A Quiet, Restful Sunday

May 27, 2018

gallery

Relaxing in The Gallery at Redlands after Saturday’s Depot Exhibit

I sensed a direct line from the eminent figures of ancient Greece–Aeschylus, Sophocles, Phidias–down to [Paul Tillich] himself. Each seemed to me intensely vital; each lived with a seriousness that was not sober; each knew that death would come sooner or later and that there was therefore no time for prevarication or dishonesty with oneself. Each burned with the gemlike flame that comes from the knowledge that we are on this crust of earth for our little moment to build our machines or think and speak our thoughts or sing our poems. 

Rollo May, Paulus: Reminscences of a Friendship

I am deeply grateful for this Sunday of restoration. Over the past forty-eight hours, I’ve driven long distances, set up and broken down a booth for my art exhibit, and sat for an entire day in a hot and extremely humid environment. The labor paid off wonderfully, but today I feel spent, and am happy to regather my strength. It’s been awhile since I read Paul Tillich’s work, and I thought I would begin the morning with some re-reading of the testimony of his most famous student, psychologist Rollo May. A good friend has given me a copy of Tillich’s Dynamics of Faith, and I’ve enjoyed reading sections of it during my quiet moments this weekend.

I was invited to display my railroad art at the opening of the Texas State Railroad’s new season that features excursion train rides from Palestine to Rusk. My day at the Palestine Depot was very rewarding, as the depot sold 280 tickets for the day’s train ride, and many rail enthusiasts visited my tent, made purchases, and engaged me in intriguing conversations concerning their connections to our rich railroad history.

booth

My Booth outside the Palestine Depot

Palestine express

Afternoon train returning to Palestine from Rusk, finishing the Inaugural run of the New Season

two trains

A Pair of Vintage Locomotives towed out from the Palestine Train Shed

clouds

Gorgeous Evening Vista following my All-Day Depot Exhibition

I could not resist pulling my Jeep over last night to try and capture the scintillating colors emanating from the clouds that hovered over this church in Palestine. I’m thinking seriously of getting out the watercolors to see if I can capture some of that billowy dynamic of the amazing clouds I saw.

Sunday morning railyard

Sunday Morning view from Second-Floor Balcony of the Redlands Hotel

Rising early this Sunday morning, I took my coffee out to my favorite balcony of this historic hotel. The winds were cool, and the train yard seemed to be working overtime, as I watched eleven diesels move through the yards in fifteen minutes. Of course, I could not stop staring at the Chamber of Commerce Building on the right which used to be the headquarters for the railroad during the earlier parts of this century. I have done four watercolors of the structure from this angle.

The day has been restful, and I close with the repeated note of gratitude for quality rest following an arduous schedule.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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My Toolbox

May 24, 2018

my toolbox

Two Days of Delicious Down-Time

The mind races around like a foraging squirrel in a park, grabbing in turn at a flashing phone screen, a distant mark on the wall, a clink of cups, a cloud that resembles a whale, a memory of something a friend said yesterday, a twinge in a knee, a pressing deadline, a vague expectation of nice weather later, a tick of the clock. Some Eastern meditation techniques aim to still this scurrying creature, but the extreme difficulty of this shows how unnatural it is to be mentally inert. Left to itself, the mind reaches out in all directions as long as it is awake–and even carries on doing it in the dreaming phase of its sleep.

Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Cafe

During my 48-hour respite between appointments, I have enjoyed sleeping longer hours and devouring this book (over one hundred pages into it on this second day) by Sarah Bakewell. In the past week, I have enjoyed three days of primitive camping with a friend and an all-day road trip across Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Now, I stop before heading to Palestine to set up my booth for an all-day display and sale of my railroad art to coincide with the opening day of the new season of the Palestine-to-Rusk excursion train rides. On Saturday, they will tow their historic steam locomotives out of their sheds to sit in the open air all day to the delight of photographers, videographers and adventurers buying tickets to board the train that makes its first run at 10 a.m.

In an earlier post, I mentioned the frenzied schedule that has driven my life the past couple of weeks. Once this weekend finishes, the spastic race will be completed. Approaching the one-year anniversary of my retirement, I grin in acknowledgment of the many who said I would be busier in retirement than when I worked full-time. They were right. But there remains a major distinction–as a student said to me a couple of months ago: “If you like what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” How true. I have not worked in nearly a year; what I do now provides me pure pleasure, even if it tires me out from time to time.

What I want to talk about now is my toolbox, my central aid to coping with life. I’m speaking of my education. I have been aware of what I am about to write for a number of years now, but never tried to put it on the printed page. I came from a family that did not pursue the university. Mom and Dad were reared in farm country after the Depression, and were sent to the one-room school till they were sturdy enough to work in the fields, she for four years, he for three. They learned to read, write and do simple math. My brother entered the Marine Corps, my sister a two-year secretarial school. All of my family members received the education needed to pursue their respective occupations. As for me, I was always the least practical of the brood. I was the artist, the dreamer, with no clue of a profession.

I entered the university because my art skills landed me a scholarship, not because of academic prowess. During my years of Bachelor’s study, I awoke, late, to the world of ideas, and entered the ministry. That led me on to seminary where I earned the M.Div. and Ph.D. The life of the mind was what grew in me, and once my education was completed, I entered the teaching profession, twenty-eight years of full-time high school, along with thirty years of adjunct university.

Throughout those nearly forty years of post-high school odyssey, the river that carried me was a torrent of ideas gleaned from books, from art, from music, from travels, and from thoughts scribbled into journals (over 130 volumes now). That collection of ideas has become my toolbox, my coping mechanism for understanding and navigating life. This magnificent book that has so held me the past couple of days describes existentialism through the lens of biography. Because of my past dealings with Sartre, Heidegger, Jaspers and Merleau-Ponty, I’m reading the volume with elation, thankful for the tools given me in past educational settings.

I have felt the sentiments of those who view reading and thinking as a waste of time. I learned long ago that those practices matter very much to me, and they have been my sustenance. Maurice Merleau-Ponty put it this way: “Life becomes ideas, and the ideas return to life.”

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Restful Reminiscences in the Midst of Calendar Frenzy

May 23, 2018

Starbucks chilling

The Cafe–always a respite for those driven by creative forces

After reading the first chapter of Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existentialist Cafe, my heart is “strangely warmed,” to borrow the words of John Wesley when hearing the reading of Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans.  The above picture was taken last week, the day before I left for St. Louis to join my friend Wayne White for a three-day primitive camping/fishing adventure. I’ve chosen not to photograph my current setting, though it is also outside a Starbuck’s in a different city.

My mind is still at a whirl, and sitting at this cafe table to sip coffee and scribble in my journal is about the only way I know how to cope with the turbulence (a good turbulence this is, I wish to add).

I have been on a day-to-day chase through one art appointment after another. A couple of weeks ago, I finished a week of a plein air painting competition in historic Waxahachie, Texas.

waxahachie 2 framed

One of three paintings submitted for competition

The same day I turned in my paintings for the plein air competition, I headed back to my home in Arlington forty minutes away to set up for a local Art on the Greene art and music festival.

art on the greene booth

Arlington’s Art on the Greene 2018

The day after the three-day festival ended, I drove an hour south to demonstrate in watercolor for the Lake Granbury Artists Association.

Granbury demo

Set Up for the Painting Demonstration

The morning after the Granbury demo, I drove to Texas Wesleyan University to collect the final writing portfolios from my Humanities classes, then spent that day and the next grading all the portfolios as well as the final exams for my online Logic class. I then submitted the grades to the registrar and left the following day for my drive to St. Louis. I don’t recall a more pleasant ten-and-a-half-hour drive across Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. The windshield time was soothing, the sunlight was warm and strong, and all I could think about was how fortunate I was to have the time off to leave the work calendar behind.

Wayne White and I have known each other since second grade, but drifted apart after high school, and found one another again thanks to Facebook. Several times we have connected over the past years to camp, fish, and just sit to enjoy quality conversation. Both of us love John Muir, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and spend hours discussing what we read from their legacies. I anticipated a delicious break from the frenetic schedule of appointments I had recently endured.

Wayne pouring coffee

Wayne Pouring the Camp Coffee

Our adventure this year took us to the Silver Mines recreation area near Fredericktown, Missouri. Wayne has already posted a delicious blog of our time there. You can read him at https://ramblingsofafarrier.com/ and admire his photography covering our excursion. He is ten times the photographer than I could ever dare to be.  And he is unparalleled as a camp cook, preparing everything in Dutch ovens and skillets, right down to his biscuits-made-from-scratch. And his camp coffee from a percolator always tastes better than what I get out of my modern kitchen appliances.

breakfast 2

We enjoyed three days and two nights that included fishing, hiking, photography, plein air painting and yes, hours of uninterrupted conversation about things that matter to us. We also endured three major thunderstorms, though our tents kept us dry inside. And somehow, Wayne always managed to keep a campfire going through the downpours, and his spirit never turned soggy with the environment. That is one of many things I will always admire about his character. Emerson must have had Wayne’s temperament in mind when he wrote that “nature wears the colors of our spirit.” Constant rainfall ruins most people’s camping experience, but it did not diminish ours, and I have to credit a great deal of that to Wayne’s ebullient attitude when out in nature.

Wayne cooking painting 1

Day Two: Wayne cooking breakfast while I try to capture the moment

breakfast 1

Plein Air watercolor sketch of breakfast in progress

I would be lying if I said that I fished all day, never got a bite, but it was still a good day. When I don’t succeed in fishing, I am pissed. But I can honestly say that if I paint all day and turn out nothing but lousy paintings, it is still a good day. I enjoy every moment at the plein air easel, or in the studio at the drafting table; I can never say that making art was a lousy experience, even if the product fails consistently. So, all of this to say that I have no judgment on the quality of my camp paintings; I just had a sublime series of thoughts and emotions the entire time I tried to make the paintings.

Wayne cooking painting 2

The final morning: again, Wayne cooks and I paint

breakfast 2 painting

On the final morning, I attempted a watercolor sketch of the base of a tree on our perimeter. Once Wayne began cooking, I rotated the easel 180 degrees, and attempted to capture his craft at the fire. On both mornings of breakfast preparations and painting, we were in a campsite soaked from the deluge of the night before. Wayne labored over a wet cooking area, managing a fire while I worked hard against the humidity, painting on paper that was constantly dotted with raindrops falling from the leaves overhead. Still, we both managed to laugh at our predicament and our spirits remained high.

cliff painting easel

cliff painting 2

cliff painting gear

Before breaking down our camp, we hiked down a steep hill into the bottom of a gorge to see the dam and the swollen St. Francis River raging by. I set up my easel, and refused to paint the true color of the muddy water below (it looked like raw sewage). Overwhelmed at the sight of the massive cliffs and forests across the gorge, I chose to edit this sketch, painting only about one-third of the vertical dimension of the bluff. I wanted sky, trees, rocks and water in the painting and could not accomplish that without severely diminishing the size of the foliage and rocks to fit them on the page. After my attempt to capture the essence of what was arranged across the gorge from me, I then enjoyed sitting on the cool boulders in the shade, scribbling in my journal, and watching Wayne far below, moving up and down the trails taking photographs of the spectacular views. I encourage you to check out his blog and see his magnificent work.

Both of us brought books to the camp, along with our journals, and enjoyed conversation over those.  I want to share now something I had read from the Journals of the Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix. Wayne and I had plenty to say over this:

(from Sunday, July 14, 1850): Today, Sunday, I may say that I am myself again: and so it’s the first day that I find interest in all the things which surround me. This place is really charming. I went this afternoon, and in a good mood, to take a walk on the other side of the water. There, seated on a bench, I started to jot down in my notebook some reflections similar to those I am tracing here. I told myself and I cannot repeat it to myself often enough for my repose and for my happiness (one and the other are but a single thing) that I cannot and must not live in any other way than through the mind; the food that it demands is more necessary to my life than that which my body calls for. 

Why did I live so much, that famous day? (I am writing this two days afterward). It was because I had a great many ideas which, at this moment, are a hundred leagues away. The secret of not having troubles, for me at least, is to have ideas. Therefore no effort is too great if it gives me the means of bringing them into existence. Good books have that effect, and above all certain ones among those books. The first thing to have is health, to be sure; but even in a sickly condition, such books as those can reopen sources through which imagination can issue forth generously.

I have said it in other blog posts: the life of the mind is what has saved me throughout my existence. When circumstances were dire, my ideas saved me, buoyed me. And yes, my ideas come from reading as well as observation and the efforts to make art. I suppose one of the reasons I blog is that my 130 volumes of journals scribbled over the years, along with the preparations and lectures delivered over the past thirty years of teaching, are still not enough in themselves. I continue to seek other outlets to express what is in me.

Now, I am fifteen hours away from that geographical region, but the sights still fill my mind’s eye, and returning to the reading of this book about the existentialist cafe experience, I recall Hemingway admitting during his early Parisian years of writing that he could not write about Michigan until he was in Paris, and couldn’t write about Paris until he was in Cuba or Key West.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when feeling alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Brief Respite Between Engagements

May 14, 2018

Art on the Greene reading

I see my little world as something that I am in–something that I play in. It is inevitable to me. But I never get over being surprised that it means something to anyone else.

Georgia O’Keeffe

Yesterday, while sitting for hours in the midst of a three-day art festival, I read this quote from O’Keeffe in a biography of her written by Roxana Robinson. I suppose it makes sense when scores of festival-goers hustle past my booth without so much as a glance at my display (and that is usually the norm at art festivals). But I find greater surprise (and of course, pleasure) when someone seems frozen on the spot by what s/he sees inside the booth, and steps in for a closer look. Sometimes, I sense in their eyes exactly what I feel–a shock of recognition accompanied by total immersion in a subject that won’t let go of us. Ken Wilbur nailed it when he said that beauty “suspends the desire to be elsewhere.” And so, I’m grateful for every meaningful conversation that was a gift over the past three days, as well as the purchases of my work.

I look much more forward to what lies ahead this evening–an artist whose work I have admired for over a decade has invited me to do a watercolor demonstration tonight for the Lake Granbury Art Association. Today’s decompression from the three-day art festival has been valuable, as well as the few hours of space separating between what just happened and what is about to emerge. Tonight’s session was scheduled many months ago, and I’ve been counting the days as it draws closer. Below, I am posting the article that their local newspaper ran a couple of days ago:

Tripp watered down acrylics

May 12, 2018

Heideggers Hut darkened and muted

Arlington watercolorist David Tripp will be demonstrating watercolor design and technics from conception to completion for the Lake Granbury Art Association (LGAA) at its monthly meeting Monday, May 14, at the Shanley House Center for the Arts, 224 N. Travis St.

The demonstration begins at 7 p.m. It is a free event and open to the public.

Tripp grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where he had been drawing and painting since before he could read.  As a young man he had dreams of being a sports illustrator and drew football players incessantly.  He would use acrylic paint that he had watered down to paint with, trying to create trees and landscapes.

After college, Tripp taught Art History in Arlington’s High Schools for the next 28 years.  During this time he also taught private art lessons at his home studio.  Tripp also painted numerous murals at Martin High School in Arlington.

Watercolor became Tripp’s passion. He believes that not only skill, but vision and settings help lend his paintings authenticity.

Tripp loves to paint old buildings and scenes that are no longer relevant in today’s society.  He feels a sense of loss just as he feels the sense of energy transported from the past as he paints these places.

He hopes his painting evokes the same feelings in the people that see his work, bringing back memories of days gone by.

Tripp loves to drive down the back roads of Texas seeking out husks and relics from past generations. His watercolors feature the small-town American places that are fading from our landscape, but not our memories, preserving these sights for future generations.

Whether it’s a camera or paintbrush in hand, taking pictures or painting small studies on location en plein air, Tripp is always on the lookout for abandoned service stations, general stores, or old movie theaters. There is beauty and symmetry in these old buildings, just waiting to be captured and celebrated.

Since March of 2017, Tripp has focused most of his artistic energies in pursuit of subjects from the Texas State Railroad in addition to the broader legacy of the American railroad.

Mlhaskins5660@att.net | 817-219-6782

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Today I Build my House Again

May 10, 2018

Terlingua framed

Framed watercolor of Terlingua Ghost Town

The beginning and the end of all literary activity is the reproduction of the world that surrounds me by means of the world that is in me, all things being grasped, related, recreated, molded, and reconstructed in a personal form and an original manner.

Quotation from Goethe to Jacobi, Frankfurt, letter of August 21, 1774

While assembling my gear for today’s load-in at Arlington’s Art on the Greene, I brought up YouTube on my television and listened to the “Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas” documentary. I had to stop loading and write out the Goethe quote that really resonated with me. It is said that Hopper carried this quote on a piece of paper in his pocket as he went about looking for subjects to paint. I someday would like to construct a well-worded definition of art as a number of these remarkable thinkers have done before us. Anytime a muse speaks of art as a combination of our inner world with the outer world, I feel a rush of new energy and enthusiasm.

In an earlier post, I tried to explain how my theory of plein air painting parallels the practice of Georgia O’Keeffe. She painted her landscapes directly, then brought them into the studio to revise. The finished result was the abstract work that we admire. For me, it is a little different–I love to paint directly from nature, but sometimes do not finish the work on site. I’ll take a reference photo, and for days the image of what I tried to paint will compost in my mind until I think of compositional matters to resolve in the piece. When I return to the work with fresh eyes, I make whatever alteration is necessary, most of it involving the perimeter of the painting as I decide which portions to leave blank and which ones to render in some combination of texture and color. One of the things that made this past week so difficult was the plein air competition in Waxahachie–all works must be created exclusively on site. Therefore, I could not work in the studio, but chose to return daily at the same hour to the sites where I began each of my three paintings, and push further with the composition. Still, the composting activity happened in the evenings when I looked at the in-progress paintings and made mental notes of what I wished to accomplish at my next session.

This morning I finally framed the Terlingua ghost town I visited about a month ago. I took a number of photographs of the church on the hill as the sun was setting, and for weeks afterward continued to re-visit the subject in my mind’s eye. Once I set out to paint it, I reproduced the church, looking at the photos I took. Then again I laid it aside as I continued to ponder (compost!) how to render the surrounding terrain. After a few more days, I reached a decision and finished it.

The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It came to him, short-lived actions it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

This Emerson quote has flooded my soul since 1992, when I first read it while studying in Oregon, and I have re-read “The American Scholar” every semester since that remarkable day. Every word of the statement clamors for my attention, but this morning I’m fastened on this portion: “Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.” When I was young, I relied on my eye-to-hand coordination and what others call “talent” while trying to make art. In my senior years, things have changed. I am wishing more and more to pour a life of experience and depth of feeling into my paintings. When viewers see my work, I appreciate them telling me I am “talented.” But frankly, I have known that from my youth. What I really want to know is if anything I paint stirs them, holds them, resonates with them. Ken Wilber wrote that beauty “suspends the desire to be elsewhere.” I guess what I wish to know is that someone experiences “beauty” when they look at something I painted. That fact holds much more value with me than someone acknowledging that I have talent.

All creation, because it is such a drawing-up, is a drawing, as of water from a spring.

Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”

This afternoon I’ll experience the rebuilding of my house, as I set up the 10 x 10 booth for display and sale of my work. There have been times past where I dreaded this moment, but this isn’t one of those. A couple of weeks ago, I had my best experience of assembling and disassembling my booth and gear at the Dallas Arboretum. Richard Greene Linear Park, where I set up today, is filled with large shade trees, and wind often blows across the lake to provide comfort as we labor over our steel poles and vinyl tents. I’m looking forward to another good festival.

Richard Greene Linear Park is located in Arlington at 1601 E. Randol Mill Road. Hours for this event are Friday 3-10; Saturday 11-10; Sunday 11-5.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Shifting Gears

May 9, 2018

waxahachie 1 framed

Lone Sentinel Over Waxahachie (11 x 14″ framed watercolor)

waxahachie 2 framed

Waxahachie Rail Odyssey (11 x 14″ framed watercolor)

waxahachie 3 framed

Watching Over Ellis County (11 x 14″ framed watercolor)

Paint Historic Waxahachie will enter into its judging phase Friday afternoon, and all work will go on sale Saturday and Sunday. Sadly, I will be unable to attend, because tomorrow I set up my booth for Arlington’s Art on the Greene. For any of you local readers, I would encourage you to take in the Waxahachie exhbit of plein air paintings. Thirty-six artists participated this year, and the quality of the exhibit is extremely high. Art on the Square is located at 113 W. Franklin Street, on the town square in Waxahachie. My three new paintings are now hanging there for judging and selling. I also have four Waxahachie paintings from last year on display and sale as well.

As for me, I’ll be in Booth #1 at Arlington’s Art on the Greene, located at Richard Greene Linear Park on 1601 E. Randol Mill Road. This park is located between Globe Life Park and AT&T Stadium. Hours for this festival are 3-10:00 Friday, 11-10:00 Saturday, and 11-5:00 Sunday. Admission and parking are free. Since my last festival two weeks ago, I have already completed and framed several new watercolors that I am gladly bringing out for the festival. Hours in the booth can grow quite long over the weekend, so I welcome company and conversation (and sales)!

Though my body is tired from finishing and framing the three Waxahachie paintings, I’m glad that I can now be single-minded about the Arlington festival. Until this evening, I’ve had both art events clanging about in my head as I chafed over details and deadlines. With the completion of today’s work, the world is moving much slower now tonight, and I welcome that.

Thanks for reading.

Rest in the Midst of the Torrent

May 9, 2018

waxahachie 1

Plein air in progress–Ellis County Courthousewaxahachie 2

Plein air in progress–Waxahachie, Texas

waxahachie 3.jpg

Plein air in progress–Waxahachie, Texas

When she was working, Georgia rose at six and was off by six-thirty. She would bring a painting back to work on it further indoors. Her paintings began by being straightforward and representational, done from life. Later, as she worked over them n her studio, they took on the emotional resonance that gave them their power.

Roxana Robinson, Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life

Recently, my blogging has been sporadic, not because I have had nothing to report, but because I have been mobile. For the next week, the work will only increase. I find this time of year extremely busy with the art calendar. When I taught high school full-time, I had to say No to most of this activity. Retirement, for me, has been a sweet, sweet reward, allowing me to pursue things that truly matter to me. It’s a good thing, being able to rest and compose this blog in the mid-morning hours. But soon, that will radically change as I burst out the door and pursue a schedule that will not let up till late tonight.

Our annual Paint Historic Waxahachie event is now in full swing, but alas, my time is sharply divided between participation in this endeavor while also preparing for Arlington’s annual Art on the Greene this coming weekend. Every morning I have made the 40-minute drive to Waxahachie to work on plein air watercolors for the competition and sale, and have come home in the evening, too weary to write or post my activities. Tonight, I will need to load the Jeep with all my booth equipment so I can set up tomorrow for the weekend Arlington festival, and sadly miss the Waxahachie awards and dinner event Friday night and Saturday sale. Artists are fortunate to have so many opportunities to select what they wish to pursue, but we feel unfortunate when two worthy events collide over the same weekend.

The three paintings posted above have been in progress over several days, as I’ve traveled to Waxahachie and set up at a certain location at a particular time of day to set the light and shadows as I wish. I never worked longer than an hour at at a time at each station, always moving on to the next and also taking breaks in the shade for water, reading good books and scribbling in the journal. At my (retired!) age, I find that I work better by taking many breaks instead of pursuing a single painting for hours as I used to do. This way, I am better able to conserve energy, as I spread it out throughout the day and not find myself wearing down after a few hours.

I posted the Georgia O’Keeffe text above because I drew considerable inspiration from these words while resting between painting activity. I hope my plein air endeavors will mature and improve by following this practice of stopping and re-evaluating. The rules of this Paint Historic Waxahachie competition prohibit working on the paintings away from the location, and I follow that principle respectfully. But when home at night, I am happy to look over the paintings and evaluate how they are progressing, and make mental notes of what I wish to pursue with them when I return to the scene the next day. Taking my favorite word from the writer, Natalie Goldberg, “composting” describes this mental activity of maturing an idea as it slowly grows. Later today or tomorrow, I’ll finish these three paintings and re-post them.

As a guitar player performing in bands, I knew what it meant to be “page-bound” as I could not seem to find any kind of artistic, musical flourish while focused on the chords on a sheet of music while rehearsing. Only when getting away from the page could I find those spontaneous moments of guitar riffs and fillers that punctuated the song I was trying to play. Likewise with plein air painting. I delight in focusing on the subject live before me, my eye excitedly poring over the details, colors and textures within that field of vision. But I have trouble seeing the compositional picture forming on my watercolor page. I guess I need to call this dilemma “subject bound” because the page is not really getting my full attention. It is not until I am away from the subject that I can then focus on the rectangular space of my paper and make decisions on how to complete the painting. When I return to the scene of creation, I no longer see just the subject before me, but also the composition I am trying to complete.

Goethe and Heidegger both have articulated theories of art as a merger of the subject matter and the artist’s inner vision. Some day I hope to compose a meaningful statement of my own to that effect. But as for now, I need to pack my gear, run a few business errands, and then dash to Waxahachie for another full day of painting and decision-making.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blot to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Pondering Georgia O’Keeffe

May 2, 2018

goji berry 2

The evening has been serene, as I’ve resumed work on a small watercolor I began en plein air a few weeks ago while staying at a goji berry farm near Taos, New Mexico.  The morning was crisp and cold, below forty degrees, and the New Mexico sunlight was spectacular, lighting up this shaggy, ragged tree on the perimeter of the property where I was staying a couple of days. I set up my easel beneath an arbor and worked, keeping warm as I sipped coffee, for about an hour. Returning home to a busy art and college schedule, this painting had to languish in the studio, until today. I’ve been experimenting with toothbrush splattering and sprinkling the damp washes with stale bread crumbs and salt. I’ve also applied a great deal of masquing that I won’t remove until tomorrow.

All the while I worked in the studio, I played the Georgia O’Keeffe movie starring Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons.  I played it twice, I’m so moved by it. After that, I dialed up a BBC documentary on O’Keeffe on YouTube and listened intently as I worked. All the while, I felt a profound connection, as I recalled those splendorous days spent at Ghost Ranch and Taos. I cannot wait to return to those sacred places.

Thanks for reading.

The Intermittent Shadow

May 2, 2018

blog falls the shadow

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

Words from T. S. Eliot flowed through my mind shortly after waking early this morning. I don’t pretend to know all the nuance of this great work of his, but I know what I feel as I respond to these words. Having just come off the best art festival of my career (Artscape 2018 at the Dallas Arboretum), I have a four-day interim before leaping into back-to-back art events (Paint Historic Waxahachie from Friday till the following Thursday; Art on the Greene the following three days). I depend on gaps like this four-day respite for rest, reflection and restoration. But alas, I am constituted in such a way that when I awaken with no appointments of deadlines, I feel that I have fallen into the nadir. I have to fight off feelings ranging from listlessness to laziness.

For years I have known the reality of these cycles of ebb and flow, of repose and activity. I have understood what’s been read of Jackson Pollock in Springs, Long Island, ceasing his activity after an immense output of work. He would wander the property smoking, lying in the grasses, thinking, waiting for the energy to return. I have understood Walt Whitman’s “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life,” fearing that his 1860 second edition of Leaves of Grass would fall flat and the literary public would label him as a pretender, a phony.

As for me, I just have to realize that the few days ahead are a gift for relaxing and re-tooling, not fretting over the possibility of losing my creative edge.  I tried this morning to get in some quality reading, but instead decided to resume a painting that I began en plein air recently while camping at Big Bend National Park.  It was ninety per cent completed, but I took a reference photo and decided to use the photo to complete it this morning. I posted the painting above, when it was near completion. As I worked on it, I recalled another portion of T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”–

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Last night, I completed another work begun in Terlingua’s Ghost Town while I was at Big Bend. I have not been able to stop seeing in my mind’s eye the shell of the church perched on that rugged hill:

terlingua

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blot to remind myself I am not alone.

Taking the Show on the Road Again

April 27, 2018

This weekend finds me at Artscape 2018, located in the beautiful heart of the Dallas Arboretum. Friday night is a members-only preview, but Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 5 is the general Festival. I have never been at this venue before, but I am expecting a great weekend, with beautiful weather, and a very lovely environment.