Archive for January, 2022

3:30 a.m. Really?

January 21, 2022
Redlands Hotel in the early a.m.

We will all return to the Bateau-Lavoir. We were never truly happy except there.

Pablo Picasso to Andre Salmon, 1945

In the depths of a 27-degree winter, we both awoke in the darkness around 3:30 and began talking. Finally we decided to get up, turn on the lights, dress, and go downstairs into the Gallery for coffee and books to bring back up to our suite. I guess that is one more of a hundred blessings of living the retired life–no timetable or schedule. Why not read at the kitchen table, continue conversing, write out the best stuff in the journal and cultivate good thoughts and prepare for another adventurous day? And it’s only Friday, not yet the weekend even.

The Dogwood Arts Council met in The Gallery at Redlands downstairs last night, and the camaraderie was lively and at its very best. We’re elated about the Dogwood Art and Music Festival coming up in late March and I’m even more enthused about tonight’s Gallery Talk that Deanna Pickett Frye will lead at 7:00. Palestine is emerging as a lively center for engagement in the arts. And I’m so grateful to be included in it.

Day before yesterday, I finished Miles J. Unger’s Picasso and the Painting That Shocked the World. This is one of those books that is now worth going back over to re-read and respond to the many, many passages that I underscored during my first reading. Above, I’ve recorded Picasso’s quote at the beginning of this book. Forty years after his Bohemian, starving artist lifestyle, he rhapsodized over his studio years in the Bateau-Lavoir as a Golden Age. I find myself unable to do that. My own Bateau Lavoir occurred in 1987. I have memories of that era that I do not revisit wistfully. Life then was at its lowest ebb for me. I had completed my Ph.D., lived in a garage apartment, held down two part-time jobs and relied on the Fort Worth city bus service for transportation. I felt that nobody knew or cared whether or not I even existed. I lived as a phantom. Arcadia it was not. When the Arlington Independent School District hired me in 1988, my life was pulled out of the quicksand and I have never wished to return.

Maybe some day I will be able to say something more positive about my Baeau Lavoir. But not now. I feel I have been handed the most lovely gifts at this late stage of my life: retirement, a relationship, a home of my own, a gallery, time to pursue my art, part-time work teaching in a university–everything I ever wished for has been handed to me, and I love life more now than ever before. I wish this for everyone.

Thanks for reading and I hope you rise to a wonderful day today.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Back in the Gallery for the Weekend

January 20, 2022
Gallery at Redlands, view from the Desk

For most of human history, then, the vast majority of people have made their art in stolen moments, using scraps of borrowed time–and often using pilfered or discarded materials, to boot.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

Good afternoon, we are back in The Gallery at Redlands for the rest of the week. What a day yesterday turned out to be–first day of college at Texas Wesleyan University. The school has gone virtual for at least two weeks, so there was no face-to-face class time, and at the end of the day I was offered a second class–Humanities. My Ethics class hopes to go face-to-face if the virus ever diminishes, but the Humanities is an online course I’ve taught many times, so I’m looking forward to making a run at it as well.

Our gallery is looking forward to the Gallery Talk Friday night 7-8:00, hosted by our featured Artist-of-the-Month Deanna Pickett Frye. As for the present, I’m hoping for some “scaps of borrowed time” to make art. Yesterday’s watercolor class was a real blast and has me in the mood to pursue some new ideas in painting. Stay tuned . . .

Thanks for reading.

Longmire Watercolor on the Fly

January 19, 2022

I feel badly posting quick blogs on the fly, but the day has been a whirlwind. College began today and I’ve been assigned a second class in Humanities. I’ll have more to write on that later.

After a 4-month hiatus, I’ve returned to teaching Watercolor Wednesdays at Show Me the Monet Gallery in Arlington. Today our subject was Longmire and boy, did these students hit it out of the park! One of them had never tried watercolor before. I had a splendid time watching them wrestle with the medium and succeed with work suitable for framing.

I’m typing this with my smart phone as we run errands this evening–we leave first thing in the morning to work in The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine.

Thanks for reading.

Zwischen den Zeiten

January 18, 2022
Monday Night Demo before ARTIUM in Mansfield, Texas
Visiting after the Demo

Throughout the years, I cannot forget the title of a German Journal published in the early twentieth century, Zwischen den Zeiten translated “Between the Times.” Scholars like to use that tag line to describe early twentieth-century theology as Karl Barth’s neo-orthodoxy severed his era from the nineteenth-century Protestant theological tradition. I just completed the reading of the fascinating Unger book Picasso and the Painting That Shocked the World. That book describes in vivid detail Picasso’s life in Paris as he painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907, thus severing twentieth-century modern art from the prior centuries. The juncture “between the times” I have used countless times to describe particular hinge-joints in my own personal life. Today is such a juncture. Last night I enjoyed an evening demonstrating watercolor before ARTIUM, an association of artists in Mansfield just a few miles down the highway from where we live. Sandi was kind enough to take pictures of the demo. Tomorrow is the first day of the spring semester at Texas Wesleyan University and I will give my first lecture before a new Ethics class. Today I take a moment to breathe “between the times” and prepare for the new chapter. Hopefully in the weeks ahead I will do a better job balancing art and academics than I did last fall.

We have an enriching weekend rolling up in just a few days. Deanna Pickett Frye, our Artist-of-the-Month for The Gallery at Redlands, will deliver a Gallery Talk Friday night from 7-8:00. Having just completed a second mural for the City of Palestine, Deanna is full of fresh ideas and insights to share as we gather to hear more of her world. She too is opening a new semester, being a Professor of Art at Trinity Valley Community College.

Artist-of-the-Month Deanna Pickett Frye
Deanna’s Current Mural Underway
Deanna’s First Palestine Mural

Deanna has also been working hard to put an application online for artists wishing to participate in our upcoming 84th Annual Dogwood Art and Music Festival March 18-19 in Palestine. She has made me one of the administrators for the application to be found on zapplication.org. We are sending out an invitation to all interested artists to apply for a booth under the large tent set up for the artists’ section of the festival. A special VIP event will open the evening of March 18. Tickets will be sold for this event featuring a pre-sale of all artists’ work along with live music, food and an open bar. The next day will feature the entire festival which will occupy several blocks in historic downtown Palestine–merchandise and food booths, buskers, and children’s entertainment. The artists’ tent will also be open to the public for the duration of the day’s festival.

Artist VIP Tent from 2021 Dogwood Art and Music Fesival

I’ve missed a couple of days blogging due to all the events swirling around me. Hopefully I can find the time tomorrow to report more of what is happening. We’ll see how the first day of class goes.

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.

Making Art does not have to be an Exorcism

January 15, 2022
Framed Watercolor 16 x 20″ $400

Painting isn’t an aesthetic operation; it’s a form of magic designed as a mediator between this strange, hostile world and us, a way of seizing the power by giving form to our terrors as well as our desires. When I came to that realization, I knew I had found my way.

Pablo Picasso, quoted in Francois Gilot’s Life with Picasso

With temperatures plummeting into the 20’s, we’ve built a nice fire and settled in for this Saturday night. I’ll be working late on my university syllabus due Monday with classes beginning Wednesday. But I wanted first to frame the watercolor that I finally completed and put it on the blog before returning to the school work.

I’ve understood Picasso’s theory of art as exorcism for about thirty years now, and always enjoy re-reading his testimony concerning it. I believe I understand his perspective, but do not myself follow it. But it gives me a chance to respond with my own views.

When I make art, I am reproducing the world I want to remember: my Proustian world with all its rich memories that delight my senses as I embrace, enfold and try to mold them back into visible form. Many people use memory, calling up mental images to hold their past, to bring their past back into their present. I draw and paint the objects, the narratives most precious to me.

In the spring of 2011 I had the privilege of judging a plein air competition sponsored by the White River Artists of Cotter, Arkansas. During that three-day venture, I was taken to this rustic cabin in Flippin, Arkansas, dating back to 1905. This was one of the first two homes built in that town. Currently it sits on the property of Ozarks Realty on U.S. 62/412 west of the town of Flippin. I spent a delicious morning sketching this cabin with watercolor en plein air. Once I returned to the studio, I created two additional paintings of it, closer to a 20 x 24″ scale. Both of them have since sold, but the image continues to abide with me. So I’ve decided to try and render a third one.

Plein Air attempt
First Attempt years ago
2nd attempt

I cannot describe every sentiment that visited me while I worked on this piece. I will happily join some of the artists from the 2011 event in September for a four-day watercolor workshop. I cannot believe that it will have been eleven years since I last visited this location. Another sentiment I felt while painting was the feeling that Andrew Wyeth was looking over my shoulder nodding his encouragement and approval as I worked. His masterful drybrush watercolor studies of rustic subjects always abide with me when I’m in the studio.

Monday night I’ll be conducting a live demonstration and giving an art talk for ARTIUM, an arts association in Mansfield, Texas. We’ll gather at the Chris W. Burkett Service Center at 620 S. Wisteria Street from 6:30-8:30.

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.

Slinging Hash

January 14, 2022

In the morning sow your seed,

do not let your hands be idle in the evening.

Ecclesiastes 11:6

But lest I should mislead any when I have my own head and obey my whims, let me remind the reader that I am only an experimenter. Do not set the least value on what I do, or the least discredit on what I do not, as if I pretended to settle any thing as true or false. I unsettle all things. No facts are to me sacred; none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker, with no Past at my back

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

In the mornings when I read, I frequently find contrasting opinions and laugh. The first quote above was the sentiment with which I awakened; no sooner than I was sitting up in bed with coffee, I was journaling and plotting a trajectory for the weeks and months ahead, thinking all the while that it is already the second week into the new year, and I haven’t sufficiently set out my “business plan” for 2022. Then I read Emerson! I laughed because I had just finished sketching a bison in my sketchbook, and immediately asked “Now why am I sketching bison when I should be planning out my semester that begins next Wednesday at Texas Wesleyan University?” Hooray for Emerson.

After plenty of satisfying reading, I rose from bed and went to the studio to look for something to do next. I framed an Indian motorcycle that I sketched yesterday, then searched among my stored mats for something suitable to put around my Arkansas cabin. Now that I have it framed in an appropriately-toned mat, I’m ready to “compositionalize” the watercolor and tighten up some of the details I still haven’t addressed. It may be finished today, we’ll see.

Thanks for reading, and I hope that you have an “Emerson” kind of day!

5 x 7″ pencil drawing in 8 x 10″ frame $100

Not much work left on this one . . .
Morning sketching exercise

Contemplating the Wind

January 13, 2022

The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know from where it comes, or where it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the wind.

John 3:8

I know this passage from St. John. Jesus is instructing Nicodemus of the necessity of being born again. In answering the listener’s question, Jesus draws an analogy between the spirit and the wind with their attendant mysteries. But the same Greek word pneuma is used throughout the discussion, because it means either spirit or wind. I understand why the church has chosen to translate the word as “wind” first and “spirit” last in the above verse. But I have decided to stay with the word “wind” to shift the discussion in a different direction.

The idea I want to address in the above passage is the reality that none of us has control over the wind. We don’t know its origin or destination. We don’t know when it is going to pick up and blow. By analogy, we also do not understand people born of the wind; we cannot control them or successfully manipulate them to fit our desires.

Turning my attention to the world of art, I had a fascinating conversation with my friend from childhood and fellow artist Wayne White. His photography is featured in our Gallery at Redlands. While talking about the art market this morning on the phone, we acknowledged that we cannot predict sales or success. We’re fascinated with studying all that is available regarding marketing, and that is one of my resolutions for 2022. But as artists, the only thing we can do is continue to make our art and cast it into the wind to see if it will sail. No matter how much we learn about the market, it does no good if we are not prolific creators. I love this passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes (11:4):

Keep watching the wind and you will never sow.

Stare at the clouds and you will never reap.

I remember with amusement Kevin Kostner chiding the fledging minor league pitcher in Bull Durham that he couldn’t pitch with accuracy because he thought about it too much. “Just throw the ball,” he challenged. And that is what we artists need to do. We need to keep pitching.

5 x 7″ pencil sketch. $100 plus shipping

I finished a small drawing this morning of an Indian motorcycle with jacket and scattered equipment. I’m trying to draw every single day of 2022 and so far have stayed close to the discipline. This one I thought was good enough to put in a mat and perhaps frame.

I’m ready to return my attention to the Arkansas cabin. 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.

Paddington, my Studio Companion

January 12, 2022
Always Near

There isn’t much good to say about this day, except that I managed a little quality time in Studio Eidolons, late in the day. Looking up to see Paddington nearby in his bed, looking at me, melted my heart. This little guy has been such a joy in the daily life of the studio (except when he fishes out trash from my wastebasket to chew into smaller pieces).

While working on the Arkansas cabin, I’ve been listening to one of my favorite DVD documentaries on the Beat Generation, titled “The Source.” My soul resonates deeply over their words which sometimes spew like a volcano. As I listened, I felt an impulse to pull out my T. S. Eliot collection of poems and re-read part of “The Hollow Men.”

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass

Or rats’ feet over broken glass

In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,

Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Still working on the Arkansas Cabin

I’ve known the days of feeling that my artistic efforts were unknown and irrelevant, and have no intention to return to them. I don’t need to; something amazing has entered our lives–the Internet. Social media. The days of requiring agents are past and we can now find satisfaction in knowing that we send our artwork up the flagpole as often as we wish, to see if anyone will salute. And if they don’t . . . We have a good word from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist: “It’s not that people are mean or cruel, they’re just busy.”

Ian Roberts even said it more forcefully: Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to the world if you paint or dance or write. The world can probably get by without the product of your efforts. But that is not the point. The point is what the process of following your creative impulses will do for you.

I read T. S. Eliot and do not wish to become a hollow man. I make art to avoid that abyss. I choose to color my life with my artistic endeavors, and hope I can spread something good to others as well.

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.

Need Solid Stone to Polish

January 11, 2022
Continued work on the Arkansas Cabin
Practice sketch of Chair

You write like you got no balls at all. You need some solid stone to polish. You’re not a Flannery O’Connor, you’re not James Joyce, forget it. I would like you for once to put some words on paper that actually matter to you.

William Cotter Murray’s challenge to Bruce Dobler, Iowa Writers Workshop

I’m thankful for this winter interlude to re-focus on what I wish to accomplish in 2022. The calendar is already filling with spring watercolor classes, a university Ethics class, a demonstration before an arts society, and two art festivals (between now and May 1). Meanwhile I’ve wanted to be like a farmer in winter who performs maintenance on fences and tractors, orders feed and supplies, and tends the daily feeding of livestock. The farmer works year-round; only the tasks vary. Same with the artist. Seasons and weather set the agenda for what we do, and when it is too cold outside and holiday shoppers alike cool off in January, February, March, I find it useful to make art and tend the calendar so as not to be hit broadside when the action arrives.

There are a number of painting and sketching projects already filling my portfolio and littering my studio. Before going back to The Gallery at Redlands on Thursday, I am hoping to get some more creative tasks accomplished.

The quote above from William Cotter Murray sounded in my inner consciousness while I was tentatively poking at this cabin watercolor. Suddenly I was tightening up on the watercolor, and voices from long ago began to invade: Murray chiding Dobler, along with my own painting professor snapping at me in class: “Loosen up!” Taking out some books of Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper drawings, I decided it best to take out the pencil and try to sketch loosely the chair I’m planning on inserting into the cabin watercolor. As I drew and later painted, I decided to put on the DVD of Stone Reader so I could listen to writers and critics discussing the dynamics of writing (much of it parallel to painting). I decided, “True, I am not Andrew Wyeth, I am not Edward Hopper. What I need to do is put something down on paper that actually matters to me.” Forget style. Just render the cabin. Remember the solitude. Recall the silence. And paint away.

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.

Back in the Studio

January 10, 2022
Back to Work in Studio Eidolons
Quick Selfie Pencil Sketch

Today’s blog is just a quickie to post that I’ve put in some quality time in Studio Eidolons. The Arkansas cabin watercolor is making slow progress, but I’m solving problems along the way. I’m also trying to be consistent in my drawing-a-day pledge for 2022. More tomorrow . . .