Posts Tagged ‘Lost Generation’

Artistic Inspiration from Ernest Hemingway

December 8, 2012
Interior of my Man Cave

Interior of my Man Cave

This is a delicious moment on a quiet Texas Saturday afternoon.  I’m sitting in my Man Cave with the garage door open, watching the occasional dead leaf flutter in and out of the waning sunlight across the neighbor’s yard.  The afternoon was a flurry of activity as I prepared more cards and matted additional prints to take to an art event that begins at 6:00 this evening (hopefully) my final art show of the year.

I arrived about half an hour early this morning for the event load-in.  I had no idea what kind of Gift awaited me in that space of thirty minutes.  Taking a seat outside the barn of the K Star Ranch in Mansfield, Texas, I looked out across the sprawling land and saw the makings of a winter landscape beneath those overcast skies.  The rolling countryside could just as well have been Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and I could just barely visualize the image of an aged Andrew Wyeth hobbling gingerly along the distant fence line.  Wyeth was on my mind, because I had spent some time early this morning watching a documentary about his life while enjoying a country breakfast of fried potatoes & onions, sausage, cheese and coffee.  The cool, crisp morning that greeted me felt like winter already, though the official day is still a couple of weeks away.  I had to pull the comforter a little tighter about my face as I dozed in the pre-dawn, and noticed that the cat was sleeping closer to me than usual as well.  The house was quite chilly.  And then later, as I sat at the ranch, I noted the muted colors of the winter landscape and the heaviness of the dark sky.

While waiting for the load-in time to arrive, I mused about my recent work and wondered what kind of painting I should pursue next.  I wasn’t sure at that point.  I then resumed my reading of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, which fortunately I had brought along with me.  And these were the words that greeted me:

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next.  That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made.  I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry.  You have always written before and you will write now.  All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence that you know.”  So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.

What a relief swept over me!  How splendid when a writer delivers an oracle fitting for a visual artist.  Though at the moment I was unsure of what to pursue next in watercolor, I felt that reassurance–I have always painted before and I will paint again.  All I need is to lay down one true stroke with the pencil or the watercolor brush, and then go on from there, as I have done thousands of times before.  So simple, yet so penetrating.  I felt a genuine gratitude to Hemingway for speaking to me in the quiet of the morning the way he did.

One of my philosophy students yesterday shared a journal entry of a sign she had seen in a bookstore window in Paris–The fact is, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are more real to me than my next-door neighbors.

Well, I feel that way this afternoon about Hemingway and Wyeth.

Thanks for reading.

A Close Second to a Parisian Sidewalk Cafe

February 24, 2011

Sidewalk Cafe Life at Eureka Springs

Texas temperatures are getting better–80 degrees and sunny today.  My garage has turned into an art studio/man cave for me, with a portable TV/VCR playing an assortment of tapes for my listening pleasure while I paint–lectures on Friedrich Nietzsche, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams to name just a few.  I feel myself entering this composition that I’ve tinkered with for several months now.  I can almost hear the voices around the table discussing poetry, philosophy, theology, books–all the artistic elements that keep us alive and alert.

This setting is in downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where it was my profound privilege to teach a week of plein air watercolor classes for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.  It was my first time, and I have an application pending there now, hoping with all I have that there will be a class again this year.  My two favorite towns so far are Waxahachie, Texas and Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for on-site watercoloring.  Both towns boast streets lined with Victorian architecture, flower beds, cute shops around the downtown district, and compositions for painting in any direction one looks.

This particular painting is huge by my standards–30 x 22″–and it involves elements that are outside my comfort zone–people and a myriad of details.  I have avoided genre painting for a number of years, realizing that there are countless artists “out there” who do it so exceedingly well.  But I recently read something from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau that convinced me to go for this: “There is always room and occasion enough for a true book on any subject, as there is room for more light on the brightest day, and more rays will not interfere with the first.”  All I had to do was substitute “painting” for “book,” and I got his point.  My contribution to this genre of painting will in no way diminish what has been done by others, and yes, there is room in this world of art for me to contribute as well.  So . . . with that in mind, I was liberated to go after this composition.

Today was quite a full day–high school classes by day, a trip to the veterinarian this afternoon, and a college class tonight.  But there is still time to engage in the arts, and I so love returning to my studio, even when the day has been filled with “work.”  Thoreau said (I believe in Walden) “To effect the quality of the day is the highest of the arts.”  That I must remember.  Though packed to the rim, today has nevertheless been “artful.”

Thanks for reading.  Talk to you again tomorrow . . .