Posts Tagged ‘On the Road’

New Year Wanderlust

January 23, 2019

20190123_1411175682097306531009682.jpg

Pausing to Grade Online at a Coffee Bar

Even though he still came to the river every night, it was obvious to [Captain] Call that Lonesome Dove had long since ceased to need guarding. . . . He came to the river because he liked to be alone for an hour, and not always be crowded.

Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

As the year 2019 turns over its first few pages, I have decided not to be snared in the doldrums that often occur after the Christmas and New Year holidays close. For the first time in my life, my teaching load is completely online, so I have decided not to allow myself to be restricted to a geographical area often determined by class schedules. My recent travels have taken me across the great Southwest, and San Angelo has proved to be a chain of ephiphanies for which I will always remain grateful.

I have recently taken up Homer’s Odyssey to read, because I have never read that great epic in its entirety. I purchased Robert Fagles’s translation, because of the raving critical reviews over the lengthy introduction submitted by Bernard Knox. I believe the introduction runs around sixty pages, and it took quite awhile to read it in its entirety, but it was worth every hour. In addition to this, I have enjoyed a pair of YouTube lectures on The Odyssey, and have also made use of the Greek text I purchased in the Loeb Classical Library series. The ideas leaping out of the text have yielded hours of scribbled notes and journal entries. The Concho River meandering through San Angelo provided a lyrical setting for such a reading.

20190121_1344153753372368759317745.jpg

Reading the Greek text on the banks of the Concho River

20190121_124508290618547103502680.jpg

While exploring downtown San Angelo, I happened across this book store that gave me a number of pleasant surprises. When I found the collection of Larry McMurtry books, including first editions and signed editions (I avoided the temptation of dropping $400 for a first edition of The Last Picture Show), I then noticed the photographs, greeting cards and handwritten letters tacked on the wall by Robert Duvall, an avid reader and friend of the bookstore’s owner. He drops in frequently to buy books by the stack! He even signed one of McMurtryr’s first-edition Lonesome Dove copies with “Gus”, and it sold immediately.

After visiting with the pleasant proprietor for awhile, I purchased a copy of Lonesome Dove (not a first edition or signed copy!) and am now over a hundred pages into it. This is only the second McMurtry book I’ve purchased, having finished The Last Picture Show recently.

With Odysseus on one side, and Gus on the other, I am enjoying my own journey while reading of theirs. We live in a good age, I believe. Technology has enabled me to earn a wage while being on the move. At the same time, I can enjoy days on end, being unplugged from social media yet knowing I can return to it at anytime to post a blog and read texts or emails waiting in the hopper. And right now, sitting in a coffee bar in a town where no one walking by is going to know who I am, I can enjoy reading books and scribbling thoughts into my journal without interruption, and with no appointments on the horizon.

Thanks for reading.

 

In the Studio, with Thanksgiving

November 17, 2016

studio

Listening to an Edward Hopper Interview while Painting

Broadly stated, art is one’s effort to communicate to others one’s emotional reaction to life and the world.

Edward Hopper

Once the clocks set back an hour and autumn (allegedly) arrives in Texas, I at least can appreciate the longer hours after darkness, if not the falling temperatures.  Today we reached the low 80’s again, and I’m disgusted with the perpetual warm temperatures deep into November.  Thanksgiving is next week and I recall days from my youth when temperatures had already reached the freezing mark.  People today walked around in Tshirts and shorts.

But once the sun goes down and the world darkens and the evening is still young, I find myself in a blissful state, entering the studio and watercoloring for hours.  I have a commission deadline to meet, so I’m basically in the studio now when I’m not in the classroom.  Tonight has been so delicious, as I’ve put DVD’s on the television and listened to various documentaries on the computer.  The house has been quiet save for the voices of the movie On the Road (DVD), William Carlos Willams (PBS “Voices and Visions” (https://www.learner.org/catalog/extras/vvspot/Williams.html), and Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk7nL27BxNg).  These creative muses keep me company in the studio as music does to many other artists I know.

The commission I’m doing is coming along slowly, but successfully.  When doing such work, I probably would appear to an outside observer as A.D.D., but that is not the case at all.  I am always looking at the work critically, pausing, stepping away from it, interrupting it with household chores and coming back to it.  The old adage “cut once, measure twice” applies to my painting when I have to get it right.  I don’t push the painting past my comfortable speed, but let it emerge slowly and thoughtfully.  At the rate I’m going, I intend to have it finished by Saturday night, even if I have to stay with it after school tomorrow until late, and then rise on Satuday morning and linger over it throughout the day.  I’m enjoying the process as I always do with watercolor.  Once this job is complete, Thanksgiving begins for me, as the schools are closing for the entire week.  I’m ready for a holiday.

Thanks for reading.  The night has been wonderful.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Perpetual Wanderlust

September 15, 2016

brookfieldbrookfield-close

Abaondoned Gas Station on Missouri Highway 36

I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Finding myself impounded in a school classroom five days a week, my imagination goes back on the road that I enjoyed so deeply last summer, as travels took me to the Texas coast, to Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri.  I started a painting of an abandoned gas station I encountered on Missouri State Highway 36, west of Macon, and watching the watercolor coming into focus over the past week has filled me with the most pleasant memories of that summer trek.

It has been surmised that Edward Hopper was so taken with a particular gas station in the Cape Cod region that he turned his automobile around and went back for a closer look, eventually creating a collection of drawings and a magnificent oil painting.

gas

Edward Hopper, Gas

That was precisely my experience last summer–several miles past the abandoned gas station, I suddenly turned my Jeep around and returned to the location to take pictures and make thumbnail sketches for a future watercolor. In the Hopper painting, I have always been drawn to the dark woods beyond the station at night, thinking of one of Hopper’s favorite poets, Robert Frost:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Even though my watercolor is set in the blazing heat of a Missouri summer at midday, I wished for my woods backing the gas station to have that same dark look as I see in the Hopper painting.

Yesterday afternoon was quite rare, as I had the entire afternoon and evening free to do as I pleased. I spent the entire time bent over this painting, enjoying every piece of the composition as it slowly came into focus beneath my brushes and pencils. I used a good deal of salt and stale bread crumbs to help texture the gravel parking lot and scattered patches of grasses in the foreground. A good, sharp #2 pencil helped me render carefully the details of the frame siding, as well as the windows and doors around the structure, and the ridges in the roof. The continual layering of warm and cool colors in the foliage proved to be challenging, but I’m satisfied so far with how that part of the painting is going.  I’m a little timid about finishing out the clouds, as it’s been months since I played with Q-Tips and grays, and am rather forgetful of what exactly I have done in the past to get the effects I want there.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

The Next Venture

February 7, 2016

image

But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

As I close out this weekend, I express a special Thank You to those of you who reached out the past 48 hours with comments on my blog and facebook. Your communion was deeply felt, while at the same time I imbibed a richness from the stretch of solitude and quiet.

I am safe at home once again, and just completed all the work I needed to do in preparation for tomorrow’s classes. Before returning to the studio, I took another look at the photos I took while on this excursion, and wanted to post this one of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Windthorst, Texas (population 440). I took this photo during this morning’s return, and when I took a good look at this grotto, I realized to my regret that I never once thought about driving out here at night, to see if candles were lit. How glorious a sight that would have been. Windthorst is only eleven miles from Archer City, and though it was frigid cold last night, I would have gladly sat in the midst of this had I found that worshipers had visited and lit candles on a Saturday night.

I do not come from a Catholic background, but I was a minister long ago, and studied theology for over a decade in graduate school. I deeply enjoy Jack Kerouac’s religious vocabulary (he was Catholic) where most readers seem to be more conscious of his vulgarity. His frequent references to saints, to holy matters, and his biblical allusions are abundant enough in On the Road to get my attention.  And like Wordsworth at Tintern Abbey, I know what it is to be stirred in the presence of a church structure, and how difficult it is to articulate what one feels. I am resolved to visit this site in Windhorst at night the next time I journey to Archer City for a weekend getaway.

Thank you for reading.

A Summer Morning in Sleepy Winfield, Missouri

April 27, 2011

Winfield, Missouri Store

I have put in two consecutive late nights in the garage studio, painting till past midnight.  It makes it a little rough, going to school the next morning, but there it is.  This is another full-size sheet of watercolor paper (22 x 28″).  I have painted this abandoned store twice before.  I discovered it in the summer of 2009 while driving highway 79 north of St. Louis along the Mississippi River.  The small town of Winfield is where this store rests, just along the west side of highway 79.  The light was so bright that August morning, the sun had just risen.

I’m having some struggles with this painting (I hate it when a watercolor starts out badly!).  I poured quite a few layers of pigment on the tree/foliage area at the top, wanting to get the woods very dark and deep.  I’ve decided to just let the foliage be for the time being, and go ahead and work on the store facade.  Tonight involved plenty of close, tedious drawing and drafting, but I’m still convinced that a strong and accurate drawing will yield a good watercolor (hope I’m right this time!).  I’m not sure that the pencil work can be seen in this photograph, I always have trouble getting a good digital image under light bulbs late at night.  Most of my blog shots are taken out in the driveway in the middle of the day.  I guess I’m admitting that as a photographer, I fly by the seat of my pants.

At any rate, I am finally settling into, and enjoying this watercolor composition.  And with the kind of school schedule I have this week, I reckon that I’ll be having to put in late hours in the garage studio (my least favorite time to paint).  I’ll take what’s offered.

Thanks for reading.

A Route 66 Christmas Odyssey Requires a 1940’s Diner

March 5, 2011

Spencer’s Grill, Kirkwood Missouri, est. 1947

The good news today was that the aunts are going to be just fine.  After only 4 1/2 hours sleep last night, I decided I needed to nap this afternoon if I had any hopes of finishing this painting today.  I’m glad I did.  Sleeping from 2:00 until 4:00, I rose and resumed work on this in the garage (my Man-Cave!) with a beautiful afternoon Texas sun shining in the open door.  The light was exquisite for working on this painting.  Once it got dark, the winter temperatures plummeted, and I was forced to lower the door and continue work under house lights (I hate that!).   But . . . I did not want to tinker with this another day.  So . . . here it is . . . signed and out of my hands!

Tomorrow I plan to take it to the Weiler House Fine Arts Gallery (http://www.weilerhousefineart.com/#home).  I already have my next watercolor composition lined up, and I just may get after it tonight–I’m in the mood.

I’m grateful for the companionship I felt from the Voices and Visions video documentaries of Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams.  What fabulous poets!  What vision!  I felt a particular connection to them as they painted the American scene in penetrating words, as I hope to do some day with watercolor.  Both men were driven by wanderlust as they traversed the American landscape, both urban and rural.  And though I don’t look at the TV while painting, I could certainly see these poets’ images in my mind’s eye as I continually sought to refine my own.  I still hear Williams’ voice in my conscience: “No ideas but in things!”

Thanks for reading.  Hope you enjoy this one.

Let the Madness Begin!!! May 27, 2010

May 27, 2010

Plein Air Watercolor of 1950 Chevy Sedan Delivery

Tomorrow begins the “madness.”  I’m going to join the company of Captain Ahab in search of the white whale, or Dean Moriarty in search of kicks, or Jack Kerouac On the Road, or Claude Monet chasing the fleeting light, or Paul Cezanne seeking a solid form beneath the changing colors.  Tomorrow begins an eight-day plein air extravaganza in historic Waxahachie, Texas.  Tomorrow afternoon I will set up and paint somewhere near the courthouse.  On Saturday morning I will participate in the Quick Draw inauguration (90 minutes to produce a painting that is then auctioned on the courthouse square).  Following the eight-day event, I’ll set up a booth for the Historic Mansfield Art Festival.  Two days later, I’ll begin teaching a one-week plein air watercolor class at the Eureka Springs School of Art in northern Arkansas.

To all my readers–I’m sorry the school schedule buried me once again.  But I assure you, I will be posting daily throughout this plein-air event that begins tomorrow.  As to the picture posted, I’m not sure when I’ll return to it in the studio.  I’m glad watercolor doesn’t have a shelf life.

Thanks for reading.