Archive for the ‘vignette’ Category

The Dawn has a Pulse

January 4, 2016


When one reads these strange pages of one long ago one feels that one is at one with one who once . . . 

James Joyce, Ulysses

Today marks my return to school, though students do not arrive for two more days. Monday and Tuesday are designated for work in the classroom and attending meetings. With a 33-degree temperature outside, I knew my room would be frigid, but I am layered up and my mind has finally percolated along with fresh coffee, and ideas are flowing.

I awoke at 5:00, and decided not to come to the classroom till 8:00. The hours spent at my writing desk proved fruitful as I continued to read from James Joyce and write in my journal. I love this writer’s love of language and his playful manipulation of it. He already has me laughingly describing my attempts that don’t hit the mark.  Now, when a watercolor or drawing doesn’t reach my standard, I can say that I “almosted it.” I like that better than “blew it” or “failed”. Last night I posted on the blog a failed watercolor attempt and only captioned “Oh well.”  I now think “almost” would have been more fitting.

On a more sobering note, my reading of Ulysses is dredging the silted-up canals of my own personal history, and the debris rising from the dark floors to the surface of these brackish waters of my surroundings holds my attention now. And I am grateful for this opportunity to evaluate and recalibrate where my life is going. Though my biological years classify me as a senior citizen, I am at heart still a schoolboy, only now I am more engrossed in these daily lessons. I know the idea of a New Year is manufactured, but I’ll still take it seriously. This is a New Era, a New Chance, a Fresh Chapter. A New Resolution.

When I rose from my desk to leave for school, I was shocked at what I saw out my bedroom window–a blue/lavender sky with a network of winter trees lacing the horizon. Last week, while at breakfast with my dad at Dave’s Diner in High Ridge, Missouri, I saw that same network of winter tree branches against a morning sky and thought “What a watercolor that could make, if done properly”. So, this morning at my school desk, I am trying. And I certainly don’t have an algorithm for painting winter trees, but I’m chipping away at this small composition with sincere delight, while listening to an excellent PBS “Voices and Visions” documentary on the work of Ezra Pound. I’m so glad I’m not teaching today. There is so much waiting to be discovered.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


A Thoreau Saturday

August 29, 2015

image“Home” means so many things. On the most basic level it’s simply a location, the place where one lives. It’s also the physical structure, the house or apartment that is home. Last, home refers to the environment that’s created inside that structure, a world-away-from-the-world offering refuge, safety, and happiness.

It’s this last idea of the home as sanctuary that’s absent from most thinking and decision making about technology.

William Powers, Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age

Saturday could not have come sooner for me. The first week of school was exhausting, but successful, and by the time Friday evening arrived, I saw the weekend as a luxurious gift. I spent hours in a comfortable reading chair last night, enjoying my journaling and reading, while looking up occasionally at my recent artwork tossed all over the sofa across the living room from me, and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

I am loving this book by Powers that I have nearly finished reading. The current chapter is over Thoreau, and how he fled the modern telegraph and railroad sensations to live quietly in Walden woods. I feel that my home is an escape from the daily flood of data and deadlines that harry me throughout the school weeks. Home offers shelter in the evenings and weekends, and a chance to feel that I have gotten back to my real life. Reading this book has been a godsend, because the author discusses ways to keep social media from driving your daily agenda, hence taking over your life. Since I started reading it, I have become painfully aware of how much time daily I have given to facebook, texting, email, blogging, etc. and less time to reflection over what I actually want to do with my life. The book has been a precious gift, and William Powers has offered us genuine spiritual wealth in his writing.

Recent 20 x 24" Laguna Madre Watercolor in Progress

Recent 20 x 24″ Laguna Madre Watercolor in Progress

Today, I am hoping to go deep into this painting that I started this past week. Daily I feel the call that it puts out to me, and I want to engage in growing it to its fulfillment.

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.

Living with a Longer Radius

July 25, 2015
9 x 10" Watercolor Sketch

9 x 10″ Watercolor Sketch

Yes, roam far, grasp life and conquer it, learn much and live. Your fetters are knocked off; you are really free. . . . Do not repose every night as villagers do. The noble life is continuous and unintermitting. At least, live with a longer radius. 

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, August 23, 1845

Having driven great distances the past couple of days, it was nice today to sleep in, and then relax into the day. Saturdays are nice for that. I devoted hours to going over my Laguna Madre papers, watercolor sketches, and digital photos. Delicious memories flooded my soul, and as I lingered over some of the photos I had taken of the lagoon, I decided on impulse to stretch a sheet of 9 x 10″ 140 lb. cold press paper and see what I could do inside such a small surface. I have posted today’s work/play. I have some ideas of what to do to tighten it up, but I think I’m going to let it rest a few days. I felt such warm feelings and memories as I worked on this piece, and I’ll remain grateful to my last breath for those six days of splendor on the island. I close my eyes, and I am back there again. There is talk of a plein air painting camp to be held on that island next year, and I would do nothing to miss out on that. I am just dying to see that heavenly environment again.

I took Thoreau’s challenge seriously. I am not comfortable, working on small watercolors, to begin with. I’m still trying to solve the problems of horizons such as this, where land masses and lagoon zig-zag in patterns I’ve never attempted to paint before. I love looking at the stacked bands of color, from sky, to trees, to ground, to sand, to lagoon, and then land again. Depth perspective still deals me fits as I try to render flowers in the foreground and gradually shift to middle ground and then background. So much still to learn, but I’m anxious to grow into this. Thoreau challenges me to strive onward and enlarge my circle of understanding. Perhaps I will be better in the classroom as I continually remember that I myself will always be a student.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

To the One Who Knows

July 25, 2015
Going over sketches and studies of the Laguna Madre Project

Going over sketches and studies of the Laguna Madre Project

The Mother Lagoon

The Mother Lagoon

The mythologies, those vestiges of ancient poems, the world’s inheritance, still reflecting some of their original hues, like the fragments of clouds tinted by the departed sun, the wreck of poems, a retrospect as [of] the loftiest fames,–what survives of oldest fame,–some fragment will still float into the latest summer day and ally this hour to the morning of creation.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, December 6, 1845

Long ago, on a late-night television talk show, I recall a host asking his guest why he spent so much time with the obscure hobby that he was presenting that night. His answer I’ll never forget: “For those who don’t know, no explanation is possible. For those who do, no explanation is necessary.” I post that remark, because I am surprised, and gratified, that there are those of you who take time to read my blog, and some of you check it out daily. Thank you. A couple of decades ago, I was filled with a youthful arrogance convinced that everything I thought and said was publishable, and should be heard/read by multitudes. I stopped thinking that years ago, and today find myself surprised to find anyone interested in my daily musings. I am still shocked at the remembrance of “media day” when I was on the Texas Laguna Madre. I saw nine people approaching in a boat with cameras. “Really?” I thought. I’m just a guy painting on the island every day. I’m boring. There is no story here. And still I am very, very pleased, and gratified, that they found the work fascinating that day. And to this day, none of those people who showed up that day has a clue as to how they filled me with a sense of pride and good will. I still look at the videos they edited and read the articles they published, almost daily.

Good day to all of you. Texas temperatures outside are soaring toward their appointed mark of 100 degrees. I have chosen to remain inside a darkened, air-conditioned studio to pore over pages of scattered thoughts and sketches scribbled in the weeks leading up to my time spent on the island in the Texas Laguna Madre. I have a 9 x 10″ stretched piece of watercolor paper sitting outside drying in the sun. Soon I’ll be watercolor sketching a small vignette of a piece of the Laguna Madre that I photographed and have been staring at on my computer most of the morning.

Thoreau is turning into the best of comrades. His journal entries from the Walden Pond years are really stunning me, particulalry the one posted above. For years I have felt shudders running through me while translating two lines from a Presocratic fragment, or gazing at a shard of an Attic Greek krater, or looking at the angles of what remained from a shattered Greek temple from the Doric ages. Thoreau is right–like color filling the clouds of a sun that has already departed, there is a Presence that flickers in these artifacts, and throughout each day on the island, I shuddered while looking on the beauty of my surroundings in that exotic place. And today, as I look back over my notes and sketches from those days, I feel my soul returning to that sacred place.

Time to paint! Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember (and today I do remember).

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.