Archive for the ‘train’ Category

One Bite at a Time

January 22, 2020

Question: How do you eat an elephant?

Answer: One bite at a time. 

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Working into the Night

Early this morning, when I approached my in-progress work on this Union Pacific “Big Boy”, I decided it was time to add some weight to this behemoth. For a couple of days I was experimenting with colors on the body of the locomotive, and it seemed the more I layered washes of pastel colors, the more weightless and ethereal the iron horse apppeared.

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Experimental Pastel Colors on the Locomotive

I realized quite early in this work that I had to figure out a way to paint this enormous battleship-gray locomotive and not end up with a boring painting. Granted, the complexity of all the moving parts along with the shadows and highlights could provide plenty of contrast and interest for the viewer, I nevertheless feared that an overall flat gray would kill the painting.

I had been postponing the detailing of this subject, clearly intimidated by the complex congeries of planes and lines. Finally I recalled that line about eating an elephant and decided it was time to approach the subject, one bite at a time. Quite quickly the old feeling came back. The devil is in the details, and I really enjoy immersing myself in the variety. I really don’t know how many hours I worked at this one today, taking plenty of breaks for making coffee, reading, writing in the journal and taking exercise walks. But I continued to return to the painting and found myself working even into the evening.

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Finally, Some Weight and Depth Occurring

I don’t know how exactly my live encounter with this locomotive translates into my painting, but I honestly believe it has the potential of becoming one of my better works. Though I am working from a photograph taken when this train pulled into Palestine, Texas last November, I was there in person to feel the concussion of this 604-ton dinosaur smoking, steaming and blasting its whistle in my presence as it glowed in the morning sun. And I believe that live encounter will prevent this from becoming a generic, saccharine picture.

I have ridden behind the steam locomotives of the Texas State Railroad between Palestine and Rusk, along with the Durango-Silverton Railroad and the Cumbres-Toltec. But those engines were tiny compared to this monster that made me shudder when it rounded the bend in the distance and chugged up to where we all stood in awe. I stayed that afternoon for about half an hour, but returned at sunrise the next morning and lingered for two hours studying it before it finally pulled away. All the while the smoke and steam never ceased billowing out of this enormous steel hulk.

There remains plenty of work to do on this project, and I am happy to know that. I can’t wait to rise in the morning and stand over it again for the day. Hopefully, I’ll have more pictures to post then.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website: www.davidtrippart.com.

Shultz reduced

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Drawing or Painting or Both?

January 17, 2020

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At Work on the Union Pacific “Big Boy”

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The “Big Boy”–18 x 24″ watercolor

Drawing is the probity of art. 

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Painting can overcome one with its sensuousness, like the soft warm skin of a woman, in a way that drawing cannot.

Robert Motherwell

January has provided plenty of time and relaxation to pursue a pair of commissions–steam locomotives. These are subjects I have always loved to paint, But only when I had weeks of leisure between calendar appointments. Now, with west Texas temperatures plummeting below freezing, it is nice not to have to get out and drive anywhere. I love the dim winter light in the windows, the sounds of the howling winds outside and the crackle of a fire in the fireplace.

Part of this morning was given to reading from The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell. While painting, I listened to some of his interviews on Youtube and decided I wanted to read more from him. In 1970 he published an essay, “Thoughts on Drawing”. This I have read a number of times over past years and am glad I gave it another look this morning.

I did not know until college that I was more of a draughtsman than a painter. My painting professor called my oils “colored drawings” and my student teaching advisor told me I needed to be more “painterly”. My art history professor, looking at my series of oils, remarked “nice drawings.” This may be why I eventually turned to watercolor, because in that media, one can get away with drawing with color.

In re-reading the Motherwell essay, I came up with this remarkable observation from the poet Baudelaire, whom Motherwell never tired of quoting:

Pure draughtsmen are philosophers and dialecticians. Colorists are epic poets. 

Throughout my life, I have held the deepest regard for philosophers as well as poets, feeling I lacked the gifts to be either, while always trying to be both. I always thought the philosopher anchored the left brain with reasoning and discpline, while poetry resided in the right with emotion and exploration. The Greek dramatists perceived Apollo as patron saint of reason while Dionysus advocated risk.

Personally, I feel most “in my element” in watercolor when I am feeding both sides. That is happening with this locomotive–I am exacting in the details of the machine while at the same time full of swish when dealing with the steam, smoke and general atmosphere. The entire time I have worked on this, I continually moved back and forth between the two regions, never feeling boredom or tedium. The day has been splendid while working on this piece. I am very pleased knowing I am a long way from finishing; I feel I am going to regret seeing this one come to a conclusion, so fulfilling has been the experience of pursuing it.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website at davidtrippart.com.

Shultz on websiteI make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Juggling More than One Interest

January 15, 2020

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Nearing Completion on the KATY train

To achieve their goal, masterpieces must charm but also penetrate the soul and make a deep impression on the mind that is similar to reality. . . . Therefore the artist must have studied all the motives of mankind and he must know nature thoroughly. In short he must be a philosopher.

Jacques Louis David

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Early Stages of the UP Big Boy

Recently, my blog activity has been sharply curtailed. Scheduled events are approaching quickly: a one-man-show, a speaking engagement and a watercolor workshop. In the midst of planning and corresponding with other parties involved, I have been submerged in a pair of watercolor commissions of locomotives and, as always, much reading.

I naively thought that since I would not be teaching this semester my study hours would significantly diminish. Instead, with no assigned subject matter, I find myself spending more time in book stores and public libraries, and looking over taller stacks of books at home. Soon, I may be responding to what I’ve been reading from Daniel Goleman’s books on emotional intelligence along with Alain de Botton’s ideas on art, philosophy and life.

But today, I have found myself ricocheting among the ideas of several notable painters: Jacques Louis David, Eugene Delacroix, Robert Motherwell and Andy Warhol. Returning to my favorite hobby horses, I find myself musing over ways to balance academic study with making art. On most days of my life, I find myself holding the reins of these two horses as they pull my cart on this slippery, rutty path. I have told my friends that when I am painting, I’m thinking about what I want to read and write, and while reading and writing, I’m thinking about what I want to paint. Both activities tug at me perennially.

I opened this blog with the quote from Jacques Louis David as I have been reading of the lives of the NeoClassical artists steeped in philosophy and academic pursuits along with their painting. I followed that up with my resumed reading from the journals of Eugene Delacroix, and read this morning his criticisms of one of his most intimate colleagues, Paul-Marc-Joseph Chenavard. Whereas Delacroix, the quintessential Romantic, drew much inspiration from music, and spent quality time in the company of Chopin, Chenavard, steeped in German philosophy, believed intellect to be the main driver of the artist. Delacroix, in one of his journal entries, made reference to “the learned and unfortunately too cold Chenavard. He puts literature in the first rank, painting comes next, and music is only last.”

In a flurry of text messages with one of my artist friends this morning, we discussed the plethora of avenues of inspiration available to the artist, and agreed that we shouldn’t denigrate anyone for pursuing different stimuli from our own. Anyone engaged in the creative task should feel free to open up to the richness of sources available to us.

Long ago, when I was employed in the Protestant ministry, I struggled to balance private academic study with public expression. Frequently, I was asked by parishioners and fellow pastors what I wished to be, a scholar or a preacher. I never understood that false dichotomy, and marveled every time I encountered the sentiment that the pulpit was no place for an academician. Later when I turned to education, I no longer had to face that dichotomy; a teacher was expected to be academically driven.

But once I became active as an artist, I found the wedge once again driven between academic pursuits and artistic expression. Frequently I found myself floundering in discussions with fellow artists who wished to discuss only techniques, materials and subject matter for painting, but not theory. As I studied and taught art history, I found my kindred spirits in that world, Robert Motherwell especially. This man started out as an academician, and when he turned to painting, he brought that world with him. Throughout his lengthy career, he found a way to write, publish and lecture as well as paint and exhibit. In that balance, he has become a personal hero of mine. Every time I feel that there is a conflict between the disciplines, I return to his collected writings, fully understanding his frustrations an he spoke of the difficulty (and rewards) of striking the balance.

I have posted photos of the two paintings I’ve been working on recently. One of them might be finished; I’ve laid it aside for a few days and will look at it later with fresh eyes to determine whether I should push it further. Meanwhile I am actively working on the much larger Union Pacific “Big Boy.” The KATY is a 9 x 12″; the Big Boy an 18 x 24″. In both works, I am entering a fascinating world as I experiment with smoke, steam and atmospheric effects. I suppose the reason for such stimulation is because I do not yet have an established algorithm or series of steps to follow. I feel like a chef in the kitchen experimenting with a little of this and a little of that as I use a spritz bottle, toothbrush and variety of brushes and X-acto knife along with sprinkles of salt and stale bread crumbs to push the pigments around on the dampened paper. And I’m frequently adding new warm and cool colors to my gray mixtures that I’ve never used before, and I’m coming up with several surprises, none of them unpleasant yet. It’s fun to paint with this sense of exploration and adventure.

Thanks for reading.

Shultz reduced

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Musings in the Morning Light

January 9, 2020

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

The poet Hölderlin writing to a friend, December 2, 1802

I feel everlasting gratitude to a friend who allows me to reside in this lovely place for an extended visit. These days of privacy are filled with hours beside the fireplace where I can read by the gray morning winter light. My makeshift studio is a mere ten paces away, and I can honestly say that, for me, days spent in watercolor activity are better than days that are not. During the intermittent spells of allowing the paintings to dry, I love to immerse myself in books and writing.

January 2020 finds me in a reflective mode, as I look back at the prior year, and then further back over my personal years and continue recording memories I believe worth holding on to. I have recently made a pleasant discovery: Alain de Botton with his lectures available on Youtube, and books I’ve been checking out of a local library. As my life is anchored by the activities of reading, writing and making art, I’m delighted to read these words from this kindred spirit:

Writing is the obvious response to the consequences of forgetting; art is the second central response.

There are a number of reasons why I have lived a life scribbling in my journals and later taking up blogging—these are records of my daily musings as I attempt to sort out and clarify what I want out of life. I cannot think of a better employment for myself than that of an educator—it was my “job” to assist students in the process of growing up, of cultivating the richest possible life. Now in retirement years, I am finally finding the time to pursue some interests that a daily job obstructed. This is probably why my blog activity has increased in frequency—this is my first semester without a contract. My normal activity lacks a classroom forum, so now I just launch my ideas into cyberspace.

Homer’s Odyssey is finally getting my attention. This was an epic I lacked interest to pursue during the years of my schooling. But now in these senior years, I am finding real treasure in these pages. The Robert Fagles translation has been a most satisfying read, and I cannot say enough about the excellent introduction authored by Bernard Knox. My heart sank when I read the sentiments of a first-century writer who thought Homer created this work after age had drained his intensity. According to this critic, this epic was “the product of Homer’s old age, of a mind in decline; it was a work that could be compared to the setting sun—the size remained, without the force.”

Sentiments such as this have always seized my attention. Throughout my earlier years, I came to terms with the reality of the ebb and flow of our creative exploits. We cannot be “on” all the time. And I have always believed that periods of creative dormancy were necessary rest and replenishment for the active soul. But now, in my senior years, I do worry about the reality of physical decline and the possibility of losing one’s edge in creativity. I feel that my own mind and imagination are more developed than ever before, but at the same time acknowledge that my powers of memory and recall are certainly not what they were. And so, I devote much of my life to re-reading and recording precious truths that have made life so meaningful.

I will never stop feeling deep gratitude that I was afforded the opportunity to learn Greek during my years of graduate study. I was taught Koinē Greek so I could translate the New Testament writings. But since those years, I have spent countless hours poring over Homeric and Presocratic texts and uncovering the most amazing ideas.

Recently, in my examinations of Homer, I have received new insights into the word “nostalgia.” The first part of this word Homer uses 245 times in his two epics. The verb nosteo and noun nostos point out the return to one’s home or country. The verb algeo and noun algos refer to pain or distress. Hence the word “nostalgia” indicates the pain of returning home. We know all too well the pangs we experience in revisiting our roots, whether it is returning home for a visit regardless of whether family members or friends are still living or not. We also know these pains when we re-open photo albums or even go back into our smart phones to review photos we have taken. We know these feelings if we re-read letters we have kept, or review diaries and journals.

Learning what I have about this word “nostalgia” has thrown a sharper spotlight on the travails of Odysseus, the “much-traveled” wanderer who has accumulated layer upon layer of experience resulting in much ambiguity as to his identity and purpose. Reading The Odyssey comes at a good time, because I’ve been working on a watercolor of a steam locomotive charging through the night, and it brings to mind many of my all-night excursions on AMTRAK from Fort Worth to St. Louis. Going back through my journals recently, I uncovered many layers of writings as I looked out the window of the moving train, surveying the back yards of impoverished neighborhoods, and backstreets of decrepit southern towns. On my headset, I was listening to acoustic, country blues guitar music accompanied by mournful voices and lyrics. And all the while, I was looking at the twinkle of Christmas lights on the shabby houses. I felt the co-mingling of warmth and sadness. Good will and poverty. I still shudder when I recall those cold, lonely nights of travel, heading home to revisit aging family members and friends.

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Work on a Commissioned Watercolor

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A man is whatever room he is in.

Japanese saying

Going back through my archive, I pulled this selfie I took in October 2016 because it was what I thought about when I sat beside the fire this morning, reading by the light coming through the windows behind me. The reason I return frequently to this photo (and I did a watercolor of it as well) is because the setting reminds me of all I’ve read of philosopher Martin Heidegger retreating to his cabin in the Black Forest to think and write his most famous works. At that time, he was a professor at the University of Berlin, but he preferred the solitude of the village of Todtnauberg and its intimate connection to nature. Every time I go back to that old store where I first sat in October 2016, I feel the connection to Heidegger in Todtnauberg, or Thoreau at Walden, or the theologian Karl Barth at his cottage in the Bergli. I am not the only one to feel that profound mental transport to other ages. I read the following recently from N. Scott Momaday:

By this time I was back into the book, caught up completely in the act of writing. I had projected myself—imagined myself—out of the room and out of time. I was there with Ko-sahn in the Oklahoma July.

In 1946, Martin Heidegger delivered his notable lecture “What Are Poets For?” Heidegger borrowed the line from a Hölderlin poem that pointed out the troublesome times Germany was facing in the nineteenth century, and Heidegger resurrected the words on the 1946 occasion of the twentieth anniversary of Rainer Maria Rilke’s death. Heidegger’s day in Germany was also a profoundly dark one, and he questioned what the role of a creator was when his/her culture faced a darkening time. I find January 2020 an extremely dark time in our world and wonder also what exactly I am to do in the face of this cultural midnight.

In the film “Pollock” there is the episode of Jackson Pollock visiting for the first time the general store in Springs, Long Island. The proprietor at the counter asks him if he’s from the city. When Pollock nods, the man responds that he doesn’t blame him for retreating to the small town. In a world where a man can invent the atom bomb the only thing one can do is retreat to a quiet place and do what you have to do. In our current darkening days I also wonder just exactly what I am to do.

January 2020 is proving to be a pensive month for me. I have a one-man-show opening in Dallas February 1, but until then, I have oceans of time around me and am glad to have the quality time and space to contemplate what to do in my next adventure.

Thanks for reading.

Shultz on websiteI make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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Wandering Thoughts while Painting

January 8, 2020

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Making Headway with this Commission

No one can get anywhere without contemplation. Busy people who do not make contemplation part of their business do not do much for all their effort.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

The morning started early this time, around 5:30. With my coffee, I tried to read from my “Bible” (Robert Henri, The Art Spirit), but found myself instead scribbling out a large number of pages in my journal. I recall Friedrich Nietzsche, as a classical philologist grieving for the scholar who could not think “unless he had a book between his fingers.” Nietzsche said that it was a tragedy to rise early in the morning with a mind fresh and ready for ideas, and to waste that time in other thinkers’ transcripts. I am convinced that if the nineteenth century had a problem with books standing between a thinker and his/her thoughts, today it is smart phones. Alain de Botton once said that the problem with our phones is not that we’re gaming too much, but that “they don’t allow us enough time with our thoughts.” Putting my phone on the shelf, I gave myself to good thoughts and good reading, knowing that whatever came to me over my phone could wait.

Probably the reason for my percolating mind this morning was reading Henri before bedtime last evening. I was captivated by his comments on the “powerful demarcation between the surface and the deep currents of human development.” In Platonic fashion, Henri divided the world between a surface, material realm and an underlying, foundational, spiritual one. Building on this scheme, Henri then divided artists between the two realms. Emerging from the world of the illustrator which he knew all-too-well, Henri argued that “the artist of the surface does not see further than material fact. He describes appearances and he illustrates events.”

Henri, as a sage, devotes a large section of his book The Art Spirit to inspiring artists to seek that underlying spiritual dynamic:

Event and upheavals, which seem more profound than they really are, are happening on the surface. But there is another and deeper change in progress. It is of long, steady persistent growth, very little affected and not at all disturbed by surface conditions. The artist of today should be alive to this deeper evolution on which all growth depends, has depended and will depend.

Aristotle pointed out two branches of knowledge: technē (from which we get technology) furnishes us the tools for our tasks, and sophia (translated “wisdom”) which is closer to the Delphic Oracle (“Know Thyself”), furnishing us with insight. It is this inner, self-knowledge that Aristotle said points us to the spirit of well-being or fulfilment (eudaimonia).

I have written about this in other blog posts but will write it again: I regard myself as a late bloomer, educationally. Throughout my public schooling, I lacked the maturity and discipline to apply myself to the school disciplines of study. The only skill I possessed was that as an artist, and fortunately those technical abilities (which I developed enthusiastically during junior and senior high school) landed me a scholarship to the university. At the university, I woke up to the world of ideas and could not satisfy my lust for learning. When my doctorate was completed, I did a swan dive into the classroom and remained for three decades. During these years in the educational crucible, I continued to study and reflect and examine the foundations for my artistic enterprise.

Now, retired, I find myself constantly making sketches of myself while in my element, seated, calm, and exploring my aesthetic world by making art, reading and writing out my thoughts:

Shultz reduced

 

This morning, while rendering this locomotive, I thought of Aristotle’s words, and decided that for me, technē could assist in portraying the “surface” of this painting, while hopefully sophia would percolate like my morning coffee, producing eudaimonia.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website www.davidtrippart.com.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Morning Coffee with Dave & Martin

August 29, 2018

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To be old means: to stop in time at

          that place where the unique

          thought of a thought train has

          swung into its joint.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

My morning watch was filled with the warmth of Heidegger’s poem “The Thinker as Poet.” Over the past two years, I have taken that piece with me to the Colorado mountains and read it again and again, letting the words wash over my soul. I love having the quality time for thinking that has been provided me in this life of semi-retirement. I spent the best part of today with “Z”, a Czech friend I have only known a few years, and don’t seem to spend enough time with in conversation. Today, over coffee, we had a genuine heart-to-heart about this deep-seated joy we know when ideas come in our quiet, reflective hours. Z shared with me some of his own writings of late, and I hope to God he finds a way to publish his work. The world needs more good meditations to read and ponder.

In our conversations today, we mused about how we find ourselves during our senior years organizing our ideas into clusters, and how satisfying it is when a particular idea finds its place in our scheme, when the idea finally joins the train and swings “into its joint.” This metaphor from Heidegger has been a card I’ve enjoyed playing of late.

I believe I have finally finished the commission that I began earlier this summer. I was hoping to have it complete by the beginning of school. It just took a little longer.

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Thanks for reading.

I paint because it helps me to think.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog knowing that I am not alone.

Perhaps the Centerpiece of my Christmas Show

October 19, 2017

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Recently it’s been difficult to stop and blog because my schedule is stuffed (but all of it is good, fortunately). At 10 this morning, I finally signed this piece and said “Enough!”  I was wishing to leave the right side of the composition trailing off into the void, but kept adding details to it. I’ve done this countless times before and found myself liking my paintings before they were “finished.” My biggest vice, I suppose, is overworking, pushing a painting past its prime. I certainly did not want to do it with this particular work.

My upcoming show, “American Railroad Odyssey”, is posted on my website www.recollections54.com. It will open November 11 at The Gallery at Redlands, 400 N. Queen St., Palestine, Texas, and continue until December 16. I’m excited to be putting final pieces in place. This will probably be my centerpiece: the historic T&P 610 that is housed in Palestine. Today I will take it to the print shop for photographing. I want to make limited edition signed & numbered prints available, as well as greeting cards and postcards.

Tomorrow, the painting goes to Palestine to join the rest of the collection already being framed for the show.  I’ve lost count, but I know I have over a dozen original watercolors of historic trains to put on display and sale: Texas State Railroad, Durango-Silverton, Cumbres & Toltec, and Eureka Springs, as well as other scattered paintings of locomotives and rolling stock.

Tomorrow after college, I will travel again to Palestine to set up my art booth in the streets for the Hot Pepper Festival on Saturday. I will still have work inside The Gallery at Redlands, but the Gallery is opening a one-person show for Elaine Cash-Jary, a remarkable watercolor artist that the public must see. Elaine will be greeting patrons inside the Gallery while I “work the streets” at the festival all day! Any of you reading this post who are in travelling distance will not want to miss Elaine’s show. And if you come out to meet her, don’t forget to come find me on the streets! We’re planning on a great day Saturday. The Gallery will remain open until 10 that night, as the patrons of Red Fire Grille often cross the lobby to see what we have going on in there.

Thanks for reading. I’ll try to post again once I’m on site in Palestine.

 

The Harmony Beneath the Disarray

August 29, 2017

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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.

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Fun at Dr. Jeckyll’s Open Mic

Thanks for reading.

 

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

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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 . . .