Archive for September, 2019

Palestine Texas is Humming this Morning

September 13, 2019

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Luxurious Friday Morning in the Gallery

. . . they remind you of Saturday mornings when you were six and knew the day was young and blue just by looking over the fence through pale smokes of whoever it is is always burning something on Saturday morning (and hammering on nails in the afternoon).

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

Waking early this morning in the Redlands Hotel, I listened while the city slowly awakened in the dawn. As I lay still, these words from Kerouac read at bedtime last night returned, and I continued to listen to the city sounds of traffic, the Union Pacific railyard two blocks away, and the occasional shout from a pedestrian. Across the street, Sacred Heart Catholic Church tolled the hour and I could feel the vibrations of the sound. Memories washed over me. As a boy, I lived in the neighborhood of a small town, and now recall those early mornings awakened by the sounds of lawn mowers, hammering, the occasional passing car, dogs barking and choruses of birds in the yard.

I decided to return to The Gallery at Redlands for the weekend, having sorely missed this environment for a number of weeks. The gallery provides a wonderful ambience for study and reflection, and I am working to put the finishing touches on my Monday night presentation before the Society of Watercolor Artists in Fort Worth. I have been invited to work on my watercolors in the Queen St Grillle Sunday from 11-2:00. The Redlands Hotel has made some fabulous changes to the menu and hours. Several of my paintings now hang in the restaurant, and The Gallery at Redlands is adjacent to the establishment. I look forward to meeting new friends during Sunday brunch, and of course, I always look forward to watercoloring in the midst of company.

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Queen St Grille–a Gorgeous Dining Environment

A long time has passed since I connected with Kevin and Alan in the Morning on Smooth Rock 93.5. I always enjoy their morning radio time, and was invited on the show this morning to put in a plug for the Sunday brunch painting event arriving in a couple of days. The past two years have brought many changes to the Redlands Hotel, and for me the highlights have been the radio station in the gallery and the restaurant across the lobby. Every time I come here to work, I feel that I am living in the midst of a thriving, affirming community in downtown Palestine. My warm thanks to all of my new friends here.

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Kevin Harris Managing the Morning Show

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Alan Wade in Good Spirits Always

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Victoria Minton-Beam, also with Smooth Rock 93.5

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Constantly Experimenting

Returning to my journals from August 2018, I am re-reading the scribbled notes from my last Colorado sojourn and the morning I worked to solve the problem of painting evergreens in the sweet mountain air. I took notes on a five-step process, and have been working the past few weeks to refine this approach. Currently, I have six sketches in process, and this weekend thought I would start four additional ones. I always think that if I have several going at the same time, I will be less afraid of screwing up a painting. Last month, I began fifteen compositions of a scene in Sedona, Arizona, and they are still in a box with only one further attempt to push them along. Out of the fifteen, I have one finished piece that I don’t find very satisfying. The rest are still sitting there, waiting. I thought I was taking them to the Monday demonstration in Fort Worth, but have recently decided to try my luck with the evergreens. No pressure, right?

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.

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Creative Eros

September 11, 2019

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The Romantic Part of the Morning

I am in a high fever of working, and so absorbed, so tired at day’s end, I don’t have the strength to write . . . I know it’s bad, but work above all. I am overjoyed to be back at it.

Claude Monet, quoted at the Kimbell Art Museum exhibit

Smooth jazz plays in the background, and the softness of the morning buoys my spirits while I continue thinking over a presentation for Monday evening before the Society of Watercolor Artists. I have been scheduled for this event for about a year now, so it has not crept up on me. Back in March, I began compiling materials for the demonstration and have now spent recent weeks editing them into a formal presentation.

My plan is to open with a brief talk concerning the source that drives artistic expression. Following that, I will demonstrate some techniques I discovered two summers ago while painting en plein air in Colorado. And finally, I will introduce the major series I have worked on the past couple of decades, titled “Turvey’s Corner 63050.” This final segment has taken the lion’s share of my time in recent weeks. I cannot share all the paintings and stories that comprise the series, and am trying now to figure just which ones to present. I’ll use Powerpoint to project the paintings before the audience, and will need to decide which stories to share. Naturally, I’m concerned about cramming too much into the time period.

Most of my recent days have been divided between studio time, experimenting with my recent watercolor techniques, and desk time, writing and revising the cycles of stories that have emerged from the paintings I wish to share in this series. This is nothing new to me; for as long as I can remember, my quality time has been divided between painting, reading, journaling and composing stories. To some, this sounds like multi-tasking at its best, or attention-deficit-disorder at its worst. There are days when I feel I lack focus; yet other times when I am delighted by the variety embracing my creative eros.

Surprisingly, I have not felt the anxieties that used to torment me when preparing for a public event. I am not sure if this is due to aging, maturing, or the mere repetition of public speaking. Having retired from full time teaching over two years now, I speak much less frequently in public, and actually enjoy it much more now–there seems to be much more time to prepare for each event, and the general eudaimonia I sense from the audiences has melted away my former performance anxieties. Maybe it’s because I am no longer posturing for some kind of career advancement. At any rate, I welcome with open arms this sense of calm. Reading Hemingway’s testimony concerning his early writing has also given me a sense of equilibrium.

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.”  So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that you knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written. Up in that room I decided that I would write one story about each thing that I knew about. I was trying to do this all the time I was writing, and it was good and severe discipline.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I certainly know about the cutting away of “scrollwork or ornament” that Hemingway mentioned. Countless times in recent weeks I have deleted content from my powerpoint presentation or lecture manuscript, pruning my tree to a stump, then returned to my fundamental base, and began the rebuilding of the presentation. After all, this is my own artwork I have been asked to share, and I need not embellish it by artificial ornamentation.

After months away, I anticipate with gratitude a return to Palestine, Texas this weekend. I have missed the Gallery at Redlands, Smooth Rock 93.5, and the hospitable atmosphere of the historic Redlands Hotel. Since I have been away, the Red Fire Grille has changed hands, now known as the Queen St Grille. Jean and Mike have asked me to work on my watercolors in the restaurant Sunday from 11:00-2:00. They have already selected some of my paintings from the gallery to display in the restaurant, invoking a railroad theme. This will be my first time to provide an artist’s “prensence” in a restaurant environment, and I look forward to the new experience. You can check out their link here:  https://www.facebook.com/RedFireGrille/

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I have missed my radio friends during this long absence, but still enjoy Kevin and Alan in the Morning, streaming Smooth Rock 93.5 on my laptop while working at my desk during mornings such as this. Their music format remains my favorite.

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Kevin and Alan outside the Station and Gallery

There is still plenty to do on this presentation, so I guess I’ll return to 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.

A Life Measured with Coffee Spoons

September 9, 2019

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The Place Becomes the Book

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
The entire weekend has been a blissful one that I kept intending to blog, and now Monday morning finds me still contentedly submerged in projects as deadlines near. The T. S. Eliot line occurred to me as I was reading Jack Kerouac this morning (my God, Visions of Cody, to me, is On the Road on steroids, or more likely benzadrine). I have come to love the stream-of-consciousness style of writing I find in James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, but WOW! Reading Visions of Cody leaves me short of breath. I try to imagine the author reading this before an audience, unable to pour out even one-tenth of a sentence in one long breath. The interior narrative just surges on and on with unabated intensity, filling the reader’s inner eye with city images that just won’t stop. I find myself pouring cup after cup of coffee as I continue to read and imagine with amazement.

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Happily Buried in my Upcoming Presentation

Life for me has been measured out the past seventy-two hours in coffee spoons as I have divided time between reading for my own enrichment, scribbling in my journal, drawing in its margins, working on a public presentation coming up in a week, and experimenting further in watercolor.

On Monday evening, September 16, I will make a two-hour presentation before the Society of Watercolor Artists in Fort Worth at the University of Texas Health Science Center. My friend Cindy Thomas has plans to film the event for a project we began several months ago, and the days now find me buried in the editing of computer images and a manuscript I have been working on since last March. My project will be in three parts–comments on the creative process, followed by a watercolor demonstration and finally the unveiling of a watercolor series that has consumed me for decades (I really hope this will become a book of images and stories one day).

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Experimenting

My demonstration Monday night will center on some techniques I discovered and developed while trying to paint evergreens in colorful South Fork, Colorado two summers ago. I am still refreshed with the memories of the spectacular morning scene presented to me, along with the birds and critters that visited me as I painted. My artist friends started calling me Saint Francis.

bird on painting

Feeding chipmunk4

I am looking forward to a good time when I share my experiences and ideas with the Society.

Another warm memory from my weekend was the renewal of friendship with a student of mine from my earliest years of high school teaching. She now is a teacher, has a lovely family and has invited me to give art lessons to her daughter who is consumed with drawing and experimenting with visual expression. We had our first session yesterday and her drawings were stunning with imagination and enthusiasm. And, to add further seasoning to the recipe, her dog visited me and later chose to nap at my feet while we worked.

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Thank you, Joanna, for a heart-warming day!

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It’s time to get back to the task. 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.

Labor Day Fishing

September 2, 2019

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Canada Geese Keeping Me Company

Time is but the stream I go a–fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

On this second September morning, I still find the west Texas world comparatively cooler than what I knew during August. I found a shady spot again at a playa around 8:00 this morning, and again found the carp cooperating. I managed to land three of them, and lost two more. After two hours, I decided to call it quits when I caught a channel catfish the size of my hand.

Sitting in the shade in a comfortable lawn chair, I felt gratitude for a world that seemed to slow down where I sat. I chose to leave the national news alone, knowing it would most likely be more of the same–an avalanche of frenetic reporting on the same catastrophes and national embarrassments that I’ve know far too many years now. In the nineteenth century, Thoreau expressed dismay for a country that was living too fast when he was writing his Walden manuscript:

It lives too fast. Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether they do or not; but whether we should live like baboons or like men, is a little uncertain.

Today I found comfort in reading an article the theologian Paul Tillich published in The Saturday Evening Post back in 1958. His assessment of the American culture was that we had become a people, driven by an industrial society and recent technological advancements, in a frenzied horizontal direction. We were driven to work harder, faster, and produce more and more. He opined that we had lost our vertical sense of depth and no longer thought about the deeper issues of life that matter.

Robert Pirsig, in his celebrated work Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, wrote that our national conversation, thanks to mass media, had gotten out of control, like a mighty river flooding its banks and running shallow, silting up with debris of no lasting value.

The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster-paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. The old channels cannot contain it and in its search for new ones there seems to be growing havoc and destruction along its banks. In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale and platitudes too often repeated.

William Powers, in his book Hamlet’s Blackberry, warns that we will never achieve depth in our thinking if we are all the time distracted by our smartphones and tablets. Jumping from link to link, like a bird flitting from branch to branch, we find ourselves in a state of perpetual distraction, and never pause to reflect over the better elements of our lives. Two mornings of fishing have helped ease my mind as I’ve felt the stress growing due to a major presentation I am scheduled to make in exactly two weeks. Every day I work on this presentation, but thanks to the last two mornings of quiet fishing, I’ve found myself in a better state of mind and creativity to focus on the task that is coming on very quickly.

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The Carp were Active again this Morning

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Using my Size 13 Boot for Scale

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And then . . . there were the Little Ones

Thanks for reading.

 

September 1 Fishing

September 1, 2019

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One of Six Carp Landed this Morning

That man who does not believe that each day contains an earlier, more sacred, and auroral hour than he has yet profaned, has despaired of life, and is pursuing a descending and darkening way. After a partial cessation of his sensuous life, the soul of man, or its organs rather, are reinvigorated each day, and his Genius tries gain what noble life it can make. All memorable events, I should say, transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

At 7:30 this morning, though the sun was already bright, Lubbock was cool and breezy, and an inspiration seized me to visit the neighborhood park to try fishing the playa. More than 19,000 of these populate the Texas High Plains, making this region the highest density of playas in North America. Taking a lawn chair and a Stanley of coffee, I set up under a shade tree and tried to figure a way to rig my ultra-light Pflueger combo for carp.

I selected a clear casting bubble purchased recently in Colorado, filled it with water from my bottle, and attached to the snap swivel about 18” of 5x tippet. Baiting a size 12 treble hook with three kernels of corn, I decided to forego a split-shot sinker to see how things worked with the line drifting freely apart from the bubble.

Casting out about six feet from the bank, I took my seat, poured my first cup of coffee and opened Walden to read and feel the timeless words from Thoreau’s spirit. I only managed a couple of sentences before the sound of a large splash jerked my attention to its source, and finding no bubble in sight, I hauled back on my rod and felt something heavy. A few moments later, I landed only the second carp I have ever caught, and it was twice the size of the one I caught about thirty years ago.

His colors were spectacular in the morning sun. Throwing him back in the water, I re-baited and tossed my line again to the same spot. By the time I decided to pack up, five more carp had been landed, and two others broke my line. The largest one landed was by far the most fun, and well worth recording:

20190901_085719332811489966246980.jpgThe Largest of the Morning’s Haul

Casting out about ten feet further from shore, I sat in the shade and by this time decided that I was not going to be able to read from Thoreau. However, after five minutes passed with nothing happening, I poured my second cup of coffee, and as I was sipping it, I noticed a dark speck in the water, about ten feet beyond the bubble. Thinking it was a turtle, I continued watching it slowly moving to one side, then the other, and then the point of a tail broke the surface. Soon the entire tail emerged, and the span of it made my pulse quicken. I had observed “tailing” by redfish before, while fly fishing the Texas Laguna Madre, but at these Lubbock city park waters, I had not seen such activity from the carp. What I had always observed while walking along the shores were the high places of the carps’ backs poking up out of the shallows within a foot of the banks.

As I continued to watch, the tail stayed above the water, and slowly the carp rose nearer the surface till I could see his entire length. Magnificent! Closer and closer he moved toward my bubble as I held my breath. Then he submerged out of sight. At that moment, two large grackles strolled to the water’s edge and stared quietly at my bubble, which now was rotating slowly on it axis. Then it drifted slowly to the right, then back left. For about thirty seconds I continued watching, and then suddenly it was out of sight! It took considerable time to haul this one to shore, as I was uncertain how well the 5x leader would hold.

As the morning continued to unfold, I felt the thrill of a Thoreau-kind-of-a-morning. When the flock of Canada Geese flew over my head and landed on the point in front of me, I welcomed the pleasant company.

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Canada Geese on the Playa

Thoreau felt embraced by the wildlife that surrounded him in Walden woods, and though I was in a west Texas neighborhood, I saw only one human being, walking a dog about the park. Aside from that I only watched and listened to Canada Geese, Grackles, Robins, Mourning Doves and Mallard Ducks in my vicnity. I tried to be a good, quiet neighbor in their midst.

Thanks for sharing this beautiful morning with me.