Archive for the ‘coffee house’ Category

Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen

February 3, 2019


Breakfast at the Dairy Queen in Palestine, Texas

Enjoying my weekend in Palestine and The Redlands Hotel, I was tipped off yesterday by Jean (owner of the hotel) to try out the local Dairy Queen for breakfast. This morning when I arrived and ordered the “country breakfast,” the counter girl asked me how I wanted my eggs. “Over easy?” I hesitatingly offered. And what to drink? “Coffee.” She handed me a real mug! And, a short while later, this was brought to me, on a real plate with real silverware.

I do not take meals at the Dairy Queen, but I still recall that the one outside Archer City, Texas serves breakfast this way, as a real American diner would. When I returned to The Gallery at Redlands, I decided that I need to acquire a copy of Larry McMurtry’s Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen. I understand that this collection of essays, autobiographical in nature, contain the author’s lament at the demise of story telling in American culture, and ways in which small American towns have been drained of their local charm. Though I live in Arlington, I have found far more of a fascinating world and culture in Palestine, Texas. I am truly blessed, granted time to spend in The Gallery at Redlands and reside in The Redlands Hotel and enjoy the music and camaraderie of Kevin and Marc at Smooth Rock 93.5 FM. As I write this, I am finishing a watercolor commission for a local author (I know of two authors that live in this vicinity), and the community is awash in musicians. Many of us have the same thing in common–growing up in small towns, working and raising families in large cities, then returning to these small towns to enjoy life at a lovelier pace.


I Should Finish this One Today

After I finish this painting, I intend to read Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay “The Storyteller.” And who knows–I may just pick up a copy of McMurtry’s collection and see what I can glean from the reading.

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. 


Sifting through the Layers

November 26, 2018


Beginning an Ezra Pound Collage

Pound turned a jumble of good and bad passages into a poem.

Helen Gardner, speaking of Ezra Pound’s editing of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land

Monday morning, 27 degrees and dark, has found me unable to focus on preparations for tomorrow’s class, so I decided to go to a coffee house and set up my “office” for awhile.  After a couple of days reading 127 pages of Hiking with Nietzsche (and enjoying it profoundly), I decided this morning to graze from some other books. Returning to Howard Gardner’s Creating Minds, I resumed the chapter on T. S. Eliot and found some fascinating details concerning his lost manuscript to The Waste Land, having been rediscovered in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library. It was Ezra Pound who convinced him to cut the thousand-line draft to about half its size. Helen Gardner uttered the immortal words posted above.

After reading awhile, I was seized with the impulse to begin a collage of Ezra Pound, and immediately pushed aside my books and pulled my file of collage scrap papers from the carry-on bag. Getting lost in the drawing of Pound’s portrait and then pasting a text from my Greek New Testament on one side, and then tearing papers and pushing them around the 5 x 7″ composition, my imagination began trekking over the landscape of thoughts and images from years gone by. I stopped the collage, put it away, and drew out my journal to catch the fleeting thoughts quickly before they had a chance to evaporate.

I welcome moments like this. Visitations. In the midst of a busy schedule, a door unexpectedly swings open, inviting me to enter a spacious chamber of memories and sit for awhile with a cup of coffee and listen to them. This is the Proustian moment that cannot be summoned. All we can do is adjust our sails to catch the breeze of the muse when it stirs, and let it take us to another place. The occasion may last only a few minutes or endure for a few hours. But it is always a gift, gladly received.

This morning I was taken back to days of study at the seminary (the late seventies and early eighties). I also lingered in classrooms and lecture halls at University of North Texas and Texas Christian University, and saw in my mind’s eye the study carrel on the top floor of Texas Wesleyan University where I spent winter evenings reading and occasionally gazing out the window into the darkness, fixing my eyes on lovely Christmas lights outlining homes in neighboring residential areas. Thoughts of Christmas seasons past warmed me in these moments as well.

At this stage of my life, I am grateful for good thoughts, good memories, as I sift through the layers of past chapters in my life that now come to the present and invite a fresh visitation and interpretation. People whom I have known and loved reach out to me, and I touch them again with my memories and thoughts of profound gratitude.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to excavate.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.



In the Great Silence of these Distances

August 8, 2018

Riverbend Resort

Last Week


This Morning

The month-long Odyssey has been an abundant blessing, moving across Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. Though I have moved on from the mountains, I still feel their call rising within me. This morning, situated in the city, I have moved into the interior, into the Cave, which is fitting, because time has arrived for me to devote the remaining two weeks to university preparations involving intense study and the creation of necessary documents for three courses.

I will also be focused on commissions I have in the hopper, so watercoloring will also be part of my daily diet. I cannot conceive of anything more rewarding—a life of the mind each morning, and the creation of art each afternoon.

As I work, images from Colorado still flood my inner vision, both of mountains and of wild critters that visited me daily.


The Mountains Called out to Me, and I Answered


A Friend Recently Called me Saint Francis


I Still Hear the Birds Conversing about the Deck


This One Appeared Curious over what I was Reading . . .


. . . and This One Spent Three Days with Me as I painted


For the rest of my years, I’ll be grateful for the memories of this month-long Odyssey, as I am this morning grateful for this gift of teaching university students. In two weeks, I shall open the next Chapter, and commence the challenge of inducing young minds to embrace new ideas from Judaism and Logic at Texas Wesleyan University. Since the year 2000, this small private institution has embraced me as I have explored with my students ideas contained in the New Testament, Old Testament, World Religions, Logic, Ethics and the Humanities.

Life is much more comfortable for me now than it was when I first began my own university studies. I no longer feel the anxieties associated with having more questions than answers. After all these decades, I still have more questions than answers, but it is O.K. I hope I can pass on the wisdom to these new students that I read in the letters from Rilke to a young poet:

You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. 

santa fe depot

Resuming the Commission this Afternoon

After a three-week hiatus, I am also returning today to complete this promised commission. Throughout my travels, this image has continued to compost in my mind’s eye, and I am enthusiastic to pick up the brush and resume work on this engaging subject.

Time to go to work. Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Post-Christmas Musings

December 27, 2016


Holiday Hotel Insomnia

 Ut pictura poesis (“as in painting, so in poetry”)

I am slowly waking to a most unusual day. For reasons unknown, I awoke a little after 3:00 this morning and could not return to sleep. The hotel was dark and quiet.  Finally, I rose, showered, and spent two hours at the writing desk recording my thoughts, reading and reflecting in the stillness of the post-Christmas pre-dawn. Finally, I went to a 24-hour diner for breakfast, then to Starbucks where I have remained until now (8:14 a.m.), reading and enjoying this cold winter morning (dropped to 34 degrees in St. Louis this morning).

My reading has been an extraordinary experience, finishing the Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life biography, then resuming The Wyeths by N. C. Wyeth and beginning Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings (a much-appreciated Christmas gift).

I read the following in a letter from the young N. C. Wyeth to his parents, regarding a challenge just given him from his teacher Howard Pyle:

“Wyeth, I’ve been watching your work very closely and I see you have a great deal of talent but what you need is knowledge, that is, you have not had a good training and thereby no foundation.” 

Pyle then invited the young N. C. to enroll in his school for illustrators.  I purchased this book, because I’ve been astounded at the erudition of N. C. in his letters written late in life.  Here I am clearly reading of the turning point in his experience, when he was identified as basically unlettered though talented, and requiring intellectual development and maturing.

I am moved by this reading, and recall my own experience forty-four years ago,  when starting out in college on a scholarship granted because of my artistic abilities, but discovering quite quickly that my mental laziness throughout high school had finally outed me.  Some of the painful conversations with my professors still haunt my memory. Looking back, I’m now very grateful for my years in graduate study that poured a foundation beneath my art that now gives me more of a purpose to pursue what I pursue. Though I cannnot yet articulate a particular theory of aesthetics of philosophy of art, I nevertheless am aware of a much deeper motive for making art than I knew in younger years. And of course I still study and practice technique as much as possible and will never neglect this important part of the artistic enterprise. But the message still needs to be explored. Gladly, I still have some holiday vacation time to do this.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Finding Sanctuary Inside a Coffee House

September 4, 2016

coffee tree

Tree Sketch from inside the Coffee House

That’s what depth comes to, really, taking all the stuff your mind has gathered in its travels back inside, to sort through it and see what it all means.  To make it your own. The only way to cultivate a happy inner life is to spend time there, and that’s impossible when you’re constantly attending to the latest distraction.

William Powers, Hamlet’s Blackberry

Late into Saturday night, Shelley Allison and I rode the new Dallas Streetcar to the Bishop Arts District in South Oak Cliff. Finding a relaxing space inside Espumoso Cafe, I opened Hamlet’s Blackberry and re-read the Marshall McLuhan chapter. I took heart in reading that McLuhan was not a linear thinker, preferring a more “mosaic” approach to presenting his ideas. Thinking back over three decades of classroom activity, I confess that I was never known for systematic and linear thinking myself. It’s probably too late to change that now.

During this holiday weekend, I have enjoyed the slower pace and the broader space to think through some matters worth thinking through. One idea that assesses my past is encapsulated in the quote posted above. While I don’t regard myself as a deep thinker, I nevertheless know that I have taken the contemplative life seriously at least as early as my college years, perhaps even sooner. Throughout my student as well as teacher life, I have found no satisfaction in bell schedules, deadlines and large group discussion formats that hindered rather than enhanced thinking. I have always known myself as an introvert, suited better to quiet spaces and sufficient time to work on ideas that matter. My years as a graduate student provided those spaces and times, and I have missed those kinds of work schedules since I graduated in 1987.

High school schedules separate subject matter by bell schedules, with less than ten minutes to transition from one class to the next, and transition the students must. For thirty years I have deplored that format, though forced to work within it. As a graduate student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Rollo May frequently strolled the neighborhood park after lecture classes under the theologian Paul Tillich, so he could think deeply, sorting out the content of those life-changing truths delivered in the lectures. On occasion, I myself have skipped particular convention sessions, because a joint-session orator would rock me with his/her public address, and I knew I had to find a quiet space in a lobby or coffee shop in order think through, sort out, and apply the notes I had scribbled hastily as the address was delivered. That activity was far more sacred to me than going into the next session to pursue a new topic, thus shelving the precious words just delivered.

In my personal life I have always read, indeed devoured books by the stack. This is more easily done during summer recess than during academic semesters. Now that I am entrenched in a new semester, I refuse to stop reading outside of class, and refuse to let my job push out this sacred activity of thinking in quiet spaces. Fortunately, I have one ninety-minute planning period per school day where I can pursue this ativity. And I’m even more thankful for this current gift of a three-day weekend to pursue my passion. During times like this, the smart phone is turned off and put away, and the laptop stays home. Thank you, William Powers, for getting my attention last year, convincing me of the value of unplugging from time to time. Social media can wait.

Thanks for reading.

Filling the Lacuna

April 7, 2016


Motherwell’s formidable intelligence was matched by his capacity for deep feeling, and the conflict between intellect and instinct formed one of the richest undercurrents of his art. He approached the situations of his life and of his art with a remarkable flexibility–constantly alert, his thought constantly in motion, his attitudes toward the world around him continually in a state of reappraisal.

Jack Flam, Robert Motherwell: 100 Years

There has been a considerable gap since my last blog posting, because I’ve felt that nothing was going on worthy of a post, though I have been extremely busy chasing school-related and income tax deadlines. I seem to be currently slogging around in the swamp water, yet life is good. Grateful for so much good that has washed over me in recent weeks, I still find myself fumbling over what to do just now with my life with this overload of stimuli. Still, that is a good thing, right?

Last Sunday, I stumbled on a Robert Motherwell installation at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the timing couldn’t have been better–Amazon just delivered to me the book I quoted above. I am immersed in the reading of this remarkable text, always in awe of this marvelous, spiritual man.  And I have already returned to visit the show a second time. Thanks to Motherwell, I am drawing more in my sketchbook and plotting out my next series of watercolors. With an art festival approaching in eight days, I doubt that I’ll be able to pursue painting for another week-to-ten days. But at least my mind and heart are fixed on the notion.


My Tuesday night “Parisian Café” is one of the most precious events to enter my solitary life. As I’ve stated before, “the French Impressionists had their Café Guerbois. Picasso and friends had their Les Deux Magots. The Ash Can School had 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The Abstract Expressionists had the Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village. I myself have ached for an art cafe where I could show up once a week or so and just talk with other creative people . . .”  This gathering of artists and writers fills my cup to overflowing every time I sit down with them. I have gone most of my adult life without a close circle of friends, and I cannot describe the joy and warmth I feel now that I have been embraced. Stacy (seated on the left) is the most soulful poet I have ever known personally, and conversations with her always leave me with an overflowing sense of gratitude.  To make things better, she teaches in the same school as I. Here is a link to Stacy’s blog:


laguna madre poster

Since my last blog post, I’ve cranked out thirty-nine pages of typed rough draft on a book I’m trying to write, recording my Laguna Madre experience of last summer. All my adult life, I’ve wanted to write a book, but never knew how to go about getting it published. I’ve decided I’m writing this one anyway, for me. I’m enclosing the draft of my introductory chapter, and trust me, it’s rough.

Cleansing the Eye:

Recollections from a Grateful Artist-in-Residence


“Gauguin returned from his first Tahitian sojourn in 1893 with enough canvases and carvings to constitute a one-man show; but he knew that the strangeness of his Tahitian imagery would require some stage-managing if it was to be a success. He had in mind the idea of producing a book that would introduce and explain his imagery to a Parisian audience.” (page X, Writings of a Savage)

How do I introduce myself as quickly as possible and then get out of the way?  I hope that this is not a book about me, but a book about you, dear Reader. I have never believed that quality reading is a passive exercise; you the reader create your own world as you read my words and interact with this text.  Upon completion and release of this book, I will not go forth into the rest of my life, wondering whether or not I am understood; I just want to make a contribution.  I want someone’s life to improve because they spent time with me in this book.

So, what exactly am I?  An unfrustrated public school teacher who has had the pleasure (for the most part) of doing as he pleased for more than a quarter of a century.  My only real issue has been how to make a gift of the knowledge and experiences that have enriched me throughout these years.  My lifestyle, as I’ve sojourned in this world, has been to absorb knowledge, Faustlike, and embed these observations in lesson plans, lectures, and paintings, hoping always that others received something significant from the encounters.  I never expected others to see the world my way, but always hoped to deal an ace worth picking up and inserting into someone else’s poker hand.

Why did Henry David Thoreau go to Walden Woods?  My perspective has been this: he received a vaunted Harvard degree, and with it a skill set, an academic toolbox.  But early in life, he reached the conviction that all knowledge he had received up to that point was secondary.  All the divines whom he had read received their truths directly from nature, he from their books and lectures.  He had lived out Emerson’s complaint that opened Nature in 1836:

The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes.  Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?  Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?  Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe?  The sun shines to-day also.  There is more wool and flax in the fields.  There are new lands, new men, new thoughts.  Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.

Travelling to Walden Pond to live, Thoreau decided it was time to learn directly from nature, to find out what he could learn from her, and then to publish those results to the world.

And hence I find myself this day at the Laguna Madre.  This is a gift.  My education over my past sixty-plus years has been a gift, but nearly all of it secondary.  Now, for the first time, I hope to scoop primary experience and pass it on to other outstretched hands.  Hopefully, by the end of this sojourn I will echo Nietzsche’s words that I have become weary of my wisdom as a bee that has gathered too much honey, needing hands outstretched to receive it.

Quoting Thoreau, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan- like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

My conviction has always been grounded in the notion that solitude is the studio for creativity.  I myself have never found fulfilment in collaborative projects in the visual arts, nor have I found my inspiration in the vortex of think tanks.  The school of solitude is where I have always mined my ideas for painting.  Anthony Storr has argued:

The creative person is constantly seeking to discover himself, to remodel his own identity, and to find meaning in the universe through what he creates.  He finds this a valuable integrating process which, like meditation or prayer, has little to do with other people, but which has its own separate validity.  His most significant moments are those in which he attains some new insight, or makes some new discovery; and these moments are chiefly, if not invariably, those in which he is alone.[1]

“Alone” is the key word that describes my life, though I have been in relationships for most of my years.  I have always required space for my own thinking, writing and creating.  This was true in public school, the university, graduate school, the ministry, and all my subsequent years devoted to the classrooms and lecture halls.  I still look back with gratitude at those times spent in library study carrels, in my own study, under trees, beside flowing streams, in hotel rooms and lobbies, coffee bars and book stores, in roadside parks or staring through a windshield while driving across the country.  My private study cubicle has been wherever I could pause, alone, and pull out a journal or laptop or sketchbook, and pour out my thoughts on the pages.  And throughout my years, I have looked at those file drawers filled with stuffed manila folders, those computer files filled with data, the over one hundred volumes of handwritten journals on my shelf—and wondered how to distill those memories and research efforts into some kind of a book, my life, my philosophy, my love.  Volumes and volumes, pages and pages, layers and layers of themes and threads seeking some kind of resolution, some kind of synthesis, some kind of understandable “story” for others to read and use as desired.  My clusters of recorded ideas have milled about over the decades, as actors on a stage waiting for a director.

As shared in the opening of this chapter, Gauguin returned from his island excursion with a stack of canvases and sought a way to “stage-manage” his public exhibition. So I too returned from the Laguna Madre with nineteen plein air watercolors, with a plan to show them in two exhibitions, conduct a series of watercolor workshops, deliver some public addresses, and attempt to relay to my audiences what I gleaned from this peak experience.

And so, this book will be my first effort, since my doctoral dissertation, to engage in an extended essay, synthesizing the ideas that have meant so much to me over the years and found a way to crystalize while sojourning on a small spoil island in the Texas Laguna Madre.

When Hemingway accepted his Nobel Prize, he declared that “writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”  I would propose the word “solitary.”  I don’t feel lonely when I make art, though I am alone, solitary.  I find those moments soothing.  When the boat pulled away from the dock that first Sunday morning on June 6, 2015, and I waved good-bye to my new friends, watching as they diminished in size on the horizon, the first thing I noticed was that the island was quiet, very quiet.  And I could feel myself beaming inwardly.  I was in an unspoiled paradise, though standing on a spoil island.  It was time to go to work.

[1]Anthony Storr, Solitude: A Return to Self (New York: The Free Press, 1988),  p. xiv.

Thanks for reading.


The Affirming Embrace of a Saturday Morning

July 26, 2014
Coffee: the Perfect Companion in the Art Studio

Coffee: the Perfect Companion in the Art Studio

For I have known them all already, known them all:–

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

July 26, 1992 marks one of the more perfect days of my earthly odyssey, especially when I measure out my life with coffee spoons.  That historic day was spent in Oregon, as I neared the finish of a blissful five-week seminar on the writings of Emerson, Thoreau and Margaret Fuller. To mark today’s anniversary, I’ve decided to begin with a cup of Hood River Coffee.  I ordered the beans from that company in Portland, Oregon, and was pleased to receive them on my doorstep yesterday.  This is only the second time in twenty-two years that I have ordered from them, but believe I’ll make a practice of it from here on out.  And today I will let the memories of Oregon, the mountains, the tall trees, the Pacific coast and the writings of those three bards flood my soul while I work on watercolor, read, scribble in the journal, and know from the heart the gratitude of feeling fully alive.

More later . . . thanks for reading.  It’s a beautiful Saturday in Texas.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not really alone.


Only the First Movement

June 27, 2014
Art, Music, Writing, Scholarly Activity--all Struggling for my Attention Tonight

Art, Music, Writing, Reading and Reflection–all Struggling for my Attention Tonight

The original idea, the sketch, which is so to speak the egg or embryo of the idea, is usually far from being complete; it contains everything, which is simply a mixing together of all parts. Just the thing that makes of this sketch the essential expression of the idea is not the suppression of details, but their complete subordination to the big lines, which are, before all else, to create the impression. The greatest difficulty therefore is that of returning in the picture to that effacing of the details which, however, make up the composition, the web and the woof of the picture.

Eugene Delacroix

Ah, Friday night at last!  I bid a cheery “Hello” to any blog readers still checking in to see if anything is happening in my corner of the world.  I have barely kept my nose above the flood of torrential waters this past week.  So much has come my way, and I am still trying to sort out and shape these ideas into something beautiful.   In a nutshell, I did make the drive south to the Lighthouse Coffee Bar in Midlothian, Texas last Friday night, and listened to a young singer-songwriter sharing his art on the guitar.  I sat in the back of the audience, and began drafting words for a song of my own.  In all my years, I have composed only one complete song for my guitar that I consider okay, so I thought it time to give birth to another.  What I scratched out at the table a week ago I’ll post at the end of this blog.  It is a rough draft, of course, but I am grateful for the Friday night experience that inspired me to give this a try.

Monday morning I had to rise at 5:30, catch a commuter train, and roll to Dallas for the first of a three-day Institute.  The program I will begin this fall at school is AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), and I fully believe in the principles undergirding this endeavor.  I will have one or two classes of 11th-grade AVID students and am thus required to train for what I will teach/mentor this fall.  The commuter train experience was perfect for me–always a thirty-minute ride making it possible to read from Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.  The contrast of Thoreau’s quiet, sage-like manner over against the bustle of a convention hotel overrun with thousands of educators created a great theater for this three-day week.  I met some of the most precious souls I’ve known in years during these sessions, and miss them all already.  Their students are so blessed to spend time with the likes of them.  The general public (and especially state legislators) have no idea of the passion and good will that floods the hearts of public school teachers who live to improve the lives of students entrusted to them.  Genuine teaching is indeed the pouring out of a life, the opening of a vein, and so few of the “leaders” of our society who spend so much time in front of the microphones and TV cameras, flooding our airwaves, know anything of such sacrifice.  I receive so much more in fifteen minutes over a cup of coffee from an enthusiastic public school teacher, or from the pages of Thoreau, than I could possibly get from hours of listening to the braying of a popular radio talk show host during drive time or words from a sanctimonious legislator during prime time TV.

Thursday marked my return to the summer school classroom and Shakespeare.  The bard is (for me) the highlight of the senior English curriculum.  So I was enriched, spending five hours immersed in his soothing literary waters, always grateful to have quality seniors in my room during the summer, instead of the indolent that often enter the schoolroom to re-take a course already failed once.  As soon as I exited the schoolroom, I received a call from Trinity Arts Guild in Bedford, a fascinating group of artists that featured me for a watercolor demo last fall.  They want to schedule me for a weekend watercolor workshop perhaps as early as this fall.  The details we discussed by phone excited me to the core, and now I have that element to add to my growing list of interests.

Following Thursday’s school, I was invited to join three beautiful people (all retired educators that I have know for decades) to return to Dallas and spend the afternoon and evening at the Dallas Museum of Art.  After three consecutive days of commuter train experience, this time it was nice to carpool with folks I know.  On Thursdays, the museum is open till 9:00 at night.  We perused in delicious silence the current exhibit: “Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World”.  To date, I have not given a fair amount of space in my Advanced Placement Art History course to the Islamic tradition, and I guarantee that will change this fall.  What I gleaned from this current exhibit was a marvelous reinforcement of the ideas I had taught in the past, with amazing illuminating examples that really captured my attention this time.  Part of this evening’s activity has been given to reviewing notes from past lectures and powerpoints and inserting details I gleaned from the museum exhibit.

After a lovely time strolling the Klyde Warren Park north of the museum (above R. L. Thornton freeway), we decided to re-enter the “art cathedral” and visit the permanent collection.  To our surprise, a preview was offered to museum members of the exhibit opening Sunday: “Mind’s Eye: Masterworks on Paper from David to Cezanne.”  From the moment we entered those galleries, I was stung in much the same fashion as I had been in recent months from my repeated attendance at the “Hopper Drawing” exhibit.  I will be returning to this exhibit many, many times this summer and fall, grateful for my museum partnership that allows me to park and view the collection at no charge.  I could not begin tonight to describe how my heart warmed as I gazed at drawings and watercolors by David, Gericault, Delacroix, Degas, Cezanne and many, many other giants of art history.  And the supporting texts were as equally rich as the works of art themselves.  Part of my reading over the past months has been from the Journals of Eugene Delacroix, and I could not believe the quality of the drawings selected from his hand to hang in this show.

While at the museum, my cell phone vibrated, and lo and behold, an art sale was transacted while I stood in that museum’s corridors.  That business took a chunk out of today, but I am always thankful for a sale.  Seated at last in my studio after a week’s hiatus, I am filled tonight with a spirit of good will, of delightful eudaimonia, and am happy for the quiet space in which to compose and share these musings.  Much more will follow as I sort out all the ideas that filled my journal during this past week’s daily travels and conferences.  Taking the opening Delacroix quote seriously, I am trying tonight to shape and structure some kind of aesthetic creation over these fundamental ideas that flooded my consciousness this past week.  I close with a draft of the song I am trying to compose, that began exactly a week ago tonight:

Only the First Movement

Leaning closely over the table

Peering at the horizonless mess

The pencil carving out all the boundaries

Separating form from the formless.

How does the artificer do that?

Easier on paper than life’s skies.

On paper he does.

In life he tries.

Schools taught him to use tools,

But never to create.

Churches tried to teach how to live.

But only taught what to hate.

He can only start the first movement.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Plein Air Excursions and Thoughts from Thoreau

June 15, 2014
Finished the Haltom Jewelers Clock on the Second Visit

Finished the Haltom Jewelers Clock on the Second Visit

It is only by a sort of voluntary blindness, and omitting to see, that we know ourselves, as when we see stars with the side of the eye.  The nearest approach to discovering what we are is in dreams.  It is as hard to see one’s self as to look backwards without turning around.  And foolish are they that look in glasses with that intent.

Father’s Day, of course, gave me a full day to think over these matters raised by Thoreau.  Funny how I feel my sense of identity evaporate when I am out of the classroom, as I have been for a little while now.  I know I am a teacher by profession, but feel odd when I try to identify myself as an artist when there is no audience.  When paintings are cranked out daily, I wonder if they are compared to symphonies played in deserts or smoke signals sent from uncharted islands.  I make art because it is in me; I can do nothing else.  But quiet moments like the present can render my sense of equilibrium shaky.  Ah well, I’ll get past that one.  🙂

I returned to Sundance Square this afternoon, mostly because of the opportunity to re-connect with old friends.  That in itself was a priceless moment.  And I also got to finish this plein air sketch I started Friday morning.  I’m satisfied with it and ready to move on to the next . . .

Upon completion of the clock, I retired to the Sundance Square Starbuck’s and enjoyed an iced coffee in the air-conditioned indoors (94 degrees outside).  I was really in the mood to sink my teeth into some Emerson essays, but the crowd noise inside I found intolerable.  Funny–I can usually tune out the clatter, but not today.  The coffee shop was overflowing with intolerable verbal clatter.  I had to leave.  Coming home to the studio, I found this:

A Studio Filling Up with Unfinished Projects

A Studio Filling Up with Unfinished Projects

So . . . Emerson or more watercolor activity?  Tough choice, really.  I’ll get back to you on that later.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never really alone.

Musing About Andy Warhol’s Factory

April 28, 2013
Finishing the Cafe Still LIfe

Finishing the Cafe Still LIfe

Cafe Still Life

Cafe Still Life

I think Kerry Cash is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, luthiers in all of north Texas.  I have taken guitars to him a number of times for him to work on, and noticed that he would easily have more than fifty guitars arranged around the shop, with work tickets, waiting their turn.  My father, a retired auto mechanic, said that was how you could always tell a good and trustworthy independent mechanic with his own shop–if you saw his entire lot filled with vehicles waiting their turn.  People were willing to wait, knowing the mechanic was excellent and honest.

What always surprised me about Kerry, is that he would take my guitar, tell me he had 50-75 guitars in the shop already, and it could be a couple of weeks before I would hear from him.  Yet, I would always get his phone call in two-to-four days.  One day I asked him how he did this, and his response was that, when the guitars stacked deeply as to 50-75, he would dedicate a particular day to “cleaning up” by moving to the top of the list all the “small jobs” that didn’t take long to complete.  By day’s end, he was delighted to have more than twenty guitars leaving the shop.

That is how I feel about the watercolors that have been stacking up the past week-and-a-half.  I’m ready to start cleaning some of them out.  Hence my blue pail and my cafe still-lifes.  On this cafe piece, I’ve been working all over on the table cloth, pushing it more around the perimeter of the composition, extending the pattern in all directions.  I’ve also tweaked the shadows and definitions on the spectacles case.  I think I am very near finishing it as well, and will lay it aside for now.

I have titled this blog entry “Musing About Andy Warhol’s Factory,” because I have loved for over ten years every story I could read about Warhol’s Factory before his 1968 tragedy.  I was always amazed at his output, his energy, and the way he kept so many art projects going at the same time, and kept cranking them out, as though on an assembly line.  Ever since I have set up this garage studio, this Man Cave, I have laughed at it being my Factory, without the parties, the company, the drugs, the rock music, all the craziness with which Warhol kept himself surrounded during those wild years.  My Factory is quiet, especially at night, and even now during this Sunday. And I’m glad to be finishing up some work.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.