Posts Tagged ‘Robert Henri’

Pre-Dawn Musings. Life as an Artist

May 1, 2021
Redlands Hotel. Second Floor

The man who has great emotions might burst into tears–but that is as far as he will get if he has no practical side. The artist must have the emotional side first, the primal cause of his being an artist, but he must also have an excellent mind, which he must command and use as a tool for the expression of his emotions.

The idea, which is the primal thing for a picture, is all in the air; the expression on canvas is a case of absolute science as it deals with materials. A great artist is both a great imaginer and a great employer of practical science. First there must be the man, then the technique.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

After a week of frenetic loading, traveling, and unloading from gallery to home to festival grounds back to home and then back to gallery, I am finally able to stop long enough this morning to write about what is swirling about me. I woke up about 3:30 this morning in The Redlands Hotel and could not return to sleep. So I have been enjoying the quiet pre-dawn at the kitchen table in the suite I inhabit while at this residence. The Redlands Hotel has the feel, the genuine vibe I believe inhabited it since 1915. I seem to do some of my best thinking and painting here. And now in the quiet of the morning, I sense that the dam is about to break–all the thoughts I’ve harbored in my heart this past week will probably spill out onto this computer screen and then go out to anybody who cares to read.

This Robert Henri book has been like a Bible for me the past ten years or so. Teaching art history, my imagination was always stirred by the details of this amazing man’s life. Obviously his persona was magnetic as he gathered a group of newspaper illustrators around him and fired up their imaginations at meetings in his studio apartment on 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. They called themselves The Eight (hence my derivative idea of The Twelve here in The Gallery at Redlands).

For years I’ve wondered if my own life could have turned out differently had I had such an art teacher as Henri. But that is an immature and uncritical sentiment; in many ways, he has been and still is my art teacher. And the best parts of Henri’s character and philosophy were embedded in the art teachers who influenced me the most–Mr. Scucchi (high school) with his abstract theories, Professor Murray (university) with his erudite scholarship, and Professor Unger (university) with his technical focus.

I cannot improve on the quote from Henri at the top of this blog, but I wish to respond with my own sentiments. I have always been intrigued with the dual nature of the artist as emotional and intellectual. Throughout my own pilgrimage, I recall my early years as charged with emotion and imagination, and my desire to express these through the avenue of art, drawng first and painting later. Throughout public school and university I never lost that emotional charge, but being intellectually lazy and immature, I sought to improve my work only through technique, assembing as many tools for my toolbox as possible. As for academic pursuits and listening to lectures, I was completely disinterested.

Halfway through my university undergraduate years, I suddenly woke up to the world of ideas and found myself starved for academic pursuit. I guess one would call me a late-bloomer. By the time my Bachelors was completed, I regretted that I had not taken scholarship more seriously. Earning later a Masters and Doctorate did not burn me out. Rather those ten extra years of meticulous scholarship changed my life and I now find myself in retirement years just as intensely curious as I was from the beginning, but now with more time to read and reflect.

Every artist has his/her own way of pursuing this enterprise. As for myself, I spend just as much time reading and writing as I do painting in the studio. My mornings generally begin with coffee and “executive time” where I study just as intently as I did during my graduate school years (except I no longer have papers to write or deadlines to meet–a perfect world at last!). I approach the drafting table later in the day and attempt to apply what I’ve learned to the task of making visual art. My heroes from art history are those who found ways to balance their technical artistic skills with their academic pursuits of study and writing. These artists are the ones I read the most–Edward Hopper, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Eugene Delacroix, Paul Gauguin, N. C. Wyeth and of course Robert Henri. Through their examples, I continue to find ways to balance my intellectual and technical focus with my emotional side.

Thank you for reading me.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


The Emotional and the Technical: Balancing the Art Equation

April 17, 2021
Opportunity to Read and Reflect while the Restaurant is Busy

The man who has great emotions might burst into tears–but that is as far as he will get if he has no practical side. The artist must have the emotional side first, the primal cause of his being an artist, but he must also have an excellent mind, which he must command and use as a tool for the expression of his emotions.

The idea, which is the primal thing for a picture, is all in the air; the expression on canvas is a case of absolute science as it deals with materials. A great artist is both a great imaginer and a great employer of practical science. First there must be the man, then the technique.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

The day has been long as Sandi and I have culled out of the gallery my pieces to hang in next weekend’s festival at the Dallas Arboretum. The dinner hour has arrived, and the Saturday night crowd now fills the Queen Street Grille across the lobby from our Gallery at Redlands. It is possible later that patrons after dinner will flow across the hall and into this gallery to have a look. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the waning western light glowing through the large windows of the gallery as well as the general quiet of the lobby. (Prom pictures were being taken this afternoon. The noise, ugh!)

My pulse quickens every time I read of the life of Robert Henri as he gathered The Eight around him in Philadelphia. Henri was truly a prophet, drawing a young group of newspaper illustrators around him in his apartment at 806 Walnut Street. He read to them from Emerson, Whitman and Tolstoy to fire up their imagination and then instructed them in the proper techniques for sketching and illustration. The group went on to become known as The Ashcan School, moving to New York City and sketching live the scenes that enveloped their day-to-day lives. Later on, The Eight expanded to include a young Edward Hopper, one of my favorite American artists of all time.

The quote above engages me directly, as I look back over my earlier years when I sought training to improve my art techniques, but didn’t really feel the fire in my belly till I was finishing up grad school, enriched by theology, literature and philosophy. Returning to the pencil and brush, I was surprised that I actually had something more to say through drawing and painting than I had thought in my earlier years. Thus my newly discovered passion was easily engrafted onto the skills I had been taught while working on my art degree.

Throughout my later years, I have come up with several ways to look at this bifurcation of emotion and technique. In philosophy, I learned from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy that Greek actors on the stage sought to display to the audience the two competing forces in human life–Dionysus, the god of passion and turbulence struggling against Apollo, the god of reason and discipline. As an artist I have known for decades those two competing forces.

In art history, I have seen countless examples of those clashing tendencies. Neo-Classical art focused on the disciplines of drawing and composition. In reaction, Romanticism sprung up, crying out for passion and experimentation in art. In my own artistic endeavors, I have been told by my earlier instructors that I was too tight, too controlling, too orderly in my work, lacking in feeling, freedom and spontaneity. I am still aware of that in my current work.

I hope that before too much longer The Twelve will have opportunity to gather and talk about these matters that drive our artistic endeavors. Meanwhile I’ll just continue reading, thinking, writing, and hopefully applying what I’m discovering.

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.

The Next Chapter: Sandi and I are the New Owners of The Gallery at Redlands

February 7, 2021

Our lives are the result of all the doors we have walked through, and our continued growth depends on our willingness to keep moving into new spaces.

Madisyn Taylor, “When Doors Open”, DailyOM

On February 12, 2017, the Gallery at Redlands was conceived. Wade and Gail Thomas sat down with me in an old general store in rural east Texas and they shared their vision for opening a gallery in Palestine, Texas. They wanted me to inaugurate it with a One-Man-Show.

A little over a month later, on March 24, the Gallery at Redlands opened for business, with the One-Man-Show lasting three weeks, coinciding with Palestine’s Dogwood Festival. When the show closed, Wade and Gail invited me to remain in the gallery, and Jean Mollard, owner of the Redlands Hotel where the Gallery lives, offered me overnight lodging in the hotel anytime I made the two-hour drive to Palestine to work in the space.

Last month, Wade approached me to find out if I was interested in taking over the ownership of the venue. I was elated to find Sandi just as enthusiastic as I to walk through this door. Two Saturdays ago, we took possession of the Gallery and worked till 9:30 that evening before driving home exhausted to recuperate. Last Saturday we returned with two paintings, two crates of pottery, and three stone sculptures, and stayed in the Gallery till midnight before driving home even more exhausted. Now today, Sunday, I have decided I can hold off no longer to announce this exciting news. We have contracted eleven artists to enliven this space with oil, acrylic, watercolor and pastel paintings along with photography, pottery and sculpture. After four years of The Gallery at Redlands existing as a showcase for my watercolors, we now choose to open it up to a diverse collection of visual media.

The sheer ecstasy of our new collection of artists cannot be overstated. Though we have yet to convene as a group, I have been stirred by phone and face-to-face conversations with the individuals. Their enthusiasm resonates in ways reminiscent of Stieglitz’s Gallery 291 in New York, Henri’s studio at 806 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, the Ninth Street Club in Greenwich Village and the Cafe Gerbois in Paris. I am convinced that creative sparks will fly once we all gather and share as a group that hopefully Palestine and the surrounding area will notice.

Sculpture by Mark Hyde, Pottery by Paula Cadle
My latest watercolor
We’re still waiting on art from the rest of the crew; my own watercolors are filling space for a few weeks more.
Meet Sandi, whose energy exceeds mine at least threefold
As the clock neared midnight, I had to slump in the chair, while Sandi continued to set up
Stacy Campbell, our newest Pop Artist with her recent work, “I Like Your Willie”

I cannot express my gratitude to Wade, Gail, Jean and Mike for opening this door for us to pass through. The world opening on the other side offers so much promise and adventure. In closing, I share Wade and Gail’s post on The Gallery at Redlands page on Facebook:

Our decision to open The Gallery at Redlands depended entirely on our friend David Tripp agreeing to be a major part. Through the years, as we hoped would happen, David has become the face of the gallery. He has always been the one to make the gallery come alive. It was always our intention, when the time was right, to turn the ownership of the gallery over to David. Well, we are happy to announce that the day has come and as of today The Gallery at Redlands is under the ownership of David. Congratulations to you, sir. We are excited for both you and the future of the gallery and wish you nothing but the very best, Wade and Gail

Thank you again, Wade and Gail, and thanks to the rest of you for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

A Dusting of Snow

December 30, 2020
Morning in Lubbock, Texas

There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual–become clairvoyant. We reach then into reality. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. . . . At such times there is a song going on within us, a song to which we listen. It fills us with surprise. We marvel at it. We would continue to hear it. But few are capable of holding themselves in the state of listening to their own song. Intellectuality steps in and as the song within us is of the utmost sensitiveness, it retires in the presence of the cold, material intellect.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Good morning from Lubbock, Texas. We drove out here yesterday with temperatures at 70 degrees. This morning it is 30 with a dusting of snow. The spirit of Christmas abides with me still, and the snow certainly aids and abets it.

New Mexico Pinon Coffee with Journal, Books and Cards on Standby

I am glad that New Year’s Eve is still a day away; that special day is usually given to serious reading, reflection and writing. Today I want to make art. Before we left yesterday, Dick Blick delivered these Strathmore Watercolor Cards to my doorstep. I’ve waited a month for them as they had to be back ordered. So . . . I now have a year’s head start on my next batch of Christmas cards.

I appreciate the responses that yesterday’s blog drew. One of the readers actually requested that I address further this notion of religion and art being essentially the same. I acknowledge that I feel clumsy with my words when trying to discuss this, but I am thrilled to try . . .

The Robert Henri quote above describes my sentiments much better than I feel capable of doing. When I say “religion” I am not referring exclusively to Christianity (I always tried to be up front about that in my philosophy classes). I am referring to the numinous experience in general. Merriam-Webster online covers that word quite well. The first definition of numinous I don’t find helpful. But #2: “filled with a sense of the presence of divinity: holy”, and #3: “appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense: spiritual.” These statements, to me, nail it.

Since childhood, I have experienced Emerson’s transcendental sentiment, that there is much more to life than what our five senses reveal and our words capture. And for most of my life, the avenues of religion and art were the ones I pursued to enjoy this realm. But, as Henri pointed out (and also Proust), the more we attempt to capture this prize, the more quickly it evaporates. Nevertheless, that does not prevent us from trying. It certainly does not deter me.

Among the books I’ve selected to bring along for our Lubbock adventure, I’ve included Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters and Friedrich Schleiermacher’s On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers. I am anticipating genuine pleasure as I linger over these texts in the coming days. Now, I am ready to drag out the art supplies . . .

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.

Too Busy to Stop and Write

December 22, 2020
Quiet Reflective Momentss in Studio Eidolons

He was too busy living to stop and write.

Edwin Way Teale, “Introduction,” The Wilderness World of John Muir

Life has been a whirlwind since my last post. Christmas Eve finds our family nestled in New Braunfels, Texas. My plans are to enter the crystal waters of the Guadalupe River later today in quest of trout. Several weeks back I was enraptured, wading the stream while Cindy and Gary filmed me for her MFA project. I was enchanted at the sight of large trout gliding beneath the surface of those glistening waters. Today I anticipate seeing more of the same.

During my recent visit to Missouri, my friend Wayne White surprised me for Christmas with a Dutch oven and the John Muir book quoted above. Thanks to those two thoughtful gifts, I’ll be feeding the body and the soul in the days ahead.

He was too busy living to stop and write.

That simple line encapsulates what I’ve experienced since taking up the blog a few years back, the journal a few decades back, and my thought life an entire lifetime back. For as long as I can remember, reaching even back to my early childhood, I have mentally narrated my life from one moment to the next. The late Harold Bloom wrote of this experience of “overhearing oneself.” Well, that is precisely what I have known since childhood. As I moved through my days, I heard an interior voice narrating what I was experiencing, much like a documentary. By the time I was in graduate school, I wondered “Why don’t I keep a journal?” In 1985, I finally began scribbling my wandering thoughts on legal pads, tearing off and dating the pages and putting them in file folders. Later I graduated to spiral notebooks, and ultimately to bound books. Recently counting the volumes I came to the number 213. Still accumulating. I have yet to count the number of fat file folders jammed with thoughts from 1985 to 1988.

Though the journal receives words several times a day, the thoughts are frequently random, cursory, and therefore not blog-worthy (unfortunately I often feel that many unblogworthy thoughts get launched in the blog anyway). Nevertheless, today’s blog acknowledges that I’ve been in flight for awhile, not stopping to blog. This morning I’m going to try and catch up.

A Gem from Robert Henri

I have written before of treasures I’ve gleaned from multiple readings of Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit. This amazing artist opened up our twentieth century with a revolution tagged The Ashcan School. His magnetic personality drew around himself a gaggle of newspaper illustrators who submitted paintings and etchings of America’s urban blight, a radical departure from the accepted subjects of landscape, still life, genre painting and portraiture. The general public was horrified (“Why do you wish to publish the armpits of America for all to view?”). But the paintings depicted a truth that viewers could not avoid contemplating.

Like a prophet or sage, Henri gathered his followers in his studio at 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia where they sketched and discussed their art, and listened to their leader’s readings from Emerson, Whitman and other American divines. Eventually, Henri’s loose assortment of lectures, articles and letters were published in this marvelous book that I read the way many read their Bibles.

The man who has great emotions might burst into tears–but that is as far as he will get if he has no practical side. The artist must have the emotional side first, the primal cause of his being an artist, but he must also have an excellent mind, which he must command and use as a tool for the expression of his emotions.

The idea, which is the primal thing for a picture, is all in the air; the expression on canvas is a case of absolute science as it deals with materials. A great artist is both a great imaginer and a great employer of practical science. First there must be the man, then the technique.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

These ideas expressed by Henri have percolated in me for most of my life, but I never could relay them as eloquently as he has in this passage. My own art has sought that balance between my emotional and technical dimensions. In recent roadtrips, my eyes have feasted on the land rolling past my windshield, and my heart has raced at the thought of watercolor possibilities while using my smart phone to snap impressions of these future compositions. Later today, when I enter the stream, my eyes will survey the waters, the banks, the trees, and the distant horizon, and I will mentally paint the scene engulfing me. Hopefully, I’ll land the occasional trout as well.

I want to wish all my readers the safest and most serene Christmas season. May you always find Quality in your life and surroundings.

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.

Wandering Thoughts while Painting

January 8, 2020


Making Headway with this Commission

No one can get anywhere without contemplation. Busy people who do not make contemplation part of their business do not do much for all their effort.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

The morning started early this time, around 5:30. With my coffee, I tried to read from my “Bible” (Robert Henri, The Art Spirit), but found myself instead scribbling out a large number of pages in my journal. I recall Friedrich Nietzsche, as a classical philologist grieving for the scholar who could not think “unless he had a book between his fingers.” Nietzsche said that it was a tragedy to rise early in the morning with a mind fresh and ready for ideas, and to waste that time in other thinkers’ transcripts. I am convinced that if the nineteenth century had a problem with books standing between a thinker and his/her thoughts, today it is smart phones. Alain de Botton once said that the problem with our phones is not that we’re gaming too much, but that “they don’t allow us enough time with our thoughts.” Putting my phone on the shelf, I gave myself to good thoughts and good reading, knowing that whatever came to me over my phone could wait.

Probably the reason for my percolating mind this morning was reading Henri before bedtime last evening. I was captivated by his comments on the “powerful demarcation between the surface and the deep currents of human development.” In Platonic fashion, Henri divided the world between a surface, material realm and an underlying, foundational, spiritual one. Building on this scheme, Henri then divided artists between the two realms. Emerging from the world of the illustrator which he knew all-too-well, Henri argued that “the artist of the surface does not see further than material fact. He describes appearances and he illustrates events.”

Henri, as a sage, devotes a large section of his book The Art Spirit to inspiring artists to seek that underlying spiritual dynamic:

Event and upheavals, which seem more profound than they really are, are happening on the surface. But there is another and deeper change in progress. It is of long, steady persistent growth, very little affected and not at all disturbed by surface conditions. The artist of today should be alive to this deeper evolution on which all growth depends, has depended and will depend.

Aristotle pointed out two branches of knowledge: technē (from which we get technology) furnishes us the tools for our tasks, and sophia (translated “wisdom”) which is closer to the Delphic Oracle (“Know Thyself”), furnishing us with insight. It is this inner, self-knowledge that Aristotle said points us to the spirit of well-being or fulfilment (eudaimonia).

I have written about this in other blog posts but will write it again: I regard myself as a late bloomer, educationally. Throughout my public schooling, I lacked the maturity and discipline to apply myself to the school disciplines of study. The only skill I possessed was that as an artist, and fortunately those technical abilities (which I developed enthusiastically during junior and senior high school) landed me a scholarship to the university. At the university, I woke up to the world of ideas and could not satisfy my lust for learning. When my doctorate was completed, I did a swan dive into the classroom and remained for three decades. During these years in the educational crucible, I continued to study and reflect and examine the foundations for my artistic enterprise.

Now, retired, I find myself constantly making sketches of myself while in my element, seated, calm, and exploring my aesthetic world by making art, reading and writing out my thoughts:

Shultz reduced


This morning, while rendering this locomotive, I thought of Aristotle’s words, and decided that for me, technē could assist in portraying the “surface” of this painting, while hopefully sophia would percolate like my morning coffee, producing eudaimonia.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


The Prophet Crying in the Wilderness

December 14, 2019


There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Sign-posts on the way to what may be. Sign-posts toward greater knowledge.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Visitations early this morning from the spirit of Robert Henri have filled me to overflowing. Reading from his slected writings, I came across the remarks posted above. I know those sentiments fully. From childhood, art has been that portal allowing me “to see beyond the usual.” Visual art has been that gateway to worlds beyond the ordinary. And this morning, I am filled with that spirit of discovery once again.

Robert Henri, for The Eight, was John the Baptist for the first disciples, that prophet crying in the wilderness. In Philadelphia in the early 1890’s, his apartment at 806 Walnut Street was the largest small room in the world, where teenage illustrators gathered to hear this twenty-seven-year-old read to them from Emerson, Whitman, Chekhov and Tolstoy. Henri urged fresh vision as these painters turned away from established European styles of painting and toward everyday scenes they encountered in the streets. Though their homes were anchored in the urban, the prophetic cry of Henri came from the wilderness wasteland, and their inner souls sensed limitless space for imagination and new experiments in painting.

I devoted the first part of my morning to sitting at the sunlit window of my studio and reading Henri’s observations over several cups of coffee. I couldn’t have chosen a better activity. Now, paintings are waiting on the drafting tables, three of them actually. And I am in the mood to lean into them.

Thanks for reading. Shultz reduced


I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

                                 I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


Time to Return to the Waiting Paintings

Re-visiting Heidegger’s Hut Memories

November 23, 2019

crockett live

Painting an Old Doorknob in the Old Store

You can have the technique and can paint the object, but that doesn’t mean you get down to the juice of it all. It’s what’s inside you, the way you translate the object–and that’s pure emotion.

Andrew Wyeth

The technique learned without a purpose is a formula which when used, knocks the life out of any ideas to which it is applied.

There are always a few who get at and feel the undercurrent, and these simply use the surface appearances selecting them and using them as tools to express the undercurrent, the real life.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

A Saturday of painting in The Gallery at Redlands has been soothing to me as I inch closer to Thanksgiving.  Tomorrow, my friends Cindy and Gary arrive for a couple of days of filming. I am so grateful for their offer to make this documentary of the projects I’ve been pursuing.

Between paintings I have also re-visited journals from my recent past. Soon, I hope to return to my favorite retreat, an old store that friends have given me access for lodging. I call it Heidegger’s Hut in memory of Martin Heidegger’s cabin retreat that he had built in 1927 in the Black Forest mountains. In that remote location, he wrote all his famous works. I have told many friends that my best work has been done in this old store, nearly three hours outside of Arlington. The doorknob shown above and below separates the store from the residence, and I spent the winter of 2016 painting it while seated next to a heater in the main store area.

Feeding off the quotes above from Wyeth and Henri, I tried to forget technique while focusing on the doorknob and figuring out exactly how I wanted to get it on the paper. I sat in the darkened storeroom with one desk lamp trained on the doorknob and a second one beside my chair, lighting the stretched paper on my lap. I spent much more time staring at my subject than actually drawing and painting. Most of my work was done between 1 a.m. and daybreak, and the sweet solitude of that winter darkness I will never forget. The time spent there was truly a gift.



“Beyond the Door” watercolor 20.5h x 17.5w” frame size $800



Heideggers Hut darkened

Painting of Myself in the Store, Painting the Doorknob

19h x 22w” frame size  $900

Signed & Numbered Edition 11.5h x 14.5w” $100


Relaxing on the Veranda after Painting

Three months after the painting of the old doorknob, the owners of the store opened The Gallery at Redlands, and now I spend most of my open calendar days working out of the gallery.

The Redlands Hotel has released their menu for their Thanksgiving Eve Feast in the Queen St Grille. This special event will be Wednesday, November 27, 5-10 pm.

Rotisserie Turkey Breast    $25

Side Salad w/ choice of dressing

Dressing, Giblet Gravy

Home Style Mac & Cheese

Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes

Green Bean Casserole

Buttered White Corn

Sweet Rolls & Cranberry Sauce


Choice of Desserts:

Pecan Pie Cobbler

Pumpkin Cheesecake

For anyone wishing to celebrate Thanksgiving early, Palestine has this special treat waiting for you.

Thanks for reading.

Shultz reduced


I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


Morning Coffee with Dave and Robert Henri

September 7, 2018


The Prophetic Fire of Robert Henri

What we need is more sense of the wonder of life and less of this business of making a picture. . . . People have not looked largely at life, mainly because our education drowns us in detail.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I am amused, recalling a quote from Mark Twain about not allowing school to interfere with his education. As I have posted before, I always thought I was dull while growing up in public school, and didn’t realize till university days that actually I was quite alert to many issues surrounding me, and that life itself was dazzling compared to what I knew in public school classrooms. Now, recently retired from high school teaching, I feel this sense of dread that many students sitting in my classroom environment could have felt exactly as I did when I was their age–bored to tears. In less than an hour, I will return to my high school where I taught full time and deliver one more art history lecture to the Academic Decathlon team.

Though my lecture covers American Art of the 1960’s, I chose this morning to re-open my Robert Henri volume, a book I have read twice in its entirety, and have returned to many times for spot-reading. I find his writings as electrifying as the details I read of the man himself. He was like a Prophet among his disciples, later identified as The Ash Can School. His apartment/studio at 806 Walnut Street in downtown Philadelphia was the biggest small room in the world. It was here that he met with his group (they called themselves The Eight) of newspaper illustrators-turned-painters. To light fires under their artistic imagination, he read to them from Walt Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson. And in addition to his body of artwork, he continually lectured in public, taught classes, and wrote critical art reviews. We are so enriched that his collected writings have been published under the title The Art Spirit. They continually rekindle my artistic fires.

Lately, I have experienced a hiatus in making art, mostly due to the college semester heating up in its third week, along with the daily inconvenience of living in a house without water, while waiting for plumbers to complete repairs on a slab leak. I have been living like a camper in my suburban home, and it is getting old. My hope is that I find a way this weekend to get back into the studio and complete some work that needs my attention. Then I would love to launch into a new series of paintings.


Nearly Finished with This One

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.

Drawing Trees over the Holidays

November 22, 2016



Get one form that looks like the tree, rather than little pickings at the branches. Give the tree its gesture. Some trees are heavy, ample and full. In a tree there is a spirit of life, a spirit of growth and a spirit of holding its head up.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Now that the trees are casting their leaves up here in Missouri, I’m pulling out the pencils and sketchbook and trying to capture some of their movement, their essence.  Since I was a child, I stared at bare trees more than leafed-out ones, and I’m really not sure why.  I wasn’t drawing them as a child, and when I became an adult, I foolishly drew and painted trees for years out of my imagination rather than the way I do now–gazing at them, studying them, contemplating each one’s figure and portrait.

Andrew Wyeth for years has fascinated me with his tree studies in pencil and dry brush. More recently, I have purchased a book on Leonardo da Vinci’s tree studies. I could spend he rest of my life learning this craft, I believe.

Thanks for reading.