Archive for the ‘diner’ Category

An Escape to the Small Town

December 1, 2013
Plein Air Watercolor Sketch of the Edom Business District

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch of the Edom Business District

He talked about himself and said he didn’t feel he was creative anymore and that it was probably because he was secure, and he asked me how I felt, and I said hat I wasn’t creative since I was shot, because after that I stopped seeing creepy people.

Andy Warhol, The Andy Warhol Diaries, August 29, 1979

I awoke at 9:39 this morning, glad for one morning of “sleeping in” since school dismissed for vacation last Tuesday.  I have risen about daylight every morning because there was much to do and because I wanted a quiet “morning watch” to give a measure of Quality to my daily life.  But I got in late, late last night from Edom, Texas.  I set up my display at 6:30 Saturday morning, and shut it down at 9:00 p.m.  The two hour-plus drive home left me in shambles.  Now, a good night’s rest, followed by a steaming mug of coffee has me sitting up in bed, catching up on correspondence that has piled up the past 48 hours, reading some quality books (sampling diaries and journals from Warhol, Delacroix and Thoreau–strange bedfellows to be reading while I’m still in bed).

I have always been amused at Warhol’s wry comment about his creative juices drying up after his tragedy because he cut off the “creepy people” from his daily social life.  And I’m always interested in the topic of creativity ebbing and flowing.  I still re-read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way because I’m interested in the issues of “blocked arrists” though I haven’t felt blocked in years.  I first came to peace with this issue when I read Emerson’s “Terminus” and Whitman’s “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life.”  It was then that I realized that creativity and stagnation are a natural cycle.  We cannot avoid them.  They are as natural as inhaling and exhaling, intake and exhaust.

I have endeavored for years to stoke fires and keep creative fires burning.  I sincerely believe that my biggest obstacle has been an employment issue–I have taught full-time and part-time simultaneously for a number of years now, and often sign a summer teaching contract, so I don’t fit that mold of “public school teacher” whom the general population thinks works only 8-9 months out of the year.  I am a year-round educator working under two contracts.  About three years ago, I decided to stop using this as an excuse for not putting out much art work.  If art truly is my life, then I must fight to live.  And when I made that commitment three years ago, my artistic output increased from ten-to-fifteen watercolors per year to over a hundred (though of course, some of them are small 8 x 10″ “sketches”).  I make art year round, because I feel that I must “make something” daily, and I do.

Yesterday turned out to be a fine day at The Shed Cafe in Edom, Texas.  I was invited to be their feature artist during the commmunity’s Art Jam.  When the afternoon sun broke out, I walked away from my indoor display and took up a position on the front porch where I could see down the main drag.  The fall colors were still rich enough for me to attempt this plein air watercolor sketch while enjoying the live acoustical performances at the other end of the porch.  As I was nearing the finish to the sketch, I looked up and to my surprise saw two of my favorite students–twins that take my Advanced Placement Art History course and are quite prolific in making their own art, along with their mother and father.  Their mother is also an accomplished artist and photographer whom I met and became friends with last year while she was student teaching in our school.  The family had spent Thanksgiving with relatives in Tyler, Texas, and stopped on their way back to Arlington to see the Art Jam.  I cannot adequately express the heartfelt thanks I feel when I see friends at an art event so far away from home.  Their company, conversations and patronage touched me profoundly.  Not long after they had departed, I was surprised also by a visit from a watercolorist who participated in a couple of my workshops at Star Harbor over the past two years.  She had seen in an advertisement that I was going to be at this event, so she took time out of her schedule to drive up to Edom and renew our friendship.

As the night came on, and I began breaking down my show, a patron came and began looking through my scattered crates, found this watercolor and purchased it.  I’m always glad when a fresh painting finds a home so soon.  As it turns out, she and her family came from Fort Worth, so they drove even further than I did to attend the event.  Her young son is an aspiring oil painter of amazing skill.  I was delighted at the opportunity of looking at images of his work that he had on his phone, and closing out a quality day with meaningful conversation over making art.  Every time I meet a kindred spirit such as this, I feel that my own life has extended.  To me, nothing in life is more sacred than creation, and I cannot have enough conversations with others about the creative act.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alond.

I blog to remind myself that I am not 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.

The Fatigue Factor in Painting

April 22, 2013
Cafe Still Life in my Studio

Cafe Still Life in my Studio

Watercolor Still LIfe

Watercolor Still LIfe

I was an insomniac again last night, not falling asleep till nearly 3 a.m.  Up at 6:00 to get to school.  Tomorrow begins the TAKS testing, and I will need plenty of sleep (and intestinal fortitude) to endure that.

My rule is never to work on an art piece when I’m fatigued.  I came home and did some things to this.  Added more pieces to the checkered table-cloth, reworked the postage, stained the envelope some more, added the handwritten address, darkened the spectacles case, manipulated the shadows further.  Then I got sleepy and decided it was time to lay down the brush before I did something I would regret.

I tried to read further from the Steinbeck biography I’ve recently opened, but could only get about half a dozen pages under my belt before nodding off.

So, I will throw  in the towel and get some sleep.  My sincere hope is that I can go after this with renewed energy, and maybe even finish it tomorrow.  I’m already thinking ahead to three more compositions I want to go after, and that makes it kind of hard to stay devoted to this one.

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.

Falls the Shadow of the Night

April 21, 2013
Studying the Shadows

Studying the Shadows

Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow

                        For Thine is the Kingdom

            Between the conception

And the creation

Between the emotion

And the response

Falls the Shadow

                        Life is very long

            Between the desire

And the spasm

Between the potency

And the existence

Between the essence

And the descent

Falls the Shadow

                        For Thine is the Kingdom

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

Funny how the mind works, how words arrive in the still of the night.  I was poring over this watercolor that has held my fascination for a couple of days, wondering what to do next.  And, for the first time, I noticed the shadows beneath the spectacles, weaving serpentine-like around the case and the envelope underneath.  I started laying in the shadows, looking at the warm areas and the cool areas, trying to match warm and cool neutral colors, watching them flow along the wet trail I had initiated with my pointed brush.  I got lost in the shadows, and suddenly these words from T. S. Eliot, that I hadn’t read in months, or even thought about, rose in my consciousness.  I liked the feelings that came with them.  And I’m fascinated with that idea of what exactly falls betwixt the idea and the act of creation, whether it be a watercolor, a short story, a poem, a song–anything that we can call “creation.”  The interval between the idea and the process of actualizing that idea is what stirs my blood.

Thanks for reading.

 

Sunday Morning Silence in the Man Cave

April 21, 2013
Entrance to my Man Cave

Entrance to my Man Cave

Sunday Morning work on the Cafe Still-Life

Sunday Morning Work on the Cafe Still-Life

Diners originated in Providence, Rhode Island, in the 1870s.  A newspaper salesman named Walter Scott noticed a need for after-hours food service for workers on the late shift and anyone else obliged or inclined for whatever reason to stay out after 8 P.M., when all the restaurants in Providence would close.  Having hitched a wooden wagon to a horse named Patient Dick, he roved the town through the night selling what would become and remain basic diner fare: sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, pie, and coffee, all homemade, all priced at a nickel.  Competition–larger wagons, wagons that stayed in one place, and wagons with indoor seating (mainly stools) in case of rain–soon followed, and spread from town to town in the Northeast.  In 1891, Charles Palmer of Worcester, Massachusetts, found it worthwhile to patent a wagon with a kitchen and dining area designed for mass production.

By the 1920s, diners had evolved into self-contained restaurants, factory-made and measured for easy delivery to whatever location the buyer thought would be profitable.

Gordon Theisen, Staying Up Much Too Late: Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and the Dark Side of the American Psyche

I was stricken with insomnia last night (probably too much coffee!), not able to fall asleep till about 3:00.  Television and great books kept me occupied.  Sleeping till 8:00, I’ve felt sluggish this entire day, but nevertheless enjoyed yet another caraf of coffee, excellent reading from Hemingway and Steinbeck, and plenty of noodling on this small 8 x 10″ painting.  I’m not making very fast progress now, as I’m feeling pretty timid about the clean lines of the spectacles, and have worked hard not to make them look sketchy and “organic.”  I struggle with precision in watercolor, and feel that the discipline is important for me.  The pattern on the tablecloth also has to follow a strict design.  I enjoyed working on the canceled postage and postmark on the envelope.  Still working on staining the envelope.  I thought that would be easy and mindless.  It isn’t!  Plenty of surprises on this composition, all of them fascinating to me.

I couldn’t have dialed up a better Sunday. The light and the silence have been so soothing, so affirming.  The reading and painting were smooth. I felt as though my pulse slowed down a bit.  The coming work week will be spastic, with state standardized testing dominating the days (always a questionable use of the school time, certainly not a boon for education).  My hope is that I can put it behind me each evening and let the studio envelope me as it has recently.

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.

A Delicious Afternoon in the Man Cave, Sketching, Watercoloring, Reading, Journaling, Pondering

April 19, 2013
Beginnings of a cafe still-life

Beginnings of a Cafe Still-Life

Only through art can we get outside of ourselves and know another’s view of the universe which is not the same as ours and see landscapes which would otherwise have remained unknown to us like the landscapes of the moon.  Thanks to art, instead of seeing a single world, our own, we see it multiply until we have before us as many worlds as there are original artists.

Marcel Proust

I emerged from school to face my weekend with a heart full of gladness.  The 67-degree sunshine and soothing breeze made for a heavenly afternoon in the Man Cave, and I immediately went back to the work I barely commenced late last night–a diner’s mug on a checkered cloth, with vintage spectacles and an old envelope.  All I accomplished last night were laying down the shadows, wet-on-wet. This afternoon I got after some color blocks on the fabric, some further modeling and glazing on the mug (including some of reflected pinks of the cloth on the side of the mug), and a little bit of work on the spectacles.

Once the painting got overly wet, I decided to settle into the comfy chair for some reading in the Hemingway biography.  But the Cave was darkened by the positioning of my doors (trying to control the lamp source on the still-life), and I suddenly got an idea for some reading light.  Yesterday, while browsing the antique store, I found something I had wanted for ten years but could never find–an old vintage “farmhouse-style” screen door!  Price was $37.  I loaded it in the Jeep and brought it to the cave.  It had been propped behind some still life objects for a future composition, but today I decided to use it functionally–I spread my doors and inserted the screen between them to let in the light and the breeze.

Once I sat with the Hemingway biography in my lap, and felt that first caress of the breeze coming through, I laughed out loud, remembering the Seinfeld episode when Kramer installed the screen door on his apartment entrance, and sat outside in the hall with a garden hose, watering plants!

Interior of Man Cave. looking out screen door
Interior of Man Cave. looking out screen door
Standing Outside the Man Cave, looking in the screen door

Standing Outside the Man Cave, looking in the screen door

Quick Attempt to Sketch the Man Cave Doors

Quick Attempt to Sketch the Man Cave Doors

After reading the Hemingway biography for a stretch of time, I then turned to my Journal and recorded some of the highlights of this day, especially some new ideas planted recently by my high school students (at my age, they still astound me with their insight and creative ways of looking at the world).  I then returned to work a little further on the table cloth patterns of my new cafe painting.  Then, taking a stretch break, I stepped outside the Cave and was surprised by the sight of the western sun on my screen door and the adjoining one.  I quickly installed a porcelain doorknob, set up my plein air easel, and went to work as quickly as possible, like a man possessed, before I lost the sunset light (about 15 minutes).  I absolutely loved getting into the wood surfaces of the doors along with their knobs, handles, keyholes, etc.  Once the light faded, I decided to call it quits on this one, and perhaps will return to it at the same time tomorrow evening, or Sunday evening.

I cannot describe my disposition this afternoon, except to say I was quite “scattered”.  I wanted to paint everything, draw everything (I left out the detail that I also worked out some pencil sketches of the diner’s mug because I was having some problems “solving” it’s form.  I didn’t bother posting those photographs, because I feel I’ve already loaded plenty into this post).  It was a delightful afternoon, divided between two paintings, some sketches, excellent reading, as well as some thinking and journaling.  All the best things were here for me this day.

Rapid Watercolor Sketch of the Door knob

Rapid Watercolor Sketch of the Door knob (about 15 minutes)

I have an invitation to go on a plein air excursion with friends this weekend, and I’m seriously considering it.  I’ve waited all winter for this opportunity, and have had only one such encounter.  I’m ready once again to get outside and into the light.

This has been a beautiful afternoon and evening.  Thank you for sharing in it with me.  And thank you always for caring enough to read me.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Bob Phillips Texas Country Reporter Festival in the Books

October 31, 2011

Waxahachie Commerce

The Bob Phillips Texas Country Reporter Festival on the town square in Waxahachie was a fabulous success.  The bright sunny weather featured cool breezes that held the temperatures in the low-70’s and the ten-hour festival blew by fast.  It was my third consecutive year to have my booth in the VIP section on Franklin Street, just in front of the main stage, and the time spent with my friends and patrons from past festivals was exhilarating.

I am posting a watercolor that I did of two businesses on College Street (also on the square) that unfortunately burned last year and have been torn down.  During breaks in the festival proceedings, I turned a sad eye on the ruins where these two businesses formerly stood.  The law office had purchased this watercolor back in 2009 at the close of the Paint Historic Waxahachie event, my first time to participate in that plein air enterprise.  That event actually marked the beginning of my own plein air odyssey.  So, to look on this painting, and to travel to Waxahachie to see the ruins, fills me with a sense of sadness, as well as gratitude for the poignant memories left by that site.

I am still selling plenty of greeting cards of this image, so the residents apparently still cling to the memories as well.  Maybe all of us can take pages from William Wordsworth and Marcel Proust, who wrote of those primal memories worth carrying with us.  Oftentimes, we look back and find defining moments in them, that otherwise may have passed into oblivion.  The core of my watercolor collection seeks to capture those cultural relics from my own past, because I want to remember those thriving businesses that now stand as sere architectural husks.  Hopefully, I can begin my next composition today, when school is over.

Thanks for reading.

Finished a Plein Air Watercolor of Big Fish Seafood in Grapevine, Texas

September 16, 2011

Big Fish Seafood Restaurant, Grapevine, Texas

Currently a big BIG rainstorm is pouring over Grapevine, Texas, forcing festival patrons indoors.  My booth has remained intact and dry (I’m grateful for that!).  Meanwhile, I finished this plein air watercolor sketch of Big Fish, a popular seafood restaurant on Main Street in Grapevine.  Thankfully, my booth is positioned right in front of it, so I’ve had plenty of time for my eye to linger over the facade and take in its essence, so to speak.  I love the complementary relation between the green woodwork and the red brick that graces this structure.

This has been a fun sketch, and the sales today have been O.K.  Better than yesterday.  The patrons have been fabulous and I have so enjoyed the conversations and exchange of information.  I feel that I’ve made so many new friends (and perhaps gained some new patrons as well).

Thanks for reading.

Watercoloring the Hot Summer Town of Hico, Texas en Plein Air

June 29, 2011

A Hot Summer Afternoon in Hico, Texas

After the morning plein air excursion into Granbury, I next turned my Jeep further south, and arrived in Hico, Texas as the sun waxed hotter.  What a fabulous town for painting!  Ghost signs were everywhere to be found on the sides of buildings of brick and rusticated stone.  I turned down a major street, and was delighted to find it divided, with a tree-shaded island featuring park benches and gazebos.  I found plenty of space to set up my easel on the island, without blocking sidewalk traffic (not that there was much, in that small town!).  As I painted, I found the residents of Hico to be exceedingly friendly.  A number of men and women approached me, looked at my work, said affirming things, and chatted with me about life in the small town, and also asked how things were in my large city, and I found it pleasing to cover a number of conversational subjects with them, all of the talk pleasant.  I even had the pleasure of meeting an acrylic studio painter who owned a business on the street where I painted.  A lady in a passing car rolled down her window, took a look at my work, and expressed admiration for my attempt at architecture.  She was a painter of animals and thought it would be difficult to paint buildings.  I guess I should have mentioned to her that I find it difficult, painting animals!

I loved this street intersection vista.  The light rusticated stone building contrasted nicely with the darker buildings across the street on the left, and I was fascinated with the tree on the right invading the compositional space.  I took a reference photo of this site and am seriously considering taking another shot at this in the studio.

The day was hot, the travel exhausting, but I’m glad I got out and did this.   Last night I looked at the website of the Weiler House Gallery (http://www.weilerhousefineart.com/#events) and saw that my Solo Show for this fall has been posted.  My first reaction was that it was time to “find another gear” in producing art work.  Showtime is in two months.

Thanks for reading.

Lazy Afternoon at Zula’s Coffee House. Last Day of Waxahachie Plein Air Competition

June 2, 2011

Lazy Afternoon at Zula's Coffee House, Waxahachie, Texas

Today marks the end of the plein air competition in Waxahachie (for me).  The deadline for entering work is tomorrow (Friday) at 2:00, and I will be stuck in school for the entire day.  The last week of public school is a total waste of time and resources, if I may offer my frank opinion.  Prime time every day this week has been spent in a high school where everyone–student and teacher alike–has already mailed it in.   I’m happy that I managed to crank out seven paintings since last Friday–six of them between Friday and Monday, and then the past three days on this one (again, prime time spent in school, and left-over, late-afternoon time, painting).

Zula’s Coffee House is my favorite place to land when I’m in Waxahachie, Texas.  Terra, the proprietor, has this way of making any patron comfortable and grateful for setting up in this coffee haven, any time day or night.  It has become a popular venue for folk singing, book discussions and various other small group activities.  Wi-Fi makes it a great place to work on the laptop when deadlines are pressing.  The coffee house is located on Business Highway 287, on the north side of downtown Waxahachie (Main Street).  It is far enough away from the town square to escape the traffic noises of midday, and has a life of its own (which the town square lacks after 5:00 p.m.).  The open meadow across the street provides plenty of space for anyone with an active eye and a dreamy imagination.  During the fall of last year, I painted the meadow in all the bright colors that the late afternoon sun yielded.  Again, this is a sweet spot to land for anyone who is a lover of art, books, music and of course, coffee!

Thanks Terra for a very rewarding three days.  I’m glad I finally got around to painting this splendid venue.

Thanks for reading.