Posts Tagged ‘Journal’

Working Sometimes from the Fact

November 17, 2016


I can’t work completely out of my imagination. I must put my foot in a bit of truth; and then I can fly free.

Andrew Wyeth

It was 85 degrees in north Texas yesterday, November 16.  I have been impatiently waiting for fall weather and winter to follow.  One of the reasons is that I enjoy so much gazing at winter trees with their core anatomy on view.  Leaves, like clothing, conceal the tree’s essence, and I regret that living in the southwest, I see the bare trees for such a short span of the year.

I have posted the Andrew Wyeth quote because I feel those same sentiments.  Beginning last winter, I drew trees in pencil, rendering them as accurately as I could see them.  I know that Wyeth and Edward Hopper said that in later years they could work out of their imagination, no longer requiring the “fact” in front of their eyes for scrutiny.  I am not there yet; if I try and draw or paint something that I am not looking at, then it comes out looking like a cartoon or cheap illustration.

The tree above, I guess, is a hybrid.  I began drawing it from life Tuesday evening, as I awaited my artitistic friends for our weekly gathering at the cafe.  I didn’t get very far before they arrived.  So, I finished the drawing yesterday, using my imagination rather than a reference photo.  I’m satisfied with the result, and am now ready to move on to the next tree.  Unfortunately I spend my workdays indoors in an interior room without windows.  So I’ll have to wait . . .

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


A Sacred Space Where Word and Image Can Merge

July 30, 2015
Combined Text and Image in Drawing

Combined Text and Image in Drawing

And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Thanks to comments from my blogging friend Tony, and encouragement from Dinah Bowman, I’ve decided to explore further the possibility of sketchbook/journal art, allowing my thoughts to nestle alongside the images I attempt to draw and paint. For decades, this is how my mind has operated when imagination forms words and pictures. And yet, I can recall only Leonardo da Vinci among the artists who combined his sketchbook with his journals, the words meandering around and into his drawn images. For a number of years as an art teacher in public schools, I tried to establish this practice among my students, without success, as far as I could determine. A couple of years ago, a very gifted pair of twins in my A.P. Art History class daily sketched and wrote out their ideas in Moleskine journals, and seeing them do that inspired me to do it, from time to time, but not with consistency. Funny–I’ve had no problem maintaining journals and blogs without a break, but the sketchbook aspect just never seemed to stick with me. At any rate, I did buy a sketchbook a few weeks ago, when my last Moleskine journal was completely filled. And I have done more drawing in this sketchbook, though I frequently tear out the pages (hence the one posted above). I am determined to find my way in this endeavor.

My blogging friend Tony wrote, asking if I had the three pages presented in an earlier blog prepared for posting and reading. I did not. But a phone call to Dinah resulted in her sending me the images via email (she lives eight hours away, and now has my Laguna Madre portfolio for framing) and I am all-too-happy to post them this morning, Thank you for asking, Tony. These are for you. And Dinah, Tony and I both thank you for taking the time to photograph and send these.


This is the very first watercolor I attempted while on the island in the Laguna Madre. Once completed, I disliked it, thinking it far too pale and devoid of contrast. Nevertheless, it was the first, and has been selected to be in my show this coming October. I like Dinah’s idea of adding my journal entry to the bottom. The plan is to float this watercolor sketch/journal entry in a frame, instead of cropping it with a mat as one would with a traditional watercolor.

This was watercolor number four, completed at the end of the first day of my island stay. Currently, the plan is to float this one in the frame as well, leaving the crimped edges with the staple holes showing (I had this one stretched over canvas stretchers while painting it).  When I stopped painting it (the evening had arrived and the light vanished) there was a considerable amount of negative area occupying the top half of the surface, and my idea was that it could nevertheless be cropped and matted, and presented as a vignette with a halo of light around the borders. Dinah suggested that I insert my journal entry onto this one as well–one of many reasons I am so glad for my obsessive/compulsive habit of keeping journals.

I have an interview later this morning with a free-lance journalist. He wants to write a column for the September issue of Arlington Today magazine about my Artist-in-Residence experience. This has been a gift that keeps on giving, and I am so thrilled at everyone who has reached out to me, allowing me to share this story. Daily, I am writing and revising my materials covering this Artist-in-Residency, hoping that a book could emerge. I have only published articles in magazines, but never wrote or illustrated an actual book. Now I am hoping I can carry out such a project, and as I proceed, I am looking for ways to combine my writing, drawing and painting into an acceptable art form. I thank you, my readers, for all your positive comments that encourage me to stay on this path.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Saturday Morning Musings with Thoreau

December 6, 2014
Preparing to Paint, while reading Thoreau and Listening to Music

Preparing to Paint, while reading Thoreau and Listening to Music

Of what manner of stuff is the web of time wove, when these consecutive sounds called a strain of music can be wafted down through the centuries from Homer to me, and Homer have been conversant with that same unfathomable mystery and charm which so newly tingles my ears?  These single strains, these melodious cadences which plainly proceed out of a very deep meaning and a sustained soul, are the interjections of God. . .  But ah, I hear them but rarely! . . . The clear, liquid notes from the morning fields beyond seem to come through a vale of sadness to man, which gives all music a plaintive air.  It hath caught a higher pace than any virtue I know. . . . What then, can I do to hasten that other time, or that space where there shall be no time, and these things be a more living part of my life, — where there will be no discords in my life?

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, January 8, 1842

It was soothing to awaken on a Saturday morning without an alarm at 8:13 a.m., to shower, prepare a hot breakfast and enter my garage studio before 9:00.  I continued arranging the fly fishing still life that I began assembling late last night while playing a tape of instrumental music similar to the kind I heard played live in Creede, Colorado many summers ago.  The strains of music took me back to that day filled with wonder, and then when I sat at my drafting table to read some more pages from Thoreau’s Journal, I was moved by the serendipitous nature of what I read, and now post these words to introduce my blog.  I’m still amazed that a twenty-five-year-old Thoreau thought and wrote in this manner.  In my own senior years, I am continually stirred by the wisdom of this young, active mind.

Yesterday my Philosophy class was visited by a lecturer possessing an electric spirit who earned his Ph.D. in Hegel’s philosophy.  He spent more than an hour discussing with my students the contributions of Hegel’s comprehensive system, and as he spoke, I continually felt the stirrings of ancient breezes from Asia Minor and Greece, as well as the hum of contemporary ideas that we as a class had explored over the past several weeks.  I cannot put words to these stirrings, but music comes close.  Like chamber music, these strains swept gently through the corridors of my soul, and have remained with me, throughout last night’s activities and on into this morning.  Experiences like this I call a Gift, I can think of no better word.  I do not feel that I did anything to deserve such a visitation, but I am grateful for this Gift in ways that defy description.

Thoreau’s final sentence reads like that of a twenty-five-year-old, to me.  When I was much younger, and in the pastoral ministry, we always searched for some kind of evangelical revival, or awakening, sometimes even resorting to methods to induce such experiences.  I reached a point where I confessed that I could not make these kinds of peak experiences happen, I just have to accept them when they come, and since those years, they have come with ever-greater frequency, it seems.  I cannot make the wind blow, but I can adjust my sails to catch it when it does blow.  This I try to do with my own daily habits of reading, journaling, creating art and always trying to think on transcendent matters.  Yes, I have a job and deadlines to meet always, but I’m finding in these later years that these promises can be kept more easily by applying some discipline to the daily schedule and creating space for what others might call “down time” but I prefer to call “solitude.”

I hope some of what I wrote made sense.  It’s time for me to move on to making art . . .

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.



Thoughts in All Directions

April 5, 2014
Displaying at Art in the Park.  Kennedale, Texas

Displaying at Art in the Park. Kennedale, Texas

What pleases me is that I am acquiring reason without losing the emotions evoked by beauty.  I certainly do not want to deceive myself, but it seems to me that I am working more calmly than ever before, and I have the same love for my work. . . . What are most real to me, are the illusions that I create with my painting.  the rest is shifting sand.

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, February 27, 1824

One of Delacroix greatest gifts to me, personally, is the Journal he left behind.  I appreciate his paintings and what he contributed to the rising tide of Romanticism in the history of art.  But daily, I am surprised by his thoughts, and have spent considerable time over this past week lingering over ideas inspired by him.  His statement above resonates with me, because he testifies that his intellect balanced his emotions in the act of painting.  Historians, I believe, overstate Romanticism to make it more teachable, contrasting it with Neoclassicism to throw it into bolder relief.  And I have no problem with that.  At least we have the written words of one of the major players on that stage, emphasizing reason’s role in the creation of his art.

Though I’ve gone a week without posting to the blog, my mind has been focused on painting.  There just have been too many work-related deadlines to meet, along with the day-to-day maintenance issues with living.  But it has been a good week, the blog lacuna notwithstanding.  Currently I am in the midst of a three-day art festival about ten minutes from my home.  I was glad to awaken this morning after a good night’s sleep (yesterday’s load-in and set up left me quite achy and sore).  Rising refreshed, I was glad to know I had about two hours before having to return to the festival scene.  Hence, my quiet moments before the computer screen to put this together.  The coffee was good too.

I am taking my watercolor supplies to the booth with me today.  If time allows, I will work on a small watercolor sketch–something I have wanted to do all week but was prohibited by other deadlines.

Thanks for reading, for staying with me.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


Second Snowbound Day, Perfect for Studio Painting

December 7, 2013
Second Frozen Dawn

Second Frozen Dawn

Nothing goes by luck in composition.  It allows of no tricks.  The best you can write will be the best you are.  Every sentence is the result of a long probation.  The author’s character is read from title-page to end.  Of this he never corrects the proofs.  We read it as the essential character of a handwriting without regard to the flourishes.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, February 28, 1841

I put in a fourteen-hour day yesterday, watercoloring in the studio, grateful for an inclement-weather-school-cancellation.  I awoke this Saturday morning around 5:40 a.m., stretched, and went to my garage to record this photo of the frozen tundra which is my neighborhood.  After showering, dressing and making breakfast, I decided on a quarter-mile walk to the neighborhood Walgreens rather than risk taking my vehicle out onto this hockey rink.  I’m not sure how clear this photo is, but my driveway incline is quite steep, and I didn’t want to sled my Jeep into the yard across the street.

Gas Station Watercolor in Progress

Gas Station Watercolor in Progress

Once I returned home from the walk, I picked up the brush and pushed this mid-sized gas station painting further toward completion.  I’m currently working on the flatbed truck, a little at a time, trying to get all the details and contour color changes right.  As I work, I’m really enjoying this 1950’s environment as it takes me back to childhood memories.

The Thoreau quote posted came up in my reading early this morning.  I found it timely.  Thanks to the Dallas Museum of Art esxhibition titled “Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process”, I am focusing more than ever before on the importance of drawing composition and revision before the actual painting.  This particular work went through several revisions before I settled on what I am working on now.  And as I work, I realize that composition is not accidental, it is hard focused work (for me anyway).  And the more I focus on the task, the more involved I become in the creation of the final art form.

I cannot express adequately the deep sense of joy and gratitude I feel for this space and time to think, to reflect, to compose, to paint, to blog.  I feel that time has slowed down considerably, and there is so much more Quality in the day now.

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.

Nothing “Black” About this Friday

November 29, 2013
Edom Shed Cafe Watercolor in Progress

Edom Shed Cafe Watercolor in Progress

As time is measured by the lapse of ideas, we may grow of our own force, as the mussel adds new circles to its shell.  My thoughts secrete the lime.  We may grow old with the vigor of youth.  Are we not always in youth so long as we face heaven?  We may always live in the morning of our days.  To him who seeks early, the sun never gets over the edge of the hill, but his rays fall slanting forever.  His wise sayings are like the chopping of wood and crowing of cocks in the dawn.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, February 7, 1841.

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is  a beginning, that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under eery deep a lower deep opens.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles” (published in 1841)

I couldn’t believe the clock read 5:50 when I awoke in this morning’s darkness.  The covers were warm, the air felt chilly, and I was filled with these warm sentiments of turning over and letting sleep take me back under.  But my mind began sorting out the details of the new day and all its possibilities.  This would not be a day for post-Thanksgiving shopping.  It would be a day of preparations for an all-day Saturday art event.  An unfinished watercolor was waiting on the drafting table.  A stack of prints and greeting cards were waiting to be matted and sleeved.  Crates of art work were lined up in the workroom, waiting to be loaded into the Jeep.  A suitcase was open and ready.  And I realized that I was not going back to sleep.

By 7:00 a.m., the shower had happened, laundry was started in the washer, a breakfast of sausage and eggs had been polished off, the kitchen tidied and dishwasher started, and I was at my writing table, reading from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau.   How serendipitous to find these words.  Immediately I recalled an essay of Emerson I had loved from so many years back, and I’ll be darned if those ideas weren’t published in the same year.  The shared communion of Emerson and Thoreau is well-documented.  Oftentimes, I forget which one I am quoting, their ideas and vocabulary co-mingle so seamlessly.

I’m glad I responded to the Oracle and rose before the morning light.  I’m ready to get back into the studio and see what I can do with this Shed Cafe painting.

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.

Thanksgiving–Thankful for Some Quiet Space and Time to Watercolor

November 28, 2013
Beginning Watercolor of The Shed Cafe.  Edom, Texas

Beginning Watercolor of The Shed Cafe. Edom, Texas

There is in me something that is often stronger than my body, which is often enlivened by it.  In some people the inner spark scarcely exists.  I find it dominant in me.  Without it, I should die, but it will consume me (doubtless I speak of imagination, which masters and leads me).

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, October 6, 1822

The holidays could not arrive too soon.  Since I walked out of the high school Tuesday afternoon, I have managed to teach a college course, tidy-up three rooms in my house, tend to several pressing business affairs, prepare a Thanksgiving feast and even linger over a new watercolor.  This is my third and final of a series focussing on the Edom, Texas business district.  In two days, I’ll be there for the entire day, painting and (hopefully) selling my art work.

The Shed Cafe is undoubtedly my favorite place to dine in all of east Texas.  Every fall, when I attend the Edom Festival of the Arts, my highlight is taking meals from The Shed.  The entrees and desserts alone are grand enough, but I swear that every vegetable side they offer tastes like it came out of my Grandmother’s garden, and her garden vegetables have always been my standard for gauging the quality of restaurant foods.  Right now, I am stuffed with Thanksigiving food, but I cannot wait to spend the entire day Saturday inside The Shed Cafe.

My quiet reading times during vacation have been focussed on the Journals of Eugene Delacroix, French Romantic painter from the nineteenth century.  The older I get, the more I appreciate the great artists of history who cared enough to journal, took their work seriously enough to commit their theories to writing.  Delacroix was undoubtedly a great mind blooming on this side of the European Enlightement, and as I pore over his pages, I am frequently stunned by his insight.  I plan to share some of those on the blog as the holiday unfolds.

Thanks always for reading.  How wonderful to have this time to pause and reflect, and be thankful for the gift of life.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

New Year’s Eve, Morning Musings

December 31, 2012
Still Life over Morning Coffee

Still Life over Morning Coffee

For nature is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed perfume and glittered as for the frolic of the numphs is overspread with melancholy today.  Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

I was awakened in the pre-dawn by my cat chasing spooks throughout the house.  An aging cat, I had not seen or heard him sprint across the house in over a year.  He made up for it this morning, and finally I had to get up.  It was impossible to return to sleep.

It is 40 degrees outside, dark and wet with the rain.  Stepping out into the cold to put the trash at the curb, I recalled the Emerson thought posted above, and was glad to realize that such weather is not dampening my spirit today.  New Year’s Eve always turns me pensive, but not depressive.  I am grateful to be alive, grateful to have a creative surge welling up within me, grateful to be surrounded with great books and another week of holiday before returning to school.

On dark, cold, overcast, rainy days, a man such as I could just as easily feel a sinking depression as he could feel the desire to put on a pot of coffee, open a book, or begin a new watercolor.  Today, it is the latter for me.

I put my watercolor on an easel in the bedroom last night, beside my writing desk, so I could look at it until I fell asleep.  And, in the same vein as Hemingway’s sentiments, I was glad that I had stopped painting right in the middle of something that really held my interest.  It will make it easier to return today.

However, I hear Thoreau whispering through the darkness, and I know that I must linger awhile longer over his Journal.  So to the Journal I return, and then perhaps to a first draft of my own New Year’s Resolutions (I usually have them underway before now), and then, back to the Cave to paint.

What a splendid morning for inspiration!  Thanks for reading.

Picking up the Brush Again

August 7, 2012

Historic Church

It has been more than three weeks since I last posted, since I last took up the watercolor brush.  Much has happened around me that has impeded my work and desire to pursue watercolor.  I’m trying to find my way back.

I’m glad that summer school has ended, and I have a little under two weeks before reporting back to school for the fall term.  During this interim, I did allow myself a short vacation, read a great deal of great literature, and scribbled many pages in my personal journal.

I look forward to getting back into plein air activity, but with Texas offering triple-digit temperatures daily, it appears that that is going to have to wait awhile longer.  Going through my archives, I have selected some historic church sites that I have photographed in my travels over the years, and thought I would give this one a try.  This church sits in the historic district of Leadville, Colorado, and I have photographed it on two different occasions while visiting that mountain town.  I am using my laptop to view the image as closely as I can, and truly regret that I am not on the actual premises (it would probably be just as cool outside there as it is inside my air-conditioned home here!).  But, we work with what we have.

As I resume this blog, I am having serious thoughts about sharing what I’ve been reading the past few weeks from Henry David Thoreau, as I read from his Journal and from his Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.  After all, it is Thoreau and his writings that have given me this impetus to pick up the brush again.  And for that, I am grateful to this beautiful man.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll be back tomorrow with progress on this 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch.  Today is my first day back in the studio, and I’m glad for this moment.

Lingering over a Courthouse Watercolor Experiment

June 16, 2012

Tarrant County Courthouse

What a whirlwind of a day!  It began at 5:00 this morning, in the quiet of my man cave, pondering words from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau.  From there I had the quiet privilege of bending over this Tarrant County courthouse watercolor that I began only a few days ago.  Then I had the privilege of teaching a two-hour watercolor lesson in my studio.   Next came some computer work, helping a friend digitize his watercolor and format it to fit onto a greeting card.  From there it was mad dashes to an art supply store, a frame shop (twice), a gallery (twice), a grocery store, a tire center to get mine rotated, a gas station, laundry, packing, gathering my art supplies and gear, and now here I am, at nearly 7 p.m., needing to get some sleep as I plan to rise before dawn and hit the road for the seven-hour drive to the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.

One item I was unable to cross off my agenda was finishing this courthouse watercolor.  I had fervently hoped to finish it during the morning hours, and if not, to have time and energy to complete it tonight.  That will not happen.  I will just have to let it sit and compost for a week before I can take it up again.  For the next week, I will trade in studio work for plein air work (a trade I am always happy to make).

So, until tomorrow dear friends, the next words you read from me will be coming from Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Thanks for reading.

I journal because I am alone;

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.