Archive for the ‘clouds’ Category

Good Thoughts Stretching into the Night

March 10, 2016

One Man Show Art Center Poster

Ὁ βίος βραχύς,ἡ δὲ τέχνη μακρή,ὁ δὲ καιρὸς ὀξύς,ἡ δὲ πεῖρα σφαλερή,ἡ δὲ κρίσις χαλεπή.

Life is short, and art long, opportunity fleeting, experience perilous, and decision difficult.

Hippocrates

As my age creeps closer to 62, I find these late-night sessions preparing Advanced Placement Art History classes to be filled with clashing sentiments of a weary body and an exhilarated mind.  Yes, I feel cranky over the loss of sleep, but the ocean of art in which I find myself treading water fills my imagination with childlike wonder.

Late tonight, I finished my last A. P. Art History class before Spring Break and that comes with a splendid feeling of accomplishment.  Above, I’ve posted am image of the poster that the Art Center in Corpus Christi has placed in the midst of my show that opened last week. I’m counting the days till I get to meet interested people at the Artist’s Reception March 16 from 5-7:00. Below I’m going to post a few photos of the thirty-four paintings I’ve placed in the show.

Thanks for reading, and perhaps I’ll have the time and space to post more thoughts tomorrow.

Across the View $550

Across the View

Firewheel Frenzy $450

Firewheel Frenzy

Following the Labyrinthe $750

Following the Labyrinthe

Drybrush Ruminations $525

Drybrush Ruminations

Homer's Wine-Dark Sea $400

Homer’s Wine-Dark Sea

Shell Collaboration $470

Shell Collaboration

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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.

No Time to Paint, but Always Time to Think

September 30, 2015
watercolor sketch/journal from my first day on the Texas Laguna Madre

watercolor sketch/journal from my first day on the Texas Laguna Madre

His skies, whether pure or cloudy, gay or melancholic, resonate with the mysterious sounds of the universe. He forces the spirit to think and to soar above these magisterial representations . . . of reality . . . In front of this seductive painting, you have the impression of a full and benevolent life which makes you recall the intoxication one feels with the dawning of a new day.

Desiré Louis, L’Événement, May 19, 1891, (writing of Claude Monet’s paintings)

This week, I have been jammed by school responsibilities, but cannot take my mind off of painting. I got behind in my school work preparing for last week’s festival and now there is the devil to pay. I am hoping to be caught up by the end of tomorrow. The studio has been calling my name, and I have had to turn my back. But I cannot turn my back on thoughts of painting.

At school the past two days, I have taken time between classes, over lunch, and during conference periods, to do some serious reading on French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. My subjects have been Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne. The above quote I lifted from a nineteenth-century publication, loving the rhapsodic discussion of his clouds. This brought to my memory the exhilaration I felt when I surveyed the cumulo-nimbus clouds that hung suspended all day every day over the island in the Laguna Madre where I stayed for a short while last June. Before those days, the only attempts I had ever made at rendering clouds were quick, slap-dash happy washes and blots on my watercolor paper. I was racing toward the main subject, which was always something in the foreground, and the sky was just a nuisance to get out of my way as quickly as possible. All of this changed with my arrival at the Laguna Madre, where I attempted my first “cloud portraits”, actually devoting the majority of my time on rendering the cloud formations I saw hanging in the sky. And once I returned to my home in Arlington, I continued to study the photos I took on location, making new attempts to paint these remarkable portraits. The artist-in-residence experience has changed me profoundly in many ways, and this is just one of them–my taking skies and clouds far more seriously in future paintings.

Another look at my past still life sketches, with thoughts of Cezanne

Another look at my past still life sketches, with thoughts of Cezanne

I should like to astonish Paris with an apple.

Paul Cézanne

This quote from Cézanne brought a smile to my face, when I was painstakingly arranging and rendering sea shells and lagoon debris while on the island. I never had serious designs of astonishing Arlington with sea shells, but I found myself in a state of suspended wonder as I worked and reworked these shells. I found the flowing lines and contours very challenging as my “errant hand” (Cézanne’s angry words!) continued to stumble at drawing them. And then, there was the issue of modeling them to “pop” into that three-dimensional form appearance on the page. None of this came easily. Finally, the words from Cézanne came home to me:

There is neither line nor modelling, there is only contrast. Once the colors are at their richest, the form will be at its fullest.

Thank you, Claude and Paul, for being such kindred spirits, and for being such a comfort to me in this century. The greatest joy I know in painting is feeling this connection, this succession in a tradition of painters, all of us struggling to get nearer to our subjects.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Morning Brings Back the Heroic Ages

September 12, 2015

The morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted; but few are the ears that hear it. 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

A Satisfying Saturday Breakfast

A Satisfying Saturday Breakfast

Waking at daylight without an alarm on a Saturday morning was a pleasant surprise, and even the greater surprise of learning that it was 65 degrees outside. I made coffee and sat on my back deck for the first time since last spring (Texas summers are beyond torrid) and felt the serenity of the world engulfing me. Going back inside, I decided to make a more satisfying breakfast of coddled eggs with herbs of Provence along with some fried Canadian bacon.

Following breakfast, I learned the sad news that the husband of a dear friend I’ve known for thirty years had just passed away. About an hour later, I was sitting with the family and listening for the most part–we are all so helpless when we sit with friends who have suffered such an unspeakable loss. There is no way I can describe the love I feel for this family, and frankly the rest of the day was just going through the motions for me. There is a gigantic hole in our world right now.

This evening, before the light faded, I decided to begin a new watercolor of the Laguna Madre environment. I barely got the sky and horizon laid in before the light was gone, and for such landscape paintings, I really hate working under artificial light bulbs. So this will have to wait until morning. It measures 14 x 20″.

A New Beginning on the Laguna Madre

A New Beginning on the Laguna Madre

There is plenty of Saturday evening still stretched out before me, and I have a number of books I have been reading. Last night Don Quixote was providing plenty of mental stimulation. Perhaps I’ll push him a bit further this evening. I still cannot make up my mind whether to sit in the comforts of my study or go out on the town–Fort Worth’s Sundance Square has been so delightful, especially with falling temperatures. And there are always the Starbuck’s Cafes. . .

Thanks for reading.

A Day of Contemplation

September 6, 2015

imageIt is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.

Ezra Pound, “A Retrospect”

I open today’s bog entry with this word: I may be blogging with less frequency these days, but with time spent away from social media, I am discovering more quality time for reading and journaling. Hopefully this will result in a blog with greater quality, and not just a daily quota of words flung into the chattersphere, hoping for relevance.

Reaching the halfway point of a three-day Labor Day hiatus, my soul is awash with sentiments of gratitude–I needed the rest from the daily school grind, though school has only ground for two weeks. I must be aging and slowing. I have laughed and cried my way through 150 pages of Don Quixote. The book is an excellent mirror I suppose for any reader, but particularly for anyone who has devoted most of his/her life to public school teaching. I don’t believe I speak only for myself when I confess to living in a world partially constructed after my own imagination. Daydreams and fantasies aided me in coping with my own public education which I found largely boring and unimaginative. It would seem that karma induced my return to the public school arena once I completed my education. And now, twenty-seven years later, imagination and fantasies still aid me in coping with much of the boredom that surrounds me daily.

Sancho Panza mocked his noble Don Quixote of La Mancha with these words:

Sancho, my friend, know that I was born, by the will of heaven, in this our iron age, to revive the one of gold, or the Golden Age.

Anyone wishing to parody my persona could chant those same words in derision. But I own them. Classical studies and forays into the humanities saved my life at the university, and by the time I entered the high school classroom as instructor, they had become the blood that courses through my veins. When I was growing up in public school, some of my teachers tried to be cool, drawing daily soundbites and lesson ideas from Leave it to Beaver and later M.A.S.H. Pop culture didn’t mature me then, and it doesn’t feed me now, nor does it nourish the students of today, as far as I’m concerned. No student in my classroom will hear me reciting anecdotes from Miley Cyrus, lyrics from Justin Bieber or soundbites from Donald Trump. Pop icons such as these are not worth my time, and they contribute nothing of value to one wishing to improve life, as far as I am concerned. As a fan of Rene Descartes, I have always enjoyed leading my philosophy classes through his cogito ergo sum–“I think, therefore I am.” I used to have a bumper sticker on the window outside my classroom door that said: I think. Therefore I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh. I came to school of course one day to find it had been removed. Sometimes I wonder if the one who removed it thinks and finds a reason to be.

When it comes to course content, I am grateful that I get to select and share the works of those minds who tried to improve society, tried to challenge young minds to become better. I make no apology for anchoring my course content in the humanities. Talking heads of education can lay out all the data they please, crow about job training all they please, and lay out social programs all they please. But these days, I still glean value from the works of Emerson, Thoreau, Cervantes, Eliot, Pound, Aristotle, Augustine and Shakespeare, and will continue bringing ideas to my classes from these great minds who dared to think big, dream big, imagine big.

At the top of this post, I quoted Ezra Pound, and with his challenge launched my latest watercolor, begun this morning, always with the hope that this could be my best Image produced during my lifetime.

Working on Foreground Foliage

Working on Foreground Foliage

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Thoreau Had His Walden

July 22, 2015
Back to Work on the Large Painting

Back to Work on the Large Painting

Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.

Hermann Hesse

I have not made it a secret that I was a bored student throughout my public school days. It wasn’t until college that I woke up intellectually. As a day dreamer, I was drawn to a poster in one of my classrooms, and now cannot recall what grade in school it was–I believe it was high school. This poster featured a color photo of an attractive woman with the patterns of leaves shadowed all over the side of her face, obviously standing beneath a large tree. Her expression was pensive and this quote was on the poster. I wrote it in my school notebook so many times that I internalized it, believing throughout those young years (and ever since) that I was the one described on the poster. I didn’t even read Hermann Hesse until I was past thirty, but am delighted to learn that this quote originated with him.

In my adult years, I have appreciated every story of a creative individual who found sanctuary and explored independent thought: Thoreau at Walden, Emerson on his European odyssey, Descartes in a stove chamber in Ulm, Germany, Kant in his chair every morning, Hawthorne in an upstairs bedroom. I challenge my Philosophy students every semester: Where is your Walden Pond? Where is your Cartesian Stove? Anthony Storr has written that remarkable book Solitude, challenging his readers to take their quiet, alone time seriously.

This summer started well, with my invitation to reside on an island in the Gulf for about a week, followed by a summer vacation (my first one as a teacher in many, many years) with no summer school classes to teach. The days in my studio, my study, my writing corner, have been a healing balm, and I am most fortunate to have been handed this quality time and space for creative exploration. Today I have returned to a large painting of the island where I stayed in June. I’ve been working the clouds all afternoon, staining, soaking, scrubbing and brushing as many textures and neutral shadow colors as possible, trying to make them look like the cumulonimbus formations that took my breath away when I was at the Laguna Madre.

In the Journals of Henry David Thoreau, I have finally reached the days when he took up residence at Walden Pond. The following entry is from his third day, July 6, 1845:

I wish to meet the facts of life–the vital facts, which are the phenomena or actuality the gods meant to show us–face to face, and so I came down here. 

That matches well with my sentiments during that brief span I resided on the Laguna Madre. There was time for reflection, time to gaze at nature face-to-face, time to think over the things in life that really matter. And now, as I bend over this painting, I remember those sensations, that special space, that special time, and truly believe that the experience has brought genuine change and improvement to my life. If nothing else, it has reinforced my conviction that I need a Walden Pond in my life.

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.

Always Something to Think and Say

July 15, 2015
Laguna Madre Painting in Progress

Laguna Madre Painting in Progress

One cannot create an art that speaks to men when one has nothing to say.

André Malraux, Man’s Hope

Something inside me warned this morning not to wait for inspiration, but to go find it. I was bone-tired, and my mind was devoid of ideas. A part of me wanted to give up and return to bed, but the better part urged me to open my current journal. Turning to pages dating from the Fourth of July, I began reading. Within five pages, my mind was surging with fresh ideas and inspiration, and the muse has remained with me throughout this day.

I stopped painting only to join Heidi Hardy for lunch. She was the radio host who invited me to take part in her broadcast a week ago. Heidi is always surging with fresh ideas and trying out new adventures. Returning to my studio, I resumed work on the piece above, and my mind stayed engaged on this notion of stirring up inspiration. I found this quote from Malraux that truly stirs my blood. I have written before, that I grew up wanting to be an artist, with no interest in academics. I hated public school, and only went to college because of a scholarship. To this day, I feel that college saved me, because in that nexus I woke up to a world of ideas and the curiosity pushed my art endeavors to the side for the next dozen years or so. Once I returned to making art, I discovered that I now had something to say, ideas worth expressing. Had the academic side not taken over my life, I would be little more than an illustrator now, a hack, with a talent to draw or paint on demand. The older I get, the less regret I feel over the past. To be sure, I’ve made many bad decisions that I wish I could redo, but I’m glad that I turned away from my study of art technique long enough to cultivate a life of the mind.

One of the reasons I love the art of Robert Motherwell so much is because he made no apologies for being both artist and scholar. In an interview, he discussed a book titled The History of Anti-Intellectualism, and the frustrations he experienced when faced with that shallow ultimatum from art dealers that he make up his mind whether he wanted to pursue scholarship or art. He always embraced both, and therefore offered up to us a marvelous body of written work in addition to his collection of paintings, drawing and collages. He chafed at the notion that an artist is a clever craftsman but the critic is the scholar who educates the public about art.

I’m starting to feel some momentum with the painting above. It is larger than what I’ve worked with recently (20 x 24″), and the sky is going to require a great deal of attention. I spent a large part of the afternoon reworking areas of the sky and rendering the field station where I lived for six days on the Laguna Madre.

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.