Archive for December, 2020

Ruminations on New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2020
Resumed Work on Bison Watercolor

If you have another exciting challenging project to work on, well being stuck on one is just an opportunity to do something else.

Tim Hartford, “A Powerful Way to Unleash your Natural Creativity” TED talks

Retiring to bed last night, I lay awake awhile, musing over what to do during New Year’s Eve. Before sleep overtook me, the idea was hatched. For this trip, I had packed two watercolors that were started months ago. The first was aborted once I got stuck, hence a second one, that then was aborted when I got stuck again. Waking this morning, recalling last night’s bedtime thoughts, I felt thankful that I had packed my two “stuck” paintings. Resuming work on the one posted above, I decided I needed some company, so I dialed up TED talks. And, what do you know! Tim Hartford addressed directly what I was experiencing. For a few weeks I have been dormant when it comes to watercoloring, aside from the occasional sketchbook exercise. I’m glad now that I have two in-progress pieces while away on this trip. Who knows–maybe I’ll return home soon with one or two new completed paintings. I have worked for about an hour on the one above and am allowing it now to dry while I bring my attention back to this blog. Should I hit a snag on the painting, the other one is waiting nearby.

While painting today, a number of ruminations have flowed rather freely. Taking occasional breaks from my work (or is it play?), I revised the New Year’s resolutions I have been compiling for a little while now, and finally drafted a final document in my laptop: a list that I will print multiple times on small sheets of paper to serve as daily check lists as I go about my routines.

Today I want to address one of the major items on the list: mindfulness. When browsing the Barnes & Noble Store, I notice a prominent display under the topic of mindfulness, and recognize this as some kind of movement that has gained significant momentum, judging from the number of products on display that seem to be selling well. In all honesty, I have never stopped to examine the various books, pamphlets and journal-like volumes in the display, but I am intrigued by that title and have adopted it as one of my resolutions.

Our nation currently endures a toxic public discourse that repulses me every time I tune in to the national news. Occasionally the toxicity finds its way into my social media channels. Repeat offenders are removed, and therefore I can keep my social media positive. As before promised, I am doing my best to keep this venom off my blog. Why would anyone wish to read such vitriol? One of my resolutions vows to read quality writing and hopefully find a way to disseminate it. And when listening to audio materials, I find myself now tuning in to TED talks more frequently than news feeds.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


A Dusting of Snow

December 30, 2020
Morning in Lubbock, Texas

There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual–become clairvoyant. We reach then into reality. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. . . . At such times there is a song going on within us, a song to which we listen. It fills us with surprise. We marvel at it. We would continue to hear it. But few are capable of holding themselves in the state of listening to their own song. Intellectuality steps in and as the song within us is of the utmost sensitiveness, it retires in the presence of the cold, material intellect.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Good morning from Lubbock, Texas. We drove out here yesterday with temperatures at 70 degrees. This morning it is 30 with a dusting of snow. The spirit of Christmas abides with me still, and the snow certainly aids and abets it.

New Mexico Pinon Coffee with Journal, Books and Cards on Standby

I am glad that New Year’s Eve is still a day away; that special day is usually given to serious reading, reflection and writing. Today I want to make art. Before we left yesterday, Dick Blick delivered these Strathmore Watercolor Cards to my doorstep. I’ve waited a month for them as they had to be back ordered. So . . . I now have a year’s head start on my next batch of Christmas cards.

I appreciate the responses that yesterday’s blog drew. One of the readers actually requested that I address further this notion of religion and art being essentially the same. I acknowledge that I feel clumsy with my words when trying to discuss this, but I am thrilled to try . . .

The Robert Henri quote above describes my sentiments much better than I feel capable of doing. When I say “religion” I am not referring exclusively to Christianity (I always tried to be up front about that in my philosophy classes). I am referring to the numinous experience in general. Merriam-Webster online covers that word quite well. The first definition of numinous I don’t find helpful. But #2: “filled with a sense of the presence of divinity: holy”, and #3: “appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense: spiritual.” These statements, to me, nail it.

Since childhood, I have experienced Emerson’s transcendental sentiment, that there is much more to life than what our five senses reveal and our words capture. And for most of my life, the avenues of religion and art were the ones I pursued to enjoy this realm. But, as Henri pointed out (and also Proust), the more we attempt to capture this prize, the more quickly it evaporates. Nevertheless, that does not prevent us from trying. It certainly does not deter me.

Among the books I’ve selected to bring along for our Lubbock adventure, I’ve included Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters and Friedrich Schleiermacher’s On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers. I am anticipating genuine pleasure as I linger over these texts in the coming days. Now, I am ready to drag out the art supplies . . .

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.

Post-Christmas Musings from Studio Eidolons

December 29, 2020
View from my Writing Desk

Then came the sound of a musical instrument, from behind it seemed, very sweet and very short, as if it were one plucking of a string or one note of a bell, and after it a full clear voice–and it sounded so high and strange that he thought it was very far away, further than a star. The voice said, Come.

C. S. Lewis, The Pilgrims’ Regress

The interim between Christmas and New Year’s Eve proves a pensive one for me. I may sound off about 2020 in future blogs, but not tonight. Tonight I feel the pull, the invitation, to breathe in the beauty of life and attempt to create something in response.

I chose tonight to re-open a C. S. Lewis book I read in the late 1970’s that continues to whisper to me from the shadows. Though my worldview has changed profoundly from what I thought in my early thirties, the allegory remains poignant for me. Life for me has always been an odyssey. From childhood I have wondered where my journey would take me, and there is no way I could have anticipated what unfolded in the decades following. Now, in these quiet times of retirement and reflection, I still am haunted by the faint sound of a sweet musical strain.

With a calendar containing very few appointments, I have adjusted to the sweetness of leisure, and just the mere act of thinking is better than I have ever known before. It appears that the only strife I endure is finding ways to describe in writing and conversation the nature of this Quality, this I have always pursued.

While majoring in art in my early university days, I was drawn more deeply into a university Christian fellowship and found myself taking steps toward the pastoral ministry. This resulted in an internal conflict between religion and art as I thought I understood them then. One day in a studio drawing class the instructor, making opening remarks to inspire us to begin our assignment, commented that he could not find a line separating art from religion. Unaware of the smallness of my own perspectives, I vigorously shook my head. The instructor acknowledged my protest with only a wry smile.

Today I look back on that college moment with embarrassment. If the instructor were still alive, I would wish to apologize for my immaturity on that day, and acknowledge now that I can no longer separate art from religion, if indeed they are different. Twenty years ago, my art was only a tool for me, while religion was something I could not sufficiently explain to others or to myself. Today, art and religion may be different words for the same phenomena. For me anyway, they far surpass my ability to encapsulate in words.

For a week now, I have found myself reading, reflecting and journaling, but producing no art. After months of commissions I finally have the freedom and space to create whatever I wish, and frankly I wish to pursue so many subjects in watercolor as well as drawing that I find myself clogged up. Finally yesterday I sat down with a sketchbook and did a quick study of a Bighorn Sheep that I could not stop thinking about since he surprised me on the slopes of Zion National Park several months back. Maybe now the cork is out of the bottle and art work can once again flow from the tip of my pencil or brush. We’ll see. I’m packing my art supplies for both studio and plein air activity for when we reach our destination.

Bighorn Sheep Sketch
Winter 2017 in the St. Louis Region
Quick watercolor sketch, using the photograph above

I’m glad that now in the age of smart phones we carry our photo albums with us always. In looking through my photos from the past few Christmases, I came across this pair. I had done an 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch of a winter riverside scene I liked very much. My plan was to use this sketch to create a larger, more studied painting. But within a week, the sketch sold, and I soon forgot my plans. Oh well. Maybe this winter I’ll consider re-doing this project.

Sandi is finally recovering from an illness that dogged her for the better (or worse) part of a week. We are preparing to hit the road for another adventure, and I intend to blog along the way.

Thanks for reading, and I wish all of you a beautiful holiday season.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Studio Eidolons

Too Busy to Stop and Write

December 22, 2020
Quiet Reflective Momentss in Studio Eidolons

He was too busy living to stop and write.

Edwin Way Teale, “Introduction,” The Wilderness World of John Muir

Life has been a whirlwind since my last post. Christmas Eve finds our family nestled in New Braunfels, Texas. My plans are to enter the crystal waters of the Guadalupe River later today in quest of trout. Several weeks back I was enraptured, wading the stream while Cindy and Gary filmed me for her MFA project. I was enchanted at the sight of large trout gliding beneath the surface of those glistening waters. Today I anticipate seeing more of the same.

During my recent visit to Missouri, my friend Wayne White surprised me for Christmas with a Dutch oven and the John Muir book quoted above. Thanks to those two thoughtful gifts, I’ll be feeding the body and the soul in the days ahead.

He was too busy living to stop and write.

That simple line encapsulates what I’ve experienced since taking up the blog a few years back, the journal a few decades back, and my thought life an entire lifetime back. For as long as I can remember, reaching even back to my early childhood, I have mentally narrated my life from one moment to the next. The late Harold Bloom wrote of this experience of “overhearing oneself.” Well, that is precisely what I have known since childhood. As I moved through my days, I heard an interior voice narrating what I was experiencing, much like a documentary. By the time I was in graduate school, I wondered “Why don’t I keep a journal?” In 1985, I finally began scribbling my wandering thoughts on legal pads, tearing off and dating the pages and putting them in file folders. Later I graduated to spiral notebooks, and ultimately to bound books. Recently counting the volumes I came to the number 213. Still accumulating. I have yet to count the number of fat file folders jammed with thoughts from 1985 to 1988.

Though the journal receives words several times a day, the thoughts are frequently random, cursory, and therefore not blog-worthy (unfortunately I often feel that many unblogworthy thoughts get launched in the blog anyway). Nevertheless, today’s blog acknowledges that I’ve been in flight for awhile, not stopping to blog. This morning I’m going to try and catch up.

A Gem from Robert Henri

I have written before of treasures I’ve gleaned from multiple readings of Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit. This amazing artist opened up our twentieth century with a revolution tagged The Ashcan School. His magnetic personality drew around himself a gaggle of newspaper illustrators who submitted paintings and etchings of America’s urban blight, a radical departure from the accepted subjects of landscape, still life, genre painting and portraiture. The general public was horrified (“Why do you wish to publish the armpits of America for all to view?”). But the paintings depicted a truth that viewers could not avoid contemplating.

Like a prophet or sage, Henri gathered his followers in his studio at 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia where they sketched and discussed their art, and listened to their leader’s readings from Emerson, Whitman and other American divines. Eventually, Henri’s loose assortment of lectures, articles and letters were published in this marvelous book that I read the way many read their Bibles.

The man who has great emotions might burst into tears–but that is as far as he will get if he has no practical side. The artist must have the emotional side first, the primal cause of his being an artist, but he must also have an excellent mind, which he must command and use as a tool for the expression of his emotions.

The idea, which is the primal thing for a picture, is all in the air; the expression on canvas is a case of absolute science as it deals with materials. A great artist is both a great imaginer and a great employer of practical science. First there must be the man, then the technique.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

These ideas expressed by Henri have percolated in me for most of my life, but I never could relay them as eloquently as he has in this passage. My own art has sought that balance between my emotional and technical dimensions. In recent roadtrips, my eyes have feasted on the land rolling past my windshield, and my heart has raced at the thought of watercolor possibilities while using my smart phone to snap impressions of these future compositions. Later today, when I enter the stream, my eyes will survey the waters, the banks, the trees, and the distant horizon, and I will mentally paint the scene engulfing me. Hopefully, I’ll land the occasional trout as well.

I want to wish all my readers the safest and most serene Christmas season. May you always find Quality in your life and surroundings.

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.

Quiet Before Christmas

December 22, 2020
View from the Window at Studio Eidolons

Qoheleth: “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Apocalypse: “Behold I am making all things new.”

Finally, I am rested after the St. Louis excursion. Nestled in our home, I find myself gazing at Christmas decorations throughout the house while enjoying coffee and good books. Looking ahead already at the approaching New Year, I am thinking about juxtaposing a couple of biblical texts: on one side the aged Preacher (Qoheleth) in Ecclesiastes with his jaded look at the world as no longer offering anything new for him to appreciate, and on the other side the Apocalypticist in Revelation hearing an oracle from the Triumphant Christ.

I don’t know if it is because my age has passed the mid-sixties or if it is because retirement after three years is settling into my daily perspective, or if it is a combination of both–I just find myself musing about the span of life, and glorying in this stretch I experience now. Several years ago, I really believed that turning sixty and retiring would leave me morose. Though I was weary of holding down a job, I feared that retirement would fall below my expectations of quality. I was dead wrong on both counts; the past three years have been far and above the best years of my entire life. I am not trying to say that I have been unhappy and unfulfilled for sixty years. Rather I am just saying that I love and appreciate what I experience at this stage of living far more than I have ever felt.

So Good to be Home Again

My three days in the St. Louis area were filled with loving company of family and friends, and I relished every encounter. Returning home, I got re-aquainted with Sandi and the pups, and loved sitting before a fireplace once again.

Gallery at Redlands

Yesterday, I returned to Palestine to rotate the merchandise in The Gallery at Redlands. About 40% of the paintings have been changed so any patrons dropping in won’t see the same thing they’ve seen in recent months. Many of the Palestine train paintings have been re-hung for the Polar Express season now in progress.

Redlands Hotel Lobby

The gorgeous Redlands Hotel lobby is now tricked out in lovely holiday attire. The restaurant and bar, recently damaged by fire, have been remodeled and re-opened and business has now returned to the hotel. In 2021 I will return more frequently and put in extended hours in The Gallery at Redlands. We are anticipating good things next year.

Our family is laying plans to hit the road for some holiday adventures and I intend to send news and pictures of our activities. Meanwhile, let me wish all my readers the loveliest of Christmas and New Year Holidays.

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.

Odysseus Wanderings

December 20, 2020
Setting for Turvey’s Corner

(This entire blog is voice texted while on the road)

I am currently on the road, returning to Texas after 3 wonder-filled days spent in Missouri around my home town.

Leaving High Ridge, Missouri

Respecting the Coronavirus, I made brief visits to my parents, wearing a mask, and dropping off Christmas presents. My longtime friend and fellow blogger, Wayne White, offered me accommodations in a cozy cabin in Bonne Terre, Missouri, and we enjoyed catching up on old times and even venturing out to an area lake to fish for rainbow trout. Wayne was considerably more lucky than I.

One of several rainbows landed by Wayne

While in the area, I was delivered an unexpected and splendid 50-year-old Christmas gift. My 9th grade English teacher, Lon Simmons, has a huge devoted following of former students on Facebook. Unbeknownst to me, Lon encouraged one of these former students, a retired journalist, to seek me out. For this, and a number of other reasons, I will be forever in Lon’s debt.

Clarry Hubbard, retired journalist

Clarry Hubbard, following Lon’s advice, began reading my blog, and reached out to me on Facebook. There ensued a lively and satisfying exchange of writings and conversations online, and now in the St Louis area, I finally had the pleasure of meeting and sharing an evening meal and rich conversation with him.

Clarry’s journalism career took him all over the world, and now retired, he loves writing more than ever, and discussing literature and ideas. I would not exchange our conversation over the ideas of Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman and Hemingway for anything in the world. We only had two hours together, and I wish it could have been two days or more. I long for the opportunity to return to the St Louis region so we can extend this conversation. Clarry graduated two years ahead of me, so I never had opportunity to know him during our high school years. 50 years later, I fondly know him now as a friend.


Another highlight of my sojourn includes this spiritual journey to the Saint Louis Art Museum. The Matthew Arnold quote above one of the portals to the museum has always brought a sense of peace to my soul before entering these sacred premises.

Time spent inside the quiet Museum felt sacred to me, and at the same time sobering, with the masks and the social distancing. Photographing the equestrian monument St Louis out front later gave me pause, and then a chuckle as I saw the socially responsible mask covering the face of the king.

The journey has been filled with wonder and reward, and today I am grateful to be returning home to my own family. Christmas is just around the corner, and could not come at a better time for me. I wish all of you peace, joy and safety as you go through this holiday season and anticipate a better year than 2020.

Thanks always for reading.

Another Quality Morning with Pups and Art

December 14, 2020

A native is a man or creature or plant indigenous to a limited geographical area . . . A non-native awakes in the morning in a body in a bed in a room in a building on a street in a county in a state in a nation. A native awakes in the center of a little cosmos–or a big one, if his intelligence is vast–and he wears this cosmos like a robe, senses the barely perceptible shiftings, migrations, moods and machinations of its creatures, its growing green things, its earth and sky. Native intelligence is what Huck Finn had rafting the Mississippi, what Thoreau had by his pond, what Kerouac had in Desolation Lookout and lost entirely the instant he caught a whiff of any city.

David James Duncan, The River Why

Baby Paddington woke me the same way he does every morning–clawing at my shoulder at 6:58 a.m. He’s not going to go back to sleep once he starts that. Rising from bed, I gathered wood and got the fire started, French-pressed some New Mexico Piñon coffee, then sat back in an armchair beneath a throw, and immediately the two pups jumped into my lap. Paddington was the first to return to sleep, and I mused at how just twenty minutes earlier he couldn’t rest till he dragged me out of the sack. Spoiled puppy, sappy old man.

But the reading in The River Why was phenomenal, and I am still thinking over the native intelligence theme. Soon I’ll be spending long stretches of time on the open road and will no doubt continue to add to this strand of thought.

Sunlit Studio Eidolons

Yesterday was dark, bleak and wet the entire day. The studio work turned out just fine, thanks to a number of lamps. But today is much better as the sun has finally emerged to flood my windows with quality light.

Nearing the end of the Commission

I’m thinking that this commission will be completed today or tomorrow. I have had a myriad of interruptions rupturing my concentation on this for three days now, but still I have managed to take small bites out of the composition, and it is finally taking shape the way I’ve wanted it to.

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.

Painting on a Rainy Day

December 13, 2020

“Glum Gus” she calls me. I might be feeling pensive, preoccupied, mystified, fatigued, introspective, or any of a hundred ways resulting in what seems to me merely an expressionless expression–but to Ma these moods are all one: “Glum AGIN! Cheer up, boy! Always limpin’ around with a burr in yer ass! Smile, dammit!” I don’t think this is quite what Thoreau meant when he said “Simplify.”

David James Duncan, The River Why

Throughout this dark, cold, rainy Sunday I have been working through my latest watercolor commission and laughing my way through The River Why. The reason I posted the passage above is because I have felt my entire life the way this frustrated narrator did of himself. I’m not a laughing, jovial kind of spirit and my friends all know that. When talking a few years back to an artist friend about my difficulty meeting the general public at art festivals, I acknowledged that I love art and love talking about it to interested patrons. But at a festival, I feel cramped inside a 10 x 10′ tent with my work on display every time a stranger enters–I do not want to be perceived as a pushy, aggressive sales person hawking his wares. People at festivals should have the freedom and space to peruse and enjoy art without threat of hungry artists’ eyes burning through them from the shadows of the tents. When telling my friend of these issues, she suggested I make a sign to put out front:


The commission is coming along slowly, and I’m glad to be retired and not pressed by deadlines. The patron wants this one before Christmas, and I anticipate finishing it up today or tomorrow.

I have often been asked if I become bored with commissions if the subject matter is always the same. The answer is a simple No, and I know why: if I paint the same subject repeatedly (and lately, the subject has been suburban homes), the reality is that I never repeat the same steps as I create a painting. I do not have a set formula. The same is true if I do a series of workshops. I know how to take participants through steps in creating a watercolor, and I always formulate the steps to facilitate the process. But the order of the steps is never the same. There are so many ways to enter a painting, and I find no reason to fall into a boring routine.

Years ago, I watched a film of Picasso performating a painting of a seated female nude. Out of his more than 30,000 works of art created over a lifetime, there is no telling how many times he drew or painted a seated female nude. On this particular film, I watched the artist as he loaded his brush, approached the blank canvas, and began outlining his figure. He started at the small of her back, and the brush glided upward over her shoulder, up her neck and over the top of her head, then downward over the profile face, neck, breasts, abdomen, thighs . . . As I watched in wonder, I thought: if I were painting this subject, I would start at the very top of the head. No doubt Picasso did too, hundreds of times. But this time he chose an unusual place to start, and I will never forget that image. It was then that I determined I would never let myself become bored with a routine in drawing or painting subject matter; there are dozens of ways to proceed.

With this particular painting, I am working all over the picture plane, sometimes rendering in detail, other times laying down a wash, or picking up a pencil to adjust something further. But I am not bored with the subject, nor will I be if the next five or ten paintings turn out to be of houses. I always find a way to change it up. I’m very happy and contented this day, even if I’m not smiling. Trust me-I’m not gloomy.

Christmas Greetings from Studio Eidolons

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I am alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Quiet rainy morning before the fire

December 13, 2020

Before going into the studio, I love to relax with coffee, a good book, and a pair of napping pups (Patches is “camouflaged” to the left of my book). Outside it is still dark, cold and raining hard. The fireplace has cheered the house considerably. I should have more to say later once I enter the studio and resume painting.

Thanks for reading.

Early Morning Meditations

December 12, 2020

The once-monthly fisherman adores his rare day on the river, imagining that ten times the trips would yield ten times the pleasure. but I have lived the gallant fisher’s life, and I learned that not fishing is crucial to the enjoyment of fishing . .

David James Duncan, The River Why

First Fire of this Winter

What a revelation these words created in the pre-dawn of the morning! For days I have been planning a return to the Guadalupe River to engage in my favorite avocation: fly-fishing. When Baby Paddington woke me at 4:40, sick, I soon realized I may not be going to the stream soon after all. I’ll know more after we visit the vet today. But the words posted above gave me exactly what I need–a fly-fisherman doesn’t reap genuine joy from a multiplicity of packed-scheduled-visits to the stream; s/he only needs enough to keep the embers burning. My experience of a few weeks ago lit a genuine fire, and it is still smoldering. I’ll get to the stream again. Meanwhile, Baby Paddington needs nurturing. I would not have exchanged this morning’s session before the fire for anything. As the dogs slept from 5:00 till 8:00, I continued my blissful reading of The River Why.

Back to Work on the Next Commission

COVID-19 has been cruel to this nation in ways unspeakable. When my art business witnessed the cancellation of my entire year of scheduled festivals and exhibitions, I assumed that nothing would happen except my quiet production of art in the seclusion of my studio. I was in for a surprise: I am currently working on my tenth watercolor commission, all of them arranged via online contacts. At present it appears that this will be my final work of 2020, and for all the business I am grateful.

The veterinarian visit has put me behind in what I had hoped to accomplish today, so I’ll sign this one off early and get back to painting. 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.