Posts Tagged ‘Julia Cameron’

Constructing my own Narrative

June 21, 2019

church hotel 2

“Early Sunday Stroll” No. 3 of the Turvey’s Corner 63050 Series

There was no culture, you know, in Spoon River,

And I burned with shame and held my peace.

                                . . . and pray for another

Birth in the world, with all of Spoon River

Rooted out of my soul.

Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology

For the past week, I have spent every day chipping away at this watercolor of the view along Palestine’s N. Queen Street that passes between the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the Redlands Hotel (the Gallery at Redlands is on the first floor of the historic hotel).  Along with my painting has come a surge of reading and writing.

Earlier this year I purchased Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again. This book encourages the recently retired to compose their memoirs. While working on mine, I decided to re-shape the narratives of my memories into fiction stories to accompany the paintings I am working on for my new project Turvey’s Corner 63050. This series is my own autobiography in paintings and reworked fiction narratives. The painting above is the third of this new series.

While working on my stories, and reading for inspiration, I struck gold this week, mostly from Rich Karlgaard’s Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement , Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology and Larry McMurtry, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond. 

Karlgaard wrote that late bloomers are natural storytellers. He added: “In our personal lives, we think in stories, talk in stories, communicate in stories, and dream in stories.”

It’s safe to say that the default mode of human cognition is narrative. We instinctively make reason out of chaos and assign causality to all the random events that make up our lives. Stories help us do that. . . . We impose a narrative structure on otherwise random sequences of events until they cohere in a way that makes sense to us and that we can manage.

Reading these words set off a firestorm of creative eros within me and I found myself pouring out my memories on the pages of my journal and then reshaping them into fiction narratives. Opening the Spoon River Anthology, I  began reading the lengthy Introduction by John E. Hallwas and found with delight the following testimony of the editor who discovered Masters and published his work in his own magazine:

But it was left to Edgar Lee Masters to take all this, or as much of it as suited his purposes, and fuse it and shape it into an artistic creation. . . . He saw and knew his Spoon River so well that when he came to write it out of himself, with his personality added to what he saw and knew, he wrote the life of man everywhere, or at least everywhere in America.

William Marion Reedy, Reedy’s Mirror, November 20, 1914

For the past twenty-four hours, I have found it difficult deciding between painting and reading Spoon River Anthology. So much of the testimony matches up with experiences I have known growing up in my part of the midwest. In the weeks ahead, I hope to continue adding stories and paintings to the blog as I probe this new venture. While working on this, I feel the presence of others looking over my shoulder and affirming my efforts, namely the great writers Thornton Wilder, Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, William Faulkner and Garrison Keillor. Hazel also watches . . .

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Hazel, my favorite Jack Russell Terrier, overseeing the blog

Number 1

No. 1 in the Series

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No. 2 in the Series

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Morning Coffee with Dave and the Journal

January 10, 2019

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Science is not enough, nor art;

In this work patience plays a part.

A quiet spirit plods and plods at length;

Nothing but time can give the brew its strength.

Goethe, Faust

Writing my memoir has forced me to spend more time thinking over my past, and currently I am working on the second installment from the Julia Cameron assignment (ages 6-10). That period, of course, comprises my sense of lostness during elementary school. Throughout those years, I never felt that I was on track as far as what was expected from good students. I was a daydreamer, and seemed to absorb very little from classroom instruction. I certainly did not feel that I was one of the “smart ones” and my grades certainly were nothing to admire.

Once I reached the university, I realized I was going to have to grow up and accept responsibility if I was to remain in school. I worked hard. Damned hard. And I felt that I was twelve years behind my colleagues. And forty years behind my professors. When I talked to trusted advisors about my deficiencies and my desire to acquire knowledge, they would smile smugly and simply say “It will come. Be patient.” It did.

Fifteen years later, in my first year of teaching high school, I read for the first time the poetry of Walt Whitman. These stanzas from “Song of the Open Road” went right to the core of things for me:

Here is the test of wisdom.

Wisdom is not finally tested in schools, 

Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another not

      having it,

.    .    .

Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,

They may prove well in lecture rooms, yet not prove at all under

           the spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing

           currents.

I knew, as a rookie teacher, that I was no longer lacking in knowledge and wisdom when it came to instructing the youth. But what I had never realized before that day reading Whitman was this:  There is no royal road to wisdom.  We live in an age that demands shortcuts, that wants to know the bottom line now, right now. And the reality of life is that there are things, including wisdom, that require time, much time.

When I was a student in public school, the craze was speed-reading. Courses were offered in speed reading. I always thought that I was a slow reader. One day I realized that yes, I am a slow, deliberate reader. I am a plodder, not a quick thinker. Quality ideas, for me, require time.

This has been a good morning for me at the desk. Last night I took from my shelf a pair of journals from the year 2017, and perused them out of curiosity. I read with delight the pages of notes I recorded from my first reading of Goethe’s Faust. I close this blog with yet another of his sterling quotes that paints the picture of my experience when moments in the study are at their height:

When in our narrow den

The friendly lamp glows on the shelf,

Then light pervades our breast again

And fills the heart that knows itself.

Reason again begins \to speak,

Hope blooms again with ancient force,

One longs for life and one would seek

Its rivers and, alas, its source.

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.

When the Muses Whisper in the Night

April 12, 2015
Making Decisions for an Approaching Art Festival

Making Decisions for an Approaching Art Festival

That part of us that creates best is not a driven, disciplined automaton, functioning from willpower, with a booster of pride to back it up. This is operating out of self-will. You know the image: rising at dawn with military precision, saluting the desk, the easel, the drawing board . . . 

Over any extended period of time, being an artist requires enthusiasm more than discipline. Enthusiasm is not an emotional state. It is a spiritual commitment, a loving surrender to our creative process, a loving recognition of all the creativity around us. . .

True, our artist may rise at dawn to greet the typewriter or easel in the morning stillness. But this event has more to do with a child’s love of secret adventure than with ironclad discipilne. What other people may view as discipline is actually a play date that we make with our artist child: “I’ll meet you at 6:00 A.M. and we’ll goof around with that script, painting, sculpture . . .”

Our artist child can best be enticed to work by treating work as play.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way 

Julia’s words here resonate with my adult life in ways that put a genuine spring in my step tonight. This blog has been virtually writing itself since Saturday evening, which didn’t actually end until I treated myself to breakfast at IHOP at 4 a.m. and then staggered wearily to my bed. Over the past few weeks I have felt imprisoned as I’ve gathered, sorted and inputted into the computer a year’s worth of receipts, records and figures to file my taxes. I was so beleaguered with all those details that by the time I finished and filed yesterday, the first thing I did was organize and record everything from the first quarter of this year. I’ll be damned if I ever let myself get caught like this again. I could report tomorrow to file my 2015 taxes if the period ended today. Working on taxes was grueling labor and required unfaltering discipline (because I wasn’t doing it throughout the year). But for me, reading, journaling and painting are play time, and though I have friends who have called me “disciplined” I see no discipine here–this is fun. This is recreation, and I love it.

I begin this post with the photo above, as I’ll be participating in a local art festival next weekend, and the time has arrived to gather my collection and make some decisions as to what to display in the booth and what to leave at home. A few paintings will need to be completed and matted, it appears. It felt great to look over my recent body of work once again, and pick up the brush to resume painting. It felt good to draw again, dream again, visualize again.

Reading and Writing Journal Reflections for Pure Pleasure

Reading and Writing Journal Reflections for Pure Pleasure

After a few hours of painting and planning, I then left the studio behind and retired to my recently reconfigured room down the hall to resume reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. This novel really engaged me a year ago, reading a copy from my school library. This past Christmas I purchased my own and have been taking heavy notes and recording countless observations from the text. I hold little in common with the writer’s philosophy, but this fiction story shows an outstanding knowledge of modern architecture, and the intrigue of the plot I find very gripping. As the night moved on, my imagination was unhinged and I truly enjoyed thinking over some of the excellent sentences recorded. Julia Cameron certainly called it right, when she spoke of these sessions as “play.”

Drawing Near the End of Another A. P. Art History Term

Drawing Near the End of Another A. P. Art History Term

My A. P. and Regular Art History classes are moving into their final grading period, so this evening I’ve returned to reading and planning the final sessions. The twentieth century has always fascinated me, and I like rising to the challenge of presenting the myriad of complex and short-run theories that stormed through that era. Tomorrow we will resume surrealism and I love talking about psychic automatism and how Roberto Matta passed that love on to Robert Motherwell and the Abstract Expressionists. I never know exactly how to convey to the students my deep love for the contributions of Motherwell. No one would see any visual symptoms of his art in my own creations, but his passion for study and writing are matters I feel on the deepest level. He remains one of the very few artists I know who was passionate about the writing and ideas expressed by James Joyce,calling him the “Shakespeare of modernism.” He said Joyce gave him the impetus to paint, and he has done the same for me. One of many reasons I love the study of art history is because the discipline frequently takes me into the realms of philosophy and literature.

Wading Through Several Decades of Journals

Wading Through Several Decades of Journals

Last Thursday, during a break from my lecturing, I picked up a stack of my old journals, and leafing through them, was surprised again and again to read observationss I had written so long ago that I no longer recall even thinking them. Sometimes I worry about that, wondering if aging is already causing me to lose vital memories. Thank God the journals served as nets for trapping some of these ideas in flight. But how exactly I can recall and organize things written across more than 130 volumes dating back to 1987 I have yet to determine. I would love for my collection of journals to serve as maps for organizing wonder. As they are, they present a lengthy chronological highway of disjointed details. Nevertheless, like old friends in conversation, they kept me company last night and into the wee hours of the morning over coffee until I decided to go for breakfast.

Back to Studio Work Sunday Afternoon

Back to Studio Work Sunday Afternoon

Reading portions of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town has induced me to return to some photos taken long ago of an old farmhouse I occupied back in 1987. These photos were taken within the last ten years, showing a structure ready to collapse. The interior is no longer inhabitable, but the century-old house was still livable for me in the late 80’s. The memories of living there, while I was in the dissertation phase of my Ph.D. studies, are sweet mingled with bitter. Nevertheless the worthier ones make me want to paint the house and land again, hopefully reviving some Proustian thoughts that deserve to be revisited. Perhaps in a later blog I’ll talk more about those things, as this painting grows.

muse 6

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.

Art as Spelunking?

March 30, 2015
Stolen Afternoon Moments to Resume work on the latest Watercolor

Stolen Afternoon Moments to Resume work on the latest Watercolor

Art is an act of tuning in and dropping down the well. It is as though all the stories, painting, music, performances in the world live just under the surface of our normal consciousness. Like an underground river, they flow through us as a stream of ideas that we can tap down into. As artists, we drop down the well into the stream. We hear what’s down there and we act on it–more like taking dictation than anything fancy having to do with art.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

The bulk of my school day was unusual, but worked well for me. It was the first day of EOC testing, and my assignment was to keep a classroom full of 10th-11th grade students relatively quiet and engaged in homework assignments for five hours, while a large portion of our building was testing. The students followed the instruction, and I found myself seated in front of them, working on ideas, reading five volumes of my old journals from 2001-2002, and digging down to the roots of some things that have lingered with me for decades. The students remained engaged in their tasks, and I was free to explore ideas. I couldn’t have ordered up a more perfecct agenda for the day. It was a very productive and appreciated five hours.

However, EOC testing, plus a schedule of regular classes afterward, leads to a much longer and draining day. By the time I did get home I was exhausted, but when I bent over this watercolor, my enthusiasm and energy seemed to rise once again. I’m focusing on the damaged framework exterior of this abandoned gas station, and find myself getting lost in a myriad of details and textures in the shadows of all that wood, glass, dust and grime. I’m enjoying myself.

I love the Julia Cameron quote above, and it dovetailed nicely with some notes I had recorded a decade-and-a-half ago from my readings of Heidegger. I love his metaphor of following a path into the dense, dark woods, making one’s way to a clearing in the midst where light suddenly breaks through. I have been excited by that picture for years. As my philosophy class is wrapping up the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment, I like calling up Heidegger’s metaphors regarding the pursuit of knowledge, hacking one’s way through the thickets, following dark paths, and feeling the experience of epiphany once the light breaks through. His German words are rich indeed: Weg, Holzwege, Lichtung.  Those along with Kant’s essay Was ist Aufklärung have always fueled my imagination.

The reason for my gas station subject is that I was visited by an idea as I was about to fall asleep the night before I left for the college tour, that I should return to some primal subjects of my past that I haven’t pursued in a few years. Hence the abandoned filling station with all those attendant memories from my childhood. I’m experiencing some deep feelings as I work on this one, and am interested in seeing where the painting takes me.

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.

Drawing Into the Night

December 6, 2014
I Finally Got the Arrangement I Wanted

I Finally Got the Arrangement I Wanted

Something or someone wants to enter the world through us, and we are the portals that allow that entrance to take place.

Julia Cameron, The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch

My energy tapered off somewhat when the late afternoon arrived.  That happens frequently with me in my daily round, a sort of dead zone that drops uninvited into the fading day.  I refused to succumb this time, and chose instead to take up a comfortable reading position in a little-used room in the rear of my house, a place where I store most of my art work and all my musical instruments.  I have finally set up a nice little reading nook in the corner and decided to cozy up to some of Julia Cameron’s writings.  I could understand how one would read arrogance into that quote above, but I found it humbling.  As I sat and meditated on those words, I thought of the still life arrangement waiting in the garage studio and the notion that converting that assembly into a watercolor image was going to depend upon me.  I rose quickly and went back to work, choosing this time to work on hot-press watercolor paper (something I gave up around 2006).  I thought I would be daunted by the smooth surface, but I found myself happy with the ease in which the pencil glided over the surface, like an ice skater.

 Drawing is the dividing of a plane surface.

Robert Motherwell

Earlier today, two inspiring friends of mine, Gail and Dan, offered a metal fly box for me to insert into this arrangment.  I have an excellent collection of vintage flies, but all my fly boxes are modern, and I did not want to introduce any of them into this traditional assembly.  I’m grateful for the loan, and was even more grateful for the fasicnating conversation they offered, as they always do.  It was hard to leave their home and return to my own private space.

The hour is drawing rather late, and the day has been a long, but productive one.  I’ll probably let the drawing rest for the night and go after it with fresh vigor in the morning.  I think I hear the whisper of neglected books from inside my house.  Reading sounds like a wonderful decompression at the close of the day.

Thanks always for checking out my blog.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Meditations Ranging from Tennyson to the Venerable Bede

June 18, 2014
Small Collage Study of Charles Dickens

Small Collage Study of Charles Dickens

Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the sorm of spring, not afraid that afterwards summer may not come.

Rainer marie Rilke

I have spent a goodly portion of today in a state of suspended eudaimonia, an excellent spirit of good will.  I cannot explain how these feelings emerged, but I accept them as a legitimate gift.

Summer school began yesterday.  And in my senior years, I confess that there emerges all those usual possibiliites to waterski over this sumer task, after all, it’s summer school.  These are seniors.  The subject is British literature.  How many teenagers are going to be serious in such a study?  Yes, those feelings are real.  But I could not take the task lightly.  I had not soaked myself in the British tradition for a little over a year.  Instead of pulling out all the old, worn lesson plans, I dove into the texts with a renewed sense of anticipation.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

I chose this time to introduce the course on the first day with Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Victorian sage, rather than Beowulf.  And when the moment arrived to lecture on Tennyson’s life and contribution, I felt that unexplainable joy of standing in that room as a connection, a conduit, joining that beautiful sage to the imaginations and sentiments of these high school seniors.  The students asked questions.  They answered questions.  The offered follow-up observations.  In short, they engaged.  And then they wrote essays from the heart, essays I read with bosom-swelling joy.

I don’t always know this kind of success.  How precious it was this time to read written confessions from young, engaged minds, acknowledging with Ulysses that “I am a part of all that I have met.”  And how touching to hear their affirmations after reading “In Memoriam: A. H. H.”  When students admit that it is “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” I can think of no higher affirmation of the educational process.  Listening to them musing after today’s lecture that no one ever gets anywhere in life by quitting, by folding their cards and saying “life isn’t fair” moved me.  One by one, they observed that Tennyson had been dealt a poor hand from the start, but he got where he did by playing his hand, again and again, willing to try again after each loss, and ultimately to win.

This afternoon, my heart was so flooded by the student responses on day two, that I could not simply dash through my old materials on the Venerable Bede.  I sat at my writing desk for hours, until the material became new and fresh to me, again.  I read, I wrote, I re-wrote, I tweaked previous talking points and lecture skeletons on Bede and his Ecclesiastical History.  And then I got stung again:

You are sitting feasting with your eldermen and thanes in winter time; the fire is burning on the hearth in the middle of the hall and all inside is warm, while outside the wintry storms of rain and snow are raging; and a sparrow flies swiftly through the hall.  It enters in at one door and quickly flies out through the other.  For the few moments it is inside, the storm and wintry tempest cannot touch it, but after the briefest moment of calm, it flits from your sight, out of the wintry storm and into it again.  So this life of man appears but for a moment; what follows or indeed what went before, we know not at all.

No doubt much of this afternoon’s enthusiasm in the study was due to my revisitation of studies I pursued during my seminary days of the 1970′s and 80′s.  But it was new today, because I am not the person I was in the 70′s and 80′s.  This is a new era, a refreshingly new chapter.  The text cited above from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History recalled a text I encountered during my dissertation days, nearly thirty years ago, from the Wisdom of Solomon:

All of them passed like a shadow and like a fleeting rumor; like a ship traversing the heaving water, of which, when it has passed, no trace can be found, no path of its keel in the waves.  Or like a bird flying through the air; no evidence of its course is to be found–but the fluid air, lashed by the beat of pinions, and cleft by the rushing force of speeding wings, is traversed.  And afterward no mark of passage can be found in it.  Or as, when an arrow has been shot at a mark, the parted air straightway flows together again so that none discerns the way it went through.  Even so we, once born, abruptly came to nought and held no sign of virtue to display . . . 

Dinnertime arrived, and I was too “wired” to retreat to the kitchen.  Instead I drove to Stovall Park in south Arlington, surprised by rainfall and cool, strong winds that pushed the thermometer down to 79 degrees.  I sat in the shelter of the pavilion, enjoyed the outside with its smells of a freshly-washed landscape accompanied by whispers of the wind and my own soul fluttering its wings of genuine happiness and contentment.  I dont’ even know how long I stayed there, but I filled pages of my journal and read with delight some pages from Julia Cameron’s Finding Water and Anthony Storr’s Solitude.  

With a quickening pulse, I push out the paragraphs on this blog, grateful to have some kind of an outlet for an event today of which no one else knew.

Thanks for reading,
I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to keep from being completely alone.

Finding Water

June 12, 2014
A Rainy Morning in the Studio

A Dark, Rainy Morning in the Studio

Over the years, I have learned that there is a flow of ideas that we as artists can tap into.  The flow of creativity is a constant.  We are the ones who are fickle or fearful.

Julia Cameron, Finding Water

I never know when I sit down, just what I am going to write.  I make no plan; it just comes, and I don’t know where it comes from.

D. H. Lawrence

I guess I use this “Finding Water” title for today’s blog with tongue-in-cheek.   Julia Cameron uses the phrase “finding water” to describe an artist in search of the next idea for expression.  Actually, that phrase does not apply to me this morning, literally or figuratively.  Outside it rains and is dark and delicious.  Inside, I have already”found water” for my next series of paintings.  Though I couldn’t sleep till nearly 4:00 a.m., I found myself rising this morning around 8:00, embracing the dimness of the rainy light filtering through my studio windows, and filling my own interior with steaming cups of coffee, the music of Leonard Cohen, and some new watercolor studies with Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth as my mentors.  I recall that Woody Allen said in an interview that he was never out of ideas for a movie, never blocked.  He always has the next movie or two already in his brain when he is wrapping up his current project.  I believe he has averaged a couple of movies per year for decades now, or at least one a year.  I too have trouble sympathizing with the notion of “blocked artist.”  I know how it is to feel depressed emotionally and to perceive my own attempts as inadequate, but I am never at a dearth for ideas for painting.

Having finished a large watercolor, I am now trying to unscramble a host of images that have been fighting for my attention for weeks now.  Yesterday afternoon, I rolled the dice and sat in a Starbuck’s,  making tonal sketches of Edward Hopper’s watercolor Marshall’s House from 1932.  This morning I decided to give it a try, learn a few things about Hopper’s use of color combinations, and attempt my own finishing details (Hopper, unlike Wyeth, has a paucity of detail in his watercolors and oils).

The moment I began sketching this out on the 300-lb. watercolor paper, I delighted in the scratch of the sharpened pencil across the rough paper surface.

To me, pencil drawing is a very emotional, very quick, very abrupt medium. . . . You must not be afraid of it, though.  Pencil is sort of like fencing or shooting.  You make a thrust at your opponent yet you must be ready to recover into the on-guard position, and when you thrust you must not think that you will miss the mark.  Your opponent may parry, so when you thrust you’ve got to put your heart and soul into it and then, in a split second, withdraw.  This is very much to me like pencil drawing.  You’ve got to dart with a sharp point and hit it.  Either you hit it or miss it, but you must have no hesitation.  

I love the preliminary drawing stage of a watercolor.  But I also love drawing right into the pigment itself, wet or dry.  And now I have enough paint on the surface that I can take up the pencil and add layers of drawing over the planes of color.  This is exciting to me, always.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Sweet Solitude in the Studio

May 30, 2014
Friday Night in the Studio

Friday Night in the Studio

I am here because “art” brought me here.  Obedient, I came.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Still Later in the Night

Still Later in the Night

Artists toil in cells all over Manhattan.  We have a monk’s devotion to our work–and, like monks, some of us will be visited by visions and others will toil out our days knowing glory only at a distance, kneeling in the chapel but never receiving the visitation of a Tony, an Oscar, a National Book Award.  And yet the still, small voice may speak as loud in us as in any.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s I toiled late into the night in the minister’s study, writing sermons, preparing Bible lectures and writing papers for seminary classes.  From the 1990’s until now I have exchanged that discipline for the production of lectures and lesson plans for university and high school classes.  Since about 2006, I have also spent thousands of solitary hours in the painter’s studio.  The one constant throughout all those decades of creative solitude has been the conviction that revelation was about to happen, that a visitation would occur, that darkness would yield to the light.  And I still live that way.  This has been an amazingly quiet Friday night, after a noisy day in public school.  The weekend offers organized plein air activity, and I plan to participate in that as well.  Time spent with other painters is always time well-spent.  But I would not have exchanged the sweetness of this evening for anything.  Julia Cameron wrote it well–artists toil in cells like monks, expecting the glory of some kind of visitation.

I am nearing completion on this barn I encountered in Ovilla, Texas a couple of weekends ago, and am also finding joy in a large painting of an historic Louisiana house.  The quiet of the evening has found ways to nurture me and affirm that what I am doing is quality work.  That alone is sufficient reward, filling me with a sense of eudaimonia.

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.

 

The Sanctity of an Artist’s Working Space

February 25, 2014
Working on a Small Watercolor Tonight

Working on a Small Watercolor Tonight

I seem to have only been like a boy playing on the seashore, diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Isaac Newton

Putting more space between tonight and my recent illness, I am finding a renewed delight, tinkering with watercolor projects.  The shock of discovery is returning, and I feel like a small boy again, oftentimes my eyes widening with suprise at what comes out of the end of my brush, or what pools up on the watercolor page.  And all the while I work on this watercolor, I feel ecstasy in knowing that I am a part of an extensive tradition, an endless line of creative spirits.  In the stillness of this studio, I work while listening to the voices of Robert Motherwell, Willem De Kooning, Andrew Wyeth and Joseph Campbell on the VHS and DVD documentaries that I have stockpiled over the years.  I love being a part of something much larger than myself, something much larger than this moment.  I sense an immortality in all of this.  I have read, over and over again, Julia Cameron’s work The Artist’s Way.  Writing from her Upper West Side Manhattan environ in that day, she pushed out these words: “Artists toil in cells all over Manhattan.  We have a monk’s devotion to our work–and, like monks, some of us will be visited by visions and others will toil out our days knowing glory only at a distance . . .”  I love the sanctuary feel that floods my studio space in the night when things get quiet and I have only my thoughts moving about as I bend over the watercolor and explore its dynamics.  There is so much waiting to be explored, that I keep coming back to Newton’s testimony that the small boy turns over pebbles while the ocean of truth waits beside.

ART STILL HAS TRVTH.  TAKE REFVGE THERE.  These immortal words of Matthew Arnold are chiseled over the portal of the Saint Louis Art Museum.   I have read them on repeated visits to that “cathedral of art.”  And I take them to heart tonight.  My working art space has become the cleft in the rock, the shelter from the storm, the safe haven, my refuge.  Life has had its difficulties lately, but I’m grateful for sanctuary this night, for the quiet hours to pursue art, while outside the temperatures continue to drop and the rain continues to fall.

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.

Enfolded and Nurtured in the “Claustrum”

January 13, 2014
In the Cloister with Hopper

In the Cloister with Hopper

Cloister” (from the Latin claustrum, “enclosed place”) connotes being shut away from the world.  Architecturally, the medieval church cloister embodied the seclusion of the spiritual life, the vita contemplativa.  At Moissac, as elsewhere, the cloister provided the monks (and nuns) with a foretaste of Paradise.

Fred S. Kleiner, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages

. . . I feared for the necessary time and privacy to make my own art–without which personal experience I could not continue to help others.  . . . Inch by inch, I retreated to the solitude of my personal creative laboratory–the still, quiet place within myself where I could make art and learn from the making of it.  . . .  Artists toil in cells all over Manhattan.  We have a monk’s devotion to our work–and, like monks, some of us will be visited by visions and others will toil out our days knowing glory only at a distance, kneeling in the chapel . . . 

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

I could not have asked for a superior beginning to this day.  Waking at 5:20 a.m. without an alarm, I was able to enter my classroom one full hour before the 7:35 Advanced Placement Art History class arrived.  The school was still quiet and dark in the pre-dawn, and I needed some time to look at the email I received from Courtney Jordan’s “Artist Daily” (I am a happy subscriber).  It seemed fortuitous that the article was titled “Drawing Lessons from Edward Hopper.”  I happened to bring to school with me the catalogue from the current Dallas Museum of Art exhibit: “Hopper/Drawing”.  It was my  intention to study the book and continue sketching architecture.  Thanks to the catalogue, the timely morning email, and an hour of space, I was able to do some thumbnail sketches of architecture and read further the materials I have on Edward Hopper’s drawing habits.

Our focus in A. P. Art History today was Chartres Cathedral and the notion of sacred space.  And the sacredness attached to my morning watch in the cloister had a way of remaining with me throughout what would turn out to be a torturous school day, followed by hours of afternoon and evening prep for tomorrow’s classes (totally different than today’s classes).  I am on the same page as Julia Cameron.  I believe that my only hope for being an effective educator is having something to share that goes beyond nuts-and-bolts preparation work and meetings.  And that cultivation of a life worth sharing comes only from moments of solitude.  Preparation of self is much more valuable than preparation of lesson plans.  I managed to open the day with the necessary quiet and space to prepare myself, and now here I am at 10:09 p.m., grateful to have some silence before bedtime.  I’ve worked some more on the Fort Worth flatiron building that I began yesterday.  The cornice work is painstaking and tedious, but I am loving the precision and detail of it all, and taking my sweet time rendering the corbels.  It’s still early, but this small 9 x 12″ piece is already taking hold of me.

O.K.  Thanks for reading.  I’m going to return to the watercolor before I get sleepy.  Moments such as this are rare these days.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.