Posts Tagged ‘Rollo May’

The Oracle Comes in the Morning

May 28, 2018

coffee 2

Coffee, Books and Democritus

coffee

My New Passion–the French Press

. . . there is generally some kind of message, some guidance that appears. It comes more readily if I do not stridently demand it; if I listen to my “deeper” self, sooner or later it will speak to me. The message which forms itself out of the darkness and the vapor–when one does come–often takes me by surprise. This is generally a sign of its authenticity. This third phase owes a good deal to my Protestant-Christian background. It would be surprising if I could cut off my cultural body, nor do I want to.

Rollo May, Paulus: Reminiscences of a Friendship

How sublime, these moments when I can stop after weeks of art-related engagements and festivities. Before and after my morning walk, I was afforded the pleasure of reading Rollo May from his books Paulus and My Quest for Beauty. With French press coffee to sip and soothing YouTube music filling my room, I read this portion posted above about Rollo May’s morning meditation practices in the office before his appointments began.

Reading about this morning watch resonated with me profoundly, and I haven’t been able to discuss this easily with friends and acquaintances. In my early college years, as I participated in the Baptist Student Union, I was introduced to his notion of Daily Quiet Time, and the practice soothed me in the midst of college studies and then later as I did the work of the pastoral ministry.  Those days are far behind me now, but my second life as a teacher for three decades found me practicing a daily morning watch of some sort. This practice continued to serve as a compass for my classroom navigations.

Long ago, I came to expect some kind of oracle, some kind of message, a Word, as I lingered over books and my own hand-scribbled journals first thing every morning. The Greek notion of word (logos) can be construed as a “gathering together.” An idea would emerge from the gloom most mornings, and I would take that idea seriously, using it as a pole star to lead me through the days ahead. And every time I read from another creative spirit of how s/he listened for this inner voice, I feel that I have gained yet another soul mate in life and feel less lonely, less isolated in this odyssey.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

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Sweet Friday Night Winter Solitude

January 9, 2015
Painting Friday Evening in a Wintry Cold Studio

Painting Friday Evening in a Wintry Cold Studio

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human situation.

Graham Greene

I did manage to escape into the cold garage studio for a little while this evening and chip away at this watercolor that has been hanging around for awhile now. I added some rust-stained washes to the screen door backdrop, and then spent the rest of the evening texturing the white frame of the screen door, trying to reproduce the scratches, knicks and stains that show the multi-layered history of this door and what it endured in someone’s home. Before stopping for the night, I also reworked the wooden floor beneath the apples, in an attempt to make the masqued areas look more like scratches and indentations in the wood surface.

Now I’m back inside my warm home, glad that it is Friday night, and even more glad that an open weekend stretches out before me. I’m in the mood for reading, writing and reflection–in a word, solitude. I’ve been re-reading sections of Anthony Storr’s Solitude: A Return to the Self and Rollo May’s, The Courage to Create. The week in school has been a spastic one, and I took personally the line from the William Butler Yeats poem that I recorded in a blog earlier tonight, concerning the frenetic pace of society that consistently manages to flit past “monuments of unageing intellect.” Without apology, I do not choose that path. To me, worship is pausing to accept the quiet gifts offered in the center of this quick-paced life on earth.

Perfect Evening for Writing and Reflection

Perfect Evening for Writing and Reflection

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember. 

I journal to celebrate solitude.

And I blog to remind myself that I am not really alone.

Late Studio Nights with an Art Festival Approaching

September 23, 2014
Preparations for an Art Festival

Preparations for an Art Festival

We are called upon to do something new, to confront a no man’s land, to push into a forest where there are no well-worn paths and from which no one has returned to guide us.  This is what the existentialists call the anxiety of nothingness.  To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize.

Rollo May, The Courage to Create

As I write this, I am looking across a room filled with scattered piles of unmatted watercolors created over the past several months, and a desk piled in handwritten and typed notes for tomorrow’s high school classes.  In three days, I will be loading my Jeep to travel to a three-day art festival featuring 75 artists and vendors along with plenty of live music–The South Street Festival in Arllington, Texas. (http://www.southstreetartfest.com/)

This free event will be my final “large” art festival for the year 2014 (I will participate in two smaller ones later in October).  For a number of years now, my preparatory steps for festivals have had that old familiar feel that bordered on weariness and encroaching inertia.  But now that I have cut back severely on their number (from eight to only three this fall season), I’m feeling a resurgence of excitement along with the anxiety that accompanies the new and the unknown.  My output of artwork has not flagged over the months, but my public displays have, and now I feel a sense of the new as I prepare to travel to this next venue.  I don’t know when I’ve anticipated with more eagerness this chance to meet new crowds of people in the public marketplace with a chance of discussing and selling art as well as forming new friendships.  I have really missed that and am glad that the opportunity is returning.

Tomorrow promises to be another rewarding day at the high school as I have finished preparations for meeting my A.V.I.D. and Philosophy classes.  The students have shown remarkable motivation and resiliency these past five weeks, and I feel closer to them with each passing day, indeed I look forward to seeing them again and finding out what kinds of new things we can explore together in this evolving arena of creative inquiry.

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.

Art and Fear?

February 11, 2014
A Little Space in the Afternoon Studio

A Little Space in the Afternoon Studio

God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

Yes, I read this excellent book, Art and Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland.  I felt that a pair of artists were in the room with me, engaged in legitimate, heart-to-heart discussion.  And they addressed the inherent fears and required courage of art making rather than the blocked-artist syndrome.  I am not a blocked artist.  I am a public school teacher, teaching multiple subjects.  I will frequently face weekday afternoons and evenings where preparations leave little-to-no time for quality studio work.  But that is not blockage, not creative paralysis–it is just  an overloaded schedule.  This afternoon I managed to eke out some time for the studio, so here I am, with a little hesitation.  So what is this “fear” factor?  I will be the first to testify that making art is a courageous act.

Art requires more courage from me than other acts that might stir up fear in others.  For instance, I am not afraid to walk into a high school classroom, stand in front, and begin talking directly to the body of students.  I have never been afraid to stand in a public auditorium and address a congregation of adults.  I don’t know fear in those instances.  But what is this “fear factor” in art?  Am I afraid of rejection by the public?  Not really.  Do I fear ruining a $20 sheet of quality watercolor paper?  I don’t think so.  Am I afraid I am wasting my time?  Hardly.  I have invested years in this, and don’t begrudge additional hours, days, months or years.  In fact, I wish I had 500 years left to invest–I’ll never reach the level I want to reach in my own lifetime.

So, what is it?  Am I afraid of making a bad painting?  Perhaps that is it.  But I don’t understand that.  When I make a bad painting, I just don’t show it.  I seldom throw bad painting attempts away.  I suppose that if I keep them in a drawer that I’ll take them out another day, study them, and learn from the mistakes.  But I don’t generally do that either.  I just don’t look at them.  So what is it that frightens me?  What is the source of the anxiety?  I wish I knew.

Somehow, I am intimidated, approaching subjects where I have little-to-no experience.  And that is what is happening now with the rendering of human figures in watercolor, small human figures.  I don’t know why I have this phobia about screwing up.  So what if I screw up?  This is laughable.  I don’t live financially off my art sales.  My job keeps me fed and housed.  Maybe at the root of all these art endeavors is the fear of failure.  But how could that be?  How can one fail, if allowed to re-do, re-try, if allowed to learn, grow, accomplish?  Silly, isn’t it.  Perhaps I need to re-read Rollo May’s The Courage to Create.

At any rate, I am in the studio for a short while this afternoon, nibbling away at this small watercolor sketch.  And writing this blog is therapeutic it seems.  Right now, I am not afraid.  In fact, I’m enjoying the process, regardless of the outcome.  And when I finish this one, I will turn to the next.  One cannot help but improve with practice, and practice on the human figure is something I have yet to accomplish.

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for putting up with my navel gazing (smiling).  I had some things to work out.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Creative Eros

December 11, 2013
Another restless night in the studio

Another restless night in the studio

. . . those who present directly and immediately the new forms and symbols are the artists–the dramatists, the musicians, the painters, the dancers, the poets, and those poets of the religious sphere we call saints.  They portray the new symbols in the form of images–poetic, aural, plastic, or dramatic, as the case may be.  They live out their imaginations.  The symbols only dreamt about by most human beings are expressed in graphic form by the artists.  But in our appreciation of the created work–let us say a Mozart quintet–we also are performing a creative act.  When we engage a painting . . . we are experiencing some new moment of sensibility.  Some new vision is triggered in us by our contact with the painting; something unique is born in us.  This is why appreciation of the music or painting or other works of the creative person is also a creative act on our part.

Rollo May, The Courage to Create

All arts create symbols for a level of reality which cannot be reached in any other way.  A picture and a poem reveal elements of reality which cannot be approached scientifically.  In the creative work of art we encounter reality in a dimension which is closed for us without such works.

Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith

Though I have been away from the blog a couple of days, I have not been away from the arts, have not abandoned the creative eros.  Yesterday’s return to school after two snow-closure days pitchforked me back into the chaotic maelstrom of two schools trying to re-set the damaged bones of fractured schedules.  The college had to reschedule final exams, students had to set appointments to make up missed exams because of transportation issues on icy roads.  Yesterday I faced a hectic day in the high school, then spent the entire afternoon and evening at the college with final exams and scheduled make up exams.  But I did extract some quality library time spent in the arts section on the third floor.  I managed about ninety minutes of reading and reflection between appointments.  And my soul was elevated.  I didn’t want to leave that sanctuary.

Today was unusually different.  Coming out of the shower this morning, my mind and imagination shifted into overdrive.  I was scheduled to lecture on Paul Tillich in the 7:35 Philosophy class.  His ideas were tumbling about in my head, and I was having quite a time lining them up for presentation.  The class was ready and receptive, and I felt that the creative spirit of the man visited us.  If there is a heaven, and if I’m permitted to enter, then I would love for nothing more than to see Paul Tillich waiting at the harbor for me when my ship arrived, taking my hand and saying, “I’ve waited for this moment to meet you.  We should have travelled that earthly odyssey together.”  If only I could spend eternity asking him the questions I’ve saved up all these decades.

(I drew this with a fountain pen late one night in my office in 1999, as I was preparing to lecture on Tillich the following morning.  The text I generated spontaneously as I was sketching the portrait.)

After I finished my classes, I was able to return to the watercolor activity.  The top painting is 99% complete and will be delivered Friday.  The bottom painting is getting closer to completion.  A third one, in progress, is lurking in the docks and hopefully I will complete it this weekend.  I’ve made many promises this Christmas, and it appears that, thanks to the snow and ice days, I will manage to finish these tasks and (hopefully) make some patrons happy.

Meanwhile, I’m restless with all my reading throughout the day and evening with Rollo May and Paul Tillich.  I love reading about the creative process, the urge one feels to bring order to the chaos that greets us daily and to make something of it that speaks to our hearts and to others who look and appreciate.  My life as an artist and educator has had its shaky moments.  But as I draw nearer to this holiday season, I’m finding peace with a number of elements that have eluded me throughout the decades.  There are a few things I believe I am coming to understand better, and with that new sense of understanding comes a measure of peace.

Thanks for reading.  It’s time to return to the painting.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The Pulse of a Holiday Morning

May 3, 2013
Man Cave on the Holidays

Man Cave on the Holidays

Imagination is the outreaching of mind.  It is the individual’s capacity to accept the bombardment of the conscious mind with ideas, impulses, images, and every other sort of psychic phenomena welling up from the preconscious.  it is the capacity to “dream dreams and see visions,” to consider diverse possibilities, and to endure the tension involved in holding these possibilities before one’s attention.  Imagination is casting off mooring ropes, taking one’s chances that there will be new mooring posts in the vastness ahead.

Rollo May, The Courage to Create

There were obstacles to clear before creating this morning.  I am a sucker for NHL hockey and stayed up late watching Stanley Cup playoffs last night.  School is out today for a Texas holiday, but I set the alarm for 6:00 anyway so I wouldn’t waste a good day with studio potential.  However, it is 41 degrees outside and gusting winds, and I knew the garage studio would be chilly, so I lingered awhile longer under the quilts, trying to talk myself out of getting up.  I’m glad I pushed through anyway.  A breakfast of fried potatoes, grilled onions and scrambled eggs shook loose the cobwebs, the coffee is made, and I’m ready now to face this screen door and see about redrawing the screen wire in front of the white areas of the coffee can, and then finding out how to diminish the starkness of the lighter masqued areas.

Rollo May was my companion this morning, as I reached for inspiration and camaraderie in the studio.  I’m ready to paint now.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Art Still Has Truth. Seek Refuge There

January 7, 2013
Completed Still Life

Completed Still Life

The title of this post appears above one of the portals of the Saint Louis Art Museum.  I have seen it since my high school years, and it still stays with me.  The title, cut into the stone of the building to resemble an ancient Roman inscription appears as follows:

ART STILL HAS TRVTH

SEEK REFVGE THERE

Today, I also have the late Rollo May’s sentiment on my heart:

Beneath our loquacious chatter, there is a silent language of our whole being which yearns for art and the beauty from which art comes.

Rollo May, My Quest for Beauty

Tomorrow, I return to the classroom, and not with a heavy heart.  Teaching has been my passion for over twenty years, but I must say openly that I have enjoyed the silence of the holidays, and the long hours of solitude in the Man Cave, painting.  I have also enjoyed the armchair with great reading and heartfelt journaling.  Tomorrow, voices will begin to fill my weekdays once again.  So, it is fitting that I finished this 28 x 22″ still life this afternoon, which has marked my holiday season.  I am glad to sign it and move it aside.  There is more art waiting to emerge from the abyss.

Kindred spirits who have written me the past two days, and conversations I have enjoyed over the holiday have stirred me with a host of new ideas that I am ready to explore.  And I resolve to paint daily (also read daily), and not allow my school responsibilities to eliminate what actually renews me day by day.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday Night in the Man Cave, Painting Door Knobs

November 17, 2012

Third Watercolor of a Vintage Doorknob

The weekend has grown quiet, and I managed to find a Saturday night free of engagements, allowing me to return to my forsake man cave.  The drafting table was a mess, and it took some time to get all my debris cleared away so I could resume work on this watercolor abandoned a week ago.  School has been much too busy to my liking, and I’m grateful now for this hiatus, with Thanksgiving break just around the corner.

Though I haven’t been able to paint for a week, I have had the warm privilege of opening Rollo May’s My Quest for Beauty–a book I ordered from Amazon eons ago, that finally arrived on my doorstep yesterday. Though my jealous cat crawled on top the open book on my lap for the first hour, I did manage to get into the text late last night, and spent quite a bit of time in it today (incidentally, the cat is all over me right now, as I attempt to type this entry).

I enclose a gem from Rollo May:

My firm belief is that one paints, as one writes, not out of a theory but out of the vividness of an experience . . . Rational thoughts follow to anchor theoretically the truths that already have grasped us as a vision.

That lets me off the hook.  I cannot explain to anyone why I have attached myself to doorknobs recently.  These relics are what survive of my memories in my grandparents’ homes when I was a child.  I have dropped the Proustian line continually as I blog, and I do enjoy the shock of recognition when I see an antique that unleashes those submerged memories from my past.  Maybe some day I will be able to write eloquently about what I am painting.

Thanks for reading.

Bringing my Wyeth Drybrush Experiment to a Close

October 30, 2012

Experiment in Andrew Wyeth-type Drybrush Watercolor

“Beneath our loquacious character, there is a silent language of our whole being which yearns for art and the beauty from which art comes.”

Rollo May, My Quest for Beauty

I arrived home from school this afternoon, ready to enter the silence of my Man Cave and give this drybrush sketch a final push.  One hour later, I was finished.  I surprised myself, completing an 8 x 10″ watercolor in three hours, with no intention of doing a “speed painting.”  I suppose that my last few years of plein air experimentation has caused me to move more quickly and decisively.  But honestly, I never felt that I was rushing this painting.  In fact, the only reason I know the time invested is because of a habit of mine (begun during the plein air phase) to record my start and stop times.  Honestly, once I get immersed in making art, I have no conception of time.  Today was no different.  Whereas I listened to Blues music yesterday, today I played a VHS tape of Andrew Wyeth interviews and just listened to his voice, his words, as I painted.

Silence.  That is what I feel when I look at a watercolor by Andrew Wyeth or Edward Hopper.  Silence.  That is what I feel in my life right now, when my work day ends, and I enter the studio to explore new dimensions in sketching and watercolor.  Silence.  That is what I know in my heart when I read quality literature (and today I must certainly say that Rollo May had a wonderful calming influence on my Being as I contemplated this new enterprise.

I have turned my attention to another antique door, complete with doorknob and locking plate.  I am working on some preliminary sketches tonight, and if nothing arises to distract my attention, I shall attempt my second watercolor still life tomorrow in the man cave, of yet another antique door.  As for tonight, I still have to pull together materials for tomorrow’s Philosophy class on Ralph Waldo Emerson (one of my prime muses).

Thanks for reading.

A Little More Watercolor “Construction” on the Ridglea Theater

February 26, 2012

Work on the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth, Texas

Good day to all of you.  I am sitting in my Garage Studio with my eyes half-shut!  I slept 12 hours last night, but only 3 the night before.  It has caught up with me on this gorgeous sun-washed Sunday afternoon.  What a tragedy.  Friday’s humanities class at my high school was an absolutely magnificent moment for me, though we also had plenty of laughs, reviewing for an exam that showed the students didn’t absorb nearly what I had hoped for them.  But Friday afternoon left me awash in desires to explore Kant, Rousseau and some of the Neo-Classical painters, which I did.  Then the urge hit late, late Friday night to do the foundational work on this full-size Ridglea Theater watercolor.  I retired to bed at 3 a.m., but rose again at 6, and went back after it.  Following that was a band rehearsal (we have an engagement in a week), then more work on the watercolor, and then a late Saturday night.

My third cup of coffee isn’t doing it for me.  I’ve been reading extensively from Rollo May’s book on Paul Tillich, titled Paulus: Reminiscences of a Friendship.  Here is a portion of the text that resonates with me right now:

Such intensity of consciousness is a real problem.  One cannot have peak experience all the time, nor does anyone want to.  Hence the infusion of Hindu meditation in our culture to give a constructive tone to solitude and to stop the machinery for a little while.  Alcohol also serves to do this; it is a requirement, as Harry Stack Sullivan put it, of an industrial civilization, where it sets up a state of a partial withdrawal from the mechanical pressure. 

So.  I’m pursuing neither Hindu meditation or alcohol.  Just reading, journaling, listening to the gentle breezes outside my open garage door, and chipping away further at this Ridglea Theater watercolor.  It is a most beautiful day out, and I am “amost” out, sitting 10 feet inside my open garage door with the sun beside me, jazz music playing on my stereo, Paul Tillich’s ideas surging through my being, and a watercolor emerging beneath my excited brush.

Hopefully, I’ll post more later today.  Thanks for reading.