Archive for the ‘Coffee’ Category

Morning Coffee with Dave and Walt Whitman

November 2, 2018
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In The Gallery at Redlands, Working on Whitman Collages & Greeting Cards

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, 
Healthy, free, the world before me, 
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. 
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune, 
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing, 
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, 
Strong and content I travel the open road. 
Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road”
Yesterday, after class, I set off for Palestine to work in my gallery and make preparations for the weekend Genny Wood Art Show & Sale. After the two-hour drive through the country, enjoying the bright sun and 60-degree weather, and filled with the ecstasies of Kerouac’s odyssey, I decided upon reaching Palestine to spend some time outdoors. I had spent too much time the past few weeks chasing deadlines. Finding a park bench beneath an enormous shade tree, I sat in the cool, took a cleansing breath, and opened my volume of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.  Reading Kerouac’s On the Road yesterday prompted me to look up Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” today. He published this poem the year after his Leaves of Grass took flight, and the adrenaline was apparently still surging through his creative consciousness. My heart floods with good sentiments every time I read verses such as this from Whitman’s hand.
After five years of reading rave reviews of his Leaves of Grass (some of which he published anonymously himself!), he felt the time had come to publish a second edition of this collection of poems. There was only one problem–he had reached ebb tide and his creative surge had faltered. Perhaps he was still too young (first edition came out when he was thirty-seven) to realize that creative output is cyclical. At any rate, he was feeling morose and second-guessing whether or not he had genuine talent or was just over-sold with that first edition.
While walking pensively one evening along the seashore, he composed a poem that reflected his sagging sentiments of the time: “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life”–
O baffled, balk’d, bent to the very earth, 
Oppress’d with myself that I have dared to open my mouth, 
Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil upon me I have not once had the least idea who or what I am, 
But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands yet untouch’d, untold, altogether unreach’d, 
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows, 
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written, 
Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath.
Whitman’s second edition of Leaves of Grass contains a number of troubled verses replete with his second-guessing. As we all know, he got over it eventually. The surge returned, and the collection of twelve poems grew to over five hundred, as he remained prolific throughout his life.
This is why I read so much biography–I want to learn all I can from these creative heroes about the dynamics of creative eros, including those barren times when the winds of inspiration have stilled, and how they addressed the problem.  At this very moment I am tired, exhausted. But not depressed, not panicky. I am confident that quality time for creating will offer itself up to me again, and that I will be ready to answer the bell. But for now, the appointments are joined end-to-end, it is the high season for art festivals and shows, the semester at the university is entering its final stretch run, and there is much demanded from me. I thank God that I am (semi) retired, have my health, and at least don’t have to answer to a Monday-Friday, 40-hour a week job. Life is much better now, and at least I can find the time to sit beneath a shade tree, read, reflect, and think about where I am going next. I have never been happier, even when tired.
Today I am packing up the Gallery to take to the Genny Wood Art Show & Sale at the Bullard First United Methodist Church Family Life Center. Today I will enjoy seeing my artist friends again as we set up, and the show will run all day Saturday. Below are a pair of photos of my booth from last year. I am hoping to make a much better display this year. Among my offerings will be collages of my creative heroes, including Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac.
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Last Year’s Display at the Genny Wood Art Show & Sale

Smooth Rock 93.5 FM is humming along in fine fashion as I write this. I cannot describe how much I enjoy my new “roommates” as they broadcast out of this gallery, looking out their “Window to the World.” The Redlands Hotel is decorating for Christmas and yesterday began bringing decorations into the gallery and studio. The “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” show broadcasts live from 7-10 a.m. Monday through Friday. You can stream it on your computer, and even get the app for your android or I-phone.

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“Kevin & Marc in the Morning”–Smooth Rock 93.5 FM

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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I Live in Two Worlds

October 31, 2018

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Cutting, Tearing and Pasting

And at 4 in the morning wrote 500-words again, with the admonition to “Keep it moving.” Thank God for work!

Jack Kerouac, Journal entry , Friday, April 29, 1949

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Shakespeare and Descartes

While meeting with my artist friends last night over dinner, we discussed new directions we are taking with our art. I resolved yesterday that I was bringing collage back into my body of work. I have been restricted to watercolor in recent years because of the higher-end art festivals requiring us to display a single, unified genre. I understand that. And my “signature” is in the body of watercolors I have put together over the years. But during those years, I have never ceased to pursue academic subjects in my reading, drawing and collage endeavors. And so, this weekend, at the Genny Wood Art Show & Sale in Bullard, Texas, I am adding an extra bin to my booth which will feature collages of Shakespeare, Kerouac, Tillich, T. S. Eliot, and a host of luminaries in the fields of literature, philosophy and theology.

It has been a joy in the studio recently, tearing and cutting papers and materials and combining drawing and watercolor and manuscript fragments into my compositions. I am able to live in my two worlds as I make art while at the same time reading, journaling and pursuing new ideas from my heroes of literature. Jack Kerouac has held my attention the past few days, so today I will turn my attention to collages bearing his images.

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.

Coffee House Musings

October 22, 2018

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Collage Building in a Local Coffeehouse

After a few hours of scribbling in my journal, and concluding that nothing I wrote this morning was worthy of a blog, I then went into my computer files to look over years of writing that I have preserved, and found a story I wrote years ago about my late Uncle Paul. I revised it thoroughly, and decided to put it up on the blog. I hope some of you will find something positive in it, as the story continues to take on new meaning for me.

Uncle Paul’s Legacy

Boarding Amtrak on a chilly October afternoon in Fort Worth, I embarked on the sixteen-hour journey to St. Louis to pay tribute to my Uncle Paul who had recently passed away.  He was ninety-one.  His ashes would be interred at the Indian Creek Cemetery in rural Jackson, Missouri.  There was a memorial scheduled at a local funeral home. Sitting in coach and rolling late into the night, my heart began to overflow with vignettes of Paul’s legacy.

Uncle Paul was one of thirteen siblings born to tenant farmer parents in southeast Missouri.  Educated in a one-room schoolhouse until he was old enough to work the fields, Paul did the things farm boys did in those days until World War II came calling.  Finishing his service, he chose not to return to his humble southeast Missouri roots, and instead moved to the West Coast in search of a better life.

Paul landed a position with Greyhound Lines, and stayed with the company twenty-five years, promoting to supervisory status, and choosing to work night shifts so he could have sufficient quiet and space to pursue his real interests—writing and story-telling.

Extending the Mark Twain/Will Rogers tradition, Paul developed a love of humor and stories covering country life.  He carefully researched the history of rural Jackson, Missouri, recorded his personal memories, listened in on the reminiscences of others who grew up there, and carefully committed these stories to print after telling and re-telling them to anyone who would listen.

Growing up, all I knew was that Uncle Paul was special.  On the rare occasions that he made the excursion from California to Southeast Missouri, all the Tripps would gather to greet him, and sit in the living rooms until late at night, drinking beer, listening and laughing as he spun his humorous tales and smoked his White Owl cigars.  Personally, I felt that I was re-living the days when people gathered to listen to and laugh at the humor of Mark Twain.

By the time I grew into my teens, the Uncle Paul events had transferred from the indoor parlors to wiener roasts along the banks of Indian Creek.  My Uncle Bus and Aunt Bea lived in a ramshackle house on the banks of the creek, and Paul chose to roost with them every time he came home.  There was one problem–Bea and Bus were early risers and preferred retiring to bed early.  They came to resent these all-night parties.  As the years wore on, they began leveling their protests, but Paul had a tin ear.

I still recall the day Aunt Bea put her foot down and swore there would not be a wiener-roast this time.  “We’re turnin’ in early tonight—no wiener-roast.”  By mid-afternoon, cars began pulling into the driveway.

–Why’s everyone comin’ here?

–The wiener-roast.

–Oh no!  There ain’t no wiener-roast tonight!  I said so.  Where’s Paul?

–At the store buyin’ wieners and buns.

–No, no!  We’re not havin’ a wiener-roast!

Children were dragging up driftwood and tree limbs from creekside for the bonfire.

–Stop draggin’ that stuff up here!  There ain’t no wiener-roast tonight!

Coolers of beer were hauled out of car trunks.  Folding lawn chairs appeared, arranged in ranks around the pile of timber.

Get that shit outta here! There ain’t gonna be no wiener-roast!  Do it somewhere else!  We’re goin’ to bed!

Paul squirted lighter fluid on the timbers, produced a match, and the blaze went up.  Bea yawned.  Bus mumbled that it was getting dark and time for bed.  People dragged up chairs.  Children cut tree limbs to support wieners and marshmallows for the roast.  The guitars came out.  Music filled the air.  Beer bottles clanked. The wiener roast was on.  And soon Paul would be holding court.

Around 2:00 in the morning, all grew quiet.  Having had his fill of cold beer, Paul was out of stories.  People were dozing in their lawn chairs, having pulled blankets and sleeping bags over them.  The guitars had stopped.  Scattered, intermittent conversations were still softly emerging.  At one point, Paul turned to me.  I was seventeen and in awe of him.  “You have a good vocabulary,” he observed.  I was startled.  “You should write.  There aren’t enough people writing these days.  People want stories.  You can provide them.  You have a good vocabulary.  You should write.”

Drawing out his wallet, Paul removed a folded piece of paper.  That strange lighter-fluid smell emanated from the slick paper as he unfolded a “Xerox copy” (remember how those smelled in the mid-1970s?) of a check in the amount of $75 he had been paid by a West-Coast magazine for one of his stories.  “There’s money in this,” Paul mumbled, “but you’re too good to write this kind of stuff.”  Looking up from the check, I could not contain my amazement: “Seventy-five dollars for a funny story?”  “Not funny; a scrounge story.  I wrote it in one night in the office while on shift at Greyhound. You know—the story of the boy coming out of the country and screwing the high-society girl.”

I knew Paul was full of stories.  I knew he had the gift to deliver humor before a live audience.  What I didn’t know was that Paul wrote stories for porno magazines and collected good sums of money over the years.  “You don’t need that,” he advised me, “You have much more going for you.  You should write, and write about things that matter.”

That night beside the fire I experienced a teachable moment.  Forty-three years later, as Amtrak carried me back to Fort Worth late in the night, I continued to think about that intimate conversation.  Relatives that took Paul with a grain of salt remarked that he was only about himself, his stories, his need for an audience, his practice of holding court.  But I remember the night Paul turned his attention on me for a few minutes and delivered a life-transforming Word, an Oracle.  Paul, I never forgot that moment.  Thank you for your compliment, for your encouragement.  I love to write.  I have found ways to weave this passion into my teaching profession, am proud to have been published a few times, still enjoy keeping an old-fashioned journal and now love to weave words and put them on a blog.  And I am grateful to have readers the same way you were grateful to have listeners.

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.

Morning Coffee with Jack Kerouac

October 18, 2018

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Road Trip Memories

There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road: the Original Scroll

These words drifted through my consciousness last night as I made the two-hour late-night drive back home from Tyler, Texas, through the driving rain (really, I’m fed up with rain that has lasted a solid week down here). I was honored to jury the 66th Annual Palette of Roses Art Show, and did that Monday morning. Last night was the awards reception, and I was invited to present the awards and be available for a couple of hours to offer critique for any artist requesting it.

Judging does not come easily for me, probably because I have had my share of competitions, and know the vulnerability and angst accompanying judgment passed on my own work. So when the time comes for me to do the judging, I worry over the second-guessing, not only on my part, but on the part of the artists who do not agree with my decisions. But last night’s group was gracious and I thoroughly enjoyed every conversation. There were 251 entries to the show, and many awards covering many categories. And, for the entire two hours, I spoke with one artist after another, explaining my decisions on works I had chosen, and offering my perspectives on any piece brought before me. These conversations I always find invigorating, and I regret that I could not have spent an entire day, or even an entire week, with this enthusiastic and highly-skilled group of artistic spirits. Driving home was spiritually uplifting as I recalled every word passed throughout the evening.

Kerouac’s iconic life on the road also flooded my thoughts as I drove through the night, so I rose early this morning to spend time over his pages before going to my 9:30 class. I confess that I did not read On the Road until around 2004, though I had been aware of the book for a couple of decades. Since then I have read it through twice, and have had it read to me during my travels (I purchased the 10-CD audio book) countless times. The book will never go stale for me.

I was asked in conversation yesterday when I retired, and I had to think about it, the time since that day has been such a blur. It was May 2017. And I never would have imagined what would follow–seventeen months of a life on the road. I believe I had always fantasized about such a life, feeling like a wandering mendicant. Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama–the art life took me across all these states to participate in plein air painting, to conduct workshops, to participate in art festivals, to display and sell my work in an art museum, and to enjoy life in all its fullness. Though I have spent little time in my home, I have not felt homeless or detached in any way. Rather, I have felt at home in the world, appreciating every friend made and every conversation shared.

I suppose it is time to re-insert Kerouac into my traveling backpack of books.

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 Proust

October 17, 2018

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He began, always, with the sustained tremolos of the violin part which for several bars was heard alone, filling the whole foreground; until suddenly it seemed to draw aside, and–as in those interiors by Pieter de Hooch which are deepened by the narrow frame of a half-opened door, in the far distance, of a different colour, velvety with the radiance of some intervening light–the little phrase appeared, dancing, pastoral, interpolated, episodic, belonging to another world.

Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

Rising to a cold, dark, rainy morning for the fourth day in a row, I could have harbored a sourpuss outlook on life, but I had an appointment to meet a student of mine whom I last saw eleven years ago (teachers know how rich and delightful it is to “catch up” with the lives of those who touched us profoundly in the classroom long ago). Jake was a true lover of literature and ideas while a senior in high school, and happily, that hasn’t diminished for him at all. When he was in my class, we were both reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Kerouac’s mention of Proust meant little to me at that time, but a long-time teacher friend of mine alerted me to Proust’s delicious way of describing sensations in his famous novel.

Returning home, I opened my volume to the bookmark where I last read (I wonder if I will ever complete my reading of the three-volume work!) and stopped with the passage posted above. I had to close the book and sigh deeply a few moments. Music has flooded my soul with joy for as long as I can recall. In fact, I have scores of “Proustian recollections” associated with particular songs when they are played. They transport me immediately out of my present environment and re-position me in a warm, primal state for a few moments. I always wish the moment would remain, but of course, it never does. Nevertheless, I am grateful for that visitation.

I am a YouTube junkie, and as I read and blog, I always have music playing–the type that doesn’t distract from thinking. In fact, as I compose this, I have “Relaxing Background Guitar Music – meditate, focus, study, think” playing, and the effect is hypnotic. I honestly believe music and literature and visual art keep me from ever feeling alone, though I live and travel alone.

Thanks for reading

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with James Joyce

October 16, 2018

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New Collage of James Joyce made this Morning

The full morning light had come. No sound was to be heard: but he knew that all around him life was about to awaken in common noises, hoarse voices, sleepy prayers. Shrinking from that life he turned towards the wall, making a cowl of the blanket and staring at the great overblown scarlet flowers of the tattered wallpaper.

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist asYoung Man

All day yesterday, I drove from Bullard to Tyler to Palestine and finally to Arlington through a downpour and a dark, cold, muddy world. Finding my house cold after leaving it on an 85-degree day last week, I decided to turn on the furnace but keep the thermostat around 60 degrees and enjoy a sweater finally. Putting a quilt on the bed last night, I awoke this morning around 6:30 to temperatures outside at 43 degrees, and heard the downpour continuing. Like the protagonist in Joyce’s book, I huddled under the quilt and turned to the wall, but unlike him, I enjoyed my thoughts drifting through my waking consciousness. Finally rising at 7:00, I showered and regretfully went out and ran a number of necessary errands, the rain pouring continually, and finally returned home, resolved to leave the house no more this day.

The first thing I did at my desk when I returned home was go to work on a quick portrait sketch of James Joyce.

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Portrait Sketch

Once the sketch was complete, I wasn’t satisfied, and decided to tear some paper, photocopy some manuscripts, and see what I could do with a collage attempt.

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Finished Collage, 5 x 7″ and now fitted into an 8 x 10 Mat

Priced at $40

Once that was completed, I re-opened A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and read and took notes in my journal for pure pleasure. The nasty, cold, rainy morning finally morphed into a warm, interior, pleasurable hour in the studio. I have a ton of college grading to catch up on, having been out all weekend chasing art activities, so I have to bring this to a close.

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 and Abraham Heschel

August 27, 2018

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Heschel and The Torah

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

This book by Heschel was a real treasure I found at Half-Price Books two summers ago. The only reason I pulled the volume off the shelf was because I recognized the name, invoked on the first day of class in Hebrew Prophecy, when I was studying at the seminary. The Professor read an extensive quote from Heschel, and I promptly went to the campus bookstore to purchase volume one of his work titled The Prophets. It proved to be a very technical book that I found useful in my studies way back then. But this current volume that has kept me company for two years now certainly provided a compelling word for me during my morning reading.

I lack that scholar’s eloquence when I try to describe my own pilgrimage. To put it succinctly, when I was a child, I pursued art because it was the only talent I possessed. Art was the only way I could gain entrance to a university. Once I “grew up” (I was a very late bloomer), I tumbled headlong into the study of ideas, falling profoundly in love with scholarship and the power of the word. After fourteen years of earning degrees, I picked up the pencil and brush again, and not only discovered that I had solid thinking behind my “talent”, but a reverence for the power of art that I had not acknowledged throughout the years of my youth. Even during my years of undergraduate study (majoring in art) professors would occasionally refer to art as having a “religious” foundation, and I only scoffed in immaturity, because my only notion of “religion” was liturgically based, and I thought art was a “worldly” or “arrogant” endeavor.

All of that changed after my personal “earthquake” in 1984, that I won’t go into at this point. All I wish to say, is this: following my personal crisis, I slowly moved into that circle of art as a religious instinct. And Heschel uttered with genuine erudition my heartfelt belief about art emerging from a sense of the sublime. And I am on the same page as he is, in admitting that this sublime “power” is never fully released in the finished work of art. No human can harness completely that divine force and reveal it to the viewers.

Along with reading Heschel, I am also chipping away at the Hebrew text of the Genesis creation account. I will always be grateful to the seminary for training me in Hebrew, and though my skills are clumsy now compared to back then, I can still work with the language. I am most intrigued with the first two verses in Genesis, reading about the earth as a chaos of unformed matter, and I shudder when I translate that the spirit, or wind of God “brooded over the face of the waters.” And then God spoke, and the world began to organize. In a series of words, the world began to shape with opposing forces: light and darkness, day and night, water and land, etc. Later, the Greeks would coin this word “logos” that we like to translate “word.” But this particular word points to a gathering, and organizing, a pulling together. My feelings intensify when I think of the artistic process–organizing, separating, identifying, coordinating–all the things described in the account of God creating a cosmos. When the Genesis narrative states that God created people in his own “image”, I tend to think that that “image” is one of a creator. An artist is a creator, and in that endeavor is most like the divine. Michelangelo believed that when he made people from marble, that he was doing something comparable to God’s act.

This is why I falter when I try to explain to others the profound feelings I undergo when I am drawing or working in watercolor. There is a primal force urging me forward in this endeavor, and I never feel that I rose to the intensity of that primal force when I view my finished works, no matter how good I think they may be. The act of making art, to me, is always much, much more than the satisfaction of looking at a finished piece.

Hopefully, I will have a chance to pick up the brush later today. I still have some college work to complete before class tomorrow, but I feel the itch to explore these new techniques in rendering trees that began several weeks ago.

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One of my Colorado tree experiments

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.

Restful Reminiscences in the Midst of Calendar Frenzy

May 23, 2018

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The Cafe–always a respite for those driven by creative forces

After reading the first chapter of Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existentialist Cafe, my heart is “strangely warmed,” to borrow the words of John Wesley when hearing the reading of Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans.  The above picture was taken last week, the day before I left for St. Louis to join my friend Wayne White for a three-day primitive camping/fishing adventure. I’ve chosen not to photograph my current setting, though it is also outside a Starbuck’s in a different city.

My mind is still at a whirl, and sitting at this cafe table to sip coffee and scribble in my journal is about the only way I know how to cope with the turbulence (a good turbulence this is, I wish to add).

I have been on a day-to-day chase through one art appointment after another. A couple of weeks ago, I finished a week of a plein air painting competition in historic Waxahachie, Texas.

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One of three paintings submitted for competition

The same day I turned in my paintings for the plein air competition, I headed back to my home in Arlington forty minutes away to set up for a local Art on the Greene art and music festival.

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Arlington’s Art on the Greene 2018

The day after the three-day festival ended, I drove an hour south to demonstrate in watercolor for the Lake Granbury Artists Association.

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Set Up for the Painting Demonstration

The morning after the Granbury demo, I drove to Texas Wesleyan University to collect the final writing portfolios from my Humanities classes, then spent that day and the next grading all the portfolios as well as the final exams for my online Logic class. I then submitted the grades to the registrar and left the following day for my drive to St. Louis. I don’t recall a more pleasant ten-and-a-half-hour drive across Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. The windshield time was soothing, the sunlight was warm and strong, and all I could think about was how fortunate I was to have the time off to leave the work calendar behind.

Wayne White and I have known each other since second grade, but drifted apart after high school, and found one another again thanks to Facebook. Several times we have connected over the past years to camp, fish, and just sit to enjoy quality conversation. Both of us love John Muir, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and spend hours discussing what we read from their legacies. I anticipated a delicious break from the frenetic schedule of appointments I had recently endured.

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Wayne Pouring the Camp Coffee

Our adventure this year took us to the Silver Mines recreation area near Fredericktown, Missouri. Wayne has already posted a delicious blog of our time there. You can read him at https://ramblingsofafarrier.com/ and admire his photography covering our excursion. He is ten times the photographer than I could ever dare to be.  And he is unparalleled as a camp cook, preparing everything in Dutch ovens and skillets, right down to his biscuits-made-from-scratch. And his camp coffee from a percolator always tastes better than what I get out of my modern kitchen appliances.

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We enjoyed three days and two nights that included fishing, hiking, photography, plein air painting and yes, hours of uninterrupted conversation about things that matter to us. We also endured three major thunderstorms, though our tents kept us dry inside. And somehow, Wayne always managed to keep a campfire going through the downpours, and his spirit never turned soggy with the environment. That is one of many things I will always admire about his character. Emerson must have had Wayne’s temperament in mind when he wrote that “nature wears the colors of our spirit.” Constant rainfall ruins most people’s camping experience, but it did not diminish ours, and I have to credit a great deal of that to Wayne’s ebullient attitude when out in nature.

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Day Two: Wayne cooking breakfast while I try to capture the moment

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Plein Air watercolor sketch of breakfast in progress

I would be lying if I said that I fished all day, never got a bite, but it was still a good day. When I don’t succeed in fishing, I am pissed. But I can honestly say that if I paint all day and turn out nothing but lousy paintings, it is still a good day. I enjoy every moment at the plein air easel, or in the studio at the drafting table; I can never say that making art was a lousy experience, even if the product fails consistently. So, all of this to say that I have no judgment on the quality of my camp paintings; I just had a sublime series of thoughts and emotions the entire time I tried to make the paintings.

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The final morning: again, Wayne cooks and I paint

breakfast 2 painting

On the final morning, I attempted a watercolor sketch of the base of a tree on our perimeter. Once Wayne began cooking, I rotated the easel 180 degrees, and attempted to capture his craft at the fire. On both mornings of breakfast preparations and painting, we were in a campsite soaked from the deluge of the night before. Wayne labored over a wet cooking area, managing a fire while I worked hard against the humidity, painting on paper that was constantly dotted with raindrops falling from the leaves overhead. Still, we both managed to laugh at our predicament and our spirits remained high.

cliff painting easel

cliff painting 2

cliff painting gear

Before breaking down our camp, we hiked down a steep hill into the bottom of a gorge to see the dam and the swollen St. Francis River raging by. I set up my easel, and refused to paint the true color of the muddy water below (it looked like raw sewage). Overwhelmed at the sight of the massive cliffs and forests across the gorge, I chose to edit this sketch, painting only about one-third of the vertical dimension of the bluff. I wanted sky, trees, rocks and water in the painting and could not accomplish that without severely diminishing the size of the foliage and rocks to fit them on the page. After my attempt to capture the essence of what was arranged across the gorge from me, I then enjoyed sitting on the cool boulders in the shade, scribbling in my journal, and watching Wayne far below, moving up and down the trails taking photographs of the spectacular views. I encourage you to check out his blog and see his magnificent work.

Both of us brought books to the camp, along with our journals, and enjoyed conversation over those.  I want to share now something I had read from the Journals of the Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix. Wayne and I had plenty to say over this:

(from Sunday, July 14, 1850): Today, Sunday, I may say that I am myself again: and so it’s the first day that I find interest in all the things which surround me. This place is really charming. I went this afternoon, and in a good mood, to take a walk on the other side of the water. There, seated on a bench, I started to jot down in my notebook some reflections similar to those I am tracing here. I told myself and I cannot repeat it to myself often enough for my repose and for my happiness (one and the other are but a single thing) that I cannot and must not live in any other way than through the mind; the food that it demands is more necessary to my life than that which my body calls for. 

Why did I live so much, that famous day? (I am writing this two days afterward). It was because I had a great many ideas which, at this moment, are a hundred leagues away. The secret of not having troubles, for me at least, is to have ideas. Therefore no effort is too great if it gives me the means of bringing them into existence. Good books have that effect, and above all certain ones among those books. The first thing to have is health, to be sure; but even in a sickly condition, such books as those can reopen sources through which imagination can issue forth generously.

I have said it in other blog posts: the life of the mind is what has saved me throughout my existence. When circumstances were dire, my ideas saved me, buoyed me. And yes, my ideas come from reading as well as observation and the efforts to make art. I suppose one of the reasons I blog is that my 130 volumes of journals scribbled over the years, along with the preparations and lectures delivered over the past thirty years of teaching, are still not enough in themselves. I continue to seek other outlets to express what is in me.

Now, I am fifteen hours away from that geographical region, but the sights still fill my mind’s eye, and returning to the reading of this book about the existentialist cafe experience, I recall Hemingway admitting during his early Parisian years of writing that he could not write about Michigan until he was in Paris, and couldn’t write about Paris until he was in Cuba or Key West.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when feeling alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Flushing the Agenda

January 27, 2018

blind blog

I hate to seem greedy—I have so much

to be thankful for already.

But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.

And go to my place with some coffee and wait.

Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.

Raymond Carver, “At Least”

Carver’s poetic words were what my soul needed this Saturday morning. I’m in The Redlands Hotel in Palestine, my favorite home-away-from-home. My only gallery appointment is Sunday afternoon, so I’m in the building, with my phone if anyone needs me, but it’s so luxurious to sit in this lovely apartment space on the second floor and feel all the cares and anxieties of the world roll off my shoulders.

I’m still under the weather (as are most of my friends) with this lousy congestion that just won’t go away and stay gone, even with help from physicians. And outside, it is cool and rainy and dark–a perfect day for indoors, coffee, books, and a smart phone that is my link to whomever needs me.

For my blog readers, I just have this to say–I have a number of blog posts in the hopper that I am still revising before sending them up the flagpole, thank you for being so patient, those of you who look forward to reading and knowing what is going on in my corner of the world. Despite my illness, many things have transpired over this past month, and so many good things are in progress that I really look forward to sharing on this page. All I can say is Soon (I hope).

Thank you 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.

 

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.