Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

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.

20171201_161129

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.

 

 

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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.

Christmas Surprise

December 25, 2015

imageMy biggest Christmas surprise was this gift from my brother. I’ve never owned a Fender Strat, and now look forward to getting used to one.  I’ve played acoustic throughout my life, and have always been clumsy on the electric.  Now, I’m more interested than ever before to see what I can do with one.

Thanks, Rick!

Nearing Completion on a Long-Range Watercolor Project

April 18, 2014
Nearly Finished With This Watercolor of Hermann, Missouri

Nearly Finished With This Watercolor of Hermann, Missouri

The book, if you would see anything in it, requires to be read in the clear, brown, twilight atmosphere in which it was written; if opened in the sunshine, it is apt to look exceedingly like a volume of blank pages.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice-Told Tales

Retiring to bed at 2:00 this morning, I was surprised to wake without an alarm shortly after 8:00.  There is no school today, but the routine 6:00 alarm apparently has me waking earlier in the mornings these days, even when no such alarm is set.  I came into the studio eagerly, ready to take the next step on this watercolor, but instead just sat and looked over it, in no hurry to stitch up the final details.  So instead, I have been sitting in a comfortable chair with coffee, books and journal, and have set the painting on an easel ten feet in front of me in the morning light, and occasionally I look up at it, much as Andrew Wyeth did with his near-completed compositions.  Wyeth would put them in a prominent place in his living room, so he could catch glimpses of them (“from the corner of my eye”, he said) as he walked throughout the house in the course of a day.  Eventually he reached a decision of whether or not the painting needed further work.  I suppose that is what I am doing now.  Two days ago, a student whose opinion I respect highly saw the painting and thought it looked finished already.  Many times I have pushed a watercolor past its completion point and felt disappointed that it had been overworked, overdone.  So, I am letting this one breathe for awhile.

This latest watercolor contrasts starkly with the one I have generally used as a measuring-stick against all subsequent work:

Summer Morning on Sundance Square

Summer Morning on Sundance Square

Completed several summers ago, I found great satisfaction in the hot sun-filled composition of this piece.  I was at my boldest in the use of color and sharp contrasts not only in value but in the complementary colors.

Last Christmas season, when I trekked through that quaint German town Hermann, Missouri, I felt an exhilaration I cannnot describe as I took picture after picture, all the time hoping, wondering if I could possibly render a watercolor to capture the cold winter light that diffused across that cityscape, and the sense of mist that crept up from the Missouri River far down below.  I knew that a muted, misty painting could possibly come across as boring when juxtaposed with a sharp, summer composition such as this one in Sundance Square.

As the Texas summer approaches, I will no doubt return to plenty of these hot compositions.  But right now, I am really loving the look of my muted, atmospheric piece, and believe I’ll continue to look at it “from the corner of my eye” and make a decision of whether to leave it as is, or look for ways to put some spice into it.  Right now, I just don’t know.

I have some abandoned watercolors littered about my studio, so I believe I’ll find one of them to focus on for the time being.

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.

 

 

Lining Up the Vehicles and Rendering the Streets

April 18, 2014
Working Late on a Thursday Night

Working Late on a Thursday Night

The hour has reached nearly 2:00 a.m.  There is no school for me on Good Friday.  I’m feeling kind of mellow as I sit up late and work on the details of a line of parked vehicles and all the shadow changes on the pavement to the right.  I’m not rushing this and can say that I’m feeling satisfied so far with how it is finishing.  Hopefully I’ll have it complete before I return to school next week.

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.

Getting Lost in the Shadows of Watercolor

April 14, 2014
Working the Shadows and Parked Vehicles

Working the Shadows and Parked Vehicles

Drawing is a way of organizing space.

Robert Motherwell (I think!)

The paper is the atmosphere in which the watercolor breathes.

(author unknown!)

I open tonight’s blog with two questionable quotes.  The first I am relatively certain came from Robert Motherwell, my idol of Abstract Expressionist thought and erudition.  But tonight I have been unsuccessful in tracing it to him.  The second quote came from an artists’ magazine I read back in the 1980’s, before I actually made watercolor a serious pursuit.  I have never been able to forget it.

Both of these quotes are swimming in my consciousness as I work on this piece tonight.  Temperatures outside are dropping to the point that I decided to don a heavy sweater rather than turn up the thermostat.  I am sitting adjacent to an entire wall of northern windows, and I feel the freeze warning that has been forecast throughout the day.  The chill is reminding me of the cold December morning that I walked the streets of Hermann, Missouri and took the photograph for this composition.  There was such a clarity of light that morning that I knew would be conducive for watercolor–I love the clear, sharp, cold light of a winter’s day and have worked hard to get that atmosphere into this painting.  I love what watercolor paper lends to the atmosphere of a landscape painting.

As for the drawing/organizing space principle, I have been handcuffed, trying to render the shadowed facades of this row of storefronts adjacent to a line of parked vehicles.  The Motherwell quote surfaced, and I decided to break the shadows into rhythms of geometric configurations, alternating warm and cool colors as I filled in the spaces.  I feel the way I did in high school when we painted large nonrepresentational acrylic-on-canvas compositions.  We were challenged to experiment with the combinations of warm and cool colors and seek some kind of pleasing balance.  That is what I am attempting to do here.  I have no serious aspirations to copy the myriad of representational images in my small photograph.  We’ll see how it turns out.  If it doesn’t work, I’ll try something else.  At any rate, I am enjoying this evening in the studio.

This is probably all the painting I’ll be able to post this evening.  I still have work to do on a Nietzsche lecture for tomorrow morning’s Philosophy class.  I cannot seem to create a lifestyle with a singular focus–there is always another task to perform.  I love reading, writing and talking about Nietzsche.  But I also love watercolor.  With tonight’s limited time, I need to find a way to address both.

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.

A Cold, Rainy Afternoon in the Studio

April 14, 2014
Quiet Retreat to the Watercolor Studio

Quiet Retreat to the Watercolor Studio

At such times there is a song going on within us, a song to which we listen.  It fills us with surprise.  We marvel at it.  We would continue to hear it.  But few are capable of holding themselves in the state of listening to their own song.  Intellectuality steps in and as the song within us is of the utmost sensitiveness, it retires in the presence of the cold, material intellect.  It is aristocratic and will not associate itself with the commonplace–and we fall back and become our ordinary selves.  Yet we live in the memory of these songs which in moments of intellectual inadvertence have been possible to us.  They are the pinnacles of our experience and it is the desire to express these intimate sensations, this song from within, which motivates the masters of all art.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

The day has been physically and intellectually dreary.  Forty-four degrees, dark and rainy outside.  Indoors we have studied A. P. Art History, focusing on the German Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement fueled by World War I.  George Grosz, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix and Ernst Barlach all served in the German army during that Great War.  They entered as enthusiastic patriotic idealists, exited as horrified, burned-out and disillusioned artists.  As we looked upon their paintings and reflected on the writings of Nietzsche that transformed the world views of the young soldier Otto Dix, as well as the chaplain Paul Tillich, I felt the cold of the outside gripping my own artistic sensitivity.  The longer we looked at these works and talked of the war’s atrocities, the more I wished to retreat to my studio and revive the song that has stirred my heart recently, encouraging me to paint and explore beauty.

The first thing I did when I got home to my studio was put on a fresh pot of coffee to help stave off the cold and wet climate that settled into my bones and offset the dark gray world peeking through the miniblinds of my studio windows.  Then I tilted the surface of my drafting table and settled into drawing, erasing and re-drawing the details in the shadows of the buildings lining the winter streets of Hermann, Missouri.  Slowly, the depressing themes of the morning studies melted away and I was once again looking upon a beautiful watercolor world, unscarred by war and destruction.  The winter atmosphere in this painting is cold and hazy, but within my soul, I feel a clarity and sense of color and warmth.  I still need to add more layers of shadow to the areas on the lower left of this composition, then along the facades of the stores facing the street.  This is going to take awhile, it appears.  But I have time, and renewed energy.  Making art today has lifted me from the despairing subjects of the morning classes.  Once again, I am grateful for that gift.

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.

 

 

 

Late Night in the Studio

April 13, 2014

Hermann close upWorking Late Sunday Night on this Hermann, Missouri Cityscape

The ideal modern artist must become this unobserved but “passionate observer” who watches the world yet remains hidden.  He is a flaneur (a stroller), a tourist in his own land, whose scenery of choice is the crowd, “a prince who always preserves his incognito.”  He delights in “the rippling, moving, fleeting, infinite” multitude.  Here is the artist as voyeur, seeing but unseen, “a mirror as immense as that crowd; a kaleidoscope endowed with consciousness.”

Beth Archer Brombert, recording the ideas of Baudelaire concerning the contemporary artist

The Entire Composition in Progress

The Entire Composition in Progress

Though I’m confined to the studio, working from photographs, the Texas weather is inching toward plein air capability, and I am happy to see a couple of events on the horizon where I am invited to engage in it.  The Baudelaire sentiments remind me of Emerson’s comments in Nature when he describes the observer as a “transparent eyeball”–he is nothing, he sees all.  Andrew Wyeth enjoyed such a feeling when he sat in the Olsen household in Maine, creating watercolor and tempera works inside the dim interior of their house as they went about their daily chores.  He oftentimes felt that he wasn’t visibly present because of the ease in which they worked as though incognizant of his company.

I felt the same transparency when I walked the streets of Hermann last Christmas holidays.  I know no one in that town, and no one was out walking in the frigid weather that morning.  I was delighted to take photos, knowing I would try my hardest to convert some of these into decent watercolors once I got back to my warm studio.

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.