Archive for the ‘train’ Category

The Harmony Beneath the Disarray

August 29, 2017

grapevine train.jpg

Nearing Completion of Another Watercolor 

The ancients, struck with this irreducibleness of the elements of human life to calculation, exalted Chance into a divinity, but that is to stay too long at the spark,–which glitters truly at one point,–but the universe is warm with the latency of the same fire. . . . Underneath the inharmonious and trivial particulars, is a musical perfection, the Ideal journeying always with us, the heaven without rent or seam.  Do but observe the mode of our illumination. When I converse with a profound mind, or if at any time being alone I have good thoughts, I do not at once arrive at satisfactions, as when, being thirsty, I drink water, or go to the fire, being cold: no! but I am at first apprised of my vicinity to a new and excellent region of life.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

Rising at 5:40 this morning, without an alarm, it didn’t take long before I felt bathed in the warmth of Emerson’s words. As an older man, he soberly assessed “experience” as a replacement for his earlier romantic flourishes as a thinker and writer. I love the quote above as he acknowledges that the spark in later years may lack the white hot dynamic of ideas that struck him in his youth, but the warmth and duration remained. Ideas such as this have helped me in my transitions in life, from a young educator, to one middle aged, and now retired.

More than ever before, I have come to embrace the “musical perfection” underlying the “inharmonious and trivial particulars” of daily life. In my early days of the ministry, I would devote all my energies of a particular day to poring over the biblical writings, believing that they contained the Word of God, and that I would be encountered, confronted by their message. I expected some kind of an oracle. For the past several decades, I have known that oracles would come through a multiplicity of avenues–literature, philosophy, conversation, art, music; I would no longer have to seek an encounter aggressively, but rather let it happen when it happens.

Today has been spectacular, though the bare details of the day sound pedestrian. I have divided my time between reading Emerson, writing a college lecture for tomorrow, listening to documentaries on YouTube on Hemingway and Joyce, finishing up a watercolor begun two days ago, and practicing guitar songs for tonight’s Open Mic. And all day long, a Presence has lingered with me, though I live alone. That Presence has been the underlying harmony of all the disjunctive tasks I have pursued. And I didn’t have to force any kind of encounter; it just happened, as it always does.

open mic

Fun at Dr. Jeckyll’s Open Mic

Thanks for reading.

 

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Thoughts Concerning Creative Energy

August 26, 2017

train drawing finished

Did our birth fall in some fit of indigence and frugality in nature, that she was so sparing of her fire and so liberal of her earth, that it appears to us that we lack the affirmative principle, and though we have health and reason, yet we have no superfluity of spirit for new creation? . . . We are like millers on the lower levels of a stream, when the factories above them have exhausted the water. We too fancy that the upper people must have raised their dams.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

As I grow older and find creative energy harder to sustain, I take solace in reading testimonies from Emerson and Walt Whitman, who knew all-too-well the difficulty of continuing the push for creative eros.  Emerson’s essay “Circles” has a great metaphor, describing the endeavor as pushing outward in concentric circles one’s creative energy. Each circle goes out a certain distance, then piles up and hardens into a berm. A harder effort is required to push the new wave of energy with enough force to burst that dam, but alas, the new circle also rises into a new berm, further away and higher. As one continues to create, more and more force is required to break through the earlier barricades.

At my age, I find that I’m sleeping longer and having to be more thoughtful of my diet. And I have to be more reasonable about deadlines and how much time is required to do quality work. Drawing and painting today has been a genuine joy, but I feel the weariness, and notice that the work requires more scrutiny than it seemed to before. But I still want to create, to live an artful life. I’m grateful to Texas Wesleyan University, for giving me a creative outlet in classes only three times a week, and to The  Gallery at Redlands for giving me a place to create and display my art. The patrons today have given me profound joy in conversation and encouragement. Palestine is a remarkable town.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Life Slowing Down

August 26, 2017

redlands now

Nestled in The Gallery at Redlands for the Weekend

A political orator wittily compared our party promises to western roads, which opened stately enough, with planted trees on either side, to tempt the traveller, but soon became narrow and narrower, and ended in a squirrel-track, and ran up a tree. So does culture with us; it ends in head-ache. Unspeakably sad and barren does life look to those, who a few months ago were dazzled with the splendor of the promise of the times.  . . . Do not craze yourself with thinking, but go about your business anywhere. Life is not intellectual or critical, but sturdy.  . . . We live amid surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

Now, in my semi-retirement days, Emerson is even more a friend and kindred spirit than he’s been in the past twenty-five years for me. When I was younger, I was more of a romantic enthusiast who truly believed in promises delivered by politicians on a national, state and local school district level. For years, I believed in the substance of political stump speeches and beginning of the school year pep rallies. After I stopped believing in the promises, I believed that the speakers themselves believed in their own empty promises. Now I even doubt that, and choose not to listen much any longer. Instead I choose to do what I do, and try to improve over the years in my own performance. Voltaire encouraged us to cultivate our own gardens. Emerson challenges us to learn to skate well on the surfaces of life presented to us.

After a summer on the road, filled with new vistas and fresh encounters, I began to feel a renewed enthusiasm and confidence that had been reduced to dying embers over recent years. I have returned to my home turf to begin a semester at Texas Wesleyan University as an adjunct instructor. I knew the change would be good, but had no idea it would be this good. I have now shifted from a full-time high school schedule with four subjects to teach across six classes, all day Monday through Friday (and an online college course as well), to a university campus where I teach one subject in the classroom for two hours Monday, Wednesday, Friday mornings, plus my one online course. That’s it.

The culture shock cannot be overstated; in nearly thirty years I have not been allowed the luxury of space and quiet and time between classes to think, write, re-think, revise and flow into a classroom environment (smaller classes too!) of older students who show up ready to think and engage in dialogue. Of course, the biggest change has been the university requiring only a syllabus to be submitted by me on the third week of school.  By this time, I would have submitted stacks of documents to my school district to satisfy some bureaucratic monster. And even larger still–at the university, I will submit a progress report at midterm, then grades at semester’s end.  In high school, progress and report card grades are submitted six times by semester’s end. All week long, during this first week at the university I felt that I was forgetting to do something; I couldn’t believe I had 48-hour lapses of quiet between class lectures. And 48 hours is a broad expanse of time to research, write and edit classroom lectures. I feel genuinely spoiled, and my heart is full of warmth and good feelings. I’m sorry I had to wait so long to get to this day.

This  weekend and next will find me at one of my favorite places–The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas. I’ll keep the gallery open all day today and into the evening (there is fine dining across the hall at the Red Fire Grille with plenty of patrons coming and going).  I will also keep basic Sunday hours (10-5) as well. I have rotated five new paintings into the display and will take the replaced five back home for awhile. The summer has kept me away from here, but I look forward to putting in as many weekends as possible, maintaining some kind of presence here.

train drawing

Initial Stages of a Locomotive Drawing

Palestine is an extraordinary town with a magnificent railroad heritage. I began a project in the spring, involving vintage railroad scenes, and have already completed four watercolors with more in progress as I write. Above is the beginning of a pencil drawing, as I plan to present a showing of drawings and paintings this winter, just in time for Palestine’s Polar Express experience. The Gallery at Redlands hopes to have a sound artistic presence when the holidays arrive.

Thank you for reading. Now that life has slowed considerably for me, I hope I’ll find the energy and enthusiasm to update this blog and let all of you know what is happening in this part of the world.

truck

Tell Me Where the Road Is

Watercolor, 27 x 24″ framed

$700

Here is a watercolor I’ve introduced into the gallery collection that hasn’t been here before.  This fall, many new works will be added and displayed here. Stay tuned . . .

 

Almost Finished with Old #610

June 16, 2017

610 near complete

I am proud of how this locomotive is progressing and wanted to post it tonight before shutting down. I have already signed it, but have little doubt that I’ll find several things tomorrow that I want to do with it.  I’ll be working in The Gallery at Redlands until about 9:00 tonight, so I still have nearly three hours to do whatever I feel like doing, probably resuming work on the abandoned mailbox I started this morning. Tomorrow, with fresh eyes, I’ll look at the locomotive again and perhaps do some final tweaking on it.

Thanks for reading.

Weary in Waxahachie

May 8, 2017

caboose (2)

Waxahachie Depot on South Rogers Street

I am so thrilled, surprised and grateful to see so many following my blog as I make my daily trek to Waxahachie. Today I was more tired than ever, since I was out late last night and rose at 5 this morning to face my classes at school.  As soon as I was free, I made the drive south and managed to finish this caboose composition that I started two days ago and couldn’t seem to manage. I haven’t participated in Paint Historic Waxahachie over the past two years due to scheduling conflicts, and I am finding myself far out of rhythm this go around. It seems that I have to set up two to three times on separate days before I can finish a simple 8 x 10″ painting, and in prior years I was doing them within the hour.

My intention this evening was to complete this painting and then try to start and finish a second one in just one sitting. But I was too sleepy and too out of the mood once this one was finished and hung in the gallery. So, hopefully tonight I will get a decent night’s sleep and find sufficient energy tomorrow evening to start and finish a painting.

Meanwhile, thanks all of you for following me this week.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Grinding Out the Plein Air Enterprise

May 7, 2017

today3

It is necessary to work very continuously and valiantly, and never apologetically. In fact, to be ever on the job so that we may find ourselves there, brush in hand, when the great moment does arrive.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

The words of Henri are timely for me in that I’m finding painting outdoors to be a grind lately. I travel forty minutes to Waxahachie to take part in this Paint Historic Waxahachie event, and after the Friday night carnival activity at my school, I awoke yesterday morning late, and still tired.  Nevertheless, I made the trip and managed to grind out the paintings until nearly dark. I found it necessary to sleep in again today, and thanks to a long sleep, I managed to make the long trip and paint until after 7:00 p.m. again. But I’m feeling it now. Nevertheless, I know for certain that inspiration is not going to strike if I’m sitting at home or at school merely thinking about painting–I have to get out and do it, grind at it, cranking out painting after painting, hoping that something of quality will emerge.  I only hope I keep up the confidence to the point that I can continue to travel to Waxahachie every day after school and keep pushing out paintings.

Approximately fifty artists have already put out a great body of work since the “early bird” special opened April 1.

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The Art on the Square Gallery at 113 West Franklin St. in Waxahachie is already filling up to capacity and we still have a week to go. We anticipate a great showing this year, and I am proud to be a part of this team.

Thanks for reading. Time to get some sleep!

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

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.

Bringing out New Work for the Show

March 30, 2017

durango silverton

Durango-Silverton Train, limited edition giclee print

Throughout today, I intend to post new images of work to be added to this weekend’s one-man-show at The Gallery at Redlands, 400 N. Queen St., Palestine, Texas.  The above image is a limited edition giclee print of the Durango-Silverton Railroad that I painted in watercolor, years ago. The original has long since found a home, but the prints have been quite popular, and last weekend I sold out of the gallery the last one in stock. I managed to place a new order Monday for six that will be ready for pick up before I return to the gallery this weekend. These images are $70 and are preserved shrinkwrapped against a foamboard backing.

Several more giclee prints are forthcoming, and i will post images of them later today when I have a break in my schedule.

Thanks for reading.

Henri’s Wisdom

September 12, 2016

The technique learned without a purpose is a formula which when used, knocks the life out of any ideas to which it is applied.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

The words of Henri, always an inspiration to his disciples, fuel my imagination this morning. The original Ash Can School would gather in his apartment at 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia where he would read to them from Whitman and Emerson. Later, at his school in New York, he would continue to lecture and inspire, and his writings are now collected in The Art Spirit.

At my age, I’m still learning technique, but still wonder what exactly it is, to select a subject and assemble a composition that creates a work that will inspire. Perhaps artists, writers and musicians never really know the secret to this big picture.

Thanks for reading. I’m getting close to finishing this passenger rail car relic (I think).

Creating Worlds

September 10, 2016

eureka-springs-rr

The blank canvas is the blank page. You start with nothing. It’s hugely provocative. It’s frightening because you may have too much to put on it. Or not enough of yourself.

Wim Wenders

This cool, dark, overcast, rainy Saturday morning put me in the mood to continue a watercolor I worked on last evening. I’m getting close to finishing it. While painting, I like to listen to some kind of creative stimulus, often spinning LPs on my turntable, or using the laptop to dial up a YouTube presentation. Choosing the latter, I was shocked to discover a nearly hour-long documentary on Edward Hopper titled “Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas.” What jolted me after all these years was to discover how much film footage remains of Hopper’s television interview with Brian O’Doherty. The presentation is very engaging, and filled with plenty of interviews with film maker Wim Wenders (who was deeply influenced by Hopper’s scenes and collaborated with his photographer to re-create many settings reminiscent of these paintings). The above quote from Wenders is still working on me as I pour myself into this most recent painting.

Eureka Springs is the setting, and their historic railroad depot provides a lengthy section of abandoned trackage where derelict rolling stock has been parked. Every time I visit the town, I love to stroll the length of these tracks, taking pictures and making sketches of the rail cars. As I painted this afternoon, watching my blank paper slowly develop into a painting, I felt the sweet memories of last summer’s excursion flowing through me. Of course, I’m never sure if my feelings come out in the paintings (and Edward Hopper never knew, or perhaps didn’t even care, whether his thoughts were recognized by viewers of his work). I think what engages me the most, thinking of the Wim Wender quote, is when I should declare a painting finished, whether or not I have pushed my feelings far enough into the process. Of course, that is something I’ll never know. But I still think about it as I work.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

dark-studio