Sweet Evening Solitude & Recovery

July 30, 2022
Working Lightly in Studio Eidolons Tonight

Current wisdom, especially that propagated by the various schools of psychoanalysis, assumes that man is a social being who needs the companionship and affection of other human beings from cradle to grave. It is widely believed that interpersonal relationships of an intimate kind are the chief, if not the only, source of human happiness. Yet the lives of creative individuals often seem to run counter to this assumption.

Anthony Storr, Solitude: A Return to the Self

Storr’s book has been like a Bible in my collection for over thirty years now. This was the first book, read when I was in my thirties, that convinced me I was O.K. even though I didn’t have much of a social life. The ministry dripped with a sense of alienation. Graduate school meant long solitary days in a library carrell. Welding-well, how many people stand around to visit with you when you’re under the hood while the arc lights up the room? Public education for nearly three decades saw me scrambling for privacy at the end of each school day. So yes, I have regarded myself, despite having a family whom I love, as largely private.

I don’t recall the last time I was ill; it hadn’t occurred since 2017 when I retired from teaching. And I don’t recall the last time I missed school due to illness. I have lived a life for the most part without need for doctor’s visits or medication. I wasn’t prepared for what happened when I tested positive for COVID yesterday morning. The good news was that Sandi was already in Palestine to run the gallery in my stead, leaving me to attend tonight’s artists’ reception in Granbury. She has since tested negative, so she will be staying out of our house till I am past all this. To repeat–I wasn’t prepared for this enforced isolation. Yesterday and today were among the longest days in my life, here in my home and studio, alone with a pair of small dogs.

This afternoon, while the isolation had reached its bleakest moment, the phone calls started coming in. Three of my paintings sold, two of them major works.

Six Subjects in Search of a Painter. SOLD

The New Owners

I was elated to learn that a student of mine from fifteen years back purchased my large still life at Baron’s Creek Winery in Granbury. I was deeply saddened that I was unable to attend this event.

He Was Here Yesterday SOLD

And then . . . Sandi phoned from our Gallery at Redlands. She had just sold another large watercolor of mine to a local automobile restoration artist. She told me he was fascinated with my collection of gas station compositions and chose the large one from among the pack.

Evening Hole. SOLD

Sandi also sold this mid-size watercolor of me fly-fishing Troublesome Creek in Colorado.

Needless to say, news of the triple sales (and boy, Sandi sold quite a number of other artists’ works the past three days in the gallery!) created somewhat of a soothing balm for my tortured feelings the past pair of days. Though absent in body, I’m glad that my “spirit” somehow lingered in the events where my work was on display. The affirmation helps, believe me.

I believe I will sleep better tonight. I have completed the first day taking dosages of Paxlovid, and already am feeling some physical relief from this dreaded illness. And news of the art sales has certainly provided a strong measure of good will; I feel much less isolated now.

More tomorrow. 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.

COVID Found Me . . .

July 30, 2022
Sleeping Pups are Good Company

Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius . . .

Edward Gibbon

My blog went dark a few days ago, thanks to COVID. I’m finally posting a little something since I feel I am finally improving a bit. But it’s a process. I’m just thankful that this is not the potential death sentence it was a few years ago.

Seeking Energy to Do Something
Before I Got Sick . . .

I wanted to post this picture taken before I took sick. Bob Stevens (on the right) has returned to me a watercolor I created and gave to him and his late wife as a gift back during my dark days of the 1980’s when they were so helpful and affirming to me in countless ways. Bob is down-sizing and unloading many of his possessions, and thought this painting should return to its original “home.” I responded by offering him a new one about half the size, and he has accepted. I’ll post the picture of the new painting once I retrieve it from my gallery. The watercolor pictured above is from 1972, my senior year in high school, when I was trying hard to capture some of that Andrew Wyeth “sepia” drybrush magic.

Seated with Bob above is retired professor Jim Linebarger, a published poet and scholar of William Butler Yeats. During weekly coffee chats, these two wonderful men have listened patiently and offered encouraging assistance in my recent interpretations of the current East Texas art scene as a “New Byzantium.”

And speaking of the art scene, I deeply regret my inability to attend tonight’s Artist Reception at the Baron’s Creek Winery in Granbury. I have so looked forward to that moment, and regret not being able to attend.

That’s about all I have right now. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be stronger and able to post more.

Thanks always for reading. I miss doing this . . .

Six Subjects in Search of a Painter

July 27, 2022
Six Subjects in Search of a Painter, 33 x 40″ framed, now at Baron’s Creek Tasting Room & Wine Lounge

I’m leaning forward with anticipation to the Artists’ Reception Saturday, 4-7:00, at Baron’s Creek Tasting Room & Wine Lounge in Granbury, Texas. Publisher Gloria Hood has organized an exhibition of larger works by artists featured in the latest issue of Eyes of Texas Fine Art Magazine. I have decided to hang the above work in the show, because I’ve always wanted to see it in a large venue (our Gallery at Redlands is smaller and more intimate).

Baron’s Creek Tasting Room & Wine Lounge, 115 E. Bridge St. (on the town square), Granbury, Texas

This will be my second exhibition in this location, and I’m always happy to enjoy a glass of wine and good conversation with artists and art lovers at this place, particularly on weekends.

I’m still working on a book of short stories I’ve written along with illustrations from my own watercolors. I’m attaching the story that goes with the painting above, because I spent a meaningful winter in my garage studio (man cave) working on this piece and composing the story:

Night descended and Hank was up late again, bedding down in the storeroom of Jerry’s Texaco.  He had closed the place at dark but was too engrossed in his college studies to pack up the books and head for his garage apartment in the next county.  So, with Jerry’s permission, he would spend another night in the back of the station amidst the smells of gasoline, oil, pit grease and the grime that had built up over two generations.  Interstate commerce had sharply diminished the vitality of this sleepy town, and as soon as Hank graduated from the community college, he would depart as well.  Local townspeople and patrons had no knowledge or regard for the things that stirred the soul of this young man.  His volumes of Thoreau, Frost, Whitman and Twain had opened to him worlds beyond this small, stale community. 

His few camping possessions stored in this room (Griswold frying pan, stove top percolator, kerosene lantern, Maxwell House tin) were the tether that kept him bound to the wild.  He would be packing up his gear soon and leaving without notice.  It was time to emerge from this cocoon and embrace the world calling out to him.

I hope you will be able to attend our opening Saturday. 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.

Expanded Horizons: the New Byzantium

July 26, 2022
Robert M. Rogers Nursing & Health Sciences, Tyler Junior College

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand;

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight . . .

William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”

Rising at 5:30 this morning, Sandi and I made preparations for a life-changing Odyssey into East Texas. We had been invited to meet Neita Fran, a major mover and shaker of the Tyler, Texas area art scene, at Tyler Junior College where I’ve been invited to hang one of my watercolors as part of a six-month exhibition.

The beautiful “garden area” of the Nursing and Health Sciences building.
My watercolor “Trinidad Coffee Morning” waiting to be hung in the show

Touring the lovely facility of the Robert M. Rogers Nursing & Health Sciences facility (where the new exhibition is hanging), we learned of other exhibitions Neita has been organizing for the future. The University of Texas Tyler College of Pharmacy will be hosting a new show in the near future, and The University of Texas Tyler will be building a new School of Medicine to be opened in 2025. This new venue is also requesting art to display on its campus. We’re excited to join Neita’s group of artists already planning for these future events.

Tyler Museum of Art

Our next stop was the Tyler Museum of Art where we were introduced to the Executive Director of the past ten years, Christopher M. Leahy. Chris has shown remarkable energy in networking with artist groups across east Texas, providing accommodations inside the museum for Neita and her circle of artists to hold their planning meetings. As the director showed us about the facility, we learned of his connection with the City of Palestine, most notably with the legacy of Palestine’s celebrated artist, the late Ancel Nunn. I nearly fainted when Chris mentioned his visit long ago to Ancel Nunn’s studio where he viewed the large advertisement on his interior wall.

Apparently noticing my expression of recognition, he asked incredulously, “So, you’ve seen it yourself?” My answer had to be “No.”

The roof has long since been destroyed, and in the years following, the mural has disappeared from the wall. Chris was heartbroken on having learned this, and, taking me to his library, showed me from one of his volumes the mural advertisement as it had looked in better days. Our ensuing discussion of ghost signs and billboards made me think of the theme I’ve been pursuing for quite some time now: ideas and dreams buried in history only later to be re-born. “Nostalgia” is from a Greek word signifying the pain of remembering.

So now I finally come to the point of this blog post: I’ve been working on this idea of East Texas as a New Byzantium, following the inspiring work of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. He believed that 5th/6th-century Byzantium was one of the most remarkable eras in history as art, religion and civic life combined as a single force that drove a creative society. In the poem cited above, “The Second Coming”, Yeats addressed the “Spiritus Mundi” (the Great Memory):

Before the mind’s eye, whether in sleep or waking, came images that one was to discover presently in some book one had never read, and after looking in vain for explanation to the current theory of forgotten personal memory, I came to believe in a great memory passing on from generation to generation . . . Our daily thought was certainly but the line of foam at the shallow edge of a vast voluminous sea.”

For over a year now, I have been working on this vision of East Texas as a “New Byzantium” as small communities from town to town are experiencing a renewed interest in art, music, literature and the performing arts. Now, they seem to be finding ways to “network” thanks largely to social media, and our ability also to travel from community to community to form new friendships and alliances. Sandi and I have in the past year experienced the joy of gallery ownership, participation in a new magazine publishing venture, new exhibitions opening in wineries and university facilities, and even more exciting news on the horizon.

So why am I now intrigued by this notion of “Spiritus Mundi”? Simply because I realize that we are an extension of a great, creative tradition that spans millennia–revivals (renaissance) of creative expression that return to us often in fragmented ghost signs. We have read of the Golden Age of Athens, of Byzantium, of Renaissance, of The New York School. What all of these movements have in common is the sense of incompleteness–there was always something left on the field, something that never managed to come to fruition, a dropped vision, a neglected dream. All of these movements had more ideas than they could bring to light. And now here we are, ready to pick up new visions, new ideas, and perhaps also recover some of the inspirations dropped in the past. We are ready for a fresh exploration of creativity, and invite others to join us in catching this fever.

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.

The Fallacy of Bohemian Romance

July 25, 2022

We will all return to the Bateau-Lavoir. We were never truly happy except there.

Picasso to André Salmon, 1945

Last night was not good. Unable to sleep, I sat up in bed with a stack of my old journals and decided to read myself to sleep. I read my entire 1987 journal, January-December. That calendar year remains undoubtedly the worst year of my life. The details don’t need to be shared. I only write about this because I cannot stop thinking about a book I finished reading months ago that still remains with me almost daily: Miles J. Unger’s Picasso and the Painting That Shocked the World. The premise of the book shares with us something I had already heard repeatedly:

Picasso, by this time aged sixty-four, successful and wealthy, was still unsatisfied with life and with his art. He longed for the “bohemian” years spent living at the Bateau-Lavoir, when he felt the tip of his aesthetic and daring spear was sharper than it had become in the mature years of his success. At the Bateau-Lavoir, he suffered hunger and poverty, and the general public snubbed his art. I recall reading Ian Roberts in his book Creative Authenticity where discusses the “Van Gogh syndrome”:

Perhaps we think that to be a real artist we need to endure great suffering and despair.

I reject this romantic attachment to the notion of the “starving artist”, the “misunderstood, tortured genius.” As a student of art history, I failed to find suffering and torture among the likes of Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer and Robert Motherwell. I don’t believe a genuine artist has to pay his/her dues in suffering and rejection. I find it more realistic to admit that the world will do just fine without our artistic creations; the world doesn’t need our offerings. Personally, I take more delight in the process of making my art than the transaction of selling it.

1987. The blackest year of my existence. I graduated with my Ph.D. in the summer of that year. That fall, I resumed my duties as an adjunct instructor at a reputable university for the third consecutive year. I found a place to live and work. I returned to making art, something I had stopped doing eleven years earlier, due to the years of graduate study and demands in another field. Those facts remain the few high points of 1987. But life on the broad scale was unspeakably miserable, and I had no idea what direction my life was going to take.

I found solace in the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, as well as his biography. I recognized a tortured soul, and felt he was a kindred spirit. Late at night, alone, poring over his words, I felt as though he were present in the dark, cold garage apartment with me. I painted a tribute to him that meant more to me than anything I owned at the time, and I enjoyed sitting in my dwelling and looking at it. Nietzsche suffered severe migraines since childhood and was extremely nearsighted. By the time he wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he was three-quarters blind. But he loved to write, and would often push himself at the writing table for eighteen hours a day.

Toward the end of 1987, I determined that I would make art regardless of its success or failure; I would make art because it was in me, and if it ever stopped driving me, I would walk away from it. But like the prophet Ezekiel, I have continued to feel the sensation “like a sword in my bones”; I cannot lay down the brush any more than I could lay down a book and stop reading.

1987. In the yard of my Fort Worth garage apartment, proud of my new painting
31 years later, happily reading inside the relic of a Fort Worth historic church

In the fall of 1988, I began teaching full-time, and eventually life improved. I found a new purpose in relating to students on a daily basis. I loved the subjects I was assigned to teach. And I continued to make art and become more prolific. By the year 2010, I was cranking out a minimum of 100 watercolors a year, and have continued in that habit. And yes, life has found purpose, my art has sold successfully, and I look back from time to time to my own bohemian, Bateau-Lavoir existence of 1987. But, unlike Picasso, I don’t miss it one whit. I don’t waste a second pining for a return to such days. I’m grateful to live an existence where I can do as I choose and not ask anyone’s assistance or permission to do so.

Some of my paintings are still dark, but I myself am no longer dark. May the life of 1987 never return,

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.

Back in The Gallery at Redlands

July 23, 2022
Feels Good to be “Home” Again

Gray-suited Dawn O day

of many voices, ma-

trix of moments, speak

to and bring this thing I seek

Paul Goodman “To Dawn”

My first morning in several weeks waking in the pre-dawn of the historic Redlands Hotel felt warm and familiar. Still tired from all the recent travel, I decided to doze awhile rather than jump out of bed (I guess I wanted to convince myself I was still on vacation). Nevertheless, the Sacred Heart Church across the street tolled nine times to remind me it was 7:00, so I decided to come downstairs and greet the remainder of the morning.

If you are in the area, Sandi and I will be here till 9:00 tonight before closing the gallery and heading back to Arlington. We hope your Saturday is as promising as ours.

Thanks for reading.

Continued Thoughts on the New Byzantium

July 21, 2022
Newly-Opened Winery: Stone Trough in Cleburne, Texas

I think if I could be given a month of Antiquity and leave to spend it where I chose, I would spend it in Byzantium a little before Justinian opened St. Sophia and closed the Academy of Plato. . . . I think that in early Byzantium, maybe never before or since in recorded history, religious, aesthetic and practical life were one, that architect and artificers spoke to the multitude and to the few alike. The painter, the mosaic worker, the worker in gold and silver, the illuminator of sacred books, were almost impersonal, almost perhaps without the consciousness of individual design, absorbed in their subject-matter and that the vision of a whole people.

William Butler Yeats

New York itself was incredible, “really like a Byzantine city,” according to de Kooning, who was thinking of a city of contrasts and contradictions, a city where people from all over the world came together. The thought was seconded by Robert Motherwell, a young painter who had begun to exhibit in the 1940s and who explained to the poet Frank O’Hara that “New York City is a Constantinople, a great Bazaar.”

Jed Perl, New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century

Artists Beginning to Gather at Stone Trough

As I have written before, there is something creative in the air over East Texas. Artists, musicians, playwrights and poets are finding ways to network, to pour fresh ideas like cascades of spring water over the stagnant, tired diatribes often found on social media. My retired professor friends from Denton, Bob Stevens and Jim Linebarger, have been offering me encouragement as I seek to translate the recent East Texas art flourishing as having parallels with the culture of ancient Byzantium.

Last night Sandi and I traveled to Cleburne to attend the opening of a new winery where The Eyes of Texas Fine Art Gallery is opening a new show of work. I have a pair of watercolors in the show, and a number of our Gallery at Redlands artists are displaying there as well. Next week we will open our next show at Baron’s Creek Winery in Granbury, Texas. And Palestine will hold its next Art Walk the first Saturday of August. We are hearing murmurs of new art events and organizations forming in nearby Tyler as well. I promise to report on all of these things as they come to fruition in the weeks ahead. As I wrote earlier, there is something creative in the air, and we’re enthused to hear about these things.

Justin Bryant and editor Gloria Hood planning and strategizing . . .

The Eyes of Texas Fine Art Gallery magazine welcomes photographer/journalist Justin Bryant from the Palestine Herald Press. He was recently assigned to the art beat of our local newspaper, and immediately went far beyond publishing the events of our monthly art walk, news from the Dogwood Arts Council and general information from The Gallery at Redlands. With fresh vision, he is pouring new ideas into the next issue of our fine arts magazine, having caught the fever of the art interest recently flowing through East Texas. As I stood nearby and listened to the the enthusiasm coming from him as well as Gloria, Sandi, and the artists at the table nearby, I felt confirmed in my sentiments that a New Byzantium is underway and that we can expect remarkable things as we inch closer to the fall season.

Finally framed the aspens in an 11 x 14″ frame. $200
Another Colorado watercolor. 11 x 14″ frame. $150

We’re happy to be back in The Gallery at Redlands, and are enjoying the reunion with our Palestine friends we haven’t seen in over two weeks. I managed to frame two of the watercolors I experimented with while on the cabin deck in South Fork, Colorado. I have many more planned, so stay tuned . . .

S O L D !!!!!

We also returned from Colorado to the great news that my watercolor recently featured on the cover of our magazine had found a new home. I’m thrilled that the buyers live in Fort Worth and have just visited the Scat Jazz Lounge. Sandi and I have plans to visit the lounge some night soon with our editor along with Sabrina Franklin (also featured on the cover of the magazine) and whomever else wishes to join us for an evening of live jazz and good times.

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.

The Next Chapter

July 21, 2022
One last look from the Colorado deck

O you who first amid so great a darkness were able to raise aloft a light so clear, illumining the blessings of life, you I follow . . .

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things

I have plenty of waiting room time on my hands this morning, as I’m having my vehicle serviced after our 2-week Colorado Odyssey.

Reading Lucretius made me suddenly sit up straight in my chair, and scribble the following in my journal:

This is what I want: to be a beacon to anyone in darkness. To hold out hope. To let them know “it is in you.” Aristotle told us: the oak is in the acorn. It will come out. You have something precious inside you and it will emerge. Don’t suppress it. Nurture it. Write out your thoughts honestly in a journal. Read good writers, good thinkers. Feed yourself. You have it inside you. You have yet to see what can happen if you stay out of your own way.

Retired now from teaching, I haven’t lost the passion to help others trying to find their way in life. And though I no longer walk into an assembly of students seated before me (and believe me, I DON’T REGRET not having a fall semester waiting!), I still hope, through blogging and social conversation, I still have something positive to offer anyone questioning his/her path in life.

Three teachers had the most profound impact on my life when I found myself struggling, and I intend to write tributes to all three in the time ahead. I have always hoped that in my years of service I may have been able to offer the same for at least a few. I believe all teachers have ached for that sense of value.

Thanks for reading.

The Last Leg Home

July 20, 2022
Hotel room sketching & journaling

My next blog should arise from Studio Eidolons. It’s been two weeks, so it might require some adjustment. One necessary adjustment will certainly be climate. We departed South Fork, CO yesterday at 50° and rolled into Amarillo, TX later at 110°. Absolutely cruel.

I’m really hoping I’ll stick to my latest promise to myself to sketch more. This morning at the hotel tabIe I attempted this thumbnail rendering of my favorite all-purpose hat.

Thanks for reading. Time to hit the road. . .

Departure

July 19, 2022
Paddington helping me pack

The Colorado Odyssey has been abundantly refreshing. A 50° morning hasn’t particularly made me look forward to the Texas climate. But still, I’m looking forward to inhabiting my own home & studio. A pair of commissions await that I will tend immediately. And I look forward to our return to The Gallery at Redlands this weekend.

More to follow. Thanks for reading!