Archive for the ‘Collage’ Category

Morning Coffee with thoughts concerning The Word

November 15, 2018

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Excellent Morning Poring over Pages from Karl Barth

. . . as the gaps between my digital tasks disappeared, so did the opportunities for depth.

William Powers, Hamlet’s Blackberry

Sometimes, when ideas are not clicking at home, I load the Jeep and drive away, looking for a friendly environment for reading and writing. Yesterday, I had an engagement to meet my dear friends in Keller, Texas at noon, so I decided to get there two hours early so I could have some time and space to reflect and write.  The activities and chores and responsibilities at home cluttered my morning, and I could not stop to reflect.

I force my mind to become self-absorbed and not let outside things distract it. There can be absolute bedlam without so long as there is no commotion within.

Seneca, On Noise

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

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

When I force myself to write, even when I feel that I am writing junk, I often find that good ideas will eventually emerge. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that the water pump initially brings up the dirty water before the clean. I find that true in writing; I often have to flush the junk from my mind to cleanse it and hope for epiphany.

As I wrote, I returned to an idea I broached recently on the blog that often consumes my thinking–the power of the genuine Word. My mind reached back to the writings of Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian whom I studied during seminary years, in fact I took a one-year seminar on his work during my Ph.D. studies. Returning home, I pulled the first two volumes of his Church Dogmatics from my shelf, and opened them to texts I had annotated back in 1983.

The distinction between word and act is that mere word is the mere self-expression of a person, while act is the resultant relative alteration in the world around. Mere word is passive, act is an active participation in history. But this kind of distinction does not apply to the Word of God. As mere Word it is act.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Volume 1, The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 1

Studying the biblical writings, I recall that the creation of the world is described as a series of God’s spoken words: he spoke the world into existence. He spoke, and it was so. I recall also the Isaiah passage where God says his word will not return void. In the prophetic works, when the words are translated “the word of the LORD came”, a better rendering of the Hebrew is “the word of the LORD happened.” In the Semitic mind, it seems that the word was an event, not just a noise articulated or a mark on the parchment.

Why am I thinking of this? Because our culture is polluted with words that either mean little to nothing, or even worse, are used as weapons to wreak havoc on life. I shudder when I think of a child hearing words directed at him or her that say: “You will never amount to anything,” or “you are weak,” or “you lack intelligence.” Words contain the power to effect change. Words are actions, a most powerful resource.

I am writing a blog. Some people actually read these words. And often I second-guess whether I have made a contribution, or if my writing has any effect on a reader at all.

–What are you reading Hamlet?

–Words, words, words.

Our culture is media-driven and digitally-driven. That translates into billions of words pouring into our consciousness. We cannot stop the verbal deluge, but we can find a way to sift the mud from the pure, the hate from the love, the excess from the essential. And I will endeavor to write blogs that have value; I don’t want to waste readers’ time. Time is precious.

Barth

Karl Barth: Acrylic Collage on Canvas, 30 x 24″

During my years teaching high school, this collage hung in the back of my classroom, in my line of vision when I addressed my students. I recently sold a paper collage of Barth at an art festival, happy that a patron knew what she was purchasing. This morning, I found this larger canvas and hung it in my living room so I could spend more time in its presence. I hope that over the holidays I can create some space to make new art. I am feeling the urge to create.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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Morning Coffee with Dave 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.

 

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.

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.

Joyce collage

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.

Request for Von Rad Collage

July 31, 2017

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The Colorado Rockies are restoring my weary soul, as I’m spending plenty of time fly fishing in the streams and practicing my plein air watercolor craft. But I’ve paused to duck into a public library so I can get steady Internet access.

One of my respondents expressed an appreciation for my studies and art concerning Paul Tillich and Gerhard Von Rad.  He requested to see the Von Rad collage that one of my high school students purchased this past year. So, this one’s for you!

Thanks for reading.

Finding a Home for my Intellectual Heroes

March 9, 2017

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All arts create symbols for a level of reality which cannot be reached in any other way.

Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith

I am posting a photo of this collage I created in 1989, my second year of teaching.  Paul Tillich became one of my intellectual heroes and guiding forces as I developed a course in the Humanities at Lamar High School in Arlington, Texas.  In 1996, when I transferred to Martin High School across the city, I imported Tillich into my Philosophy classes.  He, along with Emerson, Thoreau and Nietzsche were my main pillars as I sought to challenge students to think independently, to find their own voice.

As I have wound my way through this final year of teaching, approaching retirement, I often looked up at Tillich’s portrait from my school desk, thankful for all that he brought to my interior life. Today I’ll say Good-Bye to this image, as a graduate from this school returns from the university to purchase him.  I’m always pleased when a student thinks enough of one of my heroes to buy my artwork created in tribute.  Earlier this school year, a current student in my art history class purchased my framed collage of Gerhard von Rad, another hero of mine that unfortunately I could not work into my curriculum with the depth that I did Tillich.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Words, Words, Words

August 2, 2016

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Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless 

As wind in dry grass

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

Relaxing over coffee and books this morning, I found myself dragged into some deep sentiments while reading T. S. Eliot. In less than two weeks, I’ll return for a week of Inservice in preparation for a new school year. Throughout that week, words will fill the rooms in which we sit and listen, words that probably originated in Washington D. C., then filtered through Austin, Texas, then on to Arlington ISD, then to my high school, then to us educators.

Nietzsche pleaded for as few mediators as possible between the creating spirits and those spirits hungry to receive them. The more voices standing in the gap, the greater the distortion of the Word. As a solitary teacher, I am painfully aware of the fractures created in my classroom when the light of a Nietzsche or Emerson or Shakespeare passes through the prism of my being, breaking apart their precious insights into my own categories, thus weakening the impact.  I always hope that I can steer my students directly toward the geniuses as my art teacher steered me to Andrew Wyeth and Harold Bloom steered me to Shakespeare.

This summer has been a precious odyssey to me, with many valuable life lessons gleaned. I can only hope that this fall I will step into classrooms with some souls hungry to feed from life experience, and that I don’t find ways to fill the gap between the geniuses and the students with pedagogical debris.

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.

 

 

 

Depth

May 10, 2016

Joyce

Art has to reveal to us ideas, formless spiritual essences.  The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring.

James Joyce, Ulysses

Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

Late last night, while trying to read Ulysses, I came across the above passage and just had to close the book and my eyes for a spell.  I needed some kind of epiphany, coming off a scintillating week of plein air painting activity in Arkansas and re-entering my high school to face a pile of work from my weeklong absence.  It was like plunging into a warm summer pond after leaving a sauna.  I had no idea how a single Monday could suck all the creative aspirations out of me, but I guess that is how the daily job can be.  Today is better, because I’m feeling the inspiration once again that fueled my desires last week.

I have an incredibly busy two weeks facing me before I leave for another round of art festivals and plein air workshop activity.  There is so much preparation that goes into leaving for these activities, and I enjoy most of those details, especially the anticipation of the events.  But at the same time, I have this need to stop, rest, contemplate, and make new art.  I have always believed that quality art comes out of the depths, and for me there is no depth when I am covered up in social encounters.  The book I read last year that has come to mean so much to me, Hamlet’s Blackberry, by William Powers, urged to the reader that depth is sacrificed when one’s life is immersed in social media.  I could not agree more.  The art events that have enveloped me the past several weeks (with more to come) have taken me to the heights, but alas, I am not making art, not exploring new frontiers, and feel that a significant part of me is drying up.  I’m glad that I know how to fix this; I just need to find a way to adjust my daily calendar in order to get back to drawing and painting.

I apologize if this has come out as a “whiny” blog (I detest those!). I suppose that what I’m putting  out there right now is more of my private journal musings.  But still, there may be many of you who need to read these kinds of things, so thanks for reading.

I paint in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Closing the Weekend on a Kerouac Note

February 7, 2016

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1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening

Jack Kerouac, “Belief and Technique for Modern Prose”

Before closing out my weekend with some quality reading before the fire, I felt the compulsion to work on a second Kerouac collage, finishing it just moments ago. My studio felt good once again, and though I had a splendid time out on the road, I am happy to be back in my own domestic environment.

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Thanks for reading, and enjoy your coming week!

Escape Velocity

February 4, 2016

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I tingled all over; I counted minutes and subtracted miles. Just ahead, over the rolling wheatfields all golden beneath the distant snows of Estes, I’d be seeing old Denver at last. I pictured myself in a Denver bar that night, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was “Wow!”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

In 1856 Walt Whitman gave us “Song of the Open Road.” One hundred one years later, Jack Kerouac gave us On the Road. Finally completing a collage this afternoon while listening to the film “The Source”, that old itch rose again to hit the open road. But alas, it is Thursday. Another work day stands between me and a coveted opportunity to drive across open country. Though it is February, the winter is so mild here in Texas, with temperatures at this moment in the mid-fifties and sunny. Truly if it weren’t for another work day tomorrow, I would push my vehicle down some open roads somewhere if for no other reason than just to gaze across the “raw land” (Kerouac’s phrase) and enjoy the things of life that really matter.

In the second month of a new semester, school is long on demands and short on praise. No matter what one does, there is always another directive coming down the pike. We reach a point that we’re convinced we can never do enough to satisfy the demands. I don’t want to turn into one of T. S. Eliot’s “Hollow Men” by devoting all my time to preparations, grading, paperwork and assorted tasks that satisfy account books but not souls. At this point of the late afternoon, I’m glad that tomorrow’s demands have already been met in preparation, and perhaps I can settle into making some art or reading some quality literature (but I’d rather be on the road!).

Thanks for reading.