Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma’


October 26, 2016


Watercolor of Abandoned Oklahoma Tire Shop

Ever the dim beginning;

Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle;

Ever the summit, and the merge at last (to surely start again) Eidólons! Eidólons!

Ever the mutable!

Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering;

Ever the ateliers, the factories divine,

Issuing Eidólons!

Walt Whiman, “Eidólons” in Leaves of Grass

Today, as my mind drifts across the empty spaces of our American landscape, I chose to post a watercolor I did last year about this time of an abandoned tire shop I passed in Oklahoma while en route to St. Louis for Thanksgiving holidays.  I am working my way back into the watercolor studio, selecting subjects to paint, and already have a splendid list of subjects to tackle this coming weekend.  I call my business Recollections 54 ( because 1954 is my birth year, and the subjects I enjoy painting the most are those from the 1950’s American landscape that I knew as a child–businesses and homes no longer inhabited, but which thrived in the days of my growing up.

Every time I cross paths with a site such as the one posted above (needless to say, I turned my vehicle around in the highway several miles down the road so I could return for a closer look and a series of photographs), I am filled with the dual feelings of loss and presence. Loss because the site is devoid of life.  Only the husk remains of the building that once teemed with industry.  Presence because the shell of the building is still charged with memories and stories worth telling.  When I stand in a place like this, I can still smell the rubber of the tires and hear the sharp hiss of the compressor.  I hear the mallets clanging on the iron, commingled with voices of laughter and profanity.  If I were a poet, I would transform these memories into verse.  If I were a musician, I would sing out my tribute.  But as an artist, I try to capture the essence of this environment with an image that I hope conveys the feelings that flood my soul in times such as these.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.



A Third Watercolor for the Holidays

November 25, 2015


The object of painting a picture is not to make a picture–however unreasonable this may sound. The picture, if a picture results, is a by-product and may be useful, valuable, interesting as a sign of what has past.  The object, which is back of every true work of art, is the attainment of a state of being, a state of high functioning, a more than ordinary moment of existence.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

With a heart of gladness, I spent my third day in a row working at watercolor. The subject is the same Atoka County, Oklahoma tire shop that I photographed on one of my road trips to Missouri.  This one I did not finish, as there were too many interruptions. I’m hoping that I’ll wrap it up tomorrow, despite Thanksgiving and the welcome distractions it might offer.  My heart is filled with Thanksgiving over many things, but one of them is this space, improved health and a general spirit of eudaimonia that makes it possible to paint.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

A Second Watercolor over the Holiday

November 24, 2015

tire shop

After all, the goal is not making art.  It is living a life.  Those who live their lives will leave the stuff that is really art.  Art is a result.  It is the trace of those who have led their lives.  It is interesting to us because we read of the struggle and the degree of success the man made in his struggle to live.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Thanksgiving break could not have come at a better time for me–time to rest up, get stronger from this lingering sinus infection, and devote some quality time to reading and watercoloring.  Going back over my computer files, I’m glad I dug up this photo of an abandoned tire shop somewhere in Atoka County, Oklahoma.  Whoever owns this wretched piece of real estate has no idea that someone drove by, turned his head, continued to think about what he saw in passing, and turned his vehicle around on the highway to return to the spot, get out and photograph it from multiple angles while nearby a pair of deer hunters dressed in camouflage smoked cigarettes and stretched their legs, walking around their parked vehicle.  I have now completed two small watercolors of the site in two days.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll tack on a third.  Every square foot of this structure seems to narrate a story to me.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


Ah, the Friday Night Blog . . .

November 22, 2013
Entrance to Edom Festival of the Arts

Entrance to Edom Festival of the Arts

Art is not to be taught in academies.  It is what one looks at, not what one listens to, that makes the artist.  The real schools should be the streets.

Oscar Wilde

I immediately acknowledge the legitimacy of Oscar Wilde’s perspective.  It is too late for me to put his theory into practice, as I earned my Bachelor’s in Art in 1976.  Since that year, I have held down several professions, and did not get back into the visual art world until the last couple of decades.  When asked whether or not I am “self-taught”, I hedge a bit.  I do have a four-year degree in the subject, have studied the masters seriously since that day, still immerse myself in art history, yet my search for a watercolor “style” is indeed my own private quest.  Following Walt Whitman, “you shall listen to all sides and filter them through yourself.”  I don’t want to label myself as “self-taught” as I have formally studied art at the university and received a degree.  Yet, I feel that I have arrived at my “signature” by my own choices.

I apologize at the outset of this blog, inviting any reader to stop at any time s/he feels so inclined.  I haven’t posted in many, many days, and have so much on my mind, that I am deciding in advance to talk about as much of it as I have the energy to do.

The promised cold front has arrived.  Temperatures have dropped to 34 degrees in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and we’re covered in rain.  The coffee is hot and inviting, and I am trying to finish this second of a series of three 8 x 10″ watercolor sketches of the Edom, Texas business district.  I will travel there to The Shed Cafe one week from tomorrow, November 30, and spend the day as their resident artist for Art Jam.  I am struggling with this composition, having difficulty unifying the composition.  This could be a painting that I “lose”, but that happens in this enterprise, and I am not as uptight about losing a painting as I was a few years ago.   We’ll see how it shakes loose.  I still have some plans (tricks?) to apply to it.

Changing the subject–several days back, I came home from school, sat down to a late lunch, and turned on the DirecTV to scan movie channels, settling in on “Rain Man.”  I hadn’t watched the movie in well over a decade, and decided to watch what was in progress for as long as lunch lasted.  I was jolted by a shock of recognition as I watched the scene of the two actors in the phone booth, with the autistic Raymond agitating his brother who was trying to conduct business over the phone, reminding him that Judge Wapner was coming on in just a few minutes.  Suddenly he warned: “Uh-Oh, fart.”  I didn’t laugh this time, because I was staring at what stood behind the phone booth and parked car:

Scene from the Motion  Picture "Rain Man"

Scene from the Motion
Picture “Rain Man”

I had been there!  Cogar, Oklahoma!  Friends had taken me across the state years ago, to reminisce over a town where one of them had grown up.  We spotted this abandoned gas station, got out of the car and photographed it from a multitude of angles, thinking it was “Hopperesque” and perfect for one of my watercolor attempts:

Abandoned Gas Station in Cogar, Oklahoma

Abandoned Gas Station in Cogar, Oklahoma, 2006

I have painted this station in watercolor a total of three times since 2006:

"One Last Road Trip"

“One Last Road Trip” 2006

"Oklahoma Reflections (After Proust)"

“Oklahoma Reflections (After Proust)”

What a shock to go online and verify that this scene from “Rain Man” was shot in Cogar, Oklahoma.  And now, I have painted it three times.  The bottom painting sold back in 2007, the other two are still in my possession.  Now I am not sure if I wish to sell them!  I am filled with excitement, just seeing this scene play out in a Hollywood film, knowing that I visited that location unknowingly, several years after the film had been made, found the setting inviting, and painted it three times.

The past week-and-a-half in the classroom has had its rewards, almost daily.  Today one of my model high school students approached me at the door of my philosophy class at the beginning of school, and asked if I could count her absent.  She explained that she had called in her absence that morning because her mother was in the hospital, preparing to give birth.  “But I couldn’t miss today’s Nietzsche lecture!  I’ll go back to the hospital after this class.”  I told her that she modeled a genuine love of learning.  To say the least, I don’t know when I’ve felt better delivering a lecture, with that kind of anticipation expressed in advance.  And then, if that were not enough, I was asked to visit the UIL Ready Writing team over the lunch hour to give them a “crash course” on Western philosophy.  Talking to eager students for the duration of a lunch period about Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Kant, Hegel, Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Sartre was a genuine feast for me, and the students’ responses made me feel that what I did today mattered.  We never get too much of that in the public education milieu.  Those two experiences today will carry me much, much further, emotionally and spiritually, than documenting emails, phone calls and correspondence to parents or filing documents of lesson plans or meeting minutes for someone sitting in an office somewhere to check off a list.

Since my last blog entry, I have made two visits to the Dallas Museum of Art to study the Edward Hopper Drawing exhibit.  I’m still rocked by what I’ve seen there, his sketches, compositional studies and finished watercolors and oils.  I don’t recall ever seeing a museum exhibit that so studiously curated works of art in their planning stages from plein air sketches to journaled, notated compositional studies to the final framed piece.  Hopper was so studious in his work, and makes me want to do the same.  Perhaps future blog entries will reveal a new side of me, thanks to my heroic Hopper.

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 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.

Finally finished the fly fishing details, February 23, 2010

February 23, 2010

fly fishing Beavers Bend

I got so excited that I blogged about this without a picture (I was at school and without the proper technology).  I don’t know how well this is going to show up, but I was inspired this morning while looking through a catalogue of a show I saw a few years ago featuring Winslow Homer’s watercolors, titled: “Winslow Homer: Artist and Angler.”  He frequently painted those very subtle ringlets of water disturbance where a trout just rose.  I decided to insert several of those in the deep pool at the left, and then put the shadows of the trout beneath the ringlets.  I’ve always been excited to watch this while fly fishing in Colorado, and finally got around to attempting to depict it in watercolor.

Fly Fishing Completed, February 22, 2010

February 22, 2010

Beavers Bend Fly Fishing

I think I’ve done all I can with this one.  I only spent a few days on it from start to finish.  Pretty rough trying to pour watercolor over a 9 x 12″ surface.  Difficulty also with the drying process.  I used a watercolor block, and the paper took forever to dry out.  I think I worked rather impatiently.  Lost my contrasts and ended up with a rather dark, uniform low-contrast picture.  Nevertheless I learned some things, and am anxious to pursue another fly fishing composition, hopefully sooner instead of later.  Today wasn’t the best of days to try to paint.  I had high school classes all day and a college class at night.  Very little time to paint, and once I did, I was pretty fatigued.  At any rate, I’m glad I did another watercolor, and feel that I am building some momentum.  I hate long dry spells of not painting.

Second day on the fly fishing watercolor, February 21, 2010

February 21, 2010

Fly Fishing Beaver's Bend, Broken Bow, Oklahoma

I got to put in a little bit of time in the studio this afternoon, and late tonight.  This composition is from a photograph my wife took of me, wading some swift waters at Beavers Bend State Park near Broken Bow, Oklahoma.  Right after she took the photograph, I hooked a handsome rainbow trout.  Too bad we didn’t get a shot of that!  At any rate, I’m interested now in pursuing some fly fishing watercolors, and have quite a few photos of myself in the act, thanks to my wife’s patience and dedication with the camera!

I haven’t yet started on the bank, that will include plenty of fallen timber and rocks.  I also need to put some much deeper, dark colors in some of the woods, and find a way to make the fall colors stand out in bolder relief.  I still haven’t figured out how to separate the deep pools from the comparatively shallow runs in the stream, and also have to solve the problem of rocks appearing below the surface.  All in good time.  Too bad I have to get up at 5:00 and teach some morning classes at the high school, followed by an afternoon class at the college.  Perhaps I’ll return to this tomorrow evening (I hope!).

Thanks for reading.