Posts Tagged ‘drawing’

The Purity of the Winter Morning Light

December 31, 2015


Introibo ad altare Dei (I will go to the altar of God).

James Joyce, Ulysses

This entire serene morning was spent in front of the fireplace, and I read slowly the first twenty-six pages of Joyce’s Ulysses while enjoying the delicious warmth and sounds of the fire.  My only break from reading was to draw again the tree outside my living room window.  The winter light is so clear and crisp, and the sun was out for the second consecutive morning, lighting up the tree in contrast from its dark background.

living room tree

I’ve placed this 5 x 7″ drawing in an 8 x 10″ mat and have placed it on the market for $40.  As I continue the practice, I’m growing more comfortable to rendering tree bark in graphite, and am already looking forward to the next try.

Listening to Youtube documentaries last night on James Joyce put me in the mood to re-try Ulysses before the fire this morning.  I had never managed to get past the first dozen pages without losing interest, and don’t understand why I’m finding it more readable now.  Joyce’s grappling with his Jesuit past parallels my own coping with my Southern Baptist roots.  I suppose that is a start.  But there is much more–I really enjoy the musicality of Joyce’s language when I am alone and reading aloud.  Harold Bloom reminded me of the importance of hearing quality literature, not just reading it.  After twenty-six pages, I am stunned at the artistry of Joyce’s writing, and this makes me want to take my own writing more seriously.

James Joyce also has much to say to anyone who would follow his/her artistic bliss.  He himself fought through so many snares (he called them nets) as he sought to fly above the standard literary canons of his day.  I’ve always been aware of the snares, but I feel that my own are more internal–that I have to fight through personal laziness and lethargy and moodiness rather than interference from outside, social forces.  In my later years, I’m more conscious of the energy required to create consistently.  I’m working on that.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Drawing into the Night

December 30, 2015


You are an artist, are you not, Mr Dedalus? said the dean, glancing up and blinking his pale eyes.  The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. What the beautiful is is another question.

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes.

Ovid, Metamorhposes–(“And he applied his spirit to obscure arts.”)

This evening, I’ve been in a James Joyce mood.  I read his Portrait of the Artist back in 1988, when I was working nights as a dispatcher for the Fort Worth Police Department.  I would begin teaching that fall, and I never forgot the ideas Joyce instilled in me, particularly with this autobiographical creed.  I wish to read the work again in its entirety–I have re-read large portions of it throughout the years since I first read the entire work.

The Ovid quote that opens Joyce’s book haunts me, as did my first encounters with Andrew Wyeth art.  I’ve never been able to explain what it is that I see in particular subjects that is “beautiful” or why the subjects hold me the way that they do.  I have stared at winter trees, stripped of their foliage, since 1969 when I first saw the Andrew Wyeth drawings, drybrush sketches, watercolors and egg tempera pieces.  In recent weeks, I’ve been doing drawings of trees from life, then when they were no longer available, drawings from my drawings.  This morning I was enchanted by a tree in the winter light just outside my living room window, and I drew it with a great sense of well-being.  Tonight I’m drawing it again, using my first drawing as a model.  I also photographed the tree twice today, and plan soon to do drawings from the photo.  In time, I plan to switch to watercolor to see how well I can handle these subjects in color.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

One of Those Mornings

December 30, 2015


It may be that when the angels go about their task praising God, they play only Bach.  I am sure, however, that when they are together en famille they play Mozart. 

Karl Barth

For years, I’ve laughed at that quote, and have asked myself what I believe to be the most sublime music ever created.  My vote would have to go to Giovanni Gabrieli’s Canzon septimi toni.  This particular morning has been most beautiful because I just received this CD as a late Christmas gift, and the music has filled my house with a sense of good will and lightness of Being.

My intention to head for the shower this morning was interrupted when I opened the living room blinds and saw this enormous tree next to my house bathed in the morning winter light.  I scrambled for my sketchbook and pencils and scratched out the sketch posted above before showering.  I had to, the impulse was so strong.  And as I drew, it felt as though the pencils were dancing between my fingers as I worked to keep them inside the boundaries of the tree trunk.  I am still amazed at how little effort it takes to render the textures of tree bark by simply letting the pencil have its way as it skips over the surface of my paper.  All I do is twist the pencil back and forth between my fingers, jiggle it about, and vary the pressure of the point against the paper.  It does the rest.  Last evening, while lounging on a window seat in Espumoso Caffe, I scratched out a couple of tree sketches, marveling at how easy the endeavor was, and began to develop this idea of the contrast between a dancer and a grinder.  I seem to cycle between those two.  As a dancer, I can flit lightly from book to book, drawing to watercolor, journal to blog, and back again.  I seem to be A.D.D., but I’ve had this tendency at least since graduate school–too many interests for one person to keep under wraps.  And then there is the other mode, the grinder.  As a teacher, I grind out lesson plans, and as an artist, I grind out inventory for commissions and art festivals.  Either way, I am producing.  It’s just that one way is marked with much more felicity than the other.  Both produce results, but one is much more enjoyable.  Sometimes I play, and sometimes I work.  With a two-week Christmas holiday, I am much more “at play” and am loving it.

In the cities, in the studios, there is usually too little time to think matters through.  Most things are skimmed, and people often believe they are doing quite a good deal themselves when they are only jostled by others.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

When I read this last evening, I exploded in my journal for another couple of pages.  I love it when writers such as Henri set me off on a tangent of thought.  With the holiday more than half over, I am delightful that despite much traveling and social time I have managed to have more quiet time than usual, and have pondered many matters, preparing for this new year.  I am excited as 2016 draws near, and have pledged not to get caught by the perennial deadlines and wingnuts that accompany my day job to the extent that there is no time for creative, meaningful thought.  Life just isn’t long enough, and I regret in these senior years finding myself often chasing my tail because of schedules that are, in the long run, meaningless.

Another thought from Henri: Don’t ever stock your head so full of “learning” that there will be no room left for personal thinking.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.



Drawing Away the Christmas Day

December 25, 2015

imageI’m feeling somewhat embarrassed to sail so many things out on the blog today.  I used to force myself to blog daily.  Then after reading Hamlet’s Blackberry, I took the author’s message seriously and began spending longer stretches “offline”, and enjoyed my quiet time of reading and making art, determined that I would not throw something out on social media unless I really had something to say.  Today has been one of those sweet days spent reading, drawing, playing Solitaire, chatting with family, and just soaking up the spirit of Christmas and family.  And for some reason, I keep firing up the laptop to upload a photo of what I’m doing.

I was seized with the impulse to work on another section of this same tree I’ve been observing outside my sister’s patio door.  The more I study and try to copy the “architecture of trees”, the more convinced I am that it will pay dividends with future attempts at landscape painting.  And I am indeed enjoying what I see as I stare at the congeries of limbs and try to plot the movement and mass on my sketchbook page.

Thanks for reading.

Partial Tree Portrait

December 25, 2015

imageThe sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes–no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

While reading, I glanced up at the view out the window, found myself staring at a tree against the morning sky, and decided, “Well, why not?”  I never feel boredom when I stare into a network of tree branches, trying to discern their basic direction, and capturing it on a page with pencil.  The trees I draw from life are always much, much better than what I draw from out of my own imagination, because the trees are always doing much more than I perceive in my memory.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of looking at them and trying to capture parts of them for the sake of future drawings and watercolors.

Thanks for looking . . .

Good Morning and Merry Christmas

December 25, 2015

image. . . the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light . . . 

Matthew 4:16

Traditionally, Christmas is celebrated by my family on Christmas Eve, with the festivities lasting literally into Christmas Day.  And so, coming back to my sister’s house well after midnight, full of food, images, memories and sounds, I finally collapsed into bed, thinking I would sleep till noon today, satisfied.

By 8:30, I  realized I was not sleeping any longer.  I’m glad I rose to the quiet Christmas Day, with a beautiful sun rising in the East.  Before retiring to bed around 1:00 a.m. I had read the Christmas Story from Luke’s Gospel.  Now, freshly rising from a quality sleep, I have chosen to spend the morning lingering over the Greek text of Matthew’s Christmas Story.  After all these years, I’m still very fulfilled, reading the New Testament from its original language and savoring words layered in meanings.

The passage that arrested me this morning (a portion quoted above) was lifted from Isaiah 9:2 and resonates with the warmth one knows when emerging from darkness and confusion to a world of light and understanding.  As I spent time pondering this and writing in my journal, I turned to Psalm 119:130 to read “The entrance of thy words giveth light .”  I still love the King James Version, and spend more time recently reading texts from Shakespeare and savoring the language from that era.  A better translation of the Psalms passage would be “The unfolding of your words gives light . . . ”  That text takes me back to my early college years, as I was drawn into the ministry.  Feeling the compulsion to study the scriptures, I spent hours at my desk working on the passages required for exposition on Sundays, and hoping for a day that I could learn Koine Greek.  When the day finally arrived in 1977, I felt that a change had come that would bear fruit the rest of my life.  So far, none of that has diminished.

Being far from my personal library, I regret that I did not pack my Latin Vulgate or Biblia Hebraica or Septuagint.  This would be a morning that I would have all the volumes open at my desk, grazing from the words and writing personal observations till I could hold no more.  At least I brought a couple of Luther biographies, so I suppose I could vicariously enjoy his pursuits during those early Erfurt days in the cloister.

Thanks for reading.  I’m not sure that I put out much of a “Christmas” greeting, but I’m loving the warm sentiments of this quiet morning, and all the feelings that accompany the holiday season.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Architecture of Trees

December 24, 2015



Life is a dream already over.

Jack Kerouac

Happy Christmas Eve, dear friends.  The drive to St. Louis was long and laborious, but I’m glad to be settled now with my parents, siblings and extended family about me.  My sister has been such a gracious host during my family visits.  Seated with coffee this morning, looking out her back patio door, I could not stop looking at the trees across the neighborhood.  Reaching for the sketchbook/journal, I again attempted to draw a single tree, studying its structure, its natural architecture, as closely as possible.  I always get lost in the process, but just love the act of drawing.

My reading throughout the morning has followed quite a labyrinthe–from Harold Bloom to Martin Luther to the Greek New Testament to Karl Barth, and finally to recording my own musings.  I cannot express the depth of gratitude I experience when I have the time and space and quiet about me to read, to reflect, to record what I feel is worth remembering, and finally, to write, in my own words, what is on my heart.  Harold Bloom often speaks of “overhearing” oneself.  When I experience that, I feel a genuine desire to adjust some things in my day-to-day life, to improve, to grow, to write a new chapter.

Christmas eve

Thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays to all of you.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.



Warming to the Christmas Holiday

December 19, 2015


I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end.

But I do not talk of the beginning or end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,

Nor any more youth or age than there is now, 

And will never be any more perfection than there is now.

Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,

Always the procreant urge of the world.

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

Today marks the first day of my two-week Christmas vacation, and I regret that I am observing it with my second nasty sinus infection this season.  Today marks the fourth day of the corruption.

At any rate, I scraped together sufficient energy to spend the day working on a watercolor commission and doing basic chores about the house.  Now that the sun has gone down and I’ve lost my natural light, I lay the watercolor aside and pursue my passion, reading and writing in the journal.

While painting today, I played a couple of DVDs about the Beat Generation, and felt a rush from their energy.  Much as those writers did in their day, I tire of the antiseptic environment that surrounds me daily in the public school sector.   I shared with one of my classes recently the quote from N. C. Wyeth about how education frequently levels the students: “We are pruned to stumps, one resembling the other, without character or grace.”  All I can hope for my students is that they understand their creative growth depends on many factors outside the classroom walls.  My own educational experience gave me the essential tools to expand my horizons, but the creative urge came from a different source.

library painting

Last week, I worked on a commission for the City of Kennedale, near where I live.  I chose not to post this watercolor image before the city delivered it to the recipient–a librarian who was retiring from service.  I failed to photograph the finished work, and now it is out of my hands!  The finish work included considerable darkening of the foreground grass, some fall trees to the right of the clock tower, and toning down the overall redness of the brick building.  I also added consierable mass to the tree limbs at the top of the composition, as well as more clusters of dead leaves.

winter tree

I have also made about ten more 5 x 7″ tree drawings that I’ve been pricing between $25-40 (matted with 8 x 10″ around the outside).  Drawing has proved relaxing, especially with the way things have gone the final three weeks of school leading up to the holidays.

winter tree & fence

This particular drawing was purchased by a dear friend this past week.  I’ve appreciated all the encouragement offered by friends recently, and really look forward to more opportunities over the holidays for making art.

Thanks for reading.

Pushing Aside the Traffic to Linger Over a Drawing

December 10, 2015


The mind has shown itself at times

Too much the baked and labeled dough

Divided by accepted multitudes.

Across the stacked partitions of the day–

Across the memoranda, baseball scores,

The stenographic smiles and stock quotations

Smutty wings flash out equivocations.

The mind is brushed by sparrow wings;

Numbers, rebuffed by asphalt, crowd

The margins of the day, accent the curbs,

Convoying divers dawns on every corner

To druggist, barber and tobacconist,

Until the graduate opacities of evening 

Take them away as suddenly to somewhere

Virginal perhaps, less fragmentary, cool.

Hart Crane

Being profoundly enriched recently by the writings of Harold Bloom, I am now reading Hart Crane poetry for the first time that I recall in my life.  And I find this writer connecting with me in ways I haven’t known since the days of reading Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams.  The portion of the poem above really gave me pause, highlighting the kind of days I seem to live as this holiday season draws near.  I love Thanksgiving and Christmas, and feel deeply the warm sentiments that permeate the atmosphere about me.  Yet at the same time, deadlines seem to double, meetings triple, and responsibilities quadruple.  The pace, the interruptions to any kind of flow, the rising noise about me–I find myself seeking ways to repel all of this rather than explode in frustration and petty verbal outbursts.

In the afternoons, I’m now sitting in my classroom/gallery, surrounded by my art, listening to soothing music, reading poetry and bending over the daily drawing.  The one attached above is what I did yesterday before the 4:00 hour arrived.  There were plenty of appointments waiting for me after 4:00, but the pause for reading, for music, and for art made all the difference.

And today offers the chance of being another good day.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Wrinkled Shadows

December 9, 2015


Driving early to school in the pre-dawn, listening to Youtube on my phone, I was taken by Hart Crane’s poetry reading, particularly the juxtaposition of the words “wrinkled shadows.” As soon as I got to school, finding plenty of time before the first class began, I took up my pencils and worked on another quick tree sketch, thinking about those shadows with their wrinkled bark.  And as I worked in silence, I thought of T. S. Eliot’s refrain concerning the shadow in “The Hollow Men.”

I’m finding a fascinating world in these tree renderings, and am starting to find amusement in their reproduction, like wild mushrooms (I have now eight 5 x 7″ drawings of trees in 8 x 10″ white mats and shrinkwrapped, priced between $25 and $40).  I am finding great pleasure in drawing them and cannot help but wonder where this is going to take me next.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.