Archive for November, 2021

Sunday in Studio Eidolons

November 28, 2021
Continued Work for Fort Worth Police Officers Association

. . . the loss of common sense is neither the vice nor the virtue of Kant’s “professional thinkers”; it happens to everybody who ever reflects on something; it only happens more often to professional thinkers. These we call philosophers, and their way of life will always be “the life of a stranger” (bios xenikos), as Aristotle called it in his Politics.

Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind

After the four-hour round trip to Palestine post-Thanksgiving (a parenthesis to the 48 hours in the Gallery), I woke up gratefully in my own home this morning with my family around me. Our morning coffee in bed with the snoozing dogs created a quiet and comfortable space, and the reading, as usual, was inspiring. I’ve been reading Hannah Arendt’s work off-and-on for months, now covering only about the first one hundred pages. I have to take her in small doses, as I do Heidegger. They offer so much weight to thinking that I find myself scribbling page after page of spin-off ideas in the journal.

Though retired since 2017, I have not ceased from the habit of reading scholarly as well as light material, and though teaching this semester was different, because I had to speak twice a week before an audience about ethical matters, my daily habit has continued unabated. I really thought I was finished with the classroom, and may be when the next week completes the fall term. Nonetheless,, I still enjoy the “life of the mind”, especially the reading of challenging material that continues to stretch my imagination. I loved Arendt’s observations, offered at the top of this post. Though never actually majoring in philosophy, I came to love the discipline during my years of doctoral study, and am glad the universities and high schools provided me the forum to teach it, and thus continue learning.

Thanksgiving has now segued into Christmas season, and I don’t regret that. It no longer bothers me to see Christmas decorations in the stores earlier each year; I wish the season’s spirit of “good will toward men” would be perennial. During this season, I intend to be more consistent in tuning out the negativity. Who knows, maybe with the new year I’ll be able to continue in that vein. It is so much better this way. Meanwhile, I intend to continue my engagement with “strange” readings along with the more popular ones. I’ll try to be more consistent with the blog during this holiday season as well.

Thanks always for reading. Incidentally, Facebook has blocked me from posting on the timeline. I’m happy to have WordPress still.


Saturday evening in the gallery

November 27, 2021
Making Slow Headway on the Fort Worth Police Commission

Men seek out retreats for themselves in the country, by the seaside, on the mountains . . . But all this is unphilosophical to the last degree, when you cannot at a moment’s notice retire into yourself. For nowhere can a man find a retreat more full of peace or more free from care than his own soul . . . Make use then of this retirement continually and regenerate yourself.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The rain and cold weather have for the most part kept patrons away from the gallery today, but the quiet allowed me to get plenty of work done for Monday’s university class as well as the watercolor commission currently underway. I didn’t plan it, but I’m so glad that I decided to bring out Marcus Aurelius at the close of my Ethics class. Reading his Meditations over Thanksgiving break has brought such a balm to my rested soul. I knew from my studies years ago that the American painter Edward Hopper (who devoured literature between his painting activities) was an avid reader of this book along with Emerson’s essays which he said he read daily. I have faithfully read Emerson for over thirty years, but had paid scant attention to Marcus Aurelius, and now am convinced that I will make him a constant companion.

I have my Mom and Dad to thank for my habit of solitary excursions. I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood, so there weren’t playmates available throughout my childhood. That, accompanied by the fact that our single-car-family went without transportation during weekdays as Dad drove into St. Louis to work. So I couldn’t be driven to friends’ houses to play. All of that worked out well. I learned how to entertain myself, and when I finally discovered books, I found that companionship with writers was more than enough.

Without reservation, I recommend that you check out the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. They could be read in a single setting, if not for the need to stop and shudder time and again at the insight this emperor possessed. I have shared before my love of the Greek language. This emperor chose to write in Greek and his style and vocabulary has striking infiniities with the Greek New Testament, hence my deepened interest in studying him.

The watercolor has probably dried enough for me now to return to work on it, but I wanted to stop and send out positive vibes to my reader friends and say please consider reading the Meditations. The practice could indeed improve your life.

Post-Thanksgiving Saturday Morning in The Gallery at Redlands

November 27, 2021
Preparing Monday College Lecture

Remember that it is only this present, a moment of time, that a man lives: all the rest either has been lived or may never be.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Life is busy now at The Gallery at Redlands. Polar Express Season is warming up on these cold wintry mornings. The gallery windows show a dark and rainy Saturday morning over Palestine. In my early years, such views depressed me, especially over the holidays, but not any longer. Emerson wrote that nature wears the colors of the spirit, and with that in mind, I now look out on a cold, dark rainy morning and say: “Perfect for coffee and books inside.”

Thanksgiving was truly a gift to me this season, and I offer up genuine thanks from the heart. I’m reading Picasso and the Painting That Schocked the World, a lovely gift from my student Jennifer who visited us last weekend. Picasso’s reminiscence of his Blue Period at the Bateau Lavoir was much more affirming than my own personal blue period of the holidays in 1987. All I can say is that I am overwhelmingly grateful for the love and cheer that embrace me now, replacing the total lack of it I felt in 1987. I wish everyone could know genuine cheer and love during the holiday seasons.

Cecilia Bramhall Collection

The Gallery at Redlands continues to brighten these days. Cecilia Bramhall has brought in several Christmas composition paintings, Paula Cadle’s pottery collection has been replenished, and Sandi is continuing to add garland and poinsettias. I have introduced Palestine’s Polar Express locomotives, selling the prints in 8 x 10″ frames and we are offering gift bags now to the holiday hotel guests.

Next Friday night, December 3 at 7:00, I will team up with radio personality Kevin Harris to lead in a Gallery Talk here at the Redlands. We will be discussing the “creative life” and what we have experienced personally over the years. The next day, December 4, from 10-3:00 will be our monthly Art Walk. Cecilia has already beefed up her Christmas painting offerings for her day spent in The Co-ed Shop, and I will stay in the Gallery at Redlands for the day, offering my own work at a 10% discount.

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.

New Commission

November 22, 2021
Fort Worth Police Officers Association

I am just barely underway with my latest Commission: a watercolor of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association building. I have been drawing on it with pencil and drafting equipment for two days, and I’m just now applying the first washes of the sky and am now waiting for them to dry.

The day has been weird, to say the least. I am unable to post anything on Facebook, having been notified of my restrictions to prevent misuse, whatever the heck that means. Thankfully, WordPress is still allowing me to publish…

Locked out of Facebook

November 22, 2021

FYI, for anyone following me on Facebook. I’m locked out, no reason given aside from their protecting it from “misuse.” Fortunately, I stil have a blog for publication.

Monday Morning in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

November 22, 2021
Morning View out the Window of Studio Eidolons

An artist learns by repeated trial and error, by an almost moral instinct, to avoid the merely or the confusingly decorative, to eschew violence where it is a fraudulent substitute for power, to say what he has to say with the most direct and economical means, to be true to his objects, to his materials, to his technique, and hence, by a correlated miracle, to himself.

Irwin Edman, Arts and the Man

Though chilly outside, the view out my studio window this morning is filled with sunshine and color, and makes me grateful for artistitic appetites. Seeking a good word for the morning, I wasn’t disappointed with Irwin Edman’s expansive comment. Last night in The Gallery at Redlands, a young girl’s mother approached me while others were shopping the gallery, and whispered that her daughther wanted to ask me a question. She was ten years old: “How do you become a good artist?”

This is the kind of conversation I crave, always. It very seldom presents itself. The feelings welling up inside me are beyond description, even the morning after. I poured out all I could as I visited with that young, inquisitive artist, and still see that earnest look in her eyes as she genuinely wanted to talk to someone about making art. When my emotions are a little more under control and I can write with full accuracy, I plan to write out all I can recall from our lengthy conversation and share it on this blog.

Time is short. Though we returned home from Palestine late last night, I have to go back down there today. Polar Express is sending many, many reservations into The Redlands Hotel (they have a shuttle service and the scheduled train rides posted in the lobby), and many of those passengers are coming into The Gallery. I got my latest commission underway (for the Fort Worth Police Officers Association) and decided to leave it on the gallery drafting table last night since I was returning to work on it later today.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming, and with them many requests. It’s time to take it up another notch or two. I don’t plan to miss any commission deadlines this time of year.

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.

Going to the Wilderness

November 21, 2021

Early Sunday Morning in The Gallery at Redlands
Translating Plotinus

How then can you see the sort of beauty a good soul has? Go back into yourself and look; and if you do not yet see yourself beautiful, then, just as someone makng a statue which has to be beautiful cuts away here and polishes there and makes one part smooth and clears another till he has given his statue a beautiful face, so you too must cut away excess and straighten the crooked and clear the dark and make it bright, and never stop working on your statue till the divine glory of virtue shines out on you . . .

Plotinus, Ennead

Sunday morning has been quite busy in The Gallery at Redlands, now that Polar Express has begun running. There are three trips on the schedule for today, and already before the first departure visitors have shopped the gallery.

School is out the entire next week for Thanksgiving. I gave my students at Texas Wesleyan University an early holiday gift. Following is the lecture I delivered the last time our class met before the holidays:

Going to the Wilderness

November 15, 2021

I’m giving you a gift—your final essay assignment, not due until you return to class after the holiday. Your topic: “Going to the Wilderness”

How old were you thirteen years ago? Five, really? So, you probably have heard little-to-nothing about what I’m about to relate to you.

Thirteen years and eleven days ago, we elected Barak Obama President of the United States. Obama was a Senator and constitutional law scholar, overflowing with ideas about what this country could be. And Obama was loaded with charisma. His opponent John McCain, an aging Senator, had a depth of experience in public office, but lacked energy and enthusiasm. He knew he couldn’t match the depth of scholarship and charisma of Obama. So, he sought a running mate he thought could make up for his energetic and charismatic shortfall. Sarah Palin, from Wasilla, Alaska, had charisma and enough political spunk to rise to the rank of mayor, and ultimately governor. And though her public persona had plenty of sizzle, it soon became evident from interviews that her depth of understanding of national and international politics, compared to Obama, was ultra-lightweight. When the election was over, Republicans wondered who could be groomed to compete with Obama in four years. Sarah Palin? One political pundit said, she had the style, the popularity, but if she were to cultivate the substance, it would require going into the wilderness for four years.

Sarah Palin would need to withdraw from the public and study, study, study the political landscape of the Presidency with the aid of the world’s finest minds if she wanted to emerge a formidable opponent for the 2012 presidential election. Of course, everyone knew she wouldn’t do it. She needed the attention too much. She loved the political spotlight. The daily soundbites. The political talk show circuit. And so she continued participating in the public chatter. She spouted publicly daily, weekly, and continued to make costly mistakes until she finally faded away.

Sarah Palin was too much extrovert. Not enough introvert, and certainly not enough wilderness. And she is not alone in this.

Ralph Waldo Emerson exploded onto the American consciousness in 1836 with his book Nature, followed a year later by “The American Scholar,” followed a year later by the Harvard Divinity School address. In the fourth year, 1840, he plateaued. He was out of fresh material. He needed to go back into the wilderness and renew. He couldn’t. He was too much in demand as a public speaker, a popular lecturer. And so, he continued to grind out those public appearances, and never again generated those sparks of his initial years. Because he didn’t want to leave the action, the noise of public approval.

And now, here you are.

Our topic is The Wilderness. What exactly is the wilderness? The wilderness is where the public isn’t. The wilderness is the empty space where you can withdraw to think over things that matter.

Where is the wilderness? Inside you.

Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself. (said Herman Hesse)

The university years are supposed to be your wilderness years. You may never have them again, once you leave here.In the Bible, John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth and the Apostle Paul withdrew to the wilderness and in the secrecy of solitude, developed character, vision and inspiration. When they re-entered the public sphere, society did not know how to keep up with them. In the wilderness they carved out their real character.

The time has come for you to go to the wilderness.Yet you find yourself crammed with schedules, appointments, deadlines and noise. You need space. You need silence. I am now handing it to you. This week you will not have an Ethics class to attend. Next week you are on holiday. So, take these days that are ahead, find a quiet place, and work on your Wilderness essay.

What are you invited to do? To think, deeply. To write, deeply. To ruminate. To engage your university mind. Take a good, long look at yourself. What have you learned about yourself this semester? How have you changed? How are you better now? Have you begun to exert your Will to Power? Have you come closer to becoming the Übermensch? Have you learned to think phenomenologically? Are you aware of more than one way to look at an issue? Have you climbed Tripp’s pyramid and found a smaller gathering about you?

The semester is drawing to an end. The Owl of Minerva flies at dusk. Wisdom comes at the end. Write about what you know now that you didn’t know three months ago. Do it now before the craziness of studying for final exams descends. This two-page essay assessment of your life could become your greatest Ethical performance.

Take the days ahead to look into yourself. Get alone. Get out of the dorm room or apartment. Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. And for God’s sake, turn off your smart phone. Sit on one of these benches scattered all over this campus. Go find a coffee house with a table to yourself. Go to a park and sit in the shade of a tree. And take along something on which you can write, scribble, the beginnings of thoughts, ends of thoughts, fragments of thoughts. Scribble away. And those scribblings will grow into your essay.

Next week, during Thanksgiving, give thanks for finding yourself.

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.

Nostalgic Magic over a Palestine Weekend

November 20, 2021

Saturday morning looking out at the Carnegie Library from The Redlands Hotel


Stream of consciousness

On a sleeping

Street of dreams


Like scattered leaves

Slowed in mid-fall

Into the streams

Of fast turning rivers

Of choice and chance

And time stops here on the delta

While they dance, while they dance

David Crosby, Delta

David Crosby’s lyrics drifted through my mind as I woke early this morning and lay in bed for awhile. Finally rising and dressing, I walked out into the living area of the suite we rent on weekends in The Redlands Hotel. Looking out the dining room windows, I admired the sun shining brightly on the Carnegie Library down below and across the street, like so many mornings before. But something was very different this morning–three children were seated on the sofas reading their books in silence. Their mother was in the other room. There had not been a sound when I entered the living area, and I thought everyone else was still asleep.

Yesterday evening my former student, Jennifer Campobello Smith, class of ’95 from Arlington Lamar High School, arrived in Palestine with her four children, ages 8-12 to stay as our guests in The Redlands. Dinner together, conversations deep into the night, and art lessons this morning in The Gallery at Redlands were just part of the marvelous fun we all had together.

Standing with Jennifer Campobello Smith, class of ’95
Sandi and Me with Jennifer’s lovely family

Retiring from high school teaching in 2017, I took for granted that students, once gone, had little reason to renew friendships with their teachers. How surprised I was when Jennifer reached out to me a few months back, expressing her desire to bring her children back to Texas to visit her old stomping grounds. Jennifer did her undergraduate work at University of St. Thomas in Houston, then earned her law degree at Loyola University in Chicago. She remained in that great city to practice law and raise a family. I had not seen her since she graduated, but never forgot her. She took Art I and Humanities with me, then became my teacher’s aide in her senior year. Now, twenty-six years later, I find myself surprised and gratified that she thought enough of me to introduce me to her family. Now they’re in Houston to complete their holiday journey before returning to Chicago.

This weekend kicks off the Polar Express season in Palestine. Sixty reservations have already been made through The Redlands Hotel and the weekend has buzzed with activity. We’ve opted to stay into Sunday because more activity is expected throughout tomorrow. The Gallery at Redlands has been busy all weekend.

I have plenty more to share, but it will have to wait till tomorrow. 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.


November 13, 2021

Saturday Morning in The Gallery at Redlands

When the vessel is full and fixed, uniform throughout, there is neither vessel nor contents: nothing to pour in, nothing can pour out. With this degree of fusion, the vessel can no longer serve its function of temporary container, and the contents become unacceptable because of the growing staleness of their permanence.

Peter London, Drawing Closer to Nature

Good morning from Palestine’s Gallery at Redlands. This morning’s reading from Peter London is timely for me. Yesterday I complained about being sandbagged by tasks and appointments. I think a better word is plenitude. Peter London said it better: sometimes we who try to create find ourselves too full to channel fresh energies of inspiration. That is where I have been for awhile now. Life has been good to me, very, very good. The events that have packed my daily calendar are worthy and affirming. However, more is required from me in the days and weeks ahead and I just don’t seem to have it. Yet. But I am determined to find a way. I have one major deadline to meet today (that I thought would be accomplished yesterday, in the gallery. But alas, people came in all day and all evening, really). The task still has to be completed, and I am determined to complete it today.

And then . . . I’m ready to start the next painting. In yesterday’s blog I posted three snowy evergreens that I had completed in the past. I have four more surfaces prepared for new work laid out on the gallery drafting table. One of them has already been spattered with masquing fluid (blowing snow) that has dried and is ready for spritzes of water and dashes of pigment for the flowing, ghostly background silhouettes of evergreens on a mountain slope. I already see it in my mind’s eye. The white rectangles of paper are lying ready and waiting.

Our Oak Street Gallery Window in the bright sunlight of a 45-degree morning.
I am dying to paint this empty school building in Palestine
Four of my five framed 8 x 10″ watercolor prints, $45 each from now till Christmas
The start of our Christmas trimmings

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.

Artful Morning in the City

November 12, 2021
Carnegie Library at Dawn, View from our Second-Floor Suite at The Redlands Hotel

My firm belief is that one paints, as one writes, not out of a theory but out of the vividness of an experience.

Rollo May, My Quest for Beauty

Rollo May’s writings have been a gift to me, again and again, not only from the book quoted above, but also his masterwork Paulus, about the theologian Paul Tillich as a teacher, along with The Courage to Create, a marvelous companion to Tillich’s The Courage to Be. Though a psychologist by profession, Rollo May was also a practicing artist and (to me) one of the most able writers describing the dynamics of the creative process. I have read The Courage to Create countless times, and yet still return to it to glean more from its pages.

More recently, I have been digging trenches through the first of Martin Heidegger’s four volumes titled Nietzsche. Now, after more than a hundred pages, I find myself dizzy and short of breath as though having climbed to the summit of one of Colorado’s Fourteeners. In the winter term 1936-37, Heidegger taught a course on Nietzsche, based on the unedited manuscripts of his Will to Power (unfortunately, Nietzsche’s sister mangled them to create the monster work that stamped the ghastly postscript onto his brilliant life’s work). Out of the semester’s teachings, Heidegger published an essay “The Origin of the Work of Art”. This essay I read while on the island in the Laguna Madre back in the summer of 2015 when I was serving an Artist-in-Residency for Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. That essay inspired the watercolor study I did of the cord grasses one afternoon on the island:

2015 Watercolor “Cord Grasses” from my Stay on the Laguna Madre

Now, six years later, I have made the decision to dig under the foundations of Heidegger’s essay, which involves the four volumes of lectures from his 1936-37 winter term. The part I am reading now pertains to Nietzsche’s theory of Art as a configuration of will to power. The readings have continually rendered me breathless, and at the same time, resentful of being sandbagged by so many appointments and responsibilities of late. Hopefully the smog will soon clear and I will be able to report further on these amazing insights I’m having the pleasure of gleaning from these magnificent pages.

Sandi and I have returned to Palestine and The Gallery at Redlands for the weekend. Since the Hotel is already wonderfully decked out in Christmas Holiday attire, we are beginning now to trim our Gallery with some of the same. I also have plans to resume my recent experiments in winter evergreens. I managed to knock out a pair of them last Saturday during Art Walk, and spent some of this past week going through my archives and pulling out reproductions of past work to use as models for new work. Hopefully today and tomorrow I’ll be given time to pick up the brush and see what I can pursue next.

Snowy Evergreens (Sold, but working on another)
Snowy Evergreens (still available at $80)
Snowy Evergreens (Sold, but working on another)

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.