Archive for the ‘Kerouac’ Category

Thanksgiving Gladness

November 22, 2018

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A New Kerouac Collage

Kerouac saw On the Road as a story of America, and the split in his own character–between his wanderlust and his desire to “work and make your life” . . .

John Leland, Why Kerouac Matters

The highway rolled out as an endless manuscript and the American landscape punctuated it with chapters and illustrations. For days now, I have found delight filling my journal with observations from roadside parks, truck stops, cafes and gas stations. All of this came together in collage fashion in my mind’s eye, and the ideas of William Burroughs and his “cut-ups” were refreshed. All of us cut up the world differently with our visions and our thoughts.

Thanksgiving offers a warm, welcome embrace after countless hours and days on the road in recent weeks. I have enjoyed my lifestyle, balancing college responsibilities with gallery, studio work and personal life. But I never dreamed of rolling out so much time on the road. One of the better results of this has been a return to the writings and life story of Jack Kerouac, and a fresh look at the work of the other Beat writers. The romance of the American highway and landscape has remained with me throughout my life, but not until this past year have I had opportunity to experience it fully.

From time to time, I have reached into my bag of scraps to explore collage techniques. Recently, it has been difficult doing plein air watercolor on the road, and the temperatures have been quite frigid as well. Collage-making has been a nice change of pace for me.

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My Messy Work Area

I am enjoying a second read of Why Kerouac Matters, particularly the dualism of his character, as he vacillated between his road odysseys and the desire to build something permanent with his life. I have known that tension for years, but am living more contently with it in recent days. I am old enough to know that I cannot accomplish all I wish to accomplish. Perhaps coming to terms with that reality has made things better for me. At any rate, I am enjoying the serenity now of the holidays, and am spending much of this leisure time playing solitaire at the kitchen table. I occasionally lay aside the deck of cards to read another chapter from my book, or scribble out a few more pages in my journal, or build another collage, or chip away at this evolving blog entry.

Thanks for reading. I wish you the happiest of Thanksgiving.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Back to Work but Still Drifting in the Stream

November 27, 2017

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But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

It is back to college this Monday morning, as we sprint through the final two weeks of school before dismissing for Christmas break. My heart still overflows with thanksgiving for this past week of catching up on work that had lagged as well as visiting family in St. Louis for a short while and piling up over a thousand miles in Kerouac-style road tripping. I have posted a sunset that I photographed through the windshield of my moving vehicle while driving through Republic, Missouri on Interstate 44, en route to The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

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The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

With the museum remaining open till 9:00 that night, I was ecstatic to enter it for a couple of hours, then return the next day and spend most of the day perusing the collection and exploring the walking trails. This museum is a real treasure, and friends had told me about it the past couple of years, but it took until now for me to make the time to journey there.

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Robert Henri, “Jessica Penn in Black with White Plumes”

After years of reading and re-reading Robert Henri’s magnificent book The Art Spirit, I looked upon this painting with a new set of eyes. When I have the time, I need to review his lengthy discussions concerning figure and portraiture, most notably his ideas about how to relate the subject to its background. I was totally mesmerized by his black-on-black composition and how the dress simultaneously emerged and dissolved into the background. Figure and portraiture I have avoided up till now in watercolor, but now I have the interest in examining this.

Having read an additional seventy pages in the Leonardo biography, I have been absorbed with his eighteen years spent in Milan and now have a much deeper appreciation for his Last Supper painting. I am now at the place where he returns to his native Florence to spend a few years at age fifty.

My compulsion to read several books at the same time is flaring up again. I’ve been reading a biography on Paul Cezanne in addition to the Leonardo work. And now I have purchased the new work on J. M. W. Turner. The first chapter was amazing as it assessed the way his final five years spawned a public distortion of his work. So now I have my attention focused on three great artists, and I need to take up my own work as well.

This next weekend I’ll be taking my work to The Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas, Texas for the three-day Randy Brodnax and Friends Christmas Art Show. I have been an admirer of Brodnax’s pottery for nearly three decades and have enjoyed visiting and shopping at this annual event. Now I’m extremely proud to be numbered among his “friends” as the invitation arrived this past summer to participate this Christmas. Here is a link to Randy’s site:

http://www.randybrodnax.com

It is back to work now. Thanks for reading.

 

The Greatest Poem

August 13, 2016

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The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.

Walt Whitman, 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass

Good morning, Beautiful People. Aren’t Saturdays luxurious when one is allowed to sleep in, recharge the weary batteries weakened by the week, make coffee and enjoy the silence and space? I wanted to take this moment and post a watercolor I finally completed, a small one (9 x 12″ unframed) of a restored 1921 Shell station in New Cambria, Missouri.  A dear friend from high school had alerted me to its existence, and with difficulty I was able to gain access and take a number of reference photos.  The image has been emblazoned in my mind’s eye for about a month, and I’m glad finally to bring this small composition to its conclusion.

I have posted Whitman’s quote because for months I’ve been hearing a myriad of unnecessary, unpleasant remarks being tossed about on the air waves and social media as this current election runs its bloody course. I love Whitman’s assessment of this country and its beauty in that a number of disparate peoples have been knitted together in a pattern of cities, counties and states to create a United States. I am stirred by that metaphor.

But I am more deeply stirred when I encounter that word “poem” derived from the Greek poiēma and better translated “work of art.” The letter to the Ephesians in 2:10 states “for we are his workmanship” (King James Version), the translation of poiēma. Some translations prefer “handiwork.” I like the idea of you being a poem, a work of art, something splendid that has been created and given as a Gift to this world.

So, whatever happens to you on this day, I urge you to pause and reflect on the magnificent poem that is you.  Unique.  There is no one else like you in this culture, and you are placed here where you can color and enrich those who surround you.  Above all, be a Gift to yourself.  Love yourself.  Take great joy in that you are what you are.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to encounter.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Working on a Manuscript

July 24, 2016

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What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?—it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye.  But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

During this dog-day July heat in St. Louis, I’ve spent some time reworking a manuscript I began last year.  I’m releasing the Introduction as it currently stands.  I have six chapters written, but I continue to revise.  I find great pleasure in that.  And I hope someone can find pleasure in reading the following:

A Week on the Laguna Madre

INTRODUCTION

 Cleansing the Eye:

Recollections from a Grateful Artist-in-Residence

“Gauguin returned from his first Tahitian sojourn in 1893 with enough canvases and carvings to constitute a one-man show; but he knew that the strangeness of his Tahitian imagery would require some stage-managing if it was to be a success. He had in mind the idea of producing a book that would introduce and explain his imagery to a Parisian audience.” [1]

How do I introduce myself as quickly as possible and then get out of the way?  I am aware that I am writing a book about what is flowing through my mind, but I hope, Dear Reader, that I am also creating a space into which you may enter, explore and discover deeper layers of yourself as well.  I have never believed that quality reading is a passive exercise; you the reader create your own world as you read my words and interact with this text.  Upon completion and release of this book, I will not go forth into the rest of my life, wondering whether or not I am remembered; I just want to make a contribution.  I want someone’s life to improve because they spent time with me in this work.

So, what exactly am I?  An unfrustrated public school teacher who has had the pleasure (for the most part) of doing as he pleased for more than a quarter of a century.  Like many others, my career did not go in the direction I had intended, but I have found immeasurable pleasures in what I have encountered.  And now, my only real issue is figuring how to make a gift of the knowledge and experiences that have enriched me throughout these years.  My lifestyle, in this worldly sojourn, has been to absorb knowledge, Faustlike, and imbed these observations in lesson plans, lectures and paintings, hoping always that others could receive something significant from the encounters.  I never expected others to see the world my way, but always hoped to deal an ace worth picking up and inserting into someone else’s poker hand.

Why did Henry David Thoreau go to Walden Woods?  My perspective has been this: he received a vaunted Harvard degree, and with it a skill set, an academic toolbox.  But early in life, he reached the conviction that all knowledge he had received up to that point was secondary.  All the divines whom he had read received their truths directly from nature, he from their books and lectures.  He had lived out Emerson’s complaint that opened Nature in 1836:

The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes.  Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?  Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?  Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe?  The sun shines to-day also.  There is more wool and flax in the fields.  There are new lands, new men, new thoughts.  Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.[2]

Travelling to Walden Pond to live for over two years, Thoreau decided it was time to learn directly from nature, to find out what he could learn from her, and then to publish those results to the world.

And hence I find myself this day at the Laguna Madre.  This is a gift.  My education over my past sixty-plus years has been a gift, but nearly all of it secondary.  Now, for the first time, I hope to scoop primary experience and pass it on to other outstretched hands.  Hopefully, by the end of this sojourn I will echo Nietzsche’s words that I have become weary of my wisdom as a bee that has gathered too much honey, needing hands outstretched to receive it.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan- like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.[3]

My conviction has always been grounded in the notion that solitude is the studio for creativity.  I myself have never found fulfilment in collaborative projects in the visual arts, nor have I found my inspiration in the vortex of think tanks.  The school of solitude is where I have always mined my ideas for painting.  Anthony Storr has argued:

The creative person is constantly seeking to discover himself, to remodel his own identity, and to find meaning in the universe through what he creates.  He finds this a valuable integrating process which, like meditation or prayer, has little to do with other people, but which has its own separate validity.  His most significant moments are those in which he attains some new insight, or makes some new discovery; and these moments are chiefly, if not invariably, those in which he is alone.[4]

“Alone” is the key word that describes my life, though I have been in relationships throughout most of my years.  Space has always been required for my own thinking, writing and creating.  This was true in public school, the university, graduate school, the ministry, and all my subsequent years devoted to the classrooms and lecture halls.  I still look back with gratitude at those times spent in library study carrels, in my own study, under trees, beside flowing streams, in hotel rooms and lobbies, coffee bars and book stores, in roadside parks and staring through a windshield while driving across the country.  My private study cubicle has been wherever I could pause, alone, and pull out a journal or laptop or sketchbook, and pour out my thoughts on the pages.  And throughout my years, I have looked at those file drawers filled with stuffed manila folders, those computer files filled with data, the over one hundred volumes of handwritten journals on my bookshelf—and wondered how to distill those memories and research efforts into some kind of a book, my life, my philosophy, my love.  Volumes and volumes, pages and pages, layers and layers of themes and threads seeking some kind of resolution, some kind of synthesis, some kind of understandable “story” for others to read and use as desired.  My clusters of recorded ideas have milled about over the decades, as actors on a stage waiting for a director.

As shared in the opening of this chapter, Gauguin returned from his island excursion with a stack of canvases and sought a way to “stage-manage” his public exhibition. So I too returned from the Laguna Madre with nineteen plein air watercolors, with a plan to show them in two exhibitions, conduct a series of watercolor workshops, deliver some public addresses, and attempt to relay to my audiences what I gleaned from this peak experience.  Today as I edit these pages, I have added three more workshops to the list and am preparing to return to the island for a second week of solitude.  And so, this book will be my first effort, since my doctoral dissertation, to engage in an extended essay, synthesizing the ideas that have meant so much to me over the years and found a way to crystalize while sojourning on a small spoil island in the Texas Laguna Madre.

When Hemingway accepted his Nobel Prize, he declared that “writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”  I would propose the word “solitary.”  The existential theologian Paul Tillich, in a sermon titled “Loneliness and Solitude,” emphasized that loneliness is the cross of humankind, and solitude the glory.  I don’t feel lonely when I make art, though I am alone, solitary.  I find those moments soothing.  When the boat pulled away from the dock that first Sunday morning on June 6, 2015, and I waved good-bye to my new friends, watching as they diminished in size on the horizon, the first thing I noticed was that the island was quiet, very quiet.  And I could feel myself beaming inwardly.  I was in an unspoiled paradise, though standing on a spoil island.  It was time to go to work.  Jack Kerouace said it best:

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?—it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye.  But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.[5]

                [1] Wayne Andersen, “Introduction” in Paul Gauguin, The Writings of a Savage, ed. Daniel Guérin (New York: Paragon House, 1974), p. X.

                [2] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, in Emerson: Essays & Poems ed. Joel Porte et al., (New York: Penguin, 1983), p. 7.

                [3] Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience, ed. Michael Meyer (New York: Penguin, 1983), p. 135.

[4]Anthony Storr, Solitude: A Return to Self (New York: The Free Press, 1988), p. xiv.

                [5] Jack Kerouac, On the Road (New York: Penguin, 1955), p. 156.

Saturday Morning in an American Diner

February 6, 2016

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. . . 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.

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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.

 

Thanksgiving Musings

November 26, 2015

imageBefore I sign off for this Thanksgiving Day, I thought I would post to the blog once more, about the question of beauty.

I knew while I was taking art classes in high school that I was attracted to abandoned buildings, and wondered how one could call such a subject matter for art “beautiful.”  The Andrew Wyeth drybrush studies drew me in, because he was always painting ruined architectural structures in Pennsylvania and Maine.  Every time I looked at his paintings, I thought of the outbuildings on my grandparents’ farms in all their ramshackle appearance.  I liked the look, and still do.  I think that stories ooze from the details of such buildings.

This tire shop I came across in Atoka County Oklahoma arrested my attention to the point that I turned my vehicle around several miles down the highway and went back to see it and photograph it.  Now, leading up to this Thanksgiving Day, I have watercolor sketched the site three times, and feel that I am just now “getting into” the subject.  I think it deserves some short stories, some poems, some word sketches to depict it.  And it is highly possible that I will be doing something further with the subject before I return to work next Monday.  In the meantime, I am looking over these three watercolor attempts and pondering my next move.

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 Third Watercolor for the Holidays

November 25, 2015

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The object of painting a picture is not to make a picture–however unreasonable this may sound. The picture, if a picture results, is a by-product and may be useful, valuable, interesting as a sign of what has past.  The object, which is back of every true work of art, is the attainment of a state of being, a state of high functioning, a more than ordinary moment of existence.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

With a heart of gladness, I spent my third day in a row working at watercolor. The subject is the same Atoka County, Oklahoma tire shop that I photographed on one of my road trips to Missouri.  This one I did not finish, as there were too many interruptions. I’m hoping that I’ll wrap it up tomorrow, despite Thanksgiving and the welcome distractions it might offer.  My heart is filled with Thanksgiving over many things, but one of them is this space, improved health and a general spirit of eudaimonia that makes it possible to paint.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

The Coleridge Syndrome

July 25, 2014
Slow Excavation on this Large Watercolor

Slow Excavation on this Large Watercolor

I must forge ahead, and stop only to finish the Velasquez.  The human mind is strangely made!  I would have consented, I believe, to work at it perched on a belfry; now I can think of the finishing of it only as the greatest bore.  All this, simply because I have been away from it for so long.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal

I read somewhere that Samuel Taylor Coleridge was criticized on two fronts: 1) that he was a dreamy child given to long spells of contemplation, making him an easy target for accusations of indolence, and 2) as a writing adult, his room was perpetually littered with unfinished literary projects.  Today, as I let out a sigh, looking at a number of my unfinished watercolors, I was bemused to come across this quote from Delacroix as I was reading in his journals.  How hard it is to breathe life back into a work of art that has lost its initial spirit due to neglect.  I enjoyed lunch with a good friend and colleague earlier today, and we shared a laugh about our A.D.D. tendencies (he also has more interests than time to devote to all of them fairly).  Both of us admitted that we wish we were better “finishers” in all our endeavors, but we do enjoy our lives and all these avenues that seem to present themselves to us simultaneously.  Thank God for these three-day summer weekends.

There is a thick crust that must be broken before I can take heart in anything; a rebellious piece of ground that resists the ploughshare and the hoe.  But with a little tenacity, its unfriendliness suddenly vanishes.  It is prodigal with flowers and with fruit.

Delacroix, Journal

I know very well this “thick crust” of which Delacroix wrote.  After a few days, I finally feel that a sense of momentum is returning on this large Fort Worth Jazz piece I began a few months ago. Returning to it has required some strong talk and even stronger coffee, but I’m glad I stayed with it. The detailing on the sign is coming along very slowly, with plenty of stops and walks across the studio to view it from a distance and see if what I am doing is O.K.  Not having a deadline is a good thing for me right now, and I’m glad to take my time and watch this develop slowly and naturally.

I wish that I could write interesting things about the Logic course I’m developing, as it’s taking large chunks out of my day.  I am loving the study of it, but cannot find a way to rhapsodize about the subject in my writing.  So I’ll just let that one simmer in the background.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that 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.

 

In Search of a Daily Watercolor Rhythm

September 8, 2013
Closing Out the Weekend, Watercoloring

Closing Out the Weekend, Watercoloring

There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual–become clairvoyant.  We reach then into reality.  Such are the moments of our greatest happiness.  Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom.

It is in the nature of all people to have these experiences; but in our time and under the conditions of our lives, it is only a rare few who are able to continue in the experience and find expressions for it.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I wish I could call this a weekend of joy.  About ninety per cent of it was devoted to grading.  I am not yet finished early now on this Sunday evening, but I will be finished before bedtime, and I’m confident that that will give me an emotion close to “joy”.  Close.

I’m glad I rose early Saturday morning and spent about ninety minutes chipping away at this composition before laying down the brush for twenty-four hours.  Today I made a concerted effort to keep myself on a time budget, balancing grading and painting.  I came to this watercolor three different times–all the rest of the time was spent bent over a stack of papers.

The light is gone from my studio as I write this, so I will have to lay down the brush for good and return to the school work.  I’m glad I got to spend time working on the truck, nearly finishing it.  The truck would be “finished” if it didn’t appear to be too timid to me.  I feel that I got all the proportions right but that I didn’t lean into it much with the pigments or shadows.  I’ll give it another hit tomorrow.  The section of building behind the truck got plenty more work in the shadows and some detailing.  I also finished the apex of the gable roof of the station.  A little more warm shadow color was added to the pavement as well.

I am taking to heart the above words from Robert Henri.  I count myself as part of that minority that actually knows those feelings he expresses.  But I do find it hard to get into the zone when so many other duties pull at me.  This weekend I had to answer several bells, including household chores, laundry, and other uninteresting details.  But still, I managed to carve out some quality time to paint, and I consider those moments the highlight of my weekend.  I will consider this “practice” because I have a very long, demanding day of details to tend tomorrow, and already tonight I am determined to insert painting into that mix.  I will do everything possible to paint daily, even if it is for short sessions such as the recent ones.

Detail of the Sinclair Truck

Detail of the Sinclair Truck

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.