Archive for the ‘Colorado’ Category

A Narrative Emerges

August 10, 2022
The Beginning of a New Day

The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. . . . He must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes.

Francis Parkman, Pioneers of France in the New World

This morning, August 10, 2022, was different as I awoke. Like a lazy river, a narrative was gliding through my consciousness, and I felt the need to respond in my journal:

Rising to the strains of internal music, the artist stretched as he sat at the foot of the bed. The dim gray light of the summer morning oozing through the shaded window signaled the deep thunderstorms that lulled him to a comfortable slumber in the night.

Rising, he slipped on last night’s T-shirt and plodded up the hall and into his Studio Eidolons. Looking out the windows across his suburban corner, he admired the softness of the dim morning light and watched the young lady from next door walking her pair of border collies up the rain-drenched street. Fall was in the air and he was ready.

Entering the kitchen, he opened the cabinet and reached for the unopened bag of Durango Joes Red Mountain coffee beans. Measuring four cups of water into the saucepan, he put it on the burner and cranked up the heat full-tilt to bring the water to a boil. Measuring a half-cup of the fresh moist beans, he poured them gently into the antique coffee grinder, snapped the brass lid shut, and turned the crank for a minute or so, till the grinding came to a silence. By now, the boiling water was ready to remove from the burner to sit for a couple of minutes.

The artists’ mind wandered back over the preceding weeks prior to his illness, to a morning spent in the heart of his Colorado Odyssey. In his imagination, he could still steadily see the San Juan valley stretched out below his cabin deck, the morning sunlight splashing the sides of deer picking their way gingerly through the meadows on the opposite bank of the South Fork of the Rio Grande. The chorus of birds filled the frigid morning as the sun rose over the peaks of the South San Juan Mountains rounding out the bottom of the Continental Divide. What a luminiferous Colorado world, contrasting with this morning’s Texas limp light.

Time to pour the water into the French press, sprinkle the ground coffee on top, then poke the island of fresh coffee to sink just below the surface of the hot water, using a spatula, then cover the press for five minutes of steeping.

Walking back into Studio Eidolons, the aged artist looked with dissatisfaction at his recent start of a large watercolor depicting his view from the Colorado cabin. He still had not figured out how to enable the light to emerge from the paper through the transparent washes of color recently laid down. Always believing the paper to be the atmosphere through which the watercolor breathes, he felt that the painting was off to a lethargic, wheezing start. After the morning coffee he would pull the volumes from his shelves that needed re-study. It had been more than a decade since he had read the text of Roland Roycraft about poured watercolor techniques and achieving luminosity. The Colorado composition was going to require pouring, he decided.

Sniffing the air, he suddenly realized the five minutes were up; time to press the coffee, as the aroma had wafted from the kitchen to the studio. There would be plenty of time today to re-study the craft of watercolor pouring and see if he could rescue the Colorado composition.

That’s all for now . . . I’m excited about the start of this day. 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.

Continued Thoughts on the New Byzantium

July 21, 2022
Newly-Opened Winery: Stone Trough in Cleburne, Texas

I think if I could be given a month of Antiquity and leave to spend it where I chose, I would spend it in Byzantium a little before Justinian opened St. Sophia and closed the Academy of Plato. . . . I think that in early Byzantium, maybe never before or since in recorded history, religious, aesthetic and practical life were one, that architect and artificers spoke to the multitude and to the few alike. The painter, the mosaic worker, the worker in gold and silver, the illuminator of sacred books, were almost impersonal, almost perhaps without the consciousness of individual design, absorbed in their subject-matter and that the vision of a whole people.

William Butler Yeats

New York itself was incredible, “really like a Byzantine city,” according to de Kooning, who was thinking of a city of contrasts and contradictions, a city where people from all over the world came together. The thought was seconded by Robert Motherwell, a young painter who had begun to exhibit in the 1940s and who explained to the poet Frank O’Hara that “New York City is a Constantinople, a great Bazaar.”

Jed Perl, New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century

Artists Beginning to Gather at Stone Trough

As I have written before, there is something creative in the air over East Texas. Artists, musicians, playwrights and poets are finding ways to network, to pour fresh ideas like cascades of spring water over the stagnant, tired diatribes often found on social media. My retired professor friends from Denton, Bob Stevens and Jim Linebarger, have been offering me encouragement as I seek to translate the recent East Texas art flourishing as having parallels with the culture of ancient Byzantium.

Last night Sandi and I traveled to Cleburne to attend the opening of a new winery where The Eyes of Texas Fine Art Gallery is opening a new show of work. I have a pair of watercolors in the show, and a number of our Gallery at Redlands artists are displaying there as well. Next week we will open our next show at Baron’s Creek Winery in Granbury, Texas. And Palestine will hold its next Art Walk the first Saturday of August. We are hearing murmurs of new art events and organizations forming in nearby Tyler as well. I promise to report on all of these things as they come to fruition in the weeks ahead. As I wrote earlier, there is something creative in the air, and we’re enthused to hear about these things.

Justin Bryant and editor Gloria Hood planning and strategizing . . .

The Eyes of Texas Fine Art Gallery magazine welcomes photographer/journalist Justin Bryant from the Palestine Herald Press. He was recently assigned to the art beat of our local newspaper, and immediately went far beyond publishing the events of our monthly art walk, news from the Dogwood Arts Council and general information from The Gallery at Redlands. With fresh vision, he is pouring new ideas into the next issue of our fine arts magazine, having caught the fever of the art interest recently flowing through East Texas. As I stood nearby and listened to the the enthusiasm coming from him as well as Gloria, Sandi, and the artists at the table nearby, I felt confirmed in my sentiments that a New Byzantium is underway and that we can expect remarkable things as we inch closer to the fall season.

Finally framed the aspens in an 11 x 14″ frame. $200
Another Colorado watercolor. 11 x 14″ frame. $150

We’re happy to be back in The Gallery at Redlands, and are enjoying the reunion with our Palestine friends we haven’t seen in over two weeks. I managed to frame two of the watercolors I experimented with while on the cabin deck in South Fork, Colorado. I have many more planned, so stay tuned . . .

S O L D !!!!!

We also returned from Colorado to the great news that my watercolor recently featured on the cover of our magazine had found a new home. I’m thrilled that the buyers live in Fort Worth and have just visited the Scat Jazz Lounge. Sandi and I have plans to visit the lounge some night soon with our editor along with Sabrina Franklin (also featured on the cover of the magazine) and whomever else wishes to join us for an evening of live jazz and good times.

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.

Colorado Decompression

July 18, 2022
No, I am no longer There. Yet “There” is still “Here”

What a beautiful day. More than ever I realized how much I liked wandering alone. I described my day to Bill Tweed, but as I did so, I realized that I couldn’t do it justice. A day like that can’t be shared; that must not be what they are for. There was no reason for anyone else to be interested. Maybe they are like dreams in that sense. It was a walk only, not an adventure. Writing about it might resemble writing about gardening more than writing about climbing. Contemplative writing, landscape writing, the experience of peace . . . I need here to take on this problem, which possibly can’t be solved, although really every human experience should be legible.

Kim Stanley Robinson, The High Sierra: A Love Story

Settled back in my home on Sunday morning, I still have the Colorado mountain mystique wrapped about me like a comfortable robe. But reading Kim Robinson above reminds me that I cannot encapsulate the experience in words, no matter how deeply I reach into the well of words. But I sit here comfortably in my Studio Eidolons, surrounded by books, paintings, my journal, and the memories. And that is enough.

Colorado watercolor titled A Van Gogh Moment. 11 x 14″ framed. $150

I painted this from the view above where I was reading the book on the cabin deck. As I looked up and admired the flowing stream, a fisherman ambled by and I took his picture with my phone. His blue jacket and broad-brimmed light-colored hat reminded me of the Van Gogh painting below. I decided, Why not give it a try? I’m glad I did. Yet another memory preserved of a perfect getaway.

The Painter on the Road to Tarascon, Vincent Van Gogh

I’m glad I have a few days respite before I have to jump back into a moderately heavy art calendar. It feels good to rest and reflect for the day.

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.

Winding Down this Memorable Mountain Escape

July 17, 2022
Trying to Figure How to Finish out this Aspen Composition

There must have come a day when granite first peeked out of some broken metamorphic rock and looked up at the sky.

Kim Stanley Robinson, The High Sierra: A Love Story

I have been away from social media awhile (which isn’t a bad thing). We went nearly a full day without wi-fi access up here at 8200 feet. Nevertheless I continued to find a good balance between painting and reading. I had not heard of Kim Stanley Robinson, but reading his latest book has felt like a blast of clean, scintillating alpine air, comparable to reading Annie Dillard or my friend and naturalist Clarry Hubbard, retired journalist from the Wall Street Journal. I try to avoid covetousness when reading such magnificent words describing one’s experiences in the mountains and forests. Rather than write about the past ten days, I have spent considerable time in a shady spot, sighing deeply and drinking in these deep draughts of mountain air.

Soaking up precious words from Kim Stanley Robinson

I have hit several snags on the aspen watercolor experiment, and am already thinking of the next one and how to improve. When working over layers and layers of masquing, I often inadvertently blot out the highlights so necessary when looking at aspen leaves. I chose to take an Xacto knife and prick the paper in particular areas to get those highlighted leaves back. I have studied Winslow Homer’s techniques of blotting and scraping to recover highlights, and I believe I have another trick up the sleeve to accomplish that. But it is Sunday and the stores are closed in this small town, so I’ll have to wait till tomorrow to pick up the necessary supplies for that. I want to get back some of the lighter washes around the perimeter of this painting that I lost with my layering attempts. If none of this works out, then I already have the next painting to consider.

After today, we have only one full day left to enjoy this cool weather and high altitude. I recall about ten years ago our last day in Colorado when staying in Almont where I fly-fished the Taylor River. It was mid-August, and I had to report in a couple of days to my school district for another week of those mandatory, irrelevant Inservice meetings. We rose at dawn, the temperature was 32 degrees. By evening we had arrived in Lubbock and it was 110 degrees. Same day. Disgusting. I have had the joy this past week-and-a-half of waking to mornings where I had to don a flannel shirt, and still find it too cold to sit out on this cabin deck with my coffee. I do love it so!

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.

Saturday Mountain Musings

July 16, 2022
Watercolor sketch from this location last year

While birds symphonically sound the tranquility of a sun-splashed mountain slope, the stream below murmurs softly behind the curtain. Sipping coffee, I continue to gaze at the deep amber hues of the stream shallows with the scattered shadows of rocks beneath the rippling surface. Always the mute monumental presence, the enormous boulder, clothed in the morning rose-colored sunlight, rests beneath the shadows of the sheltering spruce.

From my morning journal.

With three days remaining in our Colorado vacation, I am actually ready for the journey back home, and back to our normal family life. This is new to me. In past years it seems we always squeezed out five-to-seven days of vacation time, and on the first day I was already feeling the pressure of getting everything into the vacation time that I wanted to do. This has been a twelve-day sojourn, and the stretch of days has seemed perfect; everything we’ve wanted to do has happened with plenty of rest time in between the day trips. As for my personal interests, I’ve been saturated fully with reading, writing, watercolor sketching and fly-fishing. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I feel genuinely restored and ready to return to our home.

I couldn’t resist

Last evening in Crested Butte, we found this lovely bookstore, offering a warm, inviting atmosphere for browsing, sitting, and enjoying coffee from the adjoining shop. I purchased this engaging book from a celebrated author I confess I hadn’t heard about. Sitting and reading the first five pages set the hook, and I knew what I would be reading religiously once I leave these beloved mountains behind in a few days. I cannot describe my love for the mountains in summer, the cool temperatures, the clean-smelling atmosphere, and the lovely, calming quiet.

My makeshift mountain studio

Yesterday was a full day of travel to Crested Butte (2 hours, 45 minutes one way), returning near midnight after leisure strolling, shopping, coffee-sipping and dining in the historic part of that town. While sitting and translating from Plotinus, it eventually dawned on me what to attempt next with my aspen watercolor experiment. I had reached a standstill yesterday, and the time away was good for regaining perspective. I’m glad to return to the painting today, as well as Plotinus.

Thanks for reading. This Saturday morning has offered a promising start.

I make art in order to discover

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

The Early Colorado Light

July 13, 2022
6:00 a.m. view from the Brookie Cabin deck

When the early morning light quietly grows above the mountains . . . .

The word’s darkening never reaches to the light of Being.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

I rose at 6 a.m. to a 46-degree Colorado morning, and stepped outside to drink in the magnificent morning mountain light. Heidegger’s words whispered to me in the silent air, and I once again offered thanks to be alive, to be granted the gift of drinking in this vista. Mornings like this are what I’ve reached for since my years as a college student. Whether we call it Quiet Time, Executive Time, or anything else, I am grateful for mornings with quiet and space where I can just breathe, reflect, read, write–do all the things I love to do in the Quiet. Every morning of this six-day mountain stay has given me this gift, and I’m thankful that another six days still await.

In recent years, I have read of Heidegger’s cabin built in the Black Forest in 1922 where he enjoyed his own quiet, and wrote all of his significant works. And I understand fully his preference for the mountains in the small village of Todtnauberg than the university in the city of Freiburg. I myself have enjoyed the relative quiet of places like the east Texas store where I’m granted a stay whenever I can get away, and of course, my annual journey to southern Colorado to enjoy the Rio Grande National Forest. And though Palestine, Texas is considered a city with a population of 18,000, I find the Redlands Hotel and our ground-floor gallery much quieter and soothing than the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Above all, I am thankful for this full retirement at last.

This is my first Colorado vacation where I no longer have a syllabus pending or an inservice waiting. For the first time, I am not sitting here with that gnawing annoyance of a school schedule lurking on the calendar. Before retiring from high school teaching, I was concerned that my lifestyle of scholarship would end. It didn’t, but I wondered if that was because I was still teaching part-time at the college. Now, I know that my scholarship is not grounded in a teaching schedule. During this Colorado vacation, I have found time to study in Latin, and for the first time in my life, I’ve actually been writing sentences in Greek in my journal scribblings. My companions have been William Carlos Williams, Annie Dillard, Norman Maclean, and of course Martin Heidegger over these past six days. So apparently, my lifestyle of study has not diminished, and for that I am grateful as well; I actually have MORE quality time for these pursuits.

Having finished my morning coffee, I am ready now to resume my watercolor experiment with aspen trees as my subject. And Paddington has suddenly decided that I need help with this blog. I’m not finding it easy tapping these laptop keys with him in my lap.

Paddington, always making everything his business. He needs a job.

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.

When it Rains, Inspiration Arrives

July 12, 2022

We never come to thoughts. They come to us.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

As one grows older one sees the impossibility of imposing order on the chaos with brute force. But if you’re patient there may come that moment while eating an apple when the solution presents itself politely and says “Here I am.”

Albert Einstein, quoted in the film “Why Man Creates” written by Saul Bass and Mayo Simon

Colorado gave us rain most of the day, forcing me to stay inside the cabin, or at least on the deck. Before the rain arrived, Sandi offered to drive us on an extended road trip over the Silver Thread. We managed to get ten miles past Creede before . . . (wait for it!) . . . a sleet storm overpowered us! So, we turned around and headed back to our cabin in South Fork. Before the rain, I rode along as a passenger, admiring the vistas, especially the aspen trees.

Since the year 2000, when I first visited Colorado, I was smitten by the sight of aspen trees, their glittering, shimmering round leaves blinking through the mountain atmosphere. And those white tree trunks against the dark forest interiors! Over the past twenty years of Colorado visits I have tried to solve the pine trees in watercolor, and still feel I haven’t arrived. But I was always befuddled, wondering how to render aspens. As Sandi drove this morning, the idea finally arrived. Thinking of Heidegger and Einstein, grateful for the visitation of inspirations, I spent the day inside the cabin contemplating how I was going to paint my first stand of aspens.

After taking ten photographs and adjusting them for my composition, I decided to begin with (I don’t know what this is called) negative painting or painting by subtraction. I penciled out the aspen outlines, then used my masquepen to block the trunks and branches. Later, I poured some of the masque solution onto a saucer and spattered with a toothbrush my first layer of “white” aspen leaves.

Nightfall has arrived. Tomorrow, under natural light, I will apply my first wash of light sea-green, sprinkled with salt and stale bread crumbs. When dry, I will spatter more masquing fluid. Once that is dry, I will apply a darker layer of aspen green. Dry again, then a new spattering of masquing, followed by a yet darker color, etc. I tried this method for the first time in the summer of 2015 when I was doing my Artist-in-Residency for Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. While on a spoil island in the Laguna Madre, I was reading Heidegger’s “On the Origin of the Work of Art” and was inspired by a quote from the Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Dűrer:

For in truth, art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it.

Sitting on the island my first evening of the residency, I read that statement and contemplated the cord grasses growing in the shadows of the research station where I was residing for a week. Recalling the appearance of Albrecht Dűrer’s watercolor of tall grasses, I puzzled out the technique of multiple layers of masquing and watercolor washes.

Now, seven years later, I’m ready to try it again on the Colorado aspens. We’ll see how it turns out.

The day has been filled with gods (I believe Emerson wrote that), and I am grateful to have been alive to experience the visitations.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover (especially today!)

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Full Day Given to Fishing

July 11, 2022
Finally landed a brown trout at the end of a weary day

I don’t recall a time when I was more bone-weary than now. Sandi took me to three different places to fly-fish today: Big Meadow, Coller Wildlife Area, and then a return to Riverbend Resort. After a full day of missed strikes and fish not quite making it to the net, I finally landed this handsome brown trout upstream from the tent area at Riverbend Resort. The day was overcast all day with temperatures hovering around 72 degrees. I had planned on watercoloring, but the Colorado landscape colors were muted with the absence of sunlight. I did thoroughly enjoy the fly-fishing, especially on the Rio Grande at Coller Wildlife. I had not been on “big waters” since fishing the Colorado River west of Denver over a decade ago. The water was gorgeous, clear and swift. Though I failed to set the hook on a major strike, I still enjoyed the vista and look forward to returning.

It’s only 9:30, but my eyes are hardly open, so I’m going to have to call this a night. Hopefully I’ll have more to report tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday Morning Richness

July 10, 2022
Coffee and thinking before reading, always
Reading from the Greek Testament

Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest awhile.

Mark 6:31 (Jesus advising his disciples after they had finished a lengthy preaching and healing tour)

Morning colors are always amazing here
My 1st Colorado watercolor sketch
The start of my second watercolor sketch
A portion of my morning journal

At 10:13 tonight, I finally pause in the darkness of the Colorado night, sitting outside on the Brookie cabin deck, enjoying the 62-degree temperatures and the cup of hot tea Sandi just brewed and brought out to me. The south fork of the Rio Grande is filling the night with its own conversation, and the soothing sounds of the stream remind me that I’ll be sleeping soon.

While making coffee this morning, I began translating the 6th chapter of Mark’s Gospel from my Greek Testament. The text came alive, and I found myself scribbling several pages of personal observations concerning his effect on the synagogue audience as he spoke in his hometown of Nazareth on the Sabbath. They were astounded. The 1st chapter of Mark records the same audience reaction in Capernaum, noting that he spoke with authority and not as the scribes. The Nazareth audience was astonished for different reasons: they knew his family, his roots. And the wisdom with which he spoke far transcended what his townspeople had heard before. I have been intrigued with Mark’s Gospel since the 1970’s, and since I began reading Harvey Cox’s When Jesus Came to Harvard, I have been translating this Gospel with fresh eyes, avoiding the stacks of notes taken during seminary and pastoral days. What intrigues me about Mark’s Gospel is that he frequently registers the audience astonishment, but never tells us what Jesus actually said.

I have opened this blog post with the passage above where Jesus invited his disciples to retire to a “lonely place” after they had returned from a preaching tour, exuberant with their success, but no doubt tired. The Synoptic Gospels have always fascinated me with the rhythms of Jesus three-and-a-half year itinerant ministry from town to town. He frequently withdrew from the public into a solitary place to re-charge, to re-calibrate, to re-center. The Greek word translated “lonely place” is the work often translated “wilderness.” The word was used of John the Baptist’s domain in the trans-Jordanian region where he dwelt in isolation. The wilderness motif has engaged me ever since my studies in the Gospels along with Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden. Throughout my professional life and now even in retirement, I still periodically withdraw “to the wilderness” to re-focus what I am doing in my own life. These two weeks we’ve set aside to spend in Colorado are part of that plan. I love my life and everything I do. But I also love those opportunities to break away from the weekly cycle and go to a solitary place, hide the calendar, and do what I wish.

As to the pictures posted above, I have attempted two watercolor sketches from the view of this Brookie cabin deck, looking down toward the stream of the south fork of the Rio Grande. The first is just a rough, quick sketch; the second I may try to develop into a more serious painting tomorrow, we’ll see how I feel about it when I look on it with fresh eyes.

The final picture is of the journal I began this morning on the deck over a cup of coffee. Since it is Sunday, I had this urge to translate from my Greek Testament, and I pasted a photo of Karl Barth in my journal, as he still inspires much of my work these days. I took that picture after dark, so the lighting is rather strained.

Thanks for staying up with me. I hope to have more to share tomorrow.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Finally a Nice Brown

July 8, 2022
Finally landed a nice brown trout in the evening

It’s been a long year, waiting for our reservation at Colorado’s Riverbend Resort to come around. Driving across west Texas, the temperatures reached 109 degrees. This morning in Colorado it was 48 degrees, and I was much happier!

My first morning fishing only turned up a pair of brown trout that would fit in the palm of my hand, plus a beauty that I did not manage to land. I went to one of the local fly shops and learned that the water is too warm and the trout are holed up in swift, deeper water. I always use a stimulator for the floater and tie on an extra 18″ of tippet to attach a bead head dropper. The man at the fly shop told me to attach a 36″ tippet. It worked. I managed to catch trout this evening in the deeper holes downstream, but my real surprise was the brown pictured above that took the large dry fly.

Amazed that he hit this stimulator instead of the nymph in deeper water.
A welcome 48 degrees at 6 a.m.

I awoke at 5:00 the first morning in Colorado and enjoyed a lovely walk in 48-degree weather. The sun coming up was gorgeous.

We put sweaters on the pups, but they didn’t much enjoy the cold outdoors . . .
. . . so we went back inside the cabin and built a fire

The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment . . . to put things down without deliberation . . . without worrying about their style . . . without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote, wrote, wrote . . . By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.

Walt Whitman

I am taking a page out of Whitman’s playbook while in Colorado this visit. I brought my 2005 journal of a previous Colorado excursion because while re-reading it, I found the details very crisp and lively, and ready for editing into a better piece of writing.

Beginnings of the morning journal . . .

In 2005, I was studying Latin (regretfully, it was not available for me in graduate school), and I fell away from the language for years. This year I have picked it back up again and decided to work on it every day during this Colorado venture as I did long ago. And while I am writing, I’m going to try and apply the good habits of Whitman and William Carlos Williams in scribbling spontaneously the immediacy of impressions to be fleshed out later.

The night is closing in, and I have yet to open the Latin books today. 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.