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Solitude Eludes Words

August 31, 2022
Morning Sketch in Studio Eidolons

This writing that you do, that so thrills you, that so rocks and exhilarates you, as if you were dancing next to the band, is barely audible to anyone else.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

I felt Annie’s presence this morning, as I sat at the window sketching, the cool gray morning light filling the studio. I also felt an intimate connection to all creatives who know the sweet solitude that comes with writing a song, a literary composition, or creating a piece of visual art. Creative eros is a sweet presence that prevents solitude from descending into loneliness. No doubt we creatives thrive on attention, but we also draw deep sustenance from the act of creating while alone.

For years I’ve floundered, seeking words to reveal the feelings one knows when s/he taps a perfect putt across a green, or lays out a perfect cast with the fly rod, or scrapes the sharpened pencil across the surface of the paper, or plucks the acoustic guitar string in such a way that the note lingers in the air and resonates in the room. And then, I come across a quote by Anais Nin that tells it like it is:

I have never been able to talk as I think, to anyone. With most people you can only talk about ideas, not the channel through which these ideas pass, the atmosphere in which they bathe, the subtle essence which escapes as one clothes them. Most of the time, I don’t feel like talking about ideas anyway. I am more interested in sensations.

Anais Nin (French author/diarist)

The morning is off to a sweet beginning. 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.

Help from Joan Didion

August 30, 2022
Sketching in the Studio

See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do, which is write—in that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there  . . .

Joan Didion

Joan Didion pulled me out of the abyss this morning. I cannot put my finger on it; I slept late, woke up feeling drained, and found myself tidying the studio and doing all kinds of busy work instead of sitting down and making myself draw in the sketchbook. Once I did the morning drawing (a new discipline I’m trying to instill in myself), I settled in to read, but nothing clicked. One of those mornings when I wished for an oracle and heaven was silent. Then I remembered: I have this deep, deep file of quotes I’ve lifted over the past twenty years or so. The first file was Joan Didion, and the above statement lifted me to higher ground.

We all have our habits. Decades ago, when I was in the ministry, I began every morning searching my Bible for some Word, some organizing, cohesive force to direct my life. When I left the ministry and entered the teaching field, the habit remained, only this time I searched not only the Bible, but books in my study, magazines, newspapers, file folders of gems I’d copied from my past–anything that might start a fire of creative desire in my imagination.

Now retired, the habit remains. For some reason this morning, I pursued chores, tasks, busy work, and postponed the morning coffee for nearly two hours. But now here I am, coffee’d up, breakfasted, read up, scribbled up in the journal, and ready to go to the drafting table to the big watercolor and figure out what to do next with it.

Quick Sketch of a Blues Man

Thanks, Joan. And thanks to the rest of you for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Contemplating the Wind

January 13, 2022

The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know from where it comes, or where it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the wind.

John 3:8

I know this passage from St. John. Jesus is instructing Nicodemus of the necessity of being born again. In answering the listener’s question, Jesus draws an analogy between the spirit and the wind with their attendant mysteries. But the same Greek word pneuma is used throughout the discussion, because it means either spirit or wind. I understand why the church has chosen to translate the word as “wind” first and “spirit” last in the above verse. But I have decided to stay with the word “wind” to shift the discussion in a different direction.

The idea I want to address in the above passage is the reality that none of us has control over the wind. We don’t know its origin or destination. We don’t know when it is going to pick up and blow. By analogy, we also do not understand people born of the wind; we cannot control them or successfully manipulate them to fit our desires.

Turning my attention to the world of art, I had a fascinating conversation with my friend from childhood and fellow artist Wayne White. His photography is featured in our Gallery at Redlands. While talking about the art market this morning on the phone, we acknowledged that we cannot predict sales or success. We’re fascinated with studying all that is available regarding marketing, and that is one of my resolutions for 2022. But as artists, the only thing we can do is continue to make our art and cast it into the wind to see if it will sail. No matter how much we learn about the market, it does no good if we are not prolific creators. I love this passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes (11:4):

Keep watching the wind and you will never sow.

Stare at the clouds and you will never reap.

I remember with amusement Kevin Kostner chiding the fledging minor league pitcher in Bull Durham that he couldn’t pitch with accuracy because he thought about it too much. “Just throw the ball,” he challenged. And that is what we artists need to do. We need to keep pitching.

5 x 7″ pencil sketch. $100 plus shipping

I finished a small drawing this morning of an Indian motorcycle with jacket and scattered equipment. I’m trying to draw every single day of 2022 and so far have stayed close to the discipline. This one I thought was good enough to put in a mat and perhaps frame.

I’m ready to return my attention to the Arkansas cabin. 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.

Creative Eros in The Gallery at Redlands

October 23, 2021

New Bison Compositions in Progress. 10 x 13″ frames. $100

I spun myself like a dervish around that idea.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

In recent days, it seems that every sentence that flows from the mind of Elizabeth Gilbert sends waves of creative bliss through me. When I read the “dervish” remark above, I recalled my cycle of bison sketches from a few months back and decided to pull some of them out of the pile. I found one that I had started and then completely forgot. Today I have it laid out on the gallery drafting table, along with a pair of bison I sketched in watercolor during last weekend’s Art Walk. I haven’t counted my bison but I’m sure the number exceeds ten by now, and yet I feel that I’ve barely gotten into this subject. I want more.

Daily Drawing and Journal Practices

The Gallery at Redlands is making plans to spotlight our artists in the coming months. We recently had an excellent response to the work of Cecilia Bramhall and decided to proceed with these plans. In two weeks we will present Paula Cadle, our potter who also creates exquisite drawings. Paula will join us for a Gallery Art Talk on Friday evening, November 5 from 7:00-9:00, and our monthly Art Walk the following day, 10:00-3:00.

Paula Cadle Pottery

Paula Cadle Pottery

Paula Cadle graduated from Rocky Mountain School of Art in Denver, Colorado. She joined Fletcher-Keating Graphics after art school and worked in advertising and commercial art for several years before concentrating on fine art. Paula’s media includes clay and pen and ink. She prefers to focus on hand-built pottery but still does occasional graphic design. She describes her work as follows:

My clay work is built with coils and slabs that are hand-worked into various shapes and styles. I use white earthenware clay and sometimes stoneware clay for the larger pieces. My clay designs are an extension of my love for drawing and graphic arts. I paint original designs on the clay using bright colors. Under-glaze colors are applied two or three times and then fired. A clear or colored glaze is sprayed or brushed on for a second firing. Some of my pieces have over-glazes in silver or gold and are fired a third time. I love colors and use them quite liberally. Sometimes I add weavings or other ornamentation for a unique appearance. My joy is in making the clay artwork and decorating it. Once finished, it is time to let go and move on to a new design or idea.

Meanwhile Outside the Gallery, the Hot Pepper Festival Parade Goes By . . .
Small Portion of the Festival Spanning Three Streets Downtown

Multitudes are still enjoying a good time outside as the Hot Pepper Festival continues throughout the day. And I’m finding plenty of enjoyment inside the Gallery.

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.

Stirring the Embers

July 26, 2020
Sunday Morning, reading Karl Barth

This tranquil Sunday lovingly embraced my mind as I enjoyed coffee in the early morning light and pored over several texts. Oftentimes when I turn the pages of several books, the discussions tumble round like a kaleidoscope, presenting a brilliant stained glass arrangement of ideas. This turned out to be one of those mornings.

The discussion began with Saint Paul in Romans 12:2, and as I chewed on the Greek text, along with a German translation, the words took on new life: “Be not conformed (schematized) by this age (I prefer Zeitgeist), but be transformed (metamorphosed) by the renewing (stirring the embers) of your mind.

From the Greek New Testament, I turned to a biography of Karl Barth (I’ve been reading lately his commentary on Romans), and felt memories of my earlier life washing up on the shores as I read of his first faculty assignment.

“Now I was studying night and day, going to and fro with books old and new until I had at least some skill in mounting the academic donkey (I could hardly call it a horse) and riding it to the university.” Barth devoted himself to the preparation of his lectures with unprecedented zeal–“almost always on night shift”. “More than once, the lecture which I gave at seven o’clock in the morning had only been finished between three and five.” He always had to work “rather faster than my natural tempo . . . And our ‘complicating’ points of view, which turn everything upside down, do not simplify matters: there is an everlasting battle between these ‘viewpoints’ and the material, which keeps wanting to snap back into its old familiar commonplace form.”

Eberthard Busch, Karl Barth: His life from letters and autobiographical texts

Naturally, this reading took me back over three decades of sweating out research, writing and re-writing, frequently late into the nights, in order to put fresh bread out for students the following morning. The memory now is far more pleasant than the reality of those years. But the end of that text, referencing “material, which keeps wanting to snap back into its old familiar commonplace form,” reminded me of the battle I fought most of yesterday (and lost!) in the studio.

The subject I have chosen to teach in next Thursday’s watercolor class involves the painting of wildflowers and grasses. I would like to bring back very special moments I experienced in 2015 while serving as Artist-in-Residence on an island in the Laguna Madre. Those moments involved breakthroughs as I painted firewheels blazing in the weeds, and cordgrasses as they separated from the undergrowth behind the building where I resided.

My struggle on the island was the same as what I endured yesterday–the tension between painting things the way I do by habit and rendering things thoughtfully and analytically, the way I see the subjects now. Yesterday started well, because I was scrutinizing my subjects and thoughtfully arranging colors and contrasts the way they appeared before me. The beginnings of the work were very promising. But then, later in the day, when fatigue settled in, I began finishing up the paintings the way I always do, and the results were very unsatisfying. I know better than this, but habits are difficult to slay. So today offers another chance . . . When I paint something worth posting, I’ll put it up on the blog for viewing.

As I continued rotating the reading kaleidoscope, another set of ideas emerged, these from Karl Barth’s The Epistle to the Romans:

To be sincere, our thought must share in the tension of human life, in its criss-cross lines, and in its kaledoscopic movements. And life is neither simple, nor straightforward, not obvious. Things are simple and straightforward and obvious only when they are detached from their context and then treated superficially. The reality to which life bears witness must be disclosed in the deep things of all observable phenomena, in their whole context–and in their KRISIS.

We live in a deeply troubling and complicated era. The coronavirus continues to wreak havoc across our land, and daily some public figure steps before the cameras and microphones somewhere to offer his/her simple solution. Are our state and national leaders that simple minded, or do they publicly voice their bromides because their constituents merely want simple answers? I do not know. Life is complicated. Society is complicated. We do not solve problems with simple solutions. There is always KRISIS, as Barth testified. There is always tension to navigate. There are always options to untangle and present. Meanwhile, we individuals know what steps to take to minimize danger. My hope for all of you is that you do whatever is necessary to stay safe.

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.

Saturday Splendor at the Gallery at Redlands

November 16, 2019


Beginning of my First Painting of the UP “Big Boy” #4014

. . . they remind you of Saturday mornings when you were six and knew the day was young and blue just by looking over the fence through pale smokes of whoever it is is always burning something on Saturday morning (and hammering on nails in the afternoon).

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

Today has been a bright and sunny cold day in Palestine, Texas, lovely enough to step outside in a jacket and walk all over town. Seated in The Gallery at Redlands in the afternoon, I now muse over the entire morning divided between painting, reading, journaling, and stepping outside into the fresh air for the ocassional invigorating walk. The sounds of the city are reminiscent of the white noise I knew from my youth, described by Jack Kerouac above, that I found soothing then, and find soothing this day.


View Outside the Gallery Window of the UP Railyards in the Distance

Two blocks away, the Union Pacific yards are back to their normal work and noise, a week having past since the Big Boy came lumbering into town for an overnight stay. I took pictures then. I begin watercolors now. At the top of this blog is the posted image of the first one, begun yesterday morning. Dave Shultz, the photographer who is also building my new website, has provided outstanding photos for me to use as reference to paint this massive locomotive.


Lovely Christmas Tree in my Redlands Hotel Suite

The Redlands Hotel is now tricked out in its lovely holiday attire. In addition to the lobby areas, the hotel staff placed a Christmas tree in every suite of the hotel. I didn’t anticipate what I was to find when I came into my room yesterday. I cried in gratitude; Christmas trees have always overpowered me in that way, and yesterday was no different. Thank you, Redlands! I spent a large portion of this morning beside the tree in my suite, reading and scribbling notes in my journal.


The Gallery at Redlands



Views of The Redlands Hotel in a Walk Across Town


Cover of my Latest Christmas Card

This year, I am adding to my holiday card collection. My 5 x 7″ cards are printed on Hallmark Card stock, blank inside with something I’ve written on the back. With envelope and packed in a plastic wrap, I sell these for $5 each or five for $20. For any of my readers living in the Arlington, Texas area, Boss Cleaners at the Arlington Green Oak Center, 5817 Interstate 20 West, Suite 410, sells these cards in their store.

In three weeks I will be displaying my work for viewing and sale at the Randy Brodnax & Friends Christmas Show:

The festival will run Friday through Sunday, Dec. 6-8.

Thanks for reading, and make sure you check out my new blog,

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.