Archive for the ‘Missouri’ Category

The Source

August 1, 2016

pines (2)

Plein Air Beginnings in Rolla, Missouri

pines photo (2)

Reference Photo for Unfinished Pine Sketches

It is the sense of the sublime that we have to regard as the root of man’s creative activities in art, thought and noble living.  Just as no flora has ever fully displayed the hidden vitality of the earth, so has no work of art ever brought to expression the depth of the unutterable, in the sight of which the souls of saints, poets and philosophers live.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion

On Saturday morning, my new friend Lorraine McFarland–a remarkable pastelist residing near Rolla, Missouri–led me to the side of a lily pad-infested pond where we set up our easels in the cool morning and looked into the depths of the forest beyond. Surprisingly, the Missouri sun heated with enough intensity to chase us from our spots after about an hour of work, so we had to take reference photos with a vague promise that this work would be completed later. Returning home the next day, I discovered my A/C had quit, and the interior of my house was at 95 degrees. This morning, from yet another hotel room, I at least reside with the gladness of knowing an A/C man is arriving this morning to repair it.

Above, I have posted lines from the latest book that I read with a sense of amazement.  I am only five pages into the text, but I have re-read and re-marked them four separate times already, because I am unable to move beyond; this man’s words are going straight to my heart. I was experiencing these words as I gazed into the forest two days ago, my eyes moving all over the contours of three pines reaching upward through the dense growth, all the while sketching, correcting, blotting Annie Dillard’s “color patches”, and constantly catching my breath as snatches of beauty came and went across my paper just as fleetingly as they did across the highlighted trunks of those pines. For the space of one hour as I labored over this pair of compositional sketches, I realized as before that the forces surging through the artist’s eye and soul never translate onto the painted page. I have come to accept that.  As a guitarist, I still laugh at the story of the master asking his pupil why he was frustrated.  The pupil replied that he could always hear the music better than he was capable of playing it.  The master asked, “And why do you think that is ever going to change?”

As a Romantic, I am held captive by the Sublime. My expressions always fall far short of my experience, and I just have to accept that.  I enjoy trying, nevertheless.  Every painting, every sketch, every line of words I scribble into the journal are merely footprints, ciphers, eidolon, of what is happening to me as I encounter the Sublime.  My vacation travels have ended, I am home, but not yet Home.   In my soul, I am still journeying, wandering, and the odyssey far exceeds in beauty what I am able to express.

I close with a re-post of the pine tree that greeted me every morning in Colorado as I sat drinking my coffee on the porch.  I do indeed miss those 39-degree mornings, having returned to this triple-digit Texas hell.

pine (2)

Earlier Sketch of Pine Tree from South Fork, Colorado

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to encounter.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Sketching on a Friday

July 29, 2016

daves diner

There are three aspects of nature which command man’s attention: power, loveliness, grandeur.  Power he exploits, loveliness he enjoys, grandeur fills him with awe.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion

Closing out a sublime vacation has always proved difficult for me. This morning I ventured into an old-fashioned diner for an old-fashioned breakfast. When I stepped outside, the unseasonable Missouri temperatures were suspended at 81 degrees. Without a moment’s hesitation, I fetched my journal and packet of pencils from my vehicle and took a seat on the sidewalk outside, adjacent to the Post Office in High Ridge, Missouri, and sketched a tree stretching over the fence of the property next door.  The traffic swished, the birds chirped, the breeze chased loose leaves and debris across the paved parking lot stretched out before me. And I felt that I was embraced by nature’s grandeur.  Unfortunately the photo above is not sharp, because I cropped it from the corner of the journal where I was writing my most private thoughts.

I was sad to close a three-day chapter with friends I knew from high school.  We laugh at ourselves (old farts) when we gather to kayak and fish the river (the Gasconade this time). But on a sober note, I miss these guys sorely right now-their stories, their laughter, their ideas and above all, the fact that they no longer take themselves as seriously as half-a-century ago.  We are not the center of the world as we thought we were in high school. As it turns out, our parents and teachers knew what they were talking about (most of the time) when they tried to teach us how to live and succeed. I never thought I would be caught talking about “the good old days” but now that it’s happened, I can genuinely say I feel much better about life all around now. Thanks, Mark and Wayne.  I can’t wait till the next time . . .

fishin.jpg

fishin 2

I had to lay down the brush a few days ago to make way for the river and fishing. Today I’m just sitting quietly with my reading and my thoughts, glad for the respite from work, and gladder still that school is still a few weeks away.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I’m not really alone.

The River Calls to Me

July 25, 2016

cliff

River Bluff photographed by Wayne White http://www.doubledacres.com/

Everything flows; nothing remains.

Heraclitus of Ephesus

Cooling rains have darkened Missouri this Monday morning for a spell. Over coffee, I’m enjoying a quiet space before I pack and drive ninety minutes to join two high school comrades for a fishing excursion on the Gasconade River. Reports of smallmouth bass activity are encouraging, and I am ready to leave civilization for awhile once again. The rhythm of advance and retreat has punctuated my spiritual pulse throughout the life cycles between society and wilderness, public and private. From my early years in the ministry and later years in education, I have recalled with interest the traffic patterns of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Mark, a life of advance and retreat between the Galilean villages and the wilderness. Every time his public ministry heated up with intensity, a pericope follows recording his withdrawal into solitude. Likewise my vacation stretch over the past week has vacillated between a roomful of relatives or friends and my withdrawal into quiet solitude.

My imagination wanders down many corridors as I contemplate that pregnant passage from Heraclitus, as he viewed the essence of reality as a river–always flowing, changing, and never remaining fixed.  Later, Parmenides would counter with his worldview of Being as a static, eternal essence, with change existing only as an illusion. My personal view sees both extremes, like that bluff pictured above, holding steadfast as a river flows past it. The older I get, the more initrigued I become with life, looking over my own past, as well as studying the history of our magnificent globe, pondering the changes while at the same time seeking some kind of bedrock, some fixed point, some kind of an anchor.  I think we all do that.  Every time I retreat to a vacation and abandon my personal day-to-day work schedule, I think on the myriad of details that flow by around the clock, and muse over what matters, what remains fixed in my consciousness and desire.  Moments like this are the best portions of a vacation, to me.

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.

Musing Across the Miles

July 24, 2016

Shell 11921 Shell Station from New Cambria, Missouri

new cambria (2)

Early Watercolor Attempt

When the vessel is full and fixed, uniform throughout; there is neither vessel nor contents: nothing to pour in, nothing can pour out. With this degree of fusion, the vessel can no longer serve its function of temporary container, and the contents become unacceptable because of the growing staleness of their permanence.

Peter London, Drawing Closer to Nature

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:13

This splendorous Sunday morning has filled me with a desire to pour out the last few weeks of my summer life. My blog posting has stalled, but daily enchantments have unfolded in the most fascinating manner. My friend Stacy and I were browsing Half Price Books a few weeks back, and the Peter London book caught me off guard.  I had never heard of the author, and the book was in the art section of the store. When I sat at a table with it, my pulse quickened as I read his opening words:

Suppose Genesis misspoke.

We never left Eden.

Nature, just as it is, is Eden,

And we are still there.

We remain in our first, our only, our exquisite home.

And we behave otherwise.

We must awaken to where we are,

And thus who we are.

Having just returned from a week in Colorado where I refueled my spirits in plein air painting and fly fishing, I embraced this book, and it has been a soul-stirring companion ever since. I opened this blog with his musings over what happens when an artist becomes stagnated, and the words recalled the Jeremiah text that I had tucked into my soul since university days over forty years ago. When I look back over my recent art activity, I know I have been prolific, but the content of my work was emanating a staleness to me, and I have been pondering ways to get the streams flowing again. Prolific is better than being blocked, but when you reach a point that you feel you are doing little more than whipping out art pieces for the trade, satisfaction wanes.  Moving waters inspire me, filling me with ideas about life and its effervescence. But just because I am making stacks of art doesn’t guarantee a freshness in the product. I love this book because he extends what I love the most from Emerson, Thoreau and Dillard.  I just cannot seem to find enough of these kinds of texts.

My dear friend Linda from high school days alerted me on facebook weeks ago about this restored Shell gas station from New Cambria, Missouri, dating back to 1921.  I knew I would be returning to Missouri for another vacation before school resumed in the fall, so I tucked the station into my memory, and decided to find it once I set out on my trek across the Midwest.

Locating the site did not prove easy, and thanks to my friend Mark sending the Google Map coordinates, I finally caught sight of the station, far to the south of highway 36, with no road leading to it.  The exit from the highway is a driveway leading to the house of the lady who owns the station, and the only reason I finally walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell was due to the experience I had trying to access the old highway 36 that actually reaches the station.  To get there, one must navigate a stetch of old blacktop road strewn with wrecked cars, wrecked residences, and a large sign reading:

IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU ARE IN RANGE

How does a Texas watercolorist wishing to photograph a landmark convince a community of idiots that he means no harm? I am infuriated to this day at the thought that someone may have been aiming a rifle at me as I navigated that waste land, trying to find my way to the station. Finally, I turned back and drove up to the house above the property, just off the main highway, and reluctantly rang the doorbell.  To my relief, I encountered a beautiful soul who was gracious and willing to lead the way as we drove our vehicles over the rough terrain descending several hundred yards into the valley where the station is nestled.

Since I’ve been at my parents’ house, I’ve made some attempts to watercolor this station.  It’s bloody hot outside, and using their carport as a studio has its advantages with the sounds of the outdoors fueling my imagination, but the heat index makes long sessions prohibitive.  Hence, not much has been done yet.  I may have to wait and get this work back into my own studio back home.

flowers tree

During an Austin weekend, I sat outside and sketched part of a large tree in front of me.  But again, heat prohibited me from staying with it for very long.

flowers easel

On this Missouri vacation, I found some very cool shady mornings last week and tried my hand at some lovely cone flowers.  As the sun climbed late into the morning, temperatures convinced me to stop.  The painting above was my first attempt, and I enjoyed the layers of masquing to get the layers of flowers and stems I enjoyed viewing. The painting below I tried on the second consecutive morning, again finding the shade trees to provide a temporary respite.  This summer is brutal in Missouri as well as Texas.

flowers

 The vacation reading has been restorative to my soul, and for that I am deeply grateful. There are a number of other watercolors I have begun but not yet posted.  I’ll go ahead and post below a train in Eureka Springs, Arkansas with which I also got an early start, but haven’t had the time to return to and work futher:

esrxr

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.

Painting and Remembering

March 20, 2016

Winfield

An artist paints so that he will have something to look at; at times he must write so that he will also have something to read.

Barnett Newman

I laughed out loud this morning when I read some of the wit of Barnett Newman. In response, I spent a good part of this day painting so I could have something to look at, and writing in my journal so I would have something to read.

On a more serious note, it feels great to be painting again, the workshop last week really got my juices flowing, and the bad weather threatening Corpus Christi gave me the space to return home and pick up the brush again. I am currently trying to figure out how to close out these two Missouri scenes, the one above from Winfield, where I photographed a store front back in 2010 or 2009. The one below came from a section of Highway 30 west of High Ridge that I photographed in the rain last Thanksgiving as I was beginning my return to Texas.

High Ridge

Lost in the Labyrinthe

March 19, 2016

image

Newman chose his terms ever so deliberately: “plasma” (or “plastic”) connotes an organic fluidity; it also suggests the more familiar word “plastic,” which refers to an organic quality in materials. Semantically, “plasmic” and “plastic” are closely related (they derive from the Greek word for molding or forming); but they are also inversions of one another, with the one term oriented to living organisms and the other to inert matter. Simply put, the plasmic is lively and active (like the movement of thought, it gives form to things), whereas the plastic is passive (it is the form that thought and other forces produce). The various drafts of “The Plasmic Image” explore the links between “plasmic” and “plastic,” between creative thought and the material form it can assume. Newman’s guiding metaphor is this: plasma, as the fluid part of the body communicates thought. Thus the plasmic and the plastic bond together whenever “the new painter is concerned with his subject matter, with his thought”.

Richard Shiff, Introduction to Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews

Countless times while posting on my blog, I feel that I am wearing my underwear on the outside. This is one of those moments. I love reading artist’s writings about the task of making art. Robert Motherwell has been a favorite of mine for years, and now, one of his contemporaries, Barnett Newman has crossed my desk. A former student of mine, Ian Watson, now a serious painter pursuing a path that has issued from his serious study of Abstract Expressionism, has passed on to me this book on Newman’s writings. Though my painting style is nowhere near the Abstract Expressionists, the more serious thinkers among them engage my mind in the most satisfying way. I don’t feel that I have a clear-cut aesthetic theory of art, or even a style for that matter. I love the process of making art, and love reading the thoughtful writings of artists who engage in that same enterprise, always hoping one day I will figure out what I am trying to do and express it well.

Finishing my term as Artist-in-Residence day before yesterday has yielded an experience similar to jumping into a warm pond after emerging from a sauna. Yesterday, back home for the first time, I spent the day in galleries and museums, searching for some kind of direction of where to go next in my work. I enjoyed the museum time, but nothing really clicked with my own work. I had trouble going to bed last night, finally succumbing at 2:00 a.m. Waking at 8:00, groggy, I made coffee, built a fire (wow, a delightful 43 degrees outside!), settled into my reading chair before the fireplace, and read extensively from Thoreau’s journals and Barnett Newman’s writings. Coming across the introductory quote posted above, I thought about that conflict between the artist’s mind and the materials s/he is trying to manipulate, and I looked up at this watercolor I started last year and abandoned.

The painting is of a section of bluff carved out by Highway 30 west of High Ridge, Missouri. I drove through that section last Thanksgiving on a dreary rainy morning, en route to my Texas home. I was so taken by the soaked landscape under the dark morning skies that I turned my vehicle around, drove back, got out in the rain and took several photos.Once I got home I began the painting enthusiastically, but nothing seemed to go right. I tossed it aside and forgot about it. Once I found it again this year, and wished to give it another try, I could not find my reference photos among my computer files. I wasted almost an entire Saturday morning looking for them. Disgusted, I put the watercolor next to the fireplace and went on with my life. Then, I came across the photos just before leaving on Spring Break for Corpus Christi. I thought about this painting the entire time I was on the coast.

Reading the comments on Newman’s theory jolted me and I returned to the drafting table. I love the slice of landscape I viewed that morning, and have re-visited countless times in my mind’s eye. And this morning, I decided to push my mind and imagination harder against the resistant colors and shapes to see if I could wrest some kind of pleasing composition from it. I keep working back and forth between the complementary violets and yellows as well as the greens and reds. And, as many times before, I am lost in the network of winter tree limbs that trace out a labyrinthe against the sky. I purchased an atomizer from Asel Art yesterday (I lost mine from 1974!) and sprayed some Hydrus liquid watercolor across certain areas. I feel like a small child in the classroom, but that is O.K. I’m back to the joy of discovering new artistic possibilities and am enjoying this ride in particular.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Watercoloring into the Night

March 2, 2016

image

I have been one acquainted with the night.

Robert Frost

Having been gashed nightly with school-related tasks for nearly two weeks, I find tonight much more satisfying, with grading for high school as well as university all caught up. I regret having such a sour attitude, but having taught high school for twenty-seven years, one would think that I could relax in the evenings, having all my lesson plans essentially built, and only needing to tweak them where I feel it is necessary. But the College Board has decided to trot out a new curriculum for A. P. Art History this year, so every single class now has to be reconstructed from the foundation up, and the man-hours have been excruciating. The timing could not have been worse, because I had that blessed privilege of serving as Artist-in-Residence for Texas A&M University Corpus Christi last summer, and have worked extremely hard to create a total of thirty-four watercolors for a one-man-show to be hung in the Art Center of Corpus Christi.

My show opens tomorrow, and I’m excited just thinking about it, though I am eight hours away, and won’t even see it until Spring Break. The Artist’s Reception will be March 16, and I hope to meet friends there that I haven’t seen in so long, as well as find an opportunity to make new acquaintances. I am also anxious to see how all my larger works look in frames (to date I’ve only seen the small pieces in presentation mode). Despite all the school work, I’m still glad that I managed to push out that many paintings over the past eight months. And I must say, that I feel a measure of sadness that this chapter is nearly complete, and will close at the end of this month. Since May of last year, the Laguna Madre project has been front and center in my day-to-day consciousness. Tonight I really find myself wondering what comes next.

Reading didn’t come easily this evening, so I got this watercolor back out that I haven’t touched in nearly a week. This store front has always held my attention, reminding me of the kinds of country stores I enjoyed in the days of my childhood. I have spoken by phone to the grandaughter of the proprietor of this business, and am excited to hear so many fascinating stories about the days when this business thrived. Perhaps the time has arrived for me to re-open my “Recollections 54” genre of nostalgic middle-America scenes.

Thanks for reading.

 

Nostalgic Tugs

February 23, 2016

Our Town

Nice town, y’know what I mean?

Nobody very remarkable ever come out of it, s’far as we know.

Stage Manager speaking of Grover’s Corners in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town

Laying aside the odious task of grading and compiling figures over the past several days, the acts of drawing, watercoloring, reading, thinking, conversing with dear friends and journaling my thoughts have emerged with more sweetness than ever before, it seems.

Back in 2009, I embarked on a long road trip that took me down many memorable paths, one of them being Highway 79 in Missouri. I passed through Winfield just as the sun came up, and paused to photograph this magnificent facade of a building bathed in that warm summer light. Now, in 2016, I am drawn back to this subject, because a former resident has found me online and shared some fascinating stories of its history and her own experiences growing up in it.

I am posting the Thornton Wilder quote, because I feel that that is the common sentiment of people assessing the significance of their own small towns, as well as the sentiment of the outsiders looking in. Personally, I have no interest in fame embracing any Winfield residents; I am just enriched when I hear the stories that are so real and worth recalling. The stories echo the sweetness of what I knew in my own small towns throughout the years of my youth.

As this picture develops, and others of the same subject along with it, I plan to pass on some of the stories handed to me about this quaint Mississippi River town that reminds me so much of the small towns I knew in southeast Missouri when I visited relatives during the years of my growing up.

Thanks for reading.

A Loving Tribute to a Story-Teller

January 2, 2016

fieplace

Uncle Paul Holds Court

On this New Years Day 2016, I’ve successfully built and maintained a fire in the fireplace, and have spent the winter morning soaked in primal feelings while gazing into its flames, listening to the crackle and reliving years of memories beside a bonfire, listening to my Uncle Paul.  My father’s older brother always believed that he was better than the life offered him in rural southeast Missouri—a Mississippi River tenant farm culture.  He served in the Navy during World War II, and when discharged in 1945, chose not to return to the farm, but to continue serving the Navy as a civilian for another nine years, living in Guam.  Once that connection dried up, he returned to the United States, but chose to begin life anew in San Mateo, California.  Fancying himself as a writer, he managed to freelance and publish for magazines while opening an automotive repair shop, and then later entered the employment of Greyhound where he worked his way up to night manager, and remained till retirement.  He never stopped writing.

Paul came home to southeast Missouri once a year, traveling free on a Greyhound bus, and taking up residence as a guest in the squat little house of his sister Bea and her husband Bus, overlooking Little Indian Creek rolling by below.  Paul had become a celebrity to the rest of the Tripp clan, consisting of his eleven siblings along with their children and grandchildren, a number increasing to scores of people pouring into that little house.  Paul had developed quite an art to humor and storytelling in the grand manner of Mark Twain.  His snarly, nasal voice sounded like William Burroughs, and Uncle Paul acquired the persona of a sage.  His annual arrival eventually morphed into an event–a bonfire/wienie roast at Bea and Bus’s.  This became the ideal forum for Paul to launch his stories.

Paul’s visits have now commingled with my own special teenage memories of hiking and fishing Little Indian Creek all day and returning to Bea and Bus’s house at sunset, sunburned, with a stringer of bluegill, catfish and memories of the day.  The driveway already filled with cars, I knew what I was going to encounter when entering through that kitchen door: a living room packed with uncles, aunts and cousins, and a cigar-chewing Uncle Paul seated before them all, clutching his can of beer, and holding court with his stories and anecdotes.  And what I noticed from the start is that Paul never spoke to anyone—he spoke to everyone.  Paul never showed interest in engagement; he only wanted an audience.  The evening would always be a sustained roar of laughter, fueled by cases of beer and soda.  Once it grew dark outside, it was time to withdraw to the bonfire and wienie roast.  Uncle Paul was just getting warmed up for his Second Act.  The curtain would always close around 4:00 a.m.

  1. My senior year in high school. My final bonfire with Uncle Paul.  Bea and Bus were older now, retiring to bed at twilight, and no longer tolerant of Uncle Paul’s late nights.  When the day arrived for Uncle Paul to visit, they announced the close of an era.  No wienie roast this time.  No bonfire.  Not here.  We’re going to bed.  Paul arrived around noon.  He was told the news.  One hour later, cars began pulling into the driveway.

“Why is everyone coming?”

“Wienie roast.”

“No!” said Bea firmly.  “Not this time.”  More stations wagons arrived, and Tripps were discharged.

“Where’s Uncle Paul?”

“Down at the creek, cuttin’ limbs for the wienies.”

“No!” shouted Bus.  “We’re not doin’ that this time!”

“Where’s Uncle Ralph?”

“Gettin’ wood for the bonfire.”
“No!” repeated Bea. “We’re not havin’ a fire tonight!  We’re goin’ to bed this time.”

More cars arrived.  Trunks opened.  Crates of beer and soda were unloaded.

“Might as well pack ‘em back up!” drawled Bus.  “We’re not partyin’ tonight.”

“Where’s Denzil?”

“Gone to the store to get wienies.”

“Wienies?!” cried Bea.  “We’re not havin’ a wienie roast!”

The skies darkened.  The fire ignited.  Dozens of Tripps skewered their wienies and approached the altar.  Libations were poured.  Bea and Bus yawned loudly enough for all to hear and ignore.  And Uncle Paul’s stories began.

4:00 a.m.  Everything has grown deliciously quiet save for the sounds of tree frogs overhead and the crackling dying embers of the fire in front.  Paul has gotten quieter, more reflective.  Only a few of us are still there, staring quietly into the fire.

“You have a fine vocabulary.”  Paul was talking to me.  For the first time.  Ever.  “You should write.”

Remembering Robert Frost’s Snowy Evening

December 3, 2014
The Property Behind my Parents' Home in High Ridge, Missouri

The Property Behind my Parents’ Home in High Ridge, Missouri

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   
My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   
He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
I know–I have posted Robert Frost’s immortal words on previous blogs.  But this poem surged through me as evening arrived and I stood at the backside of my parents’ property during the Thanksgiving break and gazed upon this tree laden with snow and the broken down fence beneath it.   All I could think of was the lament of Robert Frost–his wish to visit the snowy woods, but obligations preventing him, so he could only imagine the possibilities.  It was Thanksgiving.  I was out of school.  I was seven hundred miles from home.  Nothing prevented me from standing in this winter wonderland and exploring the surroundings.  This is my third and final plein air watercolor sketch of my holiday season, and I did it with gladness in my heart.
This 5 x 7″ watercolor is matted in white and installed in a wooden 8 x 10″ frame with glass.  I am offering it for $50, grateful to Robert Frost for giving me the inspiration to sketch this composition.
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.