Archive for April, 2021

Sunday Morning Musings from Studio Eidolons

April 11, 2021
Glad to be back in the Studio for some Quiet Restoration

. . . finding you were able to make something up; to create truly enough so that it made you happy to read it; and to do this every day you worked was something that gave a greater pleasure than any I had ever known.

Ernest Hemingway

Today is restoration day. Sandi and I received our second COVID vaccine shots yesterday and are happy to experience no unpleasant symptoms. We’ve just been on the go for several days and are glad now to stop for awhile.

I’ve resumed reading Carlos Baker’s Hemingway: The Writer as Artist. I love the quote above, and that general sentiment of the artist–creating something out of the void. My life has been enriched in recent years by a mix of painting and writing. Last weekend while in The Gallery at Redlands, I met an author who invited me to join their writers’ group that meets once a month. The next one won’t be until May, but I am already leaning forward with enthusiasm to gathering with these writers and finding ways to sharpen my own vision of what to do with my own practice.

My latest watercolor has laid dormant on my drafting table for twenty-four hours, and I intend today to give it my next push. I’ve gotten bogged down with the bricks and ghost signage, so I may decide to return to work on the trees awhile. We’ll see.

Planning today to return to the Ghost Sign watercolor

I look forward to participating in Artscape 2021 at the Dallas Aroboretum April 23-25. Last year was canceled due to COVID, but I understand that there will be 80+ artists participating this year. This festival has been one of the highlights of my annual art schedule before last year’s cancellations. I am excited to bring out quite a stack of framed watercolors that have not yet been seen by the public. I guess that’s one positive to address concerning the lost year during COVID.

A new Greeting Card for my Inventory

Hank Under Oklahoma Stars

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”

Reclining against his backpack, Hank savored the warmth of the fire that neutralized the chill of the October night. He had left Turvey’s Corner just this morning, but thanks to a pair of truckers, had managed to put nearly twelve hours between himself and the town he just left. Finding wide open plains west of the town of Vinita, he now rested his stiff body and gazed in wonder at the millions of stars filling the deep night sky.

The back of the Greeting Card (blank inside)

I have allowed my greeting card inventory to dwindle over the past couple of years. In The Gallery at Redlands, as well as my festival tent, I sell 5 x 7″ cards (blank inside) with my artwork on front and a descriptive text on back. They sell for $5 each, five for $20, and come with the proper envelope. A protective plastic envelope encases the assembly. Above is an example of one of my newest ones printed last week. Materials just arrived to print 250 new cards, so I’m excited to create new editions as well as replenish the ones sold out. Above is an example of one of my newest cards; below is a photo of another spread out.

(Cards are blank inside)

I’m ready to paint again. 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.

Stop the Static

April 9, 2021
Dark, cool morning in Palestine, Texas

“Stop listening to the static. . . . everything in the world is like this transmission making its way across the dark. But everything–death, life, everything–it’s all completely suffused with static. But if you listen to the static too much it f*cks you up.”

As a television viewer, I am far behind the times, often choosing to binge watch a series created years ago. A few days ago, I finished watching “Six Feet Under”, a deeply moving experience for me on many levels. In the final episode, one of the deceased appeared to his sister whose life was in turmoil, and he advised her that she must find a way to “stop the static”; there was far too much anxiety roiling her inner world and she needed to find a way to stop it. She was an artist, and the advice of course was quite sound.

For several days now, that inner voice has resonated with me. Stop the static. We live in an age of anxiety, much of it of our own making. I know a number of individuals in my art circles who cannot seem to find peace in their lives. Of course, the caricature of the temperamental artist continues to play out in our days, along with the depressed artist, the repressed artist, etc. But a number of my artistic friends seem to spend more time spewing negativity on Facebook. I can’t help but wonder what is stirring them up–too much time in front of the daily news cycle? Too much time reading others’ negative comments on social media? What exactly is stirring them up, preventing them from making art?

For me personally, retirement in 2017 slowed my inner world down considerably, and even though daily life details have multiplied in the past couple of months of gallery ownership, I still appreciate a quieter inner world for myself. No doubt much of it is due to a targeted avoidance of the daily news cycle and toxic remarks on social media. Life is too short to swim in the sewers of negativity. And as for the accelerated lifestyle of our current world, I purposely choose to seek out the quiet spots and sweet solitude. My mornings (and most of the day actually) avoid social commentary on Facebook, as well as tuning in to the television to listen to the daily news (mostly negative). I have far too many books with affirming observations and exciting visions for contributing to a better world. I will never get around to reading them all, but my excuses will not include the admission of fiddle-farting on the Internet, stuffing my mind and psyche with someone else’s venom. Stop the static.

Without an alarm, I somehow woke at 4:50 this morning, ideas visiting me in great abundance, but not disturbing ones, not negative thoughts. I chose to get up and scribble in my journal the fresh ideas, grateful for the visitation. By 7:00 I was in the gallery for coffee, reading, and now am ready to go back to the drafting table and visit my watercolor from the night before, viewing it in this lovely morning light, remembering the precious words from Henry Miller:

To get up at the crack of dawn in order to take a peek at the water colors one did the day before, or even a few hours before, is like stealing a look at the beloved while she sleeps. The thrill is even greater if one has first to draw back the curtains. How they glow in the cold light of early dawn!

I sense my watercolor whispering to me from across the gallery. It’s time to step into the fresh light and see if I can create something worthy of these positive sentiments.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I bog to remind myself I am not alone.

Thoughts in the Night While Painting in The Gallery at Redlands

April 8, 2021
After a four-day hiatus, it’s good to be working on this painting again

The celebrated biographies give us the sufferings and hardships of the great. But the sufferings and hardships of the unknown are often more eloquent. The tribulations of fate weave a mantle of unsuspected heroism about these lesser figures. To win through by sheer force of genius is one thing; to survive and continue to create when every last door is slammed in one’s face is another. Nobody acquires genius: it is God-given. But one can acquire patience, fortitude, wisdom, understanding. Perhaps the gretest gift the little men have to offer us is this ability to accept the conditions which life imposes, accept one’s own limitations, in other words. Or, to put it another way–to love what one does whether it causes a stir or not. Of the highest men Vivekananda once said: “They make no stir in the world. They are calm, silent, unknown.”

Henry Miller, To Paint is to Love Again

As the hour approaches 9 p.m., The Gallery at Redlands is quieter. My eyes are tired from working on the watercolor at the drafting table (bless you, Tim and Patty for that wonderful gift!). Sitting now at the desk I’ve taken up my continued reading of this beautiful volume from Henry Miller (bless you, Stacy and Leigh for that gift–I still cry when I think of opening the wrapping paper that night!)

I want to dedicate this blog entry to the Unknown Artist, the One who continues to work faithfully on his/her craft day after day, even when no one seems to notice. I salute the artist who realizes the world doesn’t need his/her creative effort; if the artist quits, the world will continue on its way. I still shudder at the memories, the Angst I knew in the 80’s and 90’s. I still remember those nights of sadness when I couldn’t sleep because I was mired in all that self-doubt that arose because of a general lack of recognition or appreciation for my artistic efforts.

The art world has changed profoundly for me since those days. Not that I consider myself successful or widely-known in the art world. I think what it boils down to is the reality that I worked a job for twenty-eight years, earned a pension and retired. Once my job supported my lifestyle around the turn of the millenium, I suddenly realized that I did not need the income for art sales, and I no longer expected to become famous. That turned out to be liberating. As I recall, somewhere around the year 2000, I found myself happy in the act of creating instead of fretting over marketing details or standards of success.

But our world remains filled with artistic, creative, driven souls who suffer, either because they cannot make a living and/or they create without any measure of success or recognition. I don’t know which is worse. All I know is that when an artist is unhappy, I feel guilty because my life has turned in such a way that I have the ability to make art, and love the work, and don’t have to depend on selling it.

I am still surprised to own a gallery now. It has been over two months since we turned that corner, and it is still quite new and quite surprising for me. As for The Twelve in The Gallery at Redlands, I just want them to be successful, and I want them to be happy in their creative work. I want them to know the bliss and fulfillment of having the strength and wellness to pursue their bliss.

I am turned off by art blogs that tell us how to become millionaires, how to market our work, especially the ones who solicit money from us for their packaged programs that guarantee financial fortune. I despise the unwritten sentiment that if we are not financially successful then we are just mediocre or lazy artists. From my perspective, this gathering of The Twelve in our gallery has shown me more love and compassion than I believe I’ve ever seen in social gatherings from my past. There is a wonderful vibe among this community. Something is in the air. And I truly believe that Palestine and east Texas are on the verge of artistic enrichment. I truly believe that The Twelve are committed to improving our community by celebrating art, by delighting in the act of creation. And I am proud to be numbered among them.

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.

Early Sunday Morning

April 4, 2021
Working slowly on my ghost sign composition from Hot Springs, Arkansas

Usually the artist has two life-long companions, neither of his own choosing. I mean–poverty and loneliness. To have a friend who understands and appreciates your work, one who never lets you down but who becomes more devoted, more reverent, as the years go by, that is a rare experience. It takes only one friend, if he is a man of faith, to work miracles. How distressing it is to hear young painters talking about dealers, shows, newspaper reviews, rich patrons, and so on. All that comes with time–or will never come. But first one must make friends, create them through one’s work. What sustains the artist is the look of love in the eyes of the beholder. Not money, not the right connections, not exhibitions, not flattering reviews.

Henry Miller, To Paint is to Love Again

Saturday was a slow day in the gallery–dark, rainy and overcast outdoors with very few people coming in. The result was an excellent day for painting, reading, scribbling in the journal, and finding my center again. When patrons did come to the gallery, I found myself much more open to visiting and exchanging good words. And then of course, many of my new friends came in and the night glowed with companionship.

The words from Henry Miller rolled across the page at just the right moment this morning as I was reflecting over the watercolor that has kept me company the past couple of days. I am probably going to include the word “palimpsest” in the title of my new work, because of how the layers of billboard on the side of the building correspond to the layers of my personal memories that keep blistering to the surface of my consciousness.

As I read Henry’s words of the struggling artist and look at my painting, the past comes pouring through my soul. The year 1988 was utterly bleak. I now look out the window of our gallery down the street, across a vacant parking lot to the distant railyards. And I recall those Sunday mornings walking along West Berry Street in Fort Worth toward Texas Christian University. I worked as a dispatcher for Campus Police, unsure of what kind of future employment I would land, but committed to a life as an artist. The squalor of Berry Street alongside with the beauty of the morning sun on the old business facades reminded me of Edward Hopper’s honest urban works, and I wondered then if I could ever land in an environment where I could practice my art of rendering such scenes and somehow live comfortably as well.

In those days my friends were very few, and none of them shared my artistic vision or interest. Sandi would not come into my life for another decade, but I held on to the belief that friendship would eventually arrive, and perhaps a stability to life as an artist. Now, more than thirty years later, the artful life has arrived, and my heart swells in gratitude for love, for friendship, and for a caring environment. I knew the life of the struggling artist, and am glad now that the struggle only involves attempts to improve my craft and my business associations. But I am so grateful for a circle of artistic friends. The Twelve have enriched me in ways I could never adequately put into words. And to everyone still struggling to establish his/her artistic lifestyle I just urge you not to give up. Believe. Trust your vision. Never apologize for your authenticity. Keep practicing your art. And never cut yourself off from other visionaries seeking companionship and conversation. Your vision and talents are the genuine life blood that could heal our society. There is not enough beauty in this world. We need your inspiration.

Early Sunday Morning Peek into the Gallery at Redlands from the Lobby of Redlands Hotel
Lovely Work from Deanna Pickett Frye and Elaine Cash Jary in our Front Window
From where I sit . . .

Thanks always for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Pre-Dawn Musings from The Gallery at Redlands

April 3, 2021

What this country really needs is a good five-cent cigar.

Thomas Riley Marshall, Vice-President under Woodrow Wilson, presiding over a Senate debate

Waking at 3:15 this Saturday morning was not part of my plan, but here I sit in a darkened kitchen on the second floor of The Redlands Hotel, with an abundance of good feelings over the past couple of days’ events in The Gallery at Redlands. Closing out the final weekend of Palestine’s Dogwood Festival afforded us warm conversations with some of our gallery artists along with members of the Dogwood Arts Council. We also got to visit with dear friends whose workplaces are in this hotel along with a host of visiting patrons. And we have even made some new friends who live above their business just a block away. The vibe of Palestine continues to warm up in many ways similar to what I’ve been reading about the 1950’s surge of art in New York City.

And, speaking of New York City, I can no longer hold back on the thrill that greeted The Twelve as we were launching the opening of this gallery March 20. On that day, while some of us were under the tent for Art Alley (one of the Dogwood Festival’s events), I received a comment on this blog from a sculptor in Manhattan:

Congratulations, in advance, for what looks like a groundbreaking opening! Even here, from Manhattan, I can see art is an important part of this community, and a community that reveres art is a community alive!!! Do well and I look forward to more photos!

As some of our gallery artists and members of the Arts Council gathered round, I read the comment aloud from my smart phone, and they broke out in spontaneous applause! Two days later, when I posted a new blog, updating our art events here in Palestine and the success of our gallery reception honoring The Twelve, another post came up from our Manhattan friend:

Thank you for the moment-by-moment description of your show, the gallery and all the artists who make up your Twelve. It is true, I live in NYC. I have been to a lot of art exhibits, and have a BFA in sculpture, from back when no women were in the Sculpture Department. But I am still more interested in the artists than the hype. You gave me the artists, in such a way that I can imagine myself there. Now that I know the history of the gallery and some of the artists, I can follow along. Thanks again. And, when you are on the river in OK, and if you happen to see an osprey fishing (returning from their migration), that’s probably me, sending you a “hello” message.

Two days later, my artist friend Wayne journeyed with me to Oklahoma to fly-fish the Lower Mountain Fork River. As we fished those gently flowings waters, we watched for the osprey and re-lived the thrill of the Manhattan posts of good will.

The Gallery has been busy the past couple of days, but still I found some stillness and quiet and space to continue work on my latest watercolor (thank you again, Tim and Patty, for giving me the drafting table so I can work on art inside the gallery). Below is the reference photo I’m using for the painting, taken early one morning in Hot Springs, Arkansas when Wayne and I were returning him to his home in Missouri.

O’Bryan Building, erected in 1891. Hot Springs, Arkansas

While working on this watercolor, I’ve been exporing the building’s history online, and intend in future posts, as this watercolor develops, to share what I’ve learned about the layers of advertising making up the “ghost sign.”

The 10-cent Cigar portion brought to memory the famous wit of our Vice-President under Woodrow Wilson. As he presided over the Senate, he was known for his patience. But on one particular day, as Senator after Senator pontificated endlessly about what was needed to heal our nation’s ills, the Vice-President leaned over to the Secretary of the Senate and uttered those immortal words in the hearing of several nearby.

What this country really needs is a good five-cent cigar.

Currently, I see our country as very ill. But I have hope. Members of The Twelve told me repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the March 20 reception at The Gallery of Redlands that they were surprised and warmed by the good will flowing in all directions on social media: members of The Twelve who had not yet met were sending warm, enthusiastic thoughts to one another, admiring one another’s work online and looking forward to the day we would be together. Artists from the metroplex, from Amarillo, from Palestine and from Missouri earnestly looking forward to meeting face-to-face, some of them sharing a four-bedroom suite on the second floor of The Redlands Hotel. For four days, we went to meals together, sat and chatted in the gallery together, congregated in the hotel lobby, set up displays under the tent for Art Alley together, and finally, spent hours together the night of our reception. The temperature continued to rise, and lasting friendships were formed. Wayne and Paula were reluctant to leave and return to Missouri so soon. Metroplex artists reluctantly said Goodbye and returned to their neighborhoods. And Sandi and I could not wait for the next weekend to get back to Palestine and see the local artists again. What we all shared was this: social media, as we had experienced before, had been a venue of poisonous rhetoric, vitriolic attacks on people’s character, and a megaphone for discontent. But what we have experienced for over a month now is a genuine outpouring of goodwill to others not yet seen in person. And now that The Twelve have returned to their homes, the positive messages continue. And we wonder, what is wrong with the mainstream that seeks satisfaction in poisonous rhetoric on social media? Honestly, what is their return on this activity? Satisfaction? Pleasure? Happiness? Why can’t people seek healing for this culture? What is to be gained by all this negativity?

There are a number of things happening in The Gallery at Redlands that fill me with pride in this space. Sandi had the idea of bringing in more comfy chairs and intalling a Keurig coffee maker along with bowls of snacks put out. What we have noticed is more people entering our space and lingering longer, perhaps because they don’t feel assaulted by hungry sales people. They sit. They drink. They snack. And they visit. Recently I have enjoyed the company of an eighth-generation descendant of Cynthia Ann Parker, mother of Quanah Parker. I have also enjoyed an extensive conversation with a retired history teacher from Mississippi, and listened with awe to the experiences of a woman whose aunt managed the Carlin Art Gallery in Fort Worth and represented the works of Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth. Visiting with art lovers who look closely at our work and remain for meaningful conversations is just as satisfying as selling art, though we are very happy that sales have been steady since we’ve opened.

What our country needs, is more good will, more positive discourse. And we are warmed to find more of that going on in this community. May it continue. We are expecting that five-cent cigar.

The light is coming up outside, and I have a watercolor downstairs waiting for me. Like Henry Miller, I’m looking forward to taking a peek at it in the morning light that pours in through our gallery windows.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

The Twelve at The Gallery at Redlands Introduces Grace Hessman, Pastelist

April 2, 2021

Grace Hessman Fine Art