Posts Tagged ‘A Moveable Feast’

Re-Stoking the Fires

January 1, 2018

high ridge

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

The first day of the New Year is a sluggish one for me, as I’m still shaking off this nagging respiratory infection that saps my energy. I’m spending more time in front of the fireplace under a blanket, watching TV when I would rather be reading, writing or painting. But I just don’t seem to have the energy or drive to be creative.  The Steve Jobs biography is still exciting to me, yet fails to fire my own spark plug of creativity. I did pull out an old watercolor abandoned from a year or two ago, and I worked on it for over an hour, but I never felt much of a rush or thrill, which is so unlike me when I’m painting. Nevertheless, I’ve posted a photo of its progress above.

I wish all of you the happiest of new years, as I myself am anticipating many new adventures. Meanwhile, I’m just going to keep taking it easy until my strength returns.

Thank you always for reading . . .


Entering the Portal of a New Year

December 30, 2016


I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

As 2016 slowly slides into a chain of memories, I’m happily painting my way into a New Year, hoping to make new discoveries. Returning to this watercolor begun last week has not been without its interruptions and now that I have a couple of days left before this holiday ends, I’m glad to come face-to-face with the composition, yet feel somewhat lost and out of practice.  I suppose the momentum broke. I paused late into this evening to re-read a book by Hemingway that I have always loved. This passage I’ve cited is one of my favorites. The setting is Paris in the 1920s when the young Hemingway was seeking his literary “voice” and seething in self-doubt. I love this soliloquy and have claimed it as my own. Yes, I’ve done this kind of work before and I shall again. All I have to do is begin with the simple, honest strokes that I have known for decades. To me, drawing and watercoloring can be simple and direct. Upon that foundation I’ll return to form, I’m confident. I love the subject I’ve chosen this time, and am looking forward to entering through this new portal and seeing what happens when I come out the other side.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone. 

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Settling into My New Writing Sanctuary

November 23, 2015


A Most Precious Gift–a New Writing Desk

desk library

My Newly-Designated Writing Area

“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.  It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that you knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

The most frutstrating part of being ill the past couple of weeks was the inability to use my eyes for reading, writing or making art.  For months I had been toiling over a manusccript describing my experience painting and journaling on the Texas Laguna Madre last summer.  During the struggle I took Hemingway’s words to heart, refusing to succumb to writer’s block, and refusing to think my writing was garbage. As the manuscript grew and became more unmanageable, and as the school semester became more demanding with its unceasing deadlines, I pushed the manuscript into a drawer and decided to let the ideas “compost” awhile. Then I got sick!

Now I’m better, and a most wonderful gift was given to me that I shall always cherish–a rolltop desk. Designating a corner of my bedroom as my writing area, I’ve dedicated a part of every single day to sitting here and reworking the manuscript I began last June. I have always loved the writing process and now will seek a way to strike a balance between my writing and painting studios. I’m grateful that life is abundant enough to support both endeavors.

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.

In Search of a Theory of Aesthetics

December 20, 2014
Painting on the First Night of Christmas Vacation

Painting on the First Night of Christmas Vacation

I was learning from the painting of Cezanne that made writing simple true sentences far from enough to make the stories have the dimensions that I was trying to put in them.  I was learning very much from him but I was not articulate enough to explain it to anyone.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I cannot explain the deep-seated satisfaction I’m drawing from my second reading of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.  I don’t remember how I got alerted to reading this book a couple of winters ago, but am so glad it’s come across my threshold.  This book was published posthumously, and contains Hemingway’s manuscript written while in Paris from 1921-1926.  He was contacted by the management of the Ritz Hotel in Paris in November 1956 to take possession of two small trunks he had left behind there since March 1928.  The contents of the trunks contained this manuscript.

I laugh when I read the quote I’ve posted above, especially the final sentence.  He certainly was not able to get across his theory to me, the reader.  Perhaps this is why I still haven’t published my own theory of aesthetics–I don’t quite know how to put it into words because I sitll don’t know quite what it is.

Nevertheless, I did manage to get in some quality studio time tonight and am anticipating more opportunity tomorrow.  I would like to finish this before Christmas arrives, though I have no deadline for it–I’m painting it for my own pleasure, not for a commission.  And I still have so much to learn as I wrestle with this composition.  Tonight I worked exclusively on the left-hand portion of the painting, trying to darken the values.  I still don’t have any of it as dark as I wish, God knows how I struggle to darken watercolor, adding wash after wash of warm and cool colors alternately.  Eventually I’ll get there, I hope.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Muses Stirring in the Night

December 18, 2014
By now, readers may be weary of seeing this . . .

By now, readers may be weary of seeing this . . .

After writing a story I was always empty and both sad and happy, as though I had made love, and I was sure this was a very good story although I would not know truly how good until I read it over the next day.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

My work on the above still life is slowing considerably, as I try to decide how to finish it.  Last night I attended a Salon which is a monthly “meeting of the minds”–a group I enjoy very much.  When I got home it was rather late and though I worked more in the shadows of this watercolor and did a little detailing, for the most part I stared at it, took a picture and posted it into a draft and went to bed.  Now, in the midst of the first day of final exams for my high school, I am looking at it some more, and attempting to put a few thoughts on the page . . .

As we draw closer to Christmas, I am filled with comingled emotions of sad and happy.  Many sad memories from my past linger over the Christmas holidays, but at the same time, students have a way of filling the atmosphere with good will.  I’ve received a number of surprise gifts and treats this week that always lift my spirits.  But today, I found in my faculty mailbox a gratitude/tribute letter from a student of philosophy from last year.  It made me cry. I could not stop, had to find a private place and just let it flow.  I’m always blindsided when a student writes this kind of a beautiful, loving letter of appreciation for the difference I made in the classroom in this one’s private life and outlook.  I never know about these matters, unless someone tells me, or writes me.  This letter is now taped into my Journal so I can return to it as often as I need, and I will probably need to do just that over the holidays.  My gratitude now is boundless.

On a parallel note, college student have been pouring into my classroom during lunch and after school for several days now, overflowing with their semester adventures and stories.  I can never get enough, when they tell me what they’re reading now, what kind of art they’re creating, what they’re thinking.  I never want them to leave, the moment is so sacred. A couple of days ago, I didn’t leave school till 4:45 (my last class finishes at 12:20), when the last college student left.

My students find my Harvard fetish amusing.  Today when I entered the classroom, I found this suspended above my chalkboard:

O.K., returning to my painting and the Hemingway quote above:  I know exactly the emotion he described, because when I close in on the finish of a painting, I have those conflicting sentiments of satisfaction for the accomplishment along with melancholy over wondering what to do next.  That is precisely why I used to keep several watercolors in progress at the same time, so I was never at a loss of what to do next when a painting was finished.  When I get home today, I plan to go back to the bins to see what I have started and not finished.  No doubt there are plenty of pieces abandoned from recent months/years.  If not, then I will begin anew before I retire to bed, so that I can be certain that I won’t be caught with those post-creation blues once the still life above is finished and signed.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never really alone.

Thoughts on Hemingway’s Moveable Feast

December 17, 2014
Spending Some Time Editing the Composition

Spending Some Time Editing the Composition

. . . a memory or even a state of being that had become a part of you, a thing that you could have always with you, no matter where you went or how you lived forever after, that you could never lose.

Patrick Hemingway writing the Foreword to his father’s book A Moveable Feast

Feeling like Hemingway in the cafe on the Place St.-Michel in the winter of 1921 Paris, I am seated in the back of my chilly classroom this morning, huddled in my leather billings jacket, drinking coffee and re-reading portions of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast that I only discovered a winter or two ago.  It’s the last official day of school, and though we will have two successive mornings of final exams, the classes will be abbreviated, and students will clear the building before noon.  Little-to-no interaction will transpire the next two mornings; today is the “Merry Christmas” and “Seasons Greetings” kind of day that fills all of us with a sense of good will with the approaching holidays.

This morning, students are tutoring and studying for their impending finals, food has been brought in and everyone is upbeat.  As for me, I’m grateful for the “moveable feast” moments in my life that always embrace me warmly as Christmas approaches and good will fills our atmosphere. I brought my watercolor to class, knowing there would be plenty of space to tinker with it.  Thanks to a desktop computer, I can look at photos of the garage still life on my monitor as I set up this watercolor across the room on the chalkboard tray and look at it, making critical notes of how to fine-tune the composition as it gets closer to its finish.  Already today I have done plenty of small detail corrections and adjustments, and I am getting drawn in closer and closer to these objects and all the memories associated with them.  And of course, reading Hemingway’s early cafe writings is flooding me with a sense of warmth and meaning, despite the cold, dark climate we’re experiencing outside.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Midnight in Paris?

December 16, 2014
Moving Slowly and Rapturously Through this Watercolor Composition

Moving Slowly and Rapturously through this Watercolor Composition

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. . . . I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.  All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I walked out of my studio early last evening, because I was seized with the desire to sit for a few hours in quiet with books, my journal and my thoughts.  It was the best possible way I could have passed the evening.  I knew when I left the studio that I would have no trouble returning, because the part of the composition I was working on was “hot” and I knew exactly where to resume when I returned to it.  As I spent the remainder of the last evening pondering, writing, pondering and writing some more, I had no inkling of how serendepitous the following day would be . . .

Before going to school this morning, I was digging through a pile of debris in one of my neglected closet spaces and came across a DVD I had missplaced over a year ago–Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.  At my first opportunity today, I replayed the film, and revisited with exquisite pleasure those memorable clips of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso and Dali in 1920’s Paris.  Throughout the day, the sweetness of some of the words of Hemingway I had read over the past couple of years remained with me, and I’ve posted them above to open this blog.

When I returned to the studio this evening, those haunting words surged through my consciousness as my watercolor brush and pencils turned into knives with which I cut through the fog of self-doubt and fear and rendered the objects before me with all the skill and confidence I could muster.  I remembered the days long, long ago, when I worked at an industrial site to support myself and my family during graduate school.  Knowing that I was cutting stainless steel that was then priced at about $2.48 a pound (one of the shipments I was assigned to cut to proper sizes cost the company around $330,000), I was told by my supervisor–“measure twice, cut once.”  Tonight as I worked on my still life details, I thought: “Look three times, stroke once.”  Indeed, I spent more time tonight looking and re-looking than actually painting, but when I did touch the paper surface, I drew and painted with confidence, and now finally, this painting is moving in the direction I wish it to go.

Thanks, Ernest.  As I size up my still life composition, I realize that are no magic tricks at work here.  All I need to do is look at the objects as steadily as the ancient Greeks looked at life (Matthew Arnold wrote that they “saw life steadily, and saw it whole”), and move my brushes and pencils in the corresponding patterns my eye discerns.  Perhaps by so doing, my prosaic work would one day turn poetic. We’ll see.  But in the meantime, I feel no fear, and am truly enjoying this adventure in the studio.

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.

Applying the “Hemingway” Rule after a Delicious Night in the Studio

April 13, 2013
Quick 8 x 10" Watercolor Sketch of Tackle Box

Quick 8 x 10″ Watercolor Sketch of Tackle Box

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next.  That way I could be sure of going on the next day.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Wow.  After more than a full-week hiatus from the studio, it felt great to pick up the brush again this evening.  Last weekend I had a three-day art festival, followed by a heavy week of school, and every evening spent gathering tax data to file my Income Tax returns.  I managed to get that out of the way this afternoon, and the evening was pure bliss in the Man Cave.

I decided to follow Hemingway’s rule and stop while I was hot with desire on this new watercolor sketch.  As soon as I am out of bed in the morning, I’ll have no trouble returning to it.

So, until tomorrow, thank you for reading.  I’m really getting into this new painting.

Further Musings on New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2012
Man Cave New Year's Eve

Man Cave New Year’s Eve

The profane never hear music; the holy ever hear it.  It is God’s voice, the divine breath audible.  Where it is heard, there is a sabbath.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, June 28, 1840

After the cat woke me, I sat in silence over the Thoreau Journals, and marveled at this meditation on music.  I had no choice but to take out my Martin guitar and play the Neil Young song “Looking Forward.”  Fitting, as I lean into this new year.  Reading on in Thoreau, I had the wind knocked out of me with this entry:

I sailed from Fair Haven last evening as gently and steadily as the clouds sail through the atmosphere.  The wind came blowing blithely from the southwest fields, and stepped into the folds of our sail like a winged horse, pulling with a strong and steady impulse.  The sail bends gently to the breeze, as swells some generous impulse of the heart, and anon flutters and flaps with a kind of human suspense.  I could watch the motions of a sail forever, they are so rich and full of meaning.  I watch the play of its pulse, as if it were my own blood beating here. . . . So am I blown on by God’s breath, so flutter and flap, and fill gently out with the breeze.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, June 30, 1840

From my former days in the ministry, and my love of the Greek language, I recall the word pneuma, translated Spirit or breath or wind.  I recall in the Petrine letters the remark that men of old wrote as they were “moved by the spirit.”  That notion always stayed with me–the stirring of the wind, the breath, the spirit, as a muse stirs and gets my attention and prompts me to respond, to create.

On a much funnier and lighter note,  I made a pre-New Year’s Resolution: to finish Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast before the New Year.  And so I decided to read just one page, further putting off my painting in the Man Cave.  And this is what I read (bear in mind that this work is an autobiography of Hemingway’s early writing years in Paris cafes)–

The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils, and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble-topped tables, the smell of cafe cremes, the smell of early morning sweeping out and mopping and luck were all you needed. For luck you carried a horse chestnut and a rabbit’s foot in your right pocket.  The fur had been worn off the rabbit’s foot long ago and the bones and the sinews were polished by wear.  The claws scratched in the lining of your pocket and you knew your luck was still there.

Some days it went so well that you could make the country so that you could walk into it through the timber to come out into the clearing and onto the high ground and see the hills beyond the arm of the lake.  A pencil-lead might break off in the conical nose of the pencil sharpener and you would use the small blade of the pen knife to clear it or else sharpen the pencil carefully with the sharp blade and then slip your arm through the seat-salted leather of your pack strap to lift the pack again, get the other arm through and feel the weight settle on your back and feel the pine needles under your moccasins as you started down for the lake.

Then you would hear someone say, “Hi, Hem.  What are you trying to do?  Write in a cafe?”

Your luck had run out and you shut the notebook.

It was at this precise moment of reading that my cat (yes, the same damned cat that woke me in the pre-dawn with his sprints across my bedroom floor and into the windows, around the furniture and back out the door) jumped up on top of a pyramid of vintage suitcases I had stacked precariously in the Man Cave, knocking them over with a clatter, causing books to tumble off the edge of the table and across the garage floor.  I felt like a babysitter, stuck for the entire day with a 3-year-old that will not stay out of things and leave me at peace!

O.K. Now back to reality.  The painting has been serene, as I have spent most of this morning tinkering with the textures on the kerosene lamp and attempting to capture the nuances of light and grime on the globe.

New Year's Eve Still Life

New Year’s Eve Still Life

The cat continues to prowl about the Cave, yowling, knocking things over, and trying to get my attention.  I feel a kinship with Hemingway in the Paris cafe with the intruder trying to talk to him:

I thought I would ignore him and see if I could write.  So I ignored him and wrote two sentences.

“All I did was speak to you.”

I went on and wrote another sentence.  It dies hard when it is really going and you are into it.

And so, I continue to chip away at this still life, sentence by sentence, as the cat continues to do what cats do.  I wish he would just settle down and take a nap, take a bath, read a book, or something.

Thanks for reading.


Don Williams in the Kitchen

December 9, 2012

Breakfast in the Man Cave

The exhaustion from last night’s show sent me to bed by 11:00.  What a surprise to awaken in the predawn, doze and ponder awhile, then rise at 6:37 a.m. on a Sunday.  Though the morning temperature recorded 65 degrees, I knew that a cold front was promised later, so I decided to rise and wait for it.  I’m not sure why I put on the Don Williams Gold CD–I don’t consider myself a country & western devotee, but I was in the mood for it this morning.  Perhaps it was because of a song I listened to performed by my guitar buddy and long-time confidant Jim Farmer the other night.  I just wanted to hear the words again to “Good Ole Boys Like Me.”  As those words filled my kitchen, I went to work on coffee, fried potatoes & onions, sausages and biscuits (I’ve gotten on that kick recently).  The Don Williams song I replayed, again and again.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  I’ll probably put those words at the end of this post.

I took my breakfast into the garage, raised the door, and enjoyed the neighborhood quiet a little after 7:00.  My awakened mind was all over the map, but above all, I hung onto some words I read last night from Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast (during a lull in the art event).  This continues the idea from my last post:

When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written, to keep my mind from going on with the story I was working on.  If you kept thinking about it, you would lose the thing that you were writing before you could go on with it the next day. . . . afterwards, when you were empty, it was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again.  I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing; but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

That was a timely oracle for me.  For years, I have had the practice of keeping several watercolors in progress at once, so I would never come to the end of one and have nothing left, and have to begin at the very beginning of a new piece.  Well, now I find myself in that spot I have successfully avoided for so long–no watercolors in progress.  What to do now?  Well, I read some more Hemingway, write in my journal, think, and eventually some kind of image will bubble to the surface charged with all the emotions that compel me once again to pick up the brush.

In the meantime, I have been playing with autumn leaves, and this morning, I took a few more stabs at them, not sure about what I was doing.  And I made another sketch of a vintage doorknob and locking plate attached to a damaged door.  Perhaps one of these will “take hold” and be ready for me to resume tomorrow after lunch.  We’ll see.

Well, here is yet another smoke signal, message in a bottle, or whatever you call these blog endeavors.  They have become my life blood, and I thank all of you who read them and respond.  I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Thanks for reading, and I close with those words from Don Williams that warmed my kitchen this morning:

When I was a kid Uncle Remus he put me to bed
With a picture of Stonewall Jackson above my head
Then daddy came in to kiss his little man
With gin on his breath and a Bible in his hand
He talked about honor and things I should know
Then he’d stagger a little as he went out the door

I can still hear the soft Southern winds in the live oak trees
And those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me
Hank and Tennessee!
I guess we’re all gonna be what we’re gonna be
So what do you do with good ole boys like me

Nothing makes a sound in the night like the wind does
But you ain’t afraid if you’re washed in the blood like I was
The smell of cape jasmine thru the window screen
John R. and the Wolfman kept me company
By the light of the radio by my bed
With Thomas Wolfe whispering in my head


When I was in school I ran with the kid down the street
But I watched him burn himself up on bourbon and speed
But I was smarter than most and I could choose
Learned to talk like the man on the six o’clock news
When I was eighteen, Lord, I hit the road
But it really doesn’t matter how far I go