Posts Tagged ‘Jack Kerouac’

Leaning Forward

December 30, 2018

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What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 (The Jerusalem Bible)

Still overflowing with the peace and good will of the Christmas spirit, I am glad to be resting after many, many road miles spent visiting with family and friends. Christmas came upon me quickly this season, and now the new year is drawing near and I have yet to adjust to that new set of feelings and aspirations.

Years ago, as 1973 was about to emerge, I found myself in a Wednesday evening prayer meeting and Bible study, listening to a pastor expounding the Book of Eccleasiastes. I had not been familiar with the contents of that text until that evening as I sat and listened. It proved to be a pivotal point. From that year till now, I have always included a fresh reading of Ecclesiasates with each new year approaching.

The aged author of that Book had found life unsatisfying, concluding that all was “vanity” (empty, meaningless), and that there was nothing new to be found as one grew older. Throughout my years, I have often found myself dissatisfied with how my life was going, but I can never recall reaching the depths of despair felt in this Book. One thing that has remained constant with me is this romantic notion that new experiences can be discovered; life for me remains an odyssey, filled with surprises.

New Year resolutions have always been a special part of my pilgrimage, and as I have spent recent days working and re-working a list of goals, I considered what I wish to accomplish in this blog. I confess that I spend too much time reading current news and listening to news reports and commentary. My summation of this content is that it is almost exclusively negative as well as badly written and spoken. As a retired educator, having devoted decades to persuading students to read quality texts, why do I constantly fall into the ditch of reading yellow journalism and listening to angry commentary? One of my main goals for 2019 is to trim back drastically that daily diet of literary and verbal trash and replenish my soul with quality thoughts and expressions. I came across the following while reading Steppenwolf this morning:

There is no sense in thinking or saying or writing anything of human import, to bother one’s head with thoughts of goodness–for two or three men who do that, there are thousands of papers, periodicals, speeches, meetings in public and in private, that make the opposite their daily endeavor and succeed in it too.

I agree that for every two or three blogging commentators there are myriads of professional journalists who successfully drown out a few quality words with an avalanche of venomous proclamations. But I refuse to conclude with the Steppenwolf that “there is no sense in thinking or saying or writing anything of human import” and I also refuse the Preacher’s conclusion in Ecclesiastes that life is vanity and there is no new thing under the sun.

In many, many ways, 2018 sucked in the political sphere, but my personal odyssey turned up many exciting sites and adventures. The time is near when I will be able to say Good-bye to 2018 and lean forward into 2019, echoing the sentiments of Jack Kerouac in his masterwork On the Road:

It’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you an adventure-filled 2019. I also pledge to write positive thoughts with hopes of enriching the lives of readers.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Thanksgiving Gladness

November 22, 2018

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A New Kerouac Collage

Kerouac saw On the Road as a story of America, and the split in his own character–between his wanderlust and his desire to “work and make your life” . . .

John Leland, Why Kerouac Matters

The highway rolled out as an endless manuscript and the American landscape punctuated it with chapters and illustrations. For days now, I have found delight filling my journal with observations from roadside parks, truck stops, cafes and gas stations. All of this came together in collage fashion in my mind’s eye, and the ideas of William Burroughs and his “cut-ups” were refreshed. All of us cut up the world differently with our visions and our thoughts.

Thanksgiving offers a warm, welcome embrace after countless hours and days on the road in recent weeks. I have enjoyed my lifestyle, balancing college responsibilities with gallery, studio work and personal life. But I never dreamed of rolling out so much time on the road. One of the better results of this has been a return to the writings and life story of Jack Kerouac, and a fresh look at the work of the other Beat writers. The romance of the American highway and landscape has remained with me throughout my life, but not until this past year have I had opportunity to experience it fully.

From time to time, I have reached into my bag of scraps to explore collage techniques. Recently, it has been difficult doing plein air watercolor on the road, and the temperatures have been quite frigid as well. Collage-making has been a nice change of pace for me.

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My Messy Work Area

I am enjoying a second read of Why Kerouac Matters, particularly the dualism of his character, as he vacillated between his road odysseys and the desire to build something permanent with his life. I have known that tension for years, but am living more contently with it in recent days. I am old enough to know that I cannot accomplish all I wish to accomplish. Perhaps coming to terms with that reality has made things better for me. At any rate, I am enjoying the serenity now of the holidays, and am spending much of this leisure time playing solitaire at the kitchen table. I occasionally lay aside the deck of cards to read another chapter from my book, or scribble out a few more pages in my journal, or build another collage, or chip away at this evolving blog entry.

Thanks for reading. I wish you the happiest of Thanksgiving.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with Dave & Jack Kerouac

November 1, 2018

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Kerouac Collage in Progress

I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

I did not anticipate this, but since my retirement in June 2017, I have spent more time on the road than home. Such a life was always a fantasy of mine, but I never expected it to become reality. And now that it is reality, I am surprised to find it even better than I had visualized it. What I call “windshield time” is a great clearing out for me, perhaps in ways that Buddhists speak of their experience during zazen. 

This weekend, I will be taking my art to the Genny Wood Art Show & Sale in Bullard, Texas (Saturday only). There are two links, one general and the second one is their Facebook page:

http://bullardmission.org/category/fundraising/genny-wood-fine-art-show/

https://www.facebook.com/gennywoodart/

My daily reading recently has taken me back to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  I really don’t know how many times I have read the book myself (at least twice), but I have had the audio books read to me countless times over the past ten-plus years. But now I am reading the original scroll for the first time, and after about fifty pages, I must say that the experience is much richer than I had imagined. Kerouac’s original manuscript was typed on a continuous roll of paper like one would obtain from a teletype office. I actually saw this scroll on display in recent years at an exhibit in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin.

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Jack Kerouac’s On the Road–the Original Scroll

Reading the continuous text with no paragraphs indeed reads more like a stream of consciousness piece of literature. And I got the sense of the narrative unrolling much like the highway does in front of me when I am actually on the road. Whether I am reading (or rather, trying to read!) James Joyce’s Ulysses or Kerouac’s On the Road, I am thrilled at the sense of odyssey and adventure. After teaching my morning Logic class at Texas Wesleyan University, I’ll travel the two hours across the wide-open countryside to Palestine, Texas to gather my art work from The Gallery at Redlands to load into the Jeep for tomorrow’s set up in Bullard, Texas (an additional hour’s drive). I am fortunate that I get to stay as a guest tonight in the historic Redlands Hotel. In the morning, I’ll enjoy “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” as Smooth Rock 93.5 FM shares studio space in the gallery with me. After the broadcast, I will travel to Bullard to set up, and then Saturday spend the day at the art show. I’ll be grateful for that extra hour of sleep when the clocks change Sunday.

In the picture at the top of the blog, I have included a new collage of Kerouac that is still in progress. At the Genny Wood Show, I will be bringing out collages, a medium I have not displayed and sold for a number of years now. Yesterday, I picked up an extra print bin from Pro Panels in Irving, Texas that I will take out of the box tomorrow and set up with a host of collages of Kerouac, Whitman, Emerson, Proust, Tillich and many, many more. As I posted in yesterday’s blog, I am finding new life and inspiration as I make collages of the creative spirits who fuel my imagination on a daily basis.

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.

Morning Coffee with Jack Kerouac

October 18, 2018

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Road Trip Memories

There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road: the Original Scroll

These words drifted through my consciousness last night as I made the two-hour late-night drive back home from Tyler, Texas, through the driving rain (really, I’m fed up with rain that has lasted a solid week down here). I was honored to jury the 66th Annual Palette of Roses Art Show, and did that Monday morning. Last night was the awards reception, and I was invited to present the awards and be available for a couple of hours to offer critique for any artist requesting it.

Judging does not come easily for me, probably because I have had my share of competitions, and know the vulnerability and angst accompanying judgment passed on my own work. So when the time comes for me to do the judging, I worry over the second-guessing, not only on my part, but on the part of the artists who do not agree with my decisions. But last night’s group was gracious and I thoroughly enjoyed every conversation. There were 251 entries to the show, and many awards covering many categories. And, for the entire two hours, I spoke with one artist after another, explaining my decisions on works I had chosen, and offering my perspectives on any piece brought before me. These conversations I always find invigorating, and I regret that I could not have spent an entire day, or even an entire week, with this enthusiastic and highly-skilled group of artistic spirits. Driving home was spiritually uplifting as I recalled every word passed throughout the evening.

Kerouac’s iconic life on the road also flooded my thoughts as I drove through the night, so I rose early this morning to spend time over his pages before going to my 9:30 class. I confess that I did not read On the Road until around 2004, though I had been aware of the book for a couple of decades. Since then I have read it through twice, and have had it read to me during my travels (I purchased the 10-CD audio book) countless times. The book will never go stale for me.

I was asked in conversation yesterday when I retired, and I had to think about it, the time since that day has been such a blur. It was May 2017. And I never would have imagined what would follow–seventeen months of a life on the road. I believe I had always fantasized about such a life, feeling like a wandering mendicant. Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama–the art life took me across all these states to participate in plein air painting, to conduct workshops, to participate in art festivals, to display and sell my work in an art museum, and to enjoy life in all its fullness. Though I have spent little time in my home, I have not felt homeless or detached in any way. Rather, I have felt at home in the world, appreciating every friend made and every conversation shared.

I suppose it is time to re-insert Kerouac into my traveling backpack of books.

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.

Back to Work but Still Drifting in the Stream

November 27, 2017

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But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

It is back to college this Monday morning, as we sprint through the final two weeks of school before dismissing for Christmas break. My heart still overflows with thanksgiving for this past week of catching up on work that had lagged as well as visiting family in St. Louis for a short while and piling up over a thousand miles in Kerouac-style road tripping. I have posted a sunset that I photographed through the windshield of my moving vehicle while driving through Republic, Missouri on Interstate 44, en route to The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

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The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

With the museum remaining open till 9:00 that night, I was ecstatic to enter it for a couple of hours, then return the next day and spend most of the day perusing the collection and exploring the walking trails. This museum is a real treasure, and friends had told me about it the past couple of years, but it took until now for me to make the time to journey there.

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Robert Henri, “Jessica Penn in Black with White Plumes”

After years of reading and re-reading Robert Henri’s magnificent book The Art Spirit, I looked upon this painting with a new set of eyes. When I have the time, I need to review his lengthy discussions concerning figure and portraiture, most notably his ideas about how to relate the subject to its background. I was totally mesmerized by his black-on-black composition and how the dress simultaneously emerged and dissolved into the background. Figure and portraiture I have avoided up till now in watercolor, but now I have the interest in examining this.

Having read an additional seventy pages in the Leonardo biography, I have been absorbed with his eighteen years spent in Milan and now have a much deeper appreciation for his Last Supper painting. I am now at the place where he returns to his native Florence to spend a few years at age fifty.

My compulsion to read several books at the same time is flaring up again. I’ve been reading a biography on Paul Cezanne in addition to the Leonardo work. And now I have purchased the new work on J. M. W. Turner. The first chapter was amazing as it assessed the way his final five years spawned a public distortion of his work. So now I have my attention focused on three great artists, and I need to take up my own work as well.

This next weekend I’ll be taking my work to The Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas, Texas for the three-day Randy Brodnax and Friends Christmas Art Show. I have been an admirer of Brodnax’s pottery for nearly three decades and have enjoyed visiting and shopping at this annual event. Now I’m extremely proud to be numbered among his “friends” as the invitation arrived this past summer to participate this Christmas. Here is a link to Randy’s site:

http://www.randybrodnax.com

It is back to work now. Thanks for reading.

 

In the Studio, with Thanksgiving

November 17, 2016

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Listening to an Edward Hopper Interview while Painting

Broadly stated, art is one’s effort to communicate to others one’s emotional reaction to life and the world.

Edward Hopper

Once the clocks set back an hour and autumn (allegedly) arrives in Texas, I at least can appreciate the longer hours after darkness, if not the falling temperatures.  Today we reached the low 80’s again, and I’m disgusted with the perpetual warm temperatures deep into November.  Thanksgiving is next week and I recall days from my youth when temperatures had already reached the freezing mark.  People today walked around in Tshirts and shorts.

But once the sun goes down and the world darkens and the evening is still young, I find myself in a blissful state, entering the studio and watercoloring for hours.  I have a commission deadline to meet, so I’m basically in the studio now when I’m not in the classroom.  Tonight has been so delicious, as I’ve put DVD’s on the television and listened to various documentaries on the computer.  The house has been quiet save for the voices of the movie On the Road (DVD), William Carlos Willams (PBS “Voices and Visions” (https://www.learner.org/catalog/extras/vvspot/Williams.html), and Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk7nL27BxNg).  These creative muses keep me company in the studio as music does to many other artists I know.

The commission I’m doing is coming along slowly, but successfully.  When doing such work, I probably would appear to an outside observer as A.D.D., but that is not the case at all.  I am always looking at the work critically, pausing, stepping away from it, interrupting it with household chores and coming back to it.  The old adage “cut once, measure twice” applies to my painting when I have to get it right.  I don’t push the painting past my comfortable speed, but let it emerge slowly and thoughtfully.  At the rate I’m going, I intend to have it finished by Saturday night, even if I have to stay with it after school tomorrow until late, and then rise on Satuday morning and linger over it throughout the day.  I’m enjoying the process as I always do with watercolor.  Once this job is complete, Thanksgiving begins for me, as the schools are closing for the entire week.  I’m ready for a holiday.

Thanks for reading.  The night has been wonderful.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Perpetual Wanderlust

September 15, 2016

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Abaondoned Gas Station on Missouri Highway 36

I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Finding myself impounded in a school classroom five days a week, my imagination goes back on the road that I enjoyed so deeply last summer, as travels took me to the Texas coast, to Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri.  I started a painting of an abandoned gas station I encountered on Missouri State Highway 36, west of Macon, and watching the watercolor coming into focus over the past week has filled me with the most pleasant memories of that summer trek.

It has been surmised that Edward Hopper was so taken with a particular gas station in the Cape Cod region that he turned his automobile around and went back for a closer look, eventually creating a collection of drawings and a magnificent oil painting.

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Edward Hopper, Gas

That was precisely my experience last summer–several miles past the abandoned gas station, I suddenly turned my Jeep around and returned to the location to take pictures and make thumbnail sketches for a future watercolor. In the Hopper painting, I have always been drawn to the dark woods beyond the station at night, thinking of one of Hopper’s favorite poets, Robert Frost:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Even though my watercolor is set in the blazing heat of a Missouri summer at midday, I wished for my woods backing the gas station to have that same dark look as I see in the Hopper painting.

Yesterday afternoon was quite rare, as I had the entire afternoon and evening free to do as I pleased. I spent the entire time bent over this painting, enjoying every piece of the composition as it slowly came into focus beneath my brushes and pencils. I used a good deal of salt and stale bread crumbs to help texture the gravel parking lot and scattered patches of grasses in the foreground. A good, sharp #2 pencil helped me render carefully the details of the frame siding, as well as the windows and doors around the structure, and the ridges in the roof. The continual layering of warm and cool colors in the foliage proved to be challenging, but I’m satisfied so far with how that part of the painting is going.  I’m a little timid about finishing out the clouds, as it’s been months since I played with Q-Tips and grays, and am rather forgetful of what exactly I have done in the past to get the effects I want there.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Saturday Ruminations

February 20, 2016

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He continues to inspire people to make art out of the substance of their daily lives, rather than to seek out special ‘artistic’ subjects. He continues to inspire ordinary people to break out of the narrow confinements of lives they have beeen handed down.

Steve Turner, Jack Kerouac: Angelheaded Hipster

It seems unfair to awaken at 5:30 on a Saturday morning, but at least I used the time to finish reading the Jack Kerouac biography I just cited above, spend some time scribbling in my journal, then making a stab at sketching one of my favorite spots for flyfishing–the Brazos River below Possum Kingdom dam, where they release rainbow trout every winter. I took a photograph of my favorite Highway 16 bridge the last time I went there, and since I got totally skunked, catching zero trout, I thought I may as well attempt some sketches of that gorgeous environment.

Sketching brightens my disposition, and I needed that this morning. Reading details of the closing decade of Kerouac’s life always saddens me. He didn’t manage to publish On the Road until 1957 and then eleven years later he was dead. That final decade was tragic beyond words, as recognition for his literary work finally came while his spirits tanked. He lacked the disposition to savor being a public figure, and writing no longer brought him bliss.

I like the observation that Turner drew near the close of the biography, and I love the challenge of creativity just as much as I love people who respond to that challenge. Recently, I have felt pain as I have read one account after another of a famous creative spirit who could not continue to thrive creatively when the fame set in. Often it was because they were stripped of their environment of solitude that was necessary for creative exploits. Added to that was the pressure to sustain a particular style or signature that fed the public but no longer intrested the creator. That often proved a no-win situation. If they continued in the style, they were unhappy, feeling that they were doing hack work to satisfy the market. If they did indeed pursue new stylistic avenues, the public rejected it, wanting the familiar trademark stuff.

I have always savored the remark made by Robert Motherwell in an interview concerning the life choices of the Abstract Expressionist artists before their work was discovered: “If no one gave a damn about what we did, why not do whatever we wanted?” That is the kind of felicitious artful lifestyle that appeals to me–being able to do what pleases oneself without having to worry about the market. I have not expressed enough gratitude for my having a steady job throughout my adult life that supports what I do in the creative realm. I can succeed or I can fail at my art, but at least I can continue to earn a living and not have to ask anyone to support what I do.

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.

 

Closing the Weekend on a Kerouac Note

February 7, 2016

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1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening

Jack Kerouac, “Belief and Technique for Modern Prose”

Before closing out my weekend with some quality reading before the fire, I felt the compulsion to work on a second Kerouac collage, finishing it just moments ago. My studio felt good once again, and though I had a splendid time out on the road, I am happy to be back in my own domestic environment.

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Thanks for reading, and enjoy your coming week!

Saturday Morning in an American Diner

February 6, 2016

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. . . shuffle the old file cards of the soul in demented hallucinated sleep . . . 

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

I would not call last night’s sleep “hallucinated” though the hotel bed is different enough from my own, that the new environment contributed to a somewhat restive night. Nevertheless, I awoke at 6:15 in the dark, feeling very contented, and after showering, descended two flights of stairs and crossed the street for Murn’s Cafe. While waiting for my sausage, eggs and hashbrowns, I enjoyed my coffee and tried to read Visions of Cody, but the conversation of three farmers in caps behind me kept invading the narrative, and I loved it. One of the men spoke with a voice deep and sonorous, and I couldn’t ignore his stories:

When I git sleepy drivin’ I jus’ stop ‘n take a nap or git sometin’ sweet. T’utter day, I come all d’way from Bossier City and when I got tuh Longview I wuz so sleepy. Bought four of dem jelly donuts and eat ’em. Drove duresta d’way.

Most of their talk concerned bulls and heifers. My favorite word that popped up frequently was sombitch.

Breakfast was first-rate, what I absolutely love about country diners, right down to the hand scribbled receipts. I’m in the mood to build another Kerouac collage with diner paraphernalia, but I’m more in the mood to watercolor right now.

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It is 38 degrees in Archer City this morning as the dawn finally breaks, and the wind will cut you in two if you cross the street, as you can see for ten miles in all four directions.

Thanks for reading.