Archive for the ‘watecolor’ Category

Friday Evening Gallery Serenity

April 7, 2017


Lately from time to time my work up there is interrupted by long stretches at conferences, lecture trips, committee meetings and my teaching work down here in Freiburg.  But as soon as I go back up there . . . I am simply transported into the work’s own rhythm, and in a fundamental sense I am not in control of its hidden law.

Martin Heidegger, “Why Do I Stay in the Pronvinces?” (1934 radio address)

As the sun lingers a moment longer on the horizon of Palestine, Texas, I pause and enjoy the coolness of the breezes whispering across the quiet streets downtown and the voices of patrons drifting in and out of the Gallery at Redlands as well as the Historic Redlands Inn. It has been a most pleasant afternoon and evening, with friends dropping in from out of town whose company I find rejuvenating to me as an artist and lover of life. Shifting gears away from school life and into this small town and gallery life is comparable to what Heidegger described as he moved back and forth between the University of Freiburg and his cabin in the quiet town of Todtnauberg in the Black Forest.

As this evening grew quiet, I recalled enchanting hours spent on the Laguna Madre the past couple of summers, and drifted across the gallery to see the twelve framed island paintings arranged together on one of the walls.


This one in particular appealed to me, because on the late afternoon I painted it, I was working through Martin Heidegger’s essay “The Origin of the Work of Art.” He quoted the Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer–” ‘For in truth, art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it.” Laying the book aside, I looked deeply into the cord grasses clustered at my feet, and as I thought of the layers of color embedded in those strands of grasses, my mind concocted a scheme that involved masking, layering, scraping and drawing. I knew that the task would involve layer upon layer of work and scrutiny,  and the effort took me well into the evening hours. By the time the final layers of masking were removed and the last glazes of wash applied, I indeed felt that I had wrested something from nature that evening. Hence, I felt the need to journal all over the page before submitting the work for framing.

The hour is growing late, and I feel the weariness of today’s lengthy travel, followed by long hours in the gallery. A special thanks to all my friends who came and kept me in good company and cheer this afternoon.  I love you all.

And thanks to all of you who read me . . .


Swimming in Ideas

August 1, 2016


We sail because our mind is like a fantastic sea shell, and when applying our ear to its lips we hear a perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore.

Abraham Heschel, Man is Not Alone

The day has been quite fulfilling, as I’ve enjoyed Heschel’s engaging work, and picked up the brush after a two-day hiatus.  I picked up my Arkansas truck watercolor from the frame shop and love the presentation the framers put together. Then I turned my attention to the train from Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  This is a rather large composition and it’s going to require some focussed time. So far, it seems that I am doing much more drawing than painting, but I enjoy that too.  Thanks for reading.

train (2)


Sunday Night Ponderings

July 10, 2016

LMFS 1 (2)

Power Plant visible from where I stayed this summer on an island in the Laguna Madre

LMFS 3 (2)Assortment of Fire Wheels and other grasses on the island in the Laguna Madre

. . . it’s always been private occasions that make me feel connected to the joys and sorrrows of the world, often in the form of communion with writers and musicians I’ll never meet in person.  Proust called these moments of unity between writer and reader “that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.”

Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Finally, I can relax, late this Sunday night.  Today was an indoor art festival in Fort Worth, held at Stage West Theater.  A Texas summer festival is delightful when held inside an air-conditioned venue. The theater space granted me was perfect for me to set up my work, and we were only open for three hours.  Still, the loading in and out on the same day (only 97 degrees today) has ways of sapping my energy, and of course, the days leading up to festivals still after all these years have ways of rolling anxiety throughout my being.

MADE (2)

But I’m happy with how things went.  I’ve posted two of the plein air watercolors I did recently while at the Laguna Madre Field Station.  They sold today, and I’m always happy when my art finds a home.  I had the time of my life, visiting with patrons and fellow artists, and am much better for the time spent in such good company.  It’s truly been a rewarding experience and I’m grateful to have been included in this event.

I’m happier still to find my calendar for the summer at an end–no more engagements booked before school begins in the fall.  I am juiced to begin my next series of watercolor experiments without interruption, and overjoyed to have some quality reading time before me.  The Susan Cain book I quoted above is overflowing my heart with joy as I read her affirmations concerning the introverted life I’ve known from my beginnings.  How wonderful to read a book that extols the virtues of solitude when I feel that I am bombarded with media messages around the clock arguing for the merits of group think, collaborative learning (I’ve always struggled with this as a public school teacher), staying connected on social media, etc.

From my shelves I am pulling Anthony Storr’s Solitude: A Return to the Self, and I have borrowed a copy of William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age.  These three literary works are speaking to me in the most profound way, and this gift of time and space has arrived at a perfect time, I feel.  More than ever, I am eager to explore new horizons and learn new things as I pursue my art and ideas.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Watercoloring into the Night

March 2, 2016


I have been one acquainted with the night.

Robert Frost

Having been gashed nightly with school-related tasks for nearly two weeks, I find tonight much more satisfying, with grading for high school as well as university all caught up. I regret having such a sour attitude, but having taught high school for twenty-seven years, one would think that I could relax in the evenings, having all my lesson plans essentially built, and only needing to tweak them where I feel it is necessary. But the College Board has decided to trot out a new curriculum for A. P. Art History this year, so every single class now has to be reconstructed from the foundation up, and the man-hours have been excruciating. The timing could not have been worse, because I had that blessed privilege of serving as Artist-in-Residence for Texas A&M University Corpus Christi last summer, and have worked extremely hard to create a total of thirty-four watercolors for a one-man-show to be hung in the Art Center of Corpus Christi.

My show opens tomorrow, and I’m excited just thinking about it, though I am eight hours away, and won’t even see it until Spring Break. The Artist’s Reception will be March 16, and I hope to meet friends there that I haven’t seen in so long, as well as find an opportunity to make new acquaintances. I am also anxious to see how all my larger works look in frames (to date I’ve only seen the small pieces in presentation mode). Despite all the school work, I’m still glad that I managed to push out that many paintings over the past eight months. And I must say, that I feel a measure of sadness that this chapter is nearly complete, and will close at the end of this month. Since May of last year, the Laguna Madre project has been front and center in my day-to-day consciousness. Tonight I really find myself wondering what comes next.

Reading didn’t come easily this evening, so I got this watercolor back out that I haven’t touched in nearly a week. This store front has always held my attention, reminding me of the kinds of country stores I enjoyed in the days of my childhood. I have spoken by phone to the grandaughter of the proprietor of this business, and am excited to hear so many fascinating stories about the days when this business thrived. Perhaps the time has arrived for me to re-open my “Recollections 54” genre of nostalgic middle-America scenes.

Thanks for reading.


Puttin’ on the Show

January 29, 2016


Beauty in art reminds one what is worthwhile.

Ezra Pound, “The Serious Artist”

I don’t know where the week went, seems yesterday was Monday and yet today is already Friday. School has been a joy despite the work crunch. Engaged students really make a difference in a teacher’s daily attitude.

I’ve posted above the final four watercolors I have shipped to the coast for framing. They will complete my one-man-show to be held at the Art Center in Corpus Christi during the month of March. I suppose this will close as well my memorable chapter of experiences at the Laguna Madre last summer. Whether or not I continue painting the Texas coast beyond this show still remains to be seen.

I am pleased to announce that I have been asked to teach two watercolor workshops while I’m in Corpus Christi for a week of my show. The Art Center of Corpus Christi has already posted one of the workshops on their website.

This show will run March 15-17, and the fee is $250 for the 2 1/2 days of instruction.

An additional workshop will be held on the island in the Laguna Madre where I served my residency last June. Only six artists will be accepted for this one, as a boat is required to transport everyone along with gear on the 20-minute trip. The overnight adventure will last two days and cost $290. Anyone wishing to sign up for that one needs to contact the Center for Coastal Studies, and make a check payable to the Laguna Madre Field Station.

Before the weekend is over, I plan to return to the studio, but first I have a considerable amount of work to do for this weekend’s Academic Decathlon meet to be held in our city. This is an annual event for me, and I love working it, love seeing the dedication and enthusiasm of young minds striving to excel.

Thanks for reading.


Sunday Pondering

January 10, 2016

imageWhile gazing heavenward through the tops of winter trees, I note the complexity of limbs partitioning the sky, as lead tracings in stained-glass cathedral windows partition theology.


There is plenty of schoolwork to accomplish this Sunday, but I’m trying to put in some quality studio work as well.  I completed a 5 x 7″ drawing of the tree tops in my back  yard. I have also begun an 8 x 10″ watercolor of the same composition.

Thanks for reading.

Watercoloring on a Winter Night

December 28, 2015


door knob winter 2015

My fiftieth year had come and gone,

I sat, a solitary man, 

In a crowded London shop,

An open book and empty cup

On the marble table-top.

While on the shop and street I gazed

My body of a sudden blazed;

And twenty minutes more or less

it seemed, so great my happiness,

That I was blessed and could bless.

William Butler Yeats, “Vacillation”

Returning from my St. Louis Christmas vacation through torrential downpours while engulfed in darkening skies, all I can say is that Sunday was forgettable. Awaking this morning in the pre-dawn to find snow all over my Jeep was exhilarating and the first thing I did was build a fire in the fireplace–a fire that still burns tonight as I write this.  Aside from a few business errands, today was a truly quiet and rewarding day before the fire with excellent books to read and only the best thoughts to think.

Rediscovering the work of Harold Bloom has returned me to a number of writers I abandoned years ago, and I am now re-reading them with a renewed sense of vision and satisfaction.   I’m still recording ideas in my journal from a recent reading of “Hamlet.”  This morning I chose to open a volume of William Butler Yeats from my personal library.  I began with “Sailing to Byzantium”, “Byzantium” and “The Second Coming.”  But then I read “Vacillation” for the first time and felt moved in the best way.  I loved his description of a peak experience similar to what Emerson referred to as a “transparent eyeball” when everything is perfect for a short season.  Proust also writes warmly about the way childhood memories revisited lifted his spirits to a different zone.  I have known this throughout my life, and today enjoyed a series of such visitations.

My research took me to a 1917 essay Yeats wrote titled In Per Amica Silentia Lunae.  In this work, Yeats explores the creative process from a number of angles, and I could see portions of the essay making their way into the 1932 poem “Vacillation.”  These words came at a good time for me.

My time spent pondering lines from William Butler Yeats were comingled with long meditative moments gazing into this fire that has burned the entire day, filling my living space with lovely crackling sounds and the luxury of warmth penetrating my sweater.

Finally this evening, I resumed poking at a watercolor still life set up before I left for St. Louis.  With renewed interest, I redrew some of the door’s locking system and began laying in details on the rusted surface.  I’m beginning to rough up the door as well, combining pencil, watercolor wash, and smudging with my fingers and Q-tips to get different textures on the abused wood.  Bach music has played through most of the evening as well, lending a quality to the atmosphere that I cannot describe except wtih words like “sublime”.


This has been a beautiful day for reflection, thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

My Annual Rustic Christmas Gallery

December 8, 2015


But in the end, in the end one is alone. We are all of us alone. I mean I’m told these days we have to consider ourselves as being in society… but in the end one knows one is alone, that one lives at the heart of a solitude.
Harold Bloom

Too many of my friends regard a quote such as the one above as depressing.  I don’t see that at all.  Looking back over my life span, I have felt alone, even while in the midst of rich relationships.  My recent reading of Harold Bloom has opened so many avenues of thought, that I find it fortunate to have some “alone time” to sort through them all.  And I like it.  In the final week before Christmas, I will introduce my Philosophy class to the thought of Paul Tillich, a philosopher/theologian who had much to say about the qualities of being alone.  He called the positive aspects of alone-ness “solitude” and the negative aspects “loneliness.”  I can appreciate that difference, and have known both worlds.

The part of my life given to making art, reading and writing is a solitary enterprise, as far as I’m concerned.  And I find those moments to be sublime, not lonely or depressing. When reading Hemingway’s comments in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech (“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”), I’m saddened to think of those who suffer loneliness when engaged in creative acts.

Above, I have posted a photo of my classroom gallery that I set up the final two weeks before dismissing for the Christmas holidays.  When the gallery is in place, I stay in my classroom until 4:00 every school day.  Since I finish teaching at 12:20, it makes for a long and solitary afternoon if no one comes into the classroom.  But that is time well-spent as I catch up on my reading and sketching.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Always Something to Think and Say

July 15, 2015
Laguna Madre Painting in Progress

Laguna Madre Painting in Progress

One cannot create an art that speaks to men when one has nothing to say.

André Malraux, Man’s Hope

Something inside me warned this morning not to wait for inspiration, but to go find it. I was bone-tired, and my mind was devoid of ideas. A part of me wanted to give up and return to bed, but the better part urged me to open my current journal. Turning to pages dating from the Fourth of July, I began reading. Within five pages, my mind was surging with fresh ideas and inspiration, and the muse has remained with me throughout this day.

I stopped painting only to join Heidi Hardy for lunch. She was the radio host who invited me to take part in her broadcast a week ago. Heidi is always surging with fresh ideas and trying out new adventures. Returning to my studio, I resumed work on the piece above, and my mind stayed engaged on this notion of stirring up inspiration. I found this quote from Malraux that truly stirs my blood. I have written before, that I grew up wanting to be an artist, with no interest in academics. I hated public school, and only went to college because of a scholarship. To this day, I feel that college saved me, because in that nexus I woke up to a world of ideas and the curiosity pushed my art endeavors to the side for the next dozen years or so. Once I returned to making art, I discovered that I now had something to say, ideas worth expressing. Had the academic side not taken over my life, I would be little more than an illustrator now, a hack, with a talent to draw or paint on demand. The older I get, the less regret I feel over the past. To be sure, I’ve made many bad decisions that I wish I could redo, but I’m glad that I turned away from my study of art technique long enough to cultivate a life of the mind.

One of the reasons I love the art of Robert Motherwell so much is because he made no apologies for being both artist and scholar. In an interview, he discussed a book titled The History of Anti-Intellectualism, and the frustrations he experienced when faced with that shallow ultimatum from art dealers that he make up his mind whether he wanted to pursue scholarship or art. He always embraced both, and therefore offered up to us a marvelous body of written work in addition to his collection of paintings, drawing and collages. He chafed at the notion that an artist is a clever craftsman but the critic is the scholar who educates the public about art.

I’m starting to feel some momentum with the painting above. It is larger than what I’ve worked with recently (20 x 24″), and the sky is going to require a great deal of attention. I spent a large part of the afternoon reworking areas of the sky and rendering the field station where I lived for six days on the Laguna Madre.

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.

Clarity, Crystallization (Probably Over-Simplification)

July 7, 2015

imageThought is only a flash between two long nights.

Poincaré, French mathematician

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

How exhilarating that shock of recognition, that moment the light goes on in your head, that gleam of light that flashes across your consciousness! I experienced that last evening while sitting at my writing desk, working on an assignment. And today, the idea continues to take shape. Last night, I was completing paperwork forwarded to me by the radio station that will interview me tomorrow afternoon, and as they revealed their intention to tell my story, I asked myself: What is my Story? I asked the same question during my week’s stay on the Laguna Madre, knowing the media would come out one day, looking for a story. What exactly is my “story”? What have I done with my life? What am I seeking at this point?

I believe most of us, in our later years, look back and attempt some kind of a retrospective, some kind of effort to find meaning in what we have done. Maybe we think of this as our legacy. During graduate school days, I was required to read Lewis Joseph Sherrill’s book The Struggle of the Soul. All my colleagues chafed at having to read the volume, and I expected to be underwhelmed when it came my turn, but I actually found the book very engaging. It was he who first pointed out to me something I’ve heard many times since: that Jewish rabbis in ancient times were expected to summarize their respective lives in a short, pithy proverb before completing their life’s journey. From that early age, I myself have thought back on this time and again–what is my story? What have I done? How do I reduce my life to a short saying, or at least a paragraph?

Last night, I put down on paper my first effort to summarize, fully aware that this could change again and again as long as I’m still here. But here is my summary:

My life at this point is easily divided into thirds. The first third was spent developing my craft as an artist, assembling my toolbox, so to speak. Throughout my formal schooling, I had zero-to-little interest in academic subjects, or learning in general; I only wanted to make art. To that end I entered college to earn a Bachelor’s degree in art. The second third was spent pursuing ideas. Early in my Bachelor’s degree program, I experienced a Renaissance so to speak, and wanted to know everything. All subjects were fascinating. That led me to graduate school. I devoured religion, literature, philosophy, history and the arts, loving every semester of it, every term paper, every research project, even my dissertation. My final third, beginning quickly after I emerged with my doctorate, was synthesizing my craftsmanship with my scholarship. The visual arts and the world of ideas belonged together in some kind of relationship. That is where I am now, and loving it. Though he didn’t use the actual words, the philosopher Hegel pointed out history as a triad of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The first two movements are adverse to one another, and the third attempts to bring them together in something greater than either branch. That is my life: a craftsman, an idealogue, and now one wishing to express my reservoir of ideas with a visual representation. Had I not studied ideas seriously for decades, I would have been a mere craftsman. Had I not developed my artistic skills, I would be merely a speaker or writer. As I live out the remainder of my life, I seek to express my ideas in visual art, hoping I have something important enough to say or view.

Tomorrow, from 3:00-5:00, I will be on a live radio broadcast, That’s when I’m expected to share my story the first hour, and discuss the adventures of the Laguna Madre experiment the second. For anyone interested in calling in, the phone number is: 214-431-5062. The link above will allow you to stream the broadcast, if you’re available and interested. I would love you to participate with me in this.

I don’t know what else to do with the painting posted above. It is the third one I started while in Athens, Texas over the Fourth of July holidays. I worked on the interior of the base shell today, and tweaked the background colors a bit more. I could be finished with it. Other paintings await.

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.