Posts Tagged ‘Pablo Picasso’

3:30 a.m. Really?

January 21, 2022
Redlands Hotel in the early a.m.

We will all return to the Bateau-Lavoir. We were never truly happy except there.

Pablo Picasso to Andre Salmon, 1945

In the depths of a 27-degree winter, we both awoke in the darkness around 3:30 and began talking. Finally we decided to get up, turn on the lights, dress, and go downstairs into the Gallery for coffee and books to bring back up to our suite. I guess that is one more of a hundred blessings of living the retired life–no timetable or schedule. Why not read at the kitchen table, continue conversing, write out the best stuff in the journal and cultivate good thoughts and prepare for another adventurous day? And it’s only Friday, not yet the weekend even.

The Dogwood Arts Council met in The Gallery at Redlands downstairs last night, and the camaraderie was lively and at its very best. We’re elated about the Dogwood Art and Music Festival coming up in late March and I’m even more enthused about tonight’s Gallery Talk that Deanna Pickett Frye will lead at 7:00. Palestine is emerging as a lively center for engagement in the arts. And I’m so grateful to be included in it.

Day before yesterday, I finished Miles J. Unger’s Picasso and the Painting That Shocked the World. This is one of those books that is now worth going back over to re-read and respond to the many, many passages that I underscored during my first reading. Above, I’ve recorded Picasso’s quote at the beginning of this book. Forty years after his Bohemian, starving artist lifestyle, he rhapsodized over his studio years in the Bateau-Lavoir as a Golden Age. I find myself unable to do that. My own Bateau Lavoir occurred in 1987. I have memories of that era that I do not revisit wistfully. Life then was at its lowest ebb for me. I had completed my Ph.D., lived in a garage apartment, held down two part-time jobs and relied on the Fort Worth city bus service for transportation. I felt that nobody knew or cared whether or not I even existed. I lived as a phantom. Arcadia it was not. When the Arlington Independent School District hired me in 1988, my life was pulled out of the quicksand and I have never wished to return.

Maybe some day I will be able to say something more positive about my Baeau Lavoir. But not now. I feel I have been handed the most lovely gifts at this late stage of my life: retirement, a relationship, a home of my own, a gallery, time to pursue my art, part-time work teaching in a university–everything I ever wished for has been handed to me, and I love life more now than ever before. I wish this for everyone.

Thanks for reading and I hope you rise to a wonderful day today.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Making Art does not have to be an Exorcism

January 15, 2022
Framed Watercolor 16 x 20″ $400

Painting isn’t an aesthetic operation; it’s a form of magic designed as a mediator between this strange, hostile world and us, a way of seizing the power by giving form to our terrors as well as our desires. When I came to that realization, I knew I had found my way.

Pablo Picasso, quoted in Francois Gilot’s Life with Picasso

With temperatures plummeting into the 20’s, we’ve built a nice fire and settled in for this Saturday night. I’ll be working late on my university syllabus due Monday with classes beginning Wednesday. But I wanted first to frame the watercolor that I finally completed and put it on the blog before returning to the school work.

I’ve understood Picasso’s theory of art as exorcism for about thirty years now, and always enjoy re-reading his testimony concerning it. I believe I understand his perspective, but do not myself follow it. But it gives me a chance to respond with my own views.

When I make art, I am reproducing the world I want to remember: my Proustian world with all its rich memories that delight my senses as I embrace, enfold and try to mold them back into visible form. Many people use memory, calling up mental images to hold their past, to bring their past back into their present. I draw and paint the objects, the narratives most precious to me.

In the spring of 2011 I had the privilege of judging a plein air competition sponsored by the White River Artists of Cotter, Arkansas. During that three-day venture, I was taken to this rustic cabin in Flippin, Arkansas, dating back to 1905. This was one of the first two homes built in that town. Currently it sits on the property of Ozarks Realty on U.S. 62/412 west of the town of Flippin. I spent a delicious morning sketching this cabin with watercolor en plein air. Once I returned to the studio, I created two additional paintings of it, closer to a 20 x 24″ scale. Both of them have since sold, but the image continues to abide with me. So I’ve decided to try and render a third one.

Plein Air attempt
First Attempt years ago
2nd attempt

I cannot describe every sentiment that visited me while I worked on this piece. I will happily join some of the artists from the 2011 event in September for a four-day watercolor workshop. I cannot believe that it will have been eleven years since I last visited this location. Another sentiment I felt while painting was the feeling that Andrew Wyeth was looking over my shoulder nodding his encouragement and approval as I worked. His masterful drybrush watercolor studies of rustic subjects always abide with me when I’m in the studio.

Monday night I’ll be conducting a live demonstration and giving an art talk for ARTIUM, an arts association in Mansfield, Texas. We’ll gather at the Chris W. Burkett Service Center at 620 S. Wisteria Street from 6:30-8:30.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Gleanings before the Fire

January 6, 2022
Paddington soaking up the Fire

The two months Picasso spent in Gósol were crucial for the development of his new aesthetic. Rustic retreats . . . were essential to restoring his peace of mind, but they were usually periods of consolidation and reflection rather than innovation. They formed necessary interludes between extended stays in Paris where, plunging into the roiling cross-currents of that most intellectually stimulating environment, he was exposed to new ideas, new modes of thought. It was there that the real creative breakthroughs were made.

Miles J. Unger, Picasso and the Painting That Shocked the World

This morning’s fireside time brought the above text to my reading attention. My heart always glows at the thought of a creative spirit retreating to the wilderness as Picasso did when he spent two months in the village town of Gósol high up in the Pyrenees range. This “airing out” time was good for his restless spirit as he determined a new direction for his art. I myself now seek such a clearing as I am within two weeks of starting up another semester at the university along with keeping other art-related appointments in addition to the weekly gallery responsibilities.

As I read, my mind ranged far and wide, calling up other creative spirits seeking solitude and respite from the demanding crowds of their day. Henry David Thoreau at Walden, Friedrich Nietzsche in the Alps, Martin Heidegger in the Black Forest, John the Baptist in the trans-Jordanian wilderness, Jackson Pollock in Springs, Long Island, Henri Matisse at Collioure, Paul Gauguin at Martinique. In each case we find a solitary individual seeking strength in an environement uncluttered by people flooded with discontent over everyday affairs.

Cabin in Progress

Time to get back to work. Thanks for reading.


January 3, 2022
Morning Coffee in the Living Room
Entering Studio Eidolons

And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

During my REM moments this morning, I was actively drawing and watercoloring in my dream. Waking and stretching, I was already in the mood to draw and paint, but insisted on staying with my ritual–making coffee, building a fire and settling into the living room chair with Sandi and the napping dogs to read and write for a spell. I don’t know if one prepared me for the other, but the REM followed by what I read over coffee, produced a seismic quake in my imagination as words and images like jagged shards of glass thrusted and jousted among themselves to the point that I wondered where I was going to begin once I entered Studio Eidolons.

This book I’m reading by Miles J. Unger, Picasso and the Painting That Shocked the World, is written so masterfully. While reading the chapter of Picasso’s transition marked by his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, I found the following words:

The story of how he arrived at this breakthrough is no less fascinating for being a tale of false starts and circuitous detours, more a case of a man feeling his way tentatively in the dark than of a hero striding boldly toward the light.

I needed that, as I was reeling from the earthquake of clashing images and ideas that I could not seem to harness before settling into my reading. This is what I had scribbled in my journal before Unger’s text set me squarely back on my feet again:

Clashing ideas, images, projects and wishes have been thrust through my consciousness since I awoke, like shards of jagged glass, like Picasso’s cubism. I have so many paintings & stories & projects slashing and clashing against each other, tearing into and ripping each other. And I wonder how on earth I can get them to fly in formation. Like E.T., I wish I could just lift a finger and make them all orbit in synchronicity. I wish I could take up my guitar, put my fingers on the right frets and strum that chord that resonates with the full-throated aesthetic beauty of all those elements working together. And then I read Unger’s description of Picasso stepping into that seam that held the disparate fabrics together before and after cubism. It appears that he stumbled his way into the discovery. Perhaps my stumbling, bumbling is OK.

Shaking off the anxieties, I am ready now to enter the studio. And as I paint, I’m sure I will find the peace and repose that always accompanies good moments in these endeavors. And who knows–maybe I’ll be able to produce something that can have a good effect on other viewers as it does on me while I’m making it. I close with these soothing words from Matisse, penned in his “Notes of a Painter” in 1908:

What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.

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.

Sometimes Wyeth; Sometimes Picasso

November 19, 2014

Looking for the Balance

Looking for the Balance

You can waste an awful lot of time farting around for great occasions.  Pete and Henriette carried on the social game . . .all the artists I’ve ever known did it, except maybe Edward Hopper.

Andrew Wyeth

Please don’t interpret tonight’s post as a complaint–it isn’t.  Over the past decades, I have sought this indefinable center between the public and private side of an artful life.  I love living after the examples of the Thoreaus, the Hoppers and the Wyeths of the art and literary world, one steeped in creative solitude and contemplation.  Winters are especially wonderful for that (especially now that my furnace is repaired, after six days of frigid living!).  But I also ache for that creative collaboration among kindred spirits.  I love the cafes, the salons, the gatherings of inquisitive minds who feed off one another’s inspirations.  Tonight I am headed for the latter, a monthly salon gathering that I enjoy to the depths.  What I wish is that I could return to my studio and work on some art pieces after the meeting, because a number of ideas have been percolating with me over the past several days and I just cannot seem to catch a break to pursue them in solitude.  Part of my teaching load this semester is an online college course and tonight I have promised myself that all assignments submitted over this past week will be graded before I retire to bed–the students deserve that.  And so, perhaps tomorrow I will get back into the studio.  Tonight I can only salute those artists that managed to balance their solitude with their society. I am just as much charmed by Thoreau’s Walden cabin as I am Picasso’s Parisian Cafe Gerbois.  The former looked into the face of nature and drew unlimited resources; the latter listened to the poets, artists and philosophers in the cafe around him and transformed their ideas into art.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Saturday Morning Unscheduled Bliss

November 8, 2014

One of my Murals in Arlington Martin High School

One of my Murals in Arlington Martin High School

All which is beautiful, even humanly beautiful, dies, except in art.

Leonardo da Vinci

Waking to a bright and cold Saturday morning in Arlington, Texas, I decided at the start to spend some time writing in my journal, and that led me back to some old journals where I re-read with surprise some thoughts written long ago and forgotten (with over a hundred volumes of handwritten journals, I wish I had devised a way to index them in order to pull up ideas I had recorded going back to 1985).  I did find this, however, written in August 1988.  I had intended to hang the statement next to a public mural I had just finished (pictured above), but forgot all about it, until now:

Most of these creative spirits have left this world, yet their legacy remains with us.  And this mural is a visual record of how they made living here more worthwhile.  Dreams, visions and inspiration for books, plays, philosophies, songs and works of art were born in environments such as this.

My Favorite Artists

My Favorite Artists

My Favorite Musicians

My Favorite Musicians

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.

Thoreau Wins Out Over Picasso in the Studio Tonight

June 14, 2012

Close up of the Tarrant County Courthouse Cupola

This has been a day filled with reward, and I’m feeling grateful for the gifts.  I’m growing weary of the close, tight work this courthouse cupola is demanding at this moment.  An hour ago, I felt a kinship with Picasso who spent late, late nights in the studio, sometimes toiling till daylight, always spinning out new creations.  But my eyes are starting to fail me, and my back is getting tired of hunching over the drafting table.

Besides, this beautiful volume of Thoreau Journals has been sitting at my elbow, and I think it’s time that I drink from his waters.  With a little reluctance, I’ll turn off Alabama Live and listen to the night sounds outside my open garage door.  I haven’t done much quality journaling on this day, and I think it’s time to get some good things on the page.

Thanks for all of you who follow me on this blog.  It has been a rewarding spread of days lately.  Talk to you tomorrow!

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Lost in Colorado Wonder

May 20, 2012

Painting St. Elmo, Colorado, late night in the studio

I always laughed at the stories of Pablo Picasso working in his studio at 3 a.m.  Long ago, I lost the ability to pull all-nighters.  I miss them.  But this could be a late one.  I took a nap this evening (had a pretty miserable afternoon) and now am waking more as the hours roll by, and am getting lost in the rustic architecture of this Colorado mountain town.  I recall it as vividly as if it were yesterday.  Four of us were about to embark on a foolhardy trip over Tin Cup pass in a Jeep Grand Cherokee 4-wheel drive.  We made the trip, but I still think the decision was foolish.  I don’t bother to sport the bumper sticker “I Survived Tin Cup Pass”‘; I don’t take a lot of pride in doing that trip with a vehicle not quite cut out for it (Geez, 4-ply tires even!  What a fool).

I lingered around St. Elmo for quite a long time that afternoon, shooting my old 35mm camera, using Kodachrome slide film.  I’m glad I saved the slides, though technology in the schools has all but made them obsolete.  I don’t know how much longer this Kodak carousel projector is going to hold up.

I took a break from painting to read a bit (I’m re-reading Basquiat by Phoebe Hoban), and to look at this work-in-progress on an easel across the room from my man cave.  I like the habit of Andrew Wyeth, putting up his work so he could glance up at it while doing something else, or while entering a room, and thus get a snapshot impression of it to know what works, what doesn’t, and most of all, figure out when to quit the thing.  I’m making myself stop right now because I’ve crawled into the painting to the point that I’m focusing on all these minute details and forgetting to see the entire work, compositionally.  That’s how I lose a painting.  There is a haunting soliloquy in the motion picture Six Degrees of Separation, where Donald Sutherland muses over how it feels to “lose a painting.”  I have no words for this.  But I regret those countless times when, signing a painting, I sighed and admitted to myself that it “looked better a week ago.”  I pushed it too far.  Right now, I have questions about this Colorado painting, and so I’ve decided to set it aside while I muse over it, and meanwhile, continue reading Basquiat. 

Thanks always for reading.

Public Murals in a Local High School

February 17, 2012

Arlington Martin High School Little Theater Mural

Since I have  been unable to pick up the watercolor brush for a few days, I decided to post a few of the eight public murals I was privileged to design and paint at Arlington Martin High School, where I teach full time.  This is on the second floor, outside the Little Theater.  I painted it sometime in the late 90’s over a 17-day span one summer.  I was given total license as to subject matter.  I chose as an interior the Trent River Coffee Company I discovered on vacation that summer in New Bern, North Carolina.

I chose my favorite heroes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  I was inspired by the murals inside the Barnes and Noble cafes I was seeing in those days, with writers sitting around the tables, conversing.  I chose my favorite philosophers, poets, novelists, playwrights, painters and musicians to fill this environment.  Most visible from this perspective are Maya Angelou, Arthur Miller, Bernard Shaw, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.  I must admit that I did harbor somewhat of a communion with them as I worked on this, particularly on one of my 18-hour days.  Spending that much uninterrupted time alone on a large scale work tends to do those kinds of things to me.

I may post some additional images in the days ahead.  I hate to let this blog languish during the hiatus when nothing new is being created and I’m buried in grading and lesson planning.  Times like this are certainly low moments in my life.  I look forward to the day when space returns to create.

Thanks for reading.