Archive for the ‘art studio’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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Redlands lobby

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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.

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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

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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.

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Back in the Hunt

February 13, 2018

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Winter Time

December 5, 2017

tuesday

It is the sense of the sublime that we have to regard as the root of man’s creative activities in art, thought and noble living. Just as no flora has ever fully displayed the hidden vitality of the earth, so has no work of art ever brought to expression the depth of the unutterable, in the sight of which the souls of saints, poets and philosophers live. The attempt to convey what we see and cannot say is the everlasting theme of mankind’s unfinished symphony, a venture in which adequacy is never achieved. Only those who live on borrowed words believe in their gift of expression. A sensitive person knows that the intrinsic, the most essential, is never expressed.

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

In 1978, while a seminary student, I was introduced to Heschel’s classic book, The Prophets, authored in 1962. I was taken with this scholar’s approach to the study of Hebrew prophecy, and never heard his name again until I was reading some book associated with art (don’t recall what!) and read his name associated with this book Man is Not Alone. On a lark, I purchased the work through Amazon, and have been amazed at its contents. I took the book with me to the Randy Brodnax and Friends Christmas Art Show last weekend, and continued reading it during slow moments between sales.

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My booth at the Randy Brodnax Show

Reading the book made me ache for a return to the studio, as I always do when I’m stuck in a booth for several days. I am never able to express what I feel when I am working on a piece of art, and am glad to read such words as those above. “Ineffable” is the best word for the experience of creating art. Currently I am working on this Christmas railroad theme and about to finish another steam locomotive under a snowy night sky, as snow flurries are already beginning outside my window as I write this.

Winter time is a season I always anticipate with gladness, not only because of Thanksgiving and Christmas but also because of the transitions. Friday I’ll give my last final exam at the college and enjoy a month hiatus from teaching. My American Railroad Odyssey show at The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine will close December 16, and I will be in the gallery Fri-Saturday the next two weekends. Currently I’m doing business with Art for Goodness Sake, a gallery in Lubbock, Texas that began carrying my work two months ago. Once I’m finished at the college this week, I’ll transition into this “winter time” season where I’ll be able to focus exclusively on making art and re-stocking my inventory in the galleries and shops that carry my work. There is a possibility of a show in January, and if that comes to fruition, I’ll announce it immediately.

I love this time of year! 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.

 

 

The Circle of Creative Eros

November 30, 2017

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Began the Day with Breakfast at Cracker Barrel before a Fire

It was a free society, to be sure, but one without depth: its ceaseless expansion, whether into outer space or on the production line, had created an almost irresistible temptation on the part of everyone to produce in order to produce still more. Tillich exhorted the producers of cultural goods to stop moving in this one dimensional direction–to come to a halt in order to “enter creation and unite with its power,” in short, to add the vertical line of depth to the horizontal line of extension.

Wilhelm & Marion Pauck, Paul Tillich: His Life & Thought

On May 6, 1963, theologian Paul Tillich spoke at the fortieth anniversary party for Time magazine at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. His audience consisted of the 284 celebrities selected for Time cover stories. His historic speech was titled: “The Ambiguity of Perfection”. In this speech, he addressed a crowd of movers and shakers of his day with the jolting words I’ve posted above. Tillich was fond of addressing the tension of the horizontal dimension of production with the vertical one of creative eros.

For the past couple of decades I have mused over this horizontal and vertical dynamic that Tillich expounded, and have known too well the tensions between what I face today (production deadlines) and what I enjoy on other days (feeding on ideas and creating art from the inspiration). For the next four days I will continue what I’ve known all this week–gathering, organizing, packing and loading art furniture and inventory–the horizontal. When the dust clears Monday, I hope to return to the studio and resume the creative task–the vertical.

Tillich’s tension between the horizontal and the vertical, the production energy vs. the intellectual process has held my attention over the years, but as I look at my own life processes, I tend to see them moving in a circle, a circle of creative eros. I hope it is O.K. now to share my circle with you.

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I perceive the foundation of my lifestyle as one laid in my study. I read every chance I can get, and have been scribbling my ideas from my reading in journals since 1985. I love the history of ideas–art, literature, philosophy, religion–and cannot find enough hours in the day to pursue this interest. For three decades, these readings have spawned classroom lectures and discussions, and now in my semi-retirement days, I still have this satisfying outlet in a university classroom.

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My expression from reading and thinking finds a good outlet in the classroom forum, but that is not enough. I also have to create visually, and from the study I generally find my way into the studio. And as I work, the “smart TV” continually plays YouTube documentaries and lectures from the world of ideas–art, literature, philosophy and religion–and I listen with a glad heart while I paint.

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My ideas have a way of dispersing in the classroom as they disappear into the air and hopefully take root in students’ lives. However, the art works on paper have a way of accumulating into boxes and cartons, and need a place to go. Hence the days when I have to load up and deliver them to a gallery, store or art festival.

So, today and for the rest of the week, my circle will be anchored in this third realm. All day today I will be printing, packaging and organizing my inventory. Tonight I will load the Jeep and tomorrow morning at 9:00 arrive at my Dallas destination to set up for the Randy Brodnax and Friends Christmas Art Show. I enjoy all three parts of this circle that has its way of organizing creative eros. And I’m anticipating good things today as I work.

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.

Coherence Beneath the Scattering

November 29, 2017

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My Garage Experiment in Setting up the Booth for the Weekend

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I’m still making decisions on what paintings to hang in the show

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For the first time in months, I have all my greeting cards in one show

All of his activities were part of an underlying continuity, the diverse elements of which were brought together and reconciled by his own deep understanding of the unity that underlay the complex fabric of images, words, things, and sensations that constituted his world.

Jack Flam, Robert Motherwell Paintings and Collages: A Catalogue Raisonne, 1941-1991, volume 1

When I get caught up in a maelstrom of details such as I’ve endured the past few days, my mind goes either to Andy Warhol and his factory lifestyle of cranking out product or Robert Motherwell as he wandered from his painting studio to his graphics studio to his library. This evening I have felt closer to the Motherwell syndrome as I re-thought the final lecture I delivered this morning to my college classes and then spent the entire afternoon and evening moving between my garage with decisions about booth setup to the studio for printing, matting and sleeving prints and greeting cards. I also set aside some quiet time to sit in my study, read and reflect over the affairs going on lately. The day has indeed pulled me in multiple directions but I’ve loved it all, and I get to spend all of tomorrow doing the same. Showtime begins Friday!

Thanks for reading.

 

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.