Archive for the ‘railroad’ Category

Finding Peace in One’s Work

October 11, 2017

polar express drafting

In the Studio this Evening

There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 2:24 (King James Version)

sunrise

At the University this Morning

There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual–become clairvoyant. We reach then into reality. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I don’t regard myself as naturally ebullient. I used to laugh with a friend when describing myself as a “gloomy guy.” Throughout lengthy stages of my life, I have known rage, negativity, anxiety, depression and self-doubt. And I have regarded myself as one who just couldn’t seem to get it right. Life and emotions turn on a dime. What I’ve experienced today is not guaranteed to extend into tomorrow. But I’ll still take it.

My life did change profoundly since June 3 when I retired after twenty-eight years of full-time public high school teaching alongside thirty-two years of part-time university teaching. Since the beginning of this semester, I have enjoyed a nine-semester-hour load involving one online Logic course and a pair of Introduction to Ethics courses. My Ethics classes are back-to-back Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9-10:50. That’s it. Day-after-day-after-day I have been rising between 5 and 7 a.m., grateful to the core that I’m not dashing off to a high school by 7:00 and expected to stay until 3:15. On my university mornings, I rise at 5:00, go over my lecture notes, read, write in my journal, and often head to the university, arriving by sunrise so I can sit in the Science/Technical building lobby and watch the morning colors move across the commons. By that time I still have over an hour before strolling over to the lecture hall. I took the above picture this morning while enjoying my coffee and looking once more over my lecture notes on Immanuel Kant and his Categorical Imperative.

After a full afternoon of business-related errands, I settled into some online work for my Logic class, grading exams and posting a new assignment. Then I got to enter the studio and push my “Polar Express” themed watercolor a bit further. I’m going slowly on this, because I’m looking at a picture I took of the historic T&P 610 on a sunny morning, and trying to translate it into a night scene. I’m also contemplating a snowy foreground. So many decisions still to make on it.

It doesn’t seem likely that I’ll get to touch this painting any more this week. Tomorrow I meet with some dear friends at the train museum in Frisco, Texas (I’ve never visited it), and then I have to pack and load my gear for this weekend’s art festival in Edom, Texas. The Edom Art Festival is one of my genuine highlights of the year, with a beautiful setting, great fall weather, and enthusiastic patrons. I’m sorry the event only comes round once a year.

I still have to write Friday morning’s lecture to deliver before I leave town for the art festival. Tonight is going to be a late one, but I’m feeling so positive about life in general that I’m compelled to share with you.

Thanks for reading.

I paint out of a sense of wonder.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

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Odyssey of Wonder

October 10, 2017

believe II

Continued early morning work on the train

Strange how adrenalin comes and goes. I had trouble falling asleep last night, yet woke without an alarm at 5:30, wanting only to return to this train I’ve been pushing the past couple of days. As it continues to take shape, my enthusiasm grows. It goes without saying that playing “The Polar Express” on TV while I work in the studio doesn’t diminish my pleasure in this.

Today I shall be travelling to Palestine, Texas, which is unusual for a weekday. Since I have an art festival in Edom, Texas this weekend, I will be unable to work out of The Gallery at Redlands for the second consecutive weekend. I have a number of business items to tend today, so I’m glad to see that city today.

I just placed an order for another 1500 postcards of the image posted below:

Night Train Violet

They should arrive early next week. They also will measure 4 x 6″.

The holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas has always swelled inside my being with the most wholesome and warm sentiments. As the cold front moved into our city overnight (fifty degrees this morning, which is cold by Texas standards), I felt those wonderful sentiments again, and the odyssey of life and wonder ripened to a new day.

Thanks for reading.

I paint out of a sense of wonder.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Believe

October 9, 2017

believe

In progress work on the T&P #610

polar express

Reference photo taken Sept. 23 when the #610 was towed out for public viewing

Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.

Polar Express

Currently, I am awash in an enchanted evening. I ordered the movie “Polar Express” from Amazon and watched it for the first time (mostly listened) while working on the watercolor above in my studio. My friends who lease The Gallery at Redlands planted the idea with me last March to do something to coincide with this Christmas season’s “Polar Express” excursion train that runs between Palestine and Rusk, Texas. Our Gallery at Redlands is in Palestine, and we’ve decided to host a Christmas Railroad exhibit, hoping to encourage Polar Express patrons to visit our gallery and a host of watercolors I’ve been creating since March.

I’m enjoying the challenge of painting the historic #610. The photo I took when it was towed outdoors was taken in the bright morning sun, so I could see the details well, and yet I’m trying to place it in a composition under a night wintry sky, hoping I can pull this off to look natural enough. We’ll see how it develops. Either way, I’m enjoying the work.

Today I received my shipment of 1500 postcards with the image below:

30 finished

I’m preparing to order additional shipments with other images completed recently. Today I also visited the business that produces my limited edition giclee prints. By November, at least six of my recent Palestine locomotive paintings will be available in these limited editions. Tomorrow I’m visiting a frame shop to deliver a stack of paintings to be framed and available for the show. The season is already heating up and I’m beginning to feel the fatigue as well as the exhilaration.

It feels good to be painting again. The college season is getting busier, but not too busy to keep me from making art, one of my chief joys in life.

Thanks for reading.

 

Back to the Special Place Where I Belong

September 16, 2017

redlands sat

Decompression Time

A man, yet by these tears a little boy again . . . cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.

Walt Whitman, “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking”

My body is weary this evening as I linger over some lines from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass–a treasure to me since I discovered him afresh in 1989. These lines arrested my attention tonight, because I feel again the sense of wonder I knew as a child and felt evening time growing quiet around me. Tonight has offered a delicious quiet where I can read, think over the events of the day, and scribble ideas in my journal that could be worth recalling.

I rose early this morning and spent most of the day at First Christian Church in Arlington, Texas, offering outdoor watercolor lessons in their garden area during their annual bazaar and selling my art work out of a booth indoors. It was a beautiful day to be out and among people, and I enjoyed a number of quality conversations from old friends as well as new acquaintances.

booth

My Booth Indoors . . .

plein aire

. . . and my Painting Demo Outdoors

Once the festival ended and my gear was loaded with good help (thank you, Connie!), I rolled south for two hours till I reached my sacred home–The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine’s Historic Redlands Inn. I have been away from here for two weeks, and felt a warm feeling when I turned down Oak street and saw this site ready for my arrival.

inn

My Gallery Home

The City of Palestine has been so welcoming and accommodating to me and my art-lover friends. I never knew I could enjoy the conversations so much from the Inn proprietors, the gift shop employees, the fabulous Red Fire Grille personnel and professionals who keep offices in the suites upstairs–all of them have made me feel like I’ve found a home. It is now Saturday night, and I’m not alone in this office, because the Red Fire Grille has patrons coming in and out, and the proprietors are very gracious in visiting me.

As I’ve written before, the Polar Express begins its holiday season soon in Palestine, and I’m hoping to have plenty of new train-related paintings to display and sell this season. For several months, I’ve been travelling, photographing and sketching historic trains and tonight have them spread out on a bench in the gallery. Patrons coming through have spoken glowingly of them, so I guess I’m doing something right.

train paintings

My Newest Railroad Project in Progress

Darkness has descended outside and the gallery lights are too soft for working on the paintings–I’m too tired anyway. Reading and thinking in the quiet has been most pleasant, and a number of restaurant patrons have come through to look at the work and comment. Good conversations have emerged as well, and that just adds to the quality of the night.

Tomorrow, when the sun comes through the gallery windows, I’ll paint again. I’m ready.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Return to the Watercolor Studio

September 13, 2017

rusk train

Beginning Study of the Texas State Railroad in Rusk, Texas

While considering my composition for the ceiling, which pleases me only since yesterday, thanks to the changes that I made with pastel in the sky, I was saying to myself that a good picture was exactly like a good dish, containing the same ingredients as a bad one: it is all a question of the artist who produces it.  How many magnificent compositions would be nothing without the grain of salt of the great cook!  That power of the indefinable thing is astonishing in Rubens; what his temperament, his vis poetica, adds to a composition, without seeming to change it, is prodigious. It is no other than the turn of the style; the way he does it is everything, the matter he deals with is comparatively unimportant.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, June 8, 1850

I was pleased to find a large quantity of time and space this afternoon and this evening to return to my watercolor studio and begin work on the magnificent excursion train that runs between Palestine and Rusk, Texas, through the piney woods. A couple of weeks ago, I finally was able to board that train, thanks to a generous benefactor who booked me first class (I appreciate you, Ben!). I took dozens of photos during the pleasant four-hour experience, and am delighted now to compose some watercolors of that phenomenon.

Even though my lecture preparations have chewed up most of my time recently, I’ve managed to continue my reading of the Journals of Delacroix, and find myself mesmerized at that artist’s erudition. My feeble abilities in Latin were at least able to translate vis poetica as “poetic genius” or “artistic force.” And I’m always wrestling with that notion of what exactly gives art work its lasting quality. I’ve always believed that skill is necessary, and am grateful that I seem to have been born with a talent for it, and had excellent instructors in high school and college. But that “indefinable thing” mentioned by Delacroix still drives my query.

Throughout my life I have played guitar for the pure joy of it. And I believe in my heart that though I know how to play the guitar, I am not much of a musician. What escapes me is that “touch” that I envy so much with excellent guitar players who know how to coax the sweet strains of music from those strings. In comparison, I always feel that I am “clunky.” Still, that doesn’t stop me from playing my guitar.

In similar fashion, I have looked at art all my life, and am convinced that there are many skilled people that still are not artists, because that “indefinable thing”, or vis poetica, doesn’t appear in their work. I laugh every time I read those portions of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road where Dean Moriarty says that a particular musician has “It.” It is precisely that quality that separates “art” from “art work”. The joy that I feel in the pursuit of art is the quest for that spark, that element that makes the composition become “art.”

Sorry if I seem to be rambling. I haven’t blogged for quite some time, and tonight I’m just happy to be painting again. The start I have on this train is promising, and I’m loving the tight detailing just as much as the splash and dash of the looser parts of it. And as I continue to look into this composition and make decisions, I’ll continually wish for that “indefinable thing” to come to the surface. Every time I attempt a painting, I am hoping for something transcendent to emerge.

I only have a few months left to finish my big project–a series of train paintings to sell as originals, prints and greeting cards through The Gallery at Redlands this Christmas season. I’m happy to find a large project to target, and hope this one works out.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Call of the River

July 7, 2017

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Fly Fishing Big River Earlier this Week

At 2:51 this morning, I decided to rise from my bed with a bruising headache, take some Ibuprofen, and sit up to wait for the pain to subside.  Headaches for me are an extremely rare occurrence, but when they do arrive, there seems to be no dispatching them without medication and a period of time sitting upright.  As I wait, I suppose I’ll attempt this blog.

I have posted above a photo my friend Wayne White took of me during our first attempt at kayaking Big River–a comedy of errors involving my capsizing my own kayak more than once, and Wayne having some difficulty transporting supplies on a separate vessel. At this point, we decided to beach the yaks on a sandbar and spend some time fishing this beautiful stream of water.

The river still calls out to us, and I am supposed to rise at 6:30, in just a few short hours, to join Wayne again for another boating expedition.   Despite my current pain, I am eagerly looking forward to this event, as Wayne is going to take me to a bluff that I tried to render in a watercolor sketch last year from a photo he took and sent to me.  I look forward finally to seeing the bluff with my own eyes.

rock of david

Watercolor Sketch of Big River Bluff

Earlier today, I managed to work further on the Palestine Texas and Pacific #610 that I began a few days ago.  I am getting bogged down in the details of the locomotive and choose not to rush the process, as I still have a number of unanswered questions concerning the actual tones of this complex subject.

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Night Train

Fortunately, my headache has ceased. Time now to return to bed and hopefully get some quality sleep before rising to meet the river again.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Still Working on the Night Train

July 5, 2017

night train

I have had difficulty finding quality time to work on this old iron horse, but found a second wind late this evening, and decided to give it a few more nudges.  Hence I’m posting it for any of my blogging friends who have been interested in watching it take form. My biggest trials at this point are the rendering of all the details on this machine, as well as differentiating between so many shades of gray.

Thanks for reading.

Fourth of July Painting

July 4, 2017

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Family is starting to arrive for our Fourth of July cookout, so I’m posting what I’ve done so far today.  Working on details becomes so tedious that I frequently turn my attention to reading and writing, taking breaks from the watercolor.  The biography on Cezanne is amazing, as I’m reading now of how captivated he was in his scrutiny of inanimate objects.  I have always felt that unusual draw, as inanimate objects hold my attention. Recently, it is all these steam locomotives that I have been photographing in Palestine, Texas and St. Louis, Missouri.  Throughout this day, I have pored over the minute, exacting details of the portrait of this old #610 Texas and Pacific loco of which I’ve already attempted an earlier painting.

I enjoy our all-too-rare family gatherings, and hope that posting this blog will bring a sense of release so that I don’t sit quietly thinking over it while others are trying to visit. I’ve always struggled between the private and social moments of my day-to-day existence.

Thanks for reading and happy Fourth of July!

Independence Day Gratitude

July 4, 2017

4th of July

Before the Zen calligrapher begins his first stroke, he pauses to bring himself into full awareness of what he is doing.  That moment’s pause is crucial to what follows.  Instead of plunging pell-mell into the task at hand, he takes a moment to settle down in order to be at one with what he is about to do.

The Creative Spirit

I enjoyed my early morning reading today, particularly the passage that I posted above. Reading it made me think of the gymnast who pauses before plunging into his/her routine, or the guitarist before stroking the opening strains from the guitar. Having prepared my ground last night for this new watercolor of the old #610 Texas and Pacific locomotive housed in Palestine, Texas, I spent a considerable time of quiet, looking over the composition this morning before making my first move.  Using a toothbrush, I splattered masquing fluid all around the perimeter that I hope will translate into stars or cincders.  After it dried, wishing for a deep blue background that lightens as it approaches the engine, I sprayed the page with a bottle, then mixed a considerable quantity of Antwerp Blue, Winsor Blue (Green Shade) and a touch of Cerulean Blue and then applied these pigments to the moist paper, occasionally spraying it with a small bottle to feather the pigments toward the train.  As it began to firm up, I sprinkled stale bread crumbs all over the area, again hoping that it would look like debris in the steam once I get to putting that into the picture.

Fourth of July finds me with all my family, and the homecoming is always sweet to me. There will be a houseful this evening and several of my family members will be cooking and preparing dishes throughout the day.  I’m in someone else’s kitchen, so I guess I’ll spend the day working on this watercolor and trying to stay out of the cooks’ paths as I pore over this composition.

Thanks for reading, and happy Fourth of July.

 

Retirement Ruminations

June 28, 2017

bonne terre

My fishing buddy Wayne and his grandson preparing to launch

Taine has the admirable ability to teach others today what he did not know himself yesterday.

Goncourt Journal (observation concerning Hippolyte Taine, Professor of Aesthetics at the École des beaux-arts during the time of Paul Cézanne)

I posted above what I just read from Cézanne: A Life, by Alex Danchev, because it reminded me of what I’ve known throughout twenty-eight years standing in classrooms–that I frequently shared information just gleaned from my own studies.  As a teacher, I always had homework.  Today I still shake my head in wonder that I managed to survive, and at the same time recall with gladness that “the truly educated never graduate”–I am a student for life.  Hence, while on vacation, my reading of this engaging Cézanne biography.

I am overflowing with profound gratitude that I have finally retired; I will not return to my high school classroom of twenty-eight years when the fall arrives.  Visiting my parents and siblings in the St. Louis area has brought a delicious sense of leisure. How satisfying it is to do as I choose now, with no scheduled appointments or apologies.

As posted in the last blog, our recent river trip was fraught with difficulties and comedy, and we had to abort two days ago.  Yesterday we made up for it by fishing a public lake in Bonne Terre, Missouri on a seventy-degree day. I posted above the picture of my high school buddy Wayne preparing to launch with his grandson.  I chose this time to stay on the shore and keep dry.

sunfish

Fly fishing produced a few of these . . .

channel cat

. . . and bait fishing later produced one of these.

The day blossomed into a beautiful one, with long hours stretched out on the grass under the shade of large trees at lakeside, and frequent laughter as we shared reminiscences of high school foibles.  Soon, I will reunite with Wayne and Mark for another river adventure, hoping to post more success on that one than the trip we just attempted.

palestine loco

I didn’t rush this 8 x 10″ watercolor of one of the Palestine, Texas locomotives I photographed during a recent visit.  I have embarked on a large-scale Christmas holiday project involving watercolors of train subjects and have been gathering material for this over the past several months.  Now that I have officially retired from my full time job, I anticipate more focused work on this project.

I started this watercolor a few days ago, and have chipped away at it in a leisurely fashion. Though it is now signed, I am looking at it and feeling it needs some more fine tuning.  I seem to have trouble letting a watercolor go. The most challenging part of this composition was the shadow side of the locomotive.  I would normally just cover it in dark washes, but as I studied the photograph I took, I was intrigued with all the reflected light on the metal surface, and wanted to capture those geometric shapes of subtle colors as best as I could. I’m not sure if I’ve been successful on this venture, but I’m convinced that I’ll take shadows more seriously in future watercolor attempts. I think I’ve found new territory in this regard.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.