Too Busy to Stop and Write

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.

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