Posts Tagged ‘Portland’

The Urge to Soldier On

February 11, 2014
Sketch of a Bait Shop on the Texas Gulf

Beginning Sketch of a Bait Shop on the Texas Gulf

Who cares what sensibility or discrimination a man has at some time shown, if he falls asleep in his chair? . . . Of what use is genius, if the organ is too convex or too concave and cannot find a focal distance within the actual horizon of human life?

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

This statement from Emerson knocked the wind out of me this afternoon (oops, yesterday afternoon–midnight has already arrived) when I was closing out one of my classes and thinking about my recent reduced watercolor and sketching output.  Too often I use my job as an excuse, but frankly I’ve been able to average over a hundred watercolors a year for several years in a row now.  So it has to be something else.  Inspiration has been on the flat side.   But when I read this Emerson statement from “Experience” (a fabulous essay that I hadn’t read in over ten years) I was reminded of something I read last year from Ian Roberts in Creative Authenticity, namely that no one cares how much talent you have if you’re not creating anything.  Good point.  I’m glad that I spent the better part of this past evening working at my drafting table.  It’s a good feeling, being a part of something much larger than my individual self.

O me! O life!  of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the


Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than

I and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the

            struggle ever renew’d,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I

            see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me inter-     


The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these,

            O me, O life?




That you are here—that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.


Walt Whitman, “O Me! O Life!


The watercolor sketch above is something I started a couple of months ago and then abandoned as other projects crowded in.  A former student of mine, Mike Catlin, is now managing Bowman Design and Framing in Portland, Texas, near Corpus Christi. He invited me into that gallery last year, and I traveled down there in November to deliver some of my work.  We spent a couple of days together, renewing an old friendship, then traveled about the coast to take pictures for future sketches and paintings.  I got after this 8 x 10” watercolor rather quickly, but then stalled.  So I’m now trying to breathe life back into it–something I always find hard to do when I’ve let a piece lie about and get cold for awhile.  I took several dozen photos of old bait shops in that area, and really like the compositions of some of them.  I just need to put my head down now and get some of them kicked out.  Soon, I will be leading a watercolor workshop for that gallery, and I would really like to get some paintings together of the area before I show up for the sessions.

Thank you, Mike, for helping me get untracked again.

And thanks to the rest of you for reading me.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Cleansing the Eye

November 6, 2013
"Fishing Memories" now at Bowman Studios, Portland, Texas

“Fishing Memories” now at Bowman Studios, Portland, Texas

But the painter most vividly present in [Matisse’s] mind in Tangier was Delacroix, who had recharged his own vision eighty years before under the brilliant soft light of the Moroccan sun, drawing strength, like Matisse, from the power and harmony of Oriental design and colour.  Matisse dismissed suggestions that he (like the Orientalists) had picked Morocco in order to retrace the footsteps of Delacroix, but he saw his work reflected everywhere in the landscape, even recognising the background to The Capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders as the view from the terrace of the Casbah cafe.   . . . For Matisse, as for Delacroix, travel was a means of cleansing the eye.  He needed an unfamiliar world and a new light, for the same reason that he needed the alien decorative discipline of Oriental art, so as to break through to a fresh way of seeing.

Hilary Spurling, Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Marisse, The Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954.

Throughout his painting career, Henri Matisse travelled broadly to different regions in search of different landscapes and subject matter.  This practice of getting out of his painting rut he called “cleansing the eye.”  I had the rare privilege of cleansing my eye over this past weekend, travelling to Corpus Christi for the first time in my life.

I am proud to announce that I have added a second art gallery to my market.  The Dinah Bowman Studio and Gallery has ten of my original watercolors on display and sale.  This gallery is located in Portland, Texas, just up the coast from Corpus Christi.  The eye-cleansing weekend was just what the doctor ordered for my recent treadmill of high school/university grading and teaching, along with the weekend art festivals.  It’s been hard to find quality down time.  In recent philosophy classes, we have discussed Descartes and his stove, Hume and his cottage, Emerson and his European Odyssey, and we are about to get into Thoreau and his Walden Pond.  I have ached for leisure, for quiet, for solitude.  I have needed a retreat, a getaway, a healthy withdrawal from this daily grind.

The six-and-a-half-hour drive Friday night from Arlington to Portland was only the beginning.  Driving through the darkness down Texas highway 77 (I chose to avoid most of I-35 with its infamous Austin and San Antonio traffic snarls), I rolled down my Jeep windows and breathed deeply the autumn night air, listened to the wind, and enjoyed the space.  After a good night’s sleep at the Days Inn, I enjoyed breakfast on the outdoor patio of La Iguana.  Breakfast was beyond excellence, and the extra cups of coffee over my journal and reading from the Hemingway biography provided a perfect respite from the recent labors.


Breakfast on the patio of La Iguana, Portland, Texas

Meeting with Mike Catlin, manager of the gallery and a former student of mine, was a perfect closure to a circle forming since 1990.  We looked through my porfolio at leisure, and he selected ten pieces for the gallery.  Later, as Mike met with one of his other studio artists, I retreated to a quiet place on the gulf beach, and sat beneath a shelter to write further in the journal and read from my Hemingway biography.  As I wrote, I felt that warm connection with Hemingway’s Key West days as a morning writer.  The winds carrying the salt scent from the gulf seemed to wash over me in the gentlest, most affirming way.

Hemingway Outdoors

Quality Time for Reflection over Hemingway

The remainder of my Saturday was spent with Mike as we travelled to Rockport and Corpus Christi, photographing everything available that would lend itself to a watercolor composition.  On Sunday morning, rising early, I made my return trip to Arlington, retracing my route on Texas highway 77 and photographing historic architecture in the towns of Refugio, Victoria, Hallettsville, Schulenberg, La Grange and Lexington.  The sun was bright, contrasts were strong, and the 65-degree windy day was perfect as I photographed nineteenth-century Catholic churches, courthouses, Victorian homes, and vintage gas stations.  I have enough material to last me through more than a dozen watercolors.  All I have to do now is find time to get after them.

I reach in vain for words to express the gratitude I feel for such a wholesome weekend of travel, art, photography and friendship.

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.