Archive for April, 2023

St. Louis Hiatus

April 30, 2023

He’s No Longer Here (one of my older watercolors, currently in The Gallery at Redlands)

The true philosopher and the true poet are one, and a beauty, which is truth, and a truth, which is beauty, is the aim of both.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

My Facebook friends are aware of my current surroundings. It’s taken several days to find time to put this on the blog: Last Thursday, my 94-year-old Dad was taken by ambulance to St. Louis University Hospital for emergency surgery. At the news, I left Arlington, Texas in the late afternoon, pulled over to sleep in Strafford, Missouri from 11:00-2:30, and finally rolled into St. Louis at breakfast time. Showering at my sister’s, I finally got to see Dad in the late morning, still in ICU. Later that day he was transferred to a private room where he will stay at least a week, then transfer to a rehab facility. This morning is the first time I feel optimistic about Dad’s chances. It’s never my intention to go dark on my blog communications. Sometimes that happens because I have zero creative eros, and feel I have nothing to say. This time is different. Driving in and out of the city twice a day to see Dad, then over to the old homestead to see Mom a couple of times a day before returning to my sister’s to crash at night translates into much musing, but zero reading, journaling or blogging.

Opening Emerson to resume reading, I came across the passage I posted above. I read Nature for the first time back in the early ’90’s, re-read it in 1992 and remained unimpressed. With this apprentice piece, I always agreed with critics that he tried to cover too many topics in a single slim volume. However, my reading of the text now is yielding much gold that I was unable to mine or sluice in earlier years.

For a long time now, I have interchanged the words poet and artist when reading classic essays. I do this because poiema in Greek can be translated “work of art” or “workmanship”. And what writers have said about poets seems always to be true about visual artists. After earning my Bachelor’s in art, I spent ten years in graduate school where I immersed myself in New Testament studies, theology and ultimately philosophy. Once I entered the teaching field, my disciplines balanced between philosophy and art.

It wasn’t long after I began teaching that I encountered Keats and his “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” From that day till now, this magnificent verse has sounded deep resonant chords within my being.

When old age shall this generation waste,

                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,

         “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all

                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Thanks for reading. I don’t know how long I’ll wander about my old stomping grounds. But while I’m here, memories from my first twenty-five years will continue to visit me as I visit Mom and Dad and try to offer some measure of assurance and comfort.


Sentiments Stirred by Patti Smith

April 25, 2023

Finished Patti Smith over Coffee

Life is at the bottom of things and belief at the top, while the creative impulse, dwelling in the center, informs all.

Patti Smith, M Train

Unappreciative of dogs poking me awake @ 6:00, I nevertheless rose in the darkness & fed them, French-pressed coffee, then returned to bed to prop up & finish Patti Smith’s M Train, a volume I started months ago & couldn’t seem to complete.

I’ve never been able to journal satisfactorily my sentiments of this multi-layered performer, poet, musician, artist gypsy who seemed to know everyone of importance in our culture spanning from the 1960s to the present. I was introduced to her work only a year ago while sitting in my booth at Artscape 2022. It was then that I read Year of the Monkey. Next I turned to Just Kids. These first two volumes I read straight through. A couple of months later, I picked up M Train, and I still wonder why it is that I struggled so long to complete this volume.

While reading M Train, I began following Patti Smith on Instagram, probably because I was just as attracted to her daily photos of her desktop, her hands, her coffee mug, her open journal and visible handwriting as I am attracted to the Polaroids illustrating this just-finished volume. I also vicariously enjoyed her Instagram photos taken while on concert tours.

I suppose my attraction to Patti’s writing happens because I recognize much of myself in her confessional musings. Her introspective observations throw into bold relief layers of my own personal history and psyche. DISCLAIMER—No, I am not a world traveler. Neither am I a good musician, performer or singer songwriter. Nevertheless I feel deeply her daily details of reading, writing, contemplating, walking, sketching, visualizing actively her surroundings every waking moment, somehow aligning her interior thoughts with her exterior sensations. Her stream-of-consciousness I always find alluring. Her life of the mind resonates with me, and I find her fascinating. In her life, I see Joyce’s Ulysses. In my own life, I have tried to see Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, though oftentimes I feel more a sense of Thurber’s Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Moving on now, it’s time to direct my energies to this weekend’s approaching Artscape 2023 at the Dallas Arboretum. All day yesterday I worked/played in Studio Eidolons, fishing out partial watercolors rendered during demos and watercolor classes and finding ways to complete and sign some of them so I can put them into the bin and offer them up for sale. It looks like I’ll be wall-to-wall busy Tuesday-through-Thursday finishing out these details so we can arrive and set up on Friday. Artscape is my biggest festival of the year, and I’m enthused at the notion of bringing out new work for this new season.

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 Work in Preparation for a New Festival

April 24, 2023

Gearing up for Artscape 2023

I have the fortune of taking this entire week off before departing early Friday for Dallas to set up for Artscape 2023 in the Arboretum. I’ll be in Booth #44 this year, in the middle of the 98-Booth spread.

I’ll be up to my eyeballs all week in details. I’m preparing to switch out some of my watercolors with the new display hung in Studio 48 two weeks ago. I’m also going through 53 partial watercolors to see which of them have a chance of becoming a finished, frameable piece. Four of them are pictured above, and once again I’m feeling that confident surge of Andy Warhol’s “Factory” with new work rolling off the assembly line each day this week.

More later. Thanks for reading.

Turning a Fresh Corner

April 23, 2023

Studio Eidolons at Night

It felt good waking up in my own home again this Sunday morning. My first waking thought involved a major change in my festival booth presentation. Formerly, one of my two large print bins was reserved for half original watercolors, half 8 x 10″ matted prints. I have decided to pull the prints and make the entire bin available for original work only.

Digging into my storage space adjacent to Studio Eidolons, I uncovered 53 in-progress watercolors, most of them 8 x 10″. Some were demonstrations, some were created in watercolor classes, some were plein-air attempts, and some were just me tinkering around with new experiments. At the end of today, I have converted seven of these into finished, signed, original watercolors, now matted, sleeved and priced.

When Artscape 2023 opens Friday night at the Dallas Arboretum, I seriously believe I will have turned yet another corner. One of my print bins will be filled to overflowing with watercolors never shown before, because they were partial and in storage for years. It’s time to bring out fresh work.

I look forward to writing more as this week unfolds, and I lean forward into this next art festival.

Still chipping away at this one as well

Thanks for reading.

Finally back to Work in the Gallery at Redlands on a Saturday.

April 22, 2023

After a two-week hiatus, it feels good to return to the watercolor

I just wanted to say Hello, and that I have returned to Palestine and am happily working inside The Gallery at Redlands. We will be open till 9:00 tonight. I have a watercolor class from 1-4:00 but patrons are welcome to drop in and peruse the gallery while we happily paint.

I posted the latest I’ve done on the watercolor of my favorite quartet. It’s been lying dormant in the studio for two weeks, thanks to my recent illness. It feels so good to pick up the brush again.

Gallery at Redlands Lobby Window

Thanks for reading.

Afterglow on the Road

April 21, 2023

This is just a quick thanks I am sending out to all my friends and supporters who attended the opening of Studio 48 last night.

The gallery was filled with people throughout the event, and I still feel the glow from every conversation.

I am currently on the road to Palestine to run Gallery at Redlands today and tomorrow. I am also thrilled that I will get to teach two watercolor classes, at 1:00 today and tomorrow. I will try to communicate further to let my readers know what thrilling things are happening in today’s art scene.

Thanks for reading.

Final pieces in place

April 20, 2023

I forgot to bring my business cards & promotional materials to Studio 48. Now I’m ready for tonight

Birthday Musings

April 20, 2023

Ernest Hemingway manuscript from his early days in Paris

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Today I turn 69 and understandably am having a satisfyingly pensive morning over coffee, books and journal this morning. I’m grateful for this gift of life and that I have been afforded the opportunity to explore my art. Three decades of teaching brought plenty of reward and experience, but now I am blessed to know retirement and leisure sufficient to graze in these pastures. I am especially happy to feel I am emerging from a nasty illness that has flattened me for over a week. I really believe I’ll enter Studio Eidolons later today and resume the art I abandoned ten days ago. Reading Hemingway was timely. All of us know the feeling of flatness and anticipate with appreciation the invitation to return to creativity.

This morning’s reading turned up this gem from Robert Henri, truly a fiery prophet for the visual artists who made up The Ashcan School in the early twentieth century:

There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual–become clairvoyant. We reach then into reality. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom.

It is in the nature of all people to have these experiences; but in our time and under the conditions of our lives, it is only a rare few who are able to continue in the experience and find expression for it.

At such times there is a song going on within us, a song to which we listen. It fills us with surprise. We marvel at it. We would continue to hear it. But few are capable of holding themselves in the state of listening to their own song. Intellectuality steps in and as the song within us is of the utmost sensitiveness, it retires in the presence of the cold, material intellect. It is aristocratic and will not associate itself with the commonplace–and we fall back and become our ordinary selves. Yet we live in the memory of these songs which in moments of intellectual inadvertence have been possible to us. They are the pinnacles of our experience and it is the desire to express these intimate sensations, this song from within, which motivates the masters of all art.

What I would have given to occupy a space inside Henri’s studio at 806 Walnut in Philadelphia! It is written that he gathered the young newspaper illustrators around him and read to them from Emerson, from Whitman, from Tolstoy, and continually fired them up to draw, to paint fearlessly, to take their work to the grimy urban streets and render the world that encompassed them daily. They began as The Eight, and finished as The Ashcan School. I’m excited to think of tonight when I get to meet the other Nine of this new circle that is opening Studio 48 for the opening reception. Hopefully we’ll be able strike a match, light a torch, and continue this art trend that is sweeping across this portion of Texas.

The final paragraph of Henri’s statement above brings to mind something that has occupied my attention for a long time, this struggle between the flourish and the discipline of making art. The ancient Greeks knew of the conflicting forces of Dionysus and Apollo, the passion versus the order. Throughout my life I have felt I was too anal, too cerebral to be a true artist. No doubt I have surges of feelings about making a painting, but I also possess much training and listen to too many voices while I work.

In Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast there is the humorous account of his assessment of artist Wyndham Lewis, whom Ezra Pound worshiped. Gertrude Stein, however, referred to him as “the measuring worm”. She complained that he looked at a subject, held up his pencil and with his thumb measured out the proportions of what he was going to paint. Then he went back to his studio and got it all wrong.

The first time I read this account, I wrote the following in my journal:

This has implications for the illustrator vs. the artist, the guitar player vs. the musician. It is about mechanics vs. style. I know how to play the guitar, but I don’t feel I’m a musician; the musician has the “touch”, the “it factor” that somehow pulls music out of the instrument, creating a sublime sensation. When it comes to art, I know I am well-trained, and have many tools in my toolbox. But when I make art, sometimes there is that special Something that emerges greater than my studied techniques, and it emerges unexpectedly. It is in such moments that I feel I have done the work of the Artist.

Time to get back to the studio. 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.

Ready for a New Chapter

April 20, 2023

Studio 48 ready to open tonight at 6:00

It was as if an underground stream flowed through the country and broke out in sudden springs that shot to the surface at random, in unpredictable places.

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Tonight we prepare to write a new chapter in the history of art. I’m proud that I’ve been invited to join a company of nine other creatives to re-brand this gallery Studio 48. We open tonight at 6:00 in the Gracie Lane Boutique building, 4720 S. Cooper St., Arlington. There will be live music played on the gallery’s grand piano, wine and refreshments will be offered, and some of the artists will be doing live demonstrations of their work.

I chose the Ayn Rand quote above because is describes exactly what I have sensed in this New Byzantium perspective I have of East Texas. Art movements and establishments have been cropping up spontaneously from city to city, like wild mushrooms. I am so fortunate to be living through this era, and hope I may continue in it.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to see you tonight.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Swan Dive into my Personal Journals and Film

April 19, 2023

252 volumes and counting . . .

Continuing to write while reviewing recent film

Whoever told us that journals are furniture for organizing wonder didn’t bother to share how exactly we organize the furniture once it multiplies over two hundredfold. I finally sat down and used Excel spread sheets to document all 252 of my volumes dating from 1983 to the present, and then arranged them chronologically in my bookcase. Now all I need to know is what is written inside them. While working in Excel, I did insert some notes in the cells about the main content inside some of them. But I have barely scratched the surface.

Ralph Waldo Emerson had accumulated 263 volumes by the time of his death, and it is written that he not only indexed them, but even cross-indexed them! That I cannot imagine.

While working at my drafting table today, I have been viewing the re-mastered film that my artist friend Cindy Thomas made of me a couple of years ago. We have been playing the film on a loop in the lobby window of our Gallery at Redlands, but it is the initial copy, which Cindy never much liked, thinking it had too many rough spots in it, as well as muted color and inferior sound. I liked it just fine, but WOW, there is no comparison with this final edited edition! We’re looking forward to showing this to the public as soon as we can organize some formal gallery-style presentations of Cindy as film maker. I would love to listen to her dialogue with an audience after showing the film, answering questions and explaining how one moves from an idea to a completed professional film.

This current film fills me with pride. I wrote the script, and radio personality Kevin Harris from Palestine lent his magnificent voice to narrate it. A music major at University of Texas Arlington created the musical score. And Cindy is the genius who designed all the scenes and transitions that feature me watercoloring a trout fly in the studio, researching books, writing in in my journals, and fly-fishing the Guadalupe River. The way she edited the indoor and outdoor scenes, inserted the musical score and arranged the narration still leaves me breathless. I cannot wait myself to ask a number of questions on how she accomplished this.

I’ll have more to write soon. I’m still recovering from a week-long illness and weariness overtakes me in waves.

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.