Posts Tagged ‘Robert Motherwell’

Shifting Gears

October 20, 2020

Life belongs not to those who know, but those who discover.

Le Corbusier

Sleeping only from 3 a.m. till 8 dictated a change in today’s routine. Sandi lovingly brought coffee to me while I propped up in bed to read and enjoy the snuggling pups.

Letting the Sleeping Dogs Lie

Reaching for my volume of Robert Motherwell’s Collected Writings next to the bed, I found real gold in the following interview:

The subject does not pre-exist. It emerges out of the interaction between the artist and the medium. That is why, and only how a picture can be creative, and why its conclusions cannot be predetermined.

Since Motherwell painted non-objective canvases, I could see the relevance of this remark to his paintings. However, I came to the conclusion that the same is true with my own work. For instance, I had pre-conceived ideas of how this Fort Worth flatiron was going to be presented in this picture, yet already I have made three major changes based on the way the painting was emerging. It was as though the painting had a mind of its own. I know that writers often talk about how their plots and characters change from the original plans drafted, as though the story was taking on a life of its own.

I need to return to the Martin Heidegger essay The Origin of the Work of Art. Motherwell’s statement above reminds me of Heidegger speaking of the artistic endeavor being a clash between world and earth, “world” being the artist’s visions and “earth” being the subject approached for the project. Out of the clash between the two, a work of art emerges that contains elements from both sides.

After several cups of coffee and excellent reading from Motherwell, I felt enough energy gathering to enter Studio Eidolons and figure out what to do next on this painting. Since I have spent many days tediously working on the exacting details of the architecture, I decided today would be nice to break out and try to paint surrounding trees with a flourish. The change of pace is certainly welcome, although I admit that my brush is not on automatic pilot when I work on foliage; I have to study the phenomen of trees just as carefully as the nuances of architecture. The network of light and shadow and the shift from positive to negative space in the clusters of leaves, along with the juxtaposition of warm and cool colors is taking me to an entirely different approach to watercolor. I welcome the change from what I’ve known for days, but still find myself very tentative as I seek to discover the “essence” of these trees framing the composition. Foliage brings an entirely different set of disciplines than the geometry of buildings.

Though I’m more tired now than usual, the day is turning out to be lovely all the same. For that I am grateful; another splendid day in the studio.

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.

Working into the Night, Drawing more than Painting

October 14, 2020

. . . drawing is the dividing of a plane surface (parallel to Denis’s definition of painting as “essentially a plane surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order”). I personally like that dividing to be as decisive and fast as the cracking of an Argentinean’s bullwhip . . . . Painting can overcome one with its sensuousness, like the soft warm skin of a woman, in a way that drawing cannot. But drawing can be as clear-cut as one’s father’s precepts. Drawing satisfies our sense of definition, even if we cannot define “drawing” itself. Drawing is a racing yacht, cutting through the ocean. Painting is the ocean itself.

Robert Motherwell, “Thoughts on Drawing”

Tonight I feel a kinship with Motherwell because his habit was to work late into the night in his studio. That is seldom my practice, but this evening I have been drawn to this project and have been putting in good time with it.

The quote above about drawing vs. painting has preoccupied me tonight as I was aware of the tension since college days when I worked on my Bachelor’s in art. It was then that my professors told me I was much more the draftsman than painter. That bothered me for years, but in recent times I have owned it; I truly enjoy the precision of drawing much more than the swish of color. I suppose the reason I settled on watercolor as my primary medium is due to its constitution that allows drawing before, during and after the painting disciplines. I am struggling with the issues of color on this flatiron building and will not lay down the broad washes until I settle on a fitting recipe. But the drawing details relax that tension and I feel I could engage in that task for hours (in fact today and tonight I actually have).

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 Perpetual Turn of the Crank

August 16, 2020
Sunday Morning Meditations

In precipio creavit Deus caelum et terram . . .

Genesis 1:1 Latin Vulgate

Genesis 1:1 Septuagint

Sunday mornings for me usually mean translating from the biblical texts. Before going into the studio to paint, I decided to do some work on the Genesis creation story, always inspiring to me. On this day I chose to work from the Latin Vulgate alongside the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The opening verses describe how God looked upon a chaotic mass and then spoke a world into order, by degrees. I always think of this when I approach a white rectangle of paper and make my first marks upon it, whether it be strokes from a pencil or a brush. As Robert Motherwell put it, each mark calls out for another, and drawing involves the organization of space. After about an hour of reading, I turned my attention to completing another commission that has been before me for several weeks now.

Just a few more adjustments to complete this work

I always seem to enjoy painting more after spending some time reading early in the morning. Paul Cezanne’s habit was to rise at 4:00 a.m. and read for two hours before painting. I choose not to set an alarm, so my rising from bed usually occurs somewhere between 7 and 8:00. Coffee is made first, then leisure time reading over coffee and recording ideas in the journal. In these simple pleasures I find the greatest joy and satisfaction, the beginnings to a potentially perfect day.

While painting this morning, a passage read recently from Zola’s Masterpiece stayed planted in my mind:

Paris? What were the others doing in Paris? Oh, nothing particularly new, really. Still, they were putting up a pretty good fight to see who would get to the top of the tree first. And, as might be expected, folks who stayed away from Paris were making a sad mistake; Paris was a good place to be in if you didn’t want to be forgotten altogether. But surely talent would out, wherever it was, and didn’t success depend to a great extent on strength of will? Oh, there was no doubt about it that the ideal was to live in the country and pile up masterpieces and then go back to Paris and swamp it with them!

What I am about to write is an example of the kind of stuff I scribble daily in my journals, what Harold Bloom would refer to as “overhearing myself.” Warning to the reader: you might be finished with this blog, and if so, thanks for reading!

Zola was referring to the cadre of artists we now call the French Impressionists as they clustered in Paris, the epicenter of the art world, and tried to make their mark. This reminds me of days long ago, through high school, college, and then later in my early stages of the “emerging artist.” There was that perpetual scramble for recognition–awards in competitions, interviews for newspapers and magazines, public exhibitions in art galleries that continually stirred us all up with ideas and aspirations of fame.

Some years ago, I happily settled down. I no longer chafe at the notion of art being a solitary enterprise. I have always enjoyed solitude, and now I find more satisfaction than ever before with just the mere act of creating, of turning the crank, rather than reaping some reward in the form of public recognition. I still enjoy the company of fellow artists and really miss them now with all this social distancing. But I’ll see them again, soon I hope. In the meantime, I plan to continue enjoying the quiet time in the studio and leisure reading of art history, literature, philosophy or whatever sparks my interest.

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 completed work

Evening Ponderings over Motherwell Art

July 2, 2020
Time spent reading Motherwell biographies

As always, the studio was the space of revelation. For all his sociability and engagement with the public world, he admitted on several occasions that he felt essentially awkward outside the studio and only comfortable inside its solitude, that his real discoveries were made in direct contact with his materials.

Bernard Jacobson, Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant

Having wrapped up another commission, it felt good today to relax, stretch and spend some time poring over a pair of Robert Motherwell biographies I purchased on the centennial year of his birth. I read both of them within weeks of their publication, but then put them on the shelf for five years. Those who know me are aware that I spend much of my leisure reading biographies on artists I’ve admired throughout my life–Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, Paul Cezanne, Joseph Mallord William Turner, Henri Matisse, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol et al.

Motherwell and Hopper are especially dear to my heart because they were profound thinkers, always adjusting their compasses to pursue the direction they felt compelled to follow. Both were needled by friends and associates that they spent too much time in books. Motherwell especially was criticized for devoting too much time to writing, publishing and lecturing. I am grateful that they left behind a considerable sum of pages of their ideas; I am just as immersed in their words as I am their images. As an artist, I have always aspired to be a thinker as well as craftsman.

Completed Commission

My main purpose in posting this blog is to show the commission I just completed today. This Ozark Court Motel no longer stands. Since 1977, I saw this motel ruin on the north side of Interstate 44 (historic Route 66) in Stanton, Missouri as I traveled back and forth from Missouri to Texas. All I know so far is that the business dated back to the 1930’s. Hopefully in the days ahead I will be able to uncover more history of the site and attempt to spin out some stories. Hank and Randy need some new adventures.

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.

Quality Studio Time

February 28, 2020

Well, here in New York I cannot live the life I want to. There are too many appointments, too many people to see, and with so much going on I become too tired to paint. But when I am leading the life I like to in Paris, and even more in Spain, my daily schedule is very severe and strict and simple. At six a.m. I get up and have my breakfast–a few pieces of bread and some coffee–and by seven I am at work . . . until noon . . . Then lunch . . . By three I am at work again and paint without interruption until eight . . . Merde! I absolutely detest openings and nearly all parties. They are commercial, “political,” and everyone talks so much. They give me the “willies” . . .

Joan Miró

Quiet Morning in The Gallery at Redlands

As the night stretched into the late hours, I finally fell asleep to the ambient sounds of Union Pacific freights lumbering through downtown Palestine. Taking down my solo show in Dallas had proved to be an all-day affair, and I was exhausted once I finished the two-hour journey to The Gallery at Redlands. It felt terrific to sleep in this classic hotel again, I had been away so long. Waking at four this morning was not my plan, but once the light broke, the gallery downstairs took on that lustrous look that never fails to wake up my imagination.

I am thrilled to return to Palestine, and would like to announce to any of my friends in the area that I will be in the gallery all day and evening Friday and Saturday. I have brought back thirty framed paintings from my Dallas show and have them arranged in the Queen St. Grille across the hall as well as in The Gallery at Redlands. I’m creating new work at the drafting table, and would love to visit if you have the opportunity to stop by.

The quote above by Joan Miró made me smile. I do not detest the social moments the way he did, but when I have control of my own schedule, I love to pursue studio time much the same way as he–I just don’t follow that regiment daily. Having said that, I now lean forward in anticipation of a quality day in the gallery/studio with plenty of time to make art.

Yesterday I closed out my solo show at C C Young Senior Living in Dallas. I’m thrilled that a pair of my framed watercolors found a home. Last week, while painting at the bottom of Ransom Canyon in west Texas, I was surprised when my cell phone went off. C C Young was reaching out to notify me that someone had purchased “Cogar, Oklahoma”.

Cogar, Oklahoma

I painted this back in 2006, and afterward learned that the comical phone booth scene in the movie Rain Man was filmed at this location. After all these years, I am thrilled that the painting has finally found a home.

When I arrived yesterday at C C Young, I learned that someone else had wished to purchase this same painting, and wanted to know if there were copies. As it turns out, yes, I have made limited edition giclees of this piece, the same size as the original. The pleased patron purchased one of my editions.

As I was taking down the show, another gentleman approached me, and expressed his desire to purchase one of my paintings that I have favored over the years because it features me fly fishing in South Fork, Colorado, a place that alway stirs the deepest delight in my memories.

Finding the Seam

Before leaving for Palestine, the director at C C Young invited me to conduct watercolor classes at their facility during the summer. Details will soon follow, but I have been scheduled for weekly classes during the months of June and August. In addition to this, they would like me to conduct some workshops as well. Stay tuned!

Now, in the quiet morning light of The Gallery at Redlands, I return to several paintings in progress. While trying to figure out how to finish the plein air sketch begun at Caprock Canyon last week, I’ve been puzzling over color selections. These comments by Paul Cézanne make sense:

Light cannot be reproduced, but must be represented by something else, color. I was very pleased with myself when I found this out.

Paul Cézanne

Caprock Canyon still in Progress

When I began this 8 x 10″ watercolor sketch, I worked hard to match my colors to what I saw on the distant rocks as the sun began its descent. I thought I had something positive going here, until it dried and I took a look at it later. The dullness I find very unsatisfactory, and looking back over some recent reading from Robert Motherwell’s collected writings brought this to light:

A painter’s pigments are duller than light, forcing a series of substitutions, the brightest pigment becoming the equivalent of the brightest light, analogous structures.

So, it appears that I’ll be devoting a portion of this day to figuring out the “substitutions” necessary to wake up this dull painting of the canyon.

I framed my recent plein air sketch done mostly on location at Ransom Canyon. The frame measures 14 x 11″ and I am offering it for $150.

Ransom Canyon Rhapsody–$150 framed 14 x 11″

I have also added my recent coffe cup composition done in watercolor. I have it in the gallery and am offering it for $75. The frame measures 8 x 10″

Coffee Ruminations, $75, 8 x 10″ framed

Friday has kicked into high gear. I finally replaced all the paintings I took out of the Queen St. Grille for my Dallas show. The rest of the collection is stored here in the hotel. The Gallery at Redlands is still featuring the show of Elaine Jary’s beautiful watercolors. They will remain on view and sale through the Dogwood Festival coming up at the end of March.

Thanks for reading and please check out my website www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Drawing or Painting or Both?

January 17, 2020

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At Work on the Union Pacific “Big Boy”

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The “Big Boy”–18 x 24″ watercolor

Drawing is the probity of art. 

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Painting can overcome one with its sensuousness, like the soft warm skin of a woman, in a way that drawing cannot.

Robert Motherwell

January has provided plenty of time and relaxation to pursue a pair of commissions–steam locomotives. These are subjects I have always loved to paint, But only when I had weeks of leisure between calendar appointments. Now, with west Texas temperatures plummeting below freezing, it is nice not to have to get out and drive anywhere. I love the dim winter light in the windows, the sounds of the howling winds outside and the crackle of a fire in the fireplace.

Part of this morning was given to reading from The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell. While painting, I listened to some of his interviews on Youtube and decided I wanted to read more from him. In 1970 he published an essay, “Thoughts on Drawing”. This I have read a number of times over past years and am glad I gave it another look this morning.

I did not know until college that I was more of a draughtsman than a painter. My painting professor called my oils “colored drawings” and my student teaching advisor told me I needed to be more “painterly”. My art history professor, looking at my series of oils, remarked “nice drawings.” This may be why I eventually turned to watercolor, because in that media, one can get away with drawing with color.

In re-reading the Motherwell essay, I came up with this remarkable observation from the poet Baudelaire, whom Motherwell never tired of quoting:

Pure draughtsmen are philosophers and dialecticians. Colorists are epic poets. 

Throughout my life, I have held the deepest regard for philosophers as well as poets, feeling I lacked the gifts to be either, while always trying to be both. I always thought the philosopher anchored the left brain with reasoning and discpline, while poetry resided in the right with emotion and exploration. The Greek dramatists perceived Apollo as patron saint of reason while Dionysus advocated risk.

Personally, I feel most “in my element” in watercolor when I am feeding both sides. That is happening with this locomotive–I am exacting in the details of the machine while at the same time full of swish when dealing with the steam, smoke and general atmosphere. The entire time I have worked on this, I continually moved back and forth between the two regions, never feeling boredom or tedium. The day has been splendid while working on this piece. I am very pleased knowing I am a long way from finishing; I feel I am going to regret seeing this one come to a conclusion, so fulfilling has been the experience of pursuing it.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website at davidtrippart.com.

Shultz on websiteI make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Weaving Disparate Threads on Thanksgiving Morning

November 28, 2019

‘I’m groping for a way of synthesizing a lifetime of work – driving further what I find most valuable and dropping parts that seem less essential.

. . .

It’s only by lining up a group of works to compare that I can see where I’m closer to my inner self and where I depart from it. There’s an indication of some kind of breakthrough, but I’m not sure what form it will take. It may lead ultimately to a whole new period. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I still find these quite beautiful in their particular way.

He does not differentiate among the various mediums; they are all, he says, ”sentences or paragraphs from a lifelong work that will go on until I die.”

Robert Motherwell, “The Creative Mind; The Mastery of Robert Motherwell,” New York Times, December 2, 1984

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Resuming Work on a Watercolor Abandoned Years Ago

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Getting Lost in the Details

. . . and I wish all my readers the Best of Thanksgiving Holidays. I spent about thirteen-and-a-half hours on crowded highways yesterday so I could see my parents and siblings again. Well-rested this morning in a hotel room in St. Louis, I open my laptop with a glad heart and pour out my feelings . . .

Marcel Proust spoke of the way sensations (right now, the taste of hotel coffee) open tthe way for memories to visit us, transporting us to primal warm memories from our childhood. St. Louis is frigid and overcast this morning, and looking out across the parking lot at the deep wooded area has managed to ferry me back to Grandma Tripp’s cold, drafty house in the deep woods of southeast Missouri. With my cousins, I would huddle under patchwork quilts in stuffed chairs with a kerosene heater cooking on the floor between us. In front of us the grainy black-and-white TV broadcast the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Begun in 1924, this event was stirring our blood in 1960 as we sat with our sugar-and-creamed coffee in tan Melmac mugs. Later in the day we would watch the Detroit Lions play football against the Packers, Bears or Vikings, uncertain of whether they were playing in a blizzard or if it was the TV reception. We would occasionally rotate the “rabbit ears” antenna with large squares of aluminum foil hanging off the ends.

This morning, I am grateful for these memories whispering to me in the dim morning, and I plan to bring them up with Mom and Dad later today as we gather around the table–all of us still living, gratefully–and enjoy the feast.

Above, I have posted the latest watercolor I was working on over the weekend, when Cindy and Gary came down to Palestine to work further on this film documentary they have hatched. We had an amazing time together. They continually came up with new ideas for filming me at work, with video cameras, drones and recording gear. As we worked and planned together, I fished out this old watercolor of a butte I began painting in west Texas years ago. Dissatisfied with the muted washes of color at the bottom of the composition, I took out a #8 Silver Black Velvet Script Brush, and began noodling with foliage leaves and twigs, then later with rock granulations, cracks and fissures. I got lost in the details as Cindy and Gary continued to film and ask questions about my art. They have really gotten me excited about this new project and I cannot wait till the next time we are together.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to travel and visit family for the holidays, re-live memories, and create new ones. I wish the same for all of you as well. Please be safe and happy this Thanksgiving. Life is such a gift and we have much to reflect on with deep gratitude.

 

Thanks for reading . . . Shultz reduced

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Somewhere in the midst of Mrs. Dalloway, Herzog and Motherwell

August 24, 2019

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Gently Rocking in the Chair this Morning

My allergies for the second day in a row have me knocked off center. I stumble over this, because I have taken health for granted my entire life; I just have never been “sickly.” I have a good motor, and have been very fortunate in my ability to keep moving through life. But I am now on my second day of sinus infection and unusual wobbliness. The medication is beginning to work, I can tell. I slept till after 8:00 which is unusual, showered, am now having my “thoughtful cup of coffee” (Herzog) and am experiencing a Mrs. Dalloway stream of consciousness. It is not my custom to begin a blog this way, but I feel an impulse to pour out my current feelings and mood. I may choose to delete this rather than post it. We’ll see.

Mrs. Dalloway is the first work I ever read by Virginia Woolf. As I was reading one of Larry McMurtry’s essays, he continually came back to Woolf, talking about how beautifully she wrote. Opening Mrs. Dalloway, I was not only rocked by the beauty of her prose, but totally submerged in her stream of consciousness style that I had always loved so much in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. When I encounter stream of consciousness prose, I experience that “shock of recognition” pointed out by artist Robert Motherwell; I recognize that my own mind similarly flows from subject to subject, stimulus to stimulus, as I move about my life, most especially that first hour after rising in the morning. This is another matter of my life that I have simply taken for granted.

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Gentle Saturday Morning with Robert Motherwell

“Socrates says something and it’s translated, What you say is true Socrates.” But as Motherwell pointed out, the Greek word was aletheia, which meant revealed or unhidden. “And so a literal translation,” he noted, “would be you’ve unhidden that point, Socrates.”

   “And I love that concept,” Motherwell continued. “In that sense, I wish the word truth didn’t exist. Because one of the reasons I’ve been able to move all over the place is I take that for granted. Everybody has his own revelations, but the mass of the totality has never been revealed to anybody.” It was this hidden element of reality–buried within the unconscious, concealed beneath the flow of time and events, embedded in certain forms and symbols, inherent in certain colors and combinations of colors–that Motherwell pursued throughout his life as an artist. And because he chose to seek and encompass the variety of existence rather than embrace a single ideological stance, his artistic practice was remarkably complex.

Jack Flam, “Introduction: Robert Motherwell at Work” in Robert Motherwell: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1941-1991, vol. 1.

When I retired in June, 2017, I knew I wanted to purchase for myself a single, memorable (and expensive!) retirement gift that would encapsulate my years in education as well as my future in the arts. When the elegant three-volume catalogue raisonné arrived on my doorstep, compliments of Amazon, I was elated, and two years later, have nearly completed my reading of the first volume. The quote above merely points out Motherwell’s vast range of explorations in painting styles and subject matter. What is easily overlooked is his erudition. Motherwell had pursued graduate studies in art history and philosophy and was a lover of literature. His collected writings reveal a mind that was continually swimming in oceans of art, philosophy and literature.

This is what I love most about Motherwell, because throughout my life I also have grazed from many pastures. And every time I think I am supposed to settle in to one pursuit, I stop and ask Why? Anytime a friend has gently criticized me for my “lack of focus”, I simply ask why I am expected to have only one hobby horse to ride. I have always loved my life as an educator, and am overwhelmingly grateful to Texas Wesleyan University that they continue to offer me contracts. I also love making art and cannot thank The Gallery at Redlands enough for giving me an artistic home. And I love reading and journaling, and love my library of over 2,000 volumes, my four shelves of journals, and sufficient time now in retirement to relax in a comfortable chair and read for pure pleasure.

For over three decades, I have told my students that one element of human nature I never understood was boredom. Throughout my life, I have never been bored (except when sitting through a compulsory meeting; anytime someone refers to a “good meeting” I regard that as a lie). From my childhood, I have been immersed in a world filled with wonder, a world I will never fathom. At this age, I am still a wanderer, still grazing from many pastures, and thankful for every opportunity. Today is Saturday, but as a friend recently told me–when you’re retired, every day is Saturday!

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.

Coffee with David & Robert Motherwell

October 3, 2018

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Any painter knows that empty space is his most powerful artistic weapon., if he can adequately animate it. The void need not be terrifying. 

Robert Motherwell, “Kafka’s Visual Recoil: A Note”

When the afternoon shadows stretch long across my back yard, and I finally submit that final grade, capping a day-long stretch at my desk, I am happy to know that I have an entire week before I will have to grade another college paper. I did not post a “morning coffee” blog today, because I decided from the moment I rose from my bed that I would make grading my number one priority, and it took most of the day to accomplish it. But now I am happy to sit at the desk, and spend some delicious time reading from my three-volume Catalogue Raisonné of Robert Motherwell, a retirement gift I gave myself last year when I finally hung up my high school teaching tenure.

The quote posted above has captured my attention, because I have returned in my own painting to compositional “vignettes”, paintings that open empty spaces around the perimeter of the picture plane, rather than covering every square inch of the surface with color or detail. I recall Andrew Wyeth saying that the strength of a composition lay not in what an artist put into it, but what he could get away with leaving out. I am seeking more ways of creating those types of watercolor.

I am getting ready to re-enter my studio this evening, very happy that my chores have been swept away and I don’t have to think about them for awhile.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with Dave & James

September 28, 2018

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Another morning spent reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Towards Findlater’s church a quartet of young men were striding along with linked arms, swaying their heads and stepping to the agile melody of their leader’s concertina. The music passed in an instant, as the first bars of sudden music always did, over the fantastic fabrics of his mind, dissolving them painlessly and noiselessly as a sudden wave dissolves the sandbuilt turrets of children. Smiling at the trivial air he raised his eyes to the priest’s face and, seeing in it a mirthless reflection of the sunken day, detached his hand slowly which had acquiesced faintly in that companionship.

As he descended the steps the impression which effaced his troubled selfcommunion was that of a mirthless mask reflecting a sunken day from the threshold of the college. The shadow, then, of the life of the college passed gravely over his consciousness. It was a grave and ordered and passionless life that awaited him . . .

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

The abstract artist Robert Motherwell assessed James Joyce as “the Shakespeare of modernism.” As for myself, I was reading James Joyce long before I encountered the art and life of Motherwell. I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man while dispatching for the Fort Worth Police Department. As a call taker on the police non-emergency line, there were long gaps of quiet between phone calls, and I was tethered to the work station with a headset, so there was plenty of space for quality reading and thought. The book changed my life and prompted me to keep a journal, which I have done since the late 1980’s.

Over the past few days, I have been re-reading journals of mine from years past, and an entry from December 2014 recorded the Joyce text above, and my comments about it that particular morning. What strikes me today is a recurring theme from my own past life that Joyce prompted me to recall, that notion of a “mirthless” countenance. In describing myself, I would never use words such as “ebullient” or “joyful”. I have often envied those who exuded such qualities, but always felt that if I myself tried to project such an image, I would be just as repulsive as . . . well, I won’t complete that sentence. I’ll just say that I abhor certain public figures who try to sell a particular product or lifestyle with facial expressions, specific words and general posturing that I think are phony. I never wanted to be one of those.

A friend from my past always referred to me as “that gloomy guy.” It was all in fun, and the friend respected me, knowing that I often wished I could naturally reflect a more cheerful countenance. Now, with all that being said, I don’t describe myself as mirthless, joyless, or unhappy with life. Quite the contrary. I believe that life is a precious gift, and as I continue to grow older, I am grateful for every day of it, and wake each morning, happy to be handed another gift.

Looking over my past, I am haunted by a myriad of memories of college, pastoral ministry, graduate school, and public school teaching, where I was surrounded by mirthless expressions depicting genuinely unhappy people. And I always fought aggressively against that outlook, swearing I would never let it pull me beneath the waves. I don’t believe that one’s profession in life guarantees a mirthless life; rather, I believe unhappy people tend to bring that into the workplace, into the family and into the friendship circles.

Much of my inspiration in life comes from reading, and that has been true for most of my life. Making art also brings joy that I cannot explain. Soon, I will return to Palestine and occupy The Gallery at Redlands along with the music that Smoothrock 93.5 now brings into the environment. And I look forward to picking up the watercolor brush once again. For the past two days, my life has been tied up with college grading and printing over one hundred new greeting cards of my art (I will post a couple of the cards below). I sell these 5×7″ cards (blank inside) with envelope in a plastic sleeve for $5 each or 5 for $25. Printing off the images the past couple of days has made me ache to make new work, so I plan to resume that this afternoon and throughout the weekend.

Christmas card workspace 2nd version

Dryden scan

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.