Archive for the ‘Highway 66’ Category

Requiem for the Fourth

June 24, 2019


Requiem for the Fourth (Still in Progress)

He tasted the dry dust as he walked along the Historic Route 66 thoroughfare, the hot August winds bending the roadside weeds. After twenty years away, he had resolved to return to Turvey’s Corner to see what remained. What he hadn’t anticipated was his truck breaking down more than ten miles from the town he longed to see. Rounding yet another bend in the road and looking up at the weed-choked hill on his left, he felt his heart sink as he gazed upon what remained of the combination fireworks and souvenir shop. In the 1950’s, this established was one of the major draws for tourists crossing America via Route 66. Interstate 44 had managed to strangle and kill the few remaining businesses on old 66. 

Pausing in silence, he felt a sense of loss as he gazed upon this relic barely peeking over the heads of the dancing weeds. But as he lingered, he slowly sensed a presence as he recalled the sounds that used to reverberate from this site. Station wagons would pull into the parking lot and children squealing with ecstasy would leap out of the car to rush inside and explore. Later they would re-emerge, their arms laden with moccasins, beaded necklaces and tomahawks.

During the Fourth of July season, he recalled the scenes of fathers pulling up in their cars on their way home from work. Though tired from their labors, they seemed to reignite with fresh energy as they went inside to fill grocery sacks with Roman candles, bottle rockets, firecrackers and sparklers to take home to anticipating children.

The conflicting emotions of loss and presence flooded the man’s soul as he trudged past this scene on his way to the town he once knew.

.  .  .  .  .

I am nearing completion of my fourth painting in the new series Turvey’s Corner 63050.  For years I have looked for a vintage roadside fruit stand to include in my new project, but all I seem to find are new structures. Meanwhile I decided to go ahead and paint this derelict structure that I have passed by for years in southwest Missouri along Interstate 44 en route to St. Louis to visit my folks.

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.


On the Road with Jack Kerouac

July 8, 2014
On the Road Collage

On the Road Collage

“Now, Sal, we’re leaving everything behind us and entering a new and unknown phase of things.  All the years and troubles and kicks–and now this!  so that we can safely think of nothing else and just go on ahead with our faces stuck out like this, you see, and understand the world as, really and genuinely speaking, other Americans haven’t done before us . . .

Dean Moriarty, in On the Road

Before retiring to bed, I felt the itch to create another Route 66 collage, something I haven’t done in over five years.  I’ve missed this genre.  Working through the images compelled me to take out my copy of On the Road and spot read some of it, for the ump-teenth time.  As I write this, I am playing my On the Road DVD on the television, enjoying the jazz music and Beat dialogue.

Thanks for reading.  I think I’ll let this stuff go for the night . . . 

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


He’s Out of His Tree

September 3, 2013
Laumeier Tree House

Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis

After a grueling first week of school, I found the opportunity to scamper home to St. Louis to visit my parents for a couple of days over the holiday weekend.  I had not had a real visit with them since Christmas, and was long overdue.  Time spent with Mom and Dad was a quiet respite from the weeklong frenzy I had just experienced at school, and on the second day of my visit, I retreated to Laumeier Sculpture Park, found this tree house, and decided “Why not?”

Inside the Tree House

Inside the Tree House

Taking my Titian volume, I climbed the ladder, sprawled inside, and enjoyed my reading and journaling in the peace and quiet above the beautiful sculpture garden.  I read of Titian’s idyllic youth spent in the mountainous region north of Venice, in the remote township of Pieve di Cadore.  The quiet Sunday afternoon in Laumeier yielded the perfect enclave as I read and reflected on the early influences of that remarkable painter.

Jonathan Borofsky Sculpture

Jonathan Borofsky, “Man with Briefcase at #2968443”

I also took some time to stroll around the grounds, taking dozens of photos of the monumental sculptures and recording notes from them.  Eyeing this Borofsky monument, I determined not to allow myself to be another number, another cog in this impersonal workforce that engulfs me daily.  The school where I teach has over 3,000 students and over 200 faculty in one large building.

Drawing with a Ballpoint Pen

Drawing with a Ballpoint Pen

Sitting on a park bench in the shade, I took out my ballpoint pen and tried to render a cedar in my Moleskine notebook.  I don’t draw nearly enough in my later years, and enjoyed this moment of relaxation, though I preferred to have my watercolor block in hand.  The Jeep was parked a long distance away however, and I didn’t feel like walking the distance (and risk losing the urge to sketch).  Besides, I had an earlier opportunity to kick out a quick plein air watercolor sketch the day before . . .

Roadside Park along Historic Missouri Route 66

Roadside Park along Historic Missouri Route 66

I got a late start to St. Louis over the holiday weekend, choosing to drive through the night.  When I realized that I was going to reach my parents’ house around 5:00 a. m., and that I was growing drowsy, I chose the safety of a roadside park along I-44, parking in the midst of a row of seven or eight cars, reclining my seat, and drifting off to a welcoming sleep.  When I awoke, the sun had just risen, and I looked out and saw this bluff across the divided highway.  I didn’t have to think twice about it–retrieving my backpack, I dug out my watercolor supplies, found a picnic table, and went to work sketching this out on an 8 x 10″ D’Arches block.

Winsor & Newton Field Box

Winsor & Newton Field Box

I worked very quickly, enjoying every moment of the encounter, and musing over the works of Joan Miro as he rhapsodized over the rural Catalan landscapes of his environment.  I don’t emulate the style of Miro, but my heart beats faster every time I read of an artist who works at capturing the landscape of his youth.  The cliffs carved for the thoroughfares of Route 66 always held my attention as a young boy, gazing out the window from the back seat of the passing car.  I always wished I could sit atop them, look across the land, and attempt to paint them.  Finally I’m getting that chance.

After the rhapsodic moment with the morning cliffs, I climbed back into my waiting vehicle, knowing Mom and Dad would have fresh coffee waiting.  It was good to go home again.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Harley Davidson Loaded for a Road Trip

October 17, 2011

Harley Davidson Loaded for a Road Trip

The Edom Festival of the Arts proved a rewarding escape from the city over the weekend.  On the first day, I did a plein air watercolor sketch of a large tree towering behind my booth.  On the second day, I began work on this Harley I photographed last summer while on historic Route 66.  I loved the large pack of gear attached to the rear, and knew I would get around to sketching it in watercolor.  I keep trying to finish it, but alas, details keep popping up that I have  overlooked (license plates, sidewalk behind, shadows beneath the wheels, and no doubt I’ll find some other unfinished areas).  But I decided to photograph it anyway and send it out on the blog.  I had no Internet access over the weekend.  Edom is quite remote in east Texas.  So I apologize that the blog has languished a few days.  I’m back now, and will try to breathe some life back into it.

Selling art at the Edom Festival proved a rewarding experience.  Much more, though, I was enriched by meeting many new patrons, as well as renewing acquaintances with those who remembered me from last year’s festival.  I also met some genuine new friends in the artist’s community, and met several former colleagues whom I had not seen in over a decade.  What a reunion!  Some of these wonderful people have opened new vistas for me, by inviting me to paint from their properties in east Texas.  I have already been introduced to a plethora of landscapes and rustic architecture–subjects that touch me at my core.

Being away from the job for a few days also provided quality space to think, to ponder.  I have plenty going on in my life right now, and thankfully the next festival does not occur for two weeks (Bob Phillips Texas Country Reporter, on the Waxahachie town square).  I am pondering an invitation to participate in a festival in Mineola in November, and am intrigued at an invitation to explore areas in Crockett, Texas next weekend.  I’m glad the temperatures are finally cooling.  I woke up to two consecutive mornings in the low fifties during the festival, and our forecast calls for falling temperatures tonight.  That’s one of the reasons I’m in the garage tonight with the door open.  I love watercoloring, wrapped in a quiet suburban night, and like it even better when it is not hot and muggy.

Thanks for reading.  More tomorrow, I promise.

In Memoriam Route 66 Villa Ridge, Missouri

August 17, 2011

In Memoriam Route 66 Villa Ridge, Missouri

I finished this watercolor about 2:00 a.m. this morning.  It’s a relief to have it finished, knowing it only took five days.  As I look on the finished composition, I still feel the sadness of a civilization that has died.  I’m old enough to recall Highway 66 road trips when I was a child, and I cannot help but listen for the ringing of bell cables every time I see the husk of a service station such as this one, languishing on vacant property adjacent to a county road or service road that was formerly an artery carrying traffic across this nation.

As a teacher, I’ve returned to my campus this week to honor my contract.  The students will appear next Monday.  Whether or not I begin a composition before then, I just don’t know at this point.  I have my first One Man Show beginning on September 10.  A part of me wishes to continue painting up till the day that we open, but another part says I already have enough work ready to hang, and that a hiatus might be the healthy road to take right now.  Maybe I’ll decide by tomorrow!

Thanks again for reading, and helping me see this one through.

Nearing Completion of Route 66 Zephyr Gas Station

August 15, 2011

Villa Ridge, Missouri Zephyr Gas Station along Historic Route 66

The fourth day on this work sees it nearing completion.  I had to re-draw the gas pump to align it parallel with the station.  The distant lamp post was in the wrong place and no proportioned to the rest of the composition, so I am eliminating it.  most of today was spent trying to separate the graveled parking lot from the puddles.  I still have grasses to render, poking up through the puddles as well.  The center of the parking area also needs to be tended.  But I think the end is finally in sight.  If I don’t complete it tonight, then I’m quite sure I can sign off on it before tomorrow is over.  This has been a rewarding experience.  Painting water reflections has been a trial for me, but I’m sure I’ll attempt it again some day.

Thanks for reading.

Defunct Route 66 Gas Station after a Hard Rain

August 14, 2011

Abandoned Route 66 Zephyr Station after the Rain

The painting is slowing down, now that I’m nearing the end of my third day.  Painting water reflections is completely new territory for me, and I spend more time studying the reference photos, applying masquing fluid to the paper and mixing pigments than actual painting.  But I am enjoying the process, and today is the first time I’ve felt “lost” in the painting, in a good sense.  School begins tomorrow for me, but I’ll continue with the painting daily until it’s finished, hopefully before this next week runs its course.   Tonight before retiring to bed, I hope to enrich further the shadows in the water reflections and attempt to render the grasses sticking up out of this enormous parking lot swamp.  For any of you reading this for the first time, the location of this station is Villa Ridge, Missouri, on Route 66 southwest of St. Louis.  Currently the station is at county road AT, about a mile off Interstate 44.   I saw it for the first time in the summer of 2010 and did two plein air watercolor sketches, one of the end of this building, and the other of a rusted-out, foliage-covered billboard advertising Zephyr detergent gasoline.

Thanks for reading.

Route 66 Zephyr Station making Progress

August 13, 2011

Route 66 Zephyr, Villa Ridge, Missouri

I’m feeling glad that I was able to chip away at this watercolor throughout a long and solitary Saturday.  It’s time to put Route 66 to bed for now, but I’m looking forward to rising tomorrow and resuming the enterprise.  This will be my first full-size watercolor of a Route 66 composition.  I’m now hoping the painting will have enough quality to include in my One Man Show next month.

Until tomorrow then.  Thanks for reading.

A Route 66 Monument to Yesterday’s Travel and Commerce

August 13, 2011

Villa Ridge, Missouri Zephyr on Historic Route 66

Today marks my second day working on this 22 x 28″ watercolor of the Villa Ridge, Missouri Zephyr station along historic Route 66.  I have researched and found the lights and gas pumps that once stood on this location.  They are absent now.  I’m also trying to restore some of the details of this Quonset hut filling station that are now out of sight behind plywood panels.  The Zephyr gas sign is my own idea–I have no idea where the logo originally hung.

Last week when I visited this location for the second time, hard rains had fallen, and the enormous puddles in the foreground reflected the derelict structure.  I’m going to attempt the reflections once I get to the bottom portion of this composition.  So far, it has been slow to emerge, but I will hopefully chip away at it on a daily basis, and not allow school next week to interrupt my flow.

The paradox of “loss” and “presence” flooded me when I stood in the presence of this structure last week, in the moist air, and listened, recalling the sounds of bell cables being run over by cars entering and exiting the busy Route 66 station.  I recalled the smell of grease, dirty tires and of course, that ever-present gasoline scent that I loved to inhale as a child!  I still remember attendants emerging from the building, wiping their hands on red shop towels as they approached cars cars pulling into the bay.  How long has it been since full-service ended?  I’m still trying to remember the first time I pumped my own gasoline when I pulled into a station.  I suppose it was around 1973.  At any rate, last week, I felt the loss as I stood in this vacant space, waiting in silence, and then I felt the presence of the past.   I hope I can put some of that into this painting.  I laugh when I read of Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth chafing every time a critic called them illustrators.  I go through that every time I do a painting of this type of subject–my soul is flooded with feelings and emotion, and yet I realize that I do not know how to paint “mood”–all I can do is illustrate what I see, and hope that somehow the “mood” emerges when a viewer looks at my work.

Thanks for reading.

Historic Route 66 Zephyr Gas Station, Villa Ridge, Missouri

August 12, 2011

Historic Route 66 Zephyr Gas Station, Villa Ridge, Missouri

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, or painted.  I spent a week visiting my family in St. Louis (my roots) and returned to this abandoned Zephyr station in Villa Ridge, Missouri, southwest of St. Louis on historic Route 66.  I created two plein air water color sketches of it last summer, and posted them on this blog then.  Now I am attempting one that is about 22 x 28″.  I’ve gotten more comfortable working larger, and would like to add another piece to my approaching One-Man Show at the Weiler House Gallery September 10.  I have plenty of time to finish this, though I return to school Monday.  We’ll see how much gets done during this quiet weekend.

Thanks for reading.