Archive for the ‘canyon’ Category

Layers

July 27, 2019

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“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” –that is all

            Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”

I am still trembling at the memories of Friday morning. Having finally returned home after a lengthy vacation of travel out West, I rose at my normal hour and went directly to my writing desk to resume a comfortable practice over the years–drinking coffee, writing in my journal and reading for pure pleasure. Only this time, something felt “off”–I just could not pull up any thoughts that were inspiring and could not stir up interest to pursue anything meaningful. This is rare for me. I was in a rut. Not even knowing what book to retrieve, I finally settled on Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again. Opening to my bookmark halfway through the volume, I hadn’t read far before she brought up her practice of the Morning Pages. I realized, “Oh yeah. I haven’t practiced those for months.”

The Morning Pages are a perfect way to unblock any artist. One simply writes three pages of junk, long hand, as quickly as possible, and then throws them away. It is OK to grouse, grumble and spew; all poison needs to be extracted and then thrown in the trash. By the time the three pages are spent, good positive thoughts are flowing once more. Emerson once used the analogy of the old water pump when addressing this dilemma. He wrote that the pump had to bring up the dirty water before the clear emerged. And so it is often with thinking and writing, for me anyway–the debris has to be cleared away before enlightenment can dawn.

By the time I was on page 2 of my Morning Pages, I looked up at my beautiful coffee mug recently acquired while vacationing in Albuquerque. Immediately I was taken back, way back into my life, peeling back layers of memories. The Southwestern color scheme of teal and bronze recalled for me the day I unlocked the secrets of glaze chemistry while teaching clay at Lamar High School in the early nineties. And then, in the next moment, I was back to 1974, taking a course in clay at Northeast Missouri State University. Professor MacEndorfer was instructing us on the potters wheel. I recalled with a grin that behind his back we referred to him as Menopausal MacEndorfer, because we never knew when his temper was going to explode. It seemed we were always walking on eggshells when he was in the studio.

And then as I continued to gaze at the glossy fired stoneware surface of the coffee mug, my mind went to John Keats and his “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” I pulled his volume from the shelf, read the poem slowly, tasting every precious word, and felt my eyes moisten in gratitude for his gift left to us. The Morning Pages had their way with me, taking me back through layers of memory, filling my heart with warm gratitude for what life has given over the years.

Today is Saturday and I am back at The Gallery at Redlands. It has been weeks since I visited this place, and it fills me with good sentiments to sit at this desk again and resume my art. I have begun a 16 x 20″ watercolor of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and am excited over the possibilities. We’ll see what emerges.

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.

 

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Finding my Way to the Core

July 21, 2019

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The North Rim of the Grand Canyon

What is that abridgment and selection we observe in all spiritual activity, but itself the creative impulse?  . . . all the weary miles and tons of space and bulk left out, and the spirit or moral of it contracted into a musical word, or the most cunning stroke of the pencil?

. . .

The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety.

. . .

The power to detach, and to magnify by detaching, is the essence of rhetoric in the hands of the orator and the poet. . . . The power depends on the depth of the artist’s insight of that object he contemplates.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

A quiet, tranquil Sunday afternoon now yields quality space for reflection over a recent vacation across New Mexico and Arizona. Our journey included adventures into the natural wonders of the Sandia Mountains, The Grand Canyon North Rim, the Red Rocks of Sedona, the Petrified Forest and Painted Canyon, along with Route 66 visits to memorable landmarks in Winslow and Holbrook, Arizona as well as Albuquerque, New Mexico.

As Hemingway testified that he could not write about Michigan until he was in Paris, and could not write about Paris until he returned to the United States, so I acknowledge that I still haven’t figured out how to record in writing or paint my responses to this first visit to the Grand Canyon. While standing and looking out across the North Rim, I felt a visitation that cannot be described, and at the same time realized that I would not be able to complete a comprehensive watercolor of my initial sweeping views. I spent the entire first day walking and looking, sitting and looking, standing and looking, all the while scribbling and sketching in my journal in a state of perpetual wonder . . . and decided to wait until the following morning to rise and walk to the rim and sketch in watercolor my first small study of what lay sprawling below.

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Early Morning Sketch of the North Rim

Rising early, I walked one hundred feet from my cabin to the North Rim, found a comfortable seating position, and made my first watercolor sketch as the sun rose and bathed the canyon below. After about forty-five minutes, I returned to the cabin to spend some time writing and drawing in my journal. During this quiet time, new ideas finally began to emerge and I had a clearer perspective on what I wanted to do.

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Quiet Morning at the Grand Canyon Cabin Writing Desk

Later in the day, while a storm gathered over the South Rim twenty miles away, I hiked down the Bright Angel Trail and found another comfortable spot to sit beneath a tree and out of the sun. As the storm moved slowly toward me, I worked on a second quick watercolor sketch of the vista, stopping just as the rain began on the North Rim.

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Approaching Storm from the South

On my third day, I took a seat outside the Grand Canyon Lodge and tried my hand at capturing the calligraphic white lines all over the side of one of the cliffs below where I sat.

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Rock Striations and Unusual Textures Among the Rocks

Not long afterward, I attempted a fourth watercolor sketch, but it is so ugly I choose not to post it. I felt that I had learned a great deal from my first attempts, and later while visiting the Red Rocks of Sedona, I began an additional nineteen watercolor sketches. At the time of this writing, I am still developing them and trying several new approaches that I look forward to sharing with my readers.

Throughout this journey, Emerson’s essays have provided a never-ending source of enrichment for my thirsty soul, and I inserted quotes above from his work titled “Art”. I knew from the start that I could not create comprehensive watercolor paintings while on the move with a few plein air sketches. But I did use the sessions for “information gathering”, and rediscovered the joy of drawing with pencil and pen & ink. I also worked on some new compositional configurations. In good time I will be bringing these out to share with you. Once I get back into my home studio, I plan to work on some larger, more comprehensive paintings of that magnificent North Rim of the Grand Canyou.

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Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Chaotic Dreams

March 11, 2019

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View of Palo Duro Canyon

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Beginning of a Plein-Air Watercolor Sketch

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

Joe Walsh, History of the Eagles, 2013 documentary

Blame it on the one-hour time change? Who knows? All I can think of this morning is the night’s attempted sleep just completed: an entire night blistered by an annoying, chaotic, sustained dream. I was put in charge of a community event: a reading of Molière’s play “Tartuffe”. The event was staged in a bowling alley/roller rink, and all of us tried our best to look composed on roller skates as we tried to figure out how to configure the seating: a circle? Rows? Groups? I was put in charge of the reading. Others entered the fray to take charge of casting, costuming, stage props. No matter how hard we tried to organize the event, something always intruded to disrupt whatever flow was initiated. And someone continued to shout from offstage: “Donnie, you’re out of your element!” When I finally awoke, it was still dark (time change) and I just lay there in the pre-dawn, taking the dream seriously. It rang true. We move through life, attempting to organize the chaos enveloping us. We schedule, we keep appointments, we tend to our biological necessities, and continue to move through the 24-hour cycle, handling whatever approaches us. As I write this, I fear my tone will read as one of panic. It isn’t. In fact, when I was a full-time employee, I never really collapsed under this kind of a schedule; I just accepted it as life. Now, being semi-retired, I do indeed feel that I am living a much fuller, more satisfied life, and wish I could have about 500 more years of it. Life is a gift, and I’m grateful for its abundance, even when the abundance comes as an avalanche of chaos.

The weeks ahead will indeed be stuffed with activity. My plan for teaching a 3-hour beginning watercolor workshop next Saturday in Palestine has morphed into back-to-back workshops, since the twenty we restricted the enrollment for has now grown to thirty (and still counting, perhaps?). I’m delighted and shocked to find such an interest. We will hold the event in the lobby of the Redlands Hotel, just down the hall from our gallery. The first session will be at 10:00, the second at 1:00. The first session has filled, but there is still room in the afternoon session. If you are interested, just contact me (you can text me at 817-821-8702) or respond to this blog. We are expecting an exciting day of activity.

The following week will be even busier as we kick off the 81st annual Dogwood Trails Art & Music Festival in downtown Palestine. Artists will be featured under a large tent on the parking lot across the street from the Redlands Hotel. Friday night from 7-9, a V.I.P. pre-sale event will feature a meeting with the artists. Tickets are $10 as wine & cheese will be served, and a classical guitarist will provide music. Already we have a good number pre-registered to attend.

The next day from 9-4:00 will be the actual festival, the crowds will be enormous, and the artists are hoping for an excellent day of sales. At 1:00, I will hold my first scheduled Gallery Talk in the lobby of The Redlands Hotel. The topic will be “Art in a Small Town” and my presentation will feature nostalgic portrayals of small-town America in art and literature. The lobby has a large flat-screen TV on which I’ll be able to project visuals during the talk. I have been excited over this opportunity for weeks and have enjoyed immensely the experience of putting the presentation together. This will be my first public presentation on art since retiring from all those years teaching art history in the schools. How nice, finally to present something that is not curriculum-driven (restricted)!

I am posting the beginning of a plein air watercolor sketch I started a couple of evenings ago while visiting Amarillo’s Palo Duro Canyon. The afternoon had been spent in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas. For years I had wanted to visit that institution, knowing that Georgia O’Keeffe had taught at West Texas State Normal College and that this museum had at least one of her early paintings in its collection. What I wasn’t prepared for was the amazing holdings the museum has, not only in Texas panhandle history (this is Texas’s largest history museum), but in paintings. I thoroughly enjoyed viewing amazing landscape paintings from Inness, Moran and N. C. Wyeth. And then spent a long time lingering in a gallery filled with the amazing work of Frank Reaugh. Upon leaving the museum, it was only fitting to travel to the canyon and spend some time sketching the horizon as the sun dropped low in the sky.

My past weeks have been devoted mostly to traveling, reading and journaling. I finished Virginia Woolf’s engaging Mrs. Dalloway and am now nearly 200 pages into N. C. Wyeth: A Biography by David Michaelis. I also have four small watercolors in progress that I hope to post on the blog soon.

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Completed Watercolor Sketch

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

The Silence of the Canyon Evening

March 14, 2018

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Palo Duro Canyon

Meanwhile, there rages round the earth an unbridled yet clever talking, writing, and broadcasting of spoken words. 

Martin Heidegger, ” . . . Poetically Man Dwells . . .”

Spring Break brings me abundant blessing on many fronts. The most obvious is the chance to escape the clangor of city and suburban life. Since last weekend, I have forsaken 24/7 news and Internet searching. I packed only one book (I’ve always had this penchant for loading dozens of volumes–stupid!) and my journal, and I significantly downsized my art supplies–only three brushes along with portable plein air watercolor kit. I chose to bring my wooden pochade box because it mounts to the camera stand, and when opened, will hold the small kit.

Last evening in the quiet of Palo Duro Canyon, I set up about an hour before sundown and the place had already turned windy and chilly. The stillness and sanctuary of this enormous fissure in the earth was so soothing as I worked about 45 minutes to lay down the 5 x 7″ sketch above.

It is so soothing and fulfilling, being out here with all this natural space and quiet.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.