Archive for June, 2020

Returning to the Solitude Theme

June 30, 2020
Back Home, Working on a New Commission

I’ve been thinking a lot about Edward Hopper. So have other stay-at-homes, I notice online. The visual bard of American solitude . . . . Aloneness is his great theme, symbolizing America: insecure selfhoods in a country that is only abstractly a nation. “E pluribus unum,” a magnificent ideal, thuds on “unum” every day throughout the land.

Peter Schjeldahl, “APART: Edward Hopper’s solitude,” The New Yorker, June 8 & 15, 2020

After five energizing days working in The Gallery at Redlands, I find myself home once again, working on my next commission. This will be a painting of a subject I worked on several times back in the 1980’s. The site is no longer in existence: the Ozark Court Motel on old Route 66 in Stanton, Missouri. This business dates back to the 1930s and by the time I was seeing it on my annual trips between Fort Worth, Texas and St. Louis, Missouri, the site was abandoned. The iconic sign disappeared years ago, and I’m fortunate to still have 35mm photos I took of it back in the days. The patrons have a business in Missouri and fond memories of Ozark Court. Finding me on the Internet, they’ve requested a watercolor of the motel sign and I am more than happy to return to this theme.

Back in the 1990’s I immersed myself in the work of Edward Hopper and created stacks of watercolors of iconic Missouri and Texas small-town sites. Since those days, my subject matter has broadened, but I never abandoned totally these Hopperesque subjects. Now that I’m engaged in a Turvey’s Corner series, I’m finding delight in focusing on these themes once again.

During this coronavirus rampage, I feel very fortunate that work has found me through personal contacts and Internet traffic. Commissions are still stacked pretty high for me, and painting subjects that please others pleases me as well. I’ve also been fortunate to mix plenty of reading and writing with my watercoloring. Yesterday I finished Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and now find myself resuming Jack Kerouac’s Visions of Cody. A quirky reading habit of mine involves flitting from book to book, but since I am diligent with bookmarks, I’m pretty good at returning and finishing works once started.

Ideas in general have not been as fresh the past few days as I’m accustomed to, hence the gap in blogging. This morning Sandi found a good word for me from Washington Post. Among their 2019 Neologism winners comes the word bozone: the substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. So that’s it. I’ve been stuck in the bozone the past few days. Hopefully I’ll find a way out soon.

Commission Completed Last Week

I want to close this blog with a photo of the commission I completed while in Palestine last week. Friends from the community wanted me to paint this man sitting on the bench admiring the fall foliage surrounding the pond on his property. The subject reminded me of the general Edward Hopper theme, and now fortunately for me, my new patrons have requested this abandoned hotel site on route 66 for me to paint. I’m having a good time with these subjects.

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 Watch in the Gallery at Redlands

June 26, 2020
Reading Quietly before Breakfast

Waking at 4:50 on a Friday morning isn’t so bad. While lying in the darkness of the Redlands Hotel, realizing my mind was stirring and not willing to return to sleep, I decided to put in a “full” morning. By 5:30 my gear was packed (I’ll be leaving the hotel and gallery later today) and I found myself nestled in the quiet gallery, surrouded by my recent work and reading Steinbeck. I’m nearly finished with another commission and I’ll post it later today once I’ve decided to sign off on it.

My only reason for writing at this moment is the sudden change of mood I experienced while reading Cannery Row. The scene is hilarious–four bums from Cannery Row are wading in a pond after dark to catch frogs for Doc to sell to labs running tests for cancer. The entire scene gets funnier as they get closer to the moment of ambushing thousands of frogs to put in gunny sacks. But then, I read this:

. . . the frogs heard them coming. The night had been roaring with frog song and then suddenly it was silent.

My entire mood shifted profoundly and I closed the book.

When Dad was ninety years old, he talked reflectively of experiences encountered in the Korean War as though they had happened yesterday. This was two years ago, and I still feel the shudders. He had just been talking in generalities about combat, about what it was like when his platoon lay out in the marshes late at night, silent and waiting.

When the frogs get quiet, it’s time to take your safety off. You got company.

I’m still quavering as I type this. I think it’s time now to travel to the Bird’s Egg Cafe for coffee and breakfast. The morning light is now coming through the gallery and I’m anticipating another day of wonder. When I return I’ll finish this watercolor commission and post it for my readers to see.

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.

Another Crank of the Wheel

June 25, 2020
Early Morning Downtown Palestine

Early morning is a time of magic in Cannery Row. In the gray time after the light has come and before the sun has risen, the Row seems to hang suspended out of time in a silvery light.

John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

Yes, and early morning is a “time of magic” in downtown Palestine as well. The warm silvery light came peeking through the second story window of the Redlands Hotel shortly after 6:00 this morning, accompanied by the clang, clang, clang of the bell two blocks away announcing the arrival of Union Pacific #7159, a bright yellow C44ACM built by General Electric back in 2018. The sassy loco was making a grand entrance and letting me know it was time to get my sorry rear end out of bed and back to the drafting table in The Gallery at Redlands downstairs.

The Gallery at Redlands
Laying out Work for Framing
The drafting table has seen plenty of action this week
Newest Commission in Progress

I started this commission yesterday and hope to have it completed today or tomorrow. My artist friend Elaine Jary is en route to the gallery now to take down her show. Her ETA is two hours plus, so I have some time to work on this painting before we get busy taking down her show and putting my work back up on the walls.

It’s already shaping up to be a busy day. The hotel lobby is bustling with maintenance men and staff pursuing their own tasks. I seem to work better when I know people all around me are busy.

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.

Stream-of-Consciousness from The Gallery at Redlands

June 24, 2020
Rainy Dawn in Downtown Palestine, View from Gallery Window

“Have a wonderful day, young man.”

At sixty-six, the Artist smiled as he turned from the cash register having finished breakfast, and headed for the exit of the Bird’s Egg Café. A gentle rain moistened the pavement of West Palestine Avenue in the gray dawn. Adjusting his hat, he strolled across the parking lot toward his Jeep.

I couldn’t resist that. For as long as I can remember, I have narrated episodes in my everyday life as they occur. My journaling habit insures that I scribble out the narrative, and returning to it later, decide whether or not to use it on the blog or somewhere else. The Bird’s Egg Cafe is my favorite breakfast establishment in Palestine, and they open at 5:30. Since I awoke without an alarm shortly after 4:00, I was glad to know that I could take my first meal in a good “down home” feeling cafe. The waitress/cashier always addresses me as “young man” and it never fails to jar my funny bone. After three years, she still doesn’t know my name, but always looks up with that sign of recognition when I walk in, and she always calls me “young man.” I guess senior citizens like to hear those words of address.

Reading Cannery Row and taking in the sounds of a town waking up fills me with a satisfying stream-of-consciousness, and I’m beginning this blog impulsively in that manner.

He looked up a little nervously as Mack entered. It was not that trouble always came in with Mack but something always entered with him.

John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

This passage made me laugh out loud. I could say that about so many parishioners entering my study during those pastoral years, or students coming into the classroom during the teaching years. Honestly, no one from the Palestine community fits that description (yet!), but how funny to recall all those people throughout the years who had their ways of entering the room, transforming the moment into an Event.

Traffic is picking up now around the hotel and I have started on a new commission that I would like to complete no later than tomorrow. Work has stacked up on me and it’s a good feeling knowing there is plenty more art to pursue on the horizon.

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.

Return to The Gallery at Redlands

June 23, 2020
The Gallery at Redlands, Palestine, Texas

Meantime he was working harder than he had ever worked in his life, often until three or four in the morning. Then he would fall asleep, his head feeling like a frozen cabbage, only to jump awake again a few hours later, with the words already stringing themselves into sentences, clamoring to be set down.

Carlos Baker, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story

These are the words describing Ernest Hemingway as he seethed through his first novel The Sun Also Rises. Gripped by scorching memories combined with literary imagination, he tore through the pages all hours of the days and nights until finally completing the task.

After a four-month absence, I’m seated this afternoon in The Gallery at Redlands, bringing with me my work during the recent months of the corona virus. I decided to bring along my manuscript as well as the paintings featuring Hank of Turvey’s Corner. In the days ahead, I plan to work further and deeper into this developing series.

Paintings and manuscript for a new series
The Finest Dining at Queen St. Grille

Returning to the Queen St. Grille across the lobby from the gallery was a luxurious pleasure this evening. How wonderful to sit with Jean and Mike again for an evening of dining and conversation. We were joined by an engaging young business woman from Birmingham, Alabama with deep west Texas roots. It’s been years since I’ve experienced such an enthusiastic quartet of conversation.

The gallery is quiet now that the dinner hour has passed. I miss my radio friends from the days of Smooth Rock 93.5. Even though they only broadcast live in the mornings, the station played 24/7, and in the evenings I enjoyed the music from the studio flooding the gallery. Sadly, it has passed on.

Commission finished earlier today

Before departing for Palestine this afternoon, I managed to finish this commission, a watercolor of a home that has deep memories for the patron. I’m always grateful when called upon to help people wishing to enhance their personal recollections of growing up. I’m hoping that my new series featuring Hank and Randy will help readers and viewers re-live those memories that are worth revisiting. I have a new character sketched out to join these young men. Hopefully I can bring him out soon.

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.

Organizing Scattered Pieces

June 22, 2020
Busy in the Studio

Hazel’s mind was like wandering alone in a deserted museum. Hazel’s mind was choked with uncatalogued exhibits. He never forgot anything but he never bothered to arrange his memories. Everything was thrown together like fishing tackle in the bottom of a rowboat, hooks and sinkers and line and lures and gaffs all snarled up.

John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

This Steinbeck read is providing plenty of entertainment today. Yes, Hazel is a man, and I laughed at the passage above because it sounds like the author was describing my own mind on a typical day. This was one of those odd conglomerations of reading over coffee, painting in the studio, dashing to the store to pick up furniture ordered, joining Sandi in another home improvement task that yielded great rewards, and taking breaks now and then for thinking, blogging, catching up with a ton of art-related correspondence that had piled up and packing for yet another road trip.

Tomorrow I will delightfully return to The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas. It has been over four months since I last inhabited that space and I have missed so many of my friends and acquaintances down there. The gallery will get a new face lift, though I will be sorry to say good-bye to many of Elaine Jary’s pieces that have enlivened the walls this year.

Latest commission in progress

I was hoping to finish this commission today, but too many other things entered my space and I had to stay on top of them. Hopefully I will complete this one tomorrow and then move on to the next. The coronavirus has rendered a nasty world about us, yet at the same time I have been blessed to meet new friends and patrons, and there remains plenty of art to be made.

Thanks for reading. Next time I post, I should be doing so from the gallery.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Pre-Dawn in the Gallery

June 22, 2020
Gallery at Redlands

Over a period of years Doc dug himself into Cannery Row to an extent not even he suspected. He became the fountain of philosophy and science and art. . . . He lived in a world of wonders, of excitement.

John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

4:04 a.m. Really? The Redlands Hotel was quiet by 9:00 last night. Weary from the day’s events and road trip, I trudged upstairs and was asleep by 10:00. The suites here at the Redlands are wonderfully sound-insulated. The Union Pacific railyards are two blocks away and the sound of the occasional freight coming through town is little more than a rumble, more of a gentle feel than a disturbing sound.

One thing I certainly did not expect from this new day was to be seated in the gallery at 4:40 with it still dark outside. Nevertheless, looking out my favorite window to the world before sitting at the desk flooded me with the finest memories of this special town of Palestine.

The City of Palestine of course does not fit the shabby, grungy descriptions of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. But the historic downtown section holding the Redlands Hotel, Carnegie Library building, Chamber of Commerce, Sacred Heart Church and of course the Union Pacific railyard has offered daily narratives to me that would compete with any Steinbeck novel. As I’ve stated before, I really miss the radio guys who used to broadcast out of this gallery in the mornings, and at this particular moment I’m saddened to look up at the space where they used to sit, drink coffee, laugh when they were not “live”, and fill this room with a warm communal feel. Right now, no one moves through the lobby, and they won’t for several more hours. But I do anticipate with gladness the arrival of hotel employees and those working the offices upstairs later. In many ways I experience the warm vibe of this town the way Doc felt when he worked daily at Cannery Row.

The day is full of promise, I brought plenty of work to pursue while staying here for a spell. Later today, Elaine Jary plans to come down and take her work that’s been on display here since February. Then I’ll re-hang my work that will include new framed pieces not seen here before.

Time to get to work. 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.

Working in the Studio, with Camping still on my Mind

June 21, 2020

Coffee has a special taste of a frosty morning, and the third cup is as good as the first.

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

Cowboy Coffee at Beaver’s Bend State Park, Broken Bow, Oklahoma

Sunday at home has been cozy, with last night’s storms extending into a dark and cool day all day today. Finishing my second reading of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley has put me in a docile frame of mind, and now I’ve turned to my first reading of Cannery Row. After the first dozen pages, I believe this will be a keeper as well.

Reading Travels with Charley while enjoying my final cup of Cowboy Coffee

We returned home three days ago, but my heart and imagination are still in the Oklahoma wilderness. It was hot every day–93 degrees and humid, and apparently too warm for the trout waters. I had several strikes on dry flies, but hooked nothing, and for the first time there, never saw another fly fisherman catch anything either.

Evening Hole, my favorite place for stalking trout
New commission in progress

At the time of this writing, I have at least eight paintings to complete to satisfy the wishes of patrons. The initial plans are already laid out and I am simply moving from one to the next, grateful that I love watercoloring and always find myself getting lost in every new composition. I have been taking today’s very slowly as there are a number of areas where I could lose the painting quickly.

Time spent this morning over coffee and Steinbeck yielded this gem from Cannery Row:

The word is a symbol and a delight which sucks up men and scenes, trees, plants, factories, and Pekinese. Then the Thing Becomes the Word and back to Thing again, but warped and woven into a fantastic pattern. The Word sucks up Cannery Row, digests it and spews it out, and the Row has taken the shimmer of the green world and the sky-reflecting seas.

All day long, while painting in the studio, this passage has simmered in my consciousness. For as long as I can remember, “word” has meant much more to me than just a single building block for a sentence. From seminary days learning Greek, logos has consumed my attention. I always appreciated the writings of Martin Heidegger, arguing that “word” refers to the “gathering together,” the “organizing dynamic” of life as we encounter it.

Whenever I experience an artful day, I look for the Word, for the organizing principle of what is going on about me. I love the challenge of making art because I am called upon to organize elements and design something the eye can recognize and appreciate. On this particular day, painting a house that means a great deal to a patron, I wonder about the people who inhabited the structure, what kind of stories sprung from the neighborhood, what sounds and smells were encountered on a daily basis–all kinds of details engaged my imagination as I worked.

And speaking of work, I need to return to it. Thank you for taking time to read me and about the things happening in this part of the world while a virus continues to hover about our surroundings. Stay safe.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Paying the Rent

June 20, 2020
work on a new commission

For my blog readers, I just wanted to drop a line to say I am working on new Hank and Randy stories and paintings but am not ready to show them yet. Meanwhile, a stack of commissions just poured in and I am working to get them completed and delivered as promised.

completed commission just delivered

While working in my studio, I am playing old video cassettes of Andy Warhol documentaries. I have always admired his business-like work ethic in The Factory, and smile at his commentary on the daily round. His associate Bob Colacello told interviewers that Warhol showed up every morning early at The Factory and cranked out commissions till noon. He called this “paying the rent.” Having over a dozen paid staff members, he quipped that he had to “bring home the bacon” because he “had so many mouths to feed.”

After lunch, Warhol would go into the Think Tank with his staffers and then discuss the issue of “what we can do now for Art”. This is where I find myself. To continue working on my house and paying the bills, I need to pay heed to my business and peform the tasks promised. But after so many hours of the day split between commission work and house work I then wonder what I can do for Art. Hence, the Hank and Randy series–this I continue to plot and hope to have new work to show soon. Meanwhile I have promised art to complete . . .

Thanks for reading.

I’m Back!

June 13, 2020
Back in the studio, finally

. . . the ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.

John Steinbeck

Catching up on some Steinbeck reading

The Saturday morning is lovely, looking out the window of my new studio, and I’m happy to be back painting again, working on the first of several commissions that arrived over the past week.

The Steinbeck quote above seized my sentiments as I read early this morning, and I decided I needed to respond on the blog. I’m aware of a nation raging around me as I go about my day-to-day tasks. My reason for this lengthy blog hiatus is twofold: I don’t want to post negative items on the blog, and (2) we have been working daily for weeks getting this house back in order. One of the tasks among many was moving my studio to another room. I had no idea how much would be involved in just that. Downsizing my library has also been paintful–so far I’ve shrunk it down by about 25% which translated into over thirty boxes of books out the door, books I swore I would never release. I also chose to dispose of my entire LP and CD collection along with the complete stereo and speaker cabinets. Lightening my load has actually felt wonderful in many ways, though I could still turn loose of plenty more items, and believe I will as time continues on. At any rate, today has offered me the respite of reading and painting, and I’m grateful for that gift.

What caught my attention in the Steinbeck reading is this: the creator’s purpose in exposing the dark underbelly of society is the hope of improvement. I recall Nietzsche’s Zarathustra speech proclaiming that all generations prior to ours managed to create something beyond themselves. Do we want to go down in history as the first generation to withdraw toward the slime? Though now retired, I gladly worked in the education field, believing with Emerson and Thoreau in that German sense of Bildung, that education is an organic process of growth, natural maturation and improvement. Never before in my lifetime have I enjoyed such a surge of technological improvement, and I feel spoiled by these gifts of smart phones, wi-fi and the ability to “connect” with others as never before. Yet I feel that the ethos of the society in which I find myself is severely devolving. I have no answers. I only wish not to contribute to the hate, rejection and intolerance that seems to be getting too much attention.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.