Archive for the ‘Arkansas’ Category

Gearing Up for the Final Show of 2017

November 29, 2017

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Trying to finish this Texas State Railroad Locomotive

I believe the great artists of the future will use fewer words, copy fewer things, essays will be shorter in words and longer in meaning.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. . . . The imagination must learn to ply her craft by judgment studied.

William Wordsworth, “The Prelude”

I feel that I have somehow packed three days into one, as this Tuesday has been exceedingly long and arduous, yet satisfying. Rising at 6 this morning, I managed to put in some quality reading time, then left the house to pursue business errands until this evening, sat down next to compose tomorrow’s final lecture for my college Ethics class, then finally worked in the garage on my booth presentation for this weekend’s show.

My quotes above came from the morning of reading, and I was most captivated by the contrast in Wordsworth’s pair of statements, namely that art is a balance between an explosion of feeling and editorial restraint. As I work to complete the steam locomotive started several weeks back, I seek to lay down the precision and geometry required by the subject matter. But boy, how I enjoyed all the splashing and splattering of the night sky and and the loose washes of color on the body of the locomotive, before the time came to tighten up and lay in the exacting details.

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I should consider myself fortunate that I could not leave my house this morning until businesses opened, so I had three hours of solitude for reading and writing. The writings of Robert Motherwell fed my soul as they always do. This remarkable Abstract Expressionist artist was the prime example of a life that blended scholarly pursuit with art making in the studio. For decades I have sought a balance between my academic studies and my art pursuits and always look to this man for my inspiration.

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After my study time, I went out to mail 110 postcards I had addressed by hand last night, announcing this weekend’s Randy Brodnax and Friends Christmas Show at the Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas. After the post office visit, I drove the two hours to Palestine, Texas to The Gallery at Redlands to spend some time working on my watercolor. The light in the gallery windows was perfect for the early afternoon studio time.

After painting for awhile, I then packed and loaded the inventory and furniture necessary for setting up my booth Friday in Dallas and then drove the two hours back home. Once there, I sat down and composed tomorrow’s Ethics lecture to be given at Texas Wesleyan University (my only regular job now in my semi-retired lifecycle). Once the lecture was complete, I went into the garage to unload the Jeep and begin planning how I’m going to set up an 8 x 10′ booth space at the weekend show.

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I’m glad to have sufficient garage space to work on this booth for the next two days. I’ll be making decisions on lighting and Christmas decorations as well as the particular art inventory needed for the show.

Thanks for reading. It’s been a lengthy day, but I’m glad to get some important matters accomplished.

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Back to Work but Still Drifting in the Stream

November 27, 2017

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But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

It is back to college this Monday morning, as we sprint through the final two weeks of school before dismissing for Christmas break. My heart still overflows with thanksgiving for this past week of catching up on work that had lagged as well as visiting family in St. Louis for a short while and piling up over a thousand miles in Kerouac-style road tripping. I have posted a sunset that I photographed through the windshield of my moving vehicle while driving through Republic, Missouri on Interstate 44, en route to The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

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The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

With the museum remaining open till 9:00 that night, I was ecstatic to enter it for a couple of hours, then return the next day and spend most of the day perusing the collection and exploring the walking trails. This museum is a real treasure, and friends had told me about it the past couple of years, but it took until now for me to make the time to journey there.

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Robert Henri, “Jessica Penn in Black with White Plumes”

After years of reading and re-reading Robert Henri’s magnificent book The Art Spirit, I looked upon this painting with a new set of eyes. When I have the time, I need to review his lengthy discussions concerning figure and portraiture, most notably his ideas about how to relate the subject to its background. I was totally mesmerized by his black-on-black composition and how the dress simultaneously emerged and dissolved into the background. Figure and portraiture I have avoided up till now in watercolor, but now I have the interest in examining this.

Having read an additional seventy pages in the Leonardo biography, I have been absorbed with his eighteen years spent in Milan and now have a much deeper appreciation for his Last Supper painting. I am now at the place where he returns to his native Florence to spend a few years at age fifty.

My compulsion to read several books at the same time is flaring up again. I’ve been reading a biography on Paul Cezanne in addition to the Leonardo work. And now I have purchased the new work on J. M. W. Turner. The first chapter was amazing as it assessed the way his final five years spawned a public distortion of his work. So now I have my attention focused on three great artists, and I need to take up my own work as well.

This next weekend I’ll be taking my work to The Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas, Texas for the three-day Randy Brodnax and Friends Christmas Art Show. I have been an admirer of Brodnax’s pottery for nearly three decades and have enjoyed visiting and shopping at this annual event. Now I’m extremely proud to be numbered among his “friends” as the invitation arrived this past summer to participate this Christmas. Here is a link to Randy’s site:

http://www.randybrodnax.com

It is back to work now. Thanks for reading.

 

Living out of a Suitcase

July 23, 2017
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Fishing Louisiana Waters
You don’t choose a life Dad. You live one.
Daniel (from the film The Way)
A friend shared this film with me while I was traveling, and the central message continues to percolate in my mind.  When confronted with the choice, I believe I have lived my life more than chosen it, especially with all my changes over the past couple of decades.  The film is anchored in the plot of one’s personal odyssey, and I’ve viewed my own life since the 1970’s as an odyssey rather than a career choice. And I have lived a life with few regrets.
Since my retirement began June 3, I’ve embarked on an odyssey.  Although not planned, I have now lived out of a suitcase for thirty-one days, beginning with my trip home to St. Louis to visit my parents and siblings. Returning to Texas to find my A/C not functioning and my living temperatures hovering around 92 degrees, I began staying in hotel rooms and with friends. After a week of that, finding out that an A/C technician was not coming anytime soon, I then set out for a trip to my Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas and living quarters in the old store where the owners (precious friends) let me live when I need a place to crash.
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The Gallery at Redlands
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A Store in the Wilderness
I love The Gallery at Redlands, now housing the biggest collection of my personal work. And evenings living in the old store out in the wilderness are too exquisite to describe. The quiet is intoxicating for one who tires of city and suburban noise. I’m always deeply grateful for time spent in this part of the state.
With still no word on an A/C appointment, I accepted the offer of a friend, and next journeyed over into Louisiana for the first time in my life to spend a week fishing the waters of southern Louisiana and spending some time exploring New Orleans. The fishing was filled with excitement, especially when a seven-foot gator visited me during two of my excursions.
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I was live-bait fishing from a dock, and twice over the two days, this enormous reptile drifted across the waters and hovered about twenty feet in front of where I fished, eyeing my bobber in presumed amusement. At one point, when the bobber began bouncing, he grabbed it in his jaws and submerged. I felt like I had a Buick on the end of my line, and reached for a knife to cut it loose, but then the bobber drifted back to the surface as well as the gator, who then hovered a while longer and watched before drifting away. This is the first time in my life I’ve seen a gator outside a zoo.
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I could never successfully describe the sensations that overwhelmed me once I entered the French Quarter of New Orleans. The sounds of live blues and zydeco music pulled me from steamy, sultry Bourbon Street and into the air conditioned dark interiors of some of the most exciting clubs I’ve ever experienced. My sketchbook was with me, and I still struggle to capture the human figure on paper, especially when the subjects are not posing. Bobbing and weaving musicians are a challenge, but I felt very much in my element as I struggled to capture their essences. And the music cleansed my soul in ways I’ll never adequately describe. Musicians are usually flattered to see someone drawing them and always gracious in their assessment of the quality of the sketches. In fact, the day after, my cell phone rang (I always give out my business cards), and it was one of the guitarists wishing to purchase my sketch. We made a business deal over the phone while I sat in the cemetery sketching and he was on the road to his next gig out of town.
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Cemetery off Canal Street
I have seen pictures of New Orleans cemeteries, but wasn’t prepared for the deep feelings that seized me when I looked at acres and acres of land strewn with thousands of above-ground monuments to the deceased.  John Donne’s Meditation 17 was in my ears:
The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. 
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I made a number of sketches in the hot sun that morning, and felt a profound connection with the ones honored with these monuments as well as the loved ones who had them erected.
At the time of this writing I am back on the road.  My A/C will not be looked at until next Tuesday, but thankfully the gallery in Palestine and store out in the country are available for me to “roost” while I await repairs.  Meanwhile, I intend to continue enjoying the journey.
Thanks for reading.
I create art in order to remember.
I journal when I fee alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.
 
 
 

Creating Worlds

September 10, 2016

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The blank canvas is the blank page. You start with nothing. It’s hugely provocative. It’s frightening because you may have too much to put on it. Or not enough of yourself.

Wim Wenders

This cool, dark, overcast, rainy Saturday morning put me in the mood to continue a watercolor I worked on last evening. I’m getting close to finishing it. While painting, I like to listen to some kind of creative stimulus, often spinning LPs on my turntable, or using the laptop to dial up a YouTube presentation. Choosing the latter, I was shocked to discover a nearly hour-long documentary on Edward Hopper titled “Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas.” What jolted me after all these years was to discover how much film footage remains of Hopper’s television interview with Brian O’Doherty. The presentation is very engaging, and filled with plenty of interviews with film maker Wim Wenders (who was deeply influenced by Hopper’s scenes and collaborated with his photographer to re-create many settings reminiscent of these paintings). The above quote from Wenders is still working on me as I pour myself into this most recent painting.

Eureka Springs is the setting, and their historic railroad depot provides a lengthy section of abandoned trackage where derelict rolling stock has been parked. Every time I visit the town, I love to stroll the length of these tracks, taking pictures and making sketches of the rail cars. As I painted this afternoon, watching my blank paper slowly develop into a painting, I felt the sweet memories of last summer’s excursion flowing through me. Of course, I’m never sure if my feelings come out in the paintings (and Edward Hopper never knew, or perhaps didn’t even care, whether his thoughts were recognized by viewers of his work). I think what engages me the most, thinking of the Wim Wender quote, is when I should declare a painting finished, whether or not I have pushed my feelings far enough into the process. Of course, that is something I’ll never know. But I still think about it as I work.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

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Suspended between Wordsworth and Pink Floyd

September 9, 2016

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Remains of a Gas Station near Brookfield, Missouri

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Remains of a Passenger Rail Car in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb.

Friday night has arrived, the week in school has been deeply rewarding, watching classrooms filled with students enthusiastic about pursuing new ideas. Evenings have been given to watercolor activity, and I’ve posted a pair that were inspired by some of my summer travels. Memories associated with these two images are so thick tonight, it seems I have to brush them away from my face so that I can breathe.

Tonight, a deep feeling has overcome me. I’ve returned from a funeral visitation. One of my precious students has lost a father unexpectedly, and her mother is a colleague of mine who has always been a generous resource when needed. Driving home, I listened to “Comfortably Numb” and the words I’ve posted really went deep into my heart. Once I was home again, I dug up Wordsworth verses, including “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” I have felt an intimate kinship with this poet when he speaks of childhood memories that have their ways of sweeping over us during our more pensive moments. And like Proust, he urged that those feelings were worth remembering, even when fleeting, and even when we cannot put our finger on what it is exactly we feel we have lost along the way. Again Thoreau’s haunting words of losing the horse, the bayhound and the turtledove come back to me tonight. I don’t think I’m sad. But something is stirring deep within, and I’m trying to find a way to express it. I’m glad the weekend has arrived and I can walk away from my regular schedule for a couple of days.

Thanks for reading.

Good Morning, America

August 12, 2016

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I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, . . . 

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to no one else.

Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”

Good morning again, blogging and facebook friends. I unplugged from your company a couple of weeks ago, needing some time away to sort out some unsortable issues. After a week, I experienced little success in sorting, and then didn’t really know how to return to you, and still don’t, actually. Wayne White, a loving friend from high school days (http://www.doubledacres.com/), used to open his daily facebook with the warmest greetings to us all, and I still feel the warmth from reading his posts. So, here is my hope this morning to leave words of good cheer for anyone needing such. Wayne always encouraged us to spread the love, so I shall try.

A number of watercolors have been completed since I last posted, including the one above. This is a larger work by my scale (16 x 20″ unframed), and recalls a good moment from last spring while I was judging and workshopping at a plein air event in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, one of my favorite American towns for painting.

This summer has provided the luxury of grazing amidst many lush literary pastures.  A host of luminaries have shined a light before and within me throughout this sojourn, and I love them all for sharing their literary gift. During a joyful re-reading of William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry, I revisited this passage:

Depth roots us in the world, gives life substance and wholeness. It enriches our work, our relationships, everything we do. It’s the essential ingredient of a good life and one of the qualities we admire most in others. Great artists, thinkers, and leaders all have an unusual capacity to be ‘grasped’ by some idea or mission, an inner engagement that drives them to pursue a vision, undaunted by obstacles. Ludwig van Beethoven, Michelangelo, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr.—we call them ‘brilliant,’ as if it were pure intelligence that made them who they were. But what unites them is what they did with their intelligence, the depth they reached in their thinking and brought to bear in their work.

Balancing social encounters with a quiet contemplative life has made this entire summer truly unforgettable, with a host of splendorous emotions accompanied by a commensurate number of stumbles, bumps and bruises. That happens, and we should welcome it. After all, we know the sentiments of Henry David Thoreau as we continue to pursue the phantom of fulfilment throughout this Odyssey:

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtledove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travellers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

We know of that which Thoreau speaks. Each of us still tracks that phantom whose memory continues to haunt. And as Whitman observed, each of us sings our own carol.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Swimming in Ideas

August 1, 2016

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We sail because our mind is like a fantastic sea shell, and when applying our ear to its lips we hear a perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore.

Abraham Heschel, Man is Not Alone

The day has been quite fulfilling, as I’ve enjoyed Heschel’s engaging work, and picked up the brush after a two-day hiatus.  I picked up my Arkansas truck watercolor from the frame shop and love the presentation the framers put together. Then I turned my attention to the train from Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  This is a rather large composition and it’s going to require some focussed time. So far, it seems that I am doing much more drawing than painting, but I enjoy that too.  Thanks for reading.

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Memories of an Arkansas Vista

July 7, 2016

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There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.

Thomas Merton (quoted in Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

On this quiet Thursday, I completed my second reading of this magnificent Annie Dillard book, and am closing in on completing this watercolor I began yesterday. I am not happy that my Jeep is suffering difficulties, and was taken to the dealership Saturday, and as of today, they still have not even looked at it.  Six days is too long for anyone to be without their sole possession of transportation. Nevertheless, being housebound, I am completing other tasks, that I hope are not “itsy-bitsy” by Merton statndards.

This truck I photographed while traveling across Arkansas last May on my first of two trips out there to conduct watercolor workshops and judge plein air competitions.  The sight of the sun glinting off the corroded steel of the abandoned vehicle, as well as the liveliness of the surrounding landscape, filled my imagination with such delicious satisfaction, that I turned my Jeep around after traveling an extra mile, and returned to this spot, got out, walked as close as I could to the vehicle, and took several photos with my phone.  Only now, two months later, do I get around to painting the scene.  I was not able to get it out of my mind.

Painting over the past two days has yielded a large quantity of satisfaction for me, as I stared very closely at this composition, crawling around in the weeds and foliage, examining the barbed wire, and scrutinizing every square inch of the faded truck.  The only breaks I took were to read more from Annie Dillard and rest my eyes from the visual details of the painting.

Today I am tired, and still waiting for word on the Jeep.  But I’m happy to have finished a book, and am staring across the room at this watercolor to determine what else needs to be done to it, if anything.

Thanks for reading.

Beaver Bluffs Sketch

May 24, 2016

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Bosh! Stephen said rudely. A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

James Joyce, Ulysses

Breaking down the weekend festival on Sunday night made rising early Monday to drive six hours to Eureka Springs an arduous task.  I’m glad that I had no responsibilities when I arrived late on Monday. My first working day in Eureka Springs today involved a drive out of town to find Beaver Bluffs. I’ll be conducting my first workshop on these premises tomorrow afternoon. The directions given were good, and a stiff hike around the lake brought me face to face with towering bluffs and cedars shooting out of their crowns.  I still haven’t solved the problem of watercoloring cedar trees, and I so love their appearance.  The colors elude me as do the foliage patterns, though I feel I am getting the hang of the colors of the twisted trunks and branches. The striations in the rocky surfaces below the cedars revealed some interesting compositional patterns, and I was sorry I didn’t have time for a second one today.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll get a second shot at this scene, either before or after the workshop.

It has been a long day, and tomorrow will be longer, so I must call it a night.

Thanks for reading.

Closing Out the White River Plein Air Competition

May 7, 2016

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Best of Show winner, Susan Hurst

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.  I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.  It’s thin current slides away, but eternity remains.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

This week in Cotter, Arkansas has been so enchanting for anyone wishing to pursue artistic bliss.  As for myself, I’ve enjoyed the perfect balance of plein air watercolor sketching and fly fishing in the White and Norfork Rivers.  The artists and fishermen surrounding me throughout the week have had their ways of affecting the quality of the day (Thoreau’s words) and I appreciate the special memories each has planted in my heart. I frequently return to Thoreau’s sentiments, posted above. All the sensations I enjoy throughout the passing of my days stand in bold relief against that backdrop of eternity.  The engagement of actvities is always in motion as I continue to pursue that moving target, especially the target of making art that satisfies.  And all the while I pursue the artistic dream, I realize that my works of art always pale against that backdrop of Art.  Art is eternity.  Matthew Arnold wrote it best: “Art still has truth. Take refuge there.”  As long as art remains my refuge, then I suppose I could testify that I am “living the dream.”

Today I had the formidable task of judging the works in oil, watercolor and pastel created throughout this past week.  I have posted above the Best of Show winner Susan Hurst with her exquisite oil landscape.  The cool, atmospheric colors of her distant hills along with those fabulous warm colors in the foreground took my breath away.  I should be taking plein air lessons from her.  I found her to be a precious soul when we got to chat after the judging.  It always bothers me that I don’t get to spend quality time bonding with these artists throughout the week, but playing the role of judge, I feel that they need to be free of my presence, and certainly should not feel that I am hovering about their easels as they create.  So, I remain as incognito as possible, finally stepping into their circle to talk frankly once the judging is done.  I’m glad I finally got to talk at length with Susan, with Marty Coulter (who won last night’s Quick Draw competition along with today’s first place in works on canvas), and Lorraine McFarland (featured below).  I also got to meet over a dozen other artists during this afternoon’s gathering.

Below, I have posted the winner of the works on paper category, Lorraine McFarland, with her pastel landscape.  In talking with her afterward, I learned a great deal about underpainting pastel works with watercolor, and the different looks created by soft, buttery pastels scumbled over the hard ones.  I am delighted to learn that Lorraine, along with one and possible two of the other artists, will be attending the week-long Eureka Springs plein air event coming up in just a few weeks.  I will be there as well.  What a reunion!  For years I have loved the camaraderie of fellow festival artists as we see each other annually at art festivals that mean so much to us.  But this will be the first time in a few years that I have gotten to bond with other plein air artists at such events.

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First Place winner, works on paper, Lorraine McFarland

Before leaving Cotter, I just had to post this adorable photo I took of a ground hog munching bread right outside my cafe window a few days ago.  He ate so much, that he eventually had to sit while eating, and then recline as he continued to eat!  I laughed so hard, taking as many pictures as I could.  This one is my favorite.

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I don’t know what else to add, but to say Thank You to the White River Artists, especially the officers of the organization, for making my stay so delightful, and for providing such a rich forum for these plein air painters to pursue their passions.  The week has been so enriching to my soul, and I love every one of you.

And thanks to all of you who take time to read these words.

I paint in order to find myself.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.