Posts Tagged ‘Marcel Proust’

Weaving Disparate Threads on Thanksgiving Morning

November 28, 2019

‘I’m groping for a way of synthesizing a lifetime of work – driving further what I find most valuable and dropping parts that seem less essential.

. . .

It’s only by lining up a group of works to compare that I can see where I’m closer to my inner self and where I depart from it. There’s an indication of some kind of breakthrough, but I’m not sure what form it will take. It may lead ultimately to a whole new period. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I still find these quite beautiful in their particular way.

He does not differentiate among the various mediums; they are all, he says, ”sentences or paragraphs from a lifelong work that will go on until I die.”

Robert Motherwell, “The Creative Mind; The Mastery of Robert Motherwell,” New York Times, December 2, 1984

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Resuming Work on a Watercolor Abandoned Years Ago

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Getting Lost in the Details

. . . and I wish all my readers the Best of Thanksgiving Holidays. I spent about thirteen-and-a-half hours on crowded highways yesterday so I could see my parents and siblings again. Well-rested this morning in a hotel room in St. Louis, I open my laptop with a glad heart and pour out my feelings . . .

Marcel Proust spoke of the way sensations (right now, the taste of hotel coffee) open tthe way for memories to visit us, transporting us to primal warm memories from our childhood. St. Louis is frigid and overcast this morning, and looking out across the parking lot at the deep wooded area has managed to ferry me back to Grandma Tripp’s cold, drafty house in the deep woods of southeast Missouri. With my cousins, I would huddle under patchwork quilts in stuffed chairs with a kerosene heater cooking on the floor between us. In front of us the grainy black-and-white TV broadcast the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Begun in 1924, this event was stirring our blood in 1960 as we sat with our sugar-and-creamed coffee in tan Melmac mugs. Later in the day we would watch the Detroit Lions play football against the Packers, Bears or Vikings, uncertain of whether they were playing in a blizzard or if it was the TV reception. We would occasionally rotate the “rabbit ears” antenna with large squares of aluminum foil hanging off the ends.

This morning, I am grateful for these memories whispering to me in the dim morning, and I plan to bring them up with Mom and Dad later today as we gather around the table–all of us still living, gratefully–and enjoy the feast.

Above, I have posted the latest watercolor I was working on over the weekend, when Cindy and Gary came down to Palestine to work further on this film documentary they have hatched. We had an amazing time together. They continually came up with new ideas for filming me at work, with video cameras, drones and recording gear. As we worked and planned together, I fished out this old watercolor of a butte I began painting in west Texas years ago. Dissatisfied with the muted washes of color at the bottom of the composition, I took out a #8 Silver Black Velvet Script Brush, and began noodling with foliage leaves and twigs, then later with rock granulations, cracks and fissures. I got lost in the details as Cindy and Gary continued to film and ask questions about my art. They have really gotten me excited about this new project and I cannot wait till the next time we are together.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to travel and visit family for the holidays, re-live memories, and create new ones. I wish the same for all of you as well. Please be safe and happy this Thanksgiving. Life is such a gift and we have much to reflect on with deep gratitude.

 

Thanks for reading . . . Shultz reduced

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Morning Coffee with Proust

October 17, 2018

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He began, always, with the sustained tremolos of the violin part which for several bars was heard alone, filling the whole foreground; until suddenly it seemed to draw aside, and–as in those interiors by Pieter de Hooch which are deepened by the narrow frame of a half-opened door, in the far distance, of a different colour, velvety with the radiance of some intervening light–the little phrase appeared, dancing, pastoral, interpolated, episodic, belonging to another world.

Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

Rising to a cold, dark, rainy morning for the fourth day in a row, I could have harbored a sourpuss outlook on life, but I had an appointment to meet a student of mine whom I last saw eleven years ago (teachers know how rich and delightful it is to “catch up” with the lives of those who touched us profoundly in the classroom long ago). Jake was a true lover of literature and ideas while a senior in high school, and happily, that hasn’t diminished for him at all. When he was in my class, we were both reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Kerouac’s mention of Proust meant little to me at that time, but a long-time teacher friend of mine alerted me to Proust’s delicious way of describing sensations in his famous novel.

Returning home, I opened my volume to the bookmark where I last read (I wonder if I will ever complete my reading of the three-volume work!) and stopped with the passage posted above. I had to close the book and sigh deeply a few moments. Music has flooded my soul with joy for as long as I can recall. In fact, I have scores of “Proustian recollections” associated with particular songs when they are played. They transport me immediately out of my present environment and re-position me in a warm, primal state for a few moments. I always wish the moment would remain, but of course, it never does. Nevertheless, I am grateful for that visitation.

I am a YouTube junkie, and as I read and blog, I always have music playing–the type that doesn’t distract from thinking. In fact, as I compose this, I have “Relaxing Background Guitar Music – meditate, focus, study, think” playing, and the effect is hypnotic. I honestly believe music and literature and visual art keep me from ever feeling alone, though I live and travel alone.

Thanks for reading

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with Dave

September 16, 2018

morning coffee wednesday

Lingering over the Gospel of Mark

My walks, that autumn, were all the more delightful because I used to take them after long hours spent over a book. When I was tired of reading, after a whole morning in the house, I would throw my plaid across my shoulders and set out; my body, which in a long spell of enforced immobility had stored up an accumulation of vital energy, now felt the need, like a spinning-top wound up and let go, to expend it in every direction.

Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

I am posting this blog a day late, because I found myself in a place without Wi-Fii all day, and failed to finish this piece before I left for parts unknown. I am back into my Proust reading, delighting in many of his meditations. The one posted above fits me to a tee, not only because the autumn is approaching (I’ve enjoyed temperatures in the 70’s for several days now), but because my work has me spending many hours at the desk reading and writing, and I purposefully get up and take long walks to enable the reading material to compost better in my consciousness. Nietzsche once wrote the admonition to trust no thoughts not born in the open air while walking.

Christmas card number 2

One of my Earlier Christmas Cards coming back out this Season

I am also preparing to put out a line of Christmas cards very soon. I have festivals resuming in October, and by that time plan to have a good inventory of them ready to sell.

Thanks for reading.

Morning Coffee with Proust

September 5, 2018

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. . . all this made of the church for me something entirely different from the rest of the town: an edifice occupying, so to speak, a four-dimensional space–the name of the fourth being Time–extending through the centuries its ancient nave, which, bay after bay, chapel after chapel, seemed to stretch across and conquer not merely a few yards of soil, but each successive epoch from which it emerged triumphant . . . 

Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

I would not have traded this morning’s sentiments while lingering over the precious words of Proust for anything. I knew I was going to have to dash out of the house before editing and posting today’s blog–I have the rare privilege this week of returning to the high school where I taught for over two decades–Arlington Martin High School–to prep the Academic Decathlon team for their competition that is drawing near. They have asked me to return a couple of times after retirement to coach the team up in art history. This year is America’s Pop Art of the Sixties, and I have had the time of my life researching, re-writing, and preparing Powerpoint lectures on the artists highlighted for this year’s study.

Study times are sacred times for me, and have been so since the 1970’s when I found myself preparing for the pastoral ministry. In the shadow of the church, and later the theological seminary, I cultivated a life-long love for scholarship, and have truly relished the quiet solitary hours spent in study. But I will never be able to write of these experiences as beautifully as Marcel Proust did in his monumental work. The fragment I posted above is part of a ten-page rhapsody describing his boyhood memories of the church where he was nurtured. I would always hope that one day I could record in words as powerful as Proust the layers of feeling I experience when immersed in quiet, contemplative study, in environments such as he described.

Sacred Heart

One of my Church Watercolors

Since the year 2000, I have enjoyed teaching part-time at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, and right before that, I was on staff at the Polytechnic United Methodist Church on the corner of that campus. I used to have an office there, and still on occasion teach a college course in one of their classrooms.

poly church

Polytechnic United Methodist Church

The past eighteen years I have enjoyed on this campus have been a quality extension of my lifestyle of seeking quiet places for study and contemplation.

texas wesleyan

Texas Wesleyan University

On the third floor of their library, I will often ensconce myself, an hour or two before class, and sit beside a window overlooking the sprawling campus, all the way to the Polytechnic Church. I often refer to that third floor as Luther’s Tower, and used to study there late at night when I taught evening courses (being a full-time high school teacher by day had its fringe benefits).

After nearly a year’s hiatus, I got out my guitar and went to an Open Mic last night at Dr. Jeckyll’s Beer Lab in Pantego, Texas. I’m glad I responded to the invitation that came late in the afternoon. The Open Mic only occurs there once a month, but it used to be a nice piece of my routine, and I’m thinking seriously about letting that chapter re-open.

open mike edited

Thanks for reading.

Thoughts Meandering between Nostalgia and the Present

June 21, 2018

white sands

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

The places we have known do not belong only to the world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; the memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.

Proust, Swann’s Way

Nearly three hundred pages into Cezanne: A Life, by Alex Danchev, I’m completely absorbed by this intense artist’s life of painting. Cezanne certainly personifies the “driven” artist, and I’ve uncovered a host of amazing facts I never knew about the man and his ideas, though I’ve read about him since I was in high school. Last week while visiting the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, I thought of Cezanne’s fixation while painting Mont Sainte-Victoire. My feeble attempt to render the sand dunes at sundown with the San Andreas range behind them made me smile. I believe Cezanne attempted his mountain sixty times, and here I was, expecting something grand with my initial attempt.

However, I have been immersed in Cezanne’s theories of mountain painting, and have been reading of Martin Heidegger’s repeated visits to Cezanne’s home town and treks to Mont Sainte-Victoire as well as his writings about the mountain experience, and I have engaged in some serious mountain sketches of my own, beginning with my recent visit to Cloudcroft, New Mexico. In time, I plan to launch these activities and musings onto my blog.

Reading of Cezanne’s break with his lifelong friend Emile Zola was sobering, though. And the timing of this reading was poignant. A few days ago, I chose to unfriend over 150 people who were on my Facebook. I’m not going into the details here, but I’m sure it comes as no surprise to any reader that it was over politics; America is as deeply divided now as I’ve ever known her to be. I made a decision to eliminate scores of daily negative postings on my Facebook timeline, and in the days since, have thoroughly enjoyed a sunnier climate of expressions. I am working now to return to what I prefer writing and posting–art and daily musings.

The Proust quote above crossed my radar this morning while reading of the Cezanne/Zola split and I’m going to try now to put this into words. As Proust pointed out, our past experiences have been stitched together to create the complex individuals we find ourselves to be in the present. And when we find ourselves awash in those memories, we know the gratitude of warm memories as well as the melancholia of knowing those moments remain no longer, except in memory. When I discovered Facebook some years back, I felt genuine gratitude when over a hundred friends from high school and college came onto my page. Many of them I have had the privilege of re-visiting in person and enjoying warm conversation that included plenty of reminiscences. And, in line with Proust, that is how I choose to remember those friends, with grateful stories of things we encountered long ago. Unfortunately, it has to end there. The daily flow on Facebook of belittling discourse and political intolerance is not what improves my life, and I reached the conclusion that it would only be these kinds of postings waiting to greet me every day when I pulled up my page. So, I made my decision and there is no looking back, only forward.

My blog will still go to Facebook, and it won’t be political. And, as I’ve written before, my friend Wayne White https://ramblingsofafarrier.com/ and I only hope that readers will feel good when they read our musings. The world has too much hatred and vitriol already. It doesn’t need to hear that from us.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Recollections 54 Redivivus

September 19, 2016

abandoned-cafe

The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

On February 7, 2002, over fourteen years ago, I was convinced that I had finally found my artistic voice, and responded by launching my sole proprietorship Recollections 54, creating a market for my watercolors (www.recollections54.com). My passion has always been to travel  county roads through the sleepy towns of America, my watercolor block riding at my side like a faithful travel dog. Always on the lookout for something to paint, I experienced every day as a new opportunity for discovery of some artifact reminiscent of earlier decades of energy and prosperity. Today, only the shells and husks remain of filling stations, general stores, movie theaters and other public buildings formerly stirring with conversations, stories and glimpses of life. The writer Marcel Proust has pointed out the thrill of beholding an object capable of triggering profound memories from youth, and being filled with a sense of warmth and gratitude.

Holding down two jobs has made painting with any kind of regularity a challenge, and should I be fortunate enough to retire one day, I have this fantasy of pursuing my watercolor passion with fewer restrictions. In addition to working full time, I have also taken a number of detours throughout the past fourteen years, traveling roads that involved significant changes in my signature genre–still life painting, plein air painting, Texas coastal themes and fly fishing, to name a few. But lately, I’ve found joy in returning to this Recollections 54 genre, selecting scenes from vanishing America.

I have nearly completed another watercolor of this favorite genre, and posted it above. This relic of a roadside restaurant flooded me with a sense of loss and presence when I stopped and photographed it in New Mexico years ago. Loss, because the business was dead; presence, because the structure resonated with stories as I stood gazing at it from every possible angle, near and afar, taking dozens of photos and trying to imagine what it was like to pull into the gravel parking lot hungry and eager to enter a comfortable zone and be served.

Emerson wrote that detachment was the virtue of a piece of art, that ability to detach the subject from the surroundings that tried to draw away attention. Frequently that is what I do when selecting something to draw or paint. From buildings such as this, I frequently remove windows, air conditioning units, graffiti, dangling cables–anything I regard as taking away from the simple integrity of the subject. The surroundings often present that annoying tree or trash dumpster that is in the way. The fun thing about making art is the ability to make those decisions in framing up a composition. And so this subject also presented its own unique set of possibilities.

I believe the painting is nearly finished. As was the practice of Andrew Wyeth, I’ll put it up in my home somewhere, and glance at it as I enter or leave the room, always evaluating, figuring if there remains something to do before signing off on it.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Sunday Night Ponderings

July 10, 2016

LMFS 1 (2)

Power Plant visible from where I stayed this summer on an island in the Laguna Madre

LMFS 3 (2)Assortment of Fire Wheels and other grasses on the island in the Laguna Madre

. . . it’s always been private occasions that make me feel connected to the joys and sorrrows of the world, often in the form of communion with writers and musicians I’ll never meet in person.  Proust called these moments of unity between writer and reader “that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.”

Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Finally, I can relax, late this Sunday night.  Today was an indoor art festival in Fort Worth, held at Stage West Theater.  A Texas summer festival is delightful when held inside an air-conditioned venue. The theater space granted me was perfect for me to set up my work, and we were only open for three hours.  Still, the loading in and out on the same day (only 97 degrees today) has ways of sapping my energy, and of course, the days leading up to festivals still after all these years have ways of rolling anxiety throughout my being.

MADE (2)

But I’m happy with how things went.  I’ve posted two of the plein air watercolors I did recently while at the Laguna Madre Field Station.  They sold today, and I’m always happy when my art finds a home.  I had the time of my life, visiting with patrons and fellow artists, and am much better for the time spent in such good company.  It’s truly been a rewarding experience and I’m grateful to have been included in this event.

I’m happier still to find my calendar for the summer at an end–no more engagements booked before school begins in the fall.  I am juiced to begin my next series of watercolor experiments without interruption, and overjoyed to have some quality reading time before me.  The Susan Cain book I quoted above is overflowing my heart with joy as I read her affirmations concerning the introverted life I’ve known from my beginnings.  How wonderful to read a book that extols the virtues of solitude when I feel that I am bombarded with media messages around the clock arguing for the merits of group think, collaborative learning (I’ve always struggled with this as a public school teacher), staying connected on social media, etc.

From my shelves I am pulling Anthony Storr’s Solitude: A Return to the Self, and I have borrowed a copy of William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age.  These three literary works are speaking to me in the most profound way, and this gift of time and space has arrived at a perfect time, I feel.  More than ever, I am eager to explore new horizons and learn new things as I pursue my art and ideas.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Drinking from the Artistic Fountains

December 29, 2015

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Completed Still Life Watercolor Sketch of Vintage Door Knob

What the verbal artist would like to do would be to find out the secret of the pictorial, to drink at the same fountain.

Henry James (quoted in Eric Karpeles, Paintings in Proust)

I find myself early this morning on the opposite shore of Henry James. From the banks of the pictorial, I gaze longingly across this vast sea at the distant verbal horizon.  As I drink from the literary fountains of Shakespeare, Yeats and Proust, I wonder how one could tap that artesian well of words and produce such wondrous prose and poetry.  I acknowledge that I’ve been blessed with a pictorial imagination since early childhood, and have had the good fortune of acquiring a toolbox of skills to reproduce some of this in works of visual art.  But still, I feel so enriched when I read texts from these immortal authors who still tug at my heart strings long after they have passed from this earth.  Returning this morning to Proust’s Swann’s Way and reading a delightful volume titled Paintings in Proust, I felt the urge to enter the studio and complete a watercolor sketch that I’ve had on my mind since before the Christmas holiday commenced.  I’ve finally signed off on it and will price this 8 x 10″ watercolor at $150, matted.

hemingway desk closeup

Hemingway desk

My Morning Sanctuary

I suppose it would have been amazing to live in Paris during the days of la belle epoque.  True, the society artists were disappearing, and only the museum-worthy ones are accessible to most of us today, but nevertheless the age was amazing, because the poets and novelists of that period were slowly yielding to the painters in the public’s eye.  As cafes began to fill with writers and artists in dialogue, the age became so rich in the arts, and today I still wonder over what it must have been like to sit at the table hearing those discussions.

Currently I am blessed to meet almost weekly with a pair of visual artists over coffee, and the exchange of ideas and dreams really fuels my own artistic output.  I often wonder if Arlington, Texas could ever become such a garden for fertile minds wishing to explore more deeply the literary and visual arts.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Wordsworth’s Lonely Cloud

July 14, 2015
Beginning a Large Cloud Portrait

Beginning a Large Cloud Portrait

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
William Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”
Marcel Proust wrote of the primal remembrances we experience by surprise when certain sensations confront us in our adult life. That experience happened to me repeatedly while residing on an island in the Texas Laguna Madre a few weeks back. I wrote earlier today that I was cycling back to earlier remembrances in my art endeavors. As a child, I would lie in the grass and gaze up at the billowing clouds suspended overhead, often looking for recognizable shapes. In my adult years, I still admire cloud formations, but usually while on extended road trips. When painting en plein air, I have tended to give the clouds a cursory treatment, focusing instead on my main subject of architecture or other such grounded subjects. But recently at the Laguna Madre, when looking out over water, horizon and sky, I began trying for the first time to paint what I call “cloud portraits.”
The studio version I am beginning today of the island is my largest to date: a 20 x 24″ composition on stretched 140-lb. cold press D’Arches paper. The work is requiring a great deal of time and planning, but I’m enjoying the challenge. The Wordsworth poem is fitting for this watercolor composition and how I feel this day, with the Laguna Madre flashing on my inward eye. In the painting, however, fire wheels will replace the daffodils.
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.

Watercolor Respite

April 21, 2015
Picking up the brush again

Picking up the brush again

Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world only, our own, we see that world multiply itself and we have at our disposal as many worlds as there are original artists . . . 

Marcel Proust

A gentle reminder from a special friend sent me back to reading Proust last week after another long hiatus. Then I had to close up my shop and leave for a three-day art festival. Once the festival closed, I returned to two days of grading hell, promising me not one minute of down time. Finally I return home late today to find a surprise in my mailbox–a gift book Paintings in Proust. I’ve had some wonderful rocking-chair time with this beautiful volume. Now I’ll need to design a way to continue my reading of Proust’s novel, as well as The Fountainhead.

I managed a little time today on the watercolor I abandoned last week. The more I stare at the sprawling land around that house, the more I think of a passage from The Fountainhead as an architect surveyed the surrounding landscape:

The earth was like the outline of a great story, like the steel frame of a building–to be filled and finished, holding all the splendor of the future in naked simplification. . . . Wynand wondered what reins this man was gathering from all the points of the landscape into his hand.

Between this Ayn Rand novel, the writings of Proust, and a library book I checked out today on Andrew Wyeth, I am getting a profound itch to explore the land in watercolor and pencil, and find a way to fit the architecture into its natural surroundings. So many things are starting to come together in my mind, and it’s been frustrating that I’ve been buried in administrative details to explore them. To borrow again from The Fountainhead:

It was as if an underground stream flowed through the country and broke out in sudden springs that shot to the surface at random, in unpredictable places.

Sometimes I think our decades of ideas and experiences from reading and living life form a deep, still reservoir which from time to time bursts forth like an artesian well. Over the past week, these streams from Rand, Proust and Wyeth have comingled with ideas gleaned from Thoreau in my Philosophy class and certain twentieth-century ideas in my A. P. Art History classes, particularly Frank Lloyd Wright. In a perfect world, I would shut down my school for a week, crawl under a rock, and give these ideas time to hatch and develop. But alas, the hour is drawing late, and I have school again tomorrow. It just never ends.

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.