Archive for August, 2022

Remembering Palestine’s Celebrated Artist, Ancel Nunn

August 13, 2022
Beginning watercolor

. . . a hoarder’s haven, the product of a deadly anxiety about letting go of things too steeped in memory–until they are paralyzed into a uselessness so complete one cannot even make the most necessary repairs.

Lee Jamison, Ode to East Texas: The Art of Lee Jamison

Since I arrived on the Palestine scene in 2017, I have heard countless stories about the legacy of local artist Ancel E. Nunn, who passed away in 1999. I’m embarrassed to testify that I didn’t visit the ruins of one of his studios until this year. I had to see the site because I had heard countless stories about the mural he had painted inside of one of his favorite advertisements, Bright & Early Coffee.

Greg Gunnels, president of the Dogwood Arts Council, offered to take me to the location, and we had to search for the structure because it was completely engulfed in trees. Once inside, Greg himself wondered if we had the right building because there was no sign of a mural. As it turns out, the mural was between the blind windows pictured below.

The ruins of Ancel E. Nunn’s Studio

Since that day, I have sadly learned that inquiries were made about preserving the mural, but nothing was ever finalized, and now it is gone forever. The quote above from artist Lee Jamison describes perfectly what happens when someone purchases a building and merely hoards it without protecting it.

As I stood in the midst of these ruins, my memory traveled back in time when I stood among the Greek ruins: Temple of Apollo, Temple of Poseidon, and others. Then, as in the present, I felt a sense of loss as I stood there contemplating. I felt the loss of something monumental that had touched the lives of many. Yet, as I stood there, I eventually felt a counter-feeling of Presence. I was standing in the studio of Ancel E. Nunn. I was standing in the space where he thought out countless paintings and executed his most famous pieces that now adorn museums and special collections. And I felt something stirring within, and I’m feeling it again today.

The ancient Greeks had a word, pneuma, that is translated “wind” or “breath.” The English New Testament translates it “spirit.” Today when I think of inspiration or ideas, I think of that word and the ancient metaphor of a breeze stirring or breathing quickened. And I feel that artists, writers, musicians and other creatives struggle just as much as I do, trying to explain that stirring that we all welcome.

Thank you for reading. I plan to continue posting this painting on the blog as it progresses.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Beholding the Vision

August 12, 2022

No more will I dismiss, with haste, the visions which flash and sparkle across my sky; but observe them, approach them, domesticate them, brood on them, and draw out of the past genuine life for the present hour.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Literary Ethics”

The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It came to him, short-lived actions; it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

Destination City

Muses again whisper in the air.

Healing breezes stir.

Like monks in their cells, creative spirits toil

            in the city.

Believing.

Anticipating.

Believers once again are painting, carving,

            writing, singing, acting.

East Texas again awakens, breathes,

            stretches the limbs.

Railroads once united communities.

Art becomes the New Railroad.

And all Railroads lead to Palestine.

David Tripp

Again, I find myself near the end of the day, still trying to get this blog out. The day has been magnificent, with visionaries drifting in and out of The Gallery at Redlands all day. The artists and writers I’ve met today all exuded an air of expectation of good things to come. So many people I’ve never met before are emerging as enthusiastic spirits catching the fever of creative eros. Something very special is in the air, and I’m going to continue pursuing this Byzantium theme. Recently I’ve been writing in my journal about the trek from Bateau Lavoir to the New Byzantium. Bateau Lavoir, to me, conjures up the image of a depressing bohemian lifestyle where artists work feverishly and never achieve a significant measure of recognition. The New Byzantium, on the other hand, makes me think of 1950’s Greenwich Village where this renaissance of creatives stirred up the visual, literary and performing arts, creating an historic environment that we still discuss today. I wish to see a New Byzantium in east Texas. My past has far too many “Bateau Lavoir” moments that I have no interest in revisiting.

My entire studio now in a single bag

I couldn’t resist inserting this photo of a magnificent bag I acquired while we were vacationing. En route to Colorado, we stopped at Charles Goodnight’s Buffalo Gold/Herd Wear Retail Store, east of Amarillo. The merchandise inside took our breath away, and I finally found a bag that holds my entire assortment of art tools, including the tripod and pochade box for plein air painting. No more struggling with crates and portfolios.

Ready to get back to work

As the evening approaches and the hotel restaurant and bar fill with patrons, I’m going to move now to the drafting table and see what kind of vision I can scare up next.

Thanks for reading.

Return to Byzantium

August 11, 2022

Gallery at Redlands Lobby Window

And therefore I have sailed the seas and come

To the holy city of Byzantium.

William Butler Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium”

Weeks have passed since I entered The Gallery at Redlands, and all day I have wanted to shout from the rooftops of Palestine “I’m Back!” and send this blog post up the flagpole and say “Hi Everyone! It’s Great to Communicate Again!” But alas, the gallery has been busy all day with details (I refer to as “wingnuts”) that are not interesting to post. It’s been great seeing my local friends again, and I’m happy that I was actually missed. Now, the 7 p.m. mark has past and I’m still trying to get this blog wrapped up.

The good news of today was that my watercolor titled “Palimpsest” has been juried into the Granbury Art Association’s Fall Show. This will open in September at the Shanley Houser Center for the Arts at 224 North Travis Street, Granbury.

“Palimpsest”

After a good night’s rest I should be able to publish more tomorrow. This is the first day in weeks that I haven’t napped in the afternoon, and I’m beginning to feel the fatigue.

Thanks for reading.

A Narrative Emerges

August 10, 2022
The Beginning of a New Day

The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. . . . He must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes.

Francis Parkman, Pioneers of France in the New World

This morning, August 10, 2022, was different as I awoke. Like a lazy river, a narrative was gliding through my consciousness, and I felt the need to respond in my journal:

Rising to the strains of internal music, the artist stretched as he sat at the foot of the bed. The dim gray light of the summer morning oozing through the shaded window signaled the deep thunderstorms that lulled him to a comfortable slumber in the night.

Rising, he slipped on last night’s T-shirt and plodded up the hall and into his Studio Eidolons. Looking out the windows across his suburban corner, he admired the softness of the dim morning light and watched the young lady from next door walking her pair of border collies up the rain-drenched street. Fall was in the air and he was ready.

Entering the kitchen, he opened the cabinet and reached for the unopened bag of Durango Joes Red Mountain coffee beans. Measuring four cups of water into the saucepan, he put it on the burner and cranked up the heat full-tilt to bring the water to a boil. Measuring a half-cup of the fresh moist beans, he poured them gently into the antique coffee grinder, snapped the brass lid shut, and turned the crank for a minute or so, till the grinding came to a silence. By now, the boiling water was ready to remove from the burner to sit for a couple of minutes.

The artists’ mind wandered back over the preceding weeks prior to his illness, to a morning spent in the heart of his Colorado Odyssey. In his imagination, he could still steadily see the San Juan valley stretched out below his cabin deck, the morning sunlight splashing the sides of deer picking their way gingerly through the meadows on the opposite bank of the South Fork of the Rio Grande. The chorus of birds filled the frigid morning as the sun rose over the peaks of the South San Juan Mountains rounding out the bottom of the Continental Divide. What a luminiferous Colorado world, contrasting with this morning’s Texas limp light.

Time to pour the water into the French press, sprinkle the ground coffee on top, then poke the island of fresh coffee to sink just below the surface of the hot water, using a spatula, then cover the press for five minutes of steeping.

Walking back into Studio Eidolons, the aged artist looked with dissatisfaction at his recent start of a large watercolor depicting his view from the Colorado cabin. He still had not figured out how to enable the light to emerge from the paper through the transparent washes of color recently laid down. Always believing the paper to be the atmosphere through which the watercolor breathes, he felt that the painting was off to a lethargic, wheezing start. After the morning coffee he would pull the volumes from his shelves that needed re-study. It had been more than a decade since he had read the text of Roland Roycraft about poured watercolor techniques and achieving luminosity. The Colorado composition was going to require pouring, he decided.

Sniffing the air, he suddenly realized the five minutes were up; time to press the coffee, as the aroma had wafted from the kitchen to the studio. There would be plenty of time today to re-study the craft of watercolor pouring and see if he could rescue the Colorado composition.

That’s all for now . . . I’m excited about the start of this day. 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.

Art Without an Audience

August 7, 2022

He Is No Longer Here. Watercolor. 38h x 32w” framed. $800

While convalescing, we have been re-watching Yellowstone on TV. I was arrested by a statement from the aged cowboy actor Leonard Barry Corbin, when he told the young cowboy in training at the 6666 Ranch in north Texas that real cowboyin’ was “art without an audience.”

My imagination wandered over the terrain of my decades of art experiences, and I concluded that probably 90% of my art activity is without an audience. Visual art, for me, is not a performance art; it is hammered out in the quiet of a studio, for the most part in a great calm.

COVID has kept me out of my gallery for two weeks now, and has caused me to miss two recent artist receptions. I’m happy that despite my absence, a large framed still life was sold at the Baron’s Creek Winery in Granbury, Texas. We finally managed to fill that empty gap with a painting of similar size and genre, posted above. The painting that sold was created during winter months in my garage studio, and was followed immediately by the painting above, hence they have been like brothers, hanging around unsold until recently. I’ll be glad when the one above finds a home; after hanging in our Gallery at Redlands for a spell, it has hung in my home Studio Eidolons, until now.

Happy that my strength has returned (aside from long stretches of sleeping!), I’m back in my Studio Eidolons with new projects underway. Stay tuned . . .

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.

Chasing the Light

August 3, 2022

South Fork, Colorado

Aux lux nata est aut capta hic libera regnat.

“The light is either born here, or, imprisoned, reigns here in freedom.”

Inscription in the Archiepiscopal Chapel at Ravenna

The Latvian painter has a special love for diffused outdoor light which seems to penetrate the bodies and emanate from them,” a light that reappears within, and from behind, Rothko’s paintings, an illumination glimpsed through a hazy doorway or window, a light longed for but beyond reach.

James E. B. Breslin, Mark Rothko: A Biography

Finally a day has arrived where I feel lucid enough to pick up the watercolor brush and take some stabs at my real passion. In recent years, there are two moments that stand out more than any others when I was stopped in my tracks and just had to stare with bated breath at the light and splendorous colors before me: 1. the north rim of the Grand Canyon, and 2. the view from my cabin porch in South Fork, Colorado (pictured above).

Every attempt I’ve made in watercolor to capture and interpret the light and color before me has failed miserably. Today I have spent some time looking through my photographs of those sights and working on a sheet of watercolor paper, staining pigments I have not used before. I’m making some preliminary experiments and hope to have a new painting underway soon.

Grand Canyon. North Rim

Thanks for reading.

A Hygge-sort of Night

August 2, 2022
Studio Eidolons at Night

The word hygge originates from a Norwegian word meaning “well-being.”

There is no faster way to get to hygge than to light a few candles or, as they are called in Danish, levende lys, or living lights.

Meik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge

I’ve never been much of a “candle guy”, perhaps because it bothers me that they burn down and disappear too quickly. So instead I invested in “puck lights” and installed them all over my Studio Eidolons, and when nightfall comes, turn on the ones I wish to in order to set the kind of atmosphere I crave for the time being.

Sandi and I continue to get incrementally better from this damned COVID, and since I have a 72-hour head start, she seems to be requiring more sleep than I at this point in time. Tomorrow night I complete my Paxlovid prescription, and I’m just glad I can use my eyes at last. Our calendars have been wiped, and I’m finally getting used to the reality that I don’t have a schedule of appointments to face. And a few weeks ago, I finally adjusted to the reality that there will not be a new school semester to organize. So life is good.

I wish I could go outside for a walk, but at 10:23 p.m., Arlington still hangs at a damned 96 degrees outdoors. August of course doesn’t promise anything better than that. So I’m going to cozy up into yet another book and say Good Night to my reader-friends. I have an idea about “the quality of light” that has been incubating for awhile and perhaps I could work that into the blog tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’ll let hygge set the agenda for the light this evening.

Thanks for reading.

Monday

August 1, 2022
Desktop in Shambles

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor

            towards.

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.

And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

T. S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”

___________________________________________________________

I suppose I must be feeling better, because I am reading T. S. Eliot, and focusing intently to engage and undersand better his poetry. After my best and longest night’s sleep in a week, I strolled into Studio Eidolons late this morning, took one look at my desk, and said, Nope. I found a comfy chair and began reading.

Once the phone started ringing, I found another gear and sank my energy into new art business. Suddenly I appear to have a number of things on the horizon:

September 7-11. 11th Annual Women Artist Retreat at Stone Creek Ranch. Mountain Home, Arkansas. I’m excited that this is drawing closer. Deborah Lively has been such a joy to work with in years past, and she put me on the calendar long ago to teach this plein air watercolor workshop.

October 8-9. Edom Art Festival. Now celebrating their 50th year, this scenic festival, sprawled out over rolling pastureland punctuated by rustic outbuildings remains one of my favorite outdoor settings for a festival that draws thousands from the metroplex and surrounding areas.

October 12. Hideaway Lake Art League. Watercolor demonstration. I’m looking forward to meeting this lively group for an afternoon demonstration in East Texas.

April 28-30. Artscape 2023 at the Dallas Arboretum. I filed my application today, the first day of the announcement, and will wait in hopes of being juried in again. This is one of my biggest festivals of the year.

Though my symptoms are low, my energy level is not much better. I’ve spent most of the day stitching up the details for this calendar, and can’t believe it’s already gotten dark. Time to return to bed, I suppose.

Thanks for reading.