Archive for the ‘Blues’ Category

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.
 
 
 
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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.

Day Tripp in St. Louis

March 16, 2017

falstaff

A brilliant sun punctuated the 27-degree morning as my family piled into a passenger van and motored into south St. Louis.  The interior of the van was flooded with conversation punctuated by AM talk radio. Surrounded by my father, sister, brother and niece, I nestled into a “Day Tripp” dedicated to exploring St.Louis landmarks we always knew existed but never really “saw”. I also wanted to re-visit some areas where I lived but was too young to remember with full detail. The AM talk radio was eventually replaced with Son House as we entered the neighbohoods of south St. Louis, and the bottleneck blues served as a perfect soundtrack for what we viewed.

stl home

Watson Road @ Hampton Avenue

The first stop was the apartment building where I lived from the age of 16 months to three years.  The two windows at the top right were kitchen windows, and the two left were bedroom ones, where Mom and I would sit on the bed and look down across the street at school children changing buses.

stl home 2

Eventually, we moved downstairs to the back of the same building. The porch and driveway have since been removed.  I was nearly three by this time, and I remember looking down at my father pulling out of the driveway in his white-over-powder blue 1955 Pontiac 2-door hardtop.  To the right of this picture was a car dealership–Hale Motors. He sold Willy’s Jeeps. Behind the dealership was their body shop, and mechanics worked in the garage with the windows open during the summer.  I would walk down to the shop with a story book tucked uinder my arm, sit on top of a dirt pile where they could see me, and wait for them to come out to eat their lunches. They would then read my book to me. In those days, three-year-olds could wander around their yards and neighbors in the city without danger.

fitzs

University City, adjacent to Washington University, is one of my favorite places to haunt. Fitz Rootbeer was a St. Louis tradition when I grew up, and this sign continues to stir memories.

berry statueChuck Berry monument

Lunch today was at Blueberry Hill where Chuck Berry used to perform one Wednesday night a month until 2014. The place boasts the best burger in St. Louis, and we decided to enjoy lunch there and peruse all the memorabilia, including Chuck Berry’s Gibson hollow body guitar.

Iberry hands

Berry used to own and operate The Southern Air restaurant in Wentzville, Missouri.  Back in the 1980’s, I visited the establishment for lunch and saw him in the dining area, smoking a cigarette. I was taken at the sight of his magnificent hands, and am glad to see they’ve since been casted and installed at Blueberry Hill.

fenton home

Fenton, Missouri

Once we returned home, we found Mom feeling better (she didn’t feel healthy enough for the day-long excursion). As we talked of our past and its memories, she expressed a willingness to jump back into my vehicle with me and visit the places I lived from ages three to five. They moved to Fenton, Missouri, west of St. Louis (and only seven miles from where they live now) when I was three, and settled on this street. Their apartment has long since been razed and replaced by the Fieser Nursing Home on the right side of this street.  All the buildings across the street are the same as they were back then. On the nursing home site where our apartment stood was also the Fieser Funeral Home. They had a basement where they allowed Mom to hang laundry during the cold winter months. She was spooked by the old clothes of the deceased that hung all about the walls, and I was spooked by a large red furnace that made an incredibly loud noise when it kicked on. I thought it was something living that was going to eat me.

hr home

High Ridge

Mom and Dad now reside in High Ridge, in the home where I lived since it was brand new in 1961. But before we moved into that home, we would live in four other locations from my ages of three to six. This apartment was our home for a short time, and Mom’s only memory of me was my running all around the back yard pulling a red wagon with a toad loaded in it. Somehow I instinctively knew when the toad would leap out and I would immediately stop, retrieve it, and reload it to continue the fun ride. She also shared that when I got as far away from the apartment as possible I would stand with feet far apart, refusing to move until she would come all the way out there and carry me back to the house for a clean up.  It had something to do with #2.  It took me awhile to outgrow that. I’ll stop the story there.

hs home

We moved to another location in High Ridge shortly afterward. I have chosen not to visit or photograph it this time.  All I will say now is that a mentally deranged woman owned the property and our time there was not good.  My brother was born during our time there, and I was four years old.  We then moved four miles west along Highway 30 to House Springs. The house where we lived is no longer there.  Above, I photographed the rough terrain alongside Byrnes Mill Road where the house stood. I have dozens and dozens of stories to tell of my time there, because I was old enough to retain those memories and sensations. But that will have to come at another time. I feel I have rambled long enough on this one.

Thanks for reading. I’m still absorbing the memories of today’s visit, and more than two typed pages of material Mom and Dad shared with me as I questioned them this evening about those sketchy memories of my life between the time of 16 months and three years.

Art as a Healing Balm

March 4, 2017

home

“Art still has truth, take refuge there!

Matthew Arnold, “Memorial Verses April 1850”

Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking before an adult Sunday School group at a local church. Most of this day was given to preparing my remarks, taking Matthew Arnold’s statement as my point of departure. A number of things have happened around me that have saddened a large number of people whom I love, and the tragedies have been mine as well. We lack satisfying answers when grief invades our lives, and sometimes it is all I can do to pick up the brush and go through that portal into the sanctuary of art, and give healing a chance. Thanks to time spent watercoloring, and resuming my reading of Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be, I have managed to find some quality in this day.

The day has been cold and rainy, and I felt it necessary to keep a fire burning in the fireplace. In the comfort of that warmth, and ignoring the grayness outside as much as possible, I returned to this watercolor and have nearly finished it. The setting is the farmhouse where my grandparents lived in southeast Missouri. The old building is barely standing today, and no longer has the front porch where I have positioned myself with a guitar I purchased from my late uncle’s estate. Of course, being twelve hours away from this location, I had to settle for a selfie taken in my backyard. Only in my memories can I place myself on the porch of that ramshackle house where I used to spend the summers of my childhood.

I’m pleased that this painting has turned out good enough to frame and put into my March 24th show. Barring any unforeseen difficulties, I’ll complete it tomorrow and deliver it to the frame shop on Monday.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to cope.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

A Quiet Afternoon for Reflection

February 22, 2017

hamlet

Latest 20 x 16″ Watercolor in Progress

This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

After hours of house cleaning and domestic chores, I was ecstatic to find a block of a few hours to paint late this afternoon before dashing off to an evening commitment. Because of an impending One-Man-Show, I have had this desire to return to a Blues theme for a new series of paintings. This one is barely off the ground, and already I’m second-guessing the composition. When such happens, I choose longer gaps for merely staring at the painting from across the room, rather than going full steam ahead.

As I drew and painted and stared for long periods from a distance at this piece, I listened with delight to some YouTube book talks given by William Powers, author of Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age.  This book has changed my life profoundly, convincing me that I don’t have to blog daily, and don’t need to live a life chained to my smart phone, anticipating the next alert.

This evening, I will present a brief talk at a monthly gathering that we call “the Salon.” This is a small group of people I adore who love to discuss ideas once a month. Most of the group is retired, having formerly worked in education, industry, politics and journalism. The topics are always approved in advance, and last month I volunteered to lead a discussion over William Powers’s book.  Hoping that none of the salon participants will look at my blog before this evening, I’ve decided to go ahead and post the substance of my presentation.

Thanks for reading . . .

Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age[1]

Shelley listened to an interview on NPR with author William Powers who had just published Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age.  She purchased two copies, giving one to me.  Henry David Thoreau, in the “Reading” chapter of his book Walden, writes: “How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.”[2]  Over the span of my life, only a few books have marked new eras, and this book is one of them.  At any age, it feels gratifying, to think of turning a corner or opening a new chapter.

Hamlet’s BlackBerry, offers these words: “The simple act of going out for a walk is completely different today from what it was fifteen years ago. Whether you’re walking down a big-city street or in the woods outside a country town, if you’re carrying a mobile device with you, the global crowd comes along”[3]  I found this passage very confrontational to me personally.  It brought my attention to how obsessed I had become to being “connected” digitally, because of a smart phone that was continually beeping, always alerting me to my blog, facebook, emails and text messages—my life was being chewed up chasing all these prompts, and it took this book to point that out to me.

I am not sounding a negative note for our improvement of technology, this digital age. Technology has transformed my teaching in the high school classroom as well as teaching online at the university.  Technology has connected me to the art and business world.  Computers are wonderful as are smart phones.  But there are two elements attending this digital age that run counter to my idea of a quality life—one is the fast pace, and the other is the emphasis on connecting all the time with others.  The fast pace disregards the importance of time to mature ideas; the social connection neglects the importance of solitary space and depth to find oneself.

I am quoting a chapter title from the Powers book: “Digital Busyness is the Enemy of Depth”.  The point he makes is that when we spend our lives surfing the Internet, flitting from site to site, platform to platform, screen to screen, we are not experiencing the depths of life, but merely skimming over the surface of the media.  In 1963, Paul Tillich addressed the fortieth anniversary of Time magazine, pointing out that America “was a free society, to be sure, but one without depth: its ceaseless expansion, whether into outer space or on the production line, had created an almost irresistible temptation on the part of everyone to produce in order to produce still more.  Tillich exhorted the producers of cultural goods to stop moving in this one-dimensional direction—to come to a halt in order to ‘enter creation and unite with its power,’ in short, to add the vertical line of depth to the horizontal line of extension.”[4]

In his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig pleaded for a more contemplative life, and wrote: “What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua—that’s the only name I can think of for it—like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America, this America, the one that we are now in, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer.  The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster-paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement.  Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep.  The old channels cannot contain it and in its search for new ones there seems to be growing havoc and destruction along its banks.  In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale and platitudes too often repeated.  “What’s new?” is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow.  I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question “What is best?” a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream.  . . .   Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, losing its central direction and purpose, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than the wasteful fulfillment of  its own internal momentum.  Some channel deepening seems called for.”[5]

A major argument proposed by this book is that digital connectedness sacrifices depth.  One does not contemplate the qualities and meaning of life when clicking on links and flitting from headline to headline, text to text, opinion to opinion. It seems that the only motivation for such a lifestyle is to feel connected to humanity.

Well, I don’t believe that being connected to others is the sole quality of life. In Anthony Storr’s book Solitude, the noted psychologist maintains that Sigmund Freud shifted clinical opinion toward the emphasis of social relations as a measure of human quality. Storr argues for the merits of solitude, that an intrinsic outlook does not mean that the individual is lacking in human quality. In today’s world, so much emphasis has been placed on connectedness that many feel they are inadequate or uninteresting if they do not continually post on facebook or Twitter, or find someone to call or text on their smart phones.  Many feel chained to chat rooms and blogs on the Internet, convinced that the more connected they are, the more well-rounded and healthy their lives are. William Powers urges: “However, the external validation provided by incoming messages and the number of times one’s name appears in search results is not as trustworthy or stable as the kind that comes from the inside.”[6] I would also point out a relatively new best-seller by author Susan Cain: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

Is the fear of disconnecting a fear of loneliness or is it really the fear of irrelevance?  When I became immersed in my blog activity, I first regarded my daily posting as a matter of discipline, convincing myself that if I held myself to a daily deadline, like a newspaper journalist, that I would improve my disciplinary lifestyle in other areas as well. As time went on, however, I confess that what drove me was not a sense of discipline and self-worth, but rather the fear that I would become irrelevant and eventually forgotten, if I did not keep the blog fires burning by daily shoveling fuel into it via a new post.

The heart of this book argues that our age is not unique with the conflict between social connection and solitude, between speedy technology and plodding contemplation.  The author writes compelling chapters covering Plato, Seneca, Gutenberg, Shakespeare, Ben Franklin, Henry David Thoreau and Marshall McLuhan. What these great figures share in common is living in an age of technological advance with its temptation for speed, and they used it where it was beneficial, but refused to abandon their contemplative natures.  They consistently maintained that technology and shortcuts would not rule their lives.

In addition to the chapters of Powers’s book, I would suggest some of the New Testament Gospel accounts concerning words and practices of Jesus of Nazareth.  His words from John’s Gospel:  “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  Think on those things for a moment: there are forces that try to steal from our lives—all we have is a measure of time, and whatever is taken is never recovered. Jesus said the thief takes, but he has come to offer abundance. Think about that rhythm—losing and gaining. And let me share a few examples from the life of Jesus that illustrate these rhythms.

After a full day of pouring out his life for the crowds in Capernaum, Jesus rose the next morning seeking restoration.  He departed for a solitary place, and there prayed. When his disciples finally caught up with him, they said, “Where have you been? Everyone is looking for you!”[7]  But of course.  That is why he left; he had already given, and now it was time to recover.

This rhythm of public ministry and private retreat is a thread running throughout the Gospel narratives. Jesus did not hesitate to urge that practice upon those whom he loved. There is a time for pouring out our lives, and there is a time to restore.  When his apostles finished their first preaching tour, they came back to him overflowing with success and enthusiasm.  They had given, and they were enthusiastic, but exhausted.  His words: “Come aside with me to a solitary place where you can rest awhile,” because there was so much coming and going that they could not even stop long enough to eat. [8]

When Jesus went to Bethany to visit in the home of the sisters Mary and Martha, Mary sat at his feet with the other men, transfixed by his spoken words.  Martha was prattling about the kitchen. “Jesus!” she urged, “Don’t you care that I have no help in here?  Tell my sister to come and help!”  His answer: “Martha.  Martha.  You are distracted over many things.   One thing matters.  Your sister has chosen that one thing, and it will not be taken away from her.”[9]

When the digital age distracts us to follow the myriads of links, meetings and tasks throughout each day, then we should remind ourselves of this: You are distracted, harassed by many things.  One thing matters.  Don’t let them take away from you that one thing.  It is O.K. to disconnect from this connected world from time to time and find yourself in the quiet gaps of solitude.

I believe that this rhythm of social and private has kept me alive and vital over twenty-eight years in a public classroom.  Yes, I have known burnout, but I also have known how to recover.  I have witnessed complex changes in technology and social networking and I have always heard that call for acceleration.  But that is not my life.  I still live for the reflection, the quiet, the delicious moments of solitude.  And I always seek for ways to make time for those things that matter the most.  All we have is a measure of time.  Ralph Waldo Emerson got it right when he wrote: “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”

 

               

[1] Presented at the North Arlington Salon, February 22, 2017.

[2] Henry David Thoreau, Walden (New York: Penguin, 1983), p. 153.

[3] William Powers, Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age (New York: Harper, 2010), p. 15

[4] Wilhelm Pauck, Paul Tillich: His Life and Thought  Volume 1: Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1976),  p. 274

[5] Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (New York: Morrow Quill, 1974), pp. 15-16.

[6] Powers, p. 46.

[7] Mark 1:35

[8] Mark 6:30-32.

[9] Luke 10:38-42.

Not the Rooftops of Paris, but Dark and Rainy Nevertheless, and Quite Good

February 20, 2017

 

grandma

Second Day on a 20 x 16″ Watercolor

But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the litle oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made.  I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.  All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence that you know.”  So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Waking early this morning to a dark and rain-soaked world, I was glad not to go to work but to do as I please for the entire day.  Late last night I had begun work on a new watercolor of a Blues theme that I used to pursue fervently, but had stopped doing in recent years.  Soon I’ll release details on a new One-Man-Show that has been offered me, and I would love to complete some Blues art to hang in this venue.  I chose as a backdrop for the painting my grandmother’s abandoned house.  Then I took some selfies in my backyard, holding my late uncle’s pre-World War II Gibson archtop guitar.  I have high expectations for this composition and have already enjoyed a full morning of layering washes and drybrush details into the piece.  I’m taking my time with it.

As I worked, I dialed up on Netflix “Papa Hemingway in Cuba.”  When I’m painting, I love listening to movies, documentaries, and YouTube lectures.  They keep my mind engaged. And as this film rolled, my mind went back to some intense reading I enjoyed a few winters ago: Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and Carlos Baker’s Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story.  And as I worked, I thought of all those times when I’ve struggled over whether to make art, read, or write when I had time to myself.  This weekend has produced another one of those environments for me that I love so much–what Paul Tillich referred to often as “creative eros”, an urge to create, period.  And when I find myself unable to resolve whether to paint, draw, read, write, or just sit in a comfortable chair with coffee to think and do nothing else–I realize that life could not possibly be better.

desk

Working on a New Lecture Series

Just before the weekend arrived, I discovered that among the post-retirement options offered to me this coming fall is a chance to teach Ethics at the university for the first time. Pulling from my shelf a volume from The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, I was surprised to find myself absorbed in a very lengthy History of Ethics article.  This came as a surprise because I seldom find myself interested for very long in an encyclopedia entry, particularly one that goes on for page after page after page, four columns staring back at me every time I turn the page.  But this article has really taken me in new directions.  For decades I have been interested in the history of philosophy, but usually focused on metaphysics and theories of knowledge, never ethics.  Now, as I read the ethical portions of these philosophers and schools, I am amazed at the new ideas I’m grafting onto the structures already learned.  The new directions are quite exciting.

Reading this article has also led me back to a famous book that I have never successfully stayed with over the decades: Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be.  Now, having read twenty-seven pages and scribbling out a pile of notes, I feel that I am finally into this book as well. The reading of just these two sources has already produced pages and pages of journal entries, paragraphs, diagrams and illustrations of new ideas waiting for further development.

creel-redone

“Thinking About the Next Catch”

Last night I received my email notification that the piece pictured above has been accepted to show in the 32nd Annual Texas & Neighbors Regional Art Exhibition to be held at the Irving Arts Center April 29-June 3. There were 585 pieces juried, and 75 selected.  Over the years, I have visited this show and always wished to participate, but continually missed the application deadline.  Thanks to an artist friend, I met the deadline this year, and now am very happy for this opportunity of hanging one of my pieces with works selected from Texas and several neighboring states.

The weekend has been full and rewarding.  Thank you for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Swimming in Blues Music and Other Streams

February 2, 2015
An old watercolor of myself playing guitar outside the Silver Dollar Tavern

An old watercolor of myself playing guitar outside the Silver Dollar Tavern

Robert Johnson became the personification of the existential blues singer, unencumbered by corporeality or history, a fiercely incandescent spirit who had escaped the bonds of tradition by the sheer thrust of genius. . . . Like Shakespeare, though, the man remains the mystery. . . . From what remote and isolated well of inspiration did the music and poetry of Robert Johnson emerge? . . . It was a world in which Robert Johnson was suddenly elevated to significance by an act of creative will, by a synthesis of all he knew, of all he ever was to be.

Peter Guralnick, Searching for Robert Johnson

Good evening, and I apologize for my disappearing act.  I’m afraid I’m not offering much substance tonight, but wanted to re-enter the blogosphere and say to anyone who cares that I’m fine, but drowning in deadlines.  The past couple of weeks have been too busy for my own good, but I like what has happened.  I have returned to my abandoned Martin acoustic guitar, performed in a talent show, reconnected with a Renaissance man who is the best guitar teacher I know, played in a roomful of extraordinary guitarists who make my head swim with wonder and new ideas, presented a history of the blues to a living room salon gathering of kindred spirits, attended a Catholic mass that featured a polyphonic Renaissance repertoire of Latin music, connected with a large classroom full of philosophy students who are overflowing with fresh ideas (reading their journals recently made me shudder in wonder), and found an extraordinary mind in Goethe as I read his Faust in German and English.  What have I left out?  Oh yes, my new Logic class online at Texas Wesleyan University is also giving me a new lease on life, as are my AVID and Art History students at Martin High School.  And oh yes–I just emceed a Super Quiz for the regional Academic Decathlon meet last weekend, always an interesting pageant.

I have spent a large amount of time relearning blues history and playing slide guitar on my acoustic, something I had gotten away from in previous years.  My studies of Delta blues musicians has been an engaging one, especially connecting the Robert Johnson legacy with that line from Tennyson’s “Ulysses” about being a part of all that I have met.  I’m always intrigued with the multiple strands that make up individual creative personalities.  The lines of influence are never linear the way public education wishes we would teach facts.  Human experience is so fascinating and twisted in the best possible sense.  As I read the lives of Robert Johnson, Goethe, and more recently T. S. Eliot, I am always reminded that these men did not pursue a straight path.  No one does.  The tributaries that flow into our psychic mainstream are twisted and meandering, and so are our interests.  The more I work to untangle those tributaries leading toward the delta and finally the ocean, the more fascinated I am with the complexities and possibilities existent in our personal lives.

On a side note–I also posted my sentiments on Facebook yesterday, that I blacked out the Super Bowl for the first time in my personal history–I abhor a systemic cheating team calling themselves Patriots and am insulted as a teacher when I listen to the idiocy of one Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks during media week, wondering how colleges grant degrees to indivduals who become millionaire “professional” athletes, and then parade their ignorance and arrogance, somewhow evoking adulation from citizens and reporters who don’t seem to know any better.  All this on top of a year of the NFL not knowing how to respond to domestic abuse and child abuse made me reach a decision that I am terminating my Sunday Ticket subscription to DirecTV, refusing to send one more nickel to the NFL.  I abhor their bankruptcy of values alongside their financial show of pageantry.  I take my educational profession seriously and don’t want to associate or support public abuse, arrogance or ignorance.  I feel sorry for the billionaires who find value in this, and even more for citizens who think they need it.

To sum up–I am alive, well, overworked, but really wanting to climb back into the blogosphere.  I really want to return to making art, but there are still deadlines crushing me with high school and college responsibilities.  My mind is fertile, I’m loving blues music, the study of art history, philosophy and literature, and hope that very soon I’ll have good art images to show as well as cogent ideas worth publishing.

Thanks for reading.  I really miss writing and publishing for kindred spirits out there.

David

Images that Evoke Memories

July 28, 2014
Scat Jazz Lounge, Fort Worth, Texas

Scat Jazz Lounge, Fort Worth, Texas

Every true artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and color and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture.

Piet Mondrian

A few years ago, I paused one night in a Fort Worth alley and photographed the lighted sign of this sub street-level jazz club.  Finally I am getting around to painting it, because the brightness of the lights and color against the smoky brick walls attracted my attention, and took my imagination back to my pre-literate childhood.  

My father worked at a Chevrolet dealership on Kingshighway in St. Louis when I was a small child. I cannot shake those memories of the lit-up signs downtown that I was not yet old enough to read. And I still recall those smoke-stained brick walls everywhere, colored by the downtown smog. The eyes of my memory still can see the signs, hear the traffic, and smell the stench of burn barrels on virtually every corner of that working-class district.  

The first time I saw Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie-Woogie, I knew I wanted to attempt to paint neon signs and light bulb signs in watercolor.  The clash of the primay colors was always scintillating to my visual perceptions.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Working on the Fort Worth Scat Jazz Lounge Sign

July 26, 2014
Saturday Work on the Jazz Watercolor

Saturday Work on the Jazz Watercolor

Wallace Stevens is America’s great poet of the endles cycles of desire and despair.

PBS, Voices and Visions, “Wallace Stevens: Man Made Out of Words”

I could never have planned a better Saturday.  The light is bright coming through my studio windows, and I’m finding it a pleasant challenge distnguishing cool yellow light bulbs from the warm yellow sign from which they protrude.  This is calling for quite a bit of experimenting and study in color theory, but I love the exploration.  When I’m learning something new, I am inspired as an artist.

On days like today, I find it difficult, deciding between painting and reading.  Wallace Stevens and his poetry have been burning on my mind since the awakening hour this morning.  Fortunately, PBS has posted their Voices and Visions series on the Internet, and I have been thrilled listening to the readings of Stevens’s poetry during this sixty-minute documentary.  I played it through completely, twice, as I bent over this watercolor and made decisions.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

The Coleridge Syndrome

July 25, 2014
Slow Excavation on this Large Watercolor

Slow Excavation on this Large Watercolor

I must forge ahead, and stop only to finish the Velasquez.  The human mind is strangely made!  I would have consented, I believe, to work at it perched on a belfry; now I can think of the finishing of it only as the greatest bore.  All this, simply because I have been away from it for so long.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal

I read somewhere that Samuel Taylor Coleridge was criticized on two fronts: 1) that he was a dreamy child given to long spells of contemplation, making him an easy target for accusations of indolence, and 2) as a writing adult, his room was perpetually littered with unfinished literary projects.  Today, as I let out a sigh, looking at a number of my unfinished watercolors, I was bemused to come across this quote from Delacroix as I was reading in his journals.  How hard it is to breathe life back into a work of art that has lost its initial spirit due to neglect.  I enjoyed lunch with a good friend and colleague earlier today, and we shared a laugh about our A.D.D. tendencies (he also has more interests than time to devote to all of them fairly).  Both of us admitted that we wish we were better “finishers” in all our endeavors, but we do enjoy our lives and all these avenues that seem to present themselves to us simultaneously.  Thank God for these three-day summer weekends.

There is a thick crust that must be broken before I can take heart in anything; a rebellious piece of ground that resists the ploughshare and the hoe.  But with a little tenacity, its unfriendliness suddenly vanishes.  It is prodigal with flowers and with fruit.

Delacroix, Journal

I know very well this “thick crust” of which Delacroix wrote.  After a few days, I finally feel that a sense of momentum is returning on this large Fort Worth Jazz piece I began a few months ago. Returning to it has required some strong talk and even stronger coffee, but I’m glad I stayed with it. The detailing on the sign is coming along very slowly, with plenty of stops and walks across the studio to view it from a distance and see if what I am doing is O.K.  Not having a deadline is a good thing for me right now, and I’m glad to take my time and watch this develop slowly and naturally.

I wish that I could write interesting things about the Logic course I’m developing, as it’s taking large chunks out of my day.  I am loving the study of it, but cannot find a way to rhapsodize about the subject in my writing.  So I’ll just let that one simmer in the background.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.