Archive for the ‘cafe’ Category

Escape Velocity II

February 5, 2016

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My work comprises one vast book like Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past except that my remembrances are written on the run instead of afterwards in a sick bed.

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

Today, I gave in to yesterday’s wanderlust. I booked my favorite room in the Spur Hotel in Archer City, Texas, Larry McMurtry’s hometown. I packed last night, and loaded early this morning, so as soon as school let out for the weekend, I pulled out of the parking lot, angling north for the two hour-plus drive to this quiet, spacious part of north Texas in Archer County.  Population of this town is 1,848 and that is just about right for me. In the cold winter evenings here, the clouds emit the most marvelous array of blues and lavendars, much like what I experienced in Colorado evenings, looking across the front range of the rockies. I tried to take a picture above, but I’m not a photographer, and there just wasn’t much light left for me to accomplish what I wished.

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Larry McMurtry’s famous bookstore, Booked Up Inc., has been my mecca for shopping for over a decade. Today I found a first edition of Ezra Pound’s Cantos and could not resist the sale that was running on books currently. I’m proud now to own it and read it.

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Dinner tonight in the cafe made me feel I had retreated in time to the days of Kerouac rambling the open roads across America. With this being Friday night, and a strong Catholic presence in Archer County, fish was on the menu, and the taste was just as delightful as the aroma that filled the diner.

And now, as I write this, I’m settled into my third-story corner room, overlooking the intersection of highways 25 and 79, with a flashing red light governing the four-way stop. The light flickers patterns across the interior brick walls of my room, and the swish of traffic below will probably lull me to sleep later tonight as I soak up some coveted reading.

I cannot describe the deep-seated satisfaction settling in over me, leaving the city and school behind, the noise, the deadlines, the endless prattle. Now there is no agenda. I have a stack of books on the table beside me, and a large carry-on bag stuffed with watercolor and drawing supplies. My journal is at hand, and I am ready now to settle into a quiet posture of reading, thinking, writing, drawing and painting. This quiet space has been so long overdue for me, and I am thankful to the depths of my being that the gift has finally arrived.

Thanks for reading.

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Drinking from the Artistic Fountains

December 29, 2015

finished door knob winter 2015

Completed Still Life Watercolor Sketch of Vintage Door Knob

What the verbal artist would like to do would be to find out the secret of the pictorial, to drink at the same fountain.

Henry James (quoted in Eric Karpeles, Paintings in Proust)

I find myself early this morning on the opposite shore of Henry James. From the banks of the pictorial, I gaze longingly across this vast sea at the distant verbal horizon.  As I drink from the literary fountains of Shakespeare, Yeats and Proust, I wonder how one could tap that artesian well of words and produce such wondrous prose and poetry.  I acknowledge that I’ve been blessed with a pictorial imagination since early childhood, and have had the good fortune of acquiring a toolbox of skills to reproduce some of this in works of visual art.  But still, I feel so enriched when I read texts from these immortal authors who still tug at my heart strings long after they have passed from this earth.  Returning this morning to Proust’s Swann’s Way and reading a delightful volume titled Paintings in Proust, I felt the urge to enter the studio and complete a watercolor sketch that I’ve had on my mind since before the Christmas holiday commenced.  I’ve finally signed off on it and will price this 8 x 10″ watercolor at $150, matted.

hemingway desk closeup

Hemingway desk

My Morning Sanctuary

I suppose it would have been amazing to live in Paris during the days of la belle epoque.  True, the society artists were disappearing, and only the museum-worthy ones are accessible to most of us today, but nevertheless the age was amazing, because the poets and novelists of that period were slowly yielding to the painters in the public’s eye.  As cafes began to fill with writers and artists in dialogue, the age became so rich in the arts, and today I still wonder over what it must have been like to sit at the table hearing those discussions.

Currently I am blessed to meet almost weekly with a pair of visual artists over coffee, and the exchange of ideas and dreams really fuels my own artistic output.  I often wonder if Arlington, Texas could ever become such a garden for fertile minds wishing to explore more deeply the literary and visual arts.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The Affirming Embrace of a Saturday Morning

July 26, 2014
Coffee: the Perfect Companion in the Art Studio

Coffee: the Perfect Companion in the Art Studio

For I have known them all already, known them all:–

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

July 26, 1992 marks one of the more perfect days of my earthly odyssey, especially when I measure out my life with coffee spoons.  That historic day was spent in Oregon, as I neared the finish of a blissful five-week seminar on the writings of Emerson, Thoreau and Margaret Fuller. To mark today’s anniversary, I’ve decided to begin with a cup of Hood River Coffee.  I ordered the beans from that company in Portland, Oregon, and was pleased to receive them on my doorstep yesterday.  This is only the second time in twenty-two years that I have ordered from them, but believe I’ll make a practice of it from here on out.  And today I will let the memories of Oregon, the mountains, the tall trees, the Pacific coast and the writings of those three bards flood my soul while I work on watercolor, read, scribble in the journal, and know from the heart the gratitude of feeling fully alive.

More later . . . thanks for reading.  It’s a beautiful Saturday in Texas.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not really alone.

 

In the Twilight Between Sartre and Heidegger

May 14, 2014
Beginning a Watercolor of the Fort Worth Scat Lounge

Beginning a Watercolor of the Fort Worth Scat Lounge

Thinking is hard work. It’s why so few people do it.
– Henry Ford

As reported in earlier posts, I have been engaged in a couple of larger watercolors that I could not post to the blog because there was not very much to see at that point–light pencil sketches and very little color.  Now I can finally publish this commencement of the Fort Worth Scat Lounge, a substreet-level jazz club in an alley on the south side of Fort Worth’s re-energized Sundance Square.  I have always loved the darkness of this alley and the lighted neon sign suspended above.  It’s fun to take the elevator down to the club proper when you enter from the alley at night.  For several years I have taken photos of this sign but never seemed to have the courage to begin.  So I finally thought, “Why not?  What have I got to lose?  I’ve made bad watercolors before and I can do it again.  I have the guts to make a bad watercolor.”   I have found working over this one to be deeply enjoyable so far, even though the image is emerging very, very slowly.  The overall composition is of substantial size, and will probably be cut to 16 x 20″.  I began last week with the careful pencil sketch, then made a decision to lay in a dark, warm background.  I applied a wet-on-wet coat of Aureolin (yellow) first.  One day later, I added a second wet-on-wet coat of the same.  On the third day (always making sure I was giving it 24 hours to dry on this 300-pound D’Arches cold-press paper surface) I applied a mixture of Alizarin Crimson, Winsor Green, Transparent Yellow, Winsor Red, Winsor Blue (Green Shade) and Cadmium Red.  Finally I’m getting that dark brick color I’ve been needing for three days.  I just needed the patience to let the layers of pigment do their work.  This evening I began work on the crimson part of the sign.  I will probably have to lay this aside now, because I have plenty of other (not as interesting) tasks to tend tonight.

I am also working on a Philosophy lecture for Friday morning, introducing Martin Heidegger.  In my high school classes, I haven’t discussed Heidegger (or Sartre) for at least three years.  Both thinkers I find too difficult to discuss, and I hate to simplify and distort them.  But I sucked it up and delivered the Sartre lecture this morning, and was pleasantly shocked at the level of interest and reception.  So, I decided to soldier on and see how it goes with Heidegger on Friday.

I would be lying if I reported that I’ve read and understood Being and Time.  My interest in Heidegger comes primarily from secondary sources about his life and work.  The only writings of his that I have enjoyed are his translations and meditations over the Greek Presocratic fragments.  I have loved the Greek language since my seminary days, and have spent as much time over the past couple of decades translating Homeric, Presocratic and Classical texts than New Testament passages.  What I love about Heidegger is the way he lingered over these ancient texts, expecting some kind of oracular encounter.  That is my own lifestyle as well, and I cannot put those emotions into words. But they are precious moments, and every time I read something significant from his hand that emerged from the words of Anaximander, Heraclitus or Parmenides, I feel as if he is in the same room with me, conversing over these fragments.  The word is indeed a living power.

Tonight I’m going to try and read Heidegger’s essays “The Thinker as Poet” and “The Origin of the Work of Art.”  I’m approaching them with a sense of expectancy.

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.

Art and Fear?

February 11, 2014
A Little Space in the Afternoon Studio

A Little Space in the Afternoon Studio

God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

Yes, I read this excellent book, Art and Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland.  I felt that a pair of artists were in the room with me, engaged in legitimate, heart-to-heart discussion.  And they addressed the inherent fears and required courage of art making rather than the blocked-artist syndrome.  I am not a blocked artist.  I am a public school teacher, teaching multiple subjects.  I will frequently face weekday afternoons and evenings where preparations leave little-to-no time for quality studio work.  But that is not blockage, not creative paralysis–it is just  an overloaded schedule.  This afternoon I managed to eke out some time for the studio, so here I am, with a little hesitation.  So what is this “fear” factor?  I will be the first to testify that making art is a courageous act.

Art requires more courage from me than other acts that might stir up fear in others.  For instance, I am not afraid to walk into a high school classroom, stand in front, and begin talking directly to the body of students.  I have never been afraid to stand in a public auditorium and address a congregation of adults.  I don’t know fear in those instances.  But what is this “fear factor” in art?  Am I afraid of rejection by the public?  Not really.  Do I fear ruining a $20 sheet of quality watercolor paper?  I don’t think so.  Am I afraid I am wasting my time?  Hardly.  I have invested years in this, and don’t begrudge additional hours, days, months or years.  In fact, I wish I had 500 years left to invest–I’ll never reach the level I want to reach in my own lifetime.

So, what is it?  Am I afraid of making a bad painting?  Perhaps that is it.  But I don’t understand that.  When I make a bad painting, I just don’t show it.  I seldom throw bad painting attempts away.  I suppose that if I keep them in a drawer that I’ll take them out another day, study them, and learn from the mistakes.  But I don’t generally do that either.  I just don’t look at them.  So what is it that frightens me?  What is the source of the anxiety?  I wish I knew.

Somehow, I am intimidated, approaching subjects where I have little-to-no experience.  And that is what is happening now with the rendering of human figures in watercolor, small human figures.  I don’t know why I have this phobia about screwing up.  So what if I screw up?  This is laughable.  I don’t live financially off my art sales.  My job keeps me fed and housed.  Maybe at the root of all these art endeavors is the fear of failure.  But how could that be?  How can one fail, if allowed to re-do, re-try, if allowed to learn, grow, accomplish?  Silly, isn’t it.  Perhaps I need to re-read Rollo May’s The Courage to Create.

At any rate, I am in the studio for a short while this afternoon, nibbling away at this small watercolor sketch.  And writing this blog is therapeutic it seems.  Right now, I am not afraid.  In fact, I’m enjoying the process, regardless of the outcome.  And when I finish this one, I will turn to the next.  One cannot help but improve with practice, and practice on the human figure is something I have yet to accomplish.

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for putting up with my navel gazing (smiling).  I had some things to work out.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

An Escape to the Small Town

December 1, 2013
Plein Air Watercolor Sketch of the Edom Business District

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch of the Edom Business District

He talked about himself and said he didn’t feel he was creative anymore and that it was probably because he was secure, and he asked me how I felt, and I said hat I wasn’t creative since I was shot, because after that I stopped seeing creepy people.

Andy Warhol, The Andy Warhol Diaries, August 29, 1979

I awoke at 9:39 this morning, glad for one morning of “sleeping in” since school dismissed for vacation last Tuesday.  I have risen about daylight every morning because there was much to do and because I wanted a quiet “morning watch” to give a measure of Quality to my daily life.  But I got in late, late last night from Edom, Texas.  I set up my display at 6:30 Saturday morning, and shut it down at 9:00 p.m.  The two hour-plus drive home left me in shambles.  Now, a good night’s rest, followed by a steaming mug of coffee has me sitting up in bed, catching up on correspondence that has piled up the past 48 hours, reading some quality books (sampling diaries and journals from Warhol, Delacroix and Thoreau–strange bedfellows to be reading while I’m still in bed).

I have always been amused at Warhol’s wry comment about his creative juices drying up after his tragedy because he cut off the “creepy people” from his daily social life.  And I’m always interested in the topic of creativity ebbing and flowing.  I still re-read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way because I’m interested in the issues of “blocked arrists” though I haven’t felt blocked in years.  I first came to peace with this issue when I read Emerson’s “Terminus” and Whitman’s “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life.”  It was then that I realized that creativity and stagnation are a natural cycle.  We cannot avoid them.  They are as natural as inhaling and exhaling, intake and exhaust.

I have endeavored for years to stoke fires and keep creative fires burning.  I sincerely believe that my biggest obstacle has been an employment issue–I have taught full-time and part-time simultaneously for a number of years now, and often sign a summer teaching contract, so I don’t fit that mold of “public school teacher” whom the general population thinks works only 8-9 months out of the year.  I am a year-round educator working under two contracts.  About three years ago, I decided to stop using this as an excuse for not putting out much art work.  If art truly is my life, then I must fight to live.  And when I made that commitment three years ago, my artistic output increased from ten-to-fifteen watercolors per year to over a hundred (though of course, some of them are small 8 x 10″ “sketches”).  I make art year round, because I feel that I must “make something” daily, and I do.

Yesterday turned out to be a fine day at The Shed Cafe in Edom, Texas.  I was invited to be their feature artist during the commmunity’s Art Jam.  When the afternoon sun broke out, I walked away from my indoor display and took up a position on the front porch where I could see down the main drag.  The fall colors were still rich enough for me to attempt this plein air watercolor sketch while enjoying the live acoustical performances at the other end of the porch.  As I was nearing the finish to the sketch, I looked up and to my surprise saw two of my favorite students–twins that take my Advanced Placement Art History course and are quite prolific in making their own art, along with their mother and father.  Their mother is also an accomplished artist and photographer whom I met and became friends with last year while she was student teaching in our school.  The family had spent Thanksgiving with relatives in Tyler, Texas, and stopped on their way back to Arlington to see the Art Jam.  I cannot adequately express the heartfelt thanks I feel when I see friends at an art event so far away from home.  Their company, conversations and patronage touched me profoundly.  Not long after they had departed, I was surprised also by a visit from a watercolorist who participated in a couple of my workshops at Star Harbor over the past two years.  She had seen in an advertisement that I was going to be at this event, so she took time out of her schedule to drive up to Edom and renew our friendship.

As the night came on, and I began breaking down my show, a patron came and began looking through my scattered crates, found this watercolor and purchased it.  I’m always glad when a fresh painting finds a home so soon.  As it turns out, she and her family came from Fort Worth, so they drove even further than I did to attend the event.  Her young son is an aspiring oil painter of amazing skill.  I was delighted at the opportunity of looking at images of his work that he had on his phone, and closing out a quality day with meaningful conversation over making art.  Every time I meet a kindred spirit such as this, I feel that my own life has extended.  To me, nothing in life is more sacred than creation, and I cannot have enough conversations with others about the creative act.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alond.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Completed the Cafe Watercolor

November 29, 2013
Completed Watercolor of The Shed Cafe--Edom, Texas

Completed Watercolor of The Shed Cafe–Edom, Texas

I’m pleased to have finished this watercolor in time to reproduce it in the form of greeting cards and matted prints.  I will spend Saturday at The Shed Cafe in Edom, Texas as the business’s featured artist for the town’s Art Jam.  The holidays have provided plenty of down time, great food, a little television and plenty of studio opportunity.

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.

Nothing “Black” About this Friday

November 29, 2013
Edom Shed Cafe Watercolor in Progress

Edom Shed Cafe Watercolor in Progress

As time is measured by the lapse of ideas, we may grow of our own force, as the mussel adds new circles to its shell.  My thoughts secrete the lime.  We may grow old with the vigor of youth.  Are we not always in youth so long as we face heaven?  We may always live in the morning of our days.  To him who seeks early, the sun never gets over the edge of the hill, but his rays fall slanting forever.  His wise sayings are like the chopping of wood and crowing of cocks in the dawn.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, February 7, 1841.

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is  a beginning, that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under eery deep a lower deep opens.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles” (published in 1841)

I couldn’t believe the clock read 5:50 when I awoke in this morning’s darkness.  The covers were warm, the air felt chilly, and I was filled with these warm sentiments of turning over and letting sleep take me back under.  But my mind began sorting out the details of the new day and all its possibilities.  This would not be a day for post-Thanksgiving shopping.  It would be a day of preparations for an all-day Saturday art event.  An unfinished watercolor was waiting on the drafting table.  A stack of prints and greeting cards were waiting to be matted and sleeved.  Crates of art work were lined up in the workroom, waiting to be loaded into the Jeep.  A suitcase was open and ready.  And I realized that I was not going back to sleep.

By 7:00 a.m., the shower had happened, laundry was started in the washer, a breakfast of sausage and eggs had been polished off, the kitchen tidied and dishwasher started, and I was at my writing table, reading from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau.   How serendipitous to find these words.  Immediately I recalled an essay of Emerson I had loved from so many years back, and I’ll be darned if those ideas weren’t published in the same year.  The shared communion of Emerson and Thoreau is well-documented.  Oftentimes, I forget which one I am quoting, their ideas and vocabulary co-mingle so seamlessly.

I’m glad I responded to the Oracle and rose before the morning light.  I’m ready to get back into the studio and see what I can do with this Shed Cafe painting.

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.

Thanksgiving–Thankful for Some Quiet Space and Time to Watercolor

November 28, 2013
Beginning Watercolor of The Shed Cafe.  Edom, Texas

Beginning Watercolor of The Shed Cafe. Edom, Texas

There is in me something that is often stronger than my body, which is often enlivened by it.  In some people the inner spark scarcely exists.  I find it dominant in me.  Without it, I should die, but it will consume me (doubtless I speak of imagination, which masters and leads me).

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, October 6, 1822

The holidays could not arrive too soon.  Since I walked out of the high school Tuesday afternoon, I have managed to teach a college course, tidy-up three rooms in my house, tend to several pressing business affairs, prepare a Thanksgiving feast and even linger over a new watercolor.  This is my third and final of a series focussing on the Edom, Texas business district.  In two days, I’ll be there for the entire day, painting and (hopefully) selling my art work.

The Shed Cafe is undoubtedly my favorite place to dine in all of east Texas.  Every fall, when I attend the Edom Festival of the Arts, my highlight is taking meals from The Shed.  The entrees and desserts alone are grand enough, but I swear that every vegetable side they offer tastes like it came out of my Grandmother’s garden, and her garden vegetables have always been my standard for gauging the quality of restaurant foods.  Right now, I am stuffed with Thanksigiving food, but I cannot wait to spend the entire day Saturday inside The Shed Cafe.

My quiet reading times during vacation have been focussed on the Journals of Eugene Delacroix, French Romantic painter from the nineteenth century.  The older I get, the more I appreciate the great artists of history who cared enough to journal, took their work seriously enough to commit their theories to writing.  Delacroix was undoubtedly a great mind blooming on this side of the European Enlightement, and as I pore over his pages, I am frequently stunned by his insight.  I plan to share some of those on the blog as the holiday unfolds.

Thanks always for reading.  How wonderful to have this time to pause and reflect, and be thankful for the gift of life.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Hoping to “Cleanse the Eye” this Afternoon

May 28, 2013
Chisholm Grill, Waxahachie, Texas, 2009

Chisholm Grill, Waxahachie, Texas, 2009

We read books.  They make us think.  It matters very little whether we agree with the books or not. . . . If you are to make great art it will be because you have become a deep thinker.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I love the sentiment behind the Henri quote.  I was always concerned about the arrogance one could sense behind such a remark.  I did not become interested in the academic side of life until my bachelor’s degree was half-earned.  I never considered myself a serious thinker until I was a year into graduate school.  All I do know is that intellectual activity remains my passion, twenty-six years after graduation, and since I have returned to making art, I have never ceased searching for ways to get my art and my ideas to feed one another.

I have posted my first plein air watercolor from the Paint Historic Waxahachie event, from 2009.  I was seated beneath the shade trees of the Ellis County courthouse, late in the afternoon, terrified by the subject before me.  I really thought I was going to make a mess of it, and remember staring at the white watercolor block in my lap, too scared to lay down the first strokes of the pencil.  Sadly, this cafe burned down a couple of years ago, and demolition removed not only what was left of this structure, but half the block on the south side of the town square.  I had painted the cafe, and later the law office next door.  I had hoped to paint the barber shop and its pole, but sadly it is gone with the rest of the businesses.

I hope when I return to Waxahachie late this afternoon, that I’ll experience what Eugene Delacroix and Henri Matisse described as “cleansing the eye.”  Going to new places to paint offers a fresh perspective, and keeps us from cranking out the same tired compositions.  I feel ready to tackle historic architecture again, and hope I can find some decent sunlight (hasn’t happened yet this time in Waxahachie) to play off the walls of the house.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.