Archive for the ‘Blues’ Category

Eudaimonia in the Studio

September 25, 2022
Tedious work on details at the moment, but I’m loving it

Beneath our loquacious chatter, there is a silent language of our whole being which yearns for art and the beauty from which art comes.

Rollo May, My Quest for Beauty

The quiet Sunday offers a respite from the sustained pace we have had to keep up the last few days. Yesterday we had to leave Palestine by 2:00 in order to make the reception for the Fall Show sponsored by the Lake Granbury Art Association.

Palimpsest

I was thrilled to receive an Award of Excellence and a handsome check for my Palimpsest entry. I don’t compete nearly as often as I used to, and frankly, seldom win when I do compete. In fact, I have not even been juried into competitions recently when I have entered. So, last night was sweet and I’m very thankful for all the good will poured out by the crowd in attendance.

When the reception ended, I walked to the town square and entered the Baron’s Creek Wine Room to see the new show that has been installed, sponsored by The Eyes of Texas Fine Art Gallery.

He is No Longer Here

I was pleased with the overall quality of the show, and appreciate where my full-sized watercolor is hanging. I’m looking forward to the opening of this show as well.

Today is it is back to work in the studio. The large panoramic watercolor I’m working on with the view of Spring Street in downtown Palestine is proving to be long hours of work, but I’m enjoying every brushstroke, and glad to have the time to pursue it.

Thanks for reading.

The Cabin

September 17, 2022
1902 home preserved in Flippin, Arkansas

It’s good to be back in The Gallery at Redlands again. Much of my imagination, however, lingers in Arkansas and Missouri, so it is likely that I’ll continue posting recent pictures from there.

While teaching the watercolor workshop in Mountain Home, we drove to nearby Flippin to take another look at this 1902 home. A railroad magnate built two of these homes when he lived here. One has disappeared, and this one was moved next door to Ozarks Realty Co. in order to keep a watchful eye on the property.

I have done a watercolor of this building four times and sold them all. My plan is to try again in the near future. Below is the second painting I did of the subject. I noticed from the recent photograph that they have replaced the four pillars in front, I suppose for better stability.

One of my watercolors of the subject

This cabin makes me think of the one Muddy Waters lived in when he worked at Stovall Farms and was discovered and recorded by Alan Lomax. Perhaps if I paint it again, I’ll put a blues musician on the front porch.

Thanks for reading.

Solitude Eludes Words

August 31, 2022
Morning Sketch in Studio Eidolons

This writing that you do, that so thrills you, that so rocks and exhilarates you, as if you were dancing next to the band, is barely audible to anyone else.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

I felt Annie’s presence this morning, as I sat at the window sketching, the cool gray morning light filling the studio. I also felt an intimate connection to all creatives who know the sweet solitude that comes with writing a song, a literary composition, or creating a piece of visual art. Creative eros is a sweet presence that prevents solitude from descending into loneliness. No doubt we creatives thrive on attention, but we also draw deep sustenance from the act of creating while alone.

For years I’ve floundered, seeking words to reveal the feelings one knows when s/he taps a perfect putt across a green, or lays out a perfect cast with the fly rod, or scrapes the sharpened pencil across the surface of the paper, or plucks the acoustic guitar string in such a way that the note lingers in the air and resonates in the room. And then, I come across a quote by Anais Nin that tells it like it is:

I have never been able to talk as I think, to anyone. With most people you can only talk about ideas, not the channel through which these ideas pass, the atmosphere in which they bathe, the subtle essence which escapes as one clothes them. Most of the time, I don’t feel like talking about ideas anyway. I am more interested in sensations.

Anais Nin (French author/diarist)

The morning is off to a sweet beginning. 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.

Help from Joan Didion

August 30, 2022
Sketching in the Studio

See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do, which is write—in that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there  . . .

Joan Didion

Joan Didion pulled me out of the abyss this morning. I cannot put my finger on it; I slept late, woke up feeling drained, and found myself tidying the studio and doing all kinds of busy work instead of sitting down and making myself draw in the sketchbook. Once I did the morning drawing (a new discipline I’m trying to instill in myself), I settled in to read, but nothing clicked. One of those mornings when I wished for an oracle and heaven was silent. Then I remembered: I have this deep, deep file of quotes I’ve lifted over the past twenty years or so. The first file was Joan Didion, and the above statement lifted me to higher ground.

We all have our habits. Decades ago, when I was in the ministry, I began every morning searching my Bible for some Word, some organizing, cohesive force to direct my life. When I left the ministry and entered the teaching field, the habit remained, only this time I searched not only the Bible, but books in my study, magazines, newspapers, file folders of gems I’d copied from my past–anything that might start a fire of creative desire in my imagination.

Now retired, the habit remains. For some reason this morning, I pursued chores, tasks, busy work, and postponed the morning coffee for nearly two hours. But now here I am, coffee’d up, breakfasted, read up, scribbled up in the journal, and ready to go to the drafting table to the big watercolor and figure out what to do next with it.

Quick Sketch of a Blues Man

Thanks, Joan. And thanks to the rest of you 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 Sketches & Thoughts

August 29, 2022
Morning Sketch of Son House over Coffee

He was by far the most intense. If blues was an ocean distilled to a lake, to a pond, to a pool, to a tub, to a glass and ultimately to a drop, the essence, the very concentrate, this is Son House.

Dick Waterman

I started this day off better. Having resolved to shift priority #3 to #1, I began my morning over coffee by sketching in my sketchbook. Opening Billy Wyman’s Blues Odyssey: A Journey to Music’s Heart and Soul, I found this photograph of Son House and an accompanying article about Dick Waterman, who re-discovered Son House in his later years, living in a New York apartment, and in failing health. Waterman put Son House back into the blue’s limelight and he was able to enjoy success till his death. Waterman’s glowing tribute of Son House and how he represented the essence of blues music is a sublime piece of writing.

I’m happy now to return to sketching, and intend to be more disciplined and consistent with it. Now, it’s time for me to pick up my other two priorities and see if I can continue this excellent day.

Thanks for reading.

Into the Mist . . .

August 14, 2022
Black Medicine. Watercolor. 11 x14″ framed. $250

Hank looked up from his cowboy coffee, enjoying the mingled sounds of west Texas prairie winds and the strains from Randy’s battered guitar. His folk tunes were a soothing balm after the long hot day of hitchhiking. But he had switched to acoustic blues a few minutes ago, and the whining melancholy of bending suddenly dampened the atmosphere of the night. Quietly, Randy set down his guitar and picked up his coffee mug. Tears glinted in his eyes.

“You look like you’re about to cry. What’s going on? Is it the blues tunes?”

Randy didn’t answer immediately. Instead he turned away and stared off into the darkness. Coyotes yipped in the distance, increasing the melancholy of the setting. Finally, Randy spoke.

“You ever heard of Robert Johnson?”

“Can’t say I have. A writer?”

“No. A bluesman, one of the most famous blues guitarists in history. In 1931 he was a hanger-on, following Son House and Willie Brown wherever they played. One night at Funk’s Corner Store in Robinsonville, Mississippi, the duet went outside to take a break from playing for a gathering. They needed to escape the heat, smoke some cigarettes, drink some whiskey and chill outside. Inside, Robert picked up one of their guitars and began banging away. The people came outside and complained to the duo that if they didn’t make him stop, the crowd would leave.

“Son House went inside and chided Robert, telling him his guitar noodling was going to run off the crowd. In response, Robert disappeared into the mist. To this day, no one knows really where he went. What happened in his absence is still the stuff of legends. All we know for sure is that he reappeared one night six months later when the pair was playing in Banks, Mississippi. When the players looked up and saw him coming through the crowd with a guitar over his shoulder, they snickered. ‘Boy, now where you going with that thing? T’annoy somebody else again?’

“Robert asked them if it was their “rest time.” They decided it was. He then asked permission to play while they were outside.” At this, Randy tossed the rest of his coffee, and then reached into his back pocked, pulled out his wallet, and took out a folded piece of paper. “Son House reportedly had this to say:

“I say, ‘Well, OK.’ I winked at Willie. So me and Willie got up, and I gave him my seat. He set down. And that boy got started off playing. He had an extra string he’d put on, a six-string guitar made into a seven-string, he’d put it on hisself. Something I had never saw before, none of us. And when that boy started playing, and when he got through, all our mouths were standing open. All! He was gone!”

Hank was puzzled. “Well, that’s quite a story. But why is it getting to you like this tonight, and why in hell are you carrying that quote in your wallet?”

Randy needed a moment to regain his composure. The ache in his chest was too much. “Give me a minute, OK?” Hank resumed sipping his Black Medicine for awhile in silence. At last, Randy was ready.

“You know I taught high school a few years, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.” Hank nodded as he tossed the remainder of his tepid cup into the fire. “Well, there was this kid that nobody liked. A nerd. His ears stuck out. He wore thick glasses. Bad haircut. Big teeth. He was always alone. Always in trouble with teachers. Mostly failing grades, and an all-around nuisance. If he had a single friend in that school, I never saw him or her. Always late for class. Always sat by himself. And I’m ashamed that I myself didn’t care much for him.

“The day before Thanksgiving–you know how it is–nobody was teaching that day. Classes were bringing in food, partying, etc. In my class, one of the cool dudes brought in a guitar. The girls all swooned. He got it out and started whanging on it. Some pseudo-heavy rock shit. He couldn’t play a lick, but didn’t know it. When he got tired of it, another cool dude said, ‘Here, let me play something.’ And this went on for half an hour. None of the cool dudes could play worth a damn, but they all thought they were guitar gods, and of course all the chicks swooned at every lousy lick.

“When they got bored with it and laid the guitar down, the “loser” asked politely. ‘OK if I play something?’ The abrupt silence in the room was heart-crushing, and I felt my blood freeze, anticipating the worst response from the cool, popular guitar owner. But he said ‘Sure, why not?’ By the time the nerd picked up the guitar, they were already back in their clique, all talking loudly, all laughing over something said. Nobody was looking at the nerd with the guitar in his arms.

“And then, goddammit, it happened.”

Randy broke down, sobbing uncontrollably. Hank just sat in silence, waiting. Finally, he continued.

“That kid started playing blues licks like I’d never heard from a teenager. String bending. Slides. Hammer-ons. Pull-offs. Every blues tool in the toolbox extracting the most amazing sounds from that cheap guitar. And by God, everybody in that class muted, and stared, thunder-struck at what that young boy played. Every time he stopped, they yelled, “No! Go on! Play something else!” The boy was embarrassed at all the attention. He would say, “I’m just noodling. This is just blues shit.”

“‘We love it! Keep playing!’ is all they could say. And so he played on, till the bell rang. And all that time, nobody said anything to anybody else. They just stared in disbelief. He handed the guitar back, and many of them clapped him on the shoulder on their way out of class. ‘Cool beans! You’re awesome!’

“When I was alone with him, I said something like, ‘Where did you learn to play like that?’ He said, ‘Oh, my uncles all pick guitar. The showed me all this.’ I continued, ‘But the blues! I’ve never heard anyone as young as you play fingerstyle blues like that!’ He seemed embarrassed at the praise, the attention.

“He then asked me, ‘Do you play guitar?’ I could only say, ‘I’m a pretender, not much better than the other fellas in the room today.’ Leaving the room, he said, ‘I could show you this stuff. It’s no big deal.’ I could only say, ‘It is a big deal. I would give anything to play like I heard you today.’ And for the first time, he smiled, genuinely. ‘I have two guitars,’ he offered. ‘I’ll bring them both after school when we get back from the holiday. We’ll play together and I’ll show you everything I know.’ I was ecstatic. ‘You have a deal! See you Monday.’

“And then he left. Throughout all the Thanksgiving break the only thing I could think about was learning to play the blues from this ne’er-do-well kid. And then I began to think about him, as a person. You know, that may have been the only day in all his schooling that somebody said something nice to him. His peers praised him. I praised him. And now he was going to teach the teacher.

“Monday came around, and he was absent. Tuesday he was absent. I went upstairs to his guidance counselor and asked if his absences were excused. ‘Oh, he withdrew,’ was all she said. I was shocked. ‘What! Did he move away? Transfer to another school?’

‘No,’ she said. ‘He dropped out.’

“‘Do you have an address? A phone number?'”

“‘His records have already been transferred to the central administration building. You’re not a relative or legal guardian. They’re not going to give you that information.’

“He just disappeared into the mist.” Randy choked back more tears. “We teachers think we can make a difference in students’ lives. What horseshit. That kid needed an entire village. He needed a tribe. Not just one teacher. Not just one classroom full of peers. Not just one class period’s moment of praise. I was stupid and simple, thinking that one time would be enough to make him want to come back Monday. And now he’s gone. And I don’t even remember his name.”

“Into the mist,” was all Hank could say. after a moment’s silence.

“Every time I walk into a bar, a coffee house, or an open mike event,” Randy continued, “I look hopefully at the guitar guy on stage to see if it might be him. I just want to know he turned out alright. He had needs. And none of us were there for him.”

Nothing remained that could be said. Quietly they sat before the fire, listening to the mournful sounds of the winds blowing over the Llano Estacado.

_________________________________________________

Sorry. This is a fiction setting, the west Texas campfire, Hank, Randy, etc. . But the story of Robert Johnson, and my unnamed student from long ago, is 100% true. And I wept through this entire writing. I can’t help it. I’m still haunted by that memory. I ache to think of the humiliation young Robert endured before he emerged as a guitar god. And I cry every time I wonder what happened to that young unpopular fellow whose name I can no longer recall. But that classroom scene I still see and hear as clearly as if it is happening right now.

The new school year starts tomorrow, and I won’t be there. I don’t want to return; I just look back at moments like the one described above, that I’ll never be able to forget. And I don’t want to forget. Multitudes of anonymous, unpopular, lonely students pass through those hallways and sit in those classrooms. And I wonder, how much does it take from peers and teachers to convince them that they are not unwelcome? How difficult is it for the tribe to reach out and embrace the unpopular ones and convince them that they have good qualities worth cultivating? I recall with deep sadness my deep inferiority complex that dogged me throughout my public schooling. And I cannot think of anyone to blame; I just carried that baggage with me, all the way into college. To this day, I don’t know exactly why I changed as I did in college. But I’m grateful I finally found out that I could do at least one thing well, and make a contribution to our world.

My best goes out to all you teachers signed up to play another round. And I hope you will be able to convince the unlovely that they are accepted.

Thanks for reading.

Chilling in Missouri

May 26, 2022
Better Times

When are you gonna come down?
When are you going to land?

Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

With all the Midwest rainfall and falling temperatures I cannot complain about a 60-degree morning, reading outside, and eventually needing to don a long-sleeve denim shirt because the winds are too cold. After a couple of days, I’m glad I can finally feel rested from my long drive and do some creative eros. Responding to Elton John, I believe I am ready to come down, ready to land.

Sketching Bison
Working on some Blues Themes

While on vacation, I am hoping to continue exploring Western themes including bison and longhorns. I am also wanting to sketch and watercolor selected Blues themes.

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.

Church Among the Artists

December 8, 2019

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The artist is the origin of the work. The work is the origin of the artist. Neither is without the other. Nevertheless, neither is the sole support of the other. In themselves and in their interrelations artist and work are each of them by virtue of a third thing which is prior to both, namely that which also gives artist and work of art their names–art.

Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”

Sunday mornings at the Randy Brodnax & Friends Christmas Show always generates a warm vibe when we gather for “Church in the Bar.” The gathering is not irreverent as some would think the title suggests. I can think of nothing lovelier than gathering with kindred creative spirits for a moment of giving thanks and listening to meaningful music and testimony. Last year, Don Gallia got my attention as he played harp alongside a pair of guitar pickers. The diffused light filtering through the frosted bar windows cast a warm light over his form as he leaned into his harmonica and blew out the most soulful tunes. I sketched and photographed him repeatedly last year as well as this year, and am certain that I’ll attempt some watercolor sketches of him when things settle down a bit.

The Heidegger passage cited above first soaked into my consciousness in 2015 during the week I spent on the Laguna Madre island as Artist-in-Residence for Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. During the week on the island, the Heidegger essay became an important part of my artistic core, and this morning the words revisited me as I watched Don play and attempted to sketch his form. During this festival I’ve had some time to draw in my sketchbook and record some key ideas as I plan my next move. I love the thought of art creating me and me creating works of art. The relationship of the three is amazing–art is the primal force that creates me and the work. I keep turning the three over and over in my thinking. As an artist, I create the work, and the work creates the artist in me. Prior to both of us is this primal force we call Art.

We are about to begin our final day of the art festival and will be open till 5:00.

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.Shultz on website

Living out of a Suitcase

July 23, 2017
suitcase 6
Fishing Louisiana Waters
You don’t choose a life Dad. You live one.
Daniel (from the film The Way)
A friend shared this film with me while I was traveling, and the central message continues to percolate in my mind.  When confronted with the choice, I believe I have lived my life more than chosen it, especially with all my changes over the past couple of decades.  The film is anchored in the plot of one’s personal odyssey, and I’ve viewed my own life since the 1970’s as an odyssey rather than a career choice. And I have lived a life with few regrets.
Since my retirement began June 3, I’ve embarked on an odyssey.  Although not planned, I have now lived out of a suitcase for thirty-one days, beginning with my trip home to St. Louis to visit my parents and siblings. Returning to Texas to find my A/C not functioning and my living temperatures hovering around 92 degrees, I began staying in hotel rooms and with friends. After a week of that, finding out that an A/C technician was not coming anytime soon, I then set out for a trip to my Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas and living quarters in the old store where the owners (precious friends) let me live when I need a place to crash.
suitcase
The Gallery at Redlands
crockett
A Store in the Wilderness
I love The Gallery at Redlands, now housing the biggest collection of my personal work. And evenings living in the old store out in the wilderness are too exquisite to describe. The quiet is intoxicating for one who tires of city and suburban noise. I’m always deeply grateful for time spent in this part of the state.
With still no word on an A/C appointment, I accepted the offer of a friend, and next journeyed over into Louisiana for the first time in my life to spend a week fishing the waters of southern Louisiana and spending some time exploring New Orleans. The fishing was filled with excitement, especially when a seven-foot gator visited me during two of my excursions.
suitcase 5
I was live-bait fishing from a dock, and twice over the two days, this enormous reptile drifted across the waters and hovered about twenty feet in front of where I fished, eyeing my bobber in presumed amusement. At one point, when the bobber began bouncing, he grabbed it in his jaws and submerged. I felt like I had a Buick on the end of my line, and reached for a knife to cut it loose, but then the bobber drifted back to the surface as well as the gator, who then hovered a while longer and watched before drifting away. This is the first time in my life I’ve seen a gator outside a zoo.
suitcase 3suitcase 4
I could never successfully describe the sensations that overwhelmed me once I entered the French Quarter of New Orleans. The sounds of live blues and zydeco music pulled me from steamy, sultry Bourbon Street and into the air conditioned dark interiors of some of the most exciting clubs I’ve ever experienced. My sketchbook was with me, and I still struggle to capture the human figure on paper, especially when the subjects are not posing. Bobbing and weaving musicians are a challenge, but I felt very much in my element as I struggled to capture their essences. And the music cleansed my soul in ways I’ll never adequately describe. Musicians are usually flattered to see someone drawing them and always gracious in their assessment of the quality of the sketches. In fact, the day after, my cell phone rang (I always give out my business cards), and it was one of the guitarists wishing to purchase my sketch. We made a business deal over the phone while I sat in the cemetery sketching and he was on the road to his next gig out of town.
suitcase 2
Cemetery off Canal Street
I have seen pictures of New Orleans cemeteries, but wasn’t prepared for the deep feelings that seized me when I looked at acres and acres of land strewn with thousands of above-ground monuments to the deceased.  John Donne’s Meditation 17 was in my ears:
The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. 
cemetery
I made a number of sketches in the hot sun that morning, and felt a profound connection with the ones honored with these monuments as well as the loved ones who had them erected.
At the time of this writing I am back on the road.  My A/C will not be looked at until next Tuesday, but thankfully the gallery in Palestine and store out in the country are available for me to “roost” while I await repairs.  Meanwhile, I intend to continue enjoying the journey.
Thanks for reading.
I create art in order to remember.
I journal when I fee alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.
 
 
 

The Weary Blues

March 21, 2017

Highway 61 Blues

Highway 61 Blues–$500 matted

There is no adequate description for the weariness dragging down my body today.  The travel over the past week, accompanied by the adrenalin rush of getting things together for this weekend’s show opening are beginning to take a toll. But still, life is good and I’m excited.

Since I have a brand new blues-related watercolor going into the show, I have decided to pull out this one from my past.  It is matted and shrinkwrapped and will be in the bin rather than hanging in the gallery.  I have priced it at $500.  The setting is the old Silver Dollar Tavern in Old Appleton, Missouri. I watercolored it years ago and have an image to show below.  That painting has long since been sold.

silver dollar tavern

The site is a sad wreck these days:

silver dollar photo

My father danced upstairs in this tavern when he was young, before entering the Korean Conflict.  With the painting going into the show, I chose to pose myself with guitar on the steps of the old site which sits on historic Highway 61, the Blues Route.

blues

Here is my newest painting to enter into the show.  I’m still waiting to pick it up from the frame shop. Only a few more days before show time and still plenty of details to clean up. But everything is progressing nicely and I couldn’t be happier.

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.