Grinding it Out

July 24, 2017


This has been an exhausting work day for me in The Gallery at Redlands. I have a commission to complete and have had difficulty painting because of a broken A/C at home. Painting on the road doesn’t come easily for me. Several friends have stopped by the gallery whom I haven’t seen in weeks and it was good to catch up on the local news and make a couple of trips out of the shop to photograph some historic sites in the Palestine vicinity. But all the while, though, I knew I needed to get this 11 x 14″ painting started and nearly finished.  I stopped repeatedly throughout the day, taking refresher breaks so as not to experience fatigue-driven mistakes. Finally, at 7:15 tonight, I realized that this composition is finally taking shape and I believe is going to turn out alright. It needs to be scanned and processed no later than tomorrow to satisfy a deadline I promised.

Thanks for reading.  It’s quiet here, and I just wanted to share this.

Drawing the Next Circle

July 24, 2017


In the Gallery at Redlands, Palestine, Texas

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn, that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

Awakened at 5:30 this morning by a heavy rainstorm (love the sound of rain on a tin roof!), I rose refreshed, and by the time I finished showering, making breakfast and loading the Jeep for the 50-minute drive to the gallery, I was surprised to be at the desk by 8:00. My pump is primed, and I am ready to begin the next painting.

Emerson’s meditation on “Circles” has possessed me since 1992 when I was first introduced to it while at Oregon State University. The words resonate with me, because I seldom feel that I’ve been mired in a rut; there is always a new adventure to pursue, a new experience to savor.  When Jack Kerouac wrote that beyond the hills in the distance something wonderful is going to happen, I believe it was Ken Kesey who retorted, “It turns out there are just more hills.” I have met many with Kesey’s sentiment, but I am not one of them. In a short time I’ll be departing for my next road trip, and I’m excited beyond measure. Meanwhile, I have a commission to complete, so I’m getting down to the business of it. It’s a beautiful morning in Palestine, Texas for working on a painting.


Last evening, between soggy rainstorms, I did manage to get in a little fly fishing in a private pond near the store where I reside in the country. I managed to land two largemouth bass and a pair of fat panfish. I returned them all, just enjoying the sport of fishing. I couldn’t imagine a better way to finish an evening. Last week in Louisiana, some of my best evenings were capped by fishing area lakes, and I’m still thinking fondly of those experiences.

Time to get to work . . . thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when feeling alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Living out of a Suitcase

July 23, 2017
suitcase 6
Fishing Louisiana Waters
You don’t choose a life Dad. You live one.
Daniel (from the film The Way)
A friend shared this film with me while I was traveling, and the central message continues to percolate in my mind.  When confronted with the choice, I believe I have lived my life more than chosen it, especially with all my changes over the past couple of decades.  The film is anchored in the plot of one’s personal odyssey, and I’ve viewed my own life since the 1970’s as an odyssey rather than a career choice. And I have lived a life with few regrets.
Since my retirement began June 3, I’ve embarked on an odyssey.  Although not planned, I have now lived out of a suitcase for thirty-one days, beginning with my trip home to St. Louis to visit my parents and siblings. Returning to Texas to find my A/C not functioning and my living temperatures hovering around 92 degrees, I began staying in hotel rooms and with friends. After a week of that, finding out that an A/C technician was not coming anytime soon, I then set out for a trip to my Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas and living quarters in the old store where the owners (precious friends) let me live when I need a place to crash.
The Gallery at Redlands
A Store in the Wilderness
I love The Gallery at Redlands, now housing the biggest collection of my personal work. And evenings living in the old store out in the wilderness are too exquisite to describe. The quiet is intoxicating for one who tires of city and suburban noise. I’m always deeply grateful for time spent in this part of the state.
With still no word on an A/C appointment, I accepted the offer of a friend, and next journeyed over into Louisiana for the first time in my life to spend a week fishing the waters of southern Louisiana and spending some time exploring New Orleans. The fishing was filled with excitement, especially when a seven-foot gator visited me during two of my excursions.
suitcase 5
I was live-bait fishing from a dock, and twice over the two days, this enormous reptile drifted across the waters and hovered about twenty feet in front of where I fished, eyeing my bobber in presumed amusement. At one point, when the bobber began bouncing, he grabbed it in his jaws and submerged. I felt like I had a Buick on the end of my line, and reached for a knife to cut it loose, but then the bobber drifted back to the surface as well as the gator, who then hovered a while longer and watched before drifting away. This is the first time in my life I’ve seen a gator outside a zoo.
suitcase 3suitcase 4
I could never successfully describe the sensations that overwhelmed me once I entered the French Quarter of New Orleans. The sounds of live blues and zydeco music pulled me from steamy, sultry Bourbon Street and into the air conditioned dark interiors of some of the most exciting clubs I’ve ever experienced. My sketchbook was with me, and I still struggle to capture the human figure on paper, especially when the subjects are not posing. Bobbing and weaving musicians are a challenge, but I felt very much in my element as I struggled to capture their essences. And the music cleansed my soul in ways I’ll never adequately describe. Musicians are usually flattered to see someone drawing them and always gracious in their assessment of the quality of the sketches. In fact, the day after, my cell phone rang (I always give out my business cards), and it was one of the guitarists wishing to purchase my sketch. We made a business deal over the phone while I sat in the cemetery sketching and he was on the road to his next gig out of town.
suitcase 2
Cemetery off Canal Street
I have seen pictures of New Orleans cemeteries, but wasn’t prepared for the deep feelings that seized me when I looked at acres and acres of land strewn with thousands of above-ground monuments to the deceased.  John Donne’s Meditation 17 was in my ears:
The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. 
I made a number of sketches in the hot sun that morning, and felt a profound connection with the ones honored with these monuments as well as the loved ones who had them erected.
At the time of this writing I am back on the road.  My A/C will not be looked at until next Tuesday, but thankfully the gallery in Palestine and store out in the country are available for me to “roost” while I await repairs.  Meanwhile, I intend to continue enjoying the journey.
Thanks for reading.
I create art in order to remember.
I journal when I fee alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Gallery Musings

July 15, 2017

gallery musings

We have an event at The Gallery at Redlands this evening, so I am still here at the desk, reading and keeping myself occupied. I have begun reading Paul Klee’s monograph, On Modern Art, a short treatise prepared as a lecture given in 1924. Right out of the gate, he began constructing a metaphor of the artist as a tree, and then overpowered me with this observation:

And yet, standing at his appointed place, the trunk of the tree, he does nothing other than gather and pass on what comes to him from the depths. He neither serves nor rules–he transmits.

His position is humble.  And the beauty of the crown is not his own. He is merely a channel.

I love this! And I love thinking about the process of making art as merely drawing something up from the depths, being a channel for something meaningful. Throughout my life, I have been surprised repeatedly by what flows out of my brush or drags out from under the point of my pencil. The process of painting and drawing has always been its own reward, and I’m happy that I’ve gotten to participate in this event.

Thanks for reading. I hope you draw as much inspiration from Klee’s observation as I did.


Finished my Night Train

July 15, 2017

The rains have turned this into a quiet Saturday in the gallery. I took advantage and finally finished one of my favorite “Christmas Trains” theme.

July 15, 2017

A Simple Life

A hard rain is pummeling Palestine, Texas currently, forbidding me to dash down the street to retrieve my art supplies. I’m cozied inside The Gallery at Redlands for the day, my recent train watercolors lined up before me, and I’m in the mood to complete a couple of them. But I wait . . .

I just finished reading Christina Baker Kline’s a piece of the world, a fictional memoir for Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting “Christina’s World”. I found so much to love as I read the details of the Olson’s 18th-centry house and the Spartan existence Christina and brother Alvaro endured there. 

Living in my suburban  neighborhood, I of course take for granted our current conveniences. But I spent my childhood summers on the modest farms of my grandparents, with no indoor plumbing, heated by wood-burning stoves.

The store/residence where I spent last night is one of my favorite places to get away from the everyday familiar. Above, I’ve posted the photo I took during breakfast, while fully enjoying the feel of the country kitchen.

Saying good-bye to the store . . . 

. . . and Hello to The Gallery at Redlands 

Thanks for reading.

Flight to the Country

July 14, 2017

I didn’t reach my destination till after 11:00 tonight, but I’m thankful to be in my favorite getaway for the weekend. I was invited to an Open Mic in Hillsboro, Texas earlier where I got to reconnect with a host of friends I haven’t seen in years. Once the event finished, I decided to drive across the country to this spot rather than return home (where the air conditioning still isn’t repaired–house temps reached 92 today!).

I’m thankful for gracious friends who have offered me a bedroom this past week, and always appreciative of the friends who have given me access to this store in the remote country where I can relax off the grid and let my imagination mingle with this interior filled with the furnishings from decades past.

Tomorrow I’ll spend in The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine. I miss seeing my friends in the historic Inn at Redlands as well. The weekend offers good things.

Thanks for reading.

Snatching at Happiness

July 13, 2017

20170713_092129 (1)

People have to snatch at happiness when they can, in this world. It is always easier to lose than to find . . . “

Willa Cather, O Pioneers!

Some memories are realities and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.

Willa Cather, My Ántonìa

Good Day, friends.  My blog has been quiet for several days. I left St. Louis last Monday, and drove all afternoon and into the night, arriving at my Texas home with 90-degree temperatures indoors.  Yeah.  The third time in a decade I’ve returned from a vacation to discover a central air conditioning unit on the fritz. The good thing about a home maintenance contract is the cost of only a service call.  The bad things include waiting (this time four days and counting) for a contractor to arrive, who frequently puts a band-aid on the unit rather than replacing it. So I’ve spent this entire week in air conditioned businesses by day and hotels or dear friends’ homes by night. Hence not much to express on the blog.

But I came across these Willa Cather quotes this morning while reading from a novel I just purchased, a piece of the world. The narrative explores the life of Christina Olson, the forlorn subject of Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting Christina’s World. Since high school, I have known this workand brooded over its layers of possible interpretation. In this engaging literary, piece, Christina muses over these quotes, and my heart was stirred as I recorded them in my journal and pondered their messages.

I won’t pretend to understand the notion of happiness, and have always wondered whether or not I myself could be regarded as a “happy” individual. Frankly, I’ve considered myself serious and (most of the time) contented. But happy?  I’m not sure. Throughout my life I have known multitudes of friends who exude a happy exterior that I feel I have never projected. During several occasions of my classroom encounters, when the subject was raised, I would muse aloud whether or not happiness was overrated.

Already, I feel that I am rambling, but I want to get this out: I have known countless moments of unspeakable happiness in my life. But the bursts of happiness were always ephemeral, and I always had to cope with the moments that were low or just benign. But I’ve never complained that life was overall unhappy. I guess what I am saying is that I agree with the first quote–happiness is easier lost than found. And oftentimes I feel that happiness finds me, surprises me, visits me, rather than claim that I successfully found it.

As to the second quote, I offer a resounding Yes. My memories are among my greatest sources of happiness. My life has been abundantly blessed with a myriad of memories that will never evaporate. And the memories are always there for the recall.  Unlike happiness that I find at will, the memories I can indeed call up anytime I need them.

Thanks for reading. I just wanted to get this off my chest, while I flit from place to place, seeking an air-conditioned environment!


The Long Road Home

July 10, 2017


. . . what I want and all my days I pine for is to go back to my house and see my day of homecoming.  and if some god batters me far out on the wine-blue water I will endure it, keeping a stubborn spirit inside me, for already I have suffered much and done much hard work on the waves and in the fighting.  So let this adventure follow.

Homer, The Odyssey

Forty years ago, on July 3, I made my first trek from St. Louis, Missouri to Fort Worth, Texas, a twelve-hour drive, to open a new chapter of my life as I entered graduate school. Of course, I assumed I would return “home” in a few years and begin my profession. Instead, I began it in Texas and only recently retired from it.

The intervening four decades have been marked by that back-and-forth highway odyssey of sustained windshield time and interior thoughts allowed to flow like a river through my consciousness. I suppose the most constant theme has been that notion of “home.” Where has that been?  Coming to St. Louis has always meant coming home, and seeing parents and siblings–all of them still living–and feeling the welcome embrace of homecoming. Yet, all the while here, while enjoying the comforts and conversation and new /old sights surrounding me, I’ve been conscious that my home is far away, and the day will arrive that I return. And so, this morning, that day has again arrived. Before me lays that unwinding road, with the undulating windshield cinematography and the unspooling thoughts drifting through my mind. As always before, I expect I’ll find comfort in all that.

As usual, I awoke too early this morning, without an alarm, and Dad won’t be getting up for breakfast for about an hour. This affords an exquisite opportunity to sit on the carport and gaze at yet another splendorous display of lemon yellow sunlight pouring through the tall trees surrounding my parents’ house, and listen to the winds and the chorus of the birds.

Dad and I always go to Dave’s Diner for breakfast on the mornings that I am up here, even though I sleep in my sister and brother-in-law’s house a half mile away.  Yesterday morning, while returning home, my 88-year-old dad, a Korean combat veteran, dropped a CD into the console, saying, “This is the only song I care to listen to anymore.”  It was Billy Joel’s “My Life”! And so, I awoke this morning with those lyrics still pulsating through my head. My dad is quiet, with a great deal of space always surrounding him. How my heart vibrated to know that these are the kinds of thoughts that matter to him, at his age. We always wonder what kinds of notions lie at the bottoms of deep pools of silence in the ones we love. Yesterday, by just playing a song, Dad parted the waters and gave me a glimpse of what was at the bottom. I’ll be thinking a great deal of that while I’m on the road.


My Dad

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’ 
We are not now that strength which in old days 
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; 
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”


Thanks for reading.

And Some of the Words were Theirs

July 8, 2017

big river dark

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Spending an entire day fishing the Big River, with Wayne White, the River Sage, has filled me with ideas that are still incubating. River metaphors continue to resonate with me, and waking shortly after 6:00 this morning, sitting outside in a 67-degree paradise with a journal in my lap, I decided to explore this theme further.

For a number of years now, I have combed the surviving fragments of the Presocratic thinker Heraclitus, and this morning I added yet another gem to my favorite quotes from him. Previously, I have discussed with others his famous sayings: “All things flow; nothing abides” and “You can’t set foot in the same river twice”.  In my classroom, I have often contrasted him with Parmenides, arguing that Heraclitus represented a worldview of change while Parmenides offered a world of permanence. Heraclitus was fond of river metaphors while Parmenides preferred the circle.  But this morning, I was struck from the following, Heraclitus Fragment B50:

When you have listened, not to me, but to the Word,

it is wise to confess: One is All.

Yes, at face value that offers little. Translations always leave far too much in the shadows. The Greek text, however, is loaded, and once we try to expound the layers of meaning within those few words, the explanation becomes so ponderous that listeners become just as bored with the elaboration as they were dismissive of the terse text.

Having written that, let me try to offer this: The first line contrasts the one speaking and the Word.  Heidegger has pointed out that the Greek notion of “word” (logos) can mean “the gathering together.” The idea is immense, with “word” referring to some kind of cohering force. Keeping that in mind, the first line contrasts listening to speakers’ scattered opinions with the force that coheres.  All my life I have heard the noise of conflicting voices, often as annoying as today’s talk radio, everyone arguing for the supremacy of his/her position. Behind the cacophony of those scattered remarks lies the truth, the word that is coherent, not divided.

Second line: wisdom is something that always comes with time, never early. So, following the first line, when one has finally learned to listen to the force that gathers, s/he makes the wise choice of “confessing.” The Greek term for word (logos) is echoed in this word for confession (homologein).  “Homo” is “the same”. “Logein” is an infinitive, often translated “to speak”, but you see that its root is “logos”.  “To speak the same word” is what we translate “confess.”  And, when one hears that gathering force, and speaks in the same vein, what exactly is this confession?  “All is one.”

To sum up, when one listens to the gathering force rather than the scattered voices, wisdom dawns, and s/he confesses that there is an ultimate unity. Yes, this is my take on the Heraclitus fragment, and I’m holding it up, still believing that in our age, as in all previous ages, confusion often arises from the chorus of conflicting opinions, many of them shouted, and some of them backed by physical force. But I believe that there is an ultimate ground, a unity, from which all these fragments have spawned. The only limitations I see are the small minds unwilling to accept that there is much more than the perspectives they champion.

A day on the river was what I needed, and today more than yesterday, I realize the value it has brought to my life.

Thanks for reading. Now, let me offer up a few photos from yesterday’s odyssey:

big rock david

I shuddered when I finally saw this bluff with my own eyes.  Wayne has christened it “The Rock of David,” honoring me for doing a watercolor sketch of it last year from one of his photos. I promise that, having seen it now with my own eyes, I will endeavor to do a better painting of it in the future.  We anchored and fished next to this magnificent edifice for quite awhile.

big black

Throughout my life, I have caught so many species of pan fish that I have identified as perch, bluegill, red ear, warmouth, sunfish, etc. But never before have I caught anything as black as this. Wayne caught one as well.  These were firsts for my eyes.

big sunnie

As I’ve written before, I used to catch many of these as a boy, but haven’t seen one now for decades. Yesterday I caught at least half a dozen of them.

big little sunny

Even as small as this!

big wayne

Finally, hats off to Wayne, my trusted River Captain. He and Mark Nelson are the ones who make me feel safe. Alone, I am capable of capsizing kayaks. With these gentlemen, I am always safer whether in a canoe or in a john boat. My heartfelt thanks goes out to both of them for two splendid river excursions.

big river light