Posts Tagged ‘Jack Kerouac’

Escape Velocity II

February 5, 2016

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My work comprises one vast book like Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past except that my remembrances are written on the run instead of afterwards in a sick bed.

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

Today, I gave in to yesterday’s wanderlust. I booked my favorite room in the Spur Hotel in Archer City, Texas, Larry McMurtry’s hometown. I packed last night, and loaded early this morning, so as soon as school let out for the weekend, I pulled out of the parking lot, angling north for the two hour-plus drive to this quiet, spacious part of north Texas in Archer County.  Population of this town is 1,848 and that is just about right for me. In the cold winter evenings here, the clouds emit the most marvelous array of blues and lavendars, much like what I experienced in Colorado evenings, looking across the front range of the rockies. I tried to take a picture above, but I’m not a photographer, and there just wasn’t much light left for me to accomplish what I wished.

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Larry McMurtry’s famous bookstore, Booked Up Inc., has been my mecca for shopping for over a decade. Today I found a first edition of Ezra Pound’s Cantos and could not resist the sale that was running on books currently. I’m proud now to own it and read it.

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Dinner tonight in the cafe made me feel I had retreated in time to the days of Kerouac rambling the open roads across America. With this being Friday night, and a strong Catholic presence in Archer County, fish was on the menu, and the taste was just as delightful as the aroma that filled the diner.

And now, as I write this, I’m settled into my third-story corner room, overlooking the intersection of highways 25 and 79, with a flashing red light governing the four-way stop. The light flickers patterns across the interior brick walls of my room, and the swish of traffic below will probably lull me to sleep later tonight as I soak up some coveted reading.

I cannot describe the deep-seated satisfaction settling in over me, leaving the city and school behind, the noise, the deadlines, the endless prattle. Now there is no agenda. I have a stack of books on the table beside me, and a large carry-on bag stuffed with watercolor and drawing supplies. My journal is at hand, and I am ready now to settle into a quiet posture of reading, thinking, writing, drawing and painting. This quiet space has been so long overdue for me, and I am thankful to the depths of my being that the gift has finally arrived.

Thanks for reading.

Escape Velocity

February 4, 2016

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I tingled all over; I counted minutes and subtracted miles. Just ahead, over the rolling wheatfields all golden beneath the distant snows of Estes, I’d be seeing old Denver at last. I pictured myself in a Denver bar that night, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was “Wow!”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

In 1856 Walt Whitman gave us “Song of the Open Road.” One hundred one years later, Jack Kerouac gave us On the Road. Finally completing a collage this afternoon while listening to the film “The Source”, that old itch rose again to hit the open road. But alas, it is Thursday. Another work day stands between me and a coveted opportunity to drive across open country. Though it is February, the winter is so mild here in Texas, with temperatures at this moment in the mid-fifties and sunny. Truly if it weren’t for another work day tomorrow, I would push my vehicle down some open roads somewhere if for no other reason than just to gaze across the “raw land” (Kerouac’s phrase) and enjoy the things of life that really matter.

In the second month of a new semester, school is long on demands and short on praise. No matter what one does, there is always another directive coming down the pike. We reach a point that we’re convinced we can never do enough to satisfy the demands. I don’t want to turn into one of T. S. Eliot’s “Hollow Men” by devoting all my time to preparations, grading, paperwork and assorted tasks that satisfy account books but not souls. At this point of the late afternoon, I’m glad that tomorrow’s demands have already been met in preparation, and perhaps I can settle into making some art or reading some quality literature (but I’d rather be on the road!).

Thanks for reading.

 

Stirring of the Muses on a Friday Night

July 18, 2014
Historic Flatiron Building in Fort Worth, Texas

Historic Flatiron Building in Fort Worth, Texas

I have been as sincere a worshipper of Aurora as the Greeks.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Aaron Copland plays “Appalachian Spring” as I sit up late on a Friday night, with a desire to think, to write, to be.  The day started beautifully at 6:00 a.m., with no school to go and teach.  I love the three-day weekends of summer school.  I sat in my living room and watched through the open blinds the dawn breaking across my backyard while I re-read chapter two of Thoreau’s Walden,“Where I Lived, and What I Lived For.”  I love his salute to Aurora and the beautiful meditations about the dawn being the heroic age–that all intelligences awake with the dawn.  The chapter marked a delicious start to the day.  Following Thoreau, I then turned to Proust and to Melville, reading for well over an hour before rising to enter the kitchen and make breakfast.  Following breakfast I worked a long time in the watercolor studio, mostly finishing up abandoned work that had piled up the past couple of months.

To begin this delicious night in my darkened studio, Marcel Proust delivered beautiful images in Swann’s Way.  The young narrator is smitten by the sight of a girl with a fair complexion and azure eyes.  The mere sight of her overpowers his eyes at the same time the hawthorns are flooding his senses.  He cannot separate the beauty of the two.  How many of us still recall those first instances of romantic love and how we lost all bearings?  What a marvelous gift it would be to set such a profound experience down in prose as Proust managed to do.

In Moby Dick, after 120 pages, Captain Ahab finally emerged into view, and what a powerful force his presence exerted on his surrounding environment.  Like the solid bronze of Cellini’s Perseus, he towers above his ship and crew, the mere sight of him with no accompanying speech evoking a sense of genuine awe from the narrator.  His aggressive gesture toward second mate Stubb rattled the otherwise stalwart officer, leaving the bemused fellow wondering what it was exactly that evoked such a fear from him.

With sadness, I resumed reading a biography of Jack Kerouac by Tom Clark.  I read the book several years ago, then lent it out and never got it back.  So now I’m reading a newly purchased copy, re-highlighting, etc., and of course, am very surprised at how much of the content I have already forgotten from the first reading.  The details of Kerouac’s migratory life always leave me with the same kind of disturbed thoughts that I get from reading about Hemingway: these men had such a passion for disciplined writing that always drives me to find another gear to crank out work, no matter how tired or discouraged I may become in my own life and work.  They truly induce me to work even harder in my research, thinking and writing.  But the misery of both these men brings me to such overwhelming sadness.  I’m glad I never mixed alcohol with my life’s work—I am not able to identify with that problem on a gut-level.  But the despondency, the self-doubt, the second-guessing—that kind of a hell I have known all-too-well, and don’t like to visit or re-visit.  And it hurts deeply every time I read these details in their life’s work.

This afternoon, I was deeply moved, listening to a trio of thirty-minute lectures from The Teaching Company.  I have been so fortunate to receive a number of these lecture sets, first in VHS and later in DVD, from a number of dear friends and occasionally from one of those “can’t miss” sales that the company offers.  One lecture was from Daren Staloff (“Hegel—History and Historicism”), and the other two from Daniel N. Robinson (“The Idea of Freedom” and “Human History as the Unfolding of the Ideal: The Hegelians”).  The lectures prompted me to draw out a volume placed in my hands earlier this year by our remarkable school librarian, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.  Anyone familiar with this volume is no doubt grinning already, but I am actually getting enough from the text to stay with it.  Hegel’s mind was Faustian in the way he incorporated and excerpted virtually everything he studied throughout his lengthy life, and then fashioned all that knowledge into a comprehensive system.  His mind reminds me very much of that of Paul Tillich, with that interdisciplinary drive, and of course I have always wanted to be that way.  So, tonight I also spent some more time working over Hegel’s text and recording observations in my journal.

Last night I took out my Latin grammars and workbooks and resumed a project I started in 2003, but abandoned on three subsequent occasions.  Eleven years later, I still cannot read Latin, but love and respect the language and am now finding myself devoting some summer evenings to working on my vocabulary and grammar exercises, and pulling out occasional texts from one of my Loeb Classical Library volumes as well as my Biblia Sacra Vulgata.  Tonight marks my second consecutive night working in the Latin text.  I had always hoped I could work this language as I do the ancient Greek, but alas, I took many semesters of Greek and it stayed with me fortunately.  Latin was never available in the schools I attended.  I love the line from Byron’s Beppo:

I love the language, that soft bastard Latin,

Which melts like kisses from a female mouth.

All of tonight has been given to reading, note-taking and writing.  I did manage today to finish a number of watercolor projects that had been abandoned over the past months.  Above, I have posted my finished product of the historic flatiron building on the south side of downtown Fort Worth, Texas.  I don’t know why I had laid it aside for so long, but now I’m glad it’s finished and has been delivered to the Weiler House Fine Art Gallery.

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.

 

On the Road with Jack Kerouac

July 8, 2014
On the Road Collage

On the Road Collage

“Now, Sal, we’re leaving everything behind us and entering a new and unknown phase of things.  All the years and troubles and kicks–and now this!  so that we can safely think of nothing else and just go on ahead with our faces stuck out like this, you see, and understand the world as, really and genuinely speaking, other Americans haven’t done before us . . .

Dean Moriarty, in On the Road

Before retiring to bed, I felt the itch to create another Route 66 collage, something I haven’t done in over five years.  I’ve missed this genre.  Working through the images compelled me to take out my copy of On the Road and spot read some of it, for the ump-teenth time.  As I write this, I am playing my On the Road DVD on the television, enjoying the jazz music and Beat dialogue.

Thanks for reading.  I think I’ll let this stuff go for the night . . . 

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Back to Work on Monday, with Hemingway on my Mind

June 30, 2014
Beginning of a Small Studio Painting of a Caboose in Waxahachie, Texas

Beginning of a Small Studio Painting of a Caboose in Waxahachie, Texas

Meantime he was working harder than he had ever worked in his life, often until three or four in the morning.  Then he would fall asleep, his head feeling like a frozen cabbage, only to jump awake again a few hours later, with the words already stringing themselves into sentences, clamoring to be set down.

Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, by Carlos Baker

A part of me cautions that I am supposed to be slowing down.  It’s summer time.  My summer school only demands four mornings a week.  But I cannot seem to find a lower gear.  Last week I was continually stimulated by the AVID Summer Institute I attended in Dallas.  Following AVID I was rocked by a pair of exhibitions at the Dallas Museum of Art.  All weekend I had the stirrings of art and literature continually competing for my attention.  And then, this morning we began our study of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Now I have Shakespeare, Hemingway, and this watercolor all wanting a piece of me, and as I worked this afternoon in the studio, I played a documentary of Cezanne on the television and could not ignore the ideas emerging from that.  I just cannot seem to “stop the machine” as they cried in Kerouac’s On the Road.  

But I like living this way.  I like being stirred up by ideas.  And I’m enjoying this studio attempt at a watercolor I did en plein air several weeks ago.  A watercolorist friend whom I highly trust gave me a plethora of ideas concerning light, shadow and composition that I want to apply to this piece.  The size is 9 x 12″ and if I get what I want from the experience, I’ll probably try it yet again in a larger format.

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.

Off to St. Louis

September 25, 2012

Sun Rising on Winfield, Missouri

Dear Friends,

If you don’t hear from me for awhile, it will mean that I am without Internet access.  I leave in the morning for St. Louis to participate in the Taste of St. Louis art festival.  Two weeks ago, at Grapefest, I was unable to get adequate Internet access to blog from my booth (I always like to blog onsite at festivals).  So, if the blog goes silent, please understand that I am unplugged.

I am posting a reproduction of a large watercolor I completed last year, that is now at the Weiler House Fine Art Gallery (www.weilerhousefineart.com).  This print is 8 x 10″ and I have put it in an 11 x 14″ matte with plastic sleeve.  The setting is Winfield, Missouri, a sleepy Mississippi River town sprawled along Highway 79 north of St. Louis.  I captured this image on camera just as the sun was rising, back in the summer of 2009.  I was saddened to see the store out of business, as it featured all the advertising and signage I had loved seeing as a child.

Well, I must get some rest for tomorrow’s road odyssey.  Thanks for reading.

A Summer Morning in Sleepy Winfield, Missouri

April 27, 2011

Winfield, Missouri Store

I have put in two consecutive late nights in the garage studio, painting till past midnight.  It makes it a little rough, going to school the next morning, but there it is.  This is another full-size sheet of watercolor paper (22 x 28″).  I have painted this abandoned store twice before.  I discovered it in the summer of 2009 while driving highway 79 north of St. Louis along the Mississippi River.  The small town of Winfield is where this store rests, just along the west side of highway 79.  The light was so bright that August morning, the sun had just risen.

I’m having some struggles with this painting (I hate it when a watercolor starts out badly!).  I poured quite a few layers of pigment on the tree/foliage area at the top, wanting to get the woods very dark and deep.  I’ve decided to just let the foliage be for the time being, and go ahead and work on the store facade.  Tonight involved plenty of close, tedious drawing and drafting, but I’m still convinced that a strong and accurate drawing will yield a good watercolor (hope I’m right this time!).  I’m not sure that the pencil work can be seen in this photograph, I always have trouble getting a good digital image under light bulbs late at night.  Most of my blog shots are taken out in the driveway in the middle of the day.  I guess I’m admitting that as a photographer, I fly by the seat of my pants.

At any rate, I am finally settling into, and enjoying this watercolor composition.  And with the kind of school schedule I have this week, I reckon that I’ll be having to put in late hours in the garage studio (my least favorite time to paint).  I’ll take what’s offered.

Thanks for reading.

A Route 66 Christmas Odyssey Requires a 1940’s Diner

March 5, 2011

Spencer’s Grill, Kirkwood Missouri, est. 1947

The good news today was that the aunts are going to be just fine.  After only 4 1/2 hours sleep last night, I decided I needed to nap this afternoon if I had any hopes of finishing this painting today.  I’m glad I did.  Sleeping from 2:00 until 4:00, I rose and resumed work on this in the garage (my Man-Cave!) with a beautiful afternoon Texas sun shining in the open door.  The light was exquisite for working on this painting.  Once it got dark, the winter temperatures plummeted, and I was forced to lower the door and continue work under house lights (I hate that!).   But . . . I did not want to tinker with this another day.  So . . . here it is . . . signed and out of my hands!

Tomorrow I plan to take it to the Weiler House Fine Arts Gallery (http://www.weilerhousefineart.com/#home).  I already have my next watercolor composition lined up, and I just may get after it tonight–I’m in the mood.

I’m grateful for the companionship I felt from the Voices and Visions video documentaries of Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams.  What fabulous poets!  What vision!  I felt a particular connection to them as they painted the American scene in penetrating words, as I hope to do some day with watercolor.  Both men were driven by wanderlust as they traversed the American landscape, both urban and rural.  And though I don’t look at the TV while painting, I could certainly see these poets’ images in my mind’s eye as I continually sought to refine my own.  I still hear Williams’ voice in my conscience: “No ideas but in things!”

Thanks for reading.  Hope you enjoy this one.

Let the Madness Begin!!! May 27, 2010

May 27, 2010

Plein Air Watercolor of 1950 Chevy Sedan Delivery

Tomorrow begins the “madness.”  I’m going to join the company of Captain Ahab in search of the white whale, or Dean Moriarty in search of kicks, or Jack Kerouac On the Road, or Claude Monet chasing the fleeting light, or Paul Cezanne seeking a solid form beneath the changing colors.  Tomorrow begins an eight-day plein air extravaganza in historic Waxahachie, Texas.  Tomorrow afternoon I will set up and paint somewhere near the courthouse.  On Saturday morning I will participate in the Quick Draw inauguration (90 minutes to produce a painting that is then auctioned on the courthouse square).  Following the eight-day event, I’ll set up a booth for the Historic Mansfield Art Festival.  Two days later, I’ll begin teaching a one-week plein air watercolor class at the Eureka Springs School of Art in northern Arkansas.

To all my readers–I’m sorry the school schedule buried me once again.  But I assure you, I will be posting daily throughout this plein-air event that begins tomorrow.  As to the picture posted, I’m not sure when I’ll return to it in the studio.  I’m glad watercolor doesn’t have a shelf life.

Thanks for reading.