Posts Tagged ‘John Steinbeck’

Sunday Morning Coffee with Steve Wozniak

September 23, 2018

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Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me–they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an invention’s design  without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other  committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee. If you’re that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone.

Steve Wozniak, quoted in Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of  Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking

Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Temperatures this morning in west Texas hovered in the fifties, and I felt deep gratitude for the autumn snap in the air. This summer in Texas has been so bloody hot, that I feared I might not know cool temperatures till November. Part of today’s relaxation involved fishing in a local park, all the while marveling at how chilly and invigorating the air felt around me. I have also been laughing my way through my second reading of Garrison Keillor’s WLT: A Radio Romance, enjoying the chapter episodes and thinking with gladness over the episodes I’ve enjoyed the past year and a half in the Redlands Hotel and Gallery, and musing over what to expect when Smooth Rock 93.5 FM moves in and sets up its broadcasts. The team of Kevin Harris and Marc Mitchell offer some amazing color to our future in downtown Palestine, Texas. I look forward to returning to The Redlands soon.

Most of what I have been up to the past two days I cannot weave into a meaningful blog just yet; I have been going through countless drafts of essays composed over the past five or so years and stored on files. A renewed passion for writing has come over me, extending far beyond daily journal jottings. Quiet moments in coffee shops have provided an enriching atmosphere for musing and writing. Hopefully, some meaningful topics will emerge and I’ll gladly send them out.

Throughout today, the two posts above have flooded my imagination. Creativity has always been a solitary activity for me, and I do not wish to disparage others’ theories involving creative collaboration. But I will say this–throughout my career of teaching in public schools, there was always this push for teachers to be more “creative” in the classroom by stimulating “collaborative learning.” In all honesty, I never found success in that experiment. Rather, I only noticed “teams” allowing the “alpha member” to do all the work creating, with the team sharing in the spoils of the grade. But that’s just my perspective. Throughout my life, I have been on the side expressed by Wozniak and Steinbeck, that creativity comes from the individual, not the committee. And I am convinced that my push to create emanated naturally from the way I have lived out my life as one who spends a great deal of his time alone and quiet.

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.

 

 

Walking with a Limp

January 30, 2017

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“But now he’s broody. He doesn’t talk. He goes walking alone in the hills at night. I went out to see him and–he’s been writing poetry–pages of it all over the table.”

“Didn’t you ever write poetry, Will?”

“I did not.”

“I have,” said Dessie. “Pages and pages of it all over the table.”

“I don’t want you to go.”

“Let me decide,” she said softly. “I’ve lost something. I want to try to find it again.”

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

I am back to work after a weekend retreat to the back country. And the John Steinbeck novel is coursing through my veins this morning. I read the final two-hundred pages-plus of East of Eden while cozied up in my favorite store-off-the-grid. The dialogue above made me laugh out loud. Dessie wanted to leave her business and return to the ranch to live with her troubled brother Tom. Her business-minded brother Will was trying to dissuade her by relaying what he thought would be a troubling profile of Tom’s recent lifestyle. The grown-up sons and daughter were trying to cope with the death of their father Samuel whose passion was the glue that had held the family together:

Then Samuel died and the world shattered like a dish.

This sentence lingered in my consciousness all weekend while alone in the store. Painting, reading, writing and thinking sustained my spirits in the best of all possible ways the entire time, but I could not help pondering life and many of the people I know and love who share openly about these wounds that we all sustain. My closest friends know that the results of our recent election, along with its aftermath, have torn my spirit like a dull serrated knife. I find it necessary to disregard over three-fourths of facebook posts because they are talking about it–whether the posts are pro or con, the message is usually one of ugliness and hurt. And life since November has made it challenging to remain buoyant in spite of the culture that now envelops us.

But the pain I read in East of Eden is much more comprehensive, the kind of pain that punctuates lives throughout their duration. During the quiet hours of the weekend, I mused over the events of a lifetime, and how many tragedies the average individual absorbs. The video by R.E.M. returned to my memory: “Everybody Hurts.” Yet through it all, we continue to walk through this life, even if we walk with a limp. And perhaps the connective tissue that binds us as humans is the mutual regard we feel, recognizing that others hurt just as we do, and we all have the capacity to reach out to one another for support and understanding.

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The weekend has been a real gift in that it offered space and quiet for uninterrupted thought and a chance to make some decisions that needed to be made.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to express.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The Quiet Zone of the Morning

January 16, 2017

knob-outside

Painting During the Morning Hours

. . . Samuel rode lightning on top of a book and he balanced happily among ideas the way a man rides white rapids in a canoe. But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Thnks to Steinbeck, I could not retire to bed until about 1:00 this morning. This book is scratching me in mental areas that have not been scratched in years, and I could never sufficiently express my gratitude for such engaging ideas. I must confess that I have always read more like Tom, which explains why I am trying, yet again, to understand the philosophy of Martin Heidegger as recorded in Being and Time.

Though retiring to bed rather late, I did manage to rise at 8:30 without an alarm (For nearly three decades now, I have detested those 6:00 alarms yanking me out of the sack in order to report to a 7:35 class on normal workdays). I showered and broke my fast as rapidly as possible so I could light a fire and resume my reading of Steinbeck over coffee for nearly an hour, as soothing jazz played in the background (I so love music playing as I read and write!).

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Ah, the Warmth and Intimacy of a Fireplace!

After an hour of Steinbeck, I returned to the drafting table and immediately got up to my elbows in the watercolor that I resumed yesterday. Like Tom in reading, I also burrow into the details of painting, pushing constantly at new ways to apply the paint. I spent about an hour scratching with brushes and pencils on the corn and the burlap around it. Last night, late, I worked over the textures of the door above (somehow I managed to paint the masking tape residue in places, and my technique worked!) and am happy with the way the overall painting is beginning to form. I was deeply dissatisfied with this piece when I stopped work on it over a week ago, and have had it displayed across the room from me so I could gaze at it repeatedly, day after day, and try to cope with the shaping of the composition. At this point, I am feeling some satisfaction, and I like that–I do indeed hate to lose a painting. Sometimes I just need time to “compost” as I gaze at the work critically and try to determine where it is failing.

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Another Crack at Heidegger’s Being and Time

And finally, thanks to YouTube, I’m getting some help, listening to excellent lectures on Being and Time. This morning I listened to the first of a series of 28 lectures delivered at University of California Berkeley by Hubert Dreyfus in 2007. Thanks to him, some of Heidegger’s concepts are beginning to become clear to me. Reading Heidegger’s Hut by Adam Sharr warmed me with its ideas about working in a solitary place, away from the workplace. Now, I wish once again to try and understand this thinker’s difficult philosophy.

It’s been a productive morning, and I’m happy that so much of the day and evening remain. 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.

Pushing Further into the Portal Experiment

January 3, 2017

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And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Today marked the first day of the spring semester and my second day of reverie in the writings of John Steinbeck. I read before my A. P. Art History classes the opening paragraph of chapter 13 of East of Eden, a passage pointed out to me by my ninth-grade English teacher, Lon Simmons. The students overall expressed approval, and one of them actually engaged me in conversation over the significance of the passage, a little later in the period. I found the first day of classes very satisfying.

Once back home, I began experimenting with the large watercolor I’ve posted above. Several days ago, I created for the first time my first batch of watercolor pigment–cobalt blue, combining the powdered pigment with gum arabic, honey and distilled water. I felt like a mad scientist in the laboratory, laughing at my cavalier venture. I managed to create a warm gray tone for some of my background by blending this newly-mixed cobalt blue with Winsor Violet and New Gamboge. I also applied India ink to some of the lettering on the burlap sack at the base of the composition. So far, I am pleased with the results of these latest experiments. I feel that I am getting bolder with these attempts.

Tonight I had the deeply satisfying pleasure of meeting with five of my artist friends at a cafe to exchange ideas over dinner. We have been gathering for these weekly discussions for over a year now, and I cannot express how rewarding these times are for me emotionally. Without fail, I come away from these meetings with a renewed sense of purpose and joy.

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.

Seeking to Recover the Rhythm

January 1, 2017

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Literature was not promulgated by a pale and emasculated critical priesthood singing their litanies in empty churches – nor is it a game for the cloistered elect, the tinhorn mendicants of low calorie despair.

Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed.

John Steinbeck, Nobel Laureate acceptance speech

This first day of the New Year has been a quiet one, with dark rainy weather outside, but a cheery fire inside to brighten the spirits of my living room and studio. Throughout the day, I have picked and chipped away at this watercolor, hoping to get back the rhythm that was broken before Christmas arrived. I’m really in the mood to watercolor, but feel that I don’t know how, and spend so much time staring at this composition, wondering just how to get back into it. These words I write are rather clumsy–I’m not fishing for compliments on my painting, and I don’t have a low opinion of my talent. It’s just that I’m feeling out-of-synch, and hating the fact that I return to school tomorrow without having resolved this. The evening is still young, so hopefully I’ll get some of my act together before bedtime. I would really like to come home from school tomorrow with the feeling that I’ve found my mojo again as a watercolorist.

O.K., so much for the whining about the painting process. . . . I’ve posted the Steinbeck quote because I’ve had wonderful You Tube company throughout this day of painting (I’m a sucker for documentaries and have enjoyed them today on F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck while painting).   I was deeply moved by his remarks when the lines above were read from his acceptance speech.  What he attributes to writers and literature I attribute to all those who create, period–writers, artists, musicians–anyone who feel the compulsion to create. That feeling is a remarkable gift to the creator as well as to those who enjoy his/her creations.  Throughout this Christmas and New Year holiday I have drawn so much strength and inspiration from reading the Bible, poetry, biographies, as well as looking at works of art from the hands of those I admire deeply.  Our creative expressions are gifts to us and to one another, and those gifts during this holiday season have made my personal life so much richer.

Thanks for reading. I just wanted to get some of my feelings out today. Now I return to the studio and see if I can get my groove back!

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

Sunday Morning Silence in the Man Cave

April 21, 2013
Entrance to my Man Cave

Entrance to my Man Cave

Sunday Morning work on the Cafe Still-Life

Sunday Morning Work on the Cafe Still-Life

Diners originated in Providence, Rhode Island, in the 1870s.  A newspaper salesman named Walter Scott noticed a need for after-hours food service for workers on the late shift and anyone else obliged or inclined for whatever reason to stay out after 8 P.M., when all the restaurants in Providence would close.  Having hitched a wooden wagon to a horse named Patient Dick, he roved the town through the night selling what would become and remain basic diner fare: sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, pie, and coffee, all homemade, all priced at a nickel.  Competition–larger wagons, wagons that stayed in one place, and wagons with indoor seating (mainly stools) in case of rain–soon followed, and spread from town to town in the Northeast.  In 1891, Charles Palmer of Worcester, Massachusetts, found it worthwhile to patent a wagon with a kitchen and dining area designed for mass production.

By the 1920s, diners had evolved into self-contained restaurants, factory-made and measured for easy delivery to whatever location the buyer thought would be profitable.

Gordon Theisen, Staying Up Much Too Late: Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and the Dark Side of the American Psyche

I was stricken with insomnia last night (probably too much coffee!), not able to fall asleep till about 3:00.  Television and great books kept me occupied.  Sleeping till 8:00, I’ve felt sluggish this entire day, but nevertheless enjoyed yet another caraf of coffee, excellent reading from Hemingway and Steinbeck, and plenty of noodling on this small 8 x 10″ painting.  I’m not making very fast progress now, as I’m feeling pretty timid about the clean lines of the spectacles, and have worked hard not to make them look sketchy and “organic.”  I struggle with precision in watercolor, and feel that the discipline is important for me.  The pattern on the tablecloth also has to follow a strict design.  I enjoyed working on the canceled postage and postmark on the envelope.  Still working on staining the envelope.  I thought that would be easy and mindless.  It isn’t!  Plenty of surprises on this composition, all of them fascinating to me.

I couldn’t have dialed up a better Sunday. The light and the silence have been so soothing, so affirming.  The reading and painting were smooth. I felt as though my pulse slowed down a bit.  The coming work week will be spastic, with state standardized testing dominating the days (always a questionable use of the school time, certainly not a boon for education).  My hope is that I can put it behind me each evening and let the studio envelope me as it has recently.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.