Archive for October, 2018

Morning Coffee with Jack Kerouac

October 18, 2018


Road Trip Memories

There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road: the Original Scroll

These words drifted through my consciousness last night as I made the two-hour late-night drive back home from Tyler, Texas, through the driving rain (really, I’m fed up with rain that has lasted a solid week down here). I was honored to jury the 66th Annual Palette of Roses Art Show, and did that Monday morning. Last night was the awards reception, and I was invited to present the awards and be available for a couple of hours to offer critique for any artist requesting it.

Judging does not come easily for me, probably because I have had my share of competitions, and know the vulnerability and angst accompanying judgment passed on my own work. So when the time comes for me to do the judging, I worry over the second-guessing, not only on my part, but on the part of the artists who do not agree with my decisions. But last night’s group was gracious and I thoroughly enjoyed every conversation. There were 251 entries to the show, and many awards covering many categories. And, for the entire two hours, I spoke with one artist after another, explaining my decisions on works I had chosen, and offering my perspectives on any piece brought before me. These conversations I always find invigorating, and I regret that I could not have spent an entire day, or even an entire week, with this enthusiastic and highly-skilled group of artistic spirits. Driving home was spiritually uplifting as I recalled every word passed throughout the evening.

Kerouac’s iconic life on the road also flooded my thoughts as I drove through the night, so I rose early this morning to spend time over his pages before going to my 9:30 class. I confess that I did not read On the Road until around 2004, though I had been aware of the book for a couple of decades. Since then I have read it through twice, and have had it read to me during my travels (I purchased the 10-CD audio book) countless times. The book will never go stale for me.

I was asked in conversation yesterday when I retired, and I had to think about it, the time since that day has been such a blur. It was May 2017. And I never would have imagined what would follow–seventeen months of a life on the road. I believe I had always fantasized about such a life, feeling like a wandering mendicant. Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama–the art life took me across all these states to participate in plein air painting, to conduct workshops, to participate in art festivals, to display and sell my work in an art museum, and to enjoy life in all its fullness. Though I have spent little time in my home, I have not felt homeless or detached in any way. Rather, I have felt at home in the world, appreciating every friend made and every conversation shared.

I suppose it is time to re-insert Kerouac into my traveling backpack of books.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with Proust

October 17, 2018


He began, always, with the sustained tremolos of the violin part which for several bars was heard alone, filling the whole foreground; until suddenly it seemed to draw aside, and–as in those interiors by Pieter de Hooch which are deepened by the narrow frame of a half-opened door, in the far distance, of a different colour, velvety with the radiance of some intervening light–the little phrase appeared, dancing, pastoral, interpolated, episodic, belonging to another world.

Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

Rising to a cold, dark, rainy morning for the fourth day in a row, I could have harbored a sourpuss outlook on life, but I had an appointment to meet a student of mine whom I last saw eleven years ago (teachers know how rich and delightful it is to “catch up” with the lives of those who touched us profoundly in the classroom long ago). Jake was a true lover of literature and ideas while a senior in high school, and happily, that hasn’t diminished for him at all. When he was in my class, we were both reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Kerouac’s mention of Proust meant little to me at that time, but a long-time teacher friend of mine alerted me to Proust’s delicious way of describing sensations in his famous novel.

Returning home, I opened my volume to the bookmark where I last read (I wonder if I will ever complete my reading of the three-volume work!) and stopped with the passage posted above. I had to close the book and sigh deeply a few moments. Music has flooded my soul with joy for as long as I can recall. In fact, I have scores of “Proustian recollections” associated with particular songs when they are played. They transport me immediately out of my present environment and re-position me in a warm, primal state for a few moments. I always wish the moment would remain, but of course, it never does. Nevertheless, I am grateful for that visitation.

I am a YouTube junkie, and as I read and blog, I always have music playing–the type that doesn’t distract from thinking. In fact, as I compose this, I have “Relaxing Background Guitar Music – meditate, focus, study, think” playing, and the effect is hypnotic. I honestly believe music and literature and visual art keep me from ever feeling alone, though I live and travel alone.

Thanks for reading

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with James Joyce

October 16, 2018

joyce desk top.jpg

New Collage of James Joyce made this Morning

The full morning light had come. No sound was to be heard: but he knew that all around him life was about to awaken in common noises, hoarse voices, sleepy prayers. Shrinking from that life he turned towards the wall, making a cowl of the blanket and staring at the great overblown scarlet flowers of the tattered wallpaper.

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist asYoung Man

All day yesterday, I drove from Bullard to Tyler to Palestine and finally to Arlington through a downpour and a dark, cold, muddy world. Finding my house cold after leaving it on an 85-degree day last week, I decided to turn on the furnace but keep the thermostat around 60 degrees and enjoy a sweater finally. Putting a quilt on the bed last night, I awoke this morning around 6:30 to temperatures outside at 43 degrees, and heard the downpour continuing. Like the protagonist in Joyce’s book, I huddled under the quilt and turned to the wall, but unlike him, I enjoyed my thoughts drifting through my waking consciousness. Finally rising at 7:00, I showered and regretfully went out and ran a number of necessary errands, the rain pouring continually, and finally returned home, resolved to leave the house no more this day.

The first thing I did at my desk when I returned home was go to work on a quick portrait sketch of James Joyce.

Joyce sketch rouge

Portrait Sketch

Once the sketch was complete, I wasn’t satisfied, and decided to tear some paper, photocopy some manuscripts, and see what I could do with a collage attempt.

Joyce collage

Finished Collage, 5 x 7″ and now fitted into an 8 x 10 Mat

Priced at $40

Once that was completed, I re-opened A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and read and took notes in my journal for pure pleasure. The nasty, cold, rainy morning finally morphed into a warm, interior, pleasurable hour in the studio. I have a ton of college grading to catch up on, having been out all weekend chasing art activities, so I have to bring this to a close.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Reaping the Whirlwind

October 15, 2018


Sharing Gallery Space with Smooth Rock 93.5

As the clock crawls into the later hours of Monday night, I find myself home at last, seated at my desk, wishing to push out some quality words encapsulating the past several days. My last blog post was hurriedly texted on my phone, as patrons were swarming the Edom Art Festival Saturday morning. All that ended sharply at 2:00 when the skies opened and dumped rain all over us, thus ending the festival for good. At 4:00, the organizers called it quits, and we closed down the tents and bolted to our vehicles, many of them requiring tow trucks to get out of the fields. With soaked clothing, I drove 40 minutes to friends who are so kind to provide lodging to me when I do art activities in east Texas. Sunday morning, the official word of cancellation came, so there was nothing left for us to do but return to the scene of soaked desolation, break down our displays, and depart.

I managed to put in some quality fly fishing time on my friends’ property Sunday evening, landing one largemouth bass of 12″. By that time the rain had lifted and the sun was pouring across the pastureland. The evening was serene.

Monday morning found me in Tyler, Texas, judging the annual Tyler Palette of Roses art competition. Wow, 250 entries! I don’t know how long it took to judge the entire show, making decisions on Best of Show overall, followed by Best of Show in each category, then 1st, 2nd, 3rd places and honorable mentions for all the categories and sub-categories. Plenty of awards to be handed out. I’ve been invited to return Wednesday night for the reception and awards ceremony. The show was remarkable deep with talent, making judging extremely difficult. I’m proud beyond description to have been chosen to judge such an exhibition.

After the judging, I returned to Palestine and The Gallery at Redlands to work for awhile, putting the art work back into place and visiting with Marc Mitchell of Smooth Rock 93.5. I posted a photo above of the view from my desk, with Marc working at the broadcast booth alongside his son who was doing homework.

I managed to frame one of my recent paintings in time for the Edom Festival and have posted it below. Before working on the blog tonight, I managed to design a greeting card with the painting displayed on the front and my written remarks on the back.


Plein Air Watercolor of Cloudcroft, New Mexico

11 x 14″ framed.  $200.

Well, the night is advancing, and my eyelids are getting heavier. It seems I have done little more than drive all over east Texas (Palestine, Edom, Bullard, Tyler) for the past four days, and my body feels it.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee at Edom Art Festival

October 13, 2018

Edom, Texas is flourishing with the Art Festival in full swing. Temperatures have dropped to the sixties with the recent rains, and ushered in perfect weather for enjoyment of the arts. Patrons are keeping me busy so I have to make this brief. Thanks for reading.

Edom, Texas is flourishing today, with the 1st day of its art festival. Temperatures are cooler in the sixties, thanks to recent rains driving the temperatures down to comfortable levels. Patrons are keeping me rather busy today so I will have to make this brief. Thank you for reading.

Morning Coffee on Smooth Rock 93.5 FM at the Gallery at Redlands

October 12, 2018

Incidentally, I despise everything which merely instructs me without
increasing or immediately enlivening my activity.


Interview on “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” at Smooth Rock 93.5 FM

For the first time during their two weeks of live broadcasting, I entered The Gallery at Redlands and was shocked to see the real ambience of a radio station for the first time. I had always envisioned the live clatter and chatter that one associates with a newsroom. Instead, inside of Smooth Rock 93.5 FM, my new roommate in the gallery, I found two quiet men in a darkened pre-dawn gallery. The music was playing softly in the background and they were poring over the raw materials for the day’s broadcast. It was as quiet as a library. We exchanged greetings and I went to my gallery desk and began work on today’s details involving a trip to Edom to set up my booth for the Edom Art Festival beginning tomorrow.

After a few minutes, Kevin and Marc called me over to take a seat at the guest mic, and before I knew it, we were on! Sitting between two professionals made the experience much easier for me, and the time flew by as we discussed art and the gallery in general. The radio station is hoping to draw more people into this space to enjoy music and art, a perfect blend.

The Goethe quote above has been lingering with me this morning. As I have shared in the past, I was mentally lazy throughout my public schooling, engrossed in making art but feeling that classroom instruction in English, history, science and math was dull and uninspiring. Finally, at the university, the world of academia took on color and dimension and I could not seem to get enough of it. From those days till now, I have grazed from many pastures, ranging from reading to making art to making music to writing, enjoying the stimulation from every one of them.

Observe the herd which is grazing beside you. It does not know what yesterday
or today is. It springs around, eats, rests, digests, jumps up again, and so from
morning to night and from day to day, with its likes and dislikes closely tied to
the peg of the moment, and thus neither melancholy nor weary. To witness this
is hard for man, because he boasts to himself that his human race is better than
the beast and yet looks with jealousy at its happiness.

Friedrich Nietzsche, “On the Use and Abuse of History for Life,” Untimely Meditations, 1874

With my recent re-reading of Nietzsche’s essay, I was reminded about what was required to make history come alive for me. I was never fascinated with names, dates and places or doing homework that answered questions at the end of the chapter. Nietzsche spoke of different approaches to the study of history, but the one that took root with me was what he called the “monumentalist” study of history. This approach concentrates on past heroes in order to confront contemporary mediocrity with the possibility of greatness.  One of the factors underlying my criticism of the U. S. Congress in an earlier blog post is that we no longer have statesmen or thinkers that would remind us of a Thomas Jefferson or a Benjamin Franklin in our current government, not even close. Not one of them appears to esteem such qualities as they occupy their offices, doing little-to-nothing to leave a lasting legacy for others to admire and follow. They smack of arrogance, anger and entitlement. And when it comes to classical virtues or family values, they have a tin ear. Nietzsche urged his readers to find heroes to study and emulate.


Edom Art Festival (2017)

Kevin and Marc have asked me to return for some more air time, so I’m standing by. This afternoon, I leave for Edom to set up for the weekend festival. This is one of my favorite venues, situated on beautiful, rolling, tree-populated pastureland complete with barns, sheds and various outbuildings. The weather promises to be cooler, fall-temperature weather, and I am ready!

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with Jesus, Thomas Jefferson & T. S. Eliot

October 11, 2018


Open tomes piled high atop my desk signal a delight to my soul that I cannot explain.

I never go to bed without an hour or half an hour’s reading of something moral, whereon to ruminate in the intervals of sleep.

Thomas Jefferson, 1819

Before retiring for sleep, Thomas Jefferson often read extracts from the Bible, and much has been written about the “Jefferson Bible” (of which I own a quality copy in hard back). His detractors whine about his Deist ideas that led him to excise the accounts of Jesus’ miracles from his Bible. But they don’t pay any respect to his scrutiny of the Gospels, impelling him to purchase copies of the Greek New Testament, Latin Vulgate, two English translations and another in French. Cutting apart the paragraphs, he glued them side-by-side in his book so that he could study and compare the passages in his personal study.

During seminary studies four decades ago, I enjoyed studying the Synoptic Gospel parallels, and purchased a Greek edition with them placed in parallel columns. Recently I have returned to studying them as I have had time, and have received much enrichment from the time spent there. This morning, I found myself before a significant pile of opened books from which I was taking notes, and thought of something from Thoreau’s Walden that always stayed with me:

That age will be rich indeed when those relics which we call Classics, and the still older and more than classic but even less known Scriptures of the nations, shall have still further accumulated, when the Vaticans shall be filled with Vedas and Zendavestas and Bibles, with Homers and Dantes and Shakespeares, and all the centuries to come shall have successively deposited their trophies in the forum of the world. By such a pile we may hope to scale heaven at last.

Right now, I am entrenched in the texts of the early ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist. What has captivated my attention is the shock that both men made when they emerged from obscurity and delivered messages that resonated with the people in the surrounding villages. Over and over I read of the large multitudes that came from every quarter, all with this in common–they had profound needs. In a later passage when Jesus was criticized for associating with people of low quality, he responded with these words:

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

Naturally, the crowds flocking to Jesus and John had profound needs. Those who were satisfied with their lot found no reason to leave their schedules to hear what the men had to offer. They were self-satisfied and felt no one had anything to offer them of any merit.

Our Fifty-Seventh Congress voted on May 13, 1902 to publish Jefferson’s notes, thus creating The Jefferson Bible. In 1904 a copy was distributed to each member of Congress. I dare say that if such a gift were offered to our current Congress that it would be casting pearls before swine. My sentiments about this body of elected officials sounds much like words often uttered by Mark Twain. In short, I write this: they have been given a serious responsibility to oversee the welfare of this nation, and from all that I can detect, they seem only interested in keeping their jobs, not doing them. After watching the Senate Judiciary Committee “perform” before live television recently, I concluded that they fit the description offered long ago by T. S. Eliot:

We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass

Or rats’ feet over broken glass

In our dry cellar 

Shape without form, shade without colour,

Paralysed force, gesture without motion; 

T. S. Eliot “The Hollow Men”

I would not see any of this body of elected officials going out of their way to listen to quality words from Jesus or John the Baptist, because they apparently have all they need–an honorable occupation, along with the best benefits and health care, and no concerns about whether or not they do the right thing by the constituents who put them there.  The throngs who pursued Jesus and John long ago pursued them because they knew they were hollow men; they knew there was an emptiness in their lives that needed to be addressed. In response to this need, Jesus uttered the words as part of his Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness,; for they shall be filled.

Paul Tillich wrote of three basic anxieties that plague humanity: fear of death, fear of guilt, and fear of meaninglessness. The last of those fears seems the hardest at times to address. A life without meaning. As T. S. Eliot described: “Shape without form, shade without color, paralyzed force, gesture without motion.” Throughout my life I have worried over such a state. But no longer. I am finding lately in my reading of the Gospel narratives a whole range of encouraging words directed at anyone feeling a sense of incompleteness. Taking a page from Thomas Jefferson, I have lately decided to engage in quality reading before turning out the lights at bedtime. Sleep comes better now. And then, waking refreshed, I gladly accept the gift of morning solitude to read a little further.

The Edom Festival of the Arts begins this weekend. Since I returned from Missouri, life got much busier with organizing, packing and loading for one of the best art festivals of the year.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


Broken Cisterns

October 10, 2018


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.

The Prophet Jeremiah 2:13 (The King James Version, 1611)

For my people haue committed two euils: they haue forfakē me the fountaine of liuing waters, to digge thé pittes, euen broken pittes, that can holde no water.

The Prophet Ieremiáh 2:13 (The Geneva Bible, 1560)

Yesterday’s twelve-hour road trip was frought with ugly thunderstorm activity throughout the final five hours of driving. Prior to that, the view of autumn colors scrolling past the windshield and the sixty-degree temperatures with windows down made for a very pleasant journey, with much relaxing quiet for thought. One of the thought roads I traveled at length involved the recollection of the weekend’s wedding activities. My only assignment was to load and unload props for the ceremony–very little time required for that.

Once my task was completed, I saw my self with many hours to burn, and turning to a bag full of books along with my art supplies, I found some places to be alone so I could paint the surrounding scenery and engage in some quality reading and thought. The Jeremiah passage posted above came to my attention, and I found myself scribbling out quite a few pages of ideas from it.

Jeremiah, speaking in the first person on behalf of their God, accused his contemporaries of committing two foul acts–forsaking God’s fresh flowing waters in favor of broken cisterns that they themselves fabricated, cisterns incapable of containing quality water. As I surveyed the waters flowing along the bluffs at the state park where we stayed for two days, I noted the effervescence of the flowing stream in contrast to the brackish smell of isolated pools of backwater left over after former rains had caused the river to rise.

Taking out my journal, I made a pair of lists as I took inventory of my personal life and pursuits, and arranged my flowing streams in one column, the broken cisterns in another. This morning will mark my first attempt to eliminate at least one cistern that has occupied precious time and space in my life and yielded little-to-nothing in quality. Once eliminating it, I shall replace it with a stream-like pursuit.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

On the Road

October 9, 2018


“I just won’t sleep,” I decided. There were so many other interesting things to do.” 

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

At 3:00 a.m. I am awake. This is not unusual. I often wake in the dark of night before a long road trip. The weekend wedding was a deeply rewarding family time for me, but now I must return to Texas and resume work in the arts and education. I am always grateful to have a life waiting for me back home.

Soon I’ll be posting about Edom Festival of the Arts, one of my genuine highlights of the year on the art calendar. The setting is beautiful rolling pastureland and barns, with throngs of art patrons looking for a good time under the east Texas skies. Art, music and food will fill the Saturday and Sunday hours with pleasure.

By the time you read this I will be feeling Jack Kerouac’s call of the road and singing Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road.” At the end of my journey, hopefully, I will have some new art images to post along with new ideas to explore.

Thanks always for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Sunnier Monday

October 8, 2018


Moment of Quiet with my Dad


He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

Psalm 1:3

Dad will turn ninety in November. The briefest thing I could write of him is this: he reveals no signs of a Winter of Discontent. For as long as I have known him, I have perceived a rock of silence. A Korean War combat veteran, he returned to the farm in southeast Missouri with dreams of starting a family and moving to St. Louis in search of a more prosperous life. Tenant farming wasn’t getting that done. Quickly he achieved the rank of certified General Motors technician and spent his labor years working in large St. Louis and suburban auto dealerships as head mechanic, doing his work quickly, quietly and efficiently. As a family man, he was always there for us, and always quiet about it. Retiring before sixty, he has managed to do what pleases him, and has never shown outwardly the stress that often rocked the family around him.

This has been a frantic weekend for many. I have already logged more than seventeen hours of driving, much of it through long nights, to reach a remote location where my niece was just married. I would say that this wedding was calmer than most I have attended, including family occasions where everything swirled and nearly everyone imagined all the things that could go wrong. And this wedding was successful, but not without its jitters. Dad, of course, was never pulled beneath those waves (I know, men usually don’t have much of a stake in all the planning and execution; we usually are good only for toting things in and out of car trunks, across parking lots, and in and out of hotels). And then we sit.

All this to say–one of the many highlights of the weekend was this moment sitting with Dad as he quietly drank in the beauty of the fall colors emerging all around. Dad is of Cherokee descent, always stoic, but also keenly aware of natural beauty, and can spend hours in silence sitting in the midst of it. Twice we walked down to the river and bluffs, surveyed the surroundings, and said little. And that was sublime.



Despite long highway hours, I have managed to get in a couple of small watercolors executed en plein air. I have found quiet time for reading, and have been given some quiet nights for quality sleep. I suppose I am rested enough to take the long road back home. I have college classes waiting, and a big art festival coming up next weekend. It’s time to get back to work, but wow, how nice to have some quiet weekend moments with a quiet dad.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.