Posts Tagged ‘James Joyce’

Morning Coffee with James Joyce

October 16, 2018

joyce desk top.jpg

New Collage of James Joyce made this Morning

The full morning light had come. No sound was to be heard: but he knew that all around him life was about to awaken in common noises, hoarse voices, sleepy prayers. Shrinking from that life he turned towards the wall, making a cowl of the blanket and staring at the great overblown scarlet flowers of the tattered wallpaper.

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist asYoung Man

All day yesterday, I drove from Bullard to Tyler to Palestine and finally to Arlington through a downpour and a dark, cold, muddy world. Finding my house cold after leaving it on an 85-degree day last week, I decided to turn on the furnace but keep the thermostat around 60 degrees and enjoy a sweater finally. Putting a quilt on the bed last night, I awoke this morning around 6:30 to temperatures outside at 43 degrees, and heard the downpour continuing. Like the protagonist in Joyce’s book, I huddled under the quilt and turned to the wall, but unlike him, I enjoyed my thoughts drifting through my waking consciousness. Finally rising at 7:00, I showered and regretfully went out and ran a number of necessary errands, the rain pouring continually, and finally returned home, resolved to leave the house no more this day.

The first thing I did at my desk when I returned home was go to work on a quick portrait sketch of James Joyce.

Joyce sketch rouge

Portrait Sketch

Once the sketch was complete, I wasn’t satisfied, and decided to tear some paper, photocopy some manuscripts, and see what I could do with a collage attempt.

Joyce collage

Finished Collage, 5 x 7″ and now fitted into an 8 x 10 Mat

Priced at $40

Once that was completed, I re-opened A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and read and took notes in my journal for pure pleasure. The nasty, cold, rainy morning finally morphed into a warm, interior, pleasurable hour in the studio. I have a ton of college grading to catch up on, having been out all weekend chasing art activities, so I have to bring this to a close.

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 Dave & James

September 28, 2018


Another morning spent reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Towards Findlater’s church a quartet of young men were striding along with linked arms, swaying their heads and stepping to the agile melody of their leader’s concertina. The music passed in an instant, as the first bars of sudden music always did, over the fantastic fabrics of his mind, dissolving them painlessly and noiselessly as a sudden wave dissolves the sandbuilt turrets of children. Smiling at the trivial air he raised his eyes to the priest’s face and, seeing in it a mirthless reflection of the sunken day, detached his hand slowly which had acquiesced faintly in that companionship.

As he descended the steps the impression which effaced his troubled selfcommunion was that of a mirthless mask reflecting a sunken day from the threshold of the college. The shadow, then, of the life of the college passed gravely over his consciousness. It was a grave and ordered and passionless life that awaited him . . .

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

The abstract artist Robert Motherwell assessed James Joyce as “the Shakespeare of modernism.” As for myself, I was reading James Joyce long before I encountered the art and life of Motherwell. I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man while dispatching for the Fort Worth Police Department. As a call taker on the police non-emergency line, there were long gaps of quiet between phone calls, and I was tethered to the work station with a headset, so there was plenty of space for quality reading and thought. The book changed my life and prompted me to keep a journal, which I have done since the late 1980’s.

Over the past few days, I have been re-reading journals of mine from years past, and an entry from December 2014 recorded the Joyce text above, and my comments about it that particular morning. What strikes me today is a recurring theme from my own past life that Joyce prompted me to recall, that notion of a “mirthless” countenance. In describing myself, I would never use words such as “ebullient” or “joyful”. I have often envied those who exuded such qualities, but always felt that if I myself tried to project such an image, I would be just as repulsive as . . . well, I won’t complete that sentence. I’ll just say that I abhor certain public figures who try to sell a particular product or lifestyle with facial expressions, specific words and general posturing that I think are phony. I never wanted to be one of those.

A friend from my past always referred to me as “that gloomy guy.” It was all in fun, and the friend respected me, knowing that I often wished I could naturally reflect a more cheerful countenance. Now, with all that being said, I don’t describe myself as mirthless, joyless, or unhappy with life. Quite the contrary. I believe that life is a precious gift, and as I continue to grow older, I am grateful for every day of it, and wake each morning, happy to be handed another gift.

Looking over my past, I am haunted by a myriad of memories of college, pastoral ministry, graduate school, and public school teaching, where I was surrounded by mirthless expressions depicting genuinely unhappy people. And I always fought aggressively against that outlook, swearing I would never let it pull me beneath the waves. I don’t believe that one’s profession in life guarantees a mirthless life; rather, I believe unhappy people tend to bring that into the workplace, into the family and into the friendship circles.

Much of my inspiration in life comes from reading, and that has been true for most of my life. Making art also brings joy that I cannot explain. Soon, I will return to Palestine and occupy The Gallery at Redlands along with the music that Smoothrock 93.5 now brings into the environment. And I look forward to picking up the watercolor brush once again. For the past two days, my life has been tied up with college grading and printing over one hundred new greeting cards of my art (I will post a couple of the cards below). I sell these 5×7″ cards (blank inside) with envelope in a plastic sleeve for $5 each or 5 for $25. Printing off the images the past couple of days has made me ache to make new work, so I plan to resume that this afternoon and throughout the weekend.

Christmas card workspace 2nd version

Dryden scan

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 James Joyce

September 27, 2018


His soul had arisen from the grave of boyhood, spurning her graveclothes. Yes! Yes! Yes! He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable.

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

Several days of travel and appointments finally caught up with me, and I woke this morning, not feeling very rested or restored, and I had a 9:35 Logic class waiting for me. Skipping breakfast, I went to my desk and finished prepping for this morning’s session, and, not knowing what to take along to read (I usually arrive thirty minutes ahead of class, just in case a rush hour or traffic accident delay should throw me off schedule), I pulled an old journal off the bookshelf, from December 1 2014-January 10, 2015.


After I got to the college, I read from the early pages of the journal that had recorded a particularly bleak and cold St. Louis winter morning. Reading this James Joyce text overflowed my soul with joy on that particular morning, and it revisited me today.

Coming home to a fresh stack of college grading, I French-pressed some coffee beans purchased in Crested Butte, Colorado, went to my desk, put my head down, and plowed through the stack of documents. Before I realized it, the grading was done, and college doesn’t resume for me till next Tuesday. Wow, the weekend already! And a fresh inspiration from the precious writings of James Joyce.

Happily, I am returning to my studio to make art.

Update on the radio station: yesterday they sent me the photo of the station logo now attached to the lower part of our gallery window:


I also received confirmation that the radio station’s first live broadcast, “Kevin & Marc in the Morning” will be Monday, October 1.

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 Dave, Jesus and James Joyce

September 12, 2018

morning coffee

Further Reading from the Parables

And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.

For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

Gospel of Mark 4:26-29

I am reposting the parable that I posted yesterday morning, because I am still burrowing into the Greek text, enjoying what the excavations are bringing to light.  My fascination lies with that life principle, echoed by Thoreau about something growing “like corn in the night.” The sower merely does his/her task, and as that individual continues to live out the daily and nightly cycles of life, the task composts and sometimes flourishes without further attention. And the sower, thinker, artist, teacher, or whatever the actor’s role happens to be, has no idea how these processes work.

This morning I lingered over the portion of the King James Version that reads: “the earth bringeth forth fruit OF HERSELF.” The Greek word underlying “of herself” is transliterated automatē, and focuses on the generation of activity independent of the sower. In my personal life, I have been fascinated with the mystery of ideas forming, visions of art spontaneously arising, and other related matters. Forgive me for reposting this James Joyce fragment, but right now it is too lovely for me to ignore:

Towards dawn he awoke. O what sweet music! His soul was all dewy wet. Over his limbs in sleep pale cool waves of light had passed. He lay still, as if his soul lay amid cool waters, conscious of faint sweet music. His mind was waking slowly to a tremulous morning knowledge, a morning inspiration. A spirit filled him, pure as the purest water, sweet as dew, moving as music. But how faintly it was inbreathed, how passionlessly, as if the seraphim themselves were breathing upon him! His soul was waking slowly, fearing to awake wholly. It was that windless hour of dawn when madness wakes and strange plants open to the light and the moth flies forth silently.

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

I awoke this morning with a visual idea in my head, and have decided to pursue it, From where the idea came, I have no clue, and am merely grateful for the gift that arrived in my sleep. And though I have tasks to perform (plenty of grading has stacked up), the loveliness of this morning grows out of the inspiration that visited me during a restful night’s sleep.

I awoke with the notion that I would begin creating Christmas cards. One of my store outlets had been urging me throughout the summer to pursue this for the coming holiday season, and I just never got around to it. Now the fire has fallen, the interest is consuming me, and I begin this morning with my first 5 x 7″ watercolor sketch of what I hope will turn into a Christmas card before the week is over.


The Beginning of a Christmas Card Sketch

I am also going through my files, pulling up older Christmas cards I have made, and will be printing these for delivery by the end of the week as well.

Christmas at Spencer's Grill vertical

Christmas at Spencer’s Grill (Kirkwood, Missouri)

The morning hour has not yet reached 9:00, but already I feel the deadlines approaching, so I will close this out this blog and send it up the flagpole. I hope you found something in this worth reading and pondering. Thanks always for checking me out.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with James Joyce

August 25, 2018


Happily Back in the Gallery this Morning

Towards dawn he awoke. O what sweet music! His soul was all dewy wet. Over his limbs in sleep pale cool waves of light had passed. He lay still, as if his soul lay amid cool waters, conscious of faint sweet music. His mind was waking slowly to a tremulous morning knowledge, a morning inspiration. A spirit filled him, pure as the purest water, sweet as dew, moving as music. But how faintly it was inbreathed, how passionlessly, as if the seraphim themselves were breathing upon him. His soul was waking slowly, fearing to awake wholly, It was that windless hour of dawn when madness wakes and strange plants open to the light and the moth flies forth silently.

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

Well, I wish it had been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. To get this out of the way quickly–a slab leak flooded my house this past week, and so I have not been able to blog for all the time demanded for shutting off the water, removing soaked carpets and pads from several rooms and shop vacuuming water off all the floors, consulting a plumbing company, and then dealing with insurance adjusters. With no water supply, I fled to the country, and have so missed this wonderful hideaway that dear friends have always made available to me. It has been about fifteen months since I last stayed here, and so this morning was the most serene I have known in an entire week. Coffee on a porch outside a vintage store (the residential part is where I have been privileged to reside) has been a soothing balm, a total contrast from the events I fought all last week.


Morning Coffee in my Favorite Hideaway

Without an alarm, I still woke before 7:00 a.m., just as the dawn was breaking over these east Texas skies. I couldn’t brew coffee quickly enough, wishing to dress and get out into the morning sun. The colors embroidered across the grasses danced between the warm yellows and cold blue-greens. I understood Cezanne’s perpetual frustration at not being able to capture that scintillating vibrancy on his canvases.  This has eluded me in watercolor as well. But still I search . . .

I am writing this at night now, having spent the entire day and evening in The Gallery at Redlands. It has been a satisfying day, visiting with patrons and Palestine friends. I also managed to catch up on all the college work that piled up while I was fighting the flooding issues back home.  I will be unable to post tomorrow, as I will return tonight to the place pictured above in the country where I am completely off the grid. Even the cell phone service is shaky. But that is OK. I need the quiet.

I have often wished I could describe the delicious sensation of waking after a successful night’s sleep the way James Joyce recorded it (posted above). The zone between deep sleep and wakefulness is a realm where creativity is frequently spawned, for me. I welcome it.

An enchantment of the heart! The night had been enchanted. In a dream or vision he had known the ecstasy of seraphic life. Was it an instant of enchantment only or long hours and days and years and ages? 

The instant of inspiration seemed now to be reflected from all sides at once from a multitude of cloudy circumstance of what had happened or of what might have happened. The instant flashed forth like a point of light and now from cloud on cloud of vague circumstance confused form was veiling softly its afterglow. O! In the virgin womb of the imagination the word was made flesh. 

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

In 1988, I read for the first time James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I was working 9-1-1 for the Fort Worth Police Department, and there were long stretches in some of the night shifts when calls were few and far between. Being tethered to the headset and computer, a dispatcher/call-taker cannot get up and move about. So, during those slack hours, I chose to read. This book was truly a revelation to me, a remembrance of my religious and artistic childhood, two sides that would not reconcile. No man can serve two masters, it has been said. For years I was an artist. Then for years I was a minister and divinity student. When I worked for the police department, I was neither. Reading this volume caused me to sit straight up in my chair most nights on the console. By the time the volume was finished, I knew what I was going to do. I was going to be a teacher, and seek to be an artistic one at that.

And now, thirty years later, I still think back over those night shifts, and over the delicious Joycean mornings waking to a world of wonder and brilliance. I wish all people could know and experience this level of beauty.

oxbow2 painting

Palestine’s Oxbow Bakery

I am proud also to announce that this watercolor found a home tonight. It has been a splendid day and evening.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Evening(!) Coffee with Dave and Robert Motherwell

August 22, 2018


One might say that the triumph of modern artists in our society has been the capacity to protect one’s own modes of being. These modes may be well or sick or both, I do not precisely know; but you must recognize that to choose a mode of existence within modern society, and to be able to maintain it, is a considerable accomplishment. It is as though a few gifted children were able to outwit the adult world and protect their own felt necessities.

Robert Motherwell, “Lecture with Charles R. Hulbeck”

The French mathematician Poincare said, “Thought is only a flash between two long nights.” Artists work by these flashes of thought.

Robert Motherwell, “Symbolism”

I had to leave very early this morning to tend a number of university details before my class, and the blog was unfinished. So here it is . . . . I hope this “morning coffee” theme is working O.K.  I thought of it Tuesday morning, August 14, while still away from my home. Since that day, I have been on a routine of reading every morning, early, for inspiration, starting a blog draft of my reading, and launching it the day after, in hopes that letting the ideas “compost” twenty-four hours could lead to something more significant to share. I got out of my routine today, because I was off to school much earlier than usual, then much unscheduled business crashed in on my day, and now I find myself still looking at this Motherwell draft begun yesterday morning right after launching the Cezanne blog.

I do enjoy the quiet of the night, when the rest of the world has seemingly gone to bed and no one is trying any longer to get my attention.  I wish I could paint in my studio, but extensive home maintenance is holding my days hostage lately, and I just wish to get on the other side of it as quickly as possible. And, of course, the first week of college also involves much problem-solving as I settle in with new groups of students and get the subjects rolling down the track. Perhaps next week I’ll find myself in a workable routine again. I have largely missed my life, my “mode of being” today.

The main thing I wish to write tonight is this: Motherwell has held my undying respect since my first year of teaching in 1988. When I recognized the depth of his scholarship in addition to his painterly output, I just wanted to live his kind of dream. He served on twenty-seven college faculties throughout his career, wrote and published heavily, and was in great demand as a public speaker. I have always loved his erudition, and  when I learned that he was perpetually conflicted between his library and his studio, I knew him to be a man after my own heart. I wish I could have sat down and had chats with him as a friend. His quote about the artist’s “modes of being” that I posted above to introduce this blog continues to abide with me; I love living the artist’s contemplative life, love living the dream. Every morning I awake, expecting an Oracle, anticipating inspiration from some divine source, and I am seldom disappointed. This to me is the Life of the Mind.

“Well, to me, James Joyce is the Shakespeare of modernism.”

Robert Motherwell, interview

I was amused to learn that Motherwell had a copy of Ulysses in every room of his house, and he was constantly picking up the book to read at random, having already read the text once in its entirety. To date, I am halfway through the book, and have yet to draw the depths of inspiration from the volume that Motherwell did, but I’m still hoping . . . Motherwell’s devotion to Joyce did lead me to A Porrait of the Artist as a Young Man. That volume I have read twice, and it is that volume that I continue to pick up at random and read with great pleasure; I just don’t have a copy in every room of the house yet.

The hour is drawing late, so I’ll close this one, and thank you for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal, feeling alone.

I blog, knowing I am not alone.



Bright Sunwashed Morning for Painting

December 16, 2017



Towards dawn he awoke. O what sweet music! His soul was all dewy wet. Over his limbs in sleep pale cool waves of light had passed. He lay still, as if his soul lay amid cool waters, conscious of faint sweet music. His mind was waking slowly to a tremulous morning knowledge, a morning inspiration.

James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Waking to a 36-degree morning in Palestine, Texas, in The Redlands Hotel, was a sublime experience. I lay in the darkness of the pre-dawn, unsure of the time, but thinking good thoughts, hoping for bright sunshine so I could return to The Gallery at Redlands downstairs and resume this watercolor sketch I began last week of the Chamber of Commerce building visible through my gallery window.

I have always loved the quality of winter morning sunlight when the weather is snappy cold, and am so happy for the first day in weeks that I have not had appointments and details to tend. I anticipate a day of painting, reading, and merely enjoying life at its fullest. My “American Railroad Odyssey” show closes at 10 p.m. and tomorrow I will take down the show and reconfigure the gallery display.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Waxahachie Portals

April 29, 2017


A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

James Joyce, Ulysses

Finding time to blog has been difficult of late. Since my last post, I have made several journeys to Waxahachie, forty minutes from where I live, and leaving in the late afternoons after a day in school has often found me fatigued once I arrived. Still, I managed to slog through a couple of compositions, but by the time I arrived home late at night, I was too sleepy to blog, and still had school to prepare for the following day. So it goes.

The weather has been pretty uneven lately, thunderstorms alternating with bright sunshine. Sometimes I wonder if a washed earth emits different colors, as I have been fascinated with the way the Ellis Country courthouse seemed to “light up” before my eyes late in the days. As earlier stated, I seem to arrive on site, too tired to paint, and have spent much time circling the courthouse looking at it from all angles. On this particular afternoon, the sun popped out as I was gazing at the southwest corner of the building. The curvature I found fascinating, and I wanted to find a way to capture the pink marble and red granite surrounding the window.


Once I stopped with this one, I was satisfied with the compositional arrangement, though I felt that I had “missed” on the color of the stones. A very dear friend and teaching colleague of mine who is also an architect, paid me the ultimate compliment when he looked at this sketch the day after, calling it “a poem.”

Returning a few days later in the week, I found myself tired again, and walked listlessly around this same building, looking for something to try and capture on paper. Again, the sun came out just as I was rounding the southeast corner of the courthouse, and as it had rained earlier, I again found myself smitten at the sight of the colors on the building.


Determined this time to focus more on the color of the marble and granite, I worked more deliberately on those hues, hoping not to overwork it.


Time has now expired for the “early bird” plein air painting of Waxahachie. The main portion of Paint Historic Waxahachie will kick off next Saturday, May 6, and will last through the following Sunday. I can use this week off, hoping to regather my strength and stamina for that following week, when painters from all around will descend on that town and crank out a high volume of work. I’m glad I chose to sign and pay up early so I could tune up with five paintings before the starting gun. I’ve definitely been out of plein air practice.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


May 10, 2016


Art has to reveal to us ideas, formless spiritual essences.  The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring.

James Joyce, Ulysses

Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

Late last night, while trying to read Ulysses, I came across the above passage and just had to close the book and my eyes for a spell.  I needed some kind of epiphany, coming off a scintillating week of plein air painting activity in Arkansas and re-entering my high school to face a pile of work from my weeklong absence.  It was like plunging into a warm summer pond after leaving a sauna.  I had no idea how a single Monday could suck all the creative aspirations out of me, but I guess that is how the daily job can be.  Today is better, because I’m feeling the inspiration once again that fueled my desires last week.

I have an incredibly busy two weeks facing me before I leave for another round of art festivals and plein air workshop activity.  There is so much preparation that goes into leaving for these activities, and I enjoy most of those details, especially the anticipation of the events.  But at the same time, I have this need to stop, rest, contemplate, and make new art.  I have always believed that quality art comes out of the depths, and for me there is no depth when I am covered up in social encounters.  The book I read last year that has come to mean so much to me, Hamlet’s Blackberry, by William Powers, urged to the reader that depth is sacrificed when one’s life is immersed in social media.  I could not agree more.  The art events that have enveloped me the past several weeks (with more to come) have taken me to the heights, but alas, I am not making art, not exploring new frontiers, and feel that a significant part of me is drying up.  I’m glad that I know how to fix this; I just need to find a way to adjust my daily calendar in order to get back to drawing and painting.

I apologize if this has come out as a “whiny” blog (I detest those!). I suppose that what I’m putting  out there right now is more of my private journal musings.  But still, there may be many of you who need to read these kinds of things, so thanks for reading.

I paint in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Saturday Art

January 9, 2016


Perhaps tomorrow (Sunday) I will find more quality time for blogging. Today I have cleaned house thoroughly, read prodigiously, and worked on three watercolors (that hopefully I’ll post tomorrow) and barely got underway this drawing of the tops of winter trees in my own backyard,

The day has been a delicious one with temperatures hovering in the forties and then the thirties.  Tonight they are expected to dip into the twenties. The fireplace has burned all day, lending a pleasing ambiance to the living room and studio. And my reading from James Joyce’s Ulysses and Harold Bloom’s The Daemon Knows has refreshed my soul.

Thanks for reading.