Archive for the ‘On the Road’ Category

Hunkering Down during the Heat

July 10, 2020
Beginning an 8 x 10″ watercolor

Half the world wants to be like Thoreau at Walden, worrying about the noise of traffic on the way to Boston; the other half use up their lives being part of that noise. I like the second half.

Franz Kline, Abstract Expressionist painter

The past week has been rather quiet–a long road trip, and then several days of relaxation in deep west Texas. A string of 100-degree days has kept us mostly inside, but west Texas morning temperatures hover in the comfortable seventies. This lovely morning was no exception when I stepped out shortly after daylight and walked around a quiet neighborhood, enjoying the gaiety of a myriad of birds in the trees and admiring the clouds strewn across a bright cerulean sky.

Last evening I came across the Franz Kline quote posted above while reading Jacobson’s biography on Robert Motherwell, and it made me lay the book aside and ponder for a spell. In response to Kline, I have to acknowledge that my professional life was lived out in the second half of his description, with all that noise. I cannot say I would have preferred it that way, but it’s what fell to my lot. My professional portion was spent in the public sphere, while all the while I wished to be in the other half, the Walden half. Now, with deep gratitude, I find myself in the Walden half.

The first week of our journey was relaxing, much time spent in leisure reading and making some attempts at watercolor. With no appointments, it was nice to let the days flow by at a comfortable pace. Today we landed in a home where we’ve been asked to dog sit a few days. So I guess I’ll now introduce you to the menagerie.

Hazel, helping me edit

Hazel, a Jack Russell terrier, never relaxes. She needs a job. This is the only dog I’ve ever known who fixates on any lighted screen, jumping up and down in front of the living room smart TV, settling on my shoulder to read my phone, or in the above picture, staring into my laptop. As I work on this blog, she is supervising.

Hazel staring into my phone for a selfie

Bo is as large as I am, and usually finds a quiet place next to me when I work in one place for an extended time.

Bo, asleep at my feet under the table
This is our Patches, finishing his morning coffee

Patches is our own rescue dog, so he will always be nearby. He likes the cream residue at the bottom of Sandi’s coffee mug. Every morning he lingers close by for that special moment.

Guido, the senior citizen of the pack, sleeps all day in this chair

This old boy is a genuine sweetheart. I don’t believe he can hear now, but he awoke from his slumber as I approached to take the photo, so he is still alert.

Peanut, emerging from her nap

Peanut is Miss Personality, always wanting to sleep next to me wherever I work. She only asks to be against a warm body.

I already miss Eli, the Yorkie. We stayed with him all week until this morning. (with Patches)

I always hate saying good-bye to Eli. He has been a delight all week, continually wrestling with Patches, but always willing to pause long enough to pose for a photo. He is the only one among the dogs above who is not in this space currently. As I type this, all the others are in the same room with me, but quiet.

I have started two new watercolors, both 8 x 10″ My intention was to visit the canyons for some plein air work while out here, but with daily temperatures ranging from 105-110, I don’t think so. I have a backlog of compositions saved up over the years that I’ve wanted to paint, so I’m going to take a crack at them.

With the above painting, I’m making use of a reference photo taken years ago (before smart phones took over). I’m standing in the middle of the South Fork of the Rio Grande in Colorado. I have had the photo framed and hanging in my home till I took it down while packing for this trip last week. I determined I would attempt a painting before returning to rehang the picture.

Challenges I’ve avoided for years I am finally facing–(1) the armature of Colorado evergreens along with the actual colors of their needles both in the sun as well as the shadows, and (2) the dynamics of a rapidly flowing mountain stream. Both problems are making me focus more than ever before. And if I don’t get this one right, then I’m confident I will continue trying until I get closer to the truth. At any rate, while painting it, all the luxurious memories of days spent in that stream are returning to me. During these triple-digit-temperature days I certainly would love to stand in one of those cold streams, waiting for a trout to rise.

Hazel has gotten bored with my typing. She now sleeps in a chair nearby. And as I look up, I see all the dogs, littered like carcasses all about the living room. Nap time.

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.

Sunday Morning with Randy in the Motel

July 5, 2020
Ozark Court Motel. Stanton, Missouri

Sunday morning rays of sunshine lanced through the slits in the closed blinds of Room 6 at the Ozark Court Motel. Randy lay with his eyes closed. It took a few moments before he realized where he was and what day it was. Hitchhiking had not fared well the day before. Driving rains soaked him to the skin and no one was pulling over on Route 66 to offer him a ride. Why would they? No doubt he carried all the charm of a drowned city sewer rat as he trudged along the muddy shoulder, his knapsack beginning to let in water as well. But this morning he was OK. A soothing shower the night before and a Jack Daniels nightcap ushered in a quality night’s sleep. But now it was Sunday. What to do?

His Greek Testament lay on the bedside table; he had removed it the night before, intending for it to be the first thing his eyes would see the morning after. Now he sat up in bed, stretched his limbs and reached for the small volume he thought he was going to discard once he dropped out of seminary. He couldn’t. Though he no longer congregated, he still woke on Sunday mornings feeling the need to reach for a text that had been his companion for two-and-a-half years, only now he no longer felt shackled by deadlines of term papers and Sunday morning sermon manuscripts. He could read what he chose.

But what to read? The Gospels crossed his mind. Always a good choice. But what did he want this morning from the Gospels? Did he want to see or hear? Seeing would include mental images of Jesus walking either along a shore or down a dusty Palestinian street. Would he be solitary, seated in the wilderness, or thronged by a clinging crowd? Maybe Randy wanted to hear. But what? The voice of Jesus resonating in a synagogue, or speaking softly inside a living quarters? Would he be strolling country lanes with disciples listening, or seated on a boulder discoursing? Or would he be sitting in a boat, his voice going out over the waves while disciples pulled at the oars?

Why was Randy reaching for the New Testament? Because it was Sunday? He wasn’t congregating. He wasn’t called upon to address any hearers. What did he want this morning?

Outside the motel, traffic was heard rolling along Route 66 along the bottom of the bluff. Randy was aware that he was seated in bed, alone, in the heartland of America. Today is Sunday, the Fourth of July, 1976. The country had been surging with anticipation for months as she edged closer and closer to this day—the nation’s bicentennial. No doubt Randy’s former seminary friends—preacher friends—had been whipping themselves into a frenzy over what to preach on this Special Sunday. Randy was glad not to be under that kind of pressure. What exactly would he say today, standing before a congregation?

Opening his Greek Testament, he let his mind drift down pleasant corridors of memory. To this day he was grateful that he had learned Koinē Greek. The first semester was strictly recitation, vocabulary and functional grammar; the class never saw a New Testament. The objective was functional literacy. As children learn to speak their language before learning to read and understand the technical architecture of grammar, so Professor Corley wished for his students to recognize and read Greek early and dissect the grammar later. And so, Randy studied his lessons and performed the daily recitations for a semester.

On the first day of the second semester, the Professor walked to the blackboard, picked up the chalk and scrawled the following:

Sitting at his desk in the third row, Randy leaned forward earnestly and read the words instantly: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” The Professor turned to the class and solemnly declared: “You are now reading the New Testament. In Greek.” Sitting up in bed, Randy felt waves of warmth surging through his being as he recalled that historic morning. It was as though scales had fallen from his eyes and enlightenment had dawned. His life had been marked by so few quality moments. Opening his New Testament to Mark 1:15, he read the words afresh.

The time is fulfilled. On that historic day, Randy felt that he had fulfilled his apprenticeship to elementary Greek vocabulary and grammar. He read a Greek New Testament passage with no assistance from a teacher or book. It was a new day. A new world dawned and beckoned. He had no idea then that a ministerial life, just underway, would collapse and burn in less than two years.

Now it is Sunday, July 4, 1976. The nation celebrates its 200th birthday. Randy wondered what exactly he was celebrating, if anything. What was life offering now? Was he about to pass through another portal? Again, why was he reading the New Testament? Because it is Sunday? Because it is the Fourth of July? Because the country is now two hundred years old? What was in the air for Randy? He wanted to know.

Was he reading from the life of Jesus because he needed a mentor? Someone to guide him? Thinking back over his life, Randy realized that he had always sought direction from a strong leader. His father, his pastor, his professors, and a few years ago he had that conference with Reverend Elton in Dallas. Did Randy need a mentor now? Or was it time to think for himself? Maybe his apprenticeship to life was ended and it was time to stand up, to strike forth and find new ground under his own direction. The time is fulfilled.

Rising from bed, Randy stretched and strolled across the small room to the writing table in the corner where he had placed his journal the night before. Opening it to the pages he wrote the day he quit the seminary, he found a passage he had copied from James Smart’s The Divided Mind of Modern Theology.

There are remarkable parallels between the European mood of the twenties and the English and American mood of the sixties: God seemed to have gone into hiding; religious and theological language out of the past had become wooden and unconvincing; men felt themselves suspended between a world that had died and a new world that was waiting to be born; a church indifferent to the plight of the masses was recognized as unworthy of the name Christian; the identification of Christianity with Western civilization, and of divinity with the higher elements in man, had become highly suspect; in various forms the hunger for a new world now was felt, and some understood it as hunger for a living God. In that kind of world Barth and Bultmann became theologians whose one endeavor was to find the word that would unlock the future, the word that would bring wholeness of faith and creative power by being the very truth of the living God.

It is Sunday, Randy thought. Today, churches would perhaps be filled to capacity, no doubt to celebrate a 200th birthday. Yet, Randy sensed that the ministers would still crank out those same tired sermons, their singsong voices rasping like rusty squeeze boxes, sounding out the same two-note refrain of the deadly forces that continually threaten the vitality of our church and nation—abortion and communism.

Randy replayed from memory a line he had memorized from his reading of one of Nietzsche’s early essays:

He who has but two strings on his instrument . . . does not understand those who can play on more strings. It is of the essence of the higher, multi-stringed culture that it is always misinterpreted by the lower culture . . .

Randy’s sojourn of recent years had definitely added more strings to his life’s instrument. No doubt this is why he was not attending church this particular morning, or most mornings for that matter. Virtually everything delivered from pulpits he had heard before, and indeed was beginning to write them out in his own sermons before he quit. He didn’t need to hear them again.

Randy recalled with a smile a quote he had read from his readings in the religions of India, how the Upanishad movement was sprung partly because the general population had grown weary of listening to the traditional chants of the Vedic priests “who sounded like croaking frogs in the swamps.”

America in 1976 was sounding restless. Perhaps a new world was beginning to dawn. The time is fulfilled. Randy wondered if his own odyssey was corresponding with the quest of this American nation in 1976, poised to enter a new age of Enlightenment. Where was Hank? It had been months since that night they sat at the fire, camping in west Texas. It was time to get together and talk some more. No doubt Hank had just as much weighing on his mind as Randy. Later today, Randy would return to Turvey’s Corner, having been away four years. Maybe Hank was already there.

_____________________________________________

Thanks for reading my blog.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Evening Ponderings over Motherwell Art

July 2, 2020
Time spent reading Motherwell biographies

As always, the studio was the space of revelation. For all his sociability and engagement with the public world, he admitted on several occasions that he felt essentially awkward outside the studio and only comfortable inside its solitude, that his real discoveries were made in direct contact with his materials.

Bernard Jacobson, Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant

Having wrapped up another commission, it felt good today to relax, stretch and spend some time poring over a pair of Robert Motherwell biographies I purchased on the centennial year of his birth. I read both of them within weeks of their publication, but then put them on the shelf for five years. Those who know me are aware that I spend much of my leisure reading biographies on artists I’ve admired throughout my life–Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, Paul Cezanne, Joseph Mallord William Turner, Henri Matisse, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol et al.

Motherwell and Hopper are especially dear to my heart because they were profound thinkers, always adjusting their compasses to pursue the direction they felt compelled to follow. Both were needled by friends and associates that they spent too much time in books. Motherwell especially was criticized for devoting too much time to writing, publishing and lecturing. I am grateful that they left behind a considerable sum of pages of their ideas; I am just as immersed in their words as I am their images. As an artist, I have always aspired to be a thinker as well as craftsman.

Completed Commission

My main purpose in posting this blog is to show the commission I just completed today. This Ozark Court Motel no longer stands. Since 1977, I saw this motel ruin on the north side of Interstate 44 (historic Route 66) in Stanton, Missouri as I traveled back and forth from Missouri to Texas. All I know so far is that the business dated back to the 1930’s. Hopefully in the days ahead I will be able to uncover more history of the site and attempt to spin out some stories. Hank and Randy need some new adventures.

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.

Turvey’s Corner–the next chapter

March 28, 2020

I perceive the writings herein as the pieces of a whole, each one the element of an intricate but unified design. They are the facets of a verbal prism, if you will, patterns like the constellations.

N. Scott Momaday, The Man Made of Words

On this beautiful Saturday morning, I am thrilled to announce the beginning of a new chapter on the project I’ve worked on for years–I am hoping to publish a book titled Turvey’s Corner 63050. The Missouri town is fictional as is the zip code, lying between the place of my hometown High Ridge (63049) and where I attended church and school, House Springs (63051). My series has already featured the gas station I am naming Jerry’s Texaco, and the young attendant inside whom I’ve named Hank. Like the Momaday quote above, I have been piecing stories and paintings together for about two decades now, hoping to weave a story where readers might find a space to occupy.

Attendant Not on Duty
Six Subjects in Search of a Painter

The still life above has been painted to depict the store room of the gas station where Hank sometimes spends the night after closing the store.

Hank was up late again, bedding down in the storeroom of the old filling station.  He had closed Jerry’s Texaco after the last of the Turvey’s Corner work force drifted in and out, their work in the city done for another day. Hank himself could have called it a day but was too engrossed in his college studies to pack up the books and head for his garage apartment in the next county. So, with the owner’s permission, he would spend another night in the back storeroom where he kept his cot, amidst the smells of gasoline, oil, pit grease and the grime that had built up over two generations.

The Texaco station was anchored on the first bend of the highway out of Turvey’s Corner. Interstate commerce had all but obliterated this sleepy town, and as soon as this young man graduated from the community college, he would depart as well. The local patrons had no knowledge or regard for the things that stirred the soul of this young dreamer. His volumes of Thoreau, Frost, Whitman and Twain had opened to him worlds beyond this community. And his few camping possessions stored in this back room (Griswold frying pan, stove top percolator, kerosene lantern, Maxwell House tin) were the tether that kept him bound to the wild. He would be packing up his gear in a week and leaving without notice. It was time to emerge from this cocoon and embrace the world calling out to him.

My next painting for Turvey’s Corner will feature Hank hitchhiking his way out of town. As he begins this odyssey, his mind will be preoccupied with the roots of Turvey’s Corner. In March 1800, Osage warriors massacred the family who built the first cabin in this town (this historical record can be researched under the massacre at House Springs, Missouri). As Hank hitchhikes, he feels a presence watching, and imagines an Osage warrior overseeing his odyssey with approval, knowing full well the trials of a new beginning.

Between the cities of High Ridge and House Springs is an outcropping of rock, where U. S. Highway 30 was carved out of the hills. My new painting will use this composition of the site that I painted years ago.

High Ridge Bluff

Hank will be at the base of this rock, his thumb out hoping to hitch a ride. On the hilltop I will place an Osage warrior looking down at the traveler.

During this time of staying indoors due to the scare of the virus, I’m excited to be working on the next chapter of my project.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website: http://www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Searching for the Recipe

March 13, 2020
Fourth Beginning of a Ransom Canyon Composition

He was alone, and he wanted to make a song out of the colored canyon, the way the women of Torreón made songs upon their looms out of colored yarn, but he had not got the right words together.

N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn

This Native American sage just painted with accuracy and grace my perrenial dilemma as an artist. In painting, in writing, in arranging music, I frequently marvel at the complexity of composition, and very seldom attain the splendrous vision my eye or inner ear senses.

When playing my guitar, I constantly reach for the correct chord, only to hit upon a diminshed form that jars my ear. When writing an essay, I can fumble with a paragraph of sentences for an hour and come away with a mess comparable to a ball of yarn tossed by a generation of cats. And now more recently, with my fourth attempt at a canyon composition, my eye delights in the arrangement of hues and contrasts across the cliff wall, yet the colors on my palette never seem to combine for the composition I seek.

Please reader, do not misunderstand–I am not depressed or upset as I write this. I merely approach the creative task in a spirit of worship, seeking to pour out my soul in response to profound beauty encountered in this physical world as well as the underlying world of Ideas. And as I work at this, my soul wells up in gratitude for feelings experienced during the effort, even if the final product falls short of the expression I sought.

My work, my art, my journal pages, my blog–all my contributions are abstractions, distortions, fragments, ostraca scattered across my life’s memories. But my delight always lies in the trying. And right now, the canyons of west Texas and streams of the Oklahoma mountains are calling out to me.

As for the painting started above . . . not today. This morning once again finds me on the road, stopping at a Starbuck’s to send out this missive via wifi. I often feel like Eddie Albert from Green Acres, climbing up a utility pole in Hooterville to make a phone call. But there it is . . .

Thanks always for reading. I hope to send pictures soon of painting attempts adjacent to Oklahoma trout streams.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Requiem for the Fourth

June 24, 2019

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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.

Gearing Up for the Next Workshop

June 4, 2019

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In Progress Watercolor for Workshop Reference

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”
This coming weekend, I will be working with some of my favorite artists in east Texas. Every time they invite me to judge an event or conduct a workshop, I count the days till I get to see them again. They recently sent me a reference photo of a location in Italy that they wish to paint. Before settling on the composition, they had already decided that they wanted to be instructed in architecture and foliage. I began work on this yesterday and poked around with it for a few hours, then returned to it today, spending more time looking at the reference photo than actually painting the composition. I felt like the carpenter who followed the dictum: Cut once. Measure twice. I always feel dissatisfied when my brush goes on automatic pilot because I am painting something I had attempted many, many times before. With this particular subject, I encountered many first-time objects and surfaces and had to concentrate on how to render them on paper. I always receive so much more enjoyment when engaged this way, constantly questioning, second-guessing. I am reminded of the sentiment of T. S. Eliot–the shadow falls between the conception and act of creation. And I feel something deeply satisfying when I linger in that shadow.

I am preparing to go on the road again, so I am not sure when I will post the next blog. But I always appreciate knowing there are people who look forward to the next installment. Thank you always for reading.

I make art, hoping to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog, reminding myself I am not alone.

Southwest Wanderings

May 8, 2019

vista

Standing Atop Upper Sunset Trail, Franklin Mountains State Park

One must strain off what was personal and accidental in all these impressions and so reach the pure fluid, the essential oil of truth.

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

panorama

My View from the Upper Sunset Trail

The past several days seem a blur as I attempt to record punctuations from a road trip that included Cloudcroft, Carrizozo and White Oak, New Mexico, along with El Paso, Texas. My literary companions of Emerson, Woolf, Mann and Hesse also fed me with stories and immortal words. Woolf’s quest for “the essential oil of truth” has touched a deep chord within me, and during these excursions I found immeasurable solace in the vast expanses of nature as well as the printed word. On the other hand, my few forays online to sound the depths (or lack of) from podcasts and blogs were not so fruitful. In fact, Woolf’s words better describe those encounters:

Some of these books were, on the face of it, frivolous and facetious; but many, on the other hand, were serious and  prophetic, moral and hortatory. Merely to read the titles suggested innumerable schoolmasters, innumerable clergymen mounting their platforms and pulpits and holding forth with a loquacity which far exceeded the hour usually allotted to such discourse on this one subject.

My deeply-held sentiments are similar to those of Emerson and Thoreau. When Emerson boasted that Harvard taught all the branches of learning, Thoreau retorted: “Yes, but none of the roots.” I will always be grateful for my education. Yet, the decades devoted to thousands of hours poring over texts, I believe, have driven me ever more closely toward the primary source that fed the great cloud of geniuses: Nature. My belief holds that nature offers that “essential oil of truth.” These past few days have offered me a boundless quality of space and time to explore this intriguing world in its manifold beauty and grandeur. I could feel Whitman’s words from “Song of the Open Road” stirring from within my being:

From this hour I ordain myself loos’d

of limits and imaginary lines,

Going where I list, my own master, total

and absolute,

Listening to others, and considering well

what they say,

Pausing, searching, receiving,

contemplating,

Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting

myself of the holds that would hold me.

I inhale great draughts of space,

The east and the west are mine, and the 

north and the south are mine.

I seem to recall that I posted these quick sketches from my phone on the morning that I was making preparations for the road. The image I copied made me think of my friend Wayne White (https://ramblingsofafarrier.com/double-d-acres-llc/), a genuine cowboy and outdoorsman who has been my friend since second grade. No one to this day has made better coffee for me, using an old urn over an open campfire. By the way, Happy Birthday, Wayne!

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A Pair of Pages from the Journal

For several decades I have felt like a hypocrite in one major area of artistic endeavor: the sketchbook. Since high school I have believed that the “real” artist devotedly keeps a sketchbook. As an art teacher in the publc schools, I preached that doctrine. And throughout the decades, I have purchased and accumulated stacks of sketcbbooks. But I have never consistently maintained one. Every time I tried a “sketch”, I kept at it till it developed into a finished drawing, tore it out of the book, matted, framed and sold it. I have no lasting sketchbooks of any value for retrospective study and reflection. And throughout my years of teaching humanities and art history, I lifted up Leonardo da Vinci as the quintessential “Sketchbook/Journal-Artist/Thinker”. Personally, I have maintained a journal since 1985, with well over a hundred volumes on my bookshelves. These pages comprise approximately 99.5% words, with the very occasional sketch appearing.

On this excursion, I forced myself to alternate between sketching and writing, hoping, believing that I just might turn the corner and turn into a “Sketchbook/Journal-Artist/Thinker”. We’ll see. At any rate, I posted above a couple of my attempts.

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Looking East from the Valley of Fire to the Lincoln National Forest

After a lovely day spent in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, where I took a number of reference photos but never painted, I stopped at the Valley of Fire where I surveyed in wonder acres of black volcanic rock, and looking out toward the Lincoln National Forest, decided to work up a quick sketch of the Sierra Blanca. This was my first time in awhile to look at a distant mountain and attempt a plein air watercolor sketch.

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Franklin Mountains State Park

Ultimately settling in El Paso, I decided I wanted to paint mountain ranges en plein air. Going online, I discovered  a local plein air group that goes out every Tuesday morning to paint. On their website was an entry for anyone wishing to connect with the group. Twice I entered my name, email, phone number and message, expressing my interest. No response. When Tuesday arrived, I decided to set out alone, and came across the Franklin Mountains State Park. Driving to the end of the road, I parked and hiked up a hill to set up and paint the vista. Halfway through my first painting, my phone rang. I continued to paint, letting it pick up the voice message. As it turned out, the plein air group was finally returning my messages and announcing that they were not going out to paint today. Better that I just left the call unanswered; I found what I was seeking.

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First Attempt

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Second Attempt

I marveled at the subject rising high before me, its colors and textures continually shifting as the sun emerged and withdrew among the clouds. I recall the testimony of French Impressionist painter Claude Monet daring anyone to tell him nature never changes when he witnessed the continual changes with his own eye. I attempted two watercolor sketches because I saw at least half a dozen shifts in the mountain’s colors, textures and shadows. The encounter was invigorating and I chide myself for not engaging in plein air activity more than I do.

Today I find myself fatigued from all the travel, sketching and painting, and have given myself to reading and reflection. But I wanted to take these moments and send a blog up the flagpole in case anyone out there is interested in looking at what I’ve experienced.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

 

 

Ichabod–Where is the Glory?

May 3, 2019

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,

The earth, and every common sight

                 To me did seem

            Apparelled in celestial light,

The glory and the freshness of a dream.

It is not now as it hath been of yore;—

             Turn wheresoe’er I may,

              By night or day,

The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

William Wordsworth, “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”

At the time of this writing, I find myself seated in a crowded but congenial cafe, sipping coffee and using my journal as a net to capture the butterflies of flitting thoughts. I find myself yet again drinking great draughts from a life on the move, and while sitting here scribbling, these words from Wordsworth drifted through my mind.

I am saddened when I recall these words from the poem, because in them I hear abyssmal sighs of regret from a man in his thirties, convinced that his best years are behind him–those years of youth, alertness and innocence. And it appears that he was correct. As I recall, Wordsworth had emerged successful in his writing by the time he reached his thirties, and though later honored as Poet Laureate, had already plateaued yet would live another forty or more years. Throughout my life, I have heard on many occasions those regretful words of creative souls who felt they had lost their creative edge.

I learned long ago that the Hebrew word “Ichabod” is translated “Where is the glory?” The damning implication is that it has departed. That was the sentiment of the original reference in the Jewish scriptures, and in the nineteenth century with John Greenleaf Whittier’s  poem “Ichabod.” Both pieces of literature are chilling as they lament a glory that has drifted away from youthful Israel and from youthful America.

Emerson and Thoreau also had much to write about the ways in which aging people experience the evaporation of childlike curiosity, flexibility and openness to the mysteries of the world around. With all honesty, I testify that I am not suffering from that at all; I feel the glory still radiating around me as I move through this marvel of a life on earth. If anything has dulled for me, it is the ability to capture these sensations in words or paint, if indeed I ever possessed those abilities at all. I still find myself chasing the means for capturing and sharing this glory.

Since last weekend, I have found myself bathed in beauty. I savored the hours seated in my booth at Artscape in the Dallas Arboretum, soaking up conversations with countless patrons and chatting it up with new artist acquaintances. I have serenely rearranged my work in The Gallery at Redlands and experienced yet another relaxing stay in the Redlands Hotel. I laughed through a morning slot with the broadcast team on Smooth Rock 93.5 FM. I returned to Dallas to deliver a work of art to a patron at White Rock Lake. Over the past several days, I have spent over fourteen hours gliding along Texas highways, watching the landscape unroll before me like an endless manuscript open to renewed translation and intrepretation.

Times like these leave me feeling like a wandering mendicant. But at Artscape I met a true wandering mendicant, a genuine itinerant artist:

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Jim Tunell, photographer, in a booth across from mine

April 1 of this year marked the twelfth year Jim Tunnell has lived on the road, travelling in his RV from the Mississippi River to the West Coast, from Canada to Mexico, criscrossing the expansive West. Visiting with him in his booth was probably the closest I will ever get to experiencing an extended conversation with Jack Kerouac. Jim is a photographer working on the publication of his first book. The website posted below will provide information for anyone wishing to know how to purchase that work, or any of his other pieces.

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I enjoyed the freshness and vitality of Jim’s stories of life on the road just as much as I have enjoyed those extended times visiting wih my other mendicant friend Dave Shultz who is probably traversing and photographing New Mexico as I write this.

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Photograph by Dave Shultz

And my former art history student, Katie Dillow, now a museum curator, is exploring national parks in Utah and posting her photos and memories online.

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Photograph by Katie Dillow

As I think over what my fellow creative spirits are accomplishing in their travels, I myself am now laying out plans to do some exploring as well, hoping to capture some of that splendor on paper with watercolors and the printed word.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to capture the Glory.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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.