as we sail through this season.  Christmas and the New Year always fill me with the most meaningful ponderings.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself tha I am not alone.

Portals

December 13, 2016

portal

A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

James Joyce, Ulysses

With one week of school remaining before Christmas holidays begin, I was delighted this morning to be seized with the inspiration to begin a new series of work I will call “Portals.”  I have studied with interest Robert Motherwell’s “Open Door” series as well as the motif used in Henri Matisse.  As I look toward the New Year, I’m thinking of new horizons, or new portals of discovery for artistic expression and I took some time this afternoon to research my blog through the months of October through December 2012 when I first began painting vintage doorknobs. Over past years, I have collected a number of vintage doors, doorknobs and locking plates and plan to begin a new series of watercolors on these subjects this winter.  All the ones I’ve painted from the past have sold, and I’m excited at the prospect of beginning this new series.

The above painting was finished over the weekend at my favorite retreat, several hours outside the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.  Dear friends of mine own an old general store that is not in business, but still has a residence attached to it..  They have been gracious in allowing me access to this dwelling over selected weekends, and I thoroughly enjoyed my restful, quiet stay this past weekend.  The door separating the storeroom from the residence was one of my subjects for study the last time I stayed there, and I managed to complete the work this time.  This afternoon I took the painting to a frame shop to be custom framed and I’m excited to see how it looks when ready.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Painting in the pre-dawn hours.

December 11, 2016

Finishing this painting at 3:44 a.m. would lead one to think I stayed up all night. Not so. Running for several days on too little sleep finally caught up with me last night at 7:30, so I retired  to bed. Surprisingly, I awoke at 1:25 a.m., and was unable to return to sleep. So I rose and began reading from the journals of Henry David Thoreau. Inspired, I returned to the front of the store, turned on the heater, and resume the watercolor I began yesterday, and was surprised to complete it within an hour.

Thanks for reading.

Retreating to the country again

December 10, 2016

I took advantage of a weekend free of commitments and once again escaped to my favorite country retreat. The people that own this store are so gracious in allowing me turn it into a refuge when work tends to get me down. Throughout this day, I have focused my attention on a watercolor of a portion  of the store’s merchandise.

I am so far off the grid, that most of my attempts to publish have failed. If this “smoke signal” succeeds in getting online, then I’ll consider myself grateful and wait till I return home to post the rest of my news.

Thanks for reading . 

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.