Archive for the ‘ghost signs’ Category

Thoughts from the Redlands Hotel

June 11, 2021

June 2, 2021

Hello, Sandi?

“Hi there. I suppose you’re in the middle of a class?”

“Actually, yes.”

Well . . . I’m gonna have to ask you to cut it short . . . There’s been an accident. Christine is driving me to Huguley Emergency Center.”

I put down the phone, in shock.

“Really sorry folks. I gotta go. Now. Sandi has been in an accident involving her horse. She’s being taken to the emergency room. I have no details.”

I fumbled to gather my art materials, struggling to think of what to put in which container.

“We’ve got this. We’ll lock everything up for you . . . you need to get outta here.”

I don’t remember the 45-minute drive through traffic from south Arlington to south Fort Worth. All I could think of was: what happened? Did she take a fall from her mount? Did the horse trample her in the stall (Sandi is petitie; her horse is 17.3 hands tall)? There were no details shared.

Arriving at the emergency room, I immediately saw Sandi being admitted, seated in a wheelchair, and forgetting protocall, I nearly fainted at the thought of paralysis.

The news was serious, but not nearly as serious as I’d feared. Struggling with a 120-lb. hay bale in the back of her truck, Sandi lost her balance when the hay hook tore loose from the bale. She pitched headfirst off the tailgate, hitting the ground below squarely on her face. Raising her head, she saw that the hay hook had plunged all the way through her hand, from the palm through the back. The medical staff, concerned about broken bones, immediately performed CT scans to see if there was any vertebrae damage or broken arms or wrists. Everything negative. Examining the injured hand, the specialist marveled that only muscle was damaged, no bones, tendons or ligaments were touched by the spike. Therefore, Sandi’s hand should heal in time without surgery or rehab.

All this happened nine days ago, hence a blog hiatus. I couldn’t think. Couldn’t read. Couldn’t write. This past week-and-a-half has been a fog. I have spent some time alone in the gallery, but couldn’t concentrate much, thinking of Sandi back home recuperating, and grateful for the many friends who came visiting, bringing food, and working to keep our chins up. Sandi is mending and in better spirits now. I’m at the gallery for two days only, then heading back to be where I really belong and want to be.

Now to catch up on Gallery at Redlands news . . .

Palimpsest, 22 x 33″ framed watercolor. $1500

I am proud finally to hang my latest framed watercolor Palimpsest in the Gallery. Today has been busy with traffic and sales in the gallery. If things slow down later tonight, I plan to resume work on my Sacred Heart watercolor. So far I have worked only on the night sky. This beautiful church is across the street from The Gallery at Redlands and I see portions of its upper story through the windows of this space throughout the day.

The Gallery is taking on a new look as we continue to add new work and new artists to our mix.

Wayne White, Fork in the Road 16 x 21″ Fractured Glass Photograph, $200

Photographer Wayne White, my friend since second grade and also the muse for my “Hank” stories in an upcoming book, has just submitted his latest fractured glass photograph to sell in our gallery. We have it on display currently in the lobby window. You will want to check this one out.

We are also proud to welcome painter John D. Westerhold to our gallery family. John has been featured several times in southwest art magazine, and we’re proud that his latest published painting Reflections of a Fat Boy is now on display in our window looking out to the street.

(Sorry about the reflections!) Reflections of a Fat Boy, Acrylic, 36 x 48″ $8500

It feels good to be in the Gallery again and blogging again. I’ll be here till we close around 9:00 tonight and will be around all day Saturday till our 9 p.m. closing.

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 Work on “Palimpsest”–Measure Twice. Cut Once

May 3, 2021

palimpsest

noun

a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Home again in Studio Eidolons, I’m finally rested and refreshed and ready to return to painting. I did maage to get some work done over the weekend in The Gallery at Redlands on this building I discovered in Little Rock, covered with ghost signs. I am thinking about titling it “Palimpsest” because the layers of signage from early 19th to mid-20th century remided me of my earlier years of seminary studies when poring over photo facsimiles of ancient biblical palimpsest pages.

Ghost signs have been my passion for many years, and my dear friends the Darrs just gave me a very fitting birthday gift, an out of print book, Ghost Signs: Brick wall Signs in America, by William Stage an amazing author and photographer with a background in philosophy. I am nearly finished reading the entire text and am deeply touched by this statement from art critic John Brod Peters:

On ancient, peeling brick walls, these fading signs are the dying whispers of another age.

Reading that, I felt the hairs raising on the nape of my neck. This particular building in Little Rock, Arkansas is the 1891 O’Bryan building. The orginal painted advertisements were covered by an adjoining building in 1915. When the newer building was torn down in the 1980’s, the ads were visible again. The Coca-Cola ad barely shows beneath the Tom Moore cigar ad.

Studio Eidolons in the Morning

The day in studio has been soothing, and the watercolor is now slowing down considerably. The old adage “Measure twice. Cut Once” is in play as I spend more time staring at every square inch of detail than actual painting. The mortar seams in the brick work are slowing me down as is the parking lot and sidewalk just barely begun. When I am this deep in a painting, I tend to tighten up and sometimes lose the freshness and spontaneity that I love to see. I’m glad there is no deadline for this piece.

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 late night in the gallery, with Henry Miller keeping me company…

April 16, 2021

For the record, I am not a surrealist. But my, oh my! Can Henry Miller soar into the stratosphere when he writes about the act of painting!

Surrealism is not a mode, a technique, an invention, a club, or an atelier, or a platform, or a fine sounding phrase. It is five minutes of eternity. Five minutes with the Holy Ghost. It is a little this side of Peru, or maybe three inches nearer. The square inch of the water color that you do with fever and intensity, unconsciously, accidentally, bravo and braggart, and humble son of God at the same time, all in one.

The ecstasy I feel when a watercolor is looking good under my gaze–I’ve never been able to speak or write adequately about how that feels. But Henry Miller encapsulated it while discussing surrealism. I just choose to file this under “ecstasy while making art.”

I spend too much time on the blog talking about how much this “clean, well-lighted place” (Hemingway) inspires me. I have not adequately informed interested readers that this lovely space has been thought out, organized and implemented by Sandi Jones, the better half of me. I’m just a painter and dreamer, with no clue of how to create space that the Danes describe as hygge. Sandi does that. My friends know that. It is past time for the readers to know it too. She also designed Studio Eidolons in our remodeled home. None of this would be happening without her.

The night has drawn quiet, as I now try and figure out whether I want to paint or continue to read and swoon over the writings of Henry Miller’s To Paint is to Love Again. Tough choice.

Thanks always for reading.

Serene Friday Evening Moments at the Gallery at Redlands

April 16, 2021
Friday evening work in progress

Some day I am going to own a few feet of earth somewhere and put a house over it. Just one big room will do, with a stove and a basin of water, a huge desk, a bookcase and an easel. Then life can go rolling by, and what floats in through my door will be sufficient for me.

I have seen enough. I want to express, to realize, henceforth. All the riches crowding into my brain day after day, and only little strings of sausage meat coming forth.

Henry Miller

This evening, while I worked on the watercolor, I received word from Stacy Campbell (one of The Twelve) that she is clearing everything out of her bedroom to create her own unique space, a muse-ic room. Stacy is a poet, musician and painter, and has come to the realization that she needs her own creative working space. I am vicariously enjoying her labor of love. As for me, my own Studio Eidolons at home two hours away is very special to me, and I miss it. But the space, lighting and vibe of The Gallery at Redlands makes creating here very special too. Thanks to the drafting table given by Tim and Patty, I have a special place to work here in Palestine.

Having said all of this, I laugh at those times when even the loveliest of creative spaces do not help us come forth with something of value. The second block quote above from Henry Miller made me laugh out loud. How many times do I find myself creating crap in my studio spaces and feeling unworthy of the rooms? I honestly think sometimes that there are hundreds of creative spirits in the neighborhood more deserving of such spaces. But I’ll still accept the spaces and try to do better!

By now, readers might be growing weary of seeing this ghost sign watercolor slowly, slowly materializing. Truth be told, I’m continually getting stuck on how exactly to proceed. Today has been mostly bare trees to the right and a long block of bricks down below. I always enjoy the process of making art, but oftentimes, like now, get a little tense when I feel something special may be eluding my grasp. We’ll see how this one comes along. If it doesn’t work out, there will be other chances.

Sandi and I will be here in the gallery till Sunday. A special shout-out to Paula Cadle, the potter among The Twelve–three of her new pieces brought in yesterday have found new homes! The gallery already misses their bright presence.

Thanks for reading.

I make art to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Sunday Morning Musings from Studio Eidolons

April 11, 2021
Glad to be back in the Studio for some Quiet Restoration

. . . finding you were able to make something up; to create truly enough so that it made you happy to read it; and to do this every day you worked was something that gave a greater pleasure than any I had ever known.

Ernest Hemingway

Today is restoration day. Sandi and I received our second COVID vaccine shots yesterday and are happy to experience no unpleasant symptoms. We’ve just been on the go for several days and are glad now to stop for awhile.

I’ve resumed reading Carlos Baker’s Hemingway: The Writer as Artist. I love the quote above, and that general sentiment of the artist–creating something out of the void. My life has been enriched in recent years by a mix of painting and writing. Last weekend while in The Gallery at Redlands, I met an author who invited me to join their writers’ group that meets once a month. The next one won’t be until May, but I am already leaning forward with enthusiasm to gathering with these writers and finding ways to sharpen my own vision of what to do with my own practice.

My latest watercolor has laid dormant on my drafting table for twenty-four hours, and I intend today to give it my next push. I’ve gotten bogged down with the bricks and ghost signage, so I may decide to return to work on the trees awhile. We’ll see.

Planning today to return to the Ghost Sign watercolor

I look forward to participating in Artscape 2021 at the Dallas Aroboretum April 23-25. Last year was canceled due to COVID, but I understand that there will be 80+ artists participating this year. This festival has been one of the highlights of my annual art schedule before last year’s cancellations. I am excited to bring out quite a stack of framed watercolors that have not yet been seen by the public. I guess that’s one positive to address concerning the lost year during COVID.

A new Greeting Card for my Inventory

Hank Under Oklahoma Stars

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”

Reclining against his backpack, Hank savored the warmth of the fire that neutralized the chill of the October night. He had left Turvey’s Corner just this morning, but thanks to a pair of truckers, had managed to put nearly twelve hours between himself and the town he just left. Finding wide open plains west of the town of Vinita, he now rested his stiff body and gazed in wonder at the millions of stars filling the deep night sky.

The back of the Greeting Card (blank inside)

I have allowed my greeting card inventory to dwindle over the past couple of years. In The Gallery at Redlands, as well as my festival tent, I sell 5 x 7″ cards (blank inside) with my artwork on front and a descriptive text on back. They sell for $5 each, five for $20, and come with the proper envelope. A protective plastic envelope encases the assembly. Above is an example of one of my newest ones printed last week. Materials just arrived to print 250 new cards, so I’m excited to create new editions as well as replenish the ones sold out. Above is an example of one of my newest cards; below is a photo of another spread out.

(Cards are blank inside)

I’m ready to paint again. 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.

Thoughts in the Night While Painting in The Gallery at Redlands

April 8, 2021
After a four-day hiatus, it’s good to be working on this painting again

The celebrated biographies give us the sufferings and hardships of the great. But the sufferings and hardships of the unknown are often more eloquent. The tribulations of fate weave a mantle of unsuspected heroism about these lesser figures. To win through by sheer force of genius is one thing; to survive and continue to create when every last door is slammed in one’s face is another. Nobody acquires genius: it is God-given. But one can acquire patience, fortitude, wisdom, understanding. Perhaps the gretest gift the little men have to offer us is this ability to accept the conditions which life imposes, accept one’s own limitations, in other words. Or, to put it another way–to love what one does whether it causes a stir or not. Of the highest men Vivekananda once said: “They make no stir in the world. They are calm, silent, unknown.”

Henry Miller, To Paint is to Love Again

As the hour approaches 9 p.m., The Gallery at Redlands is quieter. My eyes are tired from working on the watercolor at the drafting table (bless you, Tim and Patty for that wonderful gift!). Sitting now at the desk I’ve taken up my continued reading of this beautiful volume from Henry Miller (bless you, Stacy and Leigh for that gift–I still cry when I think of opening the wrapping paper that night!)

I want to dedicate this blog entry to the Unknown Artist, the One who continues to work faithfully on his/her craft day after day, even when no one seems to notice. I salute the artist who realizes the world doesn’t need his/her creative effort; if the artist quits, the world will continue on its way. I still shudder at the memories, the Angst I knew in the 80’s and 90’s. I still remember those nights of sadness when I couldn’t sleep because I was mired in all that self-doubt that arose because of a general lack of recognition or appreciation for my artistic efforts.

The art world has changed profoundly for me since those days. Not that I consider myself successful or widely-known in the art world. I think what it boils down to is the reality that I worked a job for twenty-eight years, earned a pension and retired. Once my job supported my lifestyle around the turn of the millenium, I suddenly realized that I did not need the income for art sales, and I no longer expected to become famous. That turned out to be liberating. As I recall, somewhere around the year 2000, I found myself happy in the act of creating instead of fretting over marketing details or standards of success.

But our world remains filled with artistic, creative, driven souls who suffer, either because they cannot make a living and/or they create without any measure of success or recognition. I don’t know which is worse. All I know is that when an artist is unhappy, I feel guilty because my life has turned in such a way that I have the ability to make art, and love the work, and don’t have to depend on selling it.

I am still surprised to own a gallery now. It has been over two months since we turned that corner, and it is still quite new and quite surprising for me. As for The Twelve in The Gallery at Redlands, I just want them to be successful, and I want them to be happy in their creative work. I want them to know the bliss and fulfillment of having the strength and wellness to pursue their bliss.

I am turned off by art blogs that tell us how to become millionaires, how to market our work, especially the ones who solicit money from us for their packaged programs that guarantee financial fortune. I despise the unwritten sentiment that if we are not financially successful then we are just mediocre or lazy artists. From my perspective, this gathering of The Twelve in our gallery has shown me more love and compassion than I believe I’ve ever seen in social gatherings from my past. There is a wonderful vibe among this community. Something is in the air. And I truly believe that Palestine and east Texas are on the verge of artistic enrichment. I truly believe that The Twelve are committed to improving our community by celebrating art, by delighting in the act of creation. And I am proud to be numbered among them.

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.

Early Sunday Morning

April 4, 2021
Working slowly on my ghost sign composition from Hot Springs, Arkansas

Usually the artist has two life-long companions, neither of his own choosing. I mean–poverty and loneliness. To have a friend who understands and appreciates your work, one who never lets you down but who becomes more devoted, more reverent, as the years go by, that is a rare experience. It takes only one friend, if he is a man of faith, to work miracles. How distressing it is to hear young painters talking about dealers, shows, newspaper reviews, rich patrons, and so on. All that comes with time–or will never come. But first one must make friends, create them through one’s work. What sustains the artist is the look of love in the eyes of the beholder. Not money, not the right connections, not exhibitions, not flattering reviews.

Henry Miller, To Paint is to Love Again

Saturday was a slow day in the gallery–dark, rainy and overcast outdoors with very few people coming in. The result was an excellent day for painting, reading, scribbling in the journal, and finding my center again. When patrons did come to the gallery, I found myself much more open to visiting and exchanging good words. And then of course, many of my new friends came in and the night glowed with companionship.

The words from Henry Miller rolled across the page at just the right moment this morning as I was reflecting over the watercolor that has kept me company the past couple of days. I am probably going to include the word “palimpsest” in the title of my new work, because of how the layers of billboard on the side of the building correspond to the layers of my personal memories that keep blistering to the surface of my consciousness.

As I read Henry’s words of the struggling artist and look at my painting, the past comes pouring through my soul. The year 1988 was utterly bleak. I now look out the window of our gallery down the street, across a vacant parking lot to the distant railyards. And I recall those Sunday mornings walking along West Berry Street in Fort Worth toward Texas Christian University. I worked as a dispatcher for Campus Police, unsure of what kind of future employment I would land, but committed to a life as an artist. The squalor of Berry Street alongside with the beauty of the morning sun on the old business facades reminded me of Edward Hopper’s honest urban works, and I wondered then if I could ever land in an environment where I could practice my art of rendering such scenes and somehow live comfortably as well.

In those days my friends were very few, and none of them shared my artistic vision or interest. Sandi would not come into my life for another decade, but I held on to the belief that friendship would eventually arrive, and perhaps a stability to life as an artist. Now, more than thirty years later, the artful life has arrived, and my heart swells in gratitude for love, for friendship, and for a caring environment. I knew the life of the struggling artist, and am glad now that the struggle only involves attempts to improve my craft and my business associations. But I am so grateful for a circle of artistic friends. The Twelve have enriched me in ways I could never adequately put into words. And to everyone still struggling to establish his/her artistic lifestyle I just urge you not to give up. Believe. Trust your vision. Never apologize for your authenticity. Keep practicing your art. And never cut yourself off from other visionaries seeking companionship and conversation. Your vision and talents are the genuine life blood that could heal our society. There is not enough beauty in this world. We need your inspiration.

Early Sunday Morning Peek into the Gallery at Redlands from the Lobby of Redlands Hotel
Lovely Work from Deanna Pickett Frye and Elaine Cash Jary in our Front Window
From where I sit . . .

Thanks always for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Pre-Dawn Musings from The Gallery at Redlands

April 3, 2021

What this country really needs is a good five-cent cigar.

Thomas Riley Marshall, Vice-President under Woodrow Wilson, presiding over a Senate debate

Waking at 3:15 this Saturday morning was not part of my plan, but here I sit in a darkened kitchen on the second floor of The Redlands Hotel, with an abundance of good feelings over the past couple of days’ events in The Gallery at Redlands. Closing out the final weekend of Palestine’s Dogwood Festival afforded us warm conversations with some of our gallery artists along with members of the Dogwood Arts Council. We also got to visit with dear friends whose workplaces are in this hotel along with a host of visiting patrons. And we have even made some new friends who live above their business just a block away. The vibe of Palestine continues to warm up in many ways similar to what I’ve been reading about the 1950’s surge of art in New York City.

And, speaking of New York City, I can no longer hold back on the thrill that greeted The Twelve as we were launching the opening of this gallery March 20. On that day, while some of us were under the tent for Art Alley (one of the Dogwood Festival’s events), I received a comment on this blog from a sculptor in Manhattan:

Congratulations, in advance, for what looks like a groundbreaking opening! Even here, from Manhattan, I can see art is an important part of this community, and a community that reveres art is a community alive!!! Do well and I look forward to more photos!

As some of our gallery artists and members of the Arts Council gathered round, I read the comment aloud from my smart phone, and they broke out in spontaneous applause! Two days later, when I posted a new blog, updating our art events here in Palestine and the success of our gallery reception honoring The Twelve, another post came up from our Manhattan friend:

Thank you for the moment-by-moment description of your show, the gallery and all the artists who make up your Twelve. It is true, I live in NYC. I have been to a lot of art exhibits, and have a BFA in sculpture, from back when no women were in the Sculpture Department. But I am still more interested in the artists than the hype. You gave me the artists, in such a way that I can imagine myself there. Now that I know the history of the gallery and some of the artists, I can follow along. Thanks again. And, when you are on the river in OK, and if you happen to see an osprey fishing (returning from their migration), that’s probably me, sending you a “hello” message.

Two days later, my artist friend Wayne journeyed with me to Oklahoma to fly-fish the Lower Mountain Fork River. As we fished those gently flowings waters, we watched for the osprey and re-lived the thrill of the Manhattan posts of good will.

The Gallery has been busy the past couple of days, but still I found some stillness and quiet and space to continue work on my latest watercolor (thank you again, Tim and Patty, for giving me the drafting table so I can work on art inside the gallery). Below is the reference photo I’m using for the painting, taken early one morning in Hot Springs, Arkansas when Wayne and I were returning him to his home in Missouri.

O’Bryan Building, erected in 1891. Hot Springs, Arkansas

While working on this watercolor, I’ve been exporing the building’s history online, and intend in future posts, as this watercolor develops, to share what I’ve learned about the layers of advertising making up the “ghost sign.”

The 10-cent Cigar portion brought to memory the famous wit of our Vice-President under Woodrow Wilson. As he presided over the Senate, he was known for his patience. But on one particular day, as Senator after Senator pontificated endlessly about what was needed to heal our nation’s ills, the Vice-President leaned over to the Secretary of the Senate and uttered those immortal words in the hearing of several nearby.

What this country really needs is a good five-cent cigar.

Currently, I see our country as very ill. But I have hope. Members of The Twelve told me repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the March 20 reception at The Gallery of Redlands that they were surprised and warmed by the good will flowing in all directions on social media: members of The Twelve who had not yet met were sending warm, enthusiastic thoughts to one another, admiring one another’s work online and looking forward to the day we would be together. Artists from the metroplex, from Amarillo, from Palestine and from Missouri earnestly looking forward to meeting face-to-face, some of them sharing a four-bedroom suite on the second floor of The Redlands Hotel. For four days, we went to meals together, sat and chatted in the gallery together, congregated in the hotel lobby, set up displays under the tent for Art Alley together, and finally, spent hours together the night of our reception. The temperature continued to rise, and lasting friendships were formed. Wayne and Paula were reluctant to leave and return to Missouri so soon. Metroplex artists reluctantly said Goodbye and returned to their neighborhoods. And Sandi and I could not wait for the next weekend to get back to Palestine and see the local artists again. What we all shared was this: social media, as we had experienced before, had been a venue of poisonous rhetoric, vitriolic attacks on people’s character, and a megaphone for discontent. But what we have experienced for over a month now is a genuine outpouring of goodwill to others not yet seen in person. And now that The Twelve have returned to their homes, the positive messages continue. And we wonder, what is wrong with the mainstream that seeks satisfaction in poisonous rhetoric on social media? Honestly, what is their return on this activity? Satisfaction? Pleasure? Happiness? Why can’t people seek healing for this culture? What is to be gained by all this negativity?

There are a number of things happening in The Gallery at Redlands that fill me with pride in this space. Sandi had the idea of bringing in more comfy chairs and intalling a Keurig coffee maker along with bowls of snacks put out. What we have noticed is more people entering our space and lingering longer, perhaps because they don’t feel assaulted by hungry sales people. They sit. They drink. They snack. And they visit. Recently I have enjoyed the company of an eighth-generation descendant of Cynthia Ann Parker, mother of Quanah Parker. I have also enjoyed an extensive conversation with a retired history teacher from Mississippi, and listened with awe to the experiences of a woman whose aunt managed the Carlin Art Gallery in Fort Worth and represented the works of Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth. Visiting with art lovers who look closely at our work and remain for meaningful conversations is just as satisfying as selling art, though we are very happy that sales have been steady since we’ve opened.

What our country needs, is more good will, more positive discourse. And we are warmed to find more of that going on in this community. May it continue. We are expecting that five-cent cigar.

The light is coming up outside, and I have a watercolor downstairs waiting for me. Like Henry Miller, I’m looking forward to taking a peek at it in the morning light that pours in through our gallery windows.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Ready to Paint Again

March 27, 2021

I remember well the transformation which took place in me when first I began to view the world with the eyes of a painter. The most familiar things, objects which I had gazed at all my life, now became an unending source of wonder, and with the wonder, of course, affection. A tea pot, an old hammer, a chipped cup, whatever came to hand I looked upon as if I had never seen it before. I hadn’t, of course. Do not most of us go through life blind, deaf, insensitive? Now as I studied the object’s physiognomy, its texture, its way of speaking, I entered into its life, its history, its purpose, its association with other objects, all of which only endeared it the more.

Henry Miller, To Paint is to Love Again

Henry Miller has left artists a precious gift with this book. My friends Stacy and Leigh surprised me with it a week ago, and it has traveled with me across Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Texas these past four days. Now I’m relaxing in The Gallery at Redlands with more time to pore over these pages.

The drafting table that Tim and Patty Smith gave me a few years ago has been moved back into the gallery and I am delighted to begin work on the ghost sign advertisements that grabbed my attention in Hot Springs, Arkansas Wednesday morning. Encountering the building and signage was a remarkable accident. I was depending on GPS to find a pancake house, and I failed to make my U-turn when commanded. I drove another block before the next one came up, and as I completed my turn, I saw out of the corner of my eye the ghost signs. I couldn’t stare because I was driving in tight traffic. But throughout breakfast, I could only think of what I had seen out of the corner of my eye. Artist Andrew Wyeth frequently spoke of subjects that became his famous paintings because he glimpsed them out of the corner of his eye and later had to return to look at them because he could not erase the memory of the encounter.

Sure enough, when I walked to the location after breakfast, I was wearing a short-sleeved Tshirt in 40-degree weather and was very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, once I found the building I had to stand there and gaze at it, taking several photographs. Someone once said that beauty was what suspended the desire to be somewhere else; we are held in place and cannot walk away from what we’re viewing. I knew that I had to paint this subject.

I am going to title the painting “Palimpsest” because during my seminary days I was always fascinated with ancient manuscripts which were re-used, a new text written over the old. As centuries wore on, the original text had a way of reemerging and co-mingling with the later text. Gazing at the layers of advertising all over the side of the building, I felt myself drawn into the history of the building, musing about the products advertised, the people walking or driving buy who connected with the message, and the changes that that part of Hot Springs endured over the years. Staring at the signage, I realized that we ourselves have layers of history stacked one on top the other. Our memories may fade somewhat, but still they push their way to the front of our consciousness and once again seize our imagination.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Labor Day Wanderings

September 1, 2014

Plein Air Watercolor Sketchin in Hico, Texas

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch in Hico, Texas

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”

Monday.  Labor Day.  At around 11:00 this morning, I suddenly felt the window slamming shut on my three-day holiday.  I had not yet taken to the open road, and determined that it was today or not for a long time.  I gassed up my Jeep and felt the whisper of Hico, Texas, a town I had not visited in several years, but could still remember that quaint boulevard running down the center of historic downtown, replete with park benches and a gazebo.  The afternoon drive proved to be a long and arduous one, with termperatures lingering right at a hundred degrees, but I loved the old boulevard the moment I saw it. Once I began work on the sketch, I found the nonstop traffic rumbling along the highway through the middle of town to be a comfort, and I focused on the rough-cut stone facade of one of the historic buildings replete with a Coca-Cola ghost sign.  I had tried this composition a few years back and was glad to rest the watercolor block on my knees for a second try.

My Littered Work Area

My Littered Work Area

The play of the hot sun off the rusticated facade delighted my eye, and I spent most of this afternoon peering at those textures and colors, attempting to capture them on the page.  Throughout the afternoon, Walt Whitman’s words resounded in my memory, and I was grateful for his companionship.

Hico, Texas bench with watercolor and the view

Hico, Texas bench with watercolor and the view

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.