In the Morning Stillness . . .

Bust of Democritus

I find it to be the height of wisdom not to endeavor to oversee myself and live a life of prudence and common sense, but to see over and above myself, entertain sublime conjectures, to make myself the thoroughfare of thrilling thoughts, live all that can be lived. The man who is dissatisfied with himself, what can he not do?

Henry David Thoreau, Journal November 23, 1850

Waking before 5:00 this morning turned out not to be a bad thing, after all. When I realized lying in bed that I was not able to return to sleep because the thought processes were moving quickly, I grinned, remembering Carlo Marx in Kerouac’s On the Road: “You can’t stop the machine!” So I rose from my bed, entered my studio of dreams, and after writing out a few random thoughts in my journal, opened to Thoreau’s Journal and found those words posted above.

I have always enjoyed Thoreau’s love of wordplay in his writings. Here, he expresses that he doesn’t want to “oversee” his life, but rather to “see over and above” it and eventually render it “the thoroughfare of thrilling thoughts.” I have decided to read for a second time the very engaging biography written by Robert D. Richardson Jr., Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind. This was one of the texts assigned to me in 1992 when I attended the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar at Oregon State University. I can’t believe that twenty-eight years have passed since lingering over those pages.

My lifestyle has changed profoundly since returning to my home nearly a week ago. My first love in life has been quality time in the studio reading, journaling, making art and cultivating the life of the mind. I frequently did that all day long if no appointments beckoned, and during my two months in west Texas due to the coronavirus precautions, I lived mostly that lifestyle.

Returning to this neglected house that I spent very little time in since 2017, I decided it was time to clean it up (never my strong suit). So . . . for the past six days I have devoted only the morning hours for this meditative life (I am going to devote an entire blog post to that idea later) and then I turn my attention to this dwelling place the rest of the day before retiring to a restful and relaxing evening. What a difference that has made.

Every morning I have tried to balance my attention between reading, writing, journaling, creating at least one small drawing, and then watercoloring. This morning I made another attempt at a brand for my new character Hank. This may turn out to be my next watercolor, I haven’t decided yet.

As I have repeatedly told my friends, I do not draw nearly enough; I just dive stratight into the next watercolor, not even attempting thumbnail sketches or compositional decisions. I am trying to change that. So, for the past six days I have made at least one small drawing during the morning. Here are a few more:

Several months ago, while visiting our favorite barbecue place in Dickens, Texas, I began a watercolor of the sprawling vacant land separating the barbecue joint from the businesses further down the highway.

Because Thoreau in his Journal kept rhapsodizing about the colors of the weeds, I found this watercolor abandoned some time ago and decided to go back to work on the ground cover. Within minutes, I was lost in the heart of this 18 x 24″ picture plane. As I worked, my mind continued to surge, and now I’m going to post what I recorded in my journal as I stopped continually to write out what I was thinking while painting:

I have moved to the window of Eudaimonia Studios. Dawn has broken, a rosy-fingered dawn. A Homeric dawn. Like the women of The Odyssey who weave exquisite patterns daily I am now weaving the dry grasses of Thoreau’s land of wonder.

*Dark Sepia Albrecht Durer watercolor pencil

*Blackwing Matte favored by Steinbeck as he wrote his drafts

*Papermate Mirado Classic from the H-E-B grocery

*Studio Series 4H

*Size 8 Silver Black Velvet Script brush

This is my choir of blended voices singing their Ode to Autumn. I have moved to the window to look out at the neighborhood waking up in the early light. Taking out a selection of pencils, I settled on the Dark Sepia Albrecht Durer watercolor pencil made by Faber Castell. And I began doodling in the massive patches of weeds. Drawing, shading, rendering callibraphic lines, smudging, very subtly weaving in and out among the strands of weeds. Getting lost in tiny focused areas. Thinking of my ninth-grade art teacher Mr. Scucchi. Hearing his voice again as he drones on and on with theory that I understood little of in those days, but somehow remembered his words and now understand and explore their dimensions. Lines, shapes, relationships, paint quality, positive and negative space, tonality. I am exploring these elements of design now that I understand.

Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Andrew Wyeth. Mr. Scucchi continued to urge: “Look at the grasses in Christina’s World. Look at the Jackson Pollock drips and swirls. See all that calligraphy? Look at the Willem de Kooning slashes. See that freedom? Cut loose! Don’t be afraid. Explore. Be an artist without apology.”

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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