Posts Tagged ‘New Year’

Resolution and Revolution

January 1, 2021
Cozy New Year on a 28-degree Morning

As they step into the same rivers, different waters flow upon them.


For as long as I can remember, I have savored waking early in the morning on New Year’s Day. I have heard the sentiments repeatedly, that January 1 is an arbitrary beginning point, that our lives are linear rather than cyclical, and New Year’s resolutions are a farce. I understand that mindset, and could choose to adopt it as my own, if I wished. But I don’t wish. Heraclitus stated it well–it may be the same river we step into, but the waters are different. And I anticipate 2021 not to be a repeat of 2020. As for myself, I don’t plan to continue any kind of routine that feels like a dead routine.

For a few weeks now, I have drafted and edited resolutions, as I feel that compulsion to resolve some important matters in my personal life. And the resolution is felt more strongly when the New Year comes around. I also am fond of the idea of revolution. From my perspective, life is cyclical; not only do we revolve, but our society revolves. And I am more than ready to see my personal life, as well as the culture that surrounds me, revolve. Progress demands another turn of the wheel, another turn of the page.

Possibly finished with this #2 Bison Painting

One matter I have resolved is not only to become more prolific in making art, but to return to abandoned works to see if they can be completed. Yesterday and today, I took out a pair of bison compositions that had been tossed aside, and am now working to finish them. While lingering over the paintings, all the warm memories from that September evening in Utah washed over me. The sun was about to set. For the first time in three days as I drove past this ranch outside of Zion National Park, there were no tourists lined up at the fence. I scrambled out of the truck, crossed the pasture, and, lingering at the fence, took at least thirty photos with my phone of this bison herd. A cloud of dust hung about them (that I still cannot seem to capture in watercolor, but I’ll keep trying!), the cool winds stirred the tall grasses, and I felt for a few moments that the world had reached a stage of perfection. Moments before taking this picture, the cow and calf faced me directly, and walked toward me directly, then turned and entered the pond for a drink. I’m still contemplating the photo of them facing me, wondering if that could produce a decent watercolor.

On this first day of 2021, I wish all my readers a life filled with wonder and love going forward. And I wish for any of you seeking resolution and revolution that you are successful in pursuing them.

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.


New Years Eve Contemplation

December 31, 2016


Reading from The Book of Ecclesiastes

The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

Ecclesiastes 1:8

We spend so much time on the hunt. But nothing ever quite does it for us. And we get so wrapped up in the hunt that it makes us miserable.

Dan Harris, author, 10% Happier

For two days, I have been covered in New Year musings, and it’s all good. Yesterday, searching out documentaries to hear while working on my painting, I came across a film that my artist friends have been praising for months: “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.” Dan Harris is one of the featured speakers throughout the presentation. Halfway through the film I laid down my brush, took a seat, and watched the remainder, and felt tears welling up as it concluded.

The message of the documentary is not new for me; I’ve been hearing these ideas since about 1972, just finishing high school. But I never grow weary of the discussion, and never stop hurting for all the lost souls caught up in the maelstrom of possession fever that can never feel satisfaction.

My personal ritual, since 1973, is to read from The Book of Ecclesiastes during New Years Eve. I just finished doing this a short while ago, and feel moved to post something. The treatise was written by an aged king who had concluded near the end of his life that “there is nothing new under the sun.” One of his most quoted summations is “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!”  This author had gained it all–political power, wealth, physical pleasure, knowledge. He held back on none of his pursuits and apparently never failed.  Yet, at the end of his life, he sounds deeply unhappy.

The New Year invites us to be retrospective and prospective. I like that.  And, looking back over my past, I acknowledge the many times I have shot for the moon, fell short, and suffered deep dissatisfaction.  But that is not what is on my mind this evening, pausing before the New Era arrives.  My focus now is on the beauty experienced during this earthly odyssey.  Two orbits have never left me impoverished: the pursuit of knowledge and practice of the arts.  In those two realms I have been blessed beyond measure. And during this recent holiday, my library and my studio have offered genuine solace. In these two areas I have drawn strength, and am still happy in the pursuits.

After months of soul-searching, I have made the decision to retire at the end of this school year. The five months before me, I am sure, will race by more quickly than the twenty-eight years behind me.  I anticipate the closing chapter with gladness.  Even more so, I anticipate with gladness the new chapter waiting to be written.  Retirement is the reason I’m pursuing a series of paintings now titled “Portals.”  There is so much waiting to be explored with any series focusing on the open door.



Thanks for reading, and I wish all of you the very best in life as you prepare to write your next chapter, as you pass through the next portal.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Opening the New Year and Avoiding the Measuring Worm

January 1, 2015

Back Home, and Ready to Work Again

Back Home, and Ready to Work Again

He comes over from London and he sees a good picture and takes a pencil out of his pocket and you watch him measuring it on the pencil with his thumb.  Sighting on it and measuring it and seeing exactly how it is done.  Then he goes back to London and does it and it doesn’t come out right.  He’s missed what it’s all about.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

The words posted above are Hemingway’s recollection of Gertrude Stein’s description of the painter Wyndham Lewis.  She always referred to him as “the measuring worm” because he seemed to believe that art could be quantified by the correct arrangement of techniques.  From her perspective, Lewis was always assessing other painters’ works in terms of design elements, beleiving that if he copied those elements he would create the same quality of paintings.

These words have remained at the forefront of my thoughts during the past couple of weeks as I have enjoyed the holiday season.  My travels took me to Austin, Texas, across Oklahoma, and all over Missouri.  Returning home briefly I then took another New Year holiday to east Texas, enjoying the company of the best of friends.  All the while, I thought about art, worked in my sketchbook and journal, read many texts, and continued pondering the magic of Art.  After this respite, I feel that I am no closer to describing what takes a work of art to the sublime heights of Art.  And I am no longer confident that I will ever reach that summit where I could speak clearly about the essence of Art any more than I could describe the essence of Religion.  But I love the endeavor, and this evening, finally enjoying the quiet of my own home and listening to the music of Anita Baker, I took out this watercolor sketch begun a few days ago in Missouri and tried to push it a little further.  Bending over the wet surface and watching the reds, greens and yellows floating in the layers of water, I got excited all over again, watching the pigments emerge into the semblance of an image of fresh apples.  Yes, the composition is quite small, but very intoxicating to me tonight.

I’m ready to lay this aside and return to reading texts from Hemingway, Wilder and Henri.  I feel the stirring of muses and hope I can put some things into my journal that will breathe new life into my art endeavors.

Thanks always for reading.  I have so much I would love to share about this recent holiday vacation.  I’ve been in remote areas where I could not access Internet, but time away from the blog has helped recharge my batteries.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Final Art Studio Posting of 2012–Watercolor Still Life Still Growing

December 31, 2012

Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

The drilling machine for the Aargau lecture (“Biblical Questions, Insights, and Vistas”) is going at full strength and an unbroken pillar of smoke is rising from my pipe to the ceiling as in the best times of my life. 

Karl Barth, letter to friend Edouard Thurneysen dated March 17, 1920

What an amazing age in which we thrive today!  The above fragment is from a letter sent by one Swiss pastor to another.  They lived on opposite sides of the mountain and traveled once or twice a week to see one another for hours of conversation.  Between visits, they sent letters almost daily back and forth.  In this letter, Barth paints in words the picture of a day in his study where he worked furiously on a lecture and the smoke from his pipe never ceased.

Well, today, the water and pigment in my watercolor brush never ceased or dried up.  And as I painted alone in my Cave, I was inundated with phone calls, emails, text messages, Facebook messages and Blog comments from dear, dear friends and associates, all of them kindred spirits.  Thank you, I love you all.  You made this day very, very meaningful.  I can close out 2012 and move with confidence into 2013.  You’ll never know what a Gift you gave this day.

I have posted my last picture for this year.  I spent most of this afternoon and evening tinkering with the Maxwell House coffee tin, the stove top percolator, the Texaco oil can and the kerosene lantern.  Of course, I continued to play all over the rest of the composition–the darkened background, chips in the paint on the doors, the locking plate, the Mobilgas sign, the frying pan.  I work all over the composition, even while focusing on one key object.  And all of it was just as grand as the conversations I enjoyed with friends.  I can retire to bed happily tonight, thank you again.

Thanks for reading.  All of you have made me even more enthusiastic about blogging my painting experiences.


The Pulse of a New Year

January 1, 2012

Fiddler's Dream

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

(Maya Angelou, “On the Pulse of the Morning” January 20, 1993, read at the inauguration of William Jefferson Clinton.)

With the dawning of 2012, I have so much on my heart to share with my faithful blog readers.  I open with these soulful words from Maya Angelou, because I always feel the dual heaviness and lightness of Being when an old year dies and a new one emerges.  I cannot seem to shake the anxieties that have a way of creeping out of the shadows during the holiday season, and this one has been no different.  And I cannot help but turn pensive when January arrives.  “January” comes from the Roman god Janus, the two-faced image looking simultaneously backward and forward.  The dual head served as a fitting visual symbol of that human habit of looking over the shoulder at the past while trying to navigate the unfamiliar future.

New Year resolutions are always an obsession with me.  I have faithfully kept a journal since the late 1980’s, and sometimes I go back and re-read resolutions I have recorded in previous Januarys.  I am not going to bore my blog readers with my personal list of resolutions–I only wish to state that currently my prioritized list includes watercoloring better and blogging better.

I still intend to watercolor daily, though it will not mean completing a painting a day.  And so today I post this watercolor sketch, actually created yesterday morning, New Years Eve.  It is not yet noon today and I haven’t “awakened” sufficiently to get out the watercolors for today’s fresh start.

I have just returned from the Fiddler’s Dream Music & Dance Camp hosted by the North Texas Traditional Dance Society.  The camp was held in Oklahoma, and I had the experience of meeting a number of fascinating, talented people in the fine arts.  A highlight of the camp for me was the opportunity to lead a watercolor plein air workshop.  We pulled a work table out under the trees, and I enjoyed showing some eager painters a few things I knew about rendering winter trees in dry brush.  The image posted above is the sketch I did about an hour before the painters arrived.  It was around 10:00 in the morning, and I spent approximately 40 minutes on this sketch.  As I worked at it, I felt my breathing change and my pulse change, as always happens when I settle into a plein air activity.  The air became fresher, the slanting sunlight clearer, stirring winter breezes caressed the pores of my skin, and for a moment, the world became perfect again.  I felt as though the trees were letting out a deep sigh, exhaling the past and inhaling the present.  That is the pulse of a New Year.

While I looked into the Oklahoma forest, selecting a pair of trees to render in drybrush, my conscience was flooded with ideas from Xie He’s six canons of painting, formulated around the 6th century, and images of Andrew Wyeth’s renderings of winter trees in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.  I felt a gladness settling in as I worked in the comfort of this environment, and immediately decided that I would not let this winter pass without turning some significant corners in rendering the naked trees of winter in all their nuanced contours, neutral colors and arrangements.  I have always felt this was something lacking from my previous body of work, and now resolve to look more closely at these natural phenomena and work daily at recording them on paper.

As for the rest of this day.  I have plenty of quiet around me, and space to pursue some quality reading, reflection, journaling, and of course, watercolor study.  Maybe I’ll get back to you before I retire for the night, but if I don’t, I promise to return tomorrow.

To all my readers, again thanks from the bottom of my heart that you care enough to look at what I paint and write.  I appreciate you more than you know, and I harbor your supportive comments in the depths of a grateful heart.  I was thrilled last night when WordPress sent me the word, shortly before midnight, that my blog was viewed about 31,000 times in 2011–enough to sell out the Sidney Opera House for 11 performances.  That news came at a good time.  Thanks all of you for reading.  I wish all of you a splendid New Year in 2012, and hope you find what you are seeking.