Archive for the ‘diner’ Category

Morning Coffee with Dave & Qohelet

September 13, 2018


Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do; and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:11

Yesterday, I graded essays from the course on Classical Judaism that I teach online. The students were to contrast the tone and genre of biblical texts from Exodus (where Moses gave the Law) and Ecclesiastes (where the Preacher assessed that life was meaningless). The responses from many of the students induced me to return to Ecclesiastes for awhile this morning. This book has held my attention since I first was directed to it when approaching the New Year back in 1973. Since then, I have always read from the text in winter time as the New Year drew close. And it has been a comfort to me in ways I have difficulty explaining. This a meditation from an aged sage who appears dissatisfied with all his worldly accomplishments. As he draws near to the end, he sees all this acts as empty, or meaningless. “Qohelet” is the Hebrew word that titles this Book, and has often been translated “Preacher”.

I’ll go ahead and drop the other shoe–though the author throughout the meditation calls life on earth “vanity”, he nevertheless concludes on a more positive note. No doubt many will insert the opinion that the conclusion was written by another hand, to take the sting out of the text, but that is another issue. Throughout the book, the author’s refrain is translated “vanity” in the King James Version. “Empty” is the author’s thrust. And in his concluding words, he urges the reader to fear God and keep his commandments, for that is what makes a person “whole.” This is why I like to read to the end. For the duration of the Book, the aged author hammers home that life has been empty, but concludes with a solution to what can make life whole.

The college-age students still assume that there is much life lying ahead of them, and I enjoy their perspectives when they grapple with readings such as this. With my own perspective drawn from a considerable distance down the road, I find myself looking both ways, in the fashion of Janus, the Roman god looking backward and forward simultaneously. Throughout yesterday and this morning, I have thought about this Odyssey I have experienced over sixty years, and have also looked ahead, resolving not to live with regrets. It goes without saying that I have encountered things that have created memories I would rather not have. But I cannot change that. On the positive side, life has overflowed with abundant gifts, providing memories that make me feel positive.

Gratitude flows from the depth of my being for the years I have been given, and I am even happier that it is not over yet. Today I meet yet another college class within the hour, and I am still glowing with warm sentiments over the encounter we had just two days ago. In fact, I have been anticipating for forty-eight hours the next time I get to see them and wrestle with these issues in Logic. Who would ever have thought that a professor and students could enjoy a period, studying Logic? Life at this age is still filled with the unanticipated, and I appreciate that as well.

Two days ago, I began work on new Christmas cards for the season approaching. Here is a photo of how two of them are coming along (they will be cut apart, making two 5 x 7″ cards). For three days in a row, I have relished time in the studio to experiment in watercolor, and that has been a gift as well.

qohelet 2

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.



A Quiet, Reflective Afternoon

August 17, 2016

baroque cat

Baroque Still Life of Rich Foods and Sleeping Cat

Emerson lived for ideas, but he did so with the reckless, headlong ardor of a lover.

Robert D. Richardson, Jr., Emerson: The Mind on Fire

Good afternoon from a dark, rain-soaked Texas afternoon. After weeks of triple-digit temperatures, my home territory has been soaked in rain for three days running, and forecasts say it could last a few days more. The darkness of the afternoon provides quite a respite for my weary soul, having just finished my third day of Inservice in preparation for the opening of a pair of campuses. My college began its first day today, and high school will open Monday. Meanwhile, we educators are slogging through hours and hours of daily meetings. Thursday and Friday “promise” to be uninterrupted days spent in our classrooms putting things in order, and of course, the building will be open Saturday if we need still another day to get ready.

Time has not allowed me the luxury to paint at all this week, so instead of my recent watercolor activity I’ve chosen to post a photo I took recently while dining quietly one afternoon at the College Street Pub in Waxahachie. The temperatures that afternoon hovered around 103 degrees, and the floor fans on the porch were doing their best to cool off the patrons. I could not resist pointing my camera phone at the slumbering cat stretched out on one of the cafe tables. I was reminded of a Dutch still life composition of objects assembled to depict the good life as well as the notion of vanitas. 

While reading last night, I came across this line concerning Emerson that I posted above. The Richardson biography I read when it was a brand new publication, then alas, someone stole the volume out of my classroom about ten years ago. Having just purchased a new one, I have to read it once more, and underline once again the passages that resonate with me. I felt genuinely exposed when I read the author’s assessment of Emerson’s passion-driven life of the mind. I know the pain associated with having lived such a life, and am more conscious than ever of others I have hurt in the past as I’ve charged full-bore along such a path. One hates to come into the senior years with a sense of regret, but indeed I look back and regret that there are things I cannot re-do. When I approach my Philosophy class this coming semester, I think I’m going to explore some of these character issues from an existential framework. Jean-Paul Sartre argued that our character is the sum-total of our decisions in life: the good, the bad and the ugly.  We are what we have made ourselves to be, nothing more, nothing less. I wish someone would have talked to me of such matters when I sat at a high school desk. Maybe the teachers did, and I was just too indolent to listen. I don’t know. Now it’s my turn to talk to the next generation, and I’m grateful to have the chance once again this semester to try and get it right.

Looking back over this post, I fear it sounds more pessimistic than I feel right now. I’m tired from the three days of meetings, but not morose, not depressed. With a little rest, I anticipate I’ll regather some energy to face what lies ahead, grateful that I still have a few days . . .

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to know.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Saturday Morning in an American Diner

February 6, 2016


. . . shuffle the old file cards of the soul in demented hallucinated sleep . . . 

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

I would not call last night’s sleep “hallucinated” though the hotel bed is different enough from my own, that the new environment contributed to a somewhat restive night. Nevertheless, I awoke at 6:15 in the dark, feeling very contented, and after showering, descended two flights of stairs and crossed the street for Murn’s Cafe. While waiting for my sausage, eggs and hashbrowns, I enjoyed my coffee and tried to read Visions of Cody, but the conversation of three farmers in caps behind me kept invading the narrative, and I loved it. One of the men spoke with a voice deep and sonorous, and I couldn’t ignore his stories:

When I git sleepy drivin’ I jus’ stop ‘n take a nap or git sometin’ sweet. T’utter day, I come all d’way from Bossier City and when I got tuh Longview I wuz so sleepy. Bought four of dem jelly donuts and eat ’em. Drove duresta d’way.

Most of their talk concerned bulls and heifers. My favorite word that popped up frequently was sombitch.

Breakfast was first-rate, what I absolutely love about country diners, right down to the hand scribbled receipts. I’m in the mood to build another Kerouac collage with diner paraphernalia, but I’m more in the mood to watercolor right now.


It is 38 degrees in Archer City this morning as the dawn finally breaks, and the wind will cut you in two if you cross the street, as you can see for ten miles in all four directions.

Thanks for reading.


Escape Velocity II

February 5, 2016


My work comprises one vast book like Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past except that my remembrances are written on the run instead of afterwards in a sick bed.

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

Today, I gave in to yesterday’s wanderlust. I booked my favorite room in the Spur Hotel in Archer City, Texas, Larry McMurtry’s hometown. I packed last night, and loaded early this morning, so as soon as school let out for the weekend, I pulled out of the parking lot, angling north for the two hour-plus drive to this quiet, spacious part of north Texas in Archer County.  Population of this town is 1,848 and that is just about right for me. In the cold winter evenings here, the clouds emit the most marvelous array of blues and lavendars, much like what I experienced in Colorado evenings, looking across the front range of the rockies. I tried to take a picture above, but I’m not a photographer, and there just wasn’t much light left for me to accomplish what I wished.


Larry McMurtry’s famous bookstore, Booked Up Inc., has been my mecca for shopping for over a decade. Today I found a first edition of Ezra Pound’s Cantos and could not resist the sale that was running on books currently. I’m proud now to own it and read it.


Dinner tonight in the cafe made me feel I had retreated in time to the days of Kerouac rambling the open roads across America. With this being Friday night, and a strong Catholic presence in Archer County, fish was on the menu, and the taste was just as delightful as the aroma that filled the diner.

And now, as I write this, I’m settled into my third-story corner room, overlooking the intersection of highways 25 and 79, with a flashing red light governing the four-way stop. The light flickers patterns across the interior brick walls of my room, and the swish of traffic below will probably lull me to sleep later tonight as I soak up some coveted reading.

I cannot describe the deep-seated satisfaction settling in over me, leaving the city and school behind, the noise, the deadlines, the endless prattle. Now there is no agenda. I have a stack of books on the table beside me, and a large carry-on bag stuffed with watercolor and drawing supplies. My journal is at hand, and I am ready now to settle into a quiet posture of reading, thinking, writing, drawing and painting. This quiet space has been so long overdue for me, and I am thankful to the depths of my being that the gift has finally arrived.

Thanks for reading.

The Charms of Painting a Small Texas Town

May 3, 2014
Main Street Maypearl, Texas

Main Street
Maypearl, Texas

My God, how difficult painting is when you want to express your thoughts with pictorial rather than literary means.

Paul Gauguin, Journal

The annual Paint Historic Waxahachie event has extended its activities this year in a most excellent way.  The weeklong Paint Out will actually commence on June 2 and run through June 8, but this year the organization decided to expand the painting hours to include all the weekends in May.  Today marked Day One, and the location was downtown Maypearl, Texas, a town I have been aware of for over thirty years, but never once visited.  It does not lie on any of the major Texas Interstate arteries.

I found Main Street so filled with traditional American images that I cannot wait to return tomorrow.  Every storefront was worthy of a cover illustration for a Sinclair Lewis novel.  I stopped at this Dr. Pepper ghost sign on the corner of Main and First, probably because the sun was up and hot, and there was this immense spreading oak tree directly across the street, throwing a twenty-foot cool shadow across the soft, velvety grass.  I set up my easel in the shade, and worked on this piece for a few hours at my leisure, not once having to chafe at the sun.  I saw five other plein air painters at their easels further up the street, all of them working directly in the sun.  I cannot do that.

Last night I received the benefit of the best night’s sleep in a week or more.  I suppose that was one reason I was able to stay with this piece and see it to its conclusion.  Granted it’s only a plein air watercolor sketch, measuring 8 x 10″, I still found myself absorbed with the brick exterior of this old building and the weathered, faded ghost sign running along its side, and I just couldn’t rush it.  I didn’t want to.  It’s been ages since I’ve painted outdoors, looking directly at my subject with delight, soaking in its details and trying to solve the problems on paper of composition, contrast, faithfulness to colors, detailed drawing, etc.  The small picture presented plenty of problems, but all of them worth fighting through.

As I worked through the afternoon,I found the surroundings of this sleepy Texas town very idyllic.  The occasional passerby was always friendly, and people even pulled over in their vehicles, rolling down their windows to inquire, pay complements, and chat.  I felt as though I were home for the first time in decades.  The occasional thunder of a group of cruising Harleys also added to the small town’s charm.  A cook-off was happening half a block away, and the aromas were enough to stir up anybody’s appetite.  Everything worked–the sights, the sounds, the smells, the overall serene, unhurried feel of a Texas Saturday under a bright sun.

Today was the gift that kept on giving.  Later, I was surprised while driving to find an old-fashioned diner where I could relax over a classic small-town American supper:  Liver and onions, fried okra, red beans and rice, sweet iced tea.  I pushed the empty plate aside and followed the sumptuous dinner with coffee, a good book, and a journal for scribbling the day’s highlights, and there were so many.  No appointments, no deadline, no clock.  Just what the doctor ordered.  I could not have planned a more perfect Saturday.

I’m ready to retire for the night and hope to greet such a painter’s paradise again tomorrow.   I just cannot believe the good fortune of this day.

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.





My Favorite Memory from the Art Festival Circuit

March 24, 2014
The Shed cafe, Edom, Texas

The Shed Cafe, Edom, Texas

. . . your desire to make art–beautiful or meaningful or emotive art–is integral to your sense of who you are.  Life and Art, once entwined, can quickly become inseparable; at age ninety Frank Lloyd Wright was still designing, Imogen Cunningham still photographing, Sravinsky still composing, Picasso still painting.

David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear

I love that point raised by Bayles and Orland.  If I could be fortunate enough to live to see ninety, I would hope that I still have the eye and the steady hand to continue making art.  I still feel like a student, am still filled with surprises at every turn, and love the discovery of new ideas and techniques.  I make art because it is in me; I am not complete when I’m not making something new.  This morning, I am exhausted from finishing a three-day art festival that featured frigid temperatures and high winds.  Nevertheless, sales were O.K., and the conversations with patrons were very warming to my soul.  I am grateful for all the positives that came out of this one.  I have two weeks before the next festival, and plenty of time to rest up and recuperate.  All things considered, the festival was a good experience, but it meant three days without making art, so I am itching to get back into the studio.

I promised in an earlier post to share my favorite memory from the art festival circuit.  Every October, I participate in the Edom Festival of the Arts in remote east Texas.  The setting is rolling pastureland with several barns and sheds scattered around the property and enormous shade trees.  The booths are not lined up in a grid, but arranged organically around the property, inserted between trees, outbuildings, etc.  A tall privacy fence hides the festival grounds from the highway nearby.  There is no electricity on the grounds, so we don’t have to fuss with track lighting, laptops or credit card terminals.  Patrons know that the event is a cash-and-carry affair, with an ATM in the town, and the two-day festival is filled with art shoppers.  Sales and conversations at the Edom Festival of the Arts are first rate, and I can’t wait to go every fall when the weather begins to cool.

Two years back, to save money and time, I decided not to book a hotel (about a thirty-minute drive to the nearest city).  I had this romantic and ludicrous notion that I would sleep in the back of my Jeep Grand Cherokee, disregarding my age and lack of general fitness (also disregarding the soreness and achiness that always comes from loading the Jeep, driving two hours, setting up the tent, furniture, and hanging all the art).  When darkness descended, I crawled into the back of my Jeep that was parked near the forest with all the other artists’ vehicles and trailers (a number of them have camping trailers for accommodations).  The night grew chilly, and I never got comfortable in the back of my vehicle.  I chafed at my lack of judgment and slept very little as the night wore on.

Finally, just before dawn, I decided I had to get back on my feet.  I had slept in my clothes, so I did not have to undergo acrobatic contortions, dressing in the back of the vehicle.  Emerging from the Jeep, I trudged with heavy feet up the hill and through the festival grounds.  The grass was wet with dew, temperatures were in the upper forties (the sweatshirt and jacket were doing their job just fine), and as I walked among the gleaming white tents in silence, I felt an exhilaration I cannot explain.  The morning was crisp, cold and delicious.  I loved the scent of the October pasture.  The artist “village” was so attractive to me, though all the tents were shuttered and no art work was visible at this hour.  But I loved the morning walk through the darkness, and as I wended my way toward The Shed Cafe (not visible because of the privacy fence), I could only hope that it opened according to “traditional country cafe hours”.  It was 6:05 and still dark.  Rounding the corner of the privacy fence, I saw what is posted at the top of this blog (this photo was taken later, nearer Christmas time, hence the holiday lights).  Warm light poured out of every window, smoke was billowing out of the chimney, and I instantly smelled eggs frying, bacon, ham, biscuits, gravy, coffee–the works!  I cannot describe the rush of good will that filled me at that moment.  All the achiness and sleepiness from the goofy night sleeping in the Jeep disappeared, and all that mattered was the warm, affirming feeling of a hot country breakfast.  The food at The Shed is among the finest I’ve ever had, and regardless of the success in sales at the Edom Festival, breakfast at The Shed is the highlight of the weekend.

The Shed Cafe Edom, Texas

The Shed Cafe
Edom, Texas

Last winter, I painted this 8 x 10″ watercolor of my favorite east Texas eatery.

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.

Art and Fear?

February 11, 2014
A Little Space in the Afternoon Studio

A Little Space in the Afternoon Studio

God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

Yes, I read this excellent book, Art and Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland.  I felt that a pair of artists were in the room with me, engaged in legitimate, heart-to-heart discussion.  And they addressed the inherent fears and required courage of art making rather than the blocked-artist syndrome.  I am not a blocked artist.  I am a public school teacher, teaching multiple subjects.  I will frequently face weekday afternoons and evenings where preparations leave little-to-no time for quality studio work.  But that is not blockage, not creative paralysis–it is just  an overloaded schedule.  This afternoon I managed to eke out some time for the studio, so here I am, with a little hesitation.  So what is this “fear” factor?  I will be the first to testify that making art is a courageous act.

Art requires more courage from me than other acts that might stir up fear in others.  For instance, I am not afraid to walk into a high school classroom, stand in front, and begin talking directly to the body of students.  I have never been afraid to stand in a public auditorium and address a congregation of adults.  I don’t know fear in those instances.  But what is this “fear factor” in art?  Am I afraid of rejection by the public?  Not really.  Do I fear ruining a $20 sheet of quality watercolor paper?  I don’t think so.  Am I afraid I am wasting my time?  Hardly.  I have invested years in this, and don’t begrudge additional hours, days, months or years.  In fact, I wish I had 500 years left to invest–I’ll never reach the level I want to reach in my own lifetime.

So, what is it?  Am I afraid of making a bad painting?  Perhaps that is it.  But I don’t understand that.  When I make a bad painting, I just don’t show it.  I seldom throw bad painting attempts away.  I suppose that if I keep them in a drawer that I’ll take them out another day, study them, and learn from the mistakes.  But I don’t generally do that either.  I just don’t look at them.  So what is it that frightens me?  What is the source of the anxiety?  I wish I knew.

Somehow, I am intimidated, approaching subjects where I have little-to-no experience.  And that is what is happening now with the rendering of human figures in watercolor, small human figures.  I don’t know why I have this phobia about screwing up.  So what if I screw up?  This is laughable.  I don’t live financially off my art sales.  My job keeps me fed and housed.  Maybe at the root of all these art endeavors is the fear of failure.  But how could that be?  How can one fail, if allowed to re-do, re-try, if allowed to learn, grow, accomplish?  Silly, isn’t it.  Perhaps I need to re-read Rollo May’s The Courage to Create.

At any rate, I am in the studio for a short while this afternoon, nibbling away at this small watercolor sketch.  And writing this blog is therapeutic it seems.  Right now, I am not afraid.  In fact, I’m enjoying the process, regardless of the outcome.  And when I finish this one, I will turn to the next.  One cannot help but improve with practice, and practice on the human figure is something I have yet to accomplish.

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for putting up with my navel gazing (smiling).  I had some things to work out.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Blue Rondo A La Turk – Dave Brubeck

February 10, 2014

This morning, driving through the icy darkness to school, I slid Dave Brubeck’s CD into my dashboard player and felt warm amusement as Blue Rondo A La Turk played.  I don’t know how to discuss music on an academic level, but I’ll simply say this–at the 1:53 mark, this piece finally settles into a pleasant 4/4 swing groove, only to be repeatedly interrupted by the spastic staccato that opened the first minute and a half.  And the more I replayed it, the more I laughed in the darkness and enjoyed it.

Forgive this unschooled application of Brubeck’s piece, but the longer I thought on it today, the more I saw how it fit life as I experience it daily.  I can safely say that my daily round of work routine involves a series of comfortable, flowing grooves, punctuated with intermittent surprises.  If I can ride the rough surf of the surprise, the groove will follow shortly.  I can usually count on that.  This is true of every class, every passing period, and every evening once I arrive home and begin my nightly routine–interstices consisting of grooves and spazzes.  That is how I view life.  And yes, I acknowledge that the perspective is colored by my own peculiar lenses.

Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion.  Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and as we pass through them they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

But enough about moods.  Let’s talk about art . . .

Second Evening Sketching in Watercolor

Second Evening Sketching in Watercolor

Again, I find myself lost in an evolving sketch.  I am grateful for the warm memories of that Saturday afternoon in Dallas, especially now with the night around me dropping to 29 degrees with freezing rain.  I am still poking at this sketch, unsure of how to make the warm yellows and oranges pop against the atmospheric surroundings I found that afternoon.  The sun from the right was very intense, and I loved the effects of it.  I’m still wondering if I should try and get that on this page, or just focus on the people I’m trying to render and the decorations on the side of the food truck.  As I work, I’m listening to some very old VHS tapes of Joseph Campbell lecturing on James Joyce.  I love the work of Joyce, and love Robert Motherwell’s assessment of him as the Shakespeare of Modernism.  Motherwell said that the work of Joyce made him want to paint.  I can say that listening to Campbell’s fireside chats on this cold night have stirred my blood, helping me get back to the brush.

The sweetness of this day at school consisted of thoughts of returning to a moment like the one I was able to know this evening.  All day long when we’re on the job, our minds drift to those spaces where we want to retreat, and look to retreat as soon as the moment presents itself.  Emerson has been a genuine friend the past couple of days, particularly the insights he’s offered in his later essay “Experience.”  I close with this:

There are always sunsets, and there is always genius; but only a few hours so serene that we can relish nature or criticism.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

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.




Oracular Moments with Emerson

February 9, 2014

Small Watercolor Sketch of Yesterday's Lunch Outside the Art Museum

Small Watercolor Sketch of Yesterday’s Lunch Outside the Art Museum

Reference Photo

Reference Photo

We wake and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight.  But the Genius which according to the old belief stands at the door by which we enter, and gives us the lethe to drink, that we may tell no tales, mixed the cup too strongly, and we cannot shake off the lethargy now at noonday. . . . We are like millers on the lower levels of a stream, when the factories above them have exhausted the water.  We too fancy that the upper people must have raised their dams.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

I awoke this morning, feeling rather dull and sluggish.  There was no real reason for that–I didn’t exactly overdo it yesterday, and thought I had gotten plenty of sleep.  I rose from bed anyway, chalking it up to “aging” and tried to smile about it.  I made coffee and sunk into a comfortable chair to cozy up with words from Emerson.  It was Sunday, and I needed a Good Word.  He didn’t disappoint.  The selection I posted above came from an Emerson who felt his creative spirit sagging after years of explosive thinking and writing.  And with genuine wisdom, he addressed that sobering feeling of creativity leveling off.

For years I have been conscious of the ebb and flow of a creative life, and have tried not to let the barren stretches bring me down.  There are many ways to re-tool, to refresh, to trim one’s sails to catch the breezes once they blow again. And so, when I read the above passage, I laughed out loud, shook off my doldrums, and set about the task of getting tomorrow’s classes ready for school so I could pick up the brush again.

I have been so timid about rendering people in watercolor.  Figure drawing has always been difficult for me, and trying to render humans in watercolor even more intimidating.  But as I viewed the Edward Hopper collection over the past couple of months, I realize that some of his small renderings of people in watercolor and charcoal were not all that splendid.  So, I’ve decided I’m going to go after this subject and see if I can pull it off.  If I cannot do it with this one, I’ll do it with the next, or the next.  I’ll get it.  I’m starting with a small, modest-sized watercolor sketch, to see how I do with people.  And I’m intrigued by this new direction, not tired (wink).

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.

A Quiet Weekend–Quality Time to Listen to the Sages

February 1, 2014
Relaxing and Sketching at the Dallas Museum of Art

Relaxing and Sketching at the Dallas Museum of Art

[James] Joyce served my purposes then and now.  If you have taken on the adventure of modernism as I have–and the history of it–there have to be a few prophets to help you when you get discouraged.  You go back to them for reinforcement.

Robert Motherwell, Collected Writings

His soul had arisen from the grave of boyhood, spurning her graveclothes.  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable.

James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

By the time Friday afternoon arrived, I was thoroughly beaten down and discouraged from a grinding, thankless week in school.  I drove straight to the Dallas Museum of Art, convinced it was time to repay myself for enduring what I endured.  As soon as I entered the sweetness of the Edward Hopper Drawing exhibit, I knew I had entered a sanctuary.  Finding a padded bench, I sat for a few minutes, exhaled, then drew out my sketchbook and began working on thumbnails of Hopper’s figures.  Figure drawing has always been my Achilles heel, and I was determined to stay away from the comforts of architectural rendering and just stick with the human figure, trying again and again and again, until I had filled a page.  Long before the page was filled, I knew I had been restored.  So, I went on and filled a second page, then later began a third.

Going next to the museum café, I ordered a Starbuck’s coffee and sat sipping it while enjoying the view of downtown Dallas through the enormous windows.  Once the coffee was drained and a few more notes scribbled into my journal, I wandered upstairs and drifted slowly through the dark galleries of Central and South American Art.  Before I knew it, the time had arrived for the museum to close.  I headed for a warm home, restored and satisfied.

Rising today after a good night’s sleep, I determined that I was just going to sit, read, scribble in my journal, and think.  It was Saturday, and for the first time in weeks, it seemed, there was nowhere I had to be.  Why not just make a day of it?  After several years, I finally completed my reading of The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell.  This is not to say that I am a slow reader, or that I did not enjoy this artist’s mind.  On the contrary, I cannot read Motherwell quickly, because he makes me pause, again and again, ponder, take notes, cross-examine, and shake my head in wonder.  What a marvel of an artist, philosopher, writer and romantic!  I was truly saddened when I turned the last page, and seeing Appendix A, realize that I had completed the volume.  I did not just read from this book today–I also read several more chapters of Edward Hirsch’s The Demon and the Angel, Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Mary Ann Caws’s Robert Motherwell: With Pen and Brush, and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Circles.”  And of course, I continued to sketch.

The communion of this day was the sweetest I have known for awhile. I wholeheartedly agree with Motherwell when he testifies that an artist needs some prophets to offer encouragement now and then.  And my greatest encouragement as an artist comes from the “dead men”.  I chafe every time I hear someone scoff at those who draw inspiration from books instead of from live company.  Frankly, I do not find myself surrounded by the likes of Hopper, Wyeth, Motherwell, Emerson, Tillich, et al.  And those men (to me) are not dead, but encourage me daily in this enterprise.  Every time I find myself second-guessing my abilities or strategies, I return to the volumes and the museums and listen and view what these men have to teach me.  They are finer than any graduate school I have had the privilege of attending, and I shall forever remain grateful for the ways they have enriched my life and given me hope and encouragement.

As this Saturday night draws to a close, I am holding out hope that Sunday can offer more of the same.  I would cherish a full weekend, bathing in the aura of the arts.  This has been a true delight.

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.