Archive for the ‘art studio’ Category

Sunday Morning Splendor

March 4, 2018

Hopper church

11×14″ framed Sacred Heart Catholic Church. $200

Waking at 4:18 this morning was not part of the plan, but nevertheless I got up, feeling rested. Enjoying the dark and quiet of the basement studio of The Redlands Hotel, I managed to finish all my grading, so I can now return the writing portfolios to my Humanities classes tomorrow afternoon. I did not anticipate the elevated mood that grading these works would generate. The subjects ranged from art in the Baroque, Neoclassical and Romantic periods, along with poetry from Wordsworth and Whitman. Many of the students indeed poured out their hearts onto the typed pages, and the more I read and graded, the happier I grew. By the time I was finished at 6:30, I was ready to go out and try to do something creative.

The painting posted above I managed to frame and hang yesterday in The Gallery at Redlands. Last night, I completed work on a piece I had begun en plein air during a Mississippi stay over in February when I drove to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Alabama to deliver two watercolors (the auction was March 1 and I’m still waiting to find out what happened).  The Mississippi piece I matted and put up in the gallery last night as well.

Mississippi snow

Snowfall in Clarksdale, Mississippi, 11×14″ matted. $100

Shelton Hall

Shelton Hall, 11×14″ matted.  $100

I finally completed work on a plein air attempt of Shelton Hall, located in Old Town Palestine, several blocks from the gallery.

small church

Sacred Heart Catholic Church. 8×10″ framed.  $50

Once the grading was completed this morning, I left the dark basement and emerged into the early light, finding the environment overcast and ready to rain. I sketched out the Sacred Heart Catholic Church while seated on a bench outside the Carnegie Library building. Once I began painting, the cold winds began to stir and knocked over my container of water. The brushes were also blowing off the bench, so I decided to take a reference photo and descend once again into the basement where I have set up one of my drafting tables. I worked quickly on this 5×7″ composition, then inserted it into an 8×10″ frame and installed it into the gallery as well.

Chamber of Commerce

Currently I am working on the Chamber of Commerce building, for the fourth time, somewhat disappointed that there is no sunlight on it today. But it is still refreshing to look out the gallery window and see it directly, instead of relying on photos of it.

The day is shaping up to be another productive one, and it feels good. Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Driven

March 2, 2018

Fri2

I must say something certainly got into me today, a surge of energy to paint. I awoke around 6 this morning, feeling confident and ready to face a new day, which turned out to be sunny for the first time in a couple of weeks, and very pleasant and cool outdoors.

Fri

After working on my large Catholic church painting for awhile, I decided to take a book outside and read in the cool shade. Finding a bench beneath a tree in front of what used to be a Carnegie Library next to this Redlands Hotel, I sat and enjoyed about thirty minutes of thoughtful reading from Hannah Arendt’s The Life of the Mind. I became aware of her work through my studies in Heidegger, but had never read her directly. I am finding this book to be very thought-provoking, after the first seventy pages.

Walking back to the gallery, I looked up at the top of the church as the bells tolled the twelve o’clock hour. I was attracted to the strong sun and shadow, and dashed into the gallery for a sketchbook. I am the world’s worst when it comes to keeping a sketchbook; I believe in it, but don’t practice it, and always feel shamed by this fact. Today was a rare moment–I sat on a bench and rapidly blocked out this sketch, then went inside and began on a 9 x 12″ watercolor block. Later this evening, I finished it.

Fri4

Before completing the small watercolor, I returned to the larger one I’ve worked on for a few days and finished it.

Fri3

My body is tired, but I need to complete my grading of this stack of writing portfolios for my Humanities class so I can return them Monday. I’m deeply satisfied with the day’s output. I began another painting of the Chamber of Commerce building, visible through the window of this gallery. I’ve already painted the subject three times, and sold all three quite quickly. Still, I cannot stop gazing at the sun lighting up the side of the ancient brick structure which used to be the headquarters for the railroad here in Palestine. I plan to post the progress of that painting tomorrow. Currently there is not much to see.

Thanks always for reading and for sharing this day.

I paint in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

 

 

Quality Time and Space

March 2, 2018

basement

Early Morning Sanctuary

. . . the loss of common sense is neither the vice nor the virtue of Kant’s “professional thinkers”; it happens to everybody who ever reflects on something; it only happens more often to professional thinkers. These we call philosophers, and their way of life will always be “the life of a stranger” (bios senikos), As Aristotle called it in his PoliticsAnd the reason that strangeness and absent-mindedness are not more dangerous, that all “thinkers,” professionals and laymen alike, survive so easily the loss of the feeling of realness, is just that the thinking ego asserts itself only temporarily: every thinker no matter how eminent remains “a man like you and me” (Plato), an appearance among appearances equipped with common sense and knowing enough common-sense reasoning to survive.

Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind

The last time I knew this level of serenity and heartfelt satisfaction was when I awoke mornings on the island at the Laguna Madre during my stays in 2015 and 2016. As artist-in-residence for Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, I was given two six-day stays alone at their field station on the spoil island. The quiet that enveloped me throughout each day as I divided my time between painting, reading and writing was much like what I know in the basement of the Redlands Hotel in Palestine, Texas. During these quiet mornings, punctuated by the hourly tolling bells of Sacred Heart Catholic Church above me, and directly across the street, I feel my soul slowly waking after a good night’s sleep, and reading Hannah Arendt over a cup of coffee is deeply satisfying. Time to read, reflect and write at this study table has been luxurious, and I feel a genuine surge of energy rising to meet the tasks of the day. Later in the morning, I’ll walk across the studio to the drafting table and contemplate the next steps on this new watercolor. Then, around 10 o’clock, I plan to open the gallery upstairs.

draft

I cannot say enough about the value of space and quiet for serious thinking. Throughout my years of full-time teaching, it was a struggle to escape the rat race of daily routines, so much valuable time was wasted on tasks required by the job, yet so useless and devoid of quality when it came to the main task of educating young minds. How refreshing now to meet classes only twice a week and have an abundance of quality time to research and write new presentations. Last week I had the privilege of presenting Impressionist art in a way I never could before, because there was so much more time to focus on the subject and develop new angles of approach. As Hannah Arendt wrote above, we don’t expect to spend entire days contemplating our navels; we just wish for some space to pull back from the agenda and think seriously over things that matter.

Likewise with my painting–at this point in my life I’m enraptured at the increased opportunities to study theory and art history. In addition, I have more time to spend with other artists in dialogue, and hence gain new insights into this enterprise of making art that matters. Without time set aside for serious consideration about the kind of art I’m trying to make, I could easily find my brush drifting into automatic pilot and merely cranking out a product that has been swept clean of inspiration.  I have always wanted my paintings to matter, to myself as well as to the viewers.

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.

 

A Cloistered Life by Choice

March 1, 2018

cath dark

Withdrawal from the “beastliness of the multitude” into the company of the “very few” but also into the absolute solitude of the One has been the most outstanding feature of the philosopher’s life ever since Parmenides and Plato discovered that for those “very few,” the sophoi, the “life of thinking” that knows neither joy nor grief is the most divine of all, and nous, thought itself, is “the king of heaven and earth.”

Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind

This morning, while making the two-hour drive across country to Palestine, I was filled with anticipation of four days to paint, read, reflect, write, catch up on grading, and enjoy the quiet. I love the basement apartment of the Redlands Hotel where I can hear the hourly tolling of the church bells across the street while I try to paint the facade of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. I enjoy opening the blinds and looking up through the basement windows at that enormous church towering above me. Today I divided my time between the apartment and the Gallery at Redlands upstairs, and am happy to see the church watercolor progressing. If all goes well, I should be finishing this by the weekend.

cath

Sacred Heart Catholic Church

I cannot conceive of a better schedule than I know at this time. My college classes are Monday and Wednesday, and when the urge strikes, I can light out for the countryside and enjoy life in a smaller town than the one where I live. The friends I’ve made in Palestine have enriched me beyond description, and I actually feel a part of this community. The gallery space is beautiful and well-lighted, and the downstairs studio is spacious with that special “monastic” feel. Having read the first fifty pages of Hannah Arendt’s Live of the Mind, I’m feeling a connection with another writer that I seldom feel. My art seems to take on added life when I am able to withdraw from the mainstream of activity and carve out a quiet space for creative pursuits.

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.

Warm Thoughts in a Dark Morning

February 17, 2018

redlands finished oxbow

Completed Painting from Old Town Palestine

Paginini had a formula: toil, solitude, prayer.

Carl Sandburg, “Notes for a Preface”

redlands studio dark

It is Saturday.  Above me, the heavy sounds of the bells of Sacred Heart Catholic Church toll the six a.m. hour. This marks the second weekend I have spent in the basement studio recently completed at The Redlands Hotel, a place that has that warm feel of a second home for me. This still sanctuary beneath the Gallery at Redlands provides space to breathe when the daily round of activities begin to wear me down physically. And the spaciousness of this studio apartment suite with kitchen, bedroom and bath has given me a perfect place for quiet and reflection.

basquiat

For years I heard the repeated stories of Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 1980’s working in a basement studio below Annina Nosei’s gallery in New York City. Because he was African American, comments were made about his being locked in a basement to create paintings for the gallery overhead. He was offended at this, commenting that those remarks had a “nasty ring.” He argued that if he had been white they would have called him an artist-in-residence. For months I have felt deeply honored, being introduced here by Jean Mollard as Redland’s artist-in-residence. I’ll never find words to express my appreciation for being a part of this.

Almost a year ago, Wade and Gail from nearby Crockett, Texas had a dream of opening a gallery in Palestine, a town with triple the population of Crockett. They had already enjoyed their gallery, “Stories of Texas”, that they opened in their hometown, and wanted to open a second one. In March, 2017, they opened The Gallery at Redlands with my three-week solo show. Once the show ended, I was invited to remain, and have enjoyed this special place as my home-away-from-home ever since, spending most weekends here.

gallery at redlands

As 2017 drew near its close, Jean and Mike talked with me of all the changes they were about to make at this historic hotel. Now, less than two months later, I cannot believe my eyes when I enter the ground floor of this 1914 hotel.

Redlands

What used to be the hotel office has suddenly opened into a spacious lobby with comfortable seating areas.

redlands bar

A second office was reconfigured to allow room for a bar with a direct entrance to the Red Fire Grille which came under new ownership in January. Now, in addition to fine dining, patrons can move into the bar area, or into the new lobby seating area, or across the hall to The Gallery at Redlands.

redlands red fire

Redlands lobby

gallery

The change has already been dramatic. During weeknights, more people are showing up and moving about from the restaurant, to the bar, to the lobby and to the gallery. The Redlands Hotel is beginning to take on the aura it knew back in the years when it was an actual residence in the middle of a thriving downtown. And that is precisely the romantic narrative that flooded my being the first time I set foot in this building.

Redlands Wyeth

Tribute to Andrew Wyeth

Last night I said farewell to a painting that had been my companion for forty-two years. I painted this oil while a junior at Northeast Missouri State University. Throughout twenty-eight years of high school teaching, it hung in my classroom. I thought I would never sell it, as I had only two oil paintings remaining from my college years. This one was painted as a tribute to Andrew Wyeth, my patron saint. During the winter of 1975, I took my freshly-stretched canvas north of the college about fifteen miles to Queen City, Missouri, then west several miles out on Highway W to an old farm with a ragged fence line. Setting up an easel, I carefully painted one fence post with its single strand of barbed wire and crumpled mesh. Then I worked carefully on the dead grasses beneath. Returning to the art studio, I rummaged through Professor Unger’s still life objects in the store room, and settled on these remains of a nail keg, spotlighting it carefully. Once it was completed, I felt that I had turned a significant corner on my art endeavors.

Rearranging the gallery display, I decided to hang my oil to fill a large space, not really anticipating a sale. It hung for barely twenty-four hours. Amazing. Forty-two years on my living room walls from apartment to apartment, house to house, and then only one day in a gallery before it found a new home. I’m not feeling any sense of loss; I would not have hung it had I not been willing to part with it. I’m just moved at how the patron viewed it last night and continually praised it, even requesting to have it moved to a better-lighted area so he could view it more closely. The gentleman and his wife looked at absolutely every painting in the gallery, returning to several repeatedly. Seeing someone else like it so much filled me with feelings I cannot describe. I think I have always been that way–seeing someone else happy to look at something I made and wanting to own it is much more rewarding than my continued possession of it. I just hope the patron finds half as much pleasure with it in his company as I have known in the past.

Shakespeare wrote a certain amount of trash–because his theater had to have a new play next Tuesday. 

Carl Sandburg, “Notes for a Preface”

Out of the Steam

Out of the Steam

Along with the Andrew Wyeth tribute oil, the patron also purchased this original watercolor for his spouse. I completed this one just last fall for the train show I was putting together for the gallery. After the patrons departed, I was glad that I was able to go down to the basement studio and retrieve two more framed paintings to fill the gaps in the gallery display. I managed to frame and hang the Oxbow General Store painting yesterday (displayed at the top of this blog). I also have two smaller ones ready to frame and hang today. In 2010 I made a commitment to become more prolific in the event that I would need to meet an increased demand. I’m now glad I did that. Currently I have The Gallery at Redlands filled, as well as a solo show in the Hillsboro Public Library, along with two works at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, and three more entered in a competition. One thing hasn’t changed–I get more pleasure out of making art than selling it. That’s why I’m happy now that some of my pieces are beginning to sell, because I cannot hang all these works in my own home, and loathe the idea of storing them in closets. I only hope that with the increase of quantity will come the increase in quality, because I only wish to get better at this.

The creative geniuses of art and science work obsessively. They do not lounge under apple trees waiting for fruit to fall or lightning to strike. “When inspiration does not come to me,” Freud once said, “I go halfway to meet it.” Bach wrote a cantata every week, even when he was sick or exhausted. Though most composers would kill to have written even one of his best pieces, some were little more than wallpaper music. Eliot’s numerous drafts of “The Waste Land” constitute what one scholar called “a jumble of good and bad passages [that he turned] into a poem.” In a study of 2,036 scientists throughout history, Simonton found that the most respected produced not only more great works, but also more “bad” ones. They produced. Period.

Sharon Begley, “The Puzzle Of Genius,” Newsweek, June 28, 1993

palestine herald

redlands little oxbow

As with the first painting, I’ve decided now to pause and let it “compost” awhile as I turn my attention to framing some other finished pieces. I need to make some compositional decisions on this one before it gets out of hand. I’m unsure at the moment how I want to finish it out.

I started this blog at 6 a.m. Now it’s 9:53, and probably time for me to go upstairs and open the gallery. This has been a nice, quiet, rewarding morning in the downstairs studio. Thank you for sharing the moment with me.

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 Hunt

February 13, 2018

ox

The Oxbow General Store, Palestine, Texas

 

The sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city, going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes—no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests.  He moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook, a box of oils with a few small panels, the fit of his pocket, or on his drawing pad.  Like any hunter he hits or misses.  He is looking for what he loves, he tries to capture it.  It’s found anywhere, everywhere.  Those who are not hunters do not see these things.  The hunter is learning to see and to understand—to enjoy.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

A couple of weeks ago, I began this watercolor of one of my favorite store facades in Palestine, Texas. The watercolor began after a series of rough sketches and fumbled attempts. After I blocked in some of the major parts of the composition and added details, I got hung up on what direction I wanted to take compositionally, so I set it aside for about ten days. Today I resumed it and worked off and on throughout the afternoon and evening. I’ve decided it’s time to lay it aside awhile once again, and re-think how I want to finish it out. I am very attached to this subject, always loving the sights and memories associated with “mom & pop stores” of the 1950s that I frequented as a child. Every detail, every nook and cranny of this facade excites me, and I fear that if I paint everything rather than select an area of focus, that the entire work will be a monotonous congeries of details.

ox2

The greats in all the arts have been primarily romanticists and realists (the two cannot be separated). They interpreted life as they saw it, but, “through every line’s being” soaked in the consciousness of an object, one is bound to feel, beside life as it is, the life that ought to be, and it is that that captivates us! All great painting is something that enriches and enhances life, something that makes it higher, wider, and deeper.

N. C. Wyeth, letter to his son Andrew, February 16, 1944

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Flushing the Agenda

January 27, 2018

blind blog

I hate to seem greedy—I have so much

to be thankful for already.

But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.

And go to my place with some coffee and wait.

Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.

Raymond Carver, “At Least”

Carver’s poetic words were what my soul needed this Saturday morning. I’m in The Redlands Hotel in Palestine, my favorite home-away-from-home. My only gallery appointment is Sunday afternoon, so I’m in the building, with my phone if anyone needs me, but it’s so luxurious to sit in this lovely apartment space on the second floor and feel all the cares and anxieties of the world roll off my shoulders.

I’m still under the weather (as are most of my friends) with this lousy congestion that just won’t go away and stay gone, even with help from physicians. And outside, it is cool and rainy and dark–a perfect day for indoors, coffee, books, and a smart phone that is my link to whomever needs me.

For my blog readers, I just have this to say–I have a number of blog posts in the hopper that I am still revising before sending them up the flagpole, thank you for being so patient, those of you who look forward to reading and knowing what is going on in my corner of the world. Despite my illness, many things have transpired over this past month, and so many good things are in progress that I really look forward to sharing on this page. All I can say is Soon (I hope).

Thank you for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Excavating Layers of Creative Eros

January 1, 2018

desktop

Most of what we express creatively is prelinguistic. The deeper insights are obviously coming from somewhere. They are not logically structured in the mind, but it may take logic to get them expressed.

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

As the initial day of 2018 stretches into the cold night, I continue to appreciate the warmth of my fireplace, an excellent biography (Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs), an illness finally ebbing, and good thoughts of past years as well as anticipations of the one dawning.

I’m glad that I managed to take up the brush awhile today and pick at an old watercolor never completed. Glad also to eat, nap, regather strength and enjoy a comfy chair. The New Year season has always been one of reflection for me, and this current one has not hit yet on all cylinders, because I haven’t had the physical comfort to engage my mind or imagination (medication as well as illness tends to dull my creative eros).

But I do want to take this moment to acknowledge the completion of one of the most amazing years of my life. In 2017 I experienced the luxury of retiring from a full-time job that set most of my agenda for nearly three decades. On the heels of the retirement came the opportunity to teach part time at a small, intimate university. This reduced-time schedule has allowed me to pour more meaningful preparation into classes that I never knew as a full time public school teacher. The passion I knew many years back when there was more quality time to prepare classes has returned.

This was also the year that I received the gift of a beautiful gallery space where I could showcase my work with a pair of solo shows and enjoy working weekends in its studio. This amazing gallery experience has opened several brand new venues that I look forward to sharing on the blog in the months ahead. I am deeply thankful for the gifts that life brought me over this past calendar year.

And now, leaning forward into 2018, I’m glad to have a little space between college semesters, space to peel back some layers of my creative attempts from the past and make some important goals for what lies ahead.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Re-Stoking the Fires

January 1, 2018

high ridge

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. 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

The first day of the New Year is a sluggish one for me, as I’m still shaking off this nagging respiratory infection that saps my energy. I’m spending more time in front of the fireplace under a blanket, watching TV when I would rather be reading, writing or painting. But I just don’t seem to have the energy or drive to be creative.  The Steve Jobs biography is still exciting to me, yet fails to fire my own spark plug of creativity. I did pull out an old watercolor abandoned from a year or two ago, and I worked on it for over an hour, but I never felt much of a rush or thrill, which is so unlike me when I’m painting. Nevertheless, I’ve posted a photo of its progress above.

I wish all of you the happiest of new years, as I myself am anticipating many new adventures. Meanwhile, I’m just going to keep taking it easy until my strength returns.

Thank you always for reading . . .

Be Still and Know

December 17, 2017

be still 2

be still

Many of us are willing to embark upon any adventure, except to go into stillness and to wait, to place all the wealth of wisdom in the secrecy of this soil, to sow our own soul for a seed in that tract of land allocated to every life which we call time–and to let the soul grow beyond itself. Faith is the fruit of a seed planted in the depth of a lifetime.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man Is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion

After a long, cold, rainy night, I rose this morning before dawn to a 37-degree wet morning, but was glad to know that the only task before me was changing out the exhibit in the gallery. About 50% of the paintings have been replaced with others, and I was surprised to have it all done before the gallery officially opened at 10:00.  Even more surprised was I to encounter several patrons and make sales before 10:00. Once 10:00 arrived, the typical quiet Sunday morning set in, and I was able to collapse into a chair and breathe. Allergies have dragged my system down the past couple of days, and I regret that my energy level is low, but not my capacity for contemplation.

Reading from the Heschel text has been satisfying, particularly the piece I posted above. I recall the impatience I felt in the years of my youth, when studying under the guidance of teachers and professors, wishing I knew more, wishing I had more talent, wishing I had some kind of a defined purpose in life.  My mentors usually smiled and said, “It will come. Just be patient.”

In my current senior years, I cannot claim to be wise, but I do understand now that the qualities for which I yearned come over a stretch of time. There is no royal road, no shortcut, no cheat sheet. Hegel said the owl of Minerva flies only at dusk. I’m deeply thankful that I have been granted the gift of living this long. I’m grateful that foolish mistakes from my past did not prevent me from getting to this place. My twin loves of art and scholarship have finally taken root to where I can detect some progress, yet I still know the drive of wanting to know more, wanting to push the boundary into new territory.

I have pursued a train subject in painting since March and am glad that this show has finally ended. I already know what I wish to study next, and will gladly unveil that project in the new year. I have a solo show opening just around the corner, in January. Once that show is up, I plan to chase this new project and share it with you.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.