Archive for the ‘art studio’ Category

Sunday Morning Musings from Studio Eidolons

April 11, 2021
Glad to be back in the Studio for some Quiet Restoration

. . . finding you were able to make something up; to create truly enough so that it made you happy to read it; and to do this every day you worked was something that gave a greater pleasure than any I had ever known.

Ernest Hemingway

Today is restoration day. Sandi and I received our second COVID vaccine shots yesterday and are happy to experience no unpleasant symptoms. We’ve just been on the go for several days and are glad now to stop for awhile.

I’ve resumed reading Carlos Baker’s Hemingway: The Writer as Artist. I love the quote above, and that general sentiment of the artist–creating something out of the void. My life has been enriched in recent years by a mix of painting and writing. Last weekend while in The Gallery at Redlands, I met an author who invited me to join their writers’ group that meets once a month. The next one won’t be until May, but I am already leaning forward with enthusiasm to gathering with these writers and finding ways to sharpen my own vision of what to do with my own practice.

My latest watercolor has laid dormant on my drafting table for twenty-four hours, and I intend today to give it my next push. I’ve gotten bogged down with the bricks and ghost signage, so I may decide to return to work on the trees awhile. We’ll see.

Planning today to return to the Ghost Sign watercolor

I look forward to participating in Artscape 2021 at the Dallas Aroboretum April 23-25. Last year was canceled due to COVID, but I understand that there will be 80+ artists participating this year. This festival has been one of the highlights of my annual art schedule before last year’s cancellations. I am excited to bring out quite a stack of framed watercolors that have not yet been seen by the public. I guess that’s one positive to address concerning the lost year during COVID.

A new Greeting Card for my Inventory

Hank Under Oklahoma Stars

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”

Reclining against his backpack, Hank savored the warmth of the fire that neutralized the chill of the October night. He had left Turvey’s Corner just this morning, but thanks to a pair of truckers, had managed to put nearly twelve hours between himself and the town he just left. Finding wide open plains west of the town of Vinita, he now rested his stiff body and gazed in wonder at the millions of stars filling the deep night sky.

The back of the Greeting Card (blank inside)

I have allowed my greeting card inventory to dwindle over the past couple of years. In The Gallery at Redlands, as well as my festival tent, I sell 5 x 7″ cards (blank inside) with my artwork on front and a descriptive text on back. They sell for $5 each, five for $20, and come with the proper envelope. A protective plastic envelope encases the assembly. Above is an example of one of my newest ones printed last week. Materials just arrived to print 250 new cards, so I’m excited to create new editions as well as replenish the ones sold out. Above is an example of one of my newest cards; below is a photo of another spread out.

(Cards are blank inside)

I’m ready to paint again. 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.

Thoughts in the Night While Painting in The Gallery at Redlands

April 8, 2021
After a four-day hiatus, it’s good to be working on this painting again

The celebrated biographies give us the sufferings and hardships of the great. But the sufferings and hardships of the unknown are often more eloquent. The tribulations of fate weave a mantle of unsuspected heroism about these lesser figures. To win through by sheer force of genius is one thing; to survive and continue to create when every last door is slammed in one’s face is another. Nobody acquires genius: it is God-given. But one can acquire patience, fortitude, wisdom, understanding. Perhaps the gretest gift the little men have to offer us is this ability to accept the conditions which life imposes, accept one’s own limitations, in other words. Or, to put it another way–to love what one does whether it causes a stir or not. Of the highest men Vivekananda once said: “They make no stir in the world. They are calm, silent, unknown.”

Henry Miller, To Paint is to Love Again

As the hour approaches 9 p.m., The Gallery at Redlands is quieter. My eyes are tired from working on the watercolor at the drafting table (bless you, Tim and Patty for that wonderful gift!). Sitting now at the desk I’ve taken up my continued reading of this beautiful volume from Henry Miller (bless you, Stacy and Leigh for that gift–I still cry when I think of opening the wrapping paper that night!)

I want to dedicate this blog entry to the Unknown Artist, the One who continues to work faithfully on his/her craft day after day, even when no one seems to notice. I salute the artist who realizes the world doesn’t need his/her creative effort; if the artist quits, the world will continue on its way. I still shudder at the memories, the Angst I knew in the 80’s and 90’s. I still remember those nights of sadness when I couldn’t sleep because I was mired in all that self-doubt that arose because of a general lack of recognition or appreciation for my artistic efforts.

The art world has changed profoundly for me since those days. Not that I consider myself successful or widely-known in the art world. I think what it boils down to is the reality that I worked a job for twenty-eight years, earned a pension and retired. Once my job supported my lifestyle around the turn of the millenium, I suddenly realized that I did not need the income for art sales, and I no longer expected to become famous. That turned out to be liberating. As I recall, somewhere around the year 2000, I found myself happy in the act of creating instead of fretting over marketing details or standards of success.

But our world remains filled with artistic, creative, driven souls who suffer, either because they cannot make a living and/or they create without any measure of success or recognition. I don’t know which is worse. All I know is that when an artist is unhappy, I feel guilty because my life has turned in such a way that I have the ability to make art, and love the work, and don’t have to depend on selling it.

I am still surprised to own a gallery now. It has been over two months since we turned that corner, and it is still quite new and quite surprising for me. As for The Twelve in The Gallery at Redlands, I just want them to be successful, and I want them to be happy in their creative work. I want them to know the bliss and fulfillment of having the strength and wellness to pursue their bliss.

I am turned off by art blogs that tell us how to become millionaires, how to market our work, especially the ones who solicit money from us for their packaged programs that guarantee financial fortune. I despise the unwritten sentiment that if we are not financially successful then we are just mediocre or lazy artists. From my perspective, this gathering of The Twelve in our gallery has shown me more love and compassion than I believe I’ve ever seen in social gatherings from my past. There is a wonderful vibe among this community. Something is in the air. And I truly believe that Palestine and east Texas are on the verge of artistic enrichment. I truly believe that The Twelve are committed to improving our community by celebrating art, by delighting in the act of creation. And I am proud to be numbered among them.

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.

Morning Serenity in Studio Eidolons

March 30, 2021
First Early Morning Peek into Studio Eidolons

Yes, to paint is to love again, live again, see again. To get up at the crack of dawn in order to take a peek at the water colors one did the day before, or even a few hours before, is like stealing a look at the beloved while she sleeps. The thrill is even greater if one has first to draw back the curtains. How they glow in the cold light of early dawn! Another hour or two and they will already have lost some of their gleam and sparkle. Coming on them by surprise this way they give the impression of having slept all night with their eyes open.

Henry Miller, To Paint is to Love Again

Working very slowly and deliberately on my newest composition.

After a full day of rest from my crazy On-the-Road experiences of the past couple of weeks, I finally settled down late last night to my drafting table in my home studio. Before retiring to bed, I read the words posted above from my beloved Henry Miller gift book (love you, Stacy and Leigh!). Waking at dawn, I had to walk into the studio and steal a peek at my work in the morning light. And now, with a shower, fresh clothing and modest breakfast with coffee behind me, I am eating up the precious experience of leaning over my newest piece and painstakingly working with pencil, drafting tools, watercolor pencils and large washes of Winsor & Newton pigments. Slowly the image is taking form, seen perhaps the same way a dark room photographer once saw as s/he leaned over a tray and looked at the film shimmering below the liquid surface.

I won’t be leaving for The Gallery at Redlands till early Thursday morning, so I still have two complete days with very few appointments to get my affairs in order and enjoy this new experience painting in the studio. I fully intend to take this new watercolor with me, although I was unable to work on it at all until late nights in Palestine, the gallery had an abundance of traffic, which we appreciate very much.

16 x 20″ framed special edition giclée print of Burleson, Texas railroad setting. $225

As we approach the third and final weekend of Dogwood Festival, we continue to add new work to The Gallery at Redlands. This morning I framed one of my special edition giclée prints of a Union Pacific diesel rolling through Burleson, Texas. We also welcome new artist Kathy Lamb, who has a pair of framed oils now displayed in the lobby window of our gallery. As soon as I hit town Thursday, I will photograph and post those to the blog.

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.

Ready to Paint Again

March 27, 2021

I remember well the transformation which took place in me when first I began to view the world with the eyes of a painter. The most familiar things, objects which I had gazed at all my life, now became an unending source of wonder, and with the wonder, of course, affection. A tea pot, an old hammer, a chipped cup, whatever came to hand I looked upon as if I had never seen it before. I hadn’t, of course. Do not most of us go through life blind, deaf, insensitive? Now as I studied the object’s physiognomy, its texture, its way of speaking, I entered into its life, its history, its purpose, its association with other objects, all of which only endeared it the more.

Henry Miller, To Paint is to Love Again

Henry Miller has left artists a precious gift with this book. My friends Stacy and Leigh surprised me with it a week ago, and it has traveled with me across Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Texas these past four days. Now I’m relaxing in The Gallery at Redlands with more time to pore over these pages.

The drafting table that Tim and Patty Smith gave me a few years ago has been moved back into the gallery and I am delighted to begin work on the ghost sign advertisements that grabbed my attention in Hot Springs, Arkansas Wednesday morning. Encountering the building and signage was a remarkable accident. I was depending on GPS to find a pancake house, and I failed to make my U-turn when commanded. I drove another block before the next one came up, and as I completed my turn, I saw out of the corner of my eye the ghost signs. I couldn’t stare because I was driving in tight traffic. But throughout breakfast, I could only think of what I had seen out of the corner of my eye. Artist Andrew Wyeth frequently spoke of subjects that became his famous paintings because he glimpsed them out of the corner of his eye and later had to return to look at them because he could not erase the memory of the encounter.

Sure enough, when I walked to the location after breakfast, I was wearing a short-sleeved Tshirt in 40-degree weather and was very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, once I found the building I had to stand there and gaze at it, taking several photographs. Someone once said that beauty was what suspended the desire to be somewhere else; we are held in place and cannot walk away from what we’re viewing. I knew that I had to paint this subject.

I am going to title the painting “Palimpsest” because during my seminary days I was always fascinated with ancient manuscripts which were re-used, a new text written over the old. As centuries wore on, the original text had a way of reemerging and co-mingling with the later text. Gazing at the layers of advertising all over the side of the building, I felt myself drawn into the history of the building, musing about the products advertised, the people walking or driving buy who connected with the message, and the changes that that part of Hot Springs endured over the years. Staring at the signage, I realized that we ourselves have layers of history stacked one on top the other. Our memories may fade somewhat, but still they push their way to the front of our consciousness and once again seize our imagination.

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.

Early Sunday Morning in The Gallery at Redlands

March 7, 2021
Quiet Time for Reading and Reflection, The Gallery at Redlands, Palestine, Texas

For many artists, their profession is a mysterious calling, a way to create something unique while rebelling and living outside of society, yet never losing sight of the need to move society. Most artists must persevere against enormous odds in pushing their talent forward. For many, there are no rules or guidelines in the silence of the studio–and, more terrifying, no audience in the loneliness of the studio.

Murray Dessner, Foreword to Living the Artist’s Life by Paul Dorrell

At Work in Studio Eidolons, Arlington, Texas
Working in my Undisclosed Texas Location

The Redlands Hotel is generally quiet on Sundays, and that is when I manage to get most of my work done. This Sunday was a rare exception. The Gallery at Redlands witnessed quite a stream of people passing through, and the conversations were pleasant. Sandi and I are bemused, and happy at the same time. Since we took over the gallery February 1, we haven’t really been open for business, but still managed to sell five paintings. It feels unusual to have patrons perusing the gallery while we are still installing furniture, hanging paintings and adjusting lights. But that is OK.

The quote posted above rang my bell early this morning. I’m looking forward to talking to The Twelve when they finally gather here in The Gallery at Redlands March 20 for our Opening Reception. I’ve wanted to talk to kindred spirits for years about the dynamics we experience when working alone in studios, with our eyes fixed on the days we enter the artists’ marketplace. For years I have known the tension of my private vs. public life (artist vs. public school teacher). Now retired, a different tension has caught me by surprise: artist vs. gallerist. Friends have recently asked me if I am leaving behind the life of an artist to pursue life as a business man. My simple response: No. Daily I am thinking out paintings, waiting for an opening to pursue the next one. I anticipate it will happen soon after our March 20 Gallery Reception if not sooner.

This blog had its inception at 7:30 this morning. Now, it is 4:13 and I am still trying to wrap it up, such has been life in The Gallery at Redlands this Sunday. Our hope is that this will continue.

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.

Wearing Several Hats

March 3, 2021

Keeping a daily blog is not as easy as it once was. We still enjoy retirement to the fullest, but recent commitments are tending to crowd my schedule. Up until a few weeks ago, I was only an artist and daily faced decisions no more complicated than What should I paint next? Since February 1, we have taken ownership of The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas and have been working feverishly to get the space ready for our opening March 20. Lining up work from a dozen artists has had its immeasurable rewards, but has taken considerable time out of our weekly routines.

In addition to this, we have committed to working out on a regular basis, retaining the services of fitness coaches. The result is that our bodies are finally responding favorably, but again, there are fewer hours available in the week for leisure.

I have also continued my practice of Watercolor Wednesday, teaching three-hour sessions at Show Me the Monet Art Gallery in Arlington. Above I have posted a remarkable watercolor of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch, done by one of my most enthusiastic students. I usually average three Wednesday sessions out of each month. This class is not only rewarding from watching student success; it keeps me painting regularly. In fact, my demo from today I have decided is worthy of a frame. I would show it on this blog, but I believe the student outperformed me, so I’ll let the viewers enjoy hers instead.

Tomorrow I will introduce you to another member of The Twelve. I am trying to keep up this practice every other day. All of this is just to say I am wearing multiple hats as I try to continue being an artist while carrying out other tasks of being a gallerist, blogger and physical fitness enthusiast. Life is fuller now as it becomes busier, but no complaints.

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.

Continuation of Painting and Gallery Preparations

February 25, 2021
Fort Worth Tower 55 in the Mist 16 x 20″ framed $500

Artists and writers who choose to live in a city are always living in two cities at once. Even as they are walking the streets of this particular place, they are also moving through a city of the imagination. And they may be so exhilarated by the overlap of these two cities, but the sense that the imagination is fortified by the facts, that they are hard put to disentangle the two.

Jed Perl, New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century

Working in Studio Eidolons this morning, I am loving the vibe I feel from The Twelve as we draw closer to our Opening Reception at The Gallery at Redlands, March 20 at 7 p.m. Each of us works out of our own particular city: Rolla and Bonne Terre in Missouri, along with the Texas cities: Amarillo, Arlington, Bedford and Fort Worth. each in our own special studio, our own atelier of visions and dreams. But all of us anticipate with enthusiasm the day we finally gather in Palestine, Texas, an historic railroad town with a beautifully restored Redlands Hotel established in 1915. The Dogwood Festival will kick off its three-week event on the day we gather, Saturday March 20. Booths will fill the streets downtown and people will be everywhere throughout the day and night.

I finally finished and framed my second railroad painting of Fort Worth’s Tower 55, this time in a misty environment. I got the idea while reading New Art City: “With Hofmann, each angle, each splatter, each color was a spark tossed off by life’s wild unpredictability.” In my mind’s eye, I envisioned the angles of Fort Worth’s rails at the interlockers adjacent to Tower 55. I decided I wanted to spatter ink and watercolor around the masqued rails, then add salt and stale bread crumbs to see how the colors would break up. Stripping away the masquing, I then refined the globs with a ruler, using sharpened graphite pencils, colored pencils, and a Micron tech pen. I also wanted to create a misty environment and worked carefully to dilute the pigments, occasionally using QTips to scrub away colors that were too dark or too intense.

I have decided to include this new watercolor with three other of my pieces when our show opens. The Gallery will look different to me, with only four paintings among the collection, but I’m thrilled now to show diversity in our space. Hopefully now there will be something for everyone when patrons enter The Gallery at Redlands to shop.

Painted looking out the Window of The Gallery at Redlands when we opened March 2017

I have decided that as soon as possible I will create another watercolor looking out the window of our Gallery at the Chamber of Commerce building and the Union Pacific railyards on the other side of Spring Street. This watercolor sold quickly. I followed with another and it sold as well. I hope soon to have another one on hand in the Gallery.

We are thrilled at the prospects of the Dogwood Festival and our Artists Reception in March. We hope you will come help us celebrate the event.

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.

Working on a Second Tower 55 Watercolor

February 23, 2021
12 x 16 watercolor in progress

With some luck, I should be finishing this watercolor before the day is through. I wanted to have it in time to share as part of my “Hank” series in Palestine when the Dogwood Festival opens. Below is the story I’ve been working on to give it a narrative.

Squealing brakes accompanied by the thundering slam of freight car couplings in the Union Pacific railyard in Fort Worth, Texas hindered Hank from sleeping soundly in the small hotel on the south side of downtown. Wiping sleep from his travel-weary eyes, he sat on the edge of his bed and looked out the second-story window of his room. February. A layer of fresh snow blanketed the parking lot, and as he gazed across the cool blue shadows from his bed, Hank once again felt that old familiar Odysseus-fueled sentiment to wander. Pulling his tattered copy of Kerouac’s On the Road from the backpack, Hank looked up the passage where Sal awoke in the Chicago railroad flophouse, wondering for the moment who he was. Smiling as he stuffed the book back into his bag, Hank reaffirmed that he knew perfectly well who he was—Hank, the wandering mendicant, exploring the world and learning its secrets.

Dawn was just breaking, and in the dim light outside, Hank was confident he could prowl undetected through the busy railyard in search of a slow-moving freight to hop near the interlocker of Tower 55. Just south of the three-story Tower, a long freight of boxcars was crawling slowly southward. Mesmerized by the slow parade, he recalled one of his favorite passages from Allen Ginsburg’s “Howl”.

who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome farms in grandfather night,

A closer scrutiny revealed no open boxcar doors as the train slowly gathered momentum. As Hank continued to watch, he came to the realization that rail travel was not for him. Though he enjoyed the romantic stories from On the Road, hopping a freight seemed too dangerous. Leaving the railyards, he spied the lighted sign of a Rexall Drugs and decided to go inside to look for a road atlas of Texas. Finding a Rand McNally, he paid the cashier and walked out.

Further down the street was a diner, more accurately a greasy spoon. Seeking warmth inside, Hank soon found himself sipping hot coffee from a heavy stained and cracked diner mug. Unfolding his map, he spread it across the table and squinted at it while enjoying the aromas wafting from the kitchen—fried eggs, hashbrowns, sausages, bacon, the steam of coffee. Hank wanted to head south across the state, having already visited the west. But none of the towns along the sprawling highway routes captured his fancy. Turning his attention to railroad routes, he traced southward from Fort Worth’s Tower 55. Palestine appeared to feature a large railyard. It was settled. Hank would set his sights on Palestine. Leaving the diner, Hank ventured in a southeasterly direction, seeking out Highway 287. Surely a motorist would soon pick up a hitchhiker who had just exited a hotel, showered, groomed, and dressed cleanly.

Hours later, Hank emerged from a 4-door Plymouth filled with a happy family with three chatty children. The Palestine railyards lay just south of Spring Street, and Hank looked up and down the tracks, glad he had decided against hopping a freight. To the north, he saw a five-story vintage hotel and decided to walk in that direction. The Redlands Hotel, established in 1915, was a stately structure, anchoring the west end of the city adjacent to the majestic Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Entering the hotel from the west portal, Hank was impressed to see a restored lobby reminiscent of the glory days of railroad commerce. To his left was a lovely restaurant with linen tablecloths glowing in the dimly lit interior. On his right was a small art gallery and AM radio station with a live broadcast.

Pushing on ahead through the lobby, Hank found the office at the far end and decided to inquire about a vacancy. Jeanene, the red-haired proprietor of the hotel, greeted him warmly and told him the hotel featured twenty suites, each in their original apartment layout featuring kitchen, bedroom, living area and bathroom. Smiling, Hank decided to rent for a week. Room 207 was clean and well-lighted, the kitchenette featuring a small round table next to windows looking down upon the handsome Carnegie Library across the street north of the hotel. Breathing deeply, Hank wondered what it could be like to live here for a spell.

Descending the stairs into the main lobby, Hank spotted the radio disc jockey seated in a wingback chair outside the restaurant, sipping coffee and smoking a cigarette. He had just completed his morning show. Carl Harris had been working at KXOK radio since the early 60’s playing top 40 tunes and inserting the occasional news and weather updates.

“So, you look like a well-traveled man. What brings you to Palestine?

“Just a whim. I was in Fort Worth yesterday looking to hop a freight but decided not to risk it.  Assuming Palestine to be a railroad town, I decided to hitchhike down here to see what you have.”

“Can’t say much for the town. It’s alright, I guess. But if it weren’t for the job, I’m not sure I’d stay.”

“How long have you been in radio?”

“Twelve years. By now I’d hoped to be in a bigger city, like Houston or Dallas. Always wanted to travel instead of staying in my hometown. But it’s a good gig. I love music, play guitar, write songs. The job supports my habit. Frankly, I don’t know how much time we still have here. Our rival station KMOX in the next county represents the new wave. I come from the old school of radio rockers, not this new breed of radio talkers. But I guess that is another story. So. What do you do, besides travel?”

“Can’t say for sure. A couple of years ago, I decided I didn’t want to stay in my hometown any longer. So I’ve been on the road, meeting people, seeing different places. Still trying to figure out what to do with my life.”

“You need a job? This art gallery is brand new and they can’t seem to find anyone willing to work for minimum wage. The main artist is from out of town and isn’t here enough to keep it going as it should.”

“I could be interested. Who do I see about the job?”

“Jeanene, in the office. She’ll set you up, I’m sure.”

Now the sun was going down, and the studio was filling with shadows, imparting a feeling of overpowering melancholy to the end of the day. When the light filtered away like this after a bout of fruitless labour it felt as if the sun had disappeared for ever and taken with it all the life and gaiety and harmony of colours.

Emile Zola, The Masterpiece

Hank closed the book with a bottomless sigh and turned out the lights. The day had been long and uneventful, like most recent days, and reading the novel from Zola left him feeling as lost and empty as Cezanne must have been when he struggled to find his way in the painting enterprise. Emptying his glass with the last swallow of sangria, Hank laid back on his bed, closed his eyes and waited for sleep.

Morning. With eyes remaining closed, Hank listened. Mockingbirds conversed outside his open window of the Redlands Hotel. Somewhere nearby a radio was playing. He recognized the voice of Carl on KXOK, his energized voice of the morning show using every trick to capture attention from listeners driving to work. Hank opened his eyes slowly and focused. The alarm clock showed 7:15. Stickiness from the sangria of last night lay foul on his tongue. Stale cigar smoke lingered. The only element offering good will this morning was the clear light of a winter sunrise filtering through the light curtains, exposing myriads of floating dust particles drifting above the foot of his narrow bed.

Hank had slept with his clothes on, again. Rising and shuffling into the small kitchenette, he opened the squeaking cabinet above the sink, pulled down the Eight O’Clock Bean Coffee bag, measured coffee into the basket and poured water into the percolator. Soon the kitchen was filled with his favorite morning aroma. Looking out the window as the coffee percolated, his eyes rested again on the magnificent structure of the Carnegie Library. He needed to pay the place a visit. All he had read for the past six months was the same old books he had brought along in his backpack.

Stepping onto the second-story balcony of the hotel with his mug of coffee, Hank settled into one of the chairs and gazed across Spring Street into the railyard. He had been working downstairs in the art gallery for a little over two weeks now and was beginning to feel settled into this town. He was also beginning to wonder if he could make art worthy of the gallery he sat in each day. If he was to submit his art, it would have to be very soon. February was drawing near its close, and the city’s annual Dogwood Festival would begin in just a few weeks. Artists from around the county would be setting up tents in the street and displaying their work for sale. Hank hoped by then that he would be able to exhibit out of the gallery. Drawing his coat more tightly around his neck, he savored the warmth of the coffee and allowed his mind to drift back to his ninth-grade artistic beginnings.

High School had been a new and daunting world for Hank. He found himself in a different building, four miles from his Turvey’s Corner home. His first class on that first day was Art I. Having won first-place art honors at his junior high awards assembly the year before, he thought he was going to step into a classroom, bearing an aura of respect and admiration. What he found instead was a room filled with juniors and seniors. At the end of his table sat varsity tackle Joe Bennett with his 240 pounds, full red beard, and letter jacket. Senior girls already looking like suburban women with eye shadow and lip gloss chatted nervously in his orbit. Hippies with T-shirts and shoulder-length hair, American flags sewed to the backs of their denim jackets, sulked in their chairs, dark and glum, their clothes reeking of stale cigarette smoke. Hank felt diminutive. Mr. Scucchi entered the room, looking dapper in his tweed sport jacket with patched elbows, his shirt open at the collar. Addressing the class, he spoke in a vocabulary Hank recognized as charged with art speak, little of which he understood. Hank felt himself shrinking with every word.

On the third week of school something happened. Apparently, Mr. Scucchi had been looking at Hank’s daily work. Now, looking over Hank’s shoulder this Wednesday morning while he sketched the still life arrangement in the center of the classroom, the teacher asked, “Didn’t you win the art award at North Jefferson last year?” Hank looked up from his work and only nodded, too intimidated to speak up, and embarrassed, sensing the entire class suddenly looking up and focusing on him with interested curiosity. The teacher, saying nothing, moved on to the next student. “And what exactly are you trying to do with this?”

The following day Hank continued, bent over his work, unaware that Mr. Scucchi had walked up silently behind him again. Reaching over him, the teacher laid a coffee-table sized book on top of Hank’s drawing. In giant letters, the title read ANDREW WYETH. “I think you should look at this.”

Opening the enormous volume gingerly as though it were a museum archive piece, Hank’s eyes widened at what he saw. Page after page revealed drybrush watercolors in sepia tones of ramshackle farmhouses, barns, and outbuildings, all of them looking like his grandparents’ farm in southeast Missouri. Hank’s artistic vision, already keen at this tender age, still lacked the vocabulary to give it definition. He already had vision but lacked articulation. School had never interested him. He had read very little and listened to his teachers even less. His parents had grown up as children of tenant farmers with little schooling in one-room schoolhouses. Thus, they read little and spoke less.  Hank could not voice what it was exactly that he saw that could be called “beautiful.” What was beautiful about decrepit buildings? Where was the artistic aura in poverty? Why was Andrew Wyeth famous for painting such drab subjects? And why could Hank not stop gazing at and admiring these paintings? The artwork rang with authenticity, triggering the deep-seated emotions Hank always felt when visiting his grandparents’ farm.

As high school unfolded in the following years, Hank continued to take art, the only subject where he could thrive, relying on his talent, his eye, but taking almost no interest in theory. During his sophomore year, he visited his grandparents’ farm repeatedly, making copious drawings in his sketchbook of his grandpa’s shack. His second and third-year art teacher, Mr. Hoeh, took an interest in the drawings and encouraged him to study the shack drawings more closely. Mr. Hoeh believed they could yield quality watercolors.

Hank’s second great awakening occurred during his senior year while competing at an art show in a St. Louis shopping center. The competition categories were for student and professional. Hank by this time had grown accustomed to winning awards in student categories, and this show would be no different. What was different was the sight of a high school senior, two spaces down from Hank, competing in the professional category. And winning.

This high school senior, known only as Brad, worked in the J. C. Penney department store in the shopping center. He was not even with his display when the Best of Show ribbon was awarded him; he had to go work inside the store. With his absence, Hank lingered a long time and looked at his work—Andrew Wyeth-inspired dry brush paintings of those same subjects—farmhouses and barns and busted-down fencing. Nearly devoid of color—sepias, umbers, ochres, and warm grays. Plenty of spattering and wet-on-wet bleeding. The peripheries of each composition were left undefined, fading into the white halo of paper. To Hank’s eyes, each watercolor was exquisite, the touch of a master. But Hank still wondered, how on earth could one describe such decrepit subject matter as “beautiful”?

As he continued to drift slowly through the professional displays, Hank found an elderly gentleman in bowtie and beret seated on a stool, bent over a watercolor in progress. His body of work was also remarkable, taking second place. All watercolors. Classic landscapes charged with vibrant color. The old man Hank found to be quite approachable, so he laid aside his shyness, and asked the big questions.

“I never saw watercolor in tubes before, only in paint pans. I thought only oils and acrylics came in tubes. What brand is that?”

“Winsor & Newton, the best in the world, as far as I’m concerned.”

“And what kind of tablet is that? It looks like a sketchbook, but the paper is sealed all the way around.”

“Again, the best paper in the world—D’Arches. This is called a watercolor block. They’re costly, but worth every penny. They keep the paper from buckling while wet.”

“But your paper is wet now. And buckled.”

“While wet, yes. But as it dries, it shrinks, and when totally dry it will be flat as a board again. There is no worse presentation than a warpy watercolor, buckled within a mat and frame.”

Back at his own display, Hank spent the rest of the day thinking over what the old man had told him, and of the remarkable watercolor work of young Brad. When the festival ended and Hank had nearly packed all his gear, he looked up to see the old watercolorist standing before him with extended hand. Eagerly, Hank shook the old friend’s hand, thanking him for patiently answering all his questions. Smiling, the man said, “Just call me Herb. I hope to see you again soon, at another festival. Until then . . .” In his other hand was a leather wallet folded over three times with a thong tied around it. He was handing it to Hank. “Open it,” he said. Frank untied the thong and unfolded the wallet. A used set of watercolor pans was tucked inside. “Winsor & Newton,” Herb smiled. “Best in the world. Practice every day. You’ll get there.” Smiling, he turned and walked away.

Breakfast finished, Hank descended the hotel stairs to the ground floor and entered The Gallery at Redlands. Looking out the window at the Union Pacific railyards across Spring Street, he recalled the early morning in Fort Worth as he stood in the fog watching the trains emerge from the gloom, roaring and expelling exhaust that mingled with the fog. It brought to mind his sojourn in Utah a month ago when he stood gazing at the herd of bison on the ranch. The bison also moved in and out of a mist from the mountains, a mist that mingled with the dust they kicked up from the dirt, and the exhalation of hot breath into the cold atmosphere. Bison and mist.  Diesels and mist. New images were beginning to form in his mind.

Walking to his desk, Hank sat and quickly sketched on his watercolor pad a gathering of bison as he recalled the way they looked on that particular day.

Leaning back from his work, Hank liked what he saw. Now it was time to turn his attention back to what he saw early one morning in Fort Worth as he contemplated journeying to Palestine.

_________________________________________

More later. 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.

Hans Hofmann Speaks to The Twelve

February 21, 2021
cover of New Art City
Studio Eidolons. New Work Beginning

. . . he spoke of a yearning for freedom and intensity of expression, of an individualism that transcends humdrum events and aims for the experiences that are most intense, most essential.

Jed Perl, writing of Hans Hofmann in New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century

As Sandi and I prepare for the opening of The Twelve at Gallery at Redlands March 20, I am personally drawing much inspiration from Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hofmann who was quite the art teacher as well as gallery artist while mid-town Manhattan was preparing to become the new art capital of the world in the 1940s-1950s. For years I have studied the contributions of Motherwell, Pollock, Rothko and DeKooning, but only regarded Hofmann as a footnote, till now. The Abstract Expressionists, also dubbed The New York School, were a highly diverse collection of artitsts who took New York City by storm.

We, The Twelve, are for the most part middle-aged-to senior in our years, and therefore more sober-minded about the effects our art will have on Palestine and East Texas. That is not the reason we are coming here. Our dream is to open a gallery space of diversity, to offer a broad selection of art to appeal to a broader range of people than my watercolors have sought to do in the past. Yes, there will still be watercolors, but we’re adding oil and acrylic on canvas work, along with pastel art, photography, pottery and sculpture. We anticipate that on the night of March 20, we will open our doors to a reception much broader than offered before.

Pictorial life is not imitated life; it is, on the contrary, a created ability based on the inherent life within every medium of expression. We have only to awaken it..

Hans Hofmann

We, The Twelve, have at least one thing in common–we are Awake. Art has been our nurturing force for years, but more recently during this Covid crisis, we have been confined to our studio spaces with more time to reflect on what we wish to do once the public is again within reach. Solitude in the studio has given all of us sacred, quality time for reflection and experimentation in our respective artistic media.

The life of an artist awakened within the dimensions of the sheet of paper was all mixed up with the awakening of mid-century New York. And Hofmann’s genius had everything to do with pushing artists to go into the studio and find, there, the world outside.

Jed Perl, New Art City

And so we, The Twelve, as we awaken to new life within our spaces, hope to awaken a slumbering world to greater possibilities. May we all emerge to find a world even better than the one we were separated from before.

New watercolor of Fort Worth Tower 55 underway . . .

Work in Studio Eidolons is still progressing, though co-mingled with new gallery business and preparations. Soon I hope to share biographical sketches of the rest of the Twelve between now and when we hold our Meet the Artists reception March 20.

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.

Weaving Disparate Strands

February 20, 2021

You know, there is a philosopher who says, As you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos and random events, nonrelated events smashing into each other and causing this situation, and then this happens, and it’s overwhelming, and it just looks like: What in the world is going on? And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely-crafted novel. . . But at the time, it don’t!

Joe Walsh, History of the Eagles

I awoke this sunny, snow-covered wintry morning, my mind jarred by a collision of stories, images and ideas for writing, painting, journaling, blogging, and while I made coffee, I wondered what in the devil I was going to do once I sat down at my desk in Studio Eidolons. The words of Joe Walsh of The Eagles came back to me, so I recorded them, then made the decision to weave the disparate threads of memory that woke me a little while ago.

Life imitates art. Art imitates life. For decades I have chipped away at a project combining my personal memoir with a fiction narrative titled Turvey’s Corner 63050. Pieces of this narrative have been dropped into my blog for over a year now. Today, as I work on piecing together a pair of stories from the Hank cycle, merging bison with diesel locomotives, I am sharing portions of my personal journal along with the newly-crafted stories. Hank is my alter-ego, inspired by friend Wayne White from second grade who will join me along with The Twelve artists re-opening The Gallery at Redlands next month. Wayne is currently a photographer residing in Missouri not far from where we grew up. Most of the stories of Hank are my own, co-mingled with made-up episodes. In this blog, I’ll share the fact along with the fiction.

Last September, Sandi and I traveled to Kanab, Utah to visit Zion National Park. On September 12, returning to our hotel from Zion, we encountered a herd of bison on a ranch near a stock tank. We had seen the herd that morning, but twenty-or-so tourists lined the perimeter fence and we decided not to stop. On the return, no one was at the fence, so we pulled over and I strolled down to the fence line and stayed about twenty minutes, observing the movements of the herd and taking numerous photos with my phone. I did not write about the enounter till September 17, back home in Arlington, Texas. The encounter had composted in my memory for nearly a week.

From my journal, September 17, 9:54 p.m.

So what happened with the bison? I was moved by the idyllic setting. The dust cloud raised. The density of the herd. The cow & calf stepping toward me, then moving into the tank to drink. The amber evening sunset on their coats, highlighting them in golds & oranges, while purple ruled the shadows. I felt a connection, a closeness . . .

The next day, I sat down in Studio Eidolons to attempt my first watercolor sketch of a single bison, using photos from my phone as a reference:

Two days later I decided to attempt a second sketch, this time of the herd, again looking at photos on my phone. I had just laid down Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, which I had been reading since our return home a few days before. I chose to write of myself in the third person.

From my journal September 19, 2020, 1:57 p.m., Motherwell station:

The mad scientist Heideggerian is probing the mists of Being as he bends over the drafting table, spritzes the watercolor sketchbook with a mist of water, then drops in a mixture of Daniel Smith Shadow Violet with Winsor & Newton Cerulean Blue. Then a ribbon of Cerulean below to establish a horizon. Spaced below the horizon, a horizontal line of pale Green-Gold. Below that a hoirzontal line of Transparent Yello & Winsor Violet.

Then, he touched Shadow Violet D.S. in the mists above to begin the shadowy forms of bison emerging from the mist . . .

Returning now @ 2:24 p.m.

Time to draw out the forms, looking at my mist configurations.

Now, I’m sketching out a Hank narrative to illustrate this moment in my life.

Hank gazed across the ranchland at the distant bison herd gathered beside a stock tank, its derelict windmill towering above. He felt a shudder as he watched the sun rippling across the backs of the behemoths. Slowly they grazed among the tall grasses, some of them ambling down into the waters to drink. Adjusting his easel and quickly sketching the profile of the nearest one, he splashed water across the broad body. Then quickly dipping his brush into the Winsor Violet and Transparent Yellow, he touched with the tip of his brush the newly mixed mixture of warm brown, and as the pigment quickly billowed into the water on the paper, Hank tilted the easel just a bit to encourage more movement and watched the color quickly fill the contours of the beast.

As the bison slowly emerged on the wet surface of the paper, Hank recalled the words of Abstract Expressionist painter Robert Motherwell in a recent interview. The artist had driven his car across France toward Spain, arriving at Alta Mira around sundown just as the guard was closing the gate to the cave with the famous prehistoric paintings inside. Motherwell offered the guard a fistful of paper currency, and with a nod, the employee swung the gate back open and let him inside the cave. Finding the ceiling to be low, Motherwell had to lie on his back on an upraised plateau to gaze up at the wounded bison, lit by a single electric bulb. Finding the viewing unsatisfactory, the artist was suddenly handed a lighted candle by the guard who then turned out the electric light. In the flicker of the candle, Motherwell suddenly noticed the impression of the bison moving, shuddering, and he was filled with an emotion never created by the viewing of the photographs in art history books.

Recalling this, Hank looked up at the herd of bison and down at his sketch with renewed fascination. The single watercolor sketch would do for the time being. But one day he would focus on a composition of a bison herd emerging from a dim, misty landscape.

My next watercolor will be a repeat of the Fort Worth Tower 55 I painted a few days ago, but this time with considerably more atmospheric traces of fog and diesel exhaust. As Hank looks at the scene in the early dawn, he will recall the sight of the bison and draw parallels between the diesels and bison stirring up the atmosphere.

In closing, I’m posting a pair of watercolors I attempted of the bison. Neither have yet been framed or put on public display.

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.