Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Morning Coffee in the Christmas Spirit

September 19, 2018

christmasz

Printing Christmas Cards for the Stores and Galleries

When the early morning light quietly

grows above the mountains. . . .

            The world’s darkening never reaches

                        to the light of Being.

            We are too late for the gods and too

                        early for Being. Being’s poem,

                        just begun, is man.

            To head toward a star—this only.

            To think is to confine yourself to a

                        single thought that one day stands

                        still like a star in the world’s sky.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

Yesterday’s reading stayed with me, it appears. I awoke early this morning with these words from Heidegger on my mind. Of course, mountain images stir up my Colorado memories, and then as my thoughts turned toward colder weather ahead, Christmas filled my imagination. I suddenly decided, even before breakfast, to get on my computer, dig out my boxes of Hallmark card stock and begin printing off Christmas cards. Every year I get caught by the holidays, and lack the sufficient time to print my deep inventory of Christmas images.

My greeting cards are blank inside with a text on the back. They are 5 x 7″ and come with envelope in a plastic sealed bag. I sell them for $5 each or 5 for $20. This year I have a dry cleaners that is selling my greeting cards hand-over-fist!  It is Boss Cleaners in southwest Arlington, near my home, and the proprietor has been asking if I had Christmas cards to add to my inventory. So, in reality I have Kim to thank for my getting ahead of the curve this holiday season.

While printing, folding and packaging throughout this morning, I have dialed up Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas album on YouTube, and the house has been filled with Christmas warmth, even in September. I cannot describe the calm and peace that floods my being when music such as this plays throughout the house and I look at my watercolors of Christmas subjects. And of course, the French-pressed coffee is always divine!

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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Morning Coffee with Dave & Qohelet

September 13, 2018

qohelet

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do; and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:11

Yesterday, I graded essays from the course on Classical Judaism that I teach online. The students were to contrast the tone and genre of biblical texts from Exodus (where Moses gave the Law) and Ecclesiastes (where the Preacher assessed that life was meaningless). The responses from many of the students induced me to return to Ecclesiastes for awhile this morning. This book has held my attention since I first was directed to it when approaching the New Year back in 1973. Since then, I have always read from the text in winter time as the New Year drew close. And it has been a comfort to me in ways I have difficulty explaining. This a meditation from an aged sage who appears dissatisfied with all his worldly accomplishments. As he draws near to the end, he sees all this acts as empty, or meaningless. “Qohelet” is the Hebrew word that titles this Book, and has often been translated “Preacher”.

I’ll go ahead and drop the other shoe–though the author throughout the meditation calls life on earth “vanity”, he nevertheless concludes on a more positive note. No doubt many will insert the opinion that the conclusion was written by another hand, to take the sting out of the text, but that is another issue. Throughout the book, the author’s refrain is translated “vanity” in the King James Version. “Empty” is the author’s thrust. And in his concluding words, he urges the reader to fear God and keep his commandments, for that is what makes a person “whole.” This is why I like to read to the end. For the duration of the Book, the aged author hammers home that life has been empty, but concludes with a solution to what can make life whole.

The college-age students still assume that there is much life lying ahead of them, and I enjoy their perspectives when they grapple with readings such as this. With my own perspective drawn from a considerable distance down the road, I find myself looking both ways, in the fashion of Janus, the Roman god looking backward and forward simultaneously. Throughout yesterday and this morning, I have thought about this Odyssey I have experienced over sixty years, and have also looked ahead, resolving not to live with regrets. It goes without saying that I have encountered things that have created memories I would rather not have. But I cannot change that. On the positive side, life has overflowed with abundant gifts, providing memories that make me feel positive.

Gratitude flows from the depth of my being for the years I have been given, and I am even happier that it is not over yet. Today I meet yet another college class within the hour, and I am still glowing with warm sentiments over the encounter we had just two days ago. In fact, I have been anticipating for forty-eight hours the next time I get to see them and wrestle with these issues in Logic. Who would ever have thought that a professor and students could enjoy a period, studying Logic? Life at this age is still filled with the unanticipated, and I appreciate that as well.

Two days ago, I began work on new Christmas cards for the season approaching. Here is a photo of how two of them are coming along (they will be cut apart, making two 5 x 7″ cards). For three days in a row, I have relished time in the studio to experiment in watercolor, and that has been a gift as well.

qohelet 2

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.

 

Morning Coffee with Dave, Jesus and James Joyce

September 12, 2018

morning coffee

Further Reading from the Parables

And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.

For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

Gospel of Mark 4:26-29

I am reposting the parable that I posted yesterday morning, because I am still burrowing into the Greek texting, enjoying what the excavations are bringing to light.  My fascination lies with that life principle, echoed by Thoreau about something growing “like corn in the night.” The sower merely does his/her task, and as that individual continues to live out the daily and nightly cycles of life, the task composts and sometimes flourishes without further attention. And the sower, thinker, artist, teacher, or whatever the actor’s role happens to be, has no idea how these processes work.

This morning I lingered over the portion of the King James Version that reads: “the earth bringeth forth fruit OF HERSELF.” The Greek word underlying “of herself” is transliterated automatē, and focuses on the generation of activity independent of the sower. In my personal life, I have been fascinated with the mystery of ideas forming, visions of art spontaneously arising, and other related matters. Forgive me for reposting this James Joyce fragment, but right now it is too lovely for me to ignore:

Towards dawn he awoke. O what sweet music! His soul was all dewy wet. Over his limbs in sleep pale cool waves of light had passed. He lay still, as if his soul lay amid cool waters, conscious of faint sweet music. His mind was waking slowly to a tremulous morning knowledge, a morning inspiration. A spirit filled him, pure as the purest water, sweet as dew, moving as music. But how faintly it was inbreathed, how passionlessly, as if the seraphim themselves were breathing upon him! His soul was waking slowly, fearing to awake wholly. It was that windless hour of dawn when madness wakes and strange plants open to the light and the moth flies forth silently.

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

I awoke this morning with a visual idea in my head, and have decided to pursue it, From where the idea came, I have no clue, and am merely grateful for the gift that arrived in my sleep. And though I have tasks to perform (plenty of grading has stacked up), the loveliness of this morning grows out of the inspiration that visited me during a restful night’s sleep.

I awoke with the notion that I would begin creating Christmas cards. One of my store outlets had been urging me throughout the summer to pursue this for the coming holiday season, and I just never got around to it. Now the fire has fallen, the interest is consuming me, and I begin this morning with my first 5 x 7″ watercolor sketch of what I hope will turn into a Christmas card before the week is over.

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The Beginning of a Christmas Card Sketch

I am also going through my files, pulling up older Christmas cards I have made, and will be printing these for delivery by the end of the week as well.

Christmas at Spencer's Grill vertical

Christmas at Spencer’s Grill (Kirkwood, Missouri)

The morning hour has not yet reached 9:00, but already I feel the deadlines approaching, so I will close this out this blog and send it up the flagpole. I hope you found something in this worth reading and pondering. Thanks always for checking me out.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Settling into the Cold Nights

December 30, 2017

snow high ridge

“A mind forever Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.”

William Wordsworth

I picked up the quote above from my recent reading of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs. After a hundred pages of reading, I can say I am genuinely hooked on this biography and am grateful that the frigid weather now gripping north Texas waited for my return from a St. Louis Christmas (which featured delightful snow!). Now I’m snuggled in front of my fireplace as temperatures promise to reach lows in the upper teens the next few days.  I’ve posted above a watercolor I did today (8 x 10″) from a photo I took of a Christmas eve snowstorm in St. Louis.

And . . . I seem to lapse into the habit of photographing breakfast in front of the fireplace on those rare occasions that Texas gets cold enough for a fire in the winter.

breakfast

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Soothing Christmas Respite

December 27, 2017

christmas painting

Watercolor Sketch along the Meramec River

Christmas 2017 in St. Louis was blessed with fresh-fallen snow, and I could not stop staring at it out of windows, and even spent time walking in it and taking pictures with my phone. Over the past few days I have been looking at the pictures uploaded to my laptop and finally dashed out this 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch of what I saw during a stroll along the Meramec River in Fenton, Missouri.

Thanks for looking.

Pondering the Source in Silence

December 21, 2017

heart

Safely Ensconced in a Hotel Far Away . . .

Existence beyond number

Wells up in my heart. 

Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies

Good day to all of you friends who read my blog. Since my last post I have been knocked down by a sinus infection and encroaching flu symptoms. Thankfully, the flu never fully materialized, though a good number of my dear friends were stricken by it. Nevertheless, I have spent hours of days and nights sleeping, and, during my waking hours, sitting in a fog. For weeks I have run nonstop from engagement to engagement, as the art business and holidays joined forces in a flurry of activities. Once those were finished, much Christmas shopping remained to be completed, plus the mailing of packages, as well as the tying up of loose ends to facilitate holiday travel and visitation. And then the dreaded fatigue and sinus infection. I’ve lost track of the past several days except for occasional errands. But today I feel good enough to read and pull together a few thoughts that have been percolating during this down time.

I regret repeating myself in posts, but some of you don’t really know my past, so I feel the urge to put this out: as a student in public schools, I was not driven academically, but extremely bored except for my art endeavors. I will forever be thankful that my art abilities landed me a scholarship to the university, and in that acid bath of academics, I finally woke to a world of ideas, and could not consume knowledge fast enough. I pushed through the undergraduate and graduate levels till I graduated with my doctorate and then taught in public schools for 28 years. All of this now seems a blur. At age 63, I have not slowed or cooled in my enthusiasm for learning, but have always had to admit that my academic foundation was not very strong once I entered the university, and I have always felt “behind.” Though in addition to my 28 years of high school teaching I’ve tacked on 31 years of college teaching concurrently, I still don’t feel academically “endowed.” I’m a mule. A plodder. Slow and ponderous. But I love thinking. I love reading for the sake of pushing back the boundaries of experience, and in the making of art, I am always questioning what it is exactly I am trying to express in these pursuits.

And so, during my recent illness, I have returned to reading Martin Heidegger. To those who know, that triggers a belly laugh. Heidegger is extremely difficult to penetrate. But I’ve been fascinated with his ideas for years, and have labored many, many hours, poring over his obdurate texts and extracting what I could of value. His translations and discussions of Presocratic texts I think are the best, and I’m always intrigued by his essays, particularly “The Origin of the Work of Art.”

For a number of days now, I have been wrestling with his essay “What are Poets For?” And early this morning, finally feeling well and sitting in a window seat of my hotel room (pictured above–I love the timer on my camera phone that facilitates selfies!), I came across his response to some of the poetic writings of Rilke:

The inner and invisible domain of the heart is not only more inward than the interior that belongs to calculating representation, and therefore more invisible; it also extends further than does the realm of merely producible objects. Only in the invisible innermost of the heart is man inclined toward what there is for him to love: the forefathers, the dead, the children, those who are to come. All this belongs in the widest orbit, which now proves to be the sphere of the presence of the whole integral draft.

Since the days of my university “awakening”, I knew that I was a slower intellect than my peers, but I also have known since those days that I am more of a romantic than a classicist (I am stereotyping those words, I know). To put it another way, I have more passion than precision. And throughout my years of study, I have sought ways to express what I’ve learned–in the pastoral ministry for a decade, in the classroom for three decades, and in my art for the past couple of decades. Throughout this life, I have tried to find connections between my head and heart, my knowledge and passion, my academics and my art.

And now, in this Heidegger essay, I am embarking on a rich discussion of the “heart” the real center of it all. And I’m happy that my head is clearing up from all the medication and my body is responding better to my commands. Christmas arrives in four days, and believe me, this year it definitely overtook me quickly. I’m not sure if I’ll get the chance to blog again before that special Day, but at least I had this opportunity today to pause and send all of you the best of what I’m thinking and feeling. I’ll be going on the road soon.

Thanks always for reading, and I wish you love throughout this holiday season and beyond . . . .

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Winter Time

December 5, 2017

tuesday

It is the sense of the sublime that we have to regard as the root of man’s creative activities in art, thought and noble living. Just as no flora has ever fully displayed the hidden vitality of the earth, so has no work of art ever brought to expression the depth of the unutterable, in the sight of which the souls of saints, poets and philosophers live. The attempt to convey what we see and cannot say is the everlasting theme of mankind’s unfinished symphony, a venture in which adequacy is never achieved. Only those who live on borrowed words believe in their gift of expression. A sensitive person knows that the intrinsic, the most essential, is never expressed.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion

In 1978, while a seminary student, I was introduced to Heschel’s classic book, The Prophets, authored in 1962. I was taken with this scholar’s approach to the study of Hebrew prophecy, and never heard his name again until I was reading some book associated with art (don’t recall what!) and read his name associated with this book Man is Not Alone. On a lark, I purchased the work through Amazon, and have been amazed at its contents. I took the book with me to the Randy Brodnax and Friends Christmas Art Show last weekend, and continued reading it during slow moments between sales.

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My booth at the Randy Brodnax Show

Reading the book made me ache for a return to the studio, as I always do when I’m stuck in a booth for several days. I am never able to express what I feel when I am working on a piece of art, and am glad to read such words as those above. “Ineffable” is the best word for the experience of creating art. Currently I am working on this Christmas railroad theme and about to finish another steam locomotive under a snowy night sky, as snow flurries are already beginning outside my window as I write this.

Winter time is a season I always anticipate with gladness, not only because of Thanksgiving and Christmas but also because of the transitions. Friday I’ll give my last final exam at the college and enjoy a month hiatus from teaching. My American Railroad Odyssey show at The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine will close December 16, and I will be in the gallery Fri-Saturday the next two weekends. Currently I’m doing business with Art for Goodness Sake, a gallery in Lubbock, Texas that began carrying my work two months ago. Once I’m finished at the college this week, I’ll transition into this “winter time” season where I’ll be able to focus exclusively on making art and re-stocking my inventory in the galleries and shops that carry my work. There is a possibility of a show in January, and if that comes to fruition, I’ll announce it immediately.

I love this time of year! 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.

 

 

Warm Satisfaction

November 29, 2017

txwes

Third-Story Library Carrel, Texas Wesleyan University

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

It took longer than it should have, but I finally reached the time in my life where I found myself happy with where I am. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote of three broad ways of interpreting history, and his “monumentalist” approach was the one I adopted long ago–seeking role models for inspiration in the hopes that excellence could be pursued. Throughout my years of teaching, I was the perpetual student myself, reading all I could on the lives of individuals who inspired me in the arts, literature, and public life. Finally, I’ve reached this special place where I feel I can pursue an artful life and do as I choose without permission or apology.

This present state of “semi-retirement” fits me better than any stage I’ve known before. I love teaching at the university three mornings a week, and though I don’t have to, I choose to rise at five on the mornings I teach (four hours before class time) so I can enjoy quiet reading and writing. This is one of those mornings. After all these years, I still love pursuing academic study and writing. Later today, I’ll enter the art studio and see what I can create visually.

I have designated the third floor library at Texas Wesleyan University as “Luther’s Tower”, because since the year 2000 (when I was teaching at night) I chose to cloister myself in one of the private study carrel rooms so I could look out the window across the city of Fort Worth and the south side neighborhoods and enjoy my study time. My memories of the winter holiday season were always the best because of the cold (yet, Texas this year still has 70-degree November days!), the early nightfall, and the feelings of Thanksgiving and Christmas in the atmosphere. In this carrel, I have relished the study of biblical literature, humanities, philosophy and ethics. I cannot describe the joy I know when there is quality time to read, to think, to compose my thoughts, and then write it all out.

I’m happy this time of year because the art festival season becomes more festive, and I’m anticipating with gladness this weekend’s show at The Sons of Herman Hall in Dallas. When I return home after classes this morning, I’ll go straight to the garage and begin making decisions on how to trim my booth with lighting and holiday attire, and how to stock it with my art inventory. For this show, I have a number of new pieces coming out for public viewing and sale, and I always love seeing the new on display.

The university semester will end next week for me, and I’ll enjoy a month off between semesters, and I’m thankful for that as well. I’m grateful for this gift of life and for quality time to pursue things that matter to me.

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.

Believe

October 9, 2017

believe

In progress work on the T&P #610

polar express

Reference photo taken Sept. 23 when the #610 was towed out for public viewing

Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.

Polar Express

Currently, I am awash in an enchanted evening. I ordered the movie “Polar Express” from Amazon and watched it for the first time (mostly listened) while working on the watercolor above in my studio. My friends who lease The Gallery at Redlands planted the idea with me last March to do something to coincide with this Christmas season’s “Polar Express” excursion train that runs between Palestine and Rusk, Texas. Our Gallery at Redlands is in Palestine, and we’ve decided to host a Christmas Railroad exhibit, hoping to encourage Polar Express patrons to visit our gallery and a host of watercolors I’ve been creating since March.

I’m enjoying the challenge of painting the historic #610. The photo I took when it was towed outdoors was taken in the bright morning sun, so I could see the details well, and yet I’m trying to place it in a composition under a night wintry sky, hoping I can pull this off to look natural enough. We’ll see how it develops. Either way, I’m enjoying the work.

Today I received my shipment of 1500 postcards with the image below:

30 finished

I’m preparing to order additional shipments with other images completed recently. Today I also visited the business that produces my limited edition giclee prints. By November, at least six of my recent Palestine locomotive paintings will be available in these limited editions. Tomorrow I’m visiting a frame shop to deliver a stack of paintings to be framed and available for the show. The season is already heating up and I’m beginning to feel the fatigue as well as the exhilaration.

It feels good to be painting again. The college season is getting busier, but not too busy to keep me from making art, one of my chief joys in life.

Thanks for reading.

 

Another Limited Edition for the Weekend Show

March 30, 2017

Christmas at Spencer's Grill horizontal

Christmas at Spencer’s Grill

And finally, I’m bringing this limited edition back out for the weekend show at The Gallery at Redlands, 400 N. Queen St., Palestine, Texas.  It is priced at $80.

Spencer’s Grill is located on Kirkwood Road (old Route 66) in St. Louis, Missouri. The business has been there since 1947, and the colorful billboard that advertised the place caught my eye since the days I was too young yet to read. Nearly every time I visit my family in St. Louis, I go to this establishment for an old-fashioned breakfast, seated at a counter stool, feeling that I have entered Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks. I guess I will always be a painter of memories.

Nighthawks_by_Edward_Hopper_1942

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.