Archive for the ‘plein air’ Category

Finding my Way to the Core

July 21, 2019

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The North Rim of the Grand Canyon

What is that abridgment and selection we observe in all spiritual activity, but itself the creative impulse?  . . . all the weary miles and tons of space and bulk left out, and the spirit or moral of it contracted into a musical word, or the most cunning stroke of the pencil?

. . .

The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety.

. . .

The power to detach, and to magnify by detaching, is the essence of rhetoric in the hands of the orator and the poet. . . . The power depends on the depth of the artist’s insight of that object he contemplates.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

A quiet, tranquil Sunday afternoon now yields quality space for reflection over a recent vacation across New Mexico and Arizona. Our journey included adventures into the natural wonders of the Sandia Mountains, The Grand Canyon North Rim, the Red Rocks of Sedona, the Petrified Forest and Painted Canyon, along with Route 66 visits to memorable landmarks in Winslow and Holbrook, Arizona as well as Albuquerque, New Mexico.

As Hemingway testified that he could not write about Michigan until he was in Paris, and could not write about Paris until he returned to the United States, so I acknowledge that I still haven’t figured out how to record in writing or paint my responses to this first visit to the Grand Canyon. While standing and looking out across the North Rim, I felt a visitation that cannot be described, and at the same time realized that I would not be able to complete a comprehensive watercolor of my initial sweeping views. I spent the entire first day walking and looking, sitting and looking, standing and looking, all the while scribbling and sketching in my journal in a state of perpetual wonder . . . and decided to wait until the following morning to rise and walk to the rim and sketch in watercolor my first small study of what lay sprawling below.

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Early Morning Sketch of the North Rim

Rising early, I walked one hundred feet from my cabin to the North Rim, found a comfortable seating position, and made my first watercolor sketch as the sun rose and bathed the canyon below. After about forty-five minutes, I returned to the cabin to spend some time writing and drawing in my journal. During this quiet time, new ideas finally began to emerge and I had a clearer perspective on what I wanted to do.

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Quiet Morning at the Grand Canyon Cabin Writing Desk

Later in the day, while a storm gathered over the South Rim twenty miles away, I hiked down the Bright Angel Trail and found another comfortable spot to sit beneath a tree and out of the sun. As the storm moved slowly toward me, I worked on a second quick watercolor sketch of the vista, stopping just as the rain began on the North Rim.

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Approaching Storm from the South

On my third day, I took a seat outside the Grand Canyon Lodge and tried my hand at capturing the calligraphic white lines all over the side of one of the cliffs below where I sat.

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Rock Striations and Unusual Textures Among the Rocks

Not long afterward, I attempted a fourth watercolor sketch, but it is so ugly I choose not to post it. I felt that I had learned a great deal from my first attempts, and later while visiting the Red Rocks of Sedona, I began an additional nineteen watercolor sketches. At the time of this writing, I am still developing them and trying several new approaches that I look forward to sharing with my readers.

Throughout this journey, Emerson’s essays have provided a never-ending source of enrichment for my thirsty soul, and I inserted quotes above from his work titled “Art”. I knew from the start that I could not create comprehensive watercolor paintings while on the move with a few plein air sketches. But I did use the sessions for “information gathering”, and rediscovered the joy of drawing with pencil and pen & ink. I also worked on some new compositional configurations. In good time I will be bringing these out to share with you. Once I get back into my home studio, I plan to work on some larger, more comprehensive paintings of that magnificent North Rim of the Grand Canyou.

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Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

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Perusing Old Journals and Creating New Paintings

May 12, 2019

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Mother’s Day Morning in the Gallery at Redlands

The daemon knows how it is done.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (journal entry)

There are large modulations of tone throughout fifty-seven years of musing in the journals, yet Emerson seems perpetually in quest to hear his daemon speak to him.

Harold Bloom, The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime

Waking early on Mother’s Day in the Redlands Hotel, my first thoughts surrounded the question over whether or not I would have a second prolific day of painting. Yesterday, I completed four watercolors that had been started en plein air while I was traveling in El Paso and the surrounding areas. Often when I spend an entire day of painting, I feel somewhat emptied and wasted on the following day and resort to reading and journaling. I don’t expect every day to yield fertile thoughts and visions. Our great American poet Wallace Stevens stated it eloquently:

It is not every day that the world arranges itself into a poem.

Wallace Stevens

Harold Bloom, citing examples from Walt Whitman’s experiences while trying to push out the great body of poetry titled under the umbrella Leaves of Grass nailed the phenomena with these words:

No man, no woman, can live in a continuous secular ephiphany.

Throughout my creative years, I have learned the lesson that there are bursts of creative energy, often followed by moments of quiet restoration. Looking back over the decades, I find a measure of satisfaction that a large body of work has been created, and I am more aware of the prolific periods than I am of the fallow ones. I spent some time this morning reading from my old journals, and came across extensive notes I recorded four years ago from reading the published works of the painter Robert Motherwell, and came across this:

An artist has to be a long-distance runner, and the thing I’m most proud of is my most recent work is as fresh as the first.

As the morning hours passed in the quiet Gallery at Redlands, I felt my urge to create beginning to build, thanks to Harold Bloom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wallace Stevens and Robert Motherwell. Suddenly, I knew what I was going to approach next.

As always, the studio was the space of revelation.

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

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Several weeks ago, I was surprised by the colors falling across some vacant undeveloped land adjacent to a new Kroger store built near the neighborhood where I live in Arlington. On this particular late afternoon, with the weather being pleasantly temperate, I chose to drive to the Kroger store and take a seat in the patio area on the southwest corner of the complex. No one else was seated out there, and I anticipated some quality reading and journaling time with coffee. But as I looked up, I was astonished at the quality of colors the late afternoon sun cast down over the field with the dark horizon of trees in back. I took several reference photos, and next time I was at The Gallery at Redlands, I began three 8 x 10″ studies of this composition. I found none of the three satisfying, and abandoned them.

When I traveled to west Texas and New Mexico last week, I brought the three watercolor sketches with me, and took them out once during the trip to take a closer look. I still felt nothing as I looked at them. Yesterday, I spent the day in the Gallery working on the four mountain sketches I had begun during my travels. This morning, I went out to the Jeep and retrieved the three “Kroger” paintings, and after about an hour of reading my old journals along with some new reading from Bloom, Emerson, Stevens and Motherwell, I suddenly had an idea for the three discarded paintings. They are wildly experimental, but I have posted them above and believe I will go ahead and put mats and plastic sleeves on them, and maybe even frame one of them, it’s still too soon for me to decide.

At any rate, I’ve had a great Mother’s Day in the gallery/studio and feel like quality time has been enjoyed.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Rainy Saturday in the Gallery at Redlands

May 11, 2019

Follow your genius closely enough and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect at every hour.

Henry David Thoreau

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Signal Peak, Guadalupe Mountains

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Franklin Mountains, El Paso

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Franklin Mountains, El Paso

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Valley of Fires, Carrizozo, New Mexico

I have chosen to ensconce myself in The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas for Mother’s Day weekend. A recent trip through Cloudcroft, Corrizzozo and El Paso still floods my imagination, and I wanted to have some quiet time in the gallery to complete some plein air watercolor sketches I attempted this past week. It has been pouring down rain most of the day today, so foot traffic through the Redlands Hotel has been quite sparse, allowing me hours of uninterrupted time working at the watercolors. In my hometown neighborhood, an art festival is in progress, and I made the decision after nine straight years not to participate this time. I think I made a good call, considering the heavy rains and soaked parks in this part of Texas.

The Thoreau quote posted above I have engraved on a wooden desktop ornament that my friends the Darrs surprised me with last summer in Crested Butte, Colorado. I chose this weekend to pack it in my bag to keep on the gallery desk for inspiration. Looking up at it throughout the day, I mused over this motto that has shaped a large part of my adult life. I always hesitate to use the word “genius” because people today often equate the word with I.Q. and think of Einstein-type personalities. The word had different connotations with Emerson, Thoreau and their fellow New England Transcendentalists. They regarded genius as that independent, inner voice that introverts know all-too-well, that compulsion that Thoreau described as “marching to the beat of a different drummer.”

In the quiet of the gallery, I have delighted in this opportunity to gaze at reference photos I took of the locations I visited to paint. I have so much to learn when it comes to painting mountains in watercolor, and I am enthusiastic to pursue this for awhile. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I will keep the gallery open throughout the day. But if the weather is anything like it was today, then I may find myself dashing out several more watercolor sketches. I am grateful for quality times such as these.

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.

Cold Winds Over West Texas

May 9, 2019

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Signal Peak, Guadalupe Mountains

The power depends on the depth of the artist’s insight of that object he contemplates.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

Forty-seven degree temperatures and a stiff wind greeted me as I stepped out this morning. I found a cafe with available Wi-fii and coffee. Pulling up photos I took of Signal Peak (8751 ft.), the highest summit in Texas, as I drove past the Guadalupe range recently, I decided I would later today attempt some sketches of this magnificent site, using my photos as a reference.

I regret resorting to reference photos when I watercolor; I have had this reticence since discovering the dynamic of painting en plein air. For several years now, I have endured a seething compulsion to paint mountains, but alas they are nowhere near my residence. Two or three times a year, I manage to visit mountain ranges, yet standing in their eternal presence, I always feel like a mere bird flitting past their exterior, then quickly returning home. This morning, Emerson’s quote above has my full attention; I believe that an artist needs to spend time in the presence of his/her subject, allowing the subject matter to compost in the consciousness in order to paint it authentically.

Emerson’s magnificent meditation from “The American Scholar” I have read and recited to students for decades. I post it below, now rendering in bold print the same sentiment from his statement in “Art” that I posted at the top:

The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him life; it went out from him truth. It came to him short-lived actions; it went out from him immortal thoughts. It came to him business; it went from him poetry. It was dead fact; now it is quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Precisely in  proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.

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My sketchbook journals are replete with pencil studies of trees that are improving because I have paid my dues, sitting in the presence of them, working diligently to render their unique figures and portraits as I gaze upon them. Trees are everywhere I live and work. But mountains–how I wish I could sit in their company with the ease that I find in trees. Perhaps one day I could move to an environment where I could gaze upon them and know more fully what Emerson professes, that depth of artistic expression comes with time and familiarity.

The theologian Paul Tillich, when addressing an audience celebrating an anniversary of Time magazine, mused that the American public of his day was driven by a horizontal force to produce quantities in faster time, and that the results were a shallow product. He observed that it takes time to develop a vertical dimension, one of depth and profundity. I am going to take that to heart, and see if I cannot produce better renderings of mountain ranges in watercolor as I continue to study them. This summer I have made some serious plans to vacation among mountains and canyons. But in the meantime, I will continue to study my plein air sketches and photographs, and continue my practice of painting these subjects.

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.

 

 

 

 

Southwest Wanderings

May 8, 2019

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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

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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.

 

 

 

 

The Quiet Before the Big Festival

April 24, 2019

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The Greeks had a concept of Kairos time, which is not quantitative like our normal conception of time, but qualitative–rich or empty, the meaningful hour or the hurried moment. When you’re with beauty, in art or in nature, you tend to move at Kairos time–slowly, serenely but thickly.

David Brooks, “We need more timelessness, outside the speed of social media”

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Beneath our loquacious chatter, there is a silent language of our whole being which yearns for art and the beauty from which art comes.

Rollo May, My Quest for Beauty

Since my last post, I have journeyed to Palestine, Abilene, Lubbock and San Angelo. The whirlwind of activity made it difficult to stop long enough to post a blog. Now I am sequestered in The Redlands Hotel, my home-away-from-home, and I am packing and loading for Artscape 2019 at the beautiful Dallas Arboretum.

https://www.dallasarboretum.org/events-activities/artscape/

The event will be held Saturday and Sunday, 9-5, and it is my biggest art show of the year. This will be my second time to participate, and I am still awash in splendid memories of last year’s encounter. I have framed the watercolor pictured below and am looking forward to bringing it out for its first public viewing.

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I am also bringing out a number of plein air experimental watercolors I have made over the past six months.

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cloudcroft

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This is an exciting time for me, but I’m glad it is only Wednesday. My Jeep is already loaded with all my booth furniture and the only job left for me is to pack the paintings. It is nice to approach the event without feeling my hair is on fire.

My friend Ben Campbell from the Texas State Railroad dropped by the gallery this afternoon. He was one of the first friends I made when we opened The Gallery at Redlands a little over two years ago. He gave me a gift, the book Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for our Common Life, by Makoto Fujimura. I am already immersed in this beautiful literary work. I posted above the quote by David Brooks from an article he published introducing the book. Ben was profoundly moved in his reading of it and purchased an extra copy for me. I love reading the works of reflective minds who manage to steer clear of the frenetic pace set by social media and our culture in general. So, thank you, Ben. This is a timely (in the kairos sense) gift that I am already treasuring. The evening is still young. I’m going to go upstairs and read this volume in the quiet comfort of the Redlands Hotel.

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.

Afterglow from Yesterday

April 11, 2019

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Plein Air Demo before High School Students

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the valley of fear
To a river so deep

And I’ve been searching for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I would never lose
Something somebody stole

Billy Joel, “River of Dreams”

Recently, quality time for blogging has been scarce. Between spending hours behind a windshield in addition to processing hours of business affairs on the computer, I have felt my soul drying up. I love making art, reading, writing and blogging, and it’s been about 48 hours since I have been able to pursue those necessities that nurture my “real” life.

But for now, I need to push away the business paperwork so I can at least respond to a most precious moment I experienced during the first half of yesterday. Cindy Thomas, a public art teacher colleague I have known over twenty years, has also retired and taken up a part time position teaching art in a private school (smaller, more respectful classes and much larger studio space). She invited me to visit three of her classes yesterday and demonstrate watercolor en plein air. Their high school campus had a beautiful outdoor garden area and the weather was sunny and cool–just perfect for such an occasion.

I am anxiously waiting for the video her film classes produced of this event. In three separate sessions, I had the privilege of demonstrating and fielding questions from art and film students, roughly ten students per class, just the right size for direct, intimate conversation. Though I don’t miss full-time high school teaching, it was refreshing beyond words yesterday to see the students’ eyes light up as we discussed the profound joys of making art while surrounded by a natural environment. The questions covered art theory, history, philosophy, journaling, sketching practices, and the necessary steps for getting one’s art out into the public eye. Though twenty-four hours have passed, I am still warmed at every remembrance of this special encounter. Thank you, Cindy, and Pantego Christian Academy.

One of my best remembrances was the scripture passage above the door of the studio from Ephesians 2:10–

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

From my years in graduate study, I recall two notable ideas from this passage. First, the word translated “handiwork” is from the Greek word poiêma. Our word “poem” comes from this, and the word basically refers to a work of art, a creation. The passage sets forth humanity as God’s work of art. The close of the passage speaks of an advanced preparation for humans to do the good work intended. Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Four Causes sets forth the argument that our good works are already present within us, and they will issue forth. I tried to urge it upon the students in our discussion that they already have artistic tendencies in their essence, and this artistry is intended to come forth, whether they do it in visual, literary, musical or political arts; they already have that capability within themselves. Now, in their educational arena, they have that opportunity to cultivate those gifts.

Reluctantly, I have to return now to the business affairs of my art. Hopefully tomorrow I can emerge and get back to what I enjoy the most. Meanwhile, I wanted to share with you the joys of yesterday.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

Chaotic Dreams

March 11, 2019

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View of Palo Duro Canyon

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Beginning of a Plein-Air Watercolor Sketch

You know, there’s a philosopher who says: as you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos, and random events, non-related events, smashing into each other and causing this situation or that situation, and then, this happens, and it’s overwhelming, and it just looks like what in the world is going on? And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely crafted novel. but at the time, it don’t.

Joe Walsh, History of the Eagles, 2013 documentary

Blame it on the one-hour time change? Who knows? All I can think of this morning is the night’s attempted sleep just completed: an entire night blistered by an annoying, chaotic, sustained dream. I was put in charge of a community event: a reading of Molière’s play “Tartuffe”. The event was staged in a bowling alley/roller rink, and all of us tried our best to look composed on roller skates as we tried to figure out how to configure the seating: a circle? Rows? Groups? I was put in charge of the reading. Others entered the fray to take charge of casting, costuming, stage props. No matter how hard we tried to organize the event, something always intruded to disrupt whatever flow was initiated. And someone continued to shout from offstage: “Donnie, you’re out of your element!” When I finally awoke, it was still dark (time change) and I just lay there in the pre-dawn, taking the dream seriously. It rang true. We move through life, attempting to organize the chaos enveloping us. We schedule, we keep appointments, we tend to our biological necessities, and continue to move through the 24-hour cycle, handling whatever approaches us. As I write this, I fear my tone will read as one of panic. It isn’t. In fact, when I was a full-time employee, I never really collapsed under this kind of a schedule; I just accepted it as life. Now, being semi-retired, I do indeed feel that I am living a much fuller, more satisfied life, and wish I could have about 500 more years of it. Life is a gift, and I’m grateful for its abundance, even when the abundance comes as an avalanche of chaos.

The weeks ahead will indeed be stuffed with activity. My plan for teaching a 3-hour beginning watercolor workshop next Saturday in Palestine has morphed into back-to-back workshops, since the twenty we restricted the enrollment for has now grown to thirty (and still counting, perhaps?). I’m delighted and shocked to find such an interest. We will hold the event in the lobby of the Redlands Hotel, just down the hall from our gallery. The first session will be at 10:00, the second at 1:00. The first session has filled, but there is still room in the afternoon session. If you are interested, just contact me (you can text me at 817-821-8702) or respond to this blog. We are expecting an exciting day of activity.

The following week will be even busier as we kick off the 81st annual Dogwood Trails Art & Music Festival in downtown Palestine. Artists will be featured under a large tent on the parking lot across the street from the Redlands Hotel. Friday night from 7-9, a V.I.P. pre-sale event will feature a meeting with the artists. Tickets are $10 as wine & cheese will be served, and a classical guitarist will provide music. Already we have a good number pre-registered to attend.

The next day from 9-4:00 will be the actual festival, the crowds will be enormous, and the artists are hoping for an excellent day of sales. At 1:00, I will hold my first scheduled Gallery Talk in the lobby of The Redlands Hotel. The topic will be “Art in a Small Town” and my presentation will feature nostalgic portrayals of small-town America in art and literature. The lobby has a large flat-screen TV on which I’ll be able to project visuals during the talk. I have been excited over this opportunity for weeks and have enjoyed immensely the experience of putting the presentation together. This will be my first public presentation on art since retiring from all those years teaching art history in the schools. How nice, finally to present something that is not curriculum-driven (restricted)!

I am posting the beginning of a plein air watercolor sketch I started a couple of evenings ago while visiting Amarillo’s Palo Duro Canyon. The afternoon had been spent in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas. For years I had wanted to visit that institution, knowing that Georgia O’Keeffe had taught at West Texas State Normal College and that this museum had at least one of her early paintings in its collection. What I wasn’t prepared for was the amazing holdings the museum has, not only in Texas panhandle history (this is Texas’s largest history museum), but in paintings. I thoroughly enjoyed viewing amazing landscape paintings from Inness, Moran and N. C. Wyeth. And then spent a long time lingering in a gallery filled with the amazing work of Frank Reaugh. Upon leaving the museum, it was only fitting to travel to the canyon and spend some time sketching the horizon as the sun dropped low in the sky.

My past weeks have been devoted mostly to traveling, reading and journaling. I finished Virginia Woolf’s engaging Mrs. Dalloway and am now nearly 200 pages into N. C. Wyeth: A Biography by David Michaelis. I also have four small watercolors in progress that I hope to post on the blog soon.

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Completed Watercolor Sketch

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.