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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.