Archive for July, 2017

Request for Von Rad Collage

July 31, 2017

Von Rad.jpg

The Colorado Rockies are restoring my weary soul, as I’m spending plenty of time fly fishing in the streams and practicing my plein air watercolor craft. But I’ve paused to duck into a public library so I can get steady Internet access.

One of my respondents expressed an appreciation for my studies and art concerning Paul Tillich and Gerhard Von Rad.  He requested to see the Von Rad collage that one of my high school students purchased this past year. So, this one’s for you!

Thanks for reading.


Confessions from an Idiot Fisherman

July 30, 2017


My blogging came to a skidding halt because of the spotty Internet service where I am located, at an elevation of 8180 feet. Today was my first taste of success in the South Fork of the Rio Grande, fly fishing. On previous attempts the past couple of days, I only managed to catch a few small trout–too small to keep and eat. Finally this morning, I managed to land one large enough for the skillet. But it didn’t come easily. I’m only glad there were no witnesses.

I was fishing a dry mayfly with a bead-headed pheasant tail nymph trailing 18″ behind. The dry fly could serve either as a strike indicator, or even provide bait for a trout willing to rise. This beautiful rainbow scooped my nymph off the bottom and headed out into the current. Daily rainfall has made this stream swift, murky and rather dangerous for wading. I was already in knee-deep water, unable to see my feet underneath, and in a precarious position.

I did manage to get the trout close enough to slip a net under him. But stupid me decided not to spend money on a tether to keep the net attached to me. It slipped from my hands and began floating swiftly downstream. Thinking myself a quick thinker on my feet, I steered the trout into the floating net, like sinking a basketball through a hoop, and began pulling the trout and net toward me. But the trout slipped out of the net. Again, I steered him into the drifting net and began to pull on them both, and again, he slipped out. Finally, I managed to get my hand on the trout, and watching the net float away, I decided not to dig in my pouch for the forceps, but to remove the nymph from his upper lip by hand. Once I completed this rather quickly, I then noticed with despair that my dry fly had hung into my shirt. Now, with one hand on the trout and the rod under my armpit, I pried the fly loose from my shirt with my free hand. Tossing the fly rod toward the bank, I then began stepping and stumbling as rapidly as I could downstream to retrieve my floating net. I had to plough through about a hundred feet of stream before I reached the net, and then clumsily dropped the trout into the net like tossing a doll into a wastebasket.

Wading to shore, I drew out the stringer from the bib of my waders, attached the trout, dropped him into the water, and tied the rope of the stringer around a tree. Then I had to go upstream about a hundred feet to retrieve my flyrod. Stupid is as stupid does. Again, I’m so glad no one watched this slapstick debacle. The trout has been cleaned and is now in the refrigerator, but I’m not sure when I’m going to serve him up.

Thanks for reading.


July 25, 2017

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Our moods do not believe in each other. To-day I am full of thoughts, and can write what I please. I see no reason why I should not have the same thought, the same power of expression, to-morrow. What I write, whilst I write it, seems the most natural thing in the world; but yesterday I saw a dreary vacuity in this direction in which now I see so much; and a month hence, I doubt not, I shall wonder who he was that wrote so many continuous pages. Alas for this infirm faith, this will not strenuous, this vast ebb of a vast flow! I am God in nature; I am a weed by the wall.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

I still remember how liberated I felt back in 1989, when a professor pointed out Emerson’s sensitivity to the natural ebb and flow of the creative lifestyle. From that day forward, I pursued that theme, reading it in the poetry of Walt Whitman and the interviews of a number of twentieth-century painters. Long ago, while in the ministry, I knew that parishioners were deceiving themselves if they thought they could live in a state of perpetual revival. Mountains require valleys. In my years of teaching, the topic continually came up–how can one sustain a high level of creativity? In my opinion, one cannot. Life moves in circles. We require intake if we are to output. We must inhale in order to exhale. We must rest in order to exert. The ocean ebbs and flows. These rhythms are natural and inevitable.

I don’t think I’ve ever knowingly tried to cheat the natural order. Today on the radio, I listened to discussions of people taking amphetamines in order to sustain creative exploits for up to 72 hours without sleep. I have always been alarmed at that thought. In my years as a graduate student, I recall drinking coffee and swallowing No-Doz tablets in order to stay up an entire night typing a paper to meet a deadline. But I believe I always returned to my bed the following evening. I never thought it possible to sustain beyond that.

As to the rhythm of creative eros and stagnation, I truly believe that physical rest is a factor. So why am I writing this now? Because I’m exhausted–sleep deprived, heat exhausted and travel weary. But . . . my air conditioner at home was finally repaired this afternoon.  So, I sit in this Barnes & Noble Cafe, waiting for the house to cool (it was 91 degrees inside today) so I can get home and experience some quality sleep. Soon I’ll travel to the Colorado Rockies, and I just want to get my physical and spiritual self back on a good track before I begin the new trek.

Above, I have  posted the watercolor that I began yesterday, and completed this morning. It is now in transit to its new home out east, and I’m delighted that the patron is happy with it (glad also to have the job finished before making my next journey).

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when feeling alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Grinding it Out

July 24, 2017


This has been an exhausting work day for me in The Gallery at Redlands. I have a commission to complete and have had difficulty painting because of a broken A/C at home. Painting on the road doesn’t come easily for me. Several friends have stopped by the gallery whom I haven’t seen in weeks and it was good to catch up on the local news and make a couple of trips out of the shop to photograph some historic sites in the Palestine vicinity. But all the while, though, I knew I needed to get this 11 x 14″ painting started and nearly finished.  I stopped repeatedly throughout the day, taking refresher breaks so as not to experience fatigue-driven mistakes. Finally, at 7:15 tonight, I realized that this composition is finally taking shape and I believe is going to turn out alright. It needs to be scanned and processed no later than tomorrow to satisfy a deadline I promised.

Thanks for reading.  It’s quiet here, and I just wanted to share this.

Drawing the Next Circle

July 24, 2017


In the Gallery at Redlands, Palestine, Texas

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”

Awakened at 5:30 this morning by a heavy rainstorm (love the sound of rain on a tin roof!), I rose refreshed, and by the time I finished showering, making breakfast and loading the Jeep for the 50-minute drive to the gallery, I was surprised to be at the desk by 8:00. My pump is primed, and I am ready to begin the next painting.

Emerson’s meditation on “Circles” has possessed me since 1992 when I was first introduced to it while at Oregon State University. The words resonate with me, because I seldom feel that I’ve been mired in a rut; there is always a new adventure to pursue, a new experience to savor.  When Jack Kerouac wrote that beyond the hills in the distance something wonderful is going to happen, I believe it was Ken Kesey who retorted, “It turns out there are just more hills.” I have met many with Kesey’s sentiment, but I am not one of them. In a short time I’ll be departing for my next road trip, and I’m excited beyond measure. Meanwhile, I have a commission to complete, so I’m getting down to the business of it. It’s a beautiful morning in Palestine, Texas for working on a painting.


Last evening, between soggy rainstorms, I did manage to get in a little fly fishing in a private pond near the store where I reside in the country. I managed to land two largemouth bass and a pair of fat panfish. I returned them all, just enjoying the sport of fishing. I couldn’t imagine a better way to finish an evening. Last week in Louisiana, some of my best evenings were capped by fishing area lakes, and I’m still thinking fondly of those experiences.

Time to get to work . . . thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when feeling alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Living out of a Suitcase

July 23, 2017
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Fishing Louisiana Waters
You don’t choose a life Dad. You live one.
Daniel (from the film The Way)
A friend shared this film with me while I was traveling, and the central message continues to percolate in my mind.  When confronted with the choice, I believe I have lived my life more than chosen it, especially with all my changes over the past couple of decades.  The film is anchored in the plot of one’s personal odyssey, and I’ve viewed my own life since the 1970’s as an odyssey rather than a career choice. And I have lived a life with few regrets.
Since my retirement began June 3, I’ve embarked on an odyssey.  Although not planned, I have now lived out of a suitcase for thirty-one days, beginning with my trip home to St. Louis to visit my parents and siblings. Returning to Texas to find my A/C not functioning and my living temperatures hovering around 92 degrees, I began staying in hotel rooms and with friends. After a week of that, finding out that an A/C technician was not coming anytime soon, I then set out for a trip to my Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas and living quarters in the old store where the owners (precious friends) let me live when I need a place to crash.
The Gallery at Redlands
A Store in the Wilderness
I love The Gallery at Redlands, now housing the biggest collection of my personal work. And evenings living in the old store out in the wilderness are too exquisite to describe. The quiet is intoxicating for one who tires of city and suburban noise. I’m always deeply grateful for time spent in this part of the state.
With still no word on an A/C appointment, I accepted the offer of a friend, and next journeyed over into Louisiana for the first time in my life to spend a week fishing the waters of southern Louisiana and spending some time exploring New Orleans. The fishing was filled with excitement, especially when a seven-foot gator visited me during two of my excursions.
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I was live-bait fishing from a dock, and twice over the two days, this enormous reptile drifted across the waters and hovered about twenty feet in front of where I fished, eyeing my bobber in presumed amusement. At one point, when the bobber began bouncing, he grabbed it in his jaws and submerged. I felt like I had a Buick on the end of my line, and reached for a knife to cut it loose, but then the bobber drifted back to the surface as well as the gator, who then hovered a while longer and watched before drifting away. This is the first time in my life I’ve seen a gator outside a zoo.
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I could never successfully describe the sensations that overwhelmed me once I entered the French Quarter of New Orleans. The sounds of live blues and zydeco music pulled me from steamy, sultry Bourbon Street and into the air conditioned dark interiors of some of the most exciting clubs I’ve ever experienced. My sketchbook was with me, and I still struggle to capture the human figure on paper, especially when the subjects are not posing. Bobbing and weaving musicians are a challenge, but I felt very much in my element as I struggled to capture their essences. And the music cleansed my soul in ways I’ll never adequately describe. Musicians are usually flattered to see someone drawing them and always gracious in their assessment of the quality of the sketches. In fact, the day after, my cell phone rang (I always give out my business cards), and it was one of the guitarists wishing to purchase my sketch. We made a business deal over the phone while I sat in the cemetery sketching and he was on the road to his next gig out of town.
suitcase 2
Cemetery off Canal Street
I have seen pictures of New Orleans cemeteries, but wasn’t prepared for the deep feelings that seized me when I looked at acres and acres of land strewn with thousands of above-ground monuments to the deceased.  John Donne’s Meditation 17 was in my ears:
The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. 
I made a number of sketches in the hot sun that morning, and felt a profound connection with the ones honored with these monuments as well as the loved ones who had them erected.
At the time of this writing I am back on the road.  My A/C will not be looked at until next Tuesday, but thankfully the gallery in Palestine and store out in the country are available for me to “roost” while I await repairs.  Meanwhile, I intend to continue enjoying the journey.
Thanks for reading.
I create art in order to remember.
I journal when I fee alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Gallery Musings

July 15, 2017

gallery musings

We have an event at The Gallery at Redlands this evening, so I am still here at the desk, reading and keeping myself occupied. I have begun reading Paul Klee’s monograph, On Modern Art, a short treatise prepared as a lecture given in 1924. Right out of the gate, he began constructing a metaphor of the artist as a tree, and then overpowered me with this observation:

And yet, standing at his appointed place, the trunk of the tree, he does nothing other than gather and pass on what comes to him from the depths. He neither serves nor rules–he transmits.

His position is humble.  And the beauty of the crown is not his own. He is merely a channel.

I love this! And I love thinking about the process of making art as merely drawing something up from the depths, being a channel for something meaningful. Throughout my life, I have been surprised repeatedly by what flows out of my brush or drags out from under the point of my pencil. The process of painting and drawing has always been its own reward, and I’m happy that I’ve gotten to participate in this event.

Thanks for reading. I hope you draw as much inspiration from Klee’s observation as I did.


Finished my Night Train

July 15, 2017

The rains have turned this into a quiet Saturday in the gallery. I took advantage and finally finished one of my favorite “Christmas Trains” theme.

July 15, 2017

A Simple Life

A hard rain is pummeling Palestine, Texas currently, forbidding me to dash down the street to retrieve my art supplies. I’m cozied inside The Gallery at Redlands for the day, my recent train watercolors lined up before me, and I’m in the mood to complete a couple of them. But I wait . . .

I just finished reading Christina Baker Kline’s a piece of the world, a fictional memoir for Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting “Christina’s World”. I found so much to love as I read the details of the Olson’s 18th-centry house and the Spartan existence Christina and brother Alvaro endured there. 

Living in my suburban  neighborhood, I of course take for granted our current conveniences. But I spent my childhood summers on the modest farms of my grandparents, with no indoor plumbing, heated by wood-burning stoves.

The store/residence where I spent last night is one of my favorite places to get away from the everyday familiar. Above, I’ve posted the photo I took during breakfast, while fully enjoying the feel of the country kitchen.

Saying good-bye to the store . . . 

. . . and Hello to The Gallery at Redlands 

Thanks for reading.

Flight to the Country

July 14, 2017

I didn’t reach my destination till after 11:00 tonight, but I’m thankful to be in my favorite getaway for the weekend. I was invited to an Open Mic in Hillsboro, Texas earlier where I got to reconnect with a host of friends I haven’t seen in years. Once the event finished, I decided to drive across the country to this spot rather than return home (where the air conditioning still isn’t repaired–house temps reached 92 today!).

I’m thankful for gracious friends who have offered me a bedroom this past week, and always appreciative of the friends who have given me access to this store in the remote country where I can relax off the grid and let my imagination mingle with this interior filled with the furnishings from decades past.

Tomorrow I’ll spend in The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine. I miss seeing my friends in the historic Inn at Redlands as well. The weekend offers good things.

Thanks for reading.