Archive for the ‘sketchbook’ Category

The Promise of the Dawn

April 14, 2017

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Witnessing the Dawn Breaking

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake…by an infinite expectation of the dawn

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The Good Friday school holiday is already a blessing to me. After three weeks of a one-man-show bundled with gathering tax data, filing my tax return, gathering retirement information and filing my papers with the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, I was finally able to leave the city behind yesterday afternoon and sleep last night in my favorite place, that I refer to as Heidegger’s Hut–a restored country store & residence in a remote area of Texas. I crashed at 9:00 last night, totally exhausted, and rose while it was still dark. When the dawn broke, I went out on the porch to sit and listen as the birds sang in worship to Aurora as he lit up the eastern sky.

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By the time it was light enough to record my thoughts in my journal, the upper-fifty degree temperatures proved a little too cool for me since I didn’t think to bring a jacket, so I moved inside the store to my favorite little corner next to the windows. For the past 48 hours, thoughts have been tumbling about in my mind, and now that I have actually filed my retirement papers, an entire new range of emotions are surging through me, and I’m glad I had this space in my calendar to get out of town and enjoy the quiet respite of the country for awhile.

Thanks for reading.

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Thanksgiving Meditations

November 24, 2016

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Why not make a little collection of detached ideas which come to me from time to time completely molded and to which it would thus be difficult to attach others? Is it absolutely demanded that one produce a book, keeping within all the rules? Montaigne writes by fits and starts. Those are the most interesting works. 

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, Tuesday, May 7, 1850

This Thanksgiving holiday has been warm and cozy, and I’m always grateful to come back home and see family again. As the aromas of food cooking filled the house, I relaxed in a chair, reading from the writings of Delacroix, and came across this passage I’m posting.  I was so inspired by it that I laid the book aside, pulled an old doorknob and locking system from my bag and began sketching it in my journal.  My dad, liking what he saw, went out to his shed and returned with a second door knob. I removed mine and inserted his into the box and attempted a second sketch before dinner time. The time was rewarding, and I enjoyed the feeling of putting something like this on paper.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Drawing Trees over the Holidays

November 22, 2016

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Get one form that looks like the tree, rather than little pickings at the branches. Give the tree its gesture. Some trees are heavy, ample and full. In a tree there is a spirit of life, a spirit of growth and a spirit of holding its head up.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Now that the trees are casting their leaves up here in Missouri, I’m pulling out the pencils and sketchbook and trying to capture some of their movement, their essence.  Since I was a child, I stared at bare trees more than leafed-out ones, and I’m really not sure why.  I wasn’t drawing them as a child, and when I became an adult, I foolishly drew and painted trees for years out of my imagination rather than the way I do now–gazing at them, studying them, contemplating each one’s figure and portrait.

Andrew Wyeth for years has fascinated me with his tree studies in pencil and dry brush. More recently, I have purchased a book on Leonardo da Vinci’s tree studies. I could spend he rest of my life learning this craft, I believe.

Thanks for reading.

When the Imagination is Flat, Draw Anyway

January 22, 2016

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Books are for the scholar’s idle times. When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted in other men’s transcripts of their readings. But when the intervals of darkness come, as come they must, — when the sun is hid, and the stars withdraw their shining, — we repair to the lamps which were kindled by their ray, to guide our steps to the East again, where the dawn is.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

This advice from my beloved New England sage I have taken seriously throughout my adult life. As a schoolteacher, at least one idea begins percolating in my consciousness while getting ready to go to work every morning. That way, if the classroom dynamics are flat, I have something going on in my head worth exploring that makes the day better, anyway.

But this morning, of all rare times, nothing came. And as I moved through my classes, it never did come. Now that I am into my Friday night, with a welcoming weekend stretched out before me, I still have no idea to pursue. Following Emerson’s dictate, I now have a stack of quality books at my elbow. But before opening one of the volumes, I was struck by the thought: “Hey! You haven’t drawn or painted today! Do it.” But I didn’t feel like it. I did it anyway, and the drawing is posted above. Things are already looking up, and I am ready to read and relax into the rest of the night now. If nothing happens tonight, I’m confident that I’ll wake up with an Idea tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Quality Hours before the Fire

January 21, 2016

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Texas has been cold, dark and rainy the entire day. Once home from school, I built a nice fire, brewed a pot of coffee and then got under the blankets in front of the fireplace and read with a glad heart. My imagination has been fueled by an article I read today in Culture that popped up on my facebook: “The Death of the Artist–and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur.” I found the article very engaging, as it traced the history of the artist, from artisan to genius to institution to our current digital age of entrepreneurship. Some of it could have been disturbing, but it rang true, and provoked me to think soberly about what I’m attempting to do at this point in my life. After I read the article, I turned to something I had heard about my entire adult life but never once read: Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman.” What a probing, sober-minded piece of work! The rest of the afternoon found me thinking and scribbling in my journal.

I finally went to my drafting table and worked further on something I started between class periods this morning and posted earlier today:

Jan 21I’m still intrigued by the tangle of winter trees, and never seem to tire of their twisted, gaunt anatomy.

Thanks for reading.

When the Day is Jammed . . .

January 21, 2016

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There are times like this day, when the public school schedule is so jammed with details, that one cannot find quality moments even to think, but just react. So . . . I decided to see what I could do during the mindless passing periods between classes (about seven minutes). Even when one has seven minutes here and seven minutes there, opportunities for sanctuary still present themselves. And so I retreat into the start of another drawing, with delight, knowing I could always finish the piece tonight in the studio, or tomorrow night, or . . .

Partial Tree Portrait

December 25, 2015

imageThe sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes–no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

While reading, I glanced up at the view out the window, found myself staring at a tree against the morning sky, and decided, “Well, why not?”  I never feel boredom when I stare into a network of tree branches, trying to discern their basic direction, and capturing it on a page with pencil.  The trees I draw from life are always much, much better than what I draw from out of my own imagination, because the trees are always doing much more than I perceive in my memory.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of looking at them and trying to capture parts of them for the sake of future drawings and watercolors.

Thanks for looking . . .

Drawing of my Drawing

December 8, 2015

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Seated in my classroom after hours, I wanted to draw, but my room has no windows.  So . . . I took out my Sunday drawing of the tree and decided to draw from the drawing.  Unfortunately, the lighting is not good for photography here, but I’m happy with the result of this drawing-of-a-drawing.  At least this will hold me till I can get outdoors again to draw from the real subject.

I will forever be grateful for Youtube!  Listening to Harold Bloom discussing Emerson in an interview gave me great company during this quiet afternoon.

Thanks for reading.

Ringing the Bell for Recess!

March 4, 2015
A Cozy Night in the Studio

A Cozy Night in the Studio

As I ponder’d in silence,

Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,

A Phantom rose before me with distrustful aspect,

Terrible in beauty, age, and power,

The genius of poets of old lands, 

As to me directing like flame its eyes,

With finger pointing to many immortal songs,

And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,

Know’st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards? . . .

Walt Whitman, “As I Ponder’d in Silence”

At 8:50 this evening, the joyful message arrived: “Due to inclement weather, classes tomorrow are cancelled!” I felt like an elementary student when the recess bell rings. Two days ago, I scratched out some time to play with and blog my “Harold and the Purple Crayon” watercolor sketch, and just ached to return to the studio yesterday, but too much school stuff intervened, and next thing I knew, the hour was late and I had to retire to bed. Today was a grueling A. P. Art History stretch of classes. But now, I’m free again, a sailor on a 24-hour pass! A student sprinting toward the swing set!

For a few days, I’ve wanted to begin a series of charcoal sketches of a bust I own of Democritus. He sits peering at me through the darkness, just outside the pallor of my desk lamp late nights and pre-dawn mornings. And as I study, I’m always conscious of his presocratic contribution toward the discussion of what lies at the core of Being. The Greek word archē is difficult to translate with facility. We use it to form words like archaeology, architect, archbishop, etc. It refers to the chief, the source, the head, the first. The presocratic thinkers debated among themselves as to what it was that lay at the headwaters of all that Is.

The Whitman poem has haunted me recently, because he felt the chill from the witnesses of antiquity looking over his shoulder when he struggled to give birth to something sublime through his verses. I also feel that shudder when I’m thinking in solitude, writing in my journal, reading pensively, or leaning over a drafting table trying to carve onto the surface of paper some kind of image in the name of Art.

As temperatures outside slide into the 20’s and snow fills the black night sky, I’m delighed to be inside with coffee, my books and art supplies, the sounds of Mozart’s String Quartets coming from my turntable, and a heart filled with gratitude.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal whenI feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.