Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

So, why do you think that is ever going to change?

February 21, 2016


Today has been a day for cleaning up many unfinished art projects and sorting out new ideas for the studio. I have begun a new watercolor of an old subject I did years ago (twice) and am excited about its prospects. I am unable to post it because it is so pale with preliminary washes that no reader would be able to discern the subject yet. Soon, I hope!

My dear poet friend Stacy published on her blog this morning and knocked the wind out of me. I am posting the link below.

Later in the day, over coffee, we discussed this thing about being “blocked.” I know all-too-well the moments when I’m wondering just what to tackle next in my painting, accompanied by the self-doubt that is convinced that my efforts will fall short of my aspirations.  And as I read Stacy’s post repeatedly, one idea rose to the surface–a guitar master once listened as his student complained that he heard the music better than he was able to make it come out of his fingers. The master asked, “And why do you think that is ever going to change?”

That is exactly the point. My thoughts are always better than my expressions, whether they be public discourse, playing guitar, singing, writing, making art, even journaling. My expression never reaches the quality of my idea. My works of art never reach the level of Art. I suppose the sooner we accept that reality, the easier it will be to pick up the pen or brush or musical instrument.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


The Poetry of Winter Trees

January 8, 2016


Perhaps the purpose of leaves is to conceal

the verticality of trees which we notice in December

as if for the first time: row after row of dark forms

yearning upwards. And since we will be horizontal

ourselves for so long, let us now honor

the gods of the vertical: stalks of wheat which

to the ant must seem as high as these trees do to us,

silos and telephone poles, stalagmites and skyscrapers.

but most of all these winter oaks, these soft-fleshed poplars,

this birch whose bark is like roughened skin against

which I lean my chilled head, not ready to lie down.

Vertical – Poem by Linda Pastan

I could never thank Linda Pastan enough for creating and publishing such a poem that makes me catch my breath.   For years I have looked at winter trees, wishing to capture them in pencil or watercolor, but could never find the words to express my sentiments. Now in this poem of hers, I feel an overwhelming gratitude that someone thought it, wrote it and published it.  Thank you Linda Pastan.

So, Where Really does the Work of Art Reside?

August 3, 2015
A little bit of detail work on the catfish skull

A little bit of detail work on the catfish skull

The true poem is not that which the public read. There is always a poem not printed on paper, coincident with the production of this, stereotyped in the poet’s life. It is what he has become through his work. Not how is the idea expressed in stone, or on canvas or paper, is the question, but how far it has obtained form and expression in the life of the artist.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

How heartwarming to read words penned over a hundred years ago that match perfectly with your own sentiments! For years, I have loved art and literary history because of how the lives of the creators inspire me. Yes, I stil love the visual beauty of the plastic arts, and the intellectual and auditory pleasures derived from literary works, written as well as spoken. But the humanity is what always moves me–I am inspired every time I perceive an example of how someone felt that inward compulsion and expressed the powerful forces surging from within.

Today could have been written off as boring, since I had a myriad of tasks to complete, appointments to keep, etc. And it wasn’t until the hours began to wane at the end of the day that I even got to enter the studio and look over this catfish skull that I began last evening. But the image remained on my mind throughout this harried day. And though the natural light didin’t stay with me very long this evening, the time spent over the drafting table was still sublime. I’ve been playing Enya’s “Shepherd Moons” on the stereo and those songs transported me back to July 1992 when I was studying Emerson and Thoreau at Oregon State University. We teachers involved in that National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar laughingly referred to the corner suite of our fifth-story dormitory “The Penthouse”, as we were given a key to that room, to use it as a study. The week before my presentation was due, I occupied that Penthouse during the day hours and enjoyed Enya as I studied, wrote and typed, looking out at Mary’s Peak in the distance, wanting to be there. The memories, so many years later, are still strong. And I found them a comfort as I listened to the music and focused on this skull. I felt that her lilting, soothing voice was affirming what I was trying to accomplish.

The face of the skull, on close observation, has a number of fascinating serrated lines etched into it, and some subtle colors in the stains. I’ve also tried to keep from coloring in the cavities as mere black holes, because I can see plenty of variety going on within those holes. There is a myriad of tiny bumps, texturing the surface, perfect tiny hemispheres rising from their sepia/green floor. I’ve attempted a masque pen for the bumps, and then scoured an ugly brush of neutrals over them, hoping that when I strip them off, they will appear as they should. Once the masquing was removed, I was happy with what emerged, and believe that I will stop now that the light has darkened in my window. Tomorrow is another day. The second photo shows what happened to the masqued area, once I scraped it clean.

I still haven’t studied up on my ichthyology. I am told that this skull belonged to a gaff topsail catfish, commonly called the hard head catfish, or, because of the structural cross on the underside, a crucifix fish. I’ll try to post more on that later.

Thank you for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Pope’s Essay on Man

July 8, 2014
Alexander Pope Drawing/Collage

Alexander Pope Drawing/Collage

This I might have done in prose; but I chose verse, and even rhyme, for two reasons.  The one will appear obvious; that principles, maxims, or precepts so written, both strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more easily retained by him afterwards:  The other may seem odd, but is true, I found I could express them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain, than that much of the force as well as grace of arguments or instructions, depends on their conciseness.  I was unable to treat this part of my subject more in detail, without becoming dry and tedious; or more poetically, without sacrificing perspicuity to ornament, without wandering from the precision, or breaking the chain of reasoning: If any man can unite all these without diminution of any of them, I freely confess he will compass a thing above my capacity.

. . . 

I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the passage.  To deduce the rivers, to follow them in their course, and to observe their effects, may be a task more agreeable.

Alexander Pope, Introduction to “An Essay on Man”

After several halting attempts to teach Alexander Pope and his ideas, I found this statement this morning to be more insightful than any I’ve read before from his collection.  Maybe it was the fulness of time for me.  Back on my 60th birthday, I sat on a balcony on Easter Sunday morning, and recorded in my journal two observations on why I should work at composing poetry and music–the economy of language and the discipline of couching words and phrases in conducive syntax.  This was a revelation to me, and I have returned to it several times in the past two months.  But to sit this morning and read these words from an Enlightened mind truly launched me.  Several hours later I still am quivering from the experience.  Naturally, I felt I had to sit and crank out a drawing/collage of Pope, record this moment in my journal, and try to wax poetic in my writings (I guess two out of three tasks is O.K.).

I would like to say that I devoted the rest of the day to reading Pope and writing poetry, but alas, life/art happens: the Trinity Arts Guild invited me to join several artists for a paint-in at the studio in Bedford immediately after school.  So . . . I went there and worked on watercolor, and I shall post the results of it next.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.



Finished the Poetry and Cigarettes Still Life

November 20, 2012

Poetry and Cigarettes

My Thanksgiving Holiday is off to a satisfying start.  I have completed work on this small 5 x 7″ still life that features an 1881 copy of Whittier’s Poems and an old Lucky Strike cigarette tin I found in an antique store years ago.   A few weeks back, I surprised myself by doing some close-up studies of antique doorknobs.  This has only whetted my appetite for more.  I have had a fetish for old objects such as these, and have stared at them for years, wondering if I could ever render them in pencil or watercolor (I have always envied other artists who did).  Finally, I decided “Why not?”  I’m glad I finally got around to giving this a try.

The PBS Voices and Visions series has been an inspiration to me since the early 1990’s.  Recently I was directed to the website where all the documentaries can be streamed.  What a wonderful companion piece for the studio!  While working on this still life, I have listened, with deep emotional stirrings, to the presentations on T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens and Walt Whitman.  The laptop is such a great accessory to have handy in the man cave.  My cat even seems to enjoy napping to the sounds of the sonorous voices reading the poetry and opining on the lives of these great writers.  My watercolor supplies, volumes of poetry, a laptop and a cat–who says you can’t have it all?!  I’m looking forward to vacationing in my cave for awhile.

Thanks for reading.

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

April 23, 2011

” . . . and all the air a solemn stillness holds.”  The Thomas Gray poem took hold of me this afternoon.  I chose to drive to the Cahill Methodist Church today and make some new attempts at sketching the small cemetery behind the church, with watercolor and pencil.  I have painted this cemetery once before, and the church twice before (the church is on my website, titled “First Night in Waterford.”).

The temperatures were somewhat mild, in the mid-80’s and the winds were tolerable today.  I could not believe how quiet and isolated I was as I stood in this churchyard and created two paintings in the afternoon.  The Cahill Church is located 2.7 miles east of I-35W on F.M. 917 (south of Burleson, Texas).  My wife rides her horse on a local ranch in Burleson, and today I found it convenient to make the extra 10-minute drive to this quiet little place.

Something tells me I will want to return to this place.  This afternoon seemed to offer the perfect space for watercolor exploration.

Thanks for reading.

T. S. Eliot poetry and Victorian Architecture Watercolor

March 16, 2011

Weatherford Victorian House

Aside from house cleaning (which was more interesting than usual), the day was given to reading T. S. Eliot and chipping away at my Victorian watercolor in the garage.  A nice cool day, and clear skies made the ambience ideal for painting.  My buddy David Slight also came by in the afternoon, and stayed the rest of the day, completing his third watercolor (posted previously) which came out superb.  I’ll probably retire to bed with Eliot’s “Four Quartets” still tumbling about in my consciousness.  What an amazing man of words!  I hope someday to render images in paint as clearly and attractively as he did in words.

Thanks for reading.

Red Goose Shoes and Memories of Neighborhoods Past

March 6, 2011

Red Goose Shoes at Trautwein's

This winter evening in my garage/studio is beyond belief.  I’m bent over this painting I’ve begun of an abandoned shoe store in southwest St. Louis, near where I grew up.  I photographed the store and derelict sign during the Christmas holidays on a cold snowy afternoon while I was cruising historic Route 66 and Gravois Road.  There is plenty of information on this Trautwein’s store’s history on the Internet, and in subsequent postings, I will recover the blogs I read a couple of months ago, prompting me to attempt this painting.

What I’ve found enchanting this evening, is listening to a documentary on William Carlos Williams while I paint.  WCW was a poet and pediatrician in Rutherford, New Jersey, who made his rounds about the small town in the early decades of the twentieth century.  He was a pioneer of Imagism, as his active eye recorded the events of his daily odysseys and he actively scribbled rough drafts of poems of these on his prescription pads.  Coming home late at night, he would push these scraps of paper around on the table top, and revise them into the poems we now love.

As I’ve worked late this afternoon and into the darkening evening, my ear has filled with the sounds of this WCW documentary, mingled with the live sounds of my suburban neighborhood–stock car races roaring in neighboring Kennedale, children on bicycles up and down the street beside my house, suburbanites walking their dogs and chatting with acquaintances,  a table saw shrieking in someone else’s garage (man-cave) nearby.  The sight must be peculiar if anyone looks up in my direction–an open garage and a guy sitting at a drafting table working on a watercolor, watching a portable TV and blogging on a laptop.  No power tools to be seen in this cave!  I have absolutely soaked every sensation of this day from my garage, Proust-like, enjoying today and remembering yesterday.

I hate that I have to return to school early in the morning, and see it through all the way to Open House tomorrow night.  This painting, after tonight, will probably lay dormant for about 48 hours.  But hopefully, the image will compost in my mind’s eye, and develop in a way that I’ll know what to do when I finally return to it.  I’m glad Spring Break is only a week away.  Perhaps I’ll get more “real” work done then.  I had hoped that this weekend could feature 2 1/2 days in the studio, but that was not to be.  A family emergency, plus too-many-errands, managed to cut up my quality painting time into very small segments.  Though I painted three times today, none of those “sessions” lasted longer than 45 minutes before something else “came up” that had to be tended.  But, that’s how we live.  I have no complaints, really.

Thanks for reading.  I hope your day has been as good as mine.

Christmas Cheer and Nostalgia at Spencer’s Grill in Kirkwood, Missouri

March 1, 2011

Christmas at Spencers Grill

Though it’s been two months since I left St. Louis, my heart still stirs at the memory of a bright winter morning at Spencer’s Grill in Kirkwood, Missouri along historic Route 66.  My wife and I had just ducked inside this historic cafe from the late 1940’s for breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, scrapple and coffee.  This historic sign at Spencer’s Grill I had seen since my pre-literate childhood, and will always remember, Proust-like, as a monument from my remote past.

Recently I’ve been reading plenty of Ezra Pound, and studying his tragic life.  From his poem “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” I found these lines:

All things are aflowing,

Sage Heracleitus says;

But a tawdry cheapness

Shall outlast our days.

For over a decade, I’ve been fascinated with the Presocratic fragments, particularly the pieces from Heraclitus.   I mused over this phenomena of traffic perennially rushing north-south on Kirkwood Road, while the ageless, changeless Spencer’s Grill remains.  With my company Recollections 54 ( I try to capture in watercolor the images of an America from the 1950’s that remains in spite of the changes that nearly sweep the ground out from under us as we live out our fast-paced, deadline-driven lives.

Thanks for reading.