Archive for August, 2022

Solitude Eludes Words

August 31, 2022
Morning Sketch in Studio Eidolons

This writing that you do, that so thrills you, that so rocks and exhilarates you, as if you were dancing next to the band, is barely audible to anyone else.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

I felt Annie’s presence this morning, as I sat at the window sketching, the cool gray morning light filling the studio. I also felt an intimate connection to all creatives who know the sweet solitude that comes with writing a song, a literary composition, or creating a piece of visual art. Creative eros is a sweet presence that prevents solitude from descending into loneliness. No doubt we creatives thrive on attention, but we also draw deep sustenance from the act of creating while alone.

For years I’ve floundered, seeking words to reveal the feelings one knows when s/he taps a perfect putt across a green, or lays out a perfect cast with the fly rod, or scrapes the sharpened pencil across the surface of the paper, or plucks the acoustic guitar string in such a way that the note lingers in the air and resonates in the room. And then, I come across a quote by Anais Nin that tells it like it is:

I have never been able to talk as I think, to anyone. With most people you can only talk about ideas, not the channel through which these ideas pass, the atmosphere in which they bathe, the subtle essence which escapes as one clothes them. Most of the time, I don’t feel like talking about ideas anyway. I am more interested in sensations.

Anais Nin (French author/diarist)

The morning is off to a sweet beginning. 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.


Help from Joan Didion

August 30, 2022
Sketching in the Studio

See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do, which is write—in that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there  . . .

Joan Didion

Joan Didion pulled me out of the abyss this morning. I cannot put my finger on it; I slept late, woke up feeling drained, and found myself tidying the studio and doing all kinds of busy work instead of sitting down and making myself draw in the sketchbook. Once I did the morning drawing (a new discipline I’m trying to instill in myself), I settled in to read, but nothing clicked. One of those mornings when I wished for an oracle and heaven was silent. Then I remembered: I have this deep, deep file of quotes I’ve lifted over the past twenty years or so. The first file was Joan Didion, and the above statement lifted me to higher ground.

We all have our habits. Decades ago, when I was in the ministry, I began every morning searching my Bible for some Word, some organizing, cohesive force to direct my life. When I left the ministry and entered the teaching field, the habit remained, only this time I searched not only the Bible, but books in my study, magazines, newspapers, file folders of gems I’d copied from my past–anything that might start a fire of creative desire in my imagination.

Now retired, the habit remains. For some reason this morning, I pursued chores, tasks, busy work, and postponed the morning coffee for nearly two hours. But now here I am, coffee’d up, breakfasted, read up, scribbled up in the journal, and ready to go to the drafting table to the big watercolor and figure out what to do next with it.

Quick Sketch of a Blues Man

Thanks, Joan. And thanks to the rest of you for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Sketches & Thoughts

August 29, 2022
Morning Sketch of Son House over Coffee

He was by far the most intense. If blues was an ocean distilled to a lake, to a pond, to a pool, to a tub, to a glass and ultimately to a drop, the essence, the very concentrate, this is Son House.

Dick Waterman

I started this day off better. Having resolved to shift priority #3 to #1, I began my morning over coffee by sketching in my sketchbook. Opening Billy Wyman’s Blues Odyssey: A Journey to Music’s Heart and Soul, I found this photograph of Son House and an accompanying article about Dick Waterman, who re-discovered Son House in his later years, living in a New York apartment, and in failing health. Waterman put Son House back into the blue’s limelight and he was able to enjoy success till his death. Waterman’s glowing tribute of Son House and how he represented the essence of blues music is a sublime piece of writing.

I’m happy now to return to sketching, and intend to be more disciplined and consistent with it. Now, it’s time for me to pick up my other two priorities and see if I can continue this excellent day.

Thanks for reading.

The Logos

August 28, 2022
Patches, my Pal

. . . and Paddington, my other Pal

            The pressure disappeared with the first word he put on paper.  He thought—while his hand moved rapidly—what a power there was in words; later, for those who heard them, but first for the one who found them; a healing power, a solution, like the breaking of a barrier.  He thought, perhaps the basic secret the scientists have never discovered, the first fount of life, is that which happens when a thought takes shape in words.

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

The passage above describes newspaper mogul Gail Wynand gathering strength to write a rebuttal to a published editorial, to defend his public position. As a lover of the Greek language, I’ve been captivated by the logos, generally translated as “word” but oh, so much more. The philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote extensively about the Presocratic texts, and how their sense of logos involved the “gathering together.” The idea of cohesion lies at the foundation of this powerful word. We use words as harnesses, as fences, as cages, to encapsulate our ideas. And the word–whether spoken, heard, written, read–empowers us, liberates us, integrates us, brings clarity and meaning to our lives.

This is a personal moment for me. I’m sitting up in bed, late on a Sunday night, tapping these words out on the laptop, hoping to send out yet another blog post, another flag to send up the pole. Why do I do this? I’ve asked myself this question countless times throughout the years I’ve put out these blogs. Why do I do this?

Good-natured friends have chided me that I do this to convince the world of how great I am. I don’t take offense at that, and I have always felt that the barbs were in good fun. I hold my nose at the recollection of many blogs I’ve read that came across to me as “preachy”, that seemed designed to tell others what they should be doing to be successful, to be better. The superiority I sense behind those blogs is off-putting to me. And I constantly question whether or not my own writings come across that way to others. God, I hope not.

Why do I blog? Because I’m always reading, always journaling, always exploring ideas, always hoping to understand better and thus improve my own life. And as a retired teacher, I still have this urge to put something out to others that could give them a good feeling about themselves, a desire to improve their own lives and those that surround them. I try to stay away from the negativity that dogs me when I write, because I want someone to feel good when they read me, instead of insulted or angered.

I love words. I love their power, their integration, their restoration. And I hope every time I put out a blog post, that words sent out into the world will empower, integrate, and restore others.

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.

Sunday Morning Stirrings in the Gallery

August 28, 2022
Ancel E. Nunn’s Dream. 11 x 14″ framed watercolor. $250

That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers.  They have no concern for facts, ideas, work.  They’re concerned only with people.  They don’t ask: “Is this true?” They ask: “Is this what others think is true?” Not to judge, but to repeat.  Not to do, but to give the impression of doing.  Not creation, but show.  Not ability, but friendship.  Not merit, but pull.  What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce?  Those are the egotists.  You don’t think through another’s brain and you don’t work through another’s hands.  When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness.  To stop consciousness is to stop life.  Second-handers have no sense of reality.  Their reality is not within them, but somewhere in that space which divides one human body from another.  Not an entity, but a relation—anchored to nothing.  That’s the emptiness I couldn’t understand in people. 

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

It’s rare to find me in The Gallery at Redlands on a Sunday morning. But we had an event last night in the Redlands Hotel that kept the gallery open late, so we decided to spend the night rather than journey two hours home at such a late hour.

Over coffee, I am re-reading portions of Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, a book I’ve read twice in its entirety, and still go back to read highlighted and underlined texts as well as my marginal scribblings. In the passage above, our hero/architect/individualist Howard Roark is sounding off about his disdain for “second-handers”. I have other words for those kinds of folks, but I’ll keep those in my pocket.

I didn’t meditate and journal over the passage this morning for the purpose of ranting over the wasted energy of second-handers. Rather, I pointed the passage into my own heart, hoping to improve my life in areas that continue to lag. I’ve never felt like a second-hander. I’ve always tried to carve out my own niche, and usually know what I need to do. I’m always revising my priorities, and now believe I have three main areas that need consistency if I am going to develop as an artist rather than push out the same old products for the market.

My number one priority is unchanged, and I remain consistent in it: study, reflection and writing. I do this religiously every morning without fail. My years as a graduate student made me an addict for research and writing. So I never have to make myself open a book and journal, and set to work in the study. Usually I have this going over coffee seven mornings a week.

But priority number two is moderate, and number three is on life-support. Number two is consistency–making art DAILY. I just don’t do that as I could/should. I have the most beautiful Studio Eidolons in my home, more lovely than any studio I have ever occupied. There is no excuse that I’m not in there every single day (even if for the space of thirty minutes) to engage in making art. It just doesn’t happen. And I have no excuse. I’m fully retired, and I really do not have a demanding daily schedule, so I could and should enter that studio every single day and work on something, even if for a short time. Consistency matters. Because if I miss one day, next thing you know, a week has passed with no new work in progress. I am without excuse. I cannot use the Thursday-through-Saturday gallery schedule as an excuse either. A dear friend gave me a drafting table to keep in the gallery. And there is wonderful light that floods the space daily. So, The Gallery at Redlands is also a studio for me. No excuses. Every day, my dwelling includes a studio. And so, priority number two now has my attention.

And then, priority number three (and this is an embarrassment): sketching. I have a stack of partially used sketchbooks for drawing as well as watercolor. For years I’ve told myself that a “real” artist (vs. the second-hander) sketches every single day. The sketchbook should be carried everywhere I go (the journal does, but not the sketchbook). And I find myself going weeks, months, without one single, paltry sketch. It is in this area that I feel the ultimate embarrassment and hypocrisy. I am frequently asked by enthusiastic emerging artists: “What do I need to do to improve my work, to become more marketable?” And the first thing that enters my mind is the sketchbook, but it stays in my mind, never passes my lips, because I myself don’t do it, and I keep telling myself I believe in it. I wonder if I should make the sketchbook my NUMBER ONE priority? Hmmmm. Maybe that’s what it’s going to take.

OK, let’s put all the cards on the table: I’m writing today’s blog because two days ago a flash of inspiration jolted me and I scribbled it out in my journal to pursue this new idea. And now I am finally stopped long enough to blog it and meditate on it. The idea is reform, revival, renewal. I decided two days ago that I was going to up my game in the areas of blogging, sketching, and daily creation. So now I go public in this blog, no longer keeping it a secret. I intend to blog more consistently and thoughtfully, sketch every single day, and enter the studio to make art daily. And I’ve decided now that the priorities will be 1) sketching, 2) research & writing, and 3) daily creation in the studio.

Time to go to work on these matters. 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.

Gallery at Redlands Welcomes Photographer Dave Shultz

August 27, 2022
I Egret Nothing. 24(h) x 16(w)” Aluminum Print. $150
Big Boy 14(h) x 20(w) Aluminum Print $150

I have a vision of life, and I try to find equivalents for it in the form of photographs.

Alfred Stieglitz

Dave Shultz has been my friend since I arrived on the Palestine scene. An avid photographer, Dave has freelanced all over the world with his photography and film production. He has photographed all my work for publication and distribution, designed our websites, and solved a myriad of tech issues (I’m still quite clumsy in that realm). We’re thrilled that he has made his home in Palestine, and is known all over town because photography is his life. No one is surprised to see him out on the streets before sunrise or after sunset, photographing the town’s iconic buildings or the nature surrounding. Like Stieglitz, Dave is married to his art.

Dave is also a member of that rare breed of “story tellers.” Years ago I was troubled at the reading of Larry McMurtry’s Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen. In that book of essays, he laments the reality that America has lost its “story telling” culture. People gather to gripe about politics or local affairs, or gossip about someone in the neighborhood. They’ll complain over the price of gas. They’ll pontificate about what’s wrong with our public schools. They’ll detail the blight of crime in our communities, or complain about how an officer spoke curtly to them at a traffic stop. But you seldom hear stories told from the past. You seldom hear someone sharing a personal memory just as epic as recorded in classic novels or see in classic movies. Anytime Dave takes a seat in your company, you are guaranteed entertaining stories from a life well-lived and well-traveled. Dave’s imagination and vocabulary seem limitless, and I never tire of his stories.

We are grateful that Dave has agreed to join The Gallery at Redlands family. Two weeks ago, we displayed his Big Boy in the lobby window, and it sold within a couple of hours. He has replaced it now with the one posted above, and has added his egret. Each is available for $150. The luminosity of the photographs on the aluminum surfaces cannot be described, neither can this blog post do them justice. You’ll just have to swing by the gallery to see them for yourself. We’ll be here till we close at 9:00 tonight. Come and see us!

Thanks for reading.

Celebration of the Creators

August 26, 2022
In The Gallery at Redlands, working on the Next Project

Every culture, it seems to me, gets a handful of writers each generation or so who have the talent and ability to reach beneath the surface of things into those deeper currents that run through us all as fellow members of the human tribe.

Bill Wittliff, Foreword to John Graves, From a Limestone Ledge

The quote above knocked the wind out of me as I prepared to read From a Limestone Ledge. John Graves had been referred to me by my friend Clarry Hubbard, retired journalist from The Wall Street Journal. Clarry had urged me to read Goodbye to a River by Graves, and reading that book shifted the course of my retirement years in ways I’m still trying to comprehend.

Now, I am pleased to read these powerful words from Bill Wittliff who, I learned last week, was a close friend of the late Ancel E. Nunn, celebrated artist of Palestine, whose studio was not far from this gallery. I’ve been working on a watercolor of his hand-painted billboard that he cherished inside his studio, and all the while, trying to learn more about Nunn’s work as well as the writings of Wittliff.

Creators “who have the talent and ability to reach beneath the surface of things into those deeper currents that run through us all as fellow members of the human tribe.” I’m still shuddering at those words. I love the creations of writers, artists, musicians–anyone who feels that inner compulsion to give birth to a new idea. I still think of Victor Hugo’s vision: “nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Nunn and Wittliff saw something much greater than themselves and gave their lives to exploring that vision. The result: they elevated the quality of life for multitudes in their day, and continue to stir up creative endeavors in this day.

I celebrate another weekend’s opportunity in The Gallery at Redlands to pursue a new creation, always grateful for the artists before me who continue to reach out and touch me deeply.

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.

God in Nature, or a Weed by the Wall?

August 25, 2022
Working through Emerson’s “Circles” over Coffee

Our moods do not believe in each other. To-day I am full of thoughts, and can write what I please. I see no reason why I should not have the same thought, the same power of expression, tomorrow. What I write, whilst I write it, seems the most natural thing in the world; but yesterday I saw a dreary vacuity in this direction in which now I see so much and a month hence, I doubt not, I shall wonder who he was that wrote so many continuous pages. Alas for this infirm faith, this will not strenuous, this vast ebb of a vast flow! I am God in nature; I am a weed by the wall.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

Good morning friends in the blog world. I’m writing this because I’m in the midst of a cycle that all creatives know all-too-well. And I feel compelled to discuss the matter.

We all have ways of describing our downturns–artist block, burnout, depression, loss of confidence, et al. I have been in the throes of this since COVID came visiting several weeks back. Blogging has been weak or non-existent, as well as making new art. It seems the only thing I’ve been able to perform with regularity is sleep. All my friends who have suffered this have encouraged me, that it takes time. And I understand that.

Emerson wrote some remarkable essays about this rhythm of progress and regress. I have enjoyed “Circles” since I first read it in 1992. I am acquainting myself now with “Compensation,” knowing I read it long ago, but it didn’t stick. I’m giving it another try now. The scholar Walter Harding, in a lecture I heard back in 1989, stated that Emerson plateaued in the 1840’s after his explosion of ideas published in his initial book Nature (1836), and his pair of addresses “The American Scholar” (1837) and the Harvard Divinity School commencement address (1838, untitled). Following this surge, Emerson’s skills leveled off, according to Harding, and he struggled to regain his power, which he eventually did. “Circles” was published in 1841 in his first series of essays, along with “Compensation”.

My heart is stirred as I read these essays and ponder the rhythm of creativity as it rises and falls, surges and retreats. I’m reminded of Walt Whitman when he faced the pressures of following up his successful first edition of Leaves of Grass (1855) with a second one (1860). His self-doubt was paralyzing as he regarded himself as a flash in the pan, a phony, a charlatan fooling his readers with his first publication and potentially exposing his flaws with the new one. He walked along the shores of Paumanok and compared the scattered detritus at his feet with his own poems.

O baffled, balk’d, bent to the very earth,

Oppress’d with myself that I have dared to open my mouth,

Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil upon me I

            have not once had the least idea who or what I am,

But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands yet

            untouch’d, untold, altogether unreach’d,

Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and


With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written,

Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath.

Walt Whitman, “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life”

But just as Emerson rebounded with new creative energy, Whitman also was confident in the same poem above that he himself would also find new expression:

Ebb, ocean of life, (the flow will return,) . . .

And so, I share these words, undaunted by recent struggles with my art. I’ve been flat before, and this season of relative barrenness will pass. I lean forward with confidence into the next venture, anticipating the day the surge returns.

Thanks for reading.

Drawing the Next Circle

August 24, 2022

. . . every action admits of being outdone. Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

This morning I’m committed to working on three watercolors as I attempt to up my game. The long COVID hangover seems to be ebbing, and I’m feeling an energy surge along with the realization that I’ve done so little art in the past month. Emerson’s essays have kept me good company for over a week now, and this morning as I read “Circles” over coffee, the above text held me fast. It reminded me of words of wisdom from an oil painter who friended me when I was a junior in high school. I had just taken first and third place at the St. Louis Country Art Exhibition held in Ladue. There were two divisions in the competition: professional and student. One of the professionals congratulated me on my success and then urged me not to sit on my laurels: “You cannot enjoy this very long; you have to go back into the studio and begin the next painting. Success is never the end; there is always the next painting, the next show, the next judgment.”

Throughout my teaching career, I knew all-too-well the Circles dynamic expounded by Emerson. There was always the next class, the next grading period, the next semester. I often felt the rage expressed humorously by Newman the postal worker on Seinfeld. When asked why postal workers “go postal”, his response was:

Because the mail never stops. It just keeps coming and coming and coming, there’s never a let up, it’s relentless, every day it piles up more and more and more, and you gotta get it out, but the more you get it out, the more it keeps coming in . . .

In my retirement years, I’m pleased that the rat race of teaching has ended, and lean forward into this new phase of making art. Nevertheless, the fall season is upon us, and I have a calendar filled up and several commissions pending. There is more art to make, and I also want to get to another level, to act on Emerson’s vision of life as a series of circles expanding, with new challenges to follow the old ones.

I’m barely into my newest Palestine composition. I plan to put a bluesman toting his guitar along the railroad tracks in this downtown section in front of the historic Pealrstone Grocery, now slowly collapsing into ruin.

I still haven’t finished the mural inside Ancel E. Nunn’s studio from days long past. I have deep feelings about this historic site and plan to write more about it once I finish and frame the painting. I’m still puzzling over compositional matters with it.

Thanks for reading.

Drafting and Masquing

August 22, 2022

The tedious part of drafting and applying masquing fluid is nearly complete. I would have gotten much further had it not been for the flooding of the eastern end of our house, compliments of the overnight and all-day monsoon. We’ve done all we can do. Now the fun part of insurance, contractors, estimates and all that rot.

I’m hoping that I can begin pouring pure watercolor pigments later today.

Thanks for reading.