Posts Tagged ‘Marcus Aurelius’

Night Time End-of-the-Holiday Musings

December 1, 2013
Haltom Jewelers--Fort Worth, Texas

Haltom Jewelers–Fort Worth, Texas

Ernest [Hemingway] said that he was sick of it all to the marrow of his bones: the only reason he stuck it out was that every time he had been this bad before he had managed to rise out of it into a “belle epoque” of writing.  He was still hoping to repeat the process, and could not bring himself to face the fact that never before in his life had he been half so “bad” as he was now.

Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, by Carlos Baker

Tonight I finally completed my reading of the 564-page biography of Ernest Hemingway that I began last winter.  I usually don’t take that long to slog through a book, but it seemed that interruptions kept taking me away from this excellent text.  It goes without saying that reading of the final years of Hemingway’s life is not an uplifting experience.  I am just as saddened by his sentiment that he had lost his writing ability for good  as I am by his suicide.  Earlier today, I posted about the ebb and flow of creativity and how I had come to peace with that long ago, thanks to the insight of Emerson and Whitman that this is a natural life cycle.  And for years I have tried to transcend that feeling of depression that comes with the self-doubt that makes creative spirits feel that their work is no good.

Self-doubt crept in about an hour ago as I turned my attention to tomorrow night’s task–a watercolor demonstration before the Trinity Arts Guild in Bedford, Texas.   I go through it every time before such a demo (and I have a second one coming up Thursday night)–I don’t doubt my watercolor talent as much as I torment myself with all the things that could go wrong–that I screw up the painting with all of them watching, or that I stumble about with my words, or have difficulty expressing my ideas.  I really wonder why we do that to ourselves–that nagging feeling that when the night is over, we feel that we have wasted the audience’s time.

Oh well.  After about an hour of floundering, I began organizing my presentation, my talking points, my materials.  It all came back to me.  I’m fine now.  And I’m glad it’s only 9:48 p.m.  I still have some time for reading, reflection, journaling, getting my mind on a good track before I sleep.  Thomas Jefferson and Marcus Aurelius, as I recall, tried to end their evenings on positive reading and positive thoughts in order to sleep more restfully.  I could learn plenty from their example.

Thoreau’s Journal awaits.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

P. S.  I did not work on a new painting today.  So, in order to have a picture, I’ve posted what is probably the best watercolor I’ve ever done.  I wonder if I’ll ever rise to that level again.

A Second Cup of Coffee and a Second Attempt at Andrew Wyeth Drybrush

January 2, 2012

Wyeth Winter

I’m surprising myself with today’s output, on only the second day of the New Year.  School will not resume for three days yet, and already I’m wondering in my head how many watercolor sketches I might kick out between now and then.

This is my second attempt at copying the essence of an Andrew Wyeth drybrush of a winter landscape at Kuerner’s Farm in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania.  I’m still pondering the Six Canons of Xie He, and am fascinated with the idea of distilling the essence of what you see.  As previously recorded, I had a good experience at an Oklahoma camp a few days ago, staring into the depths of a forest and trying to capture the essence of the masses of winter trees to record on paper.  I have always had a primal visual connection with Andrew Wyeth’s renderings of snowy scenes  in graphite, watercolor and gouache.  I missed my White Christmas in St. Louis this year, but decided nonetheless to pursue some winter scenic paintings.

The coffee has been delicious all day (my niece works at Soulard Coffee Garden & Cafe in south St. Louis, and gave me a wonderful Christmas gift of Soulard Coffee).  The reading has been delicious as well.  I’ve felt a rich communion with Marcus Aurelius and Paul Tillich as these great men left behind wonderfully introspective writings about life, always a good read at the beginning of a New Era.  I owe them a genuine, heartfelt thanks.  The readings and my own musings have produced about a dozen handwritten pages in my journal, and I regret to say that my journaling had dried up considerably in recent months.  It is great to be back at it again.  And this blog also gives my personal journals a shot in the arm, so thanks to you readers as well.


Starting the New Year with Positive Steps

January 2, 2012

Wyeth Sketch Finished

On January 2, I managed to complete my first watercolor sketch of the New Year.  I used an Andrew Wyeth study of Helga as my model (choosing to omit Helga from the foreground) and found many fascinating details in the background forest that I wanted to try a hand at imitating.  The Sixth Canon of Xie He (from around the 6th century) focuses on “transmitting and conveying earlier models through copying and transcribing.”  As an art major a long time ago, I fretted over my professor’s demands of doing exactly this.  Now, in my later years, I see its value and hope to pursue it more this year (Ah! another Resolution).

I awoke at 6:00 this morning, hoping to re-establish my daily school routine, which resumes Thursday (my God, sleeping in has been wonderful over the Holidays!).  And I chose to follow one of the resolutions I love from Alyson B. Stanfield’s blog: “RESOLVE to stop fiddle-farting around on the Internet or with the TV remote control and start dedicating myself 100% to my life’s work.”

As I sat in my darkened study this morning, enjoying the quiet and my coffee, the words from Qoheleth in the Book of Ecclesiastes boiled to the surface of my thoughts: “There is nothing new under the sun.”  I first read those words from this great book in January 1973, and have been since haunted by that sentiment.  I resolved then, and still have to remind myself, never to settle into that kind of a life philosophy.  Granted life has revealed patterns that seem to sharpen over the passing of the years, but God forbid that I ever reach the point where I believe there is nothing left to discover.

Ecclesiastes is classified as Hebrew wisdom literature, and is confined to the words of those who have lived long lives.  Only with the passing of many years emerges wisdom.  And I realize that I have had to fight harder to avoid that trap of believing that there is nothing new under the sun.  Emerson and Thoreau fought that too–I recall Thoreau writing that he regretted that he wasn’t as wise as he had been as a child.  Both of those thinkers loathed the idea of becoming old, set and predictable in their thinking and their daily manner.

As an antidote to Qoheleth and Ecclesiastes, I turned to the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and read his testimony of gratitude for the traits he had managed to nurture under the influence of a number of worthy seniors.  I particularly liked what he said he learned from Rusticus: “to read with minute care and not to be content with a superficial bird’s-eye view.”  That was my Oracle for the day.  I realize that one of the hazards of being a public school teacher for over two decades was the habit of boiling down, distilling and simplifying ideas from scholarly writings in order to make them transmittable in the classroom.  I am not knocking that practice.  What I am knocking is the reality that I have drifted away from scholarly reading, reflection and writing for my own personal growth and intellectual health.  So, this morning I found a sweet communion with Marcus Aurelius, Qoheleth, and Paul Tillich.  After a couple of hours passed in their warmth, I then found the resolve needed to return to the drafting table and finish this sketch begun yesterday.

The only noticeable differences added were the splash of burgundy and salt in the lower left corner to finish out some kind of overall composition.  Aside from that, I added many, many branches and small leaves to the atmospheric background, and enriched the texture of the tree bark further.  I believe I have done all I can with this one, and am now ready for another.

So, let’s close this blog and begin another sketch.  Thanks for reading.