Archive for the ‘plein air’ Category

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.

Snowbound!

March 3, 2019

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High Ridge, Missouri

For Convers, looking back was the authentic experience; nostalgia made people and places real. . . . According to Wyeth idiom, nostalgia was another word for “home feeling.”

David Michaelis, N. C. Wyeth: A Biography

N. C. Wyeth got it right when he defined the word “nostalgia”. The word is Greek, and occurs repeatedly in Homer’s “Odyssey”. It refers to the desire of Ulysses to return to the home he missed so sorely after all those years away. I experience those feelings frequently, and managed to land in the town of my boyhood just before the snowstorm hit. Having gone two successive Texas winters without a sign of snow, I am delighted always to land somewhere during the winter season to see this kind of landscape. My recent Thanksgiving and Christmas trips to St. Louis occurred between snowstorms, and I saw none of it.

I am re-posting my recent painting of the Catholic church near my gallery in Palestine. Yesterday’s photo was taken in the evening under incandescent light, and I don’t like the dirty yellow cast the lighting creates. I placed the painting out in the snow this morning, and got much purer light on the surface to take this photo:

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Palestine, Texas

I would like to say that I am painting en plein air, because I now have two snowscapes in progress, looking out the patio window into the back yard and across my sister’s neighborhood. But I am inside, protected from the 25-degree Missouri temperatures. Nevertheless, though protected from the weather, I am looking at the live landscape instead of a photo enlarged on my laptop. And as I paint, I recall some of the words from Whittier’s “Snow-Bound” poem that I have enjoyed throughout my years. Back home, I own a nineteenth-century volume of Whittier’s verses, including this one. I have to be careful opening that volume, not wishing to break the spine or the brittle pages:

Clasp, Angel of the backword look 
      And folded wings of ashen gray 
      And voice of echoes far away, 
The brazen covers of thy book; 
The weird palimpsest old and vast, 
Wherein thou hid’st the spectral past; 
Where, closely mingling, pale and glow 
The characters of joy and woe; 
The monographs of outlived years, 
Or smile-illumed or dim with tears, 
      Green hills of life that slope to death, 
And haunts of home, whose vistaed trees 
Shade off to mournful cypresses 
      With the white amaranths underneath. 
Even while I look, I can but heed 
      The restless sands’ incessant fall, 
Importunate hours that hours succeed, 
Each clamorous with its own sharp need, 
      And duty keeping pace with all. 
Shut down and clasp with heavy lids; 
I hear again the voice that bids 
The dreamer leave his dream midway 
For larger hopes and graver fears: 
Life greatens in these later years, 
The century’s aloe flowers to-day! 
John Greenleaf Whittier, “Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyll”
Thanks for reading.
I paint in order to discover.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Quiet

November 10, 2018

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And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward, But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to our Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward. you.

Gospel of Matthew 6: 5-6

You think Gottlieb isn’t religious, Hinkley. Why, his just being in a lab is a prayer.

Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith

Beaver’s Bend State Park is overrun this weekend with a Folk Festival. Fortunately, we reserved a cabin months ago outside the park, so we’re surrounded with space and quiet. I’ve been reading almost daily from the Sermon on the Mount, and this morning was struck by the passage posted above. My conception of prayerfulness is not the one I held in my earlier church attendance days. Rather, I feel it is a state of mind that I know when I am alone reading or making art. When I read the statement above about hypocrisy and praying in public, I felt like I had been called out for my blogging preferences. I spend mornings in quiet devotion, reading books, making art, writing in a journal, and then post pictures of my morning, and now wonder if I am praying on street corners. I am just trying to let others in on my practices that mean a great deal to me. And I am trying to encourage anyone who is going through a low moment in life to consider retreating into solitude with good books, good thoughts and good views.

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It is 38 degrees outside and I continually bundle up to spend some moments at the easel–then dash back inside to coffee and  books and journal and warm conversations with friends.

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The painting isn’t turning out the way I intended. But as I’ve said before, I am absolutely thrilled to the core while painting, even if I don’t like the result. Making art takes me to another world and contributes to what I feel is a prayerful life. I enjoyed reading Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith, especially when the young medical student held up Professor Gottlieb as an example of a pious man, though religiously unaffiliated. The professor’s activity in the lab seemed an act of religious devotion. This is how I feel when I engage in the arts.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Retreat

November 8, 2018

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Deep sigh . . . I have arrived.

I am not complaining about the level of industry I’ve sustained over the past months–truly, I love what I do, and am glad to be semi-retired so I have time to do it. But I have only so much physical energy, and know what it means to need a rest. And I need a rest. The Darrs, whom I love deeply, included me in their plans for this escape months ago, and the timing could not be better. I drove three-and-a-half hours today to get to this location, and it has been four years since my last stay here, but I believe it will be more than worth the wait.

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Four Years Ago

Tomorrow, I’ll find out if the fishing is still as good as it was then.  In that day, my fly rod got a workout as I fished a beautiful stretch of trout waters beneath a towering bluff. And today, while making the journey here,  I was ecstatic to see the fall colors peaking in this territory. In fact, I was so excited at the fall foliage that I dialed up Hobby Lobby on GPS and discovered there was one three miles ahead, just off the Interstate. I dashed in and scored a couple of full sheets of watercolor paper and a handful of stretchers. So I’m all set for plein air.

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.

 

Sunnier Monday

October 8, 2018

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Moment of Quiet with my Dad

 

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

Psalm 1:3

Dad will turn ninety in November. The briefest thing I could write of him is this: he reveals no signs of a Winter of Discontent. For as long as I have known him, I have perceived a rock of silence. A Korean War combat veteran, he returned to the farm in southeast Missouri with dreams of starting a family and moving to St. Louis in search of a more prosperous life. Tenant farming wasn’t getting that done. Quickly he achieved the rank of certified General Motors technician and spent his labor years working in large St. Louis and suburban auto dealerships as head mechanic, doing his work quickly, quietly and efficiently. As a family man, he was always there for us, and always quiet about it. Retiring before sixty, he has managed to do what pleases him, and has never shown outwardly the stress that often rocked the family around him.

This has been a frantic weekend for many. I have already logged more than seventeen hours of driving, much of it through long nights, to reach a remote location where my niece was just married. I would say that this wedding was calmer than most I have attended, including family occasions where everything swirled and nearly everyone imagined all the things that could go wrong. And this wedding was successful, but not without its jitters. Dad, of course, was never pulled beneath those waves (I know, men usually don’t have much of a stake in all the planning and execution; we usually are good only for toting things in and out of car trunks, across parking lots, and in and out of hotels). And then we sit.

All this to say–one of the many highlights of the weekend was this moment sitting with Dad as he quietly drank in the beauty of the fall colors emerging all around. Dad is of Cherokee descent, always stoic, but also keenly aware of natural beauty, and can spend hours in silence sitting in the midst of it. Twice we walked down to the river and bluffs, surveyed the surroundings, and said little. And that was sublime.

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Despite long highway hours, I have managed to get in a couple of small watercolors executed en plein air. I have found quiet time for reading, and have been given some quiet nights for quality sleep. I suppose I am rested enough to take the long road back home. I have college classes waiting, and a big art festival coming up next weekend. It’s time to get back to work, but wow, how nice to have some quiet weekend moments with a quiet dad.

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.

Rainy Day Blog

October 7, 2018

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Saturday Plein Air Attempt along a River

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Saturday Second Plein Air Attempt at the Edge of a Forest

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.

The Gospel of Matthew 4:16

This Sunday has brought an afternoon of heavy thunderstorms and dark weather, so plein air painting is out for the day, it appears. In the quiet of the indoors, I have enjoyed some quiet reading and translating from my Greek New Testament, especially taking apart the passage posted above.

I choose not to comment on the cultural climate of my country, except to say that the times are exceedingly dark for us as a civilization. And I choose to draw solace from the words posted above, but not from many of the churches with their leaders who claim to represent this word. Rather, I believe that one needs to reach inside for the faith needed to receive the light of truth.

Immanuel Kant, in his pivotal essay “Was Ist Aufklärung” (What is Enlightenment), addressed Europe in 1784 near the close of the Age of Enlightenment with these surprising words:

When we ask, Are we now living in an enlightened age? the answer is, No, but we live in an age of enlightenment. 

I believe those words still ring true for our present age. With our advances in technology and communication, we have more advantages than we have ever known in previous eras, thus we are in an age of enlightenment. Yet, there is still so much Stupid thriving across the land. The Dark Ages. Thus, we are not living in an enlightened age. Yesterday, while painting, these thoughts lingered in my consciousness as I looked at natural beauty while at the same time wondering over cultural ugliness.

Still, light is always possible, and it is the nature of light to invade, to drive back darkness. And my faith will continue to reside there.

The light shines in darkness, and the darkness does not comprehend it.

The Gospel of John 1:5

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 with Dave & Friends

September 11, 2018

friends

Early Morning Solitude

. . . I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Yesterday afternoon, I found a break amidst all my grading and college prep work, and returned to the studio, finishing a commission that I’ve already posted several times, and then began re-working this plein air sketch I began in west Texas a couple of weeks ago. Sitting on the back bumper of my Jeep, I looked across the barren landscape and painted this amazing horizon, then quickly sketched in the railroad embankment below, but never painted the line itself or the gravel banks. Today, I tried to enrich some of the colors and shadows of the trees and horizon, began work on the railroad embankment, and then determined where the 8 x 10″ boundary should lie. Tomorrow I plan to return to the studio after my morning class, and will take a fresh look at this to see if it requires any more attention. It felt lovely to pick up the brush again.

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Return to the Studio

My early morning reading today began in The Gospel of Mark where I had in a previous blog remarked on the Parable of the Sower. In the same chapter is a brief discourse on growth that I was thinking about yesterday while painting that small watercolor. As I painted, I thought about my past, and the number of silent years required to grow in artistic ability, sensitivity, and intellectual matters. When I was college-age, I envied professors of fifty years and older, because they seemed so well “seasoned” in their thinking and in their art work. When talking with them in earnest, they would usually smile and say something like, “Be patient, stay with it, results will come in time.” It took decades for that to sink in. In fact, it wasn’t until my last few years of teaching that I heard myself mouthing those same words of advice to impatient high school and college students. Yes! Deeper, more mature matters require extensive time to compost, to develop, to flower, to bring to harvest. There is no royal road, no short cut to Quality.

The amusing part of this morning’s reading is that it began with one book, the Bible. Within thirty minutes, all these other volumes were sought, opened, read, notated, and now I am attempting to describe this refreshing morning on the blog. The cumulative moments that go from one book to half a dozen books remind me of earlier days, either composing sermons for the pulpit or writing papers during my Ph.D. seminar years. And I love it! I love the pursuit, the process, following the thread, seeing where the idea is going to lead. The reading and thinking themselves are an Odyssey. Recently I was reading about sowing seed, and now the idea comes up again, from The Gospel of Mark, 4:26-29:

. . . as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of itself: first the blade, then the ear, after that the full grain in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

The above I have posted from the King James Version. This morning I read the same passage from my Geneva Bible which preceded King James by about fifty years. I enjoy struggling with the English of this era:

Alfo he faid, So is the kingdome of God, as if a man fhulde caft fede in the grounde,

And fhulde flepe, and rife vp night and day, and the fede fhulde fpring and grow vp, he not knowing how,

For the eaerth bringeth forthe frute of her felf, firft the blade, then the eares, after that ful corne in the eares.

And affone as the frute fheweth it felf, anone he putteth in the fickel, becaufe the harueft is come.

After years and years of effort in education and the making of art, I am delighted to bring some of this to harvest. The classes at the college make me feel warm inside, because finally I am pouring out matters of the heart that have taken me most of my life to grow and water and now disperse. And as for the arts, I am so blessed that three galleries have welcomed my work and finally I have enough art festivals and shows annually where I can send out my creations.

Years ago, a gentleman was in my home, and seeing the size of my personal library, he made the observation: “It doesn’t seem fair that you have hoarded all these books and put them inside a private residence. They should be ‘out there’ for others to enjoy.” I thought that was an odd assessment, and still do. I thought my response made sense, that those books were what grew me intellectually, and being a teacher, I was daily going into the classroom and attempting to pour their wealth into the minds of students. I still think of his words, and my response, which seemed to be met with indifference. But, there it is. Throughout the decades I have loved studying, thinking, writing and attempting to put the best of my ideas out there for others to read. And so also with my art–I have created a large inventory of work, but it is in the galleries and festivals, not hoarded inside my home like a private collection. And then, this blog–I write daily because I have to; it is in me. And my hope remains that whatever ideas I share will play a part in making this world better than it was the way I found it. I hope that the footprint I leave is one that can point the way for others.

And so, I close with these words from my beloved muse, Paul Tillich:

The most intimate motions within the depths of our souls are not completely our own. for they belong also to our friends, to mankind, to the universe, and to the Ground of all being, the aim of our life. Nothing can be hidden ultimately. It is always reflected in the mirror in which nothing can be concealed.

Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations

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 with Dave & Ezra

August 31, 2018

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Relaxing in a Coffee Shop with Ezra Pound’s Literary Essays

There has been so much scribbling about a new fashion in poetry, that I may perhaps be pardoned this brief recapitulation and retrospect.

In the spring or early summer  of 1912, ‘H. D.’, Richard Aldington and myself decided that we were agreed upon the three principles following:

  1. Direct treatment of the ‘thing’ whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

. . .

It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works. 

. . .

To begin with, consider the three propositions (demanding direct treatment, economy of words, and the sequence of the musical phrase), not as dogma–never consider anything as dogma–but as the result of long contemplation, which, even if it is some one else’s contemplation, may be worth consideration.

Ezra Pound, “A Retrospect”, in Pavannes and Divisons, 1918

I have returned to Ezra Pound because of recent reading of Hemingway and poems by William Carlos Williams. When I taught English long ago, I learned that Imagism was a popular movement in literature that has been associated with these writers and others. Williams was famous for saying “No ideas but in things.”

At any rate, while on a road trip yesterday that lasted for hours, I enjoyed what I refer to as “windshield time”–allowing thoughts to drift through my mind while watching the landscape drift by. I thought of Hemingway’s early writings from Paris (I referenced this in my last blog) when he settled on the notion of beginning with one true, direct sentence, and building from there. I then recalled that Pound laid down the three principles I’ve just posted above, about the necessity of addressing something directly, with as few words as possible, and following a musical phrase rather than a metronome. As I drove, I thought about the possibility of applying this literary theory to visual art. Why not give it a try?

At one point, I saw a high rocky mesa along the highway, and on impulse, did what I frequently dream of doing–pulling the Jeep over, getting out my art supplies, and attempting to paint/sketch the landscape en plein air. I decided to address the same principles I recalled from Pound’s theory of Imagism in writing–approach the subject directly as observed, use as few strokes of the brush as I can get away with, and not follow pre-set rules of sequence.

Setting up the easel, I decided to render the mesa first, with quick broad strokes of neutral color, then move to a foreground tree later, and finally lay in the sky (I have had so many “arguments” with other artists who insist that a legitimate landscape always begins with the sky). As I worked quickly (spent only about 30 minutes in the 97-degree heat), I recalled these principles of Ezra Pound, and smiled to think I was applying his literary criticism to plein air painting.

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Pleasures of a Road Trip–Stopping on Impulse to Paint

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Morning Coffee with Dave & Paul Cezanne

August 22, 2018

cezanne

Within the painter, there are two things: the eye and the mind; they must serve each other. The artist must work at developing them mutually: the eye for the vision of nature and the mind for the logic of organized sensations, which provide the means of expression.

Paul Cezanne, quoted in Emile Bernard in “Cezanne’s Opinions,” 1904

Throughout my life, Cezanne’s work washed over my consciousness in successive waves. I was introduced to his work while taking art history as a senior in high school, and recall those days of fixation on one of his Card Players paintings:

cezanne card players

Continuing my study of art history into the college years, I became more aware of his still life arrangements.

cezanne still life

But while teaching the Humanities in my early years as a teacher at Lamar High School, I twice visited the Barnes Foundation while it was traveling, first to the National Gallery in Washington D.C., and later to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. It was during that exhibition that I was smitten for the first time by the work of Cezanne, notably because of this piece:

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I was smitten because the oil colors were so rich that the painting, ninety years later, still appeared wet. I also was amazed because I recognized some kind of Arcadian presentation, unlike the natural plein air landscapes or studio nudes of the Impressionist painters of his company. I then wondered what exactly was going on in Cezanne’s imagination to frame such a presentation.

Throughout the nearly three decades of teaching art history in high school, I never gave Cezanne the attention he deserved. I was honest with my class, explaining that he had many theories going on throughout his life, and I never quite understood them, aside from the popular explanations of his attempting to find a relationship between form and color. I believe in that regard I was more honest and direct than Hemingway was in his early Paris years as an emerging writer:

. . . I could walk through the gardens and then go to the Musee du Luxembourg where the great paintings were that have now mostly been transferred to the Louvre and the Jeu de Paume. I went there nearly every day for the Cezannes and to see the Manets and the Monets and the other Impressionists that I had first come to know about in the Art Institute at Chicago. I was learning something from the painting of Cezanne that made writing simple true sentences far from enough to make the stories have the dimensions that I was trying to put in them. I was learning very much from him but I was not articulate enough to explain it to anyone. 

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I have laughed so many times over that passage! I scribbled in the margin of my book: “and you STILL are not articulate enough to explain it!” As for my teaching, I didn’t try to explain what I did not comprehend about Cezanne’s theories. And I will not attempt that this morning. Rather, I just want to share what his work and ideas have come to mean to me in my own pursuits.

Since retiring, I have taken up a number of famous artists in my leisure, grateful for the time and space now provided me to read quietly, reflectively, and not have to scurry about writing lectures and meeting three classes every day. I have taken up Motherwell, Rothko, Newman and Cezanne in these past two years, and poured countless hours into reading their interviews, biographies, criticisms, and poring over their images. Other artists will follow, I am sure, but I chose these particular individuals because they were serious, independent thinkers, not just skilled painters. And the Cezanne quote that opens this blog this morning has arrested my attention. As an artist, I have tried in recent years to focus my mind as well as my eye on the task of painting in watercolor. In studying the works of great artists, I have always been enamored with their talents, but their serious thoughts and constructions of theories have been just as fascinating to me.

While discussing three different ways of studying history in his Untimely Meditations, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche expounded his preference for the “monumentalistic” approach which concentrated on past heroes in order to confront contemporary mediocrity with the possibility of greatness. That has been my practice since finishing graduate school, to fasten my attention on great figures of the past in order to better myself. I like that the graduation exercises are called “Commencement” because I truly believe that a person’s real education commences once s/he crosses the threshold of the stage, diploma or degree in hand. And since my commencement, I have continually sought out the words of visionaries, all the time feeling that I was climbing the mount and approaching the temple to consult the Oracle.

Late in life, after his first one-man show, in 1895, at the age of fifty-six, things began to change. Awestruck young artists would make their way to Aix, as if on a pilgrimage, to seek him out and hear him speak–and if they were very lucky, see him paint. As accounts of these meetings began to leak out, so the word spread. The sayings of Cezanne circulated like the fragments of Heraclitus.

Alex Danchev, Cezanne: A Life

It was not until I read this biography this summer that I learned Cezanne was a serious scholar, rising at 4:00 a.m. and entering his studio by 5:00 to read for at least two hours before going out to paint. He was classically trained, and loved translating Greek and Latin texts. I was fascinated to read of his fixation on Virgil and Horace, and his ability to quote them in their original tongues, from memory. As a lover of Greek, I had always hoped that my hours spent translating would in some way feed my artistic eye as well. Now, I receive encouragement to continue from Cezanne.

During my senior years, not only have I fastened my attention on the words of famous artists, seeking some kind of Oracle to direct my own efforts, but I have also returned to nature to look at it with fresh eyes in an attempt to come up with a theory or method to capture what I see and place it on paper. I was delighted to read Cezanne’s encouragement to study the masters but always give priority to nature:

The Louvre is the book in which we learn to read. We should not, however, content ourselves with retaining the beautiful formulas of our illustrious predecessors. Let’s take leave of them to study beautiful nature, let’s undertake to disengage our minds from them, let’s seek to express ourselves in accordance with our personal temperaments. Time and reflection, moreover, modify vision little by little, and finally comprehension comes to us.

Paul Cezanne, letter to Emile Bernard, 1905

As he discussed his pilgrimage to Cezanne’s hometown of Aix-en-Provence and his trek to Mont Sainte Victoire, Martin Heidegger remarked: “These days in Cezanne’s home country are worth more than a whole library of philosophy books. If only one could think as directly as Cezanne painted.” While traveling to New Mexico and Colorado this summer, I managed to finish the book Cezanne: A Life, by Alex Danchev. And it was Cezanne’s influence that moved me to spend an entire day on the cabin deck in South Fork, Colorado and do nothing but study and experiment with watercolor, rendering the evergreen trees that were bathed in that splendid Rocky Mountain atmosphere.

I painted “on the motif” (Cezanne’s favorite expression about painting en plein air). And as I gazed at the evergreens in the changing light and intermittently fed the birds and chipmunks that gathered on my deck, I eventually developed some experimental steps to painting trees as I had never tried before in watercolor. Below is the page of my journal that I scribbled on August 5 at 2:34 p.m.:

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s painting 6

s painting 4

s painting 1

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Because Cezanne was absorbed with blue pigments in his rendering of atmosphere, I experimented with blues that I had not used with much frequency before: Winsor Blue (Green Shade), Winsor Blue (Red Shade), Indanthrene Blue, Cobalt Blue, Phthalo Turquoise, Prussian Blue, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Antwerp Blue and Payne’s Gray. Previously, I had only worked with blue in my skies, and a little with color mixing. But I had never worked so much with blues in and around my green palette. I was truly in a different zone, and now that I have returned to Texas, am looking forward to experimenting further with this.

I just finished my first day in Logic class, and so marks the transition into my university duties. I have three courses this semester, but two are online, so I won’t have to invest as much in travel time and lecture writing. I believe focusing on logic will be a good thing, as I work to organize my mind as well as my eye and continue in this artistic enterprise. Reading always thrills me, but so does picking up the brush.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with Dave & Paul

August 19, 2018

Sunday Tillich

Reading from Tillich after Attending Mass

I am not a Catholic, but attending mass is something I do on occasion. The Sacred Heart Catholic Church is directly across the street from The Gallery at Redlands. I have painted it twice, and for over a year have felt serene every time I hear the church bells tolling the hours. John Donne’s “Meditation XVII” keeps coming back to me.

Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Palestine, Texas

Among the books I packed for the weekend in Palestine was volume one of Paul Tillich’s Systematic Theology. I read this in its entirety over ten years ago (T. S. Eliot read it twice while crossing the Atlantic, and sent Tillich a “thank you” letter for the contribution). I still return to it frequently to re-read portions I have underlined and notes jotted in the margins. Among my favorite passages is the following:

Theology moves back and forth between two poles, the eternal truth of its foundation and the temporal situation in which the eternal truth must be received. Not many theological systems have been able to balance these two demands perfectly. Most of them either sacrifice elements of the truth or are not able to speak to the situation.

I will have to agree with Tillich on this point. The theologian Karl Barth struggled to bring together the current newspaper on one side of his pulpit and the New Testament on the other. That was 1914. Today I feel is no different. I love to read the New Testament, and am grateful that I was provided an education enabling me to read its Greek text. During mass this morning I attempted to read from my Latin Vulgate. I regret that Latin was never available to me, and though I work in the grammars, I have not paid the price in learning to translate it effectively. But still, I enjoy reading the text and learning what I can from it.

But the current news, well, I won’t waste time addressing that. In this country, I feel that religious leaders with the biggest megaphone are the least effective, or relevant, in bridging the message of the New Testament to bear on these times. And our nation certainly lacks courageous prophets of the ancient Hebrew heritage who withstood rulers clearly on the wrong side of the truth. Still, I search for meaning and coherence in this life we live these days.

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Sunday Morning in the Gallery at Redlands

The weekend spent in the gallery was refreshing to me, to say the least. I left here fifty days ago to travel, and I so loved my odyssey. But it was a thrill, feeling that I had a home where I could return. And the people of Palestine certainly made me feel welcome. On Saturday, a high school friend came down from Paris, Texas to visit, and I had not seen her since she graduated college and packed her car for Houston to accept her first teaching position. That must have been around 1976. So, we had much catching up to do.

And then Sunday, a dear friend that I met through this hotel a year ago came by for an afternoon visit. We hadn’t seen each other in about three months, so we also had catching up to do. What a homecoming this has been.

Sunday cloudcroft

(Sorry about the Reflection!) My Plein Air Watercolor from Cloudcroft

Sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck, I began this 8 x 10″ watercolor on the edge of the town of Cloudcroft, New Mexico several months ago. I decided to frame it for the gallery and brought it down to add to the collection this weekend. We are offering it for $200 in its 11 x 14″ frame.

Sunday box

(Ugh! Reflections!) Box Canyon at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

One of my most thrilling mornings at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico was hiking back into Box Canyon, and pausing beside a stream to set up an easel in the shade and attempt this 8 x 10″ plein air watercolor of this magnificent bluff towering above me and the trees. I am still fascinated at the colors and textures and striations of massive cliffs, and am struggling to find the right color combinations for rendering them. I’ll continue to study this matter. This watercolor as well, in its 11 x 14″ frame, is offered at $200.

Today is the first day of the semester at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth. I have two online classes ready for viewing. Tomorrow will be my first time in the classroom. Time to hit the books!

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.