Archive for the ‘art studio’ Category

Return to Studio Eidolon, but Remembering Bryce Canyon

September 18, 2020

Such is the effort of creation that goes into the work of art! Such was the agonising effort he had to make, the blood and tears it cost him to create living flesh to produce the breath of life! Everlastingly struggling with the Real and being repeatedly conquered like Jacob fighting with the Angel!

Emile Zola, The Masterpiece

Most readers are convinced that Zola was describing the anxieties of painter Paul Cezanne when he wrote this novel. I am enjoying the reading of this and will be sorry when the story ends. I certainly know those artistic anxieties, more from my past than my present. I find it hard to explain, but am convinced that in my later years I am more preoccupied with art theory, yet less upset with perceived shortcomings or failures; I just love the process of creating.

We are safely back home after vacationing in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. On our third day home, I am still lost in daydreams and recollections of what we experienced. My last blog recounted the day’s adventures at Zion National Park, but I have yet to record the events of the following day, in Bryce Canyon National Park.

Sandi decided to participate in a ride down to the floor of the canyon. After we parted ways at the corral, I hiked to the rim of the canyon, then circled round till I found the horse trail that I knew the party would take. Once they arrived, I managed to shoot plenty of photos as they trooped by, and my favorite is this one of Sandi on a handsome mule named Clyde.

Once the riding party was out of site, I commenced working from my plein air easel, and was astonished at the violence of the winds blasting across the top of the canyon. My clip for holding open my sketchbook was attached to my journal in the truck parked far away, so I attempted to sketch in watercolor the site below with my right hand, and used my entire leftt arm to hold the book open, my open hand resting on the brushes trying to blow out of the tray and into the canyon below.

As I worked, fighting against the wind trying to blow my supplies away, a gentle Asian soul approached me and, watching calmly with great interest, began asking questions of what I was doing. I always love visiting with people when I am out painting, and this was no exception. However, being distracted by the blowing winds, I was not aware that the gentleman actually was filming me with the intention of posting on social media. Had I known that, perhaps I would have shown more composure and lest distractedness. He indeed asked permission to film, but I honestly thought the howling wind was discouraging his efforts, and was under the impression that he gave up, though he stayed and visited with me awhile and took my business card, thanking me for my time. I soon forgot about the encounter, as I visited with over a dozen people during that brief stretch of attempted painting.

Late last night, while I was home, the gentleman’s kind email arrived, with the YouTube link, and I gladly post it for you now with the disclaimer that his camera work was much more composed than I!

After painting awhile (or trying to!), I returned to the truck and let our dog Patches out for a stroll. Then I set up his portable pen under the shade of the evergreens, and had intended to spend about half an hour with him before putting him back into the truck and returning to the canyon to paint. But he was so darned affectionate, choosing to jump into my lap and remain rather than lie on his blanket in the pen. So . . . I waited for Sandi to return from her ride before packing my gear back to the canyon for round two.

Here are the two sketches I attempted in the raging winds atop Bryce Canyon.

My biggest adjustment returning to Arlington, Texas has been the temperatures. As I write this, we are sitting this afternoon at 88 degrees with intolerable humidity. On the morning of our return, it was 50 degrees in Albuquerque. Stepping outside in this Texas weather now makes me wish for the 34 degrees and foot-deep snow I enjoyed last week in Colorado!

As I continue to look over photos and sketches from our trip, I took my first shot today at sketching a bison I photographed outside Zion National Park.

I haven’t yet decided on my next major project, but anticipate that something will happen soon. For the time being, Sandi and I are going to re-visit the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth-a site we haven’t seen in way too many months.

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.

Odyssey Driven

September 5, 2020
Returning to Work on Homer’s Odyssey

Tell me, Muse of the man of many devices, driven far astray . .

Saturday in the Studio Eidolons finds me chasing multiple interests. We’ve decided to put together another road odyssey with the change in weather approaching. Sometimes I think we have that inborn compulsion of geese taking flight when weather warnings are in the air. After laying it aside for quite a few months, I’ve re-opened the Greek text of Homer’s Odyssey and am once again immersed in his epic.

Putting a Few Finishing Touches to the Bomber Lure

After only two days, I seem to be nearing completion of the Bomber lure. The background took much more time than rendering the actual subject itself.

I completed a quick watercolor sketch for the first time in a watercolor diary I purchased last week. I plan on taking this sketchbook on my journey soon to see how many pages I can fill as we travel.

5 x 7″ watercolor sketch

The Arlington Gallery that carries my work (Show Me the Monet) has decided to sponsor Watercolor Wednesday, offering 3-hour watercolor classes 2-5:00 every Wednesday. I am scheduled to teach on alternating weeks. I have posted my next two classes, September 16 and 30 on my professional Facebook page. Cost is $55 and classes are limited to six participants. If you are interested in signing up, phone (817) 468-5263. September 16 will focus on painting a railroad boxcar similar to the one above, and on the 30th we’ll paint a wooden trestle located here in Arlington, Texas.

September 16 subject
September 30 subject

The morning is nearly over and I have promised myself more quality time in Studio Eidolons. 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.

Three Fly Patterns Completed and Packaged

September 1, 2020
Working in Studio Eidolons
Elk Hair Caddis
Royal Wulff
Parachute Adams

I have happily drawn this commission project to a close–three fly patterns, all of them 8 x 10″. For over ten years, I have had the desire to attempt these subjects in watercolor, but was always too timid to try. Once this commission “made” me take the plunge, I found out how enjoyable such an endeavor can be. The nature of the hackles forced me to develop more sensitivity with brushstrokes. In the midst of the project I returned to the Six Canons of Painting by the Sixth-Century Chinese painter Xie He. I really needed this reminder about the “bone method” in the second principle which calls attention to the integrity of the individual brushstrokes. I believe I’m going to take the next step and see if I can market such images in the future. Already I’m thinking about creating greeting cards with these images on the front and boxing them in sets to sell.

More jobs await. 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.

We Must Cultivate Our Own Garden

August 31, 2020
Reminiscence of Grandma’s Garden Gate

Sitting up in bed with my morning coffee, I looked up again at one of my watercolors we keep framed and hanging in the bedroom. The composition always brings to mind words from my Mom about the morning she brought me home from the hospital over sixty-six years ago. She still tells me that the fragrance of lilacs blooming greeted her when she carried me through the garden gate of my Dad’s parents’ farm. That was the reason I painted this composition; Sandi and I purchased this gate from an antique store in Lubbock years ago for the express purpose of bringing it home and my painting it.

Continuing to think over the painting, I went to the bookcase and retrieved my volume of Candide’s Voltaire, which closes with these words:

. . . but we must cultivate our own garden.

Those words haunt me because I awoke this morning, my head filled with the acrid smoke of degrading words wafting through our atmosphere from our perennial political rancor. Some people seem to crave this diet. I am not among them. Years ago, when I started this blog, I wished to send words out into the social media torrent that would make readers feel better, instead of worse, living in this current climate. I believe we have the strength to determine what to fix our minds upon, and I further believe the ancient Proverb that states “for as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

My continued reading in Zola’s The Masterpiece continues to fill me with richness of thought. The words Claude spoke to his author friend may as well have been directed at me:

“Why should you worry?’ said Claude, after sharing Sandoz’s silence for a moment. “You’re happy, you’re working, you’re producing something!”

Studio Eidolons

Walking down the hall and entering Studio Eidolons with a glad heart, I sat down to one of my drafting tables and made a collage greeting card, using folding card stock with matching envelope from a vast collection I have been saving and hoarding for over a decade. While refurbishing my studio over past months, I have opened boxes and cabinets stuffed with art-related materials that I had forgotten about and decided I would begin making things with them once again.

Once the collage/card task was completed, I went to the other drafting table and resumed work on the trout fly still waiting for me. This is a Parachute Adams pattern that I could possibly finish later today. It will complete a series of three trout flies I have been commissioned to paint.

Parachute Adams in Progress

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.

Always a New Beginning

August 30, 2020
1903 house in Flippin, Arkansas. 18 x 24″ framed $400

Yet for better or for worse we love things that bear the marks of grime, soot, and weather, and we love the colors and the sheen that call to mind the past that made them.

Jun’ichero Tanizaki

Sunday mornings usually draw me back to the Bible to read for creative as well as living inspiration. Again this morning, I read the creation narratives in Genesis, pondering about the world as a chaotic void until God organized it through a series of spoken words. As an artist, I am more amazed at my current age than ever before at the profound dynamics that go into any kind of creative activity.

My continued reading of Emile Zola’s The Masterpiece feeds my daily creative eros. Recently, I have returned to drawing and watercolor sketching in a diary to break out of the routine of working on commission pieces (I have two more to complete before all orders are finally filled). What I read this morning certainly set off a string of musings. The words come from an older, seasoned artist in his studio:

“It may suprise you,” he said, for he had been successful from an early age and his place in French painting was now firmly established, “but there are days when I question my ability to draw a simple thing like a nose. . . . Every picture I paint, I’m as excited as the rawest novice; my heart thumps like mad, my mouth goes dry out of sheer emotion. “

Some years back, when my watercolors began selling more successfully and I took blogging and marketing more seriously, I developed this fear of “whipping out Tripps to feed the market.” Not only did I worry about being locked into a particular style to keep up with demand; I still wondered exactly what my “style” was. I have posted a painting above from my earlier years when I focused on aged, decaying subjects. I still work on those kinds of images, but not exclusively. Rather, I have tried to broaden my subject matter to pick up some themes I’ve always wished to pursue but never took the time to do so (Hence, my recent trout fly patterns).

I believe all of us hope to live out our lives free of regrets. However, recently, I do look back on my college years with regret–I was an art major, but relied on my talent and listened very little to what my instructors tried to teach me. I had excellent instructors, and wish to this day I had been more mature and open to what they had to offer. Now at my present age, I am attempting to learn things I should have learned long ago as I experiment daily in the studio, and truly try to be “open” to experimenting. As the days proceed, I will most likely post the drawings and watercolor sketches I’m attempting, along with the commissioned work in progress.

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.

Decompressing in Studio Eidolons

August 29, 2020
Lingering over Coffee and Journal inside Studio Eidolons

In the bleakest days of a bleak winter, Jackson took up pen and paper and began drawing again. During all of 1950, he had hardly touched a sketch pad. His ambitions demanded a far grander “arena” (his word).

Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, Jackson Pollock: An American Saga

Saturday in the Studio Eidolons finds me at leisure. Last night I completed my second of a series of three trout flies. I immediately blocked in the composition for the third painting, but this morning have yet to find the initiative to begin the actual painting.

2nd fly completed: Royal Wulff, 8 x 10″ watercolor

The morning has been given to coffee, journaling, listening to music, and going through some files of material I haven’t perused in years. I’m a little tired, not sleeping as consistently as I could, and feeling rather low on energy. I recall the critic Clem Greenberg in an interview discussing how Jackson Pollock, after an intense creative output, would knock off for a few weeks and just walk his property, smoking, thinking, not necessarily drinking, but decompressing, and over a period of weeks would purge himself of his mannerisms and seek a new direction for his art. The quote above arrested my attention because today I have gotten out sketchbooks and watercolor diary to see about returning to some practices I have not pursued in awhile due to a long line of commissions I’ve striven to complete. Days such as this no longer alarm me; I’m just on hiatus. It might last a few hours, or the rest of the day. But I know I’ll be back in the saddle, making new art. Already, the next assignment waits on the drafting table.

While perusing various reading materials, I came across a remarkable quote about the artist’s studio, taken from Lone Wolf Magazine (https://lonewolfmag.com/beautiful-artists-studios-planet/):

There’s something undeniably romantic about an artist’s studio. They’re always filled with light, and paper covered in scribbles and sketches. We’re instinctively drawn to these safe spaces where something incredible can materialize out of nothing. An artist’s studio is the place magic happens (imagine being physically present in Picasso’s studio when he painted The Dream, it would have given you goosebumps). The artist’s studio is also a place for the most incredible kind of isolation, one that’s full of creative potential. It’s an escape and even torment. When everything aligns, your work space can be a source of inspiration, helping you become a better artist. The images below perfectly capture that bohemian life style we all dream of having one day. Get inspired by the beautiful organized chaos of these artists creative work spaces! [The article follows with the most delicious color photos of artists’ studios, including Cezanne’s and Monet’s.]

Natalia Borecka, “The Most Beautiful Artist’s Studios on the Planet”

Trying some new things

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.

Musing over Art Theories in the Studio Eidolons

August 28, 2020
Studio Eidolons

Forty-eight hours ago, while engaged in my morning watch activities before beginning the days’ schedule, I was visited in the most profound way by a hoard of ideas. Before long, I had scribbled out ten pages of longhand notes in my journal, feeling I was trying to catch a swarm of butterflies in a small net.

In Pursuit of the “Spirit” of Art

I had a watercolor class coming up in three hours and was still trying to find a way to introduce what we were going to attempt that day. I decided to work on the First Canon of Xie He’s writings about painting. It has been translated this way:

Engender a sense of movement through spirit consonance.

While trying to unpack this aphorism, I came across the notion that the word translated “spirit” refers to the Chinese chi or qi.

Opening my Art History book by Marilyn Stokstad, I found the following:

The first principle announces that “spirit consonance” imbues a painting with “life’s movement.” this “spirit” is the Daoist qi, the breath that animates all creation, the energy that flows through all things. When a painting has qi, it will be alive with inner essence, not merely outward resemblance. Artists must cultivate their own spirit so that this universal energy flows through them and infuses their work.

Two days later, my head is still spinning with this visitation. For decades I have been aware of this tension within my own perception of art, between skill and inspiration. I have possessed the skills most of my life, and continued in training to refine those skills. But inspiration is much more elusive, and I have always pondered this great divide between “work of art” and “art”. Just what exactly is the nature of this energy that animates one’s work, transforming it into “art”? This theoretical, spiritual side has driven my imagination for so long, and I still enjoy seeking it out.

In the midst of my writing, I laughed, recalling Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

Dean and I sat alone in the back seat and left it up to them and talked. “Now, man, that alto man last night had IT— he held it once he found it; I’ve never seen a guy who could hold so long.” I wanted to know what “IT” meant. “Ah well”— Dean laughed—“ now you’re asking me impon-de-rables— ahem! Here’s a guy and everybody’s there, right? Up to him to put down what’s on everybody’s mind. He starts the first chorus, then lines up his ideas, people, yeah, yeah, but get it, and then he rises to his fate and has to blow equal to it. All of a sudden somewhere in the middle of the chorus he gets it— everybody looks up and knows; they listen; he picks it up and carries. Time stops. He’s filling empty space with the substance of our lives, confessions of his bellybottom strain, remembrance of ideas, rehashes of old blowing. He has to blow across bridges and come back and do it with such infinite feeling soul-exploratory for the tune of the moment that everybody knows it’s not the tune that counts but IT—” Dean could go no further; he was sweating telling about it.

The IT factor–that is what I seek in making art. And the visitation in Studio Eidolons two days ago still has me shaking my head in wonder. I’m glad that I have nothing on my agenda today, no appointments, no deadlines. I’m ready to explore these matters further.

I’m getting closer to finishing this commission on the Royal Wulff fly pattern. It is an 8 x 10″ watercolor that has resulted in a number of new color combinations and experiments for me. It’s been a fun experience and I look forward to closing this one out and moving on to the next assignment.

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.

Serene Day in Studio Eidolons

August 25, 2020
Working on the details of a Royal Wulff fly pattern

Ever the mutable,

Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering,

Ever the ateliers, the factories divine,           

Issuing eidólons.

Walt Whitman, “Eidólons

Buoyed by the spirit of Walt Whitman in my own atelier, I’ve enjoyed working on this commission requesting three popular fly patterns from the trout stream. The Elk Hair Caddis and Parachute Adams I’ve used many times, but I have yet to put a Royal Wulff in the water, though I must say I am loving the colors of this pattern.

Having named my studio after Whitman’s poem, I’ve been reading the piece daily, and decided today to post another segment from it. I love his reference to the “changing, crumbling, re-cohering” nature of the process I witness while working on a watercolor composition. And as for my personal working space, my imagination vacillates between the elegant historic French notion of a posh atelier similar to a show room and Andy Warhol’s notion of his working space being a factory, because he was always cranking out work for the next commission, much like an assembly line.

As for my dog, he has recently marked out a spot, designating Studio Eidolons as a comfy place to relax.

Patches has found a resting place beneath one of the drafting tables

Time has been divided today between painting and continuing the task of sorting out materials that have been stored for years, deciding what to discard, what to file, and what to store in a more orderly fashion. A master bathroom adjoining my studio has now been re-assigned for studio storage. Not only is it nice to have nearby sinks for water (instead of traveling to the kitchen) and ample counter space for lining out and stretching watercolor paper, there are now two walk-in closets and a built-in set of cabinets. Finally, all art supplies, paintings, papers, matting materials etc. are stored in closets, cabinets and a lateral file–NO MORE CRAP lying about the floor or leaning against walls!

I also found rolled up in a tube the presentation I made to my principal for what would become the first of many murals painted at Martin High School. This sketch eventually became a 15 x 50 foot cafeteria mural. With a sigh, I decided it was time to discard. So I rolled it out one last time and took a photo to store in my memory collection.

Design for a High School Cafeteria Mural

Time to get back to work. 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.

Final Preparations for a Watercolor Class

August 23, 2020
Finishing Touches for Tomorrow’s Class

Tomorrow (Monday August 24) I’ll be teaching a watercolor class from 2-5:00. We’ll paint a Route 66 motel that was torn down years ago. A few seats are still available if any of you in the area would like to participate. For $55 I’ll supply all materials to paint an 8 x 10″ watercolor on stretched paper. The reference photo we’ll use is a painting I’ve done recently:

Ozark Court Motel, Stanton, Missouri

For anyone interested in attending, you will need to phone Gracie Lane boutique at (817) 468-5263 to reserve your seat. The class will be taught in the boutique building which also houses our Show Me the Monet art gallery, at 4720 S Cooper St, Arlington, TX 76017.

I have rewritten my story from the Turvey’s Corner manuscript that I hope will one day be a book. I’ll post the re-write below:

Sunday morning rays of sunshine lanced through the slits in the closed blinds of Room 18 at the Ozark Court Motel. Randy lay with his eyes closed. It took a few moments before he realized where he was and what day it was. Hitchhiking had not fared well the day before. Driving rains soaked him to the skin and no one was pulling over on Route 66 to offer him a ride. Why would they? No doubt he carried all the charm of a drowned city sewer rat as he trudged along the muddy shoulder, his knapsack beginning to let in water as well. But this morning he was OK. A soothing shower the night before and a Jack Daniels nightcap ushered in a quality night’s sleep. But now it was Sunday. What to do?

His Greek New Testament lay on the bedside table; he had removed it the night before, intending for it to be the first thing his eyes would see the morning after. Now he sat up in bed, stretched his limbs, and reached for the small volume he once thought he was going to discard when he dropped out of seminary. He couldn’t. Though he no longer congregated, he still woke on Sunday mornings feeling the need to reach for a text that had been his companion for two-and-a-half years, only now he no longer felt shackled by deadlines of term papers and Sunday morning sermon manuscripts. He could read what he chose.

But what to read? The Gospels crossed his mind. Always a good choice. But what did he want this morning from the Gospels? Did he want to see or hear? Seeing would include mental images of Jesus walking along a shore or down a dusty Palestinian street. Would he be solitary, seated in the wilderness, or thronged by a clinging crowd? Or did Randy just wish to hear as he translated the texts this morning? What would he hear? The voice of Jesus resonating in a synagogue, or speaking softly inside living quarters? Would he be strolling country lanes with disciples listening, or seated on a boulder discoursing? Or would he be sitting in a boat, his calm voice going out over the water while disciples pulled at the oars?

Why was Randy reaching for the New Testament, anyway? Because it was Sunday? He wasn’t congregating. He wasn’t called upon to address any hearers. So what exactly did he want this morning?

Outside the motel, traffic was heard murmuring along Route 66 below the bluff. Randy was aware that he was seated in bed, alone, in the heartland of America. Today is Sunday, the Fourth of July, 1976. The country had been surging with anticipation for weeks as she edged closer and closer to this day—the nation’s bicentennial. No doubt Randy’s former seminary friends—preacher friends—had been wrenching themselves into a frenzy over what to preach on this Special Sunday. Randy breathed serenely, no longer trapped in that vise of psychological pressure. Still he wondered. What exactly would he have said today, standing before a congregation?

Opening his small volume, he read at leisure, allowing his mind to drift down pleasant corridors of memory as naturally as a canoe in a gentle stream. To this day he was thankful to have learned Koinē Greek. He recalled that first semester of structured recitation, vocabulary, and functional grammar. It was forbidden to purchase and attempt to read a Greek New Testament; the objective for the first semester was functional literacy. As children learn to speak their language before learning to read and understand the technical architecture of grammar, so the Professor endeavored to train his students to recognize Greek early and dissect the grammar later. And so, Randy studied his lessons and performed the daily recitations for a semester.

On the first day of the second semester, the Professor entered the lecture hall without a word, set his books on his desk, turned to the blackboard, picked up the chalk, and scrawled the following:

Sitting at his desk in the third row, Randy leaned forward earnestly and stared at the words. As if scales had fallen from his eyes, he recognized and read the words instantly: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” The Professor turned to the class fixing his eyes on their faces, and solemnly declared: “You are now reading the New Testament. In Greek.” Sitting up in bed, Randy felt waves of warmth surging through his being as he recalled that historic morning. He was certain that he was re-living the spirit of the eighteenth-century Age of Enlightenment, Die Aufklärung. Life for him had been marked by so few quality moments. Opening his New Testament to Mark 1:15, he read the words afresh.

The time is fulfilled. On that historic day, years ago, Randy felt he had fulfilled his apprenticeship to elementary Greek vocabulary and grammar. He read a Greek New Testament passage with no assistance from a teacher or book. It was a new day. A new world dawned and beckoned. He had no idea then that a ministerial life, just underway, would collapse and burn in less than two years.

Now it is Sunday, July 4, 1976. The nation celebrates its 200th birthday. Randy wondered what exactly he was celebrating, if anything. What was life offering now? Was he about to pass through another portal? Again, why was he reading the New Testament? Because it was Sunday? Because it was the Fourth of July? Because the country was now two hundred years old? What was in the air for Randy? He wanted to know.

Was he reading from the life of Jesus because he needed a mentor? Someone to guide him? Thinking back over his life, Randy realized he had always sought direction from a strong leader. His father, his pastor, his professors, and a few years ago that conference with Reverend Elton in Dallas. Did Randy need a mentor now? Or was it time to think for himself? Maybe his apprenticeship to life was ended and it was time to stand up, to strike forth and find new ground under his own direction. The time is fulfilled.

Rising from bed, Randy stretched and strolled across the small room to the writing table in the corner where he had placed his journal from the night before. Opening it to the pages he wrote the day he quit the seminary, he found a passage he had copied from James Smart’s The Divided Mind of Modern Theology:

There are remarkable parallels between the European mood of the twenties and the English and American mood of the sixties: God seemed to have gone into hiding; religious and theological language out of the past had become wooden and unconvincing; men felt themselves suspended between a world that had died and a new world that was waiting to be born; a church indifferent to the plight of the masses was recognized as unworthy of the name Christian; the identification of Christianity with Western civilization, and of divinity with the higher elements in man, had become highly suspect; in various forms the hunger for a new world now was felt, and some understood it as hunger for a living God. In that kind of world Barth and Bultmann became theologians whose one endeavor was to find the word that would unlock the future, the word that would bring wholeness of faith and creative power by being the very truth of the living God.

It is Sunday, Randy thought. Today, churches would perhaps fill to capacity to celebrate a 200th birthday. Yet, Randy sensed that the ministers would still crank out those same tired sermons, their singsong voices rasping like rusty squeeze boxes, sounding out the same two-note refrain of the deadly forces that continually threaten the vitality of our church and nation—abortion and communism.

Randy replayed from memory a line he had memorized from his reading of one of Nietzsche’s early essays:

He who has but two strings on his instrument . . . does not understand those who can play on more strings. It is of the essence of the higher, multi-stringed culture that it is always misinterpreted by the lower culture . . .

Randy’s recent sojourn had undoubtedly added more strings to his life’s instrument. No doubt this was the reason he was not attending church this auspicious morning or any morning for that matter. Virtually everything delivered from pulpits he had heard before. Indeed, he was beginning to write out such tired words in his own sermons before he quit.

Randy recalled with a smile a quote he had read from his readings in the religions of India, how the Upanishad movement was sprung partly because the general population had grown weary of listening to the traditional chants of the Vedic priests “who sounded like croaking frogs in the swamps.” America in 1976 was sounding restless. Perhaps a new world was beginning to dawn. The time is fulfilled. Randy wondered if his own odyssey was corresponding with the quest of this American nation in 1976, poised to enter a new Age of Enlightenment. Where was Hank? It had been months since that night they sat at the fire, camping in west Texas. It was time to get together and talk some more. No doubt Hank had just as much weighing on his mind as Randy.

Turvey’s Corner was only thirty-five miles away. Randy had hoped to reach home yesterday, but the nasty rains hindered his ability to hitchhike with any consistency. The sight of the Ozark Court Motel and thought of a hot shower convinced him to stay at least one night here. Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated this morning, he decided he would step into the sunshine on this Independence Day and head back to his hometown. Perhaps Hank was already there.

_________________________________________

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.

Sunday Sobriety in the Studio Eidolons

August 23, 2020
Looks like Preparation for a Sunday Sermon

Decades have rolled past since I worked on a Sunday sermon. Three years have passed since I composed a classroom lecture. Still, my lifestyle has not abandoned the morning practice of reading and composing thoughts to give some kind of positive direction for the day. These moments in the sanctuary of my Studio Eidolons often carry over to my journal, my blog, and more recently Instagram. Sundays often yield something special and this morning was no exception.

This morning’s journal

I often like to open my morning journal with some collage activity, to mark off the page the way the ancient illuminated manuscripts often opened a new chapter of the text. For this playtime, I keep a padfolio stuffed with collected clips of images and texts to cut, tear and gluestick onto my journal pages. This morning, after pasting in a picture of Karl Barth and Edouard Thurneysen studying together along with a torn page from a damaged fragment of a German volume I acquired years ago and refused to discard, I found in a pile of old stamps given to me an image of Edgar Lee Masters. Going to my library, I retrieved my copy of his Spoon River Anthology and resumed reading where I had bookmarked the portion last read months ago. I found this magnificent poem of Walter Simmons, testifying from his midwestern gravesite:

My parents thought that I would be

As great as Edison or greater:

For as a boy I made balloons

And wondrous kites and toys with clocks

And little engines with tracks to run on

And telephones of cans and thread.

I played the cornet and painted pictures,

Modeled in clay and took the part

Of the villain in the Octoroon.

But then at twenty-one I married

And had to live, and so, to live

I learned the trade of making watches

And kept the jewelry store on the square,

Thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking,–

Not of business, but of the engine

I studied with calculus to build.

And all Spoon River watched and waited

To see it work, but it never worked.

And a few kind souls believed my genius

Was somehow hampered by the store.

It wasn’t true. The truth was this:

I didn’t have the brains.

Closing the volume, I felt the compulsion to laugh. And cry. How many of us know this story personally? We set out early in life to do something great, to build some kind of monument to mark our contribution of greatness to society. And no matter how hard we strive for that excellence, we grow old and, looking back, feel that we fell far short of what we could have done. And we look for areas to place blame–people or circumstances that restricted us, circumvented our attempts at greatness. And then, one day, hopefully, we reach that point where we acknowledge that we didn’t fall short; we played the best we could with the hand we were dealt. Nothing or nobody stood in our way, the cosmos did not scheme a way to prevent us from doing great things. We merely did the best we could with the tools we had.

Reaching for my Bible, I found the passage that the Spoon River text brought to mind, from Romans 12:3 (King James Version):

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

The morning reading and meditation have been rich indeed. Now it’s time to return to the drafting table and resume the painting commissions promised. The temptation abides for me to spend the rest of this day swan diving into rich texts and writing out my thoughts, but I have something that needs to be done, and in closing I post these words from Robert Frost that always come to mind when I find myself in this situation:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

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.