Posts Tagged ‘Ernest Hemingway’

Morning Coffee with Dave & Ernest

August 30, 2018


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 felt that unusual sense of being “blocked” creatively this morning, perhaps because I have finally completed a watercolor that has been front-and-center of my studio attention since mid-summer. Now it is time to move on to the next. In the past, I have avoided these kinds of feelings, because I generally have several pieces in progress, so that I never find myself with nothing in front of me. But this time, with school starting up, I finally came down to one large watercolor in progress, and never started any others, choosing instead to bring this one to a close. The feeling of closure is excellent, but then again, starting a brand new piece with no others alongside it is daunting. The first revolution of the wheel takes the most energy, as I’ve been told.

I have commissions waiting, but feel that I need to push out something creative, and regain that momentum. So. There it is. I am unsure of what to pursue next. I am not as uptight about this state as I was in my earlier years; I suppose experience reminds me that I have seen this many times, and I have always managed to start a new circle. At any rate, this is the reason I pulled A Moveable Feast from the shelf. I am inspired by Hemingway’s reassuring words that if we have created before, we shall create again. All we need do is start with what we know.

I have my final Logic class just around the corner, and then I sail into a four-day weekend, thankful that Labor Day has arrived. I have no class to teach until the following Tuesday. And I intend to do something creative during that hiatus. As I think of the new project, I’ll think of the Hemingway context of the quote above: him sitting before the fire, squirting orange peels to make it flare up as he figures out what to do next in his creative pursuits.

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.

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 . . .

Not the Rooftops of Paris, but Dark and Rainy Nevertheless, and Quite Good

February 20, 2017



Second Day on a 20 x 16″ Watercolor

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 litle 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.”  So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Waking early this morning to a dark and rain-soaked world, I was glad not to go to work but to do as I please for the entire day.  Late last night I had begun work on a new watercolor of a Blues theme that I used to pursue fervently, but had stopped doing in recent years.  Soon I’ll release details on a new One-Man-Show that has been offered me, and I would love to complete some Blues art to hang in this venue.  I chose as a backdrop for the painting my grandmother’s abandoned house.  Then I took some selfies in my backyard, holding my late uncle’s pre-World War II Gibson archtop guitar.  I have high expectations for this composition and have already enjoyed a full morning of layering washes and drybrush details into the piece.  I’m taking my time with it.

As I worked, I dialed up on Netflix “Papa Hemingway in Cuba.”  When I’m painting, I love listening to movies, documentaries, and YouTube lectures.  They keep my mind engaged. And as this film rolled, my mind went back to some intense reading I enjoyed a few winters ago: Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and Carlos Baker’s Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story.  And as I worked, I thought of all those times when I’ve struggled over whether to make art, read, or write when I had time to myself.  This weekend has produced another one of those environments for me that I love so much–what Paul Tillich referred to often as “creative eros”, an urge to create, period.  And when I find myself unable to resolve whether to paint, draw, read, write, or just sit in a comfortable chair with coffee to think and do nothing else–I realize that life could not possibly be better.


Working on a New Lecture Series

Just before the weekend arrived, I discovered that among the post-retirement options offered to me this coming fall is a chance to teach Ethics at the university for the first time. Pulling from my shelf a volume from The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, I was surprised to find myself absorbed in a very lengthy History of Ethics article.  This came as a surprise because I seldom find myself interested for very long in an encyclopedia entry, particularly one that goes on for page after page after page, four columns staring back at me every time I turn the page.  But this article has really taken me in new directions.  For decades I have been interested in the history of philosophy, but usually focused on metaphysics and theories of knowledge, never ethics.  Now, as I read the ethical portions of these philosophers and schools, I am amazed at the new ideas I’m grafting onto the structures already learned.  The new directions are quite exciting.

Reading this article has also led me back to a famous book that I have never successfully stayed with over the decades: Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be.  Now, having read twenty-seven pages and scribbling out a pile of notes, I feel that I am finally into this book as well. The reading of just these two sources has already produced pages and pages of journal entries, paragraphs, diagrams and illustrations of new ideas waiting for further development.


“Thinking About the Next Catch”

Last night I received my email notification that the piece pictured above has been accepted to show in the 32nd Annual Texas & Neighbors Regional Art Exhibition to be held at the Irving Arts Center April 29-June 3. There were 585 pieces juried, and 75 selected.  Over the years, I have visited this show and always wished to participate, but continually missed the application deadline.  Thanks to an artist friend, I met the deadline this year, and now am very happy for this opportunity of hanging one of my pieces with works selected from Texas and several neighboring states.

The weekend has been full and rewarding.  Thank you for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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.

My Annual Rustic Christmas Gallery

December 8, 2015


But in the end, in the end one is alone. We are all of us alone. I mean I’m told these days we have to consider ourselves as being in society… but in the end one knows one is alone, that one lives at the heart of a solitude.
Harold Bloom

Too many of my friends regard a quote such as the one above as depressing.  I don’t see that at all.  Looking back over my life span, I have felt alone, even while in the midst of rich relationships.  My recent reading of Harold Bloom has opened so many avenues of thought, that I find it fortunate to have some “alone time” to sort through them all.  And I like it.  In the final week before Christmas, I will introduce my Philosophy class to the thought of Paul Tillich, a philosopher/theologian who had much to say about the qualities of being alone.  He called the positive aspects of alone-ness “solitude” and the negative aspects “loneliness.”  I can appreciate that difference, and have known both worlds.

The part of my life given to making art, reading and writing is a solitary enterprise, as far as I’m concerned.  And I find those moments to be sublime, not lonely or depressing. When reading Hemingway’s comments in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech (“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”), I’m saddened to think of those who suffer loneliness when engaged in creative acts.

Above, I have posted a photo of my classroom gallery that I set up the final two weeks before dismissing for the Christmas holidays.  When the gallery is in place, I stay in my classroom until 4:00 every school day.  Since I finish teaching at 12:20, it makes for a long and solitary afternoon if no one comes into the classroom.  But that is time well-spent as I catch up on my reading and sketching.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Perfect Response to a Cold, Rainy Dawn

November 29, 2015

imageThen there was the bad weather.  It would come in one day when the fall was over.  You would have to shut the windows in the night against the rain and the cold wind would strip the leaves from the trees in the Place Contrescarpe.  The leaves lay sodden in the rain and the wind drove the rain against the big green autobus at the terminal and the Cafe des Amateurs was crowded and the windows misted over from the heat and the smoke inside.

Ernest Hemingway, “A Good Cafe on the Place St.-Michel” in A Moveable Feast

The weather turned nasty over the past several days of the holiday, with rain continuing, floods abounding in north Texas, the skies darkening and temperatures plummeting.  Waking at 6:50 this morning and feeling rested, I decided to lower my thermostat to 65 degrees, pull a sweater over my denim shirt, enjoy the coffee, read and see if I could make something good of the cold, wet day.


After a satisfying breakfast, I sat at my writing desk for a few hours, and enjoyed a smorgasbord of reading, from the diaries of Andy Warhol and Henry David Thoreau (quite a contrast) to some translating from my Greek New Testament.  I opened Paul’s Letter to the Romans and worked over the text of the opening six verses, enjoying the language, and reading remarks from Karl Barth’s Commentary on Romans as well as the exacting work of C. E. B. Cranfield in the International Critical Commentary.  After writing several pages of ideas in my journal, I then turned to my bank of digital images of fall scenes taken over the years, particulary during rainy weather.  I decided to attempt a steep hill and cut-out rocky bluff between High Ridge and House Springs, Missouri, where the highway blasted through rock, cutting a swath between the towns.  I had taken several pictures of this area during heavy rains over the past several autumn seasons, and decided I would give this one a try.

bluff wc

I began by laying down a large wash of lime green and bright yellow.  When it dried, I masqued as many leaves as I could over the light colors, then poured a mixture of violet, crimson and other colors over the dried masquing.  Once I stripped that away, I attempted the rocky bluff below and the tree line above.  I’m not getting what I want just yet, but perhaps in the days ahead I can push this painting in the direction I’m hoping.  At any rate, it was a good dark, cold afternoon for being indoors painting, and it felt good to be in the studio again.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

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.

Buried in the Work, and Ecstatic

June 2, 2015
So Little Time. So Many Books

So Little Time. So Many Books

An artist learns by repeated trial and error, by an almost moral instinct, to avoid the merely or the confusingly decorative, . . . to say what he has to say with the most direct and economical means, to be true to his objects, to his materials, to his technique, and hence, by a correlated miracle, to himself.

Irwin Edman, Arts and the Man

I found an amazing thread of continuity among some of the divines I’ve been reading lately: Ian Roberts, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway and Andrew Wyeth. Each in his own way addressed the notion of getting at a subject directly and honestly, with no decorative scrollwork. Hence my recent interest in creating “vignette” compositions with my watercolors, leaving plenty of undefined boundaries so the viewer can have imaginative room to enter the composition. Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams addressed this in literary fashion with their “Imagism” theories. Andrew Wyeth addressed it when he said the strength of a composition is not what the artist puts into the picture, but what s/he leaves out. Hemingway, during his early years of writing in Paris, acknowledged that he created his best work when he cut out all the ornamental prose as so much scrollwork, and returned to the truest sentence that always began his writing. And so, in recent sketches and compositional studies, I have been creating simpler works of art, and plan to do that when I get to the Gulf later.

Another theme I am trying to work out is that which involves the boundary or tension between two features. I’ve been reading Paul Tillich this week, fascinated with his focus on the littoral zone separating ocean from beach, and how he continually applied this to his studies in philosophy, theology, art and psychology. He once wrote that “the border line is the truly propitious place for acquiring knowledge.” I have always enjoyed working this idea in my philosophy and art history classes, but now wish to push it in my own theories of aesthetics as I pursue my watercolor attempts.

In closing, I’m going to post this crayon drawing I dug out of my closet last night when I was foraging for watercolor paper for my next project. I didn’t know I still had it: the earliest “work of art” from my personal collection. When I was in third grade, my teacher entered this drawing in the districtwide art contest, grades 1-12. I still remember entering the high school gymnasium and seeing my matted work hung on the wall among hundreds and hundreds of student works of art. If the Presocratics and Aristotle were right in saying “the end is in the beginning,” then perhaps I ought to look at this one more closely and see if I recognize any of my own features in it.

My Earliest Saved Artwork--Third Grade

My Earliest Saved Artwork–Third Grade

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.

Filling and Emptying

May 7, 2015
A Quiet Enclosure at Dallas Museum of Art

A Quiet Enclosure at Dallas Museum of Art

When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.

Stephen Daedalus, in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

I felt an inner compulsion to read from Hemingway as I lounged beneath lush trees in a secluded enclosure of the Dallas Museum of Art late this afternoon. Thundershowers had cooled the weather, the light was dim, and the cool breezes were delicious. Inside, the museum was filling up, as it extends its Thursday hours to 9:00 p.m. Outside, my mind was filling up from the past two days of stimuli related to art projects in the near future. Taking a cue from Hemingway, I thought it best to empty out tonight, so I would have room to refill tomorrow. Each day seems to bring newer and fresher ideas, and I’m loving this surge.

As I sat reading and scribbling thoughts in my companion journal, my mind’s-eye memory drifted back to the yellow caboose watercolor lying on my drafting table back home, and the power plant situated in the right-hand background of the composition. I had a little trouble getting started on it when I got home from school. After staring at it for a few minutes, I finally took a deep breath, crawled inside the building, took a look around at all the jumbled confusion of girders, cables and pipelines, then just shook my head, re-emerged, sat on my drafting stool, and decided just to fiddle around with geometric lines and assorted shapes. Long ago I decided: if you can’t copy it, abstract it. I could only hope that the result would resemble an east Fort Worth power plant and not a piece of Deconstructivist architecture.

Once my thoughts returned to the Hemingway reading, I found myself perusing his handwritten manuscript for A Moveable Feast. I always liked his way of reassuring himself when writer’s block threatened:

“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.”

Hemingway's handwritten manuscript for

Hemingway’s handwritten manuscript for “A Moveable Feast”

I don’t struggle with painter’s block very often, and I’m seldom bereft of new ideas. But sometimes I do worry about stale art and overworked ideas. When I was in my teens, my creative psyche was fragile, no doubt. And it probably still is, but I’m thankful that I got to spend some years in graduate school, and have been allowed to live long enough that when the dark moments come, there is enough experience to fall back on, and find reasons to believe in my abilities. Hemingway wrote most eloquently of the travails of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his fragility:

His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think. He was flying again and I was lucky to meet him just after a good time in his writing if not a good one in his life.

Rising from my reading feast, I realized I was physically hungry, and noted with dismay that my timing for dinner was not good. The museum cafe features live jazz music on Thursday evenings, and listeners fill up the tables, even if they are not eating. And the museum does not allow food to be carried out of the dining facility–not good planning on my part or theirs. But I had forgotten that food trucks line up north of the museum on Thursday evenings, alongside Klyde Warren Park. And the weather frightened away all the patrons, though it was no longer raining. I found a table beneath the trees and enjoyed a piping hot pastrami sandwich.

Dinner at Klyde Warren Park

Dinner at Klyde Warren Park

As my stomach filled and the museum neared closing time, I sighed, realizing that my college students are now taking my online final exam. It was time to head home, look over the test results, and make sure the grade book is up to date. Another spectacular day, thank you for spending some of it with me.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Cultivating the Garden

May 2, 2015
Saturday Morning, waiting for the Piano Pavilion to Open

Saturday Morning, waiting for the Piano Pavilion to Open

“I also know,” said Candide, “that we must cultivate our garden.” “You are right,” said Pangloss; for when man was put into the Garden of Eden, he was put there with the idea that he should work the land; and this proves that man was not born to be idle.” “Let’s work, then, without disputing,” says Martin. “It is the only way to make life bearable.” 

Voltaire, Candide

Driving this morning to Fort Worth for an all-day writing workshop at the Kimbell Art Museum, these words from Voltaire whispered into my consciousness, and I felt that I had found something to help me understand our role while living out our lives on this planet. I have never understood what it is to be bored (except when I’m trapped in a meeting), as there are more things to do than I can tend. But I felt that today was a Gift, because there was this opportunity to spend a day in the museum under someone else’s direction, perusing the art collection and finding new ways to write about art. Granted it was a workshop for teachers, I nevertheless wanted to stir up my own soul with these stimulants.

Arriving about forty minutes before the museum opened, I took this sweet opportunity to sit in the shadow of the Kahn building and look across the lawn at our new Renzo Piano Pavilion, where the workshop would actually take place. I brought with me Ernest Hemingway’s autobiography, A Moveable Feast, and read again the sections about him struggling to write during his early days in Paris:

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.”

That was the oracle I needed to start my task. Once the workshop began, the hours flew by, as the capable instructor never ran out of ways to inspire us to write and look at the art with different spectacles. It turned out to be a splendid day of drawing and writing about the pieces in the Kimbell.

Spilling out the Day's Work on my Desk

Spilling out the Day’s Work on my Desk

There is nothing like coming home at the end of the day, opening the book bag, and spilling out onto the desk all the material you created during the day of inspiration. Our hours were divided evenly between studying select pieces of the permanent collection and finding ways to write about what we saw and thought.

"Selim and Zuleika" by Eugene Delacroix

“Selim and Zuleika” by Eugene Delacroix

One of our assignments was to write a character profile based on one of the paintings in the museum. The key word I drew from the bag was “lively”, so my task was to find a lively painting and choose a character for composing the profile. Looking at this Delacroix painting inspired by Lord Byron, I found myself recalling Samuel Butler’s quote that every work of art is a portrait of its creator. Having spent time in the Journals of Eugene Delacroix, I saw him all over this painting, and chose to compose my profile on him, writing the following:

Name: Eugene Delacroix

Where do I live: In exotic settings

What do I do: Explore the boundaries

Friends would describe me as: Restless and Inquisitive

My hobbies are: Traveling, painting, reading Romantic literature, dreaming and journaling

My favorite place to hang out: Tangier

My secret is: I am never bored, and I am never certain.

What am I going to do next? Cleanse the eye, by looking for something new.

How did I get into this work? I followed my curiosity, refusing to obey conventions.

Our next project was to “mash up” a story by combining our work with that of another workshop participant, seeking a way to bring the two characters together in a plot.

Portrait of Mary Anne Bloxam (later Mrs. Frederick H. Hemming)

Portrait of Mary Anne Bloxam (later Mrs. Frederick H. Hemming)

My instructor had skillfully created a character profile of this lady and her conservative, conventional, public lifestyle (the key word for her profile was “proper”). The two of us talked of ways to get Delacroix and the future Mrs. Hemming into a story, and then we wrote our pieces. Hers was better than mine, but I’ll share mine:

In the midst of the Parisian Salon, the soon-to-be Mrs. Hemming could not stop looking at the strikingly handsome and rugged gentleman standing in the back of the parlor as Brahms was being played. Eugene Delacroix immediately perceived her furtive glances. As the evening played out, neither approached the other, but neither could stop looking or remembering.

Two months later, in the heart of the Grand Tour of Venice, the pair’s eyes met with a shock of recognition, and they strode toward one another. As the conversation and romantic drama unfolded into the evening, the unraveling dawned unmistakable. He could not forsake his traveling adventures, and she could not break her conventional engagement and matrimony. But neither would be able to forget the other.

After the fun of writing our fiction stories, our next assignment proved more difficult, and we only had ten minutes, as the session was nearly over. We were handed a page from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and our assignment was to lift words from the text to compose a poem inspired by one of the paintings in the collection. I thought this was impossible, but standing in front of a Cezanne painting, I began underlining particular words that caught my eye from the Austen text, and this is what I composed:

Maison Maria with a View of Château Noir

Maison Maria with a View of Château Noir

A Building that Does Not Belong

The high road

          Barely discernible,

The garden sloping

          Involuntarily to the road.

The parsonage

          Stopped at civility,

Displaying the recollection

          Of furniture.

Once I got back home, I poured out my day’s work, grateful for the memories and stimulation. As the light began to wane, I moved into my studio and pushed my waiting watercolor a little further down the road:

The light is now gone, the evening has arrived, and I am in the best mood possible to read, reflect, write and enjoy the memories of this day. I am overflowing with gratitude that a local art museum offered such a rewarding study.

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.