Archive for the ‘On the Road’ Category

Thoughts While Surfing the Open Road

March 29, 2019

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East of Windthorst, Texas

Only for a moment; but it was enough. It was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer . . . 

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

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8 x 10″ Watercolor Sketch of the Subject

The past week has been a whirlwind of engagements. After finishing my Palestine activities centered around the Dogwood Trails Art & Music Festival, I returned home, then made a quick journey to Dallas to enter a pair of watercolors into a competition, then home to work on a pair of sand dune watercolors for an upcoming exhibit in Corpus Christi. After finishing and framing them, I hit the open road yet again, my ultimate destination being Corpus Christi. But I’m not there yet.

Stopping at a coffee shop to use their Wi-Fi, I graded a round of assignments that just came due from my pair of online college classes (wonderful to be able to do my college work while in transit). Having completed that, I thought that I had this access I would go ahead and send up a smoke signal for my devoted readers. I have posted above a recent watercolor sketch completed of a stretch of Texas country that I encountered when I left Archer City a few weeks ago. When I get a chance to photograph my recently framed sand dune watercolors, I’ll post them as well. Right now they are wrapped and packed in the Jeep.

Waking this morning, I encountered something while reading Max Horkheimer & Theodor W. Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments that really took my breath away:

The urge to rescue the past as something living, instead of using it as the material of progress, has been satisfied only in art, in which even history, as a representation of past life, is included.

Having recently delivered a gallery talk on nostalgic themes in “Art in the Small Town”, I believe I have found yet another wonderful text to insert into this conversation. I hope I can fertilize it effectively in the coming days, water it, and see something wonderful emerge as I continually pursue this project. Because of the nostalgic ring, I have resumed my reading and study of Homer’s Odyssey as well as Joyce’s Ulysses. My life has been so consumed lately with travel and appointments that I have trouble finding quiet time to sort out some of these marvelous sentiments I have felt recently. As I peer through the windshield, traveling these Texas highways, I keep encountering ideas about this series I am now pursuing, and I frequently have to pull over and scribble these thoughts into a small notepad. In addition to the Homer and Joyce works, I have packed Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. The thrill of these fresh ideas cannot be measured in words, though I try.

Time to get back on the road .  .  .

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

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Quiet Moments in the Gallery at Redlands

March 18, 2019

An artist learns by repeated trial and error, by an almost moral instinct, to avoid the merely or the confusingly decorative, . . . to say what he has to say with the most direct and economical means, to be true to his objects, to his materials, to his technique, and hence, by a correlated miracle, to himself.

Irwin Edman, Arts and the Man

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8 x 10″ watercolor sketch in white 11 x 14″ mat–$75

Yesterday (Sunday) was one of those quiet lovely days spent mostly in The Gallery at Redlands. I managed to squeeze out a new painting (above) during those luxurious hours. The historic Redlands Hotel on 400 N. Queen Street in downtown Palestine, Texas is the most lovely place I have ever been privileged to “nest.” Emerson, in his small book Nature, wrote: “in the woods, too, a man casts off his years as the snake his slough and at what period soever of life is always a child”. This is what I experience when I have those moments of walking about in the wild, but I also feel it every time I enter the first floor of the Redlands Hotel. We celebrated the hotel’s 104th birthday on Friday, March 15:

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Jean Mollard, owner of The Redlands Hotel

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First Floor of The Redlands

Every time I descend the stairs of The Redlands, I feel that I am supposed to be smoking a large cigar, my clothing including a vest, watch chain and spats. The space is a veritable museum with a pulse. We anticipate a steady flow of traffic next weekend when the 81st annual Dogwood Trails Art & Music Festival commences.

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Station Manager Kevin Harris, Smooth Rock 93.5 FM

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Marc Mitchell (foreground) from “Kevin & Marc in the Morning” Show

Radio Guest Kirk Davis in background

It is now Monday morning, and the hotel is everything but silent. The “Kevin & Marc in the Morning” show, as always, keeps me great company while broadcasting out of this gallery. This morning they featured local artist/writer Kirk Davis who has just come out with a book sharing letters from World War II between his father and mother. His father, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, has left behind a romantic legacy embracing the love of his life as well as his drama in the Pacific theater. Kirk will be under the tent with a number of artists this coming Friday night’s V.I.P. event as well as Saturday 9-4:00, signing copies of his new book and displaying his father’s war memorabilia (including the Medal of Honor) along with his own artistic creations.

When I close this blog, I’ll be preparing for our big events next weekend. In addition to the Friday night V.I.P. party and the Saturday Dogwood Trails Art & Music Festival, I will be giving my first ever gallery talk on the subject of “Art in the Small Town.” Using a flat screen TV in the Redlands Hotel lobby, I will be showing images of my “Recollections 54” paintings over the past twenty years that feature small town nostalgic scenes. I have a talk prepared that will feature those who have inspired my own work, notably Edward Hopper’s narrative paintings, along with references from selected American writers who have contributed to our collective memories of the communities that have nurtured us. I am enthusiastic about this event, and thank Jean Mollard for her vision of sponsoring a series of gallery talks for the east Texas community.

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.

Smitten by Archer City, Texas (Larry McMurtry’s home town)

March 13, 2019

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Enjoying a Night in the Studio

For over a month I’ve been reading the works of Larry McMurtry with great delight. I began with The Last Picture Show, moved on next to Lonesome Dove and then read Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen. That final work really stirred me, as the author laments the loss of story telling in our American culture. I decided to travel to Archer City, a town I have loved for nearly twenty years now.  After enjoying McMurtry’s bookstore (Booked Up Inc.), I strolled around the historic downtown, picking out all the iconic settings for The Last Picture Show and Texasville. Before leaving town, I stood in the street and took a photo of the four-way stop intersection (the only real intersection in town), and finally got around to painting it.

About a month ago, I decided my next watercolor series would involve small town scenes and the stories they engender. On Saturday, March 23 at 1:00, I will deliver my first gallery talk in the lobby of the historic Redlands Hotel in Palestine, Texas. This event will be part of the celebration of Palestine’s 81st annual Dogwood Trails Art & Music Festival that kicks off that same day. I have enjoyed spending the past several weeks putting together the presentation, and am leaning forward toward that event.

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Beginning of a Small Watercolor of Archer City, Texas

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.

 

Thoughts Before the Fire

January 29, 2019

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. . . my methods of approaching the past have scarcely changed since childhood and adolescence. I assemble what pieces there are, contrast and compare, and try to remain in their presence till I can begin to see and hear and love what living men and women once saw and heard and loved, till from these scraps and fragments living men and women begin to emerge and move and live again . . . 

Thomas Cahill, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter

A twenty-eight degree winter morning extended the delightful invitation for me to build a large fire and spend the day in my living room. I have no appointments till this evening, and have resolved to remain planted in the presence of this cheerful hearth while enjoying quiet hours in the pages of books and listening to soft music.

After a week-long detour down the path of Lonesome Dove, I am returning now to The Odyssey of Homer. The hero path has intrigued me throughout my life, and now I find myself sketching out rough parallels between the zig zag voyages of Odysseus and the overland quests of McRae and Call. This also provides me the opportunity to explore my own past and present as I respond to the challenge of Julia Cameron’s book It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again and attempt to draft my own memoir.

I hope soon to be able to expound this idea more fully as it continues to mature–studying New Testament Greek long ago, I noticed that in our religious language we use the words “believe” (verb) and “faith” (noun). They are translations of the same Greek word that is used both ways in the New Testament. As a verb, faith is an act, and as a noun, it is a creed, a position. The former is dynamic while the latter is steadfast. Throughout my years of teaching, I have tried to stress both sides of this equation, of one’s religious sentiment as an odyssey on the one hand, and a fortress on the other. One is risk, the other security.  One tends to Dionysus, the other Apollo. In religious history, one is prophetic, the other priestly.

As I muse over these stories I am currently reading, I am absorbed with this notion of the restless spirit (or hero) as embarking on a journey, seeking his/her foundation on which to build a home.  The Odyssey is always in motion, always changing, and the Destiny is believed to be fixed. I am intrigued by this. All of us are pursuing some kind of goal, some fixed point that seems to lie just ahead of us. But the hero always discovers that that goal has been in his/her life since the start. Aristotle wrote it long ago–the end is in the beginning. What we seek is already in us. As Joseph Campbell used to write, we are on an odyssey that takes us to the center of our selves.

Hopefully, more on this later. I’m still working on it . . .

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog, reminding myself I am not alone.

New Year Wanderlust

January 23, 2019

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Pausing to Grade Online at a Coffee Bar

Even though he still came to the river every night, it was obvious to [Captain] Call that Lonesome Dove had long since ceased to need guarding. . . . He came to the river because he liked to be alone for an hour, and not always be crowded.

Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

As the year 2019 turns over its first few pages, I have decided not to be snared in the doldrums that often occur after the Christmas and New Year holidays close. For the first time in my life, my teaching load is completely online, so I have decided not to allow myself to be restricted to a geographical area often determined by class schedules. My recent travels have taken me across the great Southwest, and San Angelo has proved to be a chain of ephiphanies for which I will always remain grateful.

I have recently taken up Homer’s Odyssey to read, because I have never read that great epic in its entirety. I purchased Robert Fagles’s translation, because of the raving critical reviews over the lengthy introduction submitted by Bernard Knox. I believe the introduction runs around sixty pages, and it took quite awhile to read it in its entirety, but it was worth every hour. In addition to this, I have enjoyed a pair of YouTube lectures on The Odyssey, and have also made use of the Greek text I purchased in the Loeb Classical Library series. The ideas leaping out of the text have yielded hours of scribbled notes and journal entries. The Concho River meandering through San Angelo provided a lyrical setting for such a reading.

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Reading the Greek text on the banks of the Concho River

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While exploring downtown San Angelo, I happened across this book store that gave me a number of pleasant surprises. When I found the collection of Larry McMurtry books, including first editions and signed editions (I avoided the temptation of dropping $400 for a first edition of The Last Picture Show), I then noticed the photographs, greeting cards and handwritten letters tacked on the wall by Robert Duvall, an avid reader and friend of the bookstore’s owner. He drops in frequently to buy books by the stack! He even signed one of McMurtryr’s first-edition Lonesome Dove copies with “Gus”, and it sold immediately.

After visiting with the pleasant proprietor for awhile, I purchased a copy of Lonesome Dove (not a first edition or signed copy!) and am now over a hundred pages into it. This is only the second McMurtry book I’ve purchased, having finished The Last Picture Show recently.

With Odysseus on one side, and Gus on the other, I am enjoying my own journey while reading of theirs. We live in a good age, I believe. Technology has enabled me to earn a wage while being on the move. At the same time, I can enjoy days on end, being unplugged from social media yet knowing I can return to it at anytime to post a blog and read texts or emails waiting in the hopper. And right now, sitting in a coffee bar in a town where no one walking by is going to know who I am, I can enjoy reading books and scribbling thoughts into my journal without interruption, and with no appointments on the horizon.

Thanks for reading.

 

Post-Holiday Greetings from St. Louis

December 27, 2018

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Left Bank Books with Bronze of William S. Burroughs

I wanted to wish all my blog readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The holiday season came up on me fast this year as there was so much to do up till the last minute. I managed to squeeze in a visit with my parents and siblings in St. Louis and all of it was joyful. Included among our favorite activities were visits to the local book stores and a cruise of the neighborhoods to look at the lights and decorations. I could not resist a couple of photos of one of the neighborhood contributions that manages to grow a few more characters each Christmas.

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Over-Abundance of High Ridge Christmas Yard Art

We missed the White Christmas we knew from last year, so I decided to post a couple of photos and watercolors that I made last year while in St. Louis.  I’m happy that both paintings sold, so now I’m making plans to replace them with new snowscapes.

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Last Year’s St. Louis White Christmas

SNOWY CEDARS

St. Louis Christmas 2017

Christmas along the River

St. Louis Christmas 2017

A Pair of St. Louis Christmas Paintinngs from Last Year

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.

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.

Leaving

November 12, 2018

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Hickory Hill Cabin, Beaver’s Bend Resort–a Comfortable 4-Day Respite

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. . . but now I’m a big seacaptain again, lookout–that is, faroff eyes in the gray morning . . . 

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

Wrapped in a 36-degree gray rainy Monday morning, I’m fortunate to be in this warm, cozy cabin with my friends. Check out isn’t until 11:00, and we’re all agreed that when the cabin is paid for, and the weather outside is uncomfortable, we may as well postpone the 3 1/2 hour drive home till we are forced to leave. What I enjoy most about my friends is their love of quiet space and time with books and leisure. As I write this, we are scattered about the cabin with our thoughts and pleasant sentiments. I am enjoying Kerouac’s Visions of Cody, a book he worked on while creating On the Road, but Wow! what a different kind of book! On the Road has been described as a horizontal narrative of life on the road, with the narrator (Kerouac) recording his bemused observations of his hero Neal Cassady. Visions of Cody is described as a more vertical, metaphysical exploration of the same heroic character Neal Cassady. I am enjoying this second book much more, because of its stream-of-consciousness presentation, much of it reminding me of the writings of Joyce or Proust.

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Patio Fireplace

Yesterday, we decided we needed to burn up all the firewood that was delivered for our four-day stay at the cabin. There was still a considerable stack remaining. So, beginning around 11:00, we started the fire and it burned all day as we continued to add logs, finally leaving it for good around 5:00. Throughout the day, we enjoyed its warmth as the winds poked around the perimeter of the patio, and temperatures hovered around 31 degrees. The coffee seemed to taste better, the books tended to read with more intimacy, and when I finally felt ready to doze in my chair from all the reading, I decided instead to work on a second Jack Kerouac collage on the picnic table.

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Kerouac Collage at Patio Fireside

Since I was outdoors, I felt freer to spatter colored inks with a toothbrush and experiment with torn papers. That, along with sketching, made the experience enjoyable. On my second night in the cabin I worked on a different Kerouac collage. While reading Visions of Cody on this trip, I have felt the tug to experiment more with this medium.

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Kerouac Collage on the Second Night

I was notified on my smart phone that Amazon has delivered my package–a volume on Homeric Greek. I had purchased the grammar twenty years ago, and it somehow got away from me. So, I finally ordered a replacement. I always liked using this book when probing Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Homeric Greek doesn’t come easy for me, but thanks to my learning Koinē Greek, I can manage it with a little work. As we prepare to leave this wonderful retreat and transition into the holidays, I feel a sense of leaning forward into an epic adventure. I love Thanksgiving and Christmas, and already anticipate good things on the road ahead.

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

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Morning Coffee with Jack Kerouac

October 18, 2018

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Road Trip Memories

There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road: the Original Scroll

These words drifted through my consciousness last night as I made the two-hour late-night drive back home from Tyler, Texas, through the driving rain (really, I’m fed up with rain that has lasted a solid week down here). I was honored to jury the 66th Annual Palette of Roses Art Show, and did that Monday morning. Last night was the awards reception, and I was invited to present the awards and be available for a couple of hours to offer critique for any artist requesting it.

Judging does not come easily for me, probably because I have had my share of competitions, and know the vulnerability and angst accompanying judgment passed on my own work. So when the time comes for me to do the judging, I worry over the second-guessing, not only on my part, but on the part of the artists who do not agree with my decisions. But last night’s group was gracious and I thoroughly enjoyed every conversation. There were 251 entries to the show, and many awards covering many categories. And, for the entire two hours, I spoke with one artist after another, explaining my decisions on works I had chosen, and offering my perspectives on any piece brought before me. These conversations I always find invigorating, and I regret that I could not have spent an entire day, or even an entire week, with this enthusiastic and highly-skilled group of artistic spirits. Driving home was spiritually uplifting as I recalled every word passed throughout the evening.

Kerouac’s iconic life on the road also flooded my thoughts as I drove through the night, so I rose early this morning to spend time over his pages before going to my 9:30 class. I confess that I did not read On the Road until around 2004, though I had been aware of the book for a couple of decades. Since then I have read it through twice, and have had it read to me during my travels (I purchased the 10-CD audio book) countless times. The book will never go stale for me.

I was asked in conversation yesterday when I retired, and I had to think about it, the time since that day has been such a blur. It was May 2017. And I never would have imagined what would follow–seventeen months of a life on the road. I believe I had always fantasized about such a life, feeling like a wandering mendicant. Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama–the art life took me across all these states to participate in plein air painting, to conduct workshops, to participate in art festivals, to display and sell my work in an art museum, and to enjoy life in all its fullness. Though I have spent little time in my home, I have not felt homeless or detached in any way. Rather, I have felt at home in the world, appreciating every friend made and every conversation shared.

I suppose it is time to re-insert Kerouac into my traveling backpack of books.

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.

Morning Coffee in the Wilderness

September 16, 2018

Crockett

Morning Coffee in my Favorite Location

Take notes, on paper. Five hundred years later, Leonardo’s notebooks are around to astonish and inspire us. Fifty years from now, our own notebooks, if we work up the initiative to start writing them, will be around to astonish and inspire our grandchildren, unlike our tweets and Facebook posts.

Walter Isaacson, Leonardo da Vinci

My mind still swirls from the events of the past couple of days. Spending time on a friend’s farm (without Wi-Fii) gave me quiet and space for reflection, which is always a luxury for me. And while there, I met a cuddly little Shih-tzu friend that I hated to leave behind. Leaving the city behind is always a soothing respite for me.

Bailey

Saturday, when I finally arrived at The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas, I found a film crew inside the gallery rolling tape for future publication. As I stated in earlier posts, Smooth Rock 93.5 FM will be broadcasting from the gallery, probably by October 1. The antenna is being installed atop the historic Redlands Hotel as I write this, and cable is being fed to the gallery’s broadcast booth. I finally got to meet Kevin Harris, the DJ for the station (wearing the red “We Are Texans” Tshirt below). What an inspiration he was in conversation, overflowing with energy and ideas of what he wishes to bring to his broadcasts! The Redlands Hotel has surged with new life since the Red Fire Grille (across the lobby) changed hands and the new owners put in a beautiful bar, and the hotel owners tore out the offices and opened up a spacious lobby. Now a radio station is coming in, with offices on the second floor, and a broadcast booth preparing to set up in this gallery. Kevin shared at length the ideas he has for the broadcast format, and I will be sharing those details as he gets closer to launch.

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Amberly Russell, Kevin Harris, Rich Baur and Luke Walker

The other three individuals were on location to continue filming their next video. Last April, they won the film competition at Thin Line (a film, music and photo fest) in Denton, Texas with their film documentary titled A Piece of Texas. Their work provides material for the magazine Texas Highways. This trio has been traveling around the state, interviewing and featuring on film the smaller cities too often overshadowed by the booming urban centers. This weekend they have been filming Palestine, visiting its sites and meeting different personalities.  They reached out to me as well, spending time in the gallery looking at the art and asking questions. The young men are musicians, and I greatly enjoyed visiting with them and learning of their work. They returned to the gallery later in the evening and we had the pleasure of visiting further. What I found so inspiring about them was their interest in discussing their art, and the processes involved in creating. They were enthusiastic in discussing how artists, musicians and writers are on parallel plains when engaged in the creative task–beginning with nothing and pouring something into that space that comes from the creator’s consciousness.

Below is the link to their award-winning documentary, A Piece of Texas, complete with the song they composed and recorded.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDVHz2R3XAQ

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Back in the Gallery at Redlands

It is a quiet Sunday in the gallery. I have plenty of reading to pursue for class, but since it isn’t until Tuesday, I am in the mood to read for  pure pleasure. I have returned to a Leonardo da Vinci biography by Walter Isaacson that I have already read in its entirety, and am enjoying the experience now of  re-visiting portions of the book that I have underllined for additional scrutiny. The quote posted above captures my fancy. My personal journals extend back to 1985 and I enjoy the occasions of going back to re-read things I scribbled long ago. On my weekend journey, I randomly packed a stack of  them to look over and ponder during some quiet moments, should they arrive. And now they have finally arrived. In an age of digitalization, I still enjoy writing things out longhand in notebooks and returning to them at later times to remind myself of matters that were important enough to record throughout my Odyssey.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.