Archive for the ‘Texas’ Category

Musing over the Creative Efforts

August 11, 2018

nearing closure

Closing in on the Finish of this Watercolor (I think)

Creative algorithms undulate beneath the dark, quiet pools of solitude.

David Tripp

O.K., so I open with a post of one of my original quotes, not even half-baked, being less than an hour old at this time. This morning, at the dining room table, I was feeling creatively “flat”, and chafed inwardly that it was Saturday morning and I was still unsatisfied at the progress I was making on my preparations for this fall’s term.

After breakfast, I put on my Big Boy pants, and went out, looking for a public, yet quiet spot to work on my courses. I settled on a public library, and before roughing out my syllabus for Classical Judaism, opened Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and began reading, for about the fourth or fifth time, these marvelously personal documents.

Rilke writes so eloquently about the gift of solitude for creative exploits, and as I wrote, I began compiling a list of books from my personal library that I plan to place on my writing desk once I get back home again: Solitude, by Anthony Storr, A Sand County Almanac, by Leopold Bloom, Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, The Eternal Now, by Paul Tillich, Quiet, by Susan Cain and Hamlet’s Blackberry, by William Powers.

As I began writing from memory some of my favorite quotes about solitude, and then exploring the Internet for more quotes, I wondered why I had not by now come up with my own original line about solitude. So, I fiddled with this, and before long had a page of quotes, stopping with the one I posted above.

I plan to continue noodling with this quote because I am still wrestling with some of the ideas. To begin with, I have difficulty associating “algorithm” with “creativity”, I suppose because I cannot conceive of a set of rules or specific process that guarantees creative results. That is why I used the word “undulating” to describe these steps, because they seem always to be changing, for me as well as for all that I have read of the myriad of creative spirits who have preceded us and left behind testimonies of their processes.

The image in my memory that inspired the quote I am composing is what I saw at Beaver Creek Reservoir on a couple of occasions recently in South Fork, Colorado. While moving from place to place, seeking a decent spot to fish for trout, I happened across this location in the reservoir where the creek flowed into the enormous lake. The water was clear as crystal, the sun was low on the horizon, and with the help of polarized sunglasses, I was allowed to peer deep beneath the surface where I saw myriads of rainbow and brown trout, darting and circling deep below. I felt a calming effect as I contrasted the glassy, mirror-like surface of the quiet waters with the constantly changing configurations of trout too numerous to count, congregating, separating, clustering again, scattering again. As I watched this constant pulse, I laughed, remembering a scene from the film A Beautiful Mind. John Nash’s colleagues at Princeton were making fun of him as he walked backward, stooped over a cluster of pigeons in the grass. He responded that he was trying to determine the algorithm of the pigeons’ movements as they searched for food.

I suppose that is the fallacy of trying to write about the creative process. But at any rate, I found the inspiration to dive back into my course on Classical Judaism, and before I knew it, managed to organize the body of research I have worked on all summer into a semester’s strategy, and then arranged it into my fifteen-week schedule. So . . . the early morning’s chafing finally yielded to a satisfying conclusion.

I have posted above the watercolor commission that I began about a month ago, and recently resumed after a vacation hiatus. I feel that I am getting closer to the end, and that is a good thing. College begins for me in about ten days, and I need to begin pouring more daily hours into that endeavor. I am privileged to teach Classical Judaism (online) for the first time ever, and will also devise a way to coordinate a pair of Logic classes (one online, the other in the classroom). I am sufficiently rested from my travels and changes in perspective, and though I still have New Mexico and Colorado in my dreams, I am grounded once again in Texas soil.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

 

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The Promise of the Dawn

April 14, 2017

dawn4

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.

dawn5.jpg

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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View from the Gallery Window

April 1, 2017

finished (2)

Completed watercolor of downtown Palestine, Texas

. . . and the philosophical light around my window is now my joy; may I be able to keep on as I have thus far!

Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin, letter to friend Boehlendorf dated December 2, 1802

Saturday morning began for me on a second-story balcony with coffee and Heidegger’s essay “What Are Poets For?” I was so enriched by the ideas from the essay that I descended the stairs and opened the gallery at 9:00 rather than 10:00 so I could enjoy some time writing at the desk, and then resume work on the watercolor I have been playing with since I started it over a week ago. I finally decided to sign off on it and offer it as a watercolor sketch, unframed, measuring 11 x 11″ for $100.

The day shortly after became busy beyond description with a steady stream of patrons in the gallery, some sales, and wall-to-wall meaningful conversation. I feel that I have made a number of new friends for life. The Palestine experience has been deeply fulfilling. I can’t wait to open again in the morning.

Thanks for reading.

Drifting Thoughts of Tintern Abbey

October 6, 2016
claude

Abandoned Gas Station in Claude, Texas

These beauteous forms,

Through a long absence, have not been to me

As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:

But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din

Of towns and cities, I have owed to them

In hours of weariness, sensations sweet . . . 

William Wordsworth, “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798”

In these final days, while inching closer to completing this watercolor, I have found myself spending more time gazing at it than actually painting. In many ways, the closing notes to a complicated composition are the most critical, and this one has certainly given me pause, again and again, throughout the past days.

This morning, Wordsworth’s haunting thoughts revisited me as I lay in bed, slowly waking in the predawn. I could see the image of this painting in my mind’s eye as well, comingling with all the sweet remembrances of passing through this small Texas panhandle town in the heat of past summer excursions to Colorado. And, true to the lines of Wordsworth, this quiet image has remained in my mind as a sanctuary amidst my bustling classrooms throughout the morning of this day. While growing older, recollections such as this wax sweeter, especially when I find myself in the nexus of nagging deadlines and job-related expectations. Memories and painting provide a precious sanctuary.

Thank you for reading.

I paint because I want to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

The Next Venture

February 7, 2016

image

But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

As I close out this weekend, I express a special Thank You to those of you who reached out the past 48 hours with comments on my blog and facebook. Your communion was deeply felt, while at the same time I imbibed a richness from the stretch of solitude and quiet.

I am safe at home once again, and just completed all the work I needed to do in preparation for tomorrow’s classes. Before returning to the studio, I took another look at the photos I took while on this excursion, and wanted to post this one of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Windthorst, Texas (population 440). I took this photo during this morning’s return, and when I took a good look at this grotto, I realized to my regret that I never once thought about driving out here at night, to see if candles were lit. How glorious a sight that would have been. Windthorst is only eleven miles from Archer City, and though it was frigid cold last night, I would have gladly sat in the midst of this had I found that worshipers had visited and lit candles on a Saturday night.

I do not come from a Catholic background, but I was a minister long ago, and studied theology for over a decade in graduate school. I deeply enjoy Jack Kerouac’s religious vocabulary (he was Catholic) where most readers seem to be more conscious of his vulgarity. His frequent references to saints, to holy matters, and his biblical allusions are abundant enough in On the Road to get my attention.  And like Wordsworth at Tintern Abbey, I know what it is to be stirred in the presence of a church structure, and how difficult it is to articulate what one feels. I am resolved to visit this site in Windhorst at night the next time I journey to Archer City for a weekend getaway.

Thank you for reading.

Sketching Archer City

February 6, 2016

cobwebs

Watching the sunset glow over Archer City fills me with a serene sense of eudaimonia. Since I left the swirling metroplex behind yesterday, I have been unconscious of time, and am surprised that this afternoon has already evaporated. I spent it in the hotel lobby, sketching the facade of one of my favorite antique establishments, and visiting with Sarah, who organizes art activities for this city and surrounding area, works as a journalist for the local newspaper, manages this hotel, and seems to have interests in many other areas as well. I thought I was busy–I wonder how she manages to wear so many hats!

Laying out the composition for this antique store was difficult for me, and I’m going to have to take it back to my studio for some further adjustments. I think it has real potential, and if this piece doesn’t work out, I’ve taken good reference photos and would love to give it another shot, perhaps larger than this 8 x 10″ attempt.

It is serendipitous that I began reading Kerouac’s Visions of Cody right before I journeyed to Archer City. The author’s graphic descriptions of New York City in his day match up perfectly with what I see around the remains of this town. I have always been intrigued with decaying buildings, debris-strewn streets and the wide-open spaces surrounding small Texas towns. Every time I cross any of the streets downtown (which are actually highways 25 and 79) I see The Last Picture Show being replayed, but now I am in the movie. it is enchanting, to say the very least. Right now, as I type this, I hear the occasional pickup truck passing below, and looking out the windows of this corner room  on the third story, I swoon at the deep orange glow that has rested on the horizon for more than thirty minutes now, past the sun’s disappearance. The flashing red lights of the intersection are more intense now, and flooding my room with light, as I have yet to turn on any lights inside. I hurt for anyone who feels loneliness when put in this kind of atmosphere–to me this is sublime solitude, a soothing balm.

Thanks for reading.

Catholic Contemplation

February 6, 2016

windhorst watercolor

Yesterday, while on the road, I had to pull over and photograph this magnificent St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Windthorst, eleven miles from Archer City. I had admired the structure for over ten years, but never found it in such beautiful light as the western sun on this day.

With the temperatures outside at 38 degrees and overcast, I thought it best to work in the Spur Hotel lobby (I’m the only resident in the hotel this weekend), relying on the photo from yesterday. Here is my quick sketch, and I’ll probably enrich the colors and details after I get it back home to the studio. There are many more trees to fill out on the sides of the church.

I don’t know how to record my feelings yesterday as I stood beneath this church which stands on the highest point of Windthorst. It was bathed in the winter sunlight and some kind of emotion came over me as I viewed it. I cannot say Wordsworthian, because I was looking at architecture rather than nature, and I cannot say Tintern Abbey, because this is not an abandoned wreck of a church, but a viable facility that serves Catholic needs across Archer County. I was not brought up in the Catholic faith, but I have studied theology and church history for most of my life, and I just felt like many streams of thoughts were coming together in the warmest way possible. I felt affirmed. And today I feel even more so, as I look at this composition and attempt to render it in watercolor.

Thanks for reading.

Escape Velocity II

February 5, 2016

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My work comprises one vast book like Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past except that my remembrances are written on the run instead of afterwards in a sick bed.

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

Today, I gave in to yesterday’s wanderlust. I booked my favorite room in the Spur Hotel in Archer City, Texas, Larry McMurtry’s hometown. I packed last night, and loaded early this morning, so as soon as school let out for the weekend, I pulled out of the parking lot, angling north for the two hour-plus drive to this quiet, spacious part of north Texas in Archer County.  Population of this town is 1,848 and that is just about right for me. In the cold winter evenings here, the clouds emit the most marvelous array of blues and lavendars, much like what I experienced in Colorado evenings, looking across the front range of the rockies. I tried to take a picture above, but I’m not a photographer, and there just wasn’t much light left for me to accomplish what I wished.

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Larry McMurtry’s famous bookstore, Booked Up Inc., has been my mecca for shopping for over a decade. Today I found a first edition of Ezra Pound’s Cantos and could not resist the sale that was running on books currently. I’m proud now to own it and read it.

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Dinner tonight in the cafe made me feel I had retreated in time to the days of Kerouac rambling the open roads across America. With this being Friday night, and a strong Catholic presence in Archer County, fish was on the menu, and the taste was just as delightful as the aroma that filled the diner.

And now, as I write this, I’m settled into my third-story corner room, overlooking the intersection of highways 25 and 79, with a flashing red light governing the four-way stop. The light flickers patterns across the interior brick walls of my room, and the swish of traffic below will probably lull me to sleep later tonight as I soak up some coveted reading.

I cannot describe the deep-seated satisfaction settling in over me, leaving the city and school behind, the noise, the deadlines, the endless prattle. Now there is no agenda. I have a stack of books on the table beside me, and a large carry-on bag stuffed with watercolor and drawing supplies. My journal is at hand, and I am ready now to settle into a quiet posture of reading, thinking, writing, drawing and painting. This quiet space has been so long overdue for me, and I am thankful to the depths of my being that the gift has finally arrived.

Thanks for reading.

Working on the Fort Worth Scat Jazz Lounge Sign

July 26, 2014
Saturday Work on the Jazz Watercolor

Saturday Work on the Jazz Watercolor

Wallace Stevens is America’s great poet of the endles cycles of desire and despair.

PBS, Voices and Visions, “Wallace Stevens: Man Made Out of Words”

I could never have planned a better Saturday.  The light is bright coming through my studio windows, and I’m finding it a pleasant challenge distnguishing cool yellow light bulbs from the warm yellow sign from which they protrude.  This is calling for quite a bit of experimenting and study in color theory, but I love the exploration.  When I’m learning something new, I am inspired as an artist.

On days like today, I find it difficult, deciding between painting and reading.  Wallace Stevens and his poetry have been burning on my mind since the awakening hour this morning.  Fortunately, PBS has posted their Voices and Visions series on the Internet, and I have been thrilled listening to the readings of Stevens’s poetry during this sixty-minute documentary.  I played it through completely, twice, as I bent over this watercolor and made decisions.

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.

 

Stirring of the Muses on a Friday Night

July 18, 2014
Historic Flatiron Building in Fort Worth, Texas

Historic Flatiron Building in Fort Worth, Texas

I have been as sincere a worshipper of Aurora as the Greeks.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Aaron Copland plays “Appalachian Spring” as I sit up late on a Friday night, with a desire to think, to write, to be.  The day started beautifully at 6:00 a.m., with no school to go and teach.  I love the three-day weekends of summer school.  I sat in my living room and watched through the open blinds the dawn breaking across my backyard while I re-read chapter two of Thoreau’s Walden,“Where I Lived, and What I Lived For.”  I love his salute to Aurora and the beautiful meditations about the dawn being the heroic age–that all intelligences awake with the dawn.  The chapter marked a delicious start to the day.  Following Thoreau, I then turned to Proust and to Melville, reading for well over an hour before rising to enter the kitchen and make breakfast.  Following breakfast I worked a long time in the watercolor studio, mostly finishing up abandoned work that had piled up the past couple of months.

To begin this delicious night in my darkened studio, Marcel Proust delivered beautiful images in Swann’s Way.  The young narrator is smitten by the sight of a girl with a fair complexion and azure eyes.  The mere sight of her overpowers his eyes at the same time the hawthorns are flooding his senses.  He cannot separate the beauty of the two.  How many of us still recall those first instances of romantic love and how we lost all bearings?  What a marvelous gift it would be to set such a profound experience down in prose as Proust managed to do.

In Moby Dick, after 120 pages, Captain Ahab finally emerged into view, and what a powerful force his presence exerted on his surrounding environment.  Like the solid bronze of Cellini’s Perseus, he towers above his ship and crew, the mere sight of him with no accompanying speech evoking a sense of genuine awe from the narrator.  His aggressive gesture toward second mate Stubb rattled the otherwise stalwart officer, leaving the bemused fellow wondering what it was exactly that evoked such a fear from him.

With sadness, I resumed reading a biography of Jack Kerouac by Tom Clark.  I read the book several years ago, then lent it out and never got it back.  So now I’m reading a newly purchased copy, re-highlighting, etc., and of course, am very surprised at how much of the content I have already forgotten from the first reading.  The details of Kerouac’s migratory life always leave me with the same kind of disturbed thoughts that I get from reading about Hemingway: these men had such a passion for disciplined writing that always drives me to find another gear to crank out work, no matter how tired or discouraged I may become in my own life and work.  They truly induce me to work even harder in my research, thinking and writing.  But the misery of both these men brings me to such overwhelming sadness.  I’m glad I never mixed alcohol with my life’s work—I am not able to identify with that problem on a gut-level.  But the despondency, the self-doubt, the second-guessing—that kind of a hell I have known all-too-well, and don’t like to visit or re-visit.  And it hurts deeply every time I read these details in their life’s work.

This afternoon, I was deeply moved, listening to a trio of thirty-minute lectures from The Teaching Company.  I have been so fortunate to receive a number of these lecture sets, first in VHS and later in DVD, from a number of dear friends and occasionally from one of those “can’t miss” sales that the company offers.  One lecture was from Daren Staloff (“Hegel—History and Historicism”), and the other two from Daniel N. Robinson (“The Idea of Freedom” and “Human History as the Unfolding of the Ideal: The Hegelians”).  The lectures prompted me to draw out a volume placed in my hands earlier this year by our remarkable school librarian, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.  Anyone familiar with this volume is no doubt grinning already, but I am actually getting enough from the text to stay with it.  Hegel’s mind was Faustian in the way he incorporated and excerpted virtually everything he studied throughout his lengthy life, and then fashioned all that knowledge into a comprehensive system.  His mind reminds me very much of that of Paul Tillich, with that interdisciplinary drive, and of course I have always wanted to be that way.  So, tonight I also spent some more time working over Hegel’s text and recording observations in my journal.

Last night I took out my Latin grammars and workbooks and resumed a project I started in 2003, but abandoned on three subsequent occasions.  Eleven years later, I still cannot read Latin, but love and respect the language and am now finding myself devoting some summer evenings to working on my vocabulary and grammar exercises, and pulling out occasional texts from one of my Loeb Classical Library volumes as well as my Biblia Sacra Vulgata.  Tonight marks my second consecutive night working in the Latin text.  I had always hoped I could work this language as I do the ancient Greek, but alas, I took many semesters of Greek and it stayed with me fortunately.  Latin was never available in the schools I attended.  I love the line from Byron’s Beppo:

I love the language, that soft bastard Latin,

Which melts like kisses from a female mouth.

All of tonight has been given to reading, note-taking and writing.  I did manage today to finish a number of watercolor projects that had been abandoned over the past months.  Above, I have posted my finished product of the historic flatiron building on the south side of downtown Fort Worth, Texas.  I don’t know why I had laid it aside for so long, but now I’m glad it’s finished and has been delivered to the Weiler House Fine Art Gallery.

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.