Posts Tagged ‘John Steinbeck’

Morning Watch in the Gallery at Redlands

June 26, 2020
Reading Quietly before Breakfast

Waking at 4:50 on a Friday morning isn’t so bad. While lying in the darkness of the Redlands Hotel, realizing my mind was stirring and not willing to return to sleep, I decided to put in a “full” morning. By 5:30 my gear was packed (I’ll be leaving the hotel and gallery later today) and I found myself nestled in the quiet gallery, surrouded by my recent work and reading Steinbeck. I’m nearly finished with another commission and I’ll post it later today once I’ve decided to sign off on it.

My only reason for writing at this moment is the sudden change of mood I experienced while reading Cannery Row. The scene is hilarious–four bums from Cannery Row are wading in a pond after dark to catch frogs for Doc to sell to labs running tests for cancer. The entire scene gets funnier as they get closer to the moment of ambushing thousands of frogs to put in gunny sacks. But then, I read this:

. . . the frogs heard them coming. The night had been roaring with frog song and then suddenly it was silent.

My entire mood shifted profoundly and I closed the book.

When Dad was ninety years old, he talked reflectively of experiences encountered in the Korean War as though they had happened yesterday. This was two years ago, and I still feel the shudders. He had just been talking in generalities about combat, about what it was like when his platoon lay out in the marshes late at night, silent and waiting.

When the frogs get quiet, it’s time to take your safety off. You got company.

I’m still quavering as I type this. I think it’s time now to travel to the Bird’s Egg Cafe for coffee and breakfast. The morning light is now coming through the gallery and I’m anticipating another day of wonder. When I return I’ll finish this watercolor commission and post it for my readers to see.

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.

Organizing Scattered Pieces

June 22, 2020
Busy in the Studio

Hazel’s mind was like wandering alone in a deserted museum. Hazel’s mind was choked with uncatalogued exhibits. He never forgot anything but he never bothered to arrange his memories. Everything was thrown together like fishing tackle in the bottom of a rowboat, hooks and sinkers and line and lures and gaffs all snarled up.

John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

This Steinbeck read is providing plenty of entertainment today. Yes, Hazel is a man, and I laughed at the passage above because it sounds like the author was describing my own mind on a typical day. This was one of those odd conglomerations of reading over coffee, painting in the studio, dashing to the store to pick up furniture ordered, joining Sandi in another home improvement task that yielded great rewards, and taking breaks now and then for thinking, blogging, catching up with a ton of art-related correspondence that had piled up and packing for yet another road trip.

Tomorrow I will delightfully return to The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas. It has been over four months since I last inhabited that space and I have missed so many of my friends and acquaintances down there. The gallery will get a new face lift, though I will be sorry to say good-bye to many of Elaine Jary’s pieces that have enlivened the walls this year.

Latest commission in progress

I was hoping to finish this commission today, but too many other things entered my space and I had to stay on top of them. Hopefully I will complete this one tomorrow and then move on to the next. The coronavirus has rendered a nasty world about us, yet at the same time I have been blessed to meet new friends and patrons, and there remains plenty of art to be made.

Thanks for reading. Next time I post, I should be doing so from the gallery.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Pre-Dawn in the Gallery

June 22, 2020
Gallery at Redlands

Over a period of years Doc dug himself into Cannery Row to an extent not even he suspected. He became the fountain of philosophy and science and art. . . . He lived in a world of wonders, of excitement.

John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

4:04 a.m. Really? The Redlands Hotel was quiet by 9:00 last night. Weary from the day’s events and road trip, I trudged upstairs and was asleep by 10:00. The suites here at the Redlands are wonderfully sound-insulated. The Union Pacific railyards are two blocks away and the sound of the occasional freight coming through town is little more than a rumble, more of a gentle feel than a disturbing sound.

One thing I certainly did not expect from this new day was to be seated in the gallery at 4:40 with it still dark outside. Nevertheless, looking out my favorite window to the world before sitting at the desk flooded me with the finest memories of this special town of Palestine.

The City of Palestine of course does not fit the shabby, grungy descriptions of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. But the historic downtown section holding the Redlands Hotel, Carnegie Library building, Chamber of Commerce, Sacred Heart Church and of course the Union Pacific railyard has offered daily narratives to me that would compete with any Steinbeck novel. As I’ve stated before, I really miss the radio guys who used to broadcast out of this gallery in the mornings, and at this particular moment I’m saddened to look up at the space where they used to sit, drink coffee, laugh when they were not “live”, and fill this room with a warm communal feel. Right now, no one moves through the lobby, and they won’t for several more hours. But I do anticipate with gladness the arrival of hotel employees and those working the offices upstairs later. In many ways I experience the warm vibe of this town the way Doc felt when he worked daily at Cannery Row.

The day is full of promise, I brought plenty of work to pursue while staying here for a spell. Later today, Elaine Jary plans to come down and take her work that’s been on display here since February. Then I’ll re-hang my work that will include new framed pieces not seen here before.

Time to get to work. Thanks always for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Working in the Studio, with Camping still on my Mind

June 21, 2020

Coffee has a special taste of a frosty morning, and the third cup is as good as the first.

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

Cowboy Coffee at Beaver’s Bend State Park, Broken Bow, Oklahoma

Sunday at home has been cozy, with last night’s storms extending into a dark and cool day all day today. Finishing my second reading of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley has put me in a docile frame of mind, and now I’ve turned to my first reading of Cannery Row. After the first dozen pages, I believe this will be a keeper as well.

Reading Travels with Charley while enjoying my final cup of Cowboy Coffee

We returned home three days ago, but my heart and imagination are still in the Oklahoma wilderness. It was hot every day–93 degrees and humid, and apparently too warm for the trout waters. I had several strikes on dry flies, but hooked nothing, and for the first time there, never saw another fly fisherman catch anything either.

Evening Hole, my favorite place for stalking trout
New commission in progress

At the time of this writing, I have at least eight paintings to complete to satisfy the wishes of patrons. The initial plans are already laid out and I am simply moving from one to the next, grateful that I love watercoloring and always find myself getting lost in every new composition. I have been taking today’s very slowly as there are a number of areas where I could lose the painting quickly.

Time spent this morning over coffee and Steinbeck yielded this gem from Cannery Row:

The word is a symbol and a delight which sucks up men and scenes, trees, plants, factories, and Pekinese. Then the Thing Becomes the Word and back to Thing again, but warped and woven into a fantastic pattern. The Word sucks up Cannery Row, digests it and spews it out, and the Row has taken the shimmer of the green world and the sky-reflecting seas.

All day long, while painting in the studio, this passage has simmered in my consciousness. For as long as I can remember, “word” has meant much more to me than just a single building block for a sentence. From seminary days learning Greek, logos has consumed my attention. I always appreciated the writings of Martin Heidegger, arguing that “word” refers to the “gathering together,” the “organizing dynamic” of life as we encounter it.

Whenever I experience an artful day, I look for the Word, for the organizing principle of what is going on about me. I love the challenge of making art because I am called upon to organize elements and design something the eye can recognize and appreciate. On this particular day, painting a house that means a great deal to a patron, I wonder about the people who inhabited the structure, what kind of stories sprung from the neighborhood, what sounds and smells were encountered on a daily basis–all kinds of details engaged my imagination as I worked.

And speaking of work, I need to return to it. Thank you for taking time to read me and about the things happening in this part of the world while a virus continues to hover about our surroundings. Stay safe.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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

grid

“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.

grid-3

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!).

fireplace

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.

heidegger

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

jan-3-door

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

new-year-final

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.