Archive for the ‘St. Louis’ Category

River Serenity with a Friend

August 13, 2019

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Wayne White Fishing Big River

The Child is father of the Man;

And I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth, “My Heart Leaps Up”

College classes begin for me next week, and as summer winds down, I exalt in the wonders of this year’s experiences. Memories are still awash with the wonders of the Grand Canyon and the Red Rocks of Sedona. “Standin’ on the Corner of Winslow, Arizona” was also a fun moment as were the trips down memory lane, compliments of historic Route 66 across Arizona and New Mexico.

I am currently taking the opportunity of visiting my parents and siblings in the St. Louis vicinity, and spending some quality fishing time with my friend since second grade, Wayne White. Rising early, we met yesterday before daylight in Desloge, Missouri and drove to Bootleg Access in Washington County. Wayne has been an enthusiast of fishing and kayaking Missouri’s Big River, and his experience over the years has really paid off when we’ve fished together. This time would be no different.

Big River was low and the water was clear as crystal. Looking over the easy flowing stream, I was reminded of my youth spent fishing Indian Creek in southeast Missouri long, long ago. As a fly fisherman, I love working gravel-bottomed streams. Not one time throughout the day was I required to clean weeds or algae off my fly as I fished. By the time we worked Big River at Bootleg and Leadwood accesses, followed by the lake at Bonne Terre city park, we had landed nearly sixty fish. The day couldn’t have been more pleasurable.

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Sunfish Caught on Woolly Bugger

My childhood memories were revived by the sight of many sunfish landed. I don’t see this species in the Texas waters I fish. I’ll never cease to be stunned at the brilliance of these colors. Several other varieties of bluegill, perch and warmouth were landed as well. My usual practice is to use nearly every fly pattern in my box, but I only used two throughout this entire day. A green sparkling woolly bugger landed all the perch, bluegill, warmouth and sunfish, as well as a pair of smallmouth bass.

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Smallmouth Bass Caught on Woolly Bugger

Bootleg Access featured shallow waters for easy wading, and the panfish varieties were abundant in the swift current shallows. Moving on to Leadwood Access, we found deeper holes, longer channels and a different sort of excitement. I stalked a pair of smallmouth bass as I worked one of the channels and watched with delight as I cast my woolly bugger a few feet in front and watched each fish dart up and take it. The five-weight fly rod strained under the strength that these feisty fish exerted as they streaked downstream, forcing me to pull them in against the current.

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Largemouth Bass Caught on Clouser Minnow

The real fun began when I found a long swift shallow run with an undercut bank on one side and fallen trees on the other. The water was sparkling with the flash of the silver sides of hundreds of minnows pointed upstream. I cut off my woolly bugger and tied on a clouser minnow colored like a bass fingerling. Tossing it downstream, I stripped the line, jerking the minnow in quick spirts against the current. The water exploded continually as five largemouth bass inhaled the minnow. The fifth bass taken came by surprise–I had to stoop under an overarching tree as I waded downstream, and chose to drift the minnow in the water beside me as I walked rather than reel it in. When I cleared the stream and lifted the rod to pull up my line, bass #5 was on!

We wrapped up our day with a visit to the city park in Bonne Terre. It was late afternoon and the heat was blazing. Finding a bench beneath a large shade tree, we sat there with rod & reels in hand, laughing at ourselves–a pair of old, tired, crotchety men fishing with live bait. And the fish continued to rise. We bagged an additional ten-to-twenty as we sat enjoying the shade.

We have decided to try our luck a second time, later in the week. Already I am anticipating with gladness this precious time with a friend who loves to fish, loves the writings of Emerson and Thoreau, loves to blog, and loves to laugh. I thoroughly enjoy our conversations when we are out exploring the beauty of our natural world. The river calls out to us, and we must answer.

Thanks for reading.

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Post-Holiday Greetings from St. Louis

December 27, 2018

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Left Bank Books with Bronze of William S. Burroughs

I wanted to wish all my blog readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The holiday season came up on me fast this year as there was so much to do up till the last minute. I managed to squeeze in a visit with my parents and siblings in St. Louis and all of it was joyful. Included among our favorite activities were visits to the local book stores and a cruise of the neighborhoods to look at the lights and decorations. I could not resist a couple of photos of one of the neighborhood contributions that manages to grow a few more characters each Christmas.

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Over-Abundance of High Ridge Christmas Yard Art

We missed the White Christmas we knew from last year, so I decided to post a couple of photos and watercolors that I made last year while in St. Louis.  I’m happy that both paintings sold, so now I’m making plans to replace them with new snowscapes.

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Last Year’s St. Louis White Christmas

SNOWY CEDARS

St. Louis Christmas 2017

Christmas along the River

St. Louis Christmas 2017

A Pair of St. Louis Christmas Paintinngs from Last Year

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.

Thanksgiving Gladness

November 22, 2018

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A New Kerouac Collage

Kerouac saw On the Road as a story of America, and the split in his own character–between his wanderlust and his desire to “work and make your life” . . .

John Leland, Why Kerouac Matters

The highway rolled out as an endless manuscript and the American landscape punctuated it with chapters and illustrations. For days now, I have found delight filling my journal with observations from roadside parks, truck stops, cafes and gas stations. All of this came together in collage fashion in my mind’s eye, and the ideas of William Burroughs and his “cut-ups” were refreshed. All of us cut up the world differently with our visions and our thoughts.

Thanksgiving offers a warm, welcome embrace after countless hours and days on the road in recent weeks. I have enjoyed my lifestyle, balancing college responsibilities with gallery, studio work and personal life. But I never dreamed of rolling out so much time on the road. One of the better results of this has been a return to the writings and life story of Jack Kerouac, and a fresh look at the work of the other Beat writers. The romance of the American highway and landscape has remained with me throughout my life, but not until this past year have I had opportunity to experience it fully.

From time to time, I have reached into my bag of scraps to explore collage techniques. Recently, it has been difficult doing plein air watercolor on the road, and the temperatures have been quite frigid as well. Collage-making has been a nice change of pace for me.

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My Messy Work Area

I am enjoying a second read of Why Kerouac Matters, particularly the dualism of his character, as he vacillated between his road odysseys and the desire to build something permanent with his life. I have known that tension for years, but am living more contently with it in recent days. I am old enough to know that I cannot accomplish all I wish to accomplish. Perhaps coming to terms with that reality has made things better for me. At any rate, I am enjoying the serenity now of the holidays, and am spending much of this leisure time playing solitaire at the kitchen table. I occasionally lay aside the deck of cards to read another chapter from my book, or scribble out a few more pages in my journal, or build another collage, or chip away at this evolving blog entry.

Thanks for reading. I wish you the happiest of Thanksgiving.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

A Soothing Christmas Respite

December 27, 2017

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Watercolor Sketch along the Meramec River

Christmas 2017 in St. Louis was blessed with fresh-fallen snow, and I could not stop staring at it out of windows, and even spent time walking in it and taking pictures with my phone. Over the past few days I have been looking at the pictures uploaded to my laptop and finally dashed out this 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch of what I saw during a stroll along the Meramec River in Fenton, Missouri.

Thanks for looking.

Another Limited Edition for the Weekend Show

March 30, 2017

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Christmas at Spencer’s Grill

And finally, I’m bringing this limited edition back out for the weekend show at The Gallery at Redlands, 400 N. Queen St., Palestine, Texas.  It is priced at $80.

Spencer’s Grill is located on Kirkwood Road (old Route 66) in St. Louis, Missouri. The business has been there since 1947, and the colorful billboard that advertised the place caught my eye since the days I was too young yet to read. Nearly every time I visit my family in St. Louis, I go to this establishment for an old-fashioned breakfast, seated at a counter stool, feeling that I have entered Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks. I guess I will always be a painter of memories.

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Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Day Tripp in St. Louis

March 16, 2017

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A brilliant sun punctuated the 27-degree morning as my family piled into a passenger van and motored into south St. Louis.  The interior of the van was flooded with conversation punctuated by AM talk radio. Surrounded by my father, sister, brother and niece, I nestled into a “Day Tripp” dedicated to exploring St.Louis landmarks we always knew existed but never really “saw”. I also wanted to re-visit some areas where I lived but was too young to remember with full detail. The AM talk radio was eventually replaced with Son House as we entered the neighbohoods of south St. Louis, and the bottleneck blues served as a perfect soundtrack for what we viewed.

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Watson Road @ Hampton Avenue

The first stop was the apartment building where I lived from the age of 16 months to three years.  The two windows at the top right were kitchen windows, and the two left were bedroom ones, where Mom and I would sit on the bed and look down across the street at school children changing buses.

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Eventually, we moved downstairs to the back of the same building. The porch and driveway have since been removed.  I was nearly three by this time, and I remember looking down at my father pulling out of the driveway in his white-over-powder blue 1955 Pontiac 2-door hardtop.  To the right of this picture was a car dealership–Hale Motors. He sold Willy’s Jeeps. Behind the dealership was their body shop, and mechanics worked in the garage with the windows open during the summer.  I would walk down to the shop with a story book tucked uinder my arm, sit on top of a dirt pile where they could see me, and wait for them to come out to eat their lunches. They would then read my book to me. In those days, three-year-olds could wander around their yards and neighbors in the city without danger.

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University City, adjacent to Washington University, is one of my favorite places to haunt. Fitz Rootbeer was a St. Louis tradition when I grew up, and this sign continues to stir memories.

berry statueChuck Berry monument

Lunch today was at Blueberry Hill where Chuck Berry used to perform one Wednesday night a month until 2014. The place boasts the best burger in St. Louis, and we decided to enjoy lunch there and peruse all the memorabilia, including Chuck Berry’s Gibson hollow body guitar.

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Berry used to own and operate The Southern Air restaurant in Wentzville, Missouri.  Back in the 1980’s, I visited the establishment for lunch and saw him in the dining area, smoking a cigarette. I was taken at the sight of his magnificent hands, and am glad to see they’ve since been casted and installed at Blueberry Hill.

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Fenton, Missouri

Once we returned home, we found Mom feeling better (she didn’t feel healthy enough for the day-long excursion). As we talked of our past and its memories, she expressed a willingness to jump back into my vehicle with me and visit the places I lived from ages three to five. They moved to Fenton, Missouri, west of St. Louis (and only seven miles from where they live now) when I was three, and settled on this street. Their apartment has long since been razed and replaced by the Fieser Nursing Home on the right side of this street.  All the buildings across the street are the same as they were back then. On the nursing home site where our apartment stood was also the Fieser Funeral Home. They had a basement where they allowed Mom to hang laundry during the cold winter months. She was spooked by the old clothes of the deceased that hung all about the walls, and I was spooked by a large red furnace that made an incredibly loud noise when it kicked on. I thought it was something living that was going to eat me.

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High Ridge

Mom and Dad now reside in High Ridge, in the home where I lived since it was brand new in 1961. But before we moved into that home, we would live in four other locations from my ages of three to six. This apartment was our home for a short time, and Mom’s only memory of me was my running all around the back yard pulling a red wagon with a toad loaded in it. Somehow I instinctively knew when the toad would leap out and I would immediately stop, retrieve it, and reload it to continue the fun ride. She also shared that when I got as far away from the apartment as possible I would stand with feet far apart, refusing to move until she would come all the way out there and carry me back to the house for a clean up.  It had something to do with #2.  It took me awhile to outgrow that. I’ll stop the story there.

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We moved to another location in High Ridge shortly afterward. I have chosen not to visit or photograph it this time.  All I will say now is that a mentally deranged woman owned the property and our time there was not good.  My brother was born during our time there, and I was four years old.  We then moved four miles west along Highway 30 to House Springs. The house where we lived is no longer there.  Above, I photographed the rough terrain alongside Byrnes Mill Road where the house stood. I have dozens and dozens of stories to tell of my time there, because I was old enough to retain those memories and sensations. But that will have to come at another time. I feel I have rambled long enough on this one.

Thanks for reading. I’m still absorbing the memories of today’s visit, and more than two typed pages of material Mom and Dad shared with me as I questioned them this evening about those sketchy memories of my life between the time of 16 months and three years.

Relaxing into Christmas

December 24, 2016

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Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:–

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,

As the swift seasons roll!

Leave thy low-vaulted past!

Let each new temple, nobler than the last,

Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,

Till thou at length are free,

Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!

Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The Chambered Nautilus”

Happy Holidays to all my treasured blog readers!  I haven’t posted for over a week, as Christmas obligations and errands, along with the responsibilities of closing out the fall semester, left me with little time for communication.  I did however begin work on my first new series that I am titling “Portals.”  I dragged an antique door from my man cave into my living room studio so I could enjoy painting near the fireplace while listening to Christmas music this past week.  As with every Chrstmas season, I leave a fresh painting-in-progress behind in my studio as I flee to St. Louis and visit with family and friends.  But I always am able to return to my home free of post-holiday depression because of a painting still waiting for me that I’m excited to engage.

I am re-reading an Andrew Wyeth biography that I enjoyed years ago, Richard Meryman’s Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life.  My soul stirs deeply as I read of his life and legacy, and the life and ideas of his father N. C. have taken such a hold on me that I just ordered and received (thanks Amazon!) The Wyeths, by N. C. Wyeth.  That incredibly large man was so charged with literary ideas and philosophical sentiments that I cannot wait to read from the 1200 letters that he left behind, exposing his most intimate thoughts and dreams about art. So, in addition to enjoying my circle of family and friends, I’m enjoying some quality reading and times for reflection.  The holidays are such a warm and intimate time for these kinds of pursuits.

I wish all of you the very best of life as we sail through this season.  Christmas and the New Year always fill me with the most meaningful ponderings.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself tha I am not alone.

Finished the St. Louis Painting

September 22, 2012

My Town Finished (Switzer’s Licorice, St. Louis)

I finally finished this small 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch and am ready to put it in a matte and plastic sleeve.  I’ll bring it out at the Taste of St. Louis art festival next weekend.  Now it is time to get in the Andy Warhol “Factory” mode, as I have plenty of greeting cards and prints to process, gear to pack and a Jeep to load for next week’s sojourn.

Thanks for reading.

Working Toward the St. Louis Art Festival

September 21, 2012

My Town 63050

Friday night has finally arrived.  I’ve been able to give plenty of attention to the watercolor I began last evening.  I hope to finish this tomorrow.  This is an 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch of the Switzer Licorice building that stood in downtown St. Louis during my youth.  Unfortunately it was demolished a number of years ago.  It has been my attention for several years to do a few studies of the building and see if I can execute a full-scale watercolor of it on a large sheet of paper.

Thanks for reading.

My Town 63050 (Switzer’s Licorice St. Louis)

September 21, 2012

Switzer’s Licorice, St. Louis

If you read yesterday’s blog, you’ll know that I have toyed with reviving a project I abandoned about a year ago–a series of watercolors titled “My Town 63050.”  My inspiration came from Thornton Wilder, Sherwood Anderson, Garrison Keillor and any other brilliant mind who created their own fictitious town and grew wonderful stories about them.  I once thought I would do the same with watercolor.  Yesterday evening, I began a small watercolor sketch of the old Switzer’s Licorice building on the St. Louis riverfront that has since been demolished.  I grew up looking at that lone sentinel of a building sitting north of the gateway arch, above the Mississippi River.  I figured it was time to re-do a painting of it.  Formerly it had stood in the background of a 1999 watercolor I had titled “Turvey’s Corner.”  I look forward to finishing this and matting it to put in my booth next week when I attend Taste of St. Louis art festival.

Thanks for reading.