Posts Tagged ‘Rollo May’

Sketching into the St. Louis Night

May 2, 2023

Thus the artists–in which term I hereafter include the poets, musicians, dramatists, plastic artists, as well as saints–are a “dew” line, to use McLuhan’s phrase; they give us a “distant early warning” of what is happening to our culture.

Rollo May, The Courage to Create

I’m much happier and relieved to report that today for the first time Dad was lucid, feeding himself, and totally alert to his surroundings. It was such a joy just to sit next to him and feel the connection of genuine communication. It wasn’t long before he became drowsy and needed sleep, so I left, but left lighter and happier. I look more forward now to tomorrow.

I opened Rollo May, trusting that this dear sage would speak to my deepest needs. And he didn’t disappoint. Before I finished a chapter in this volume, I took out my sketchbook and began sketching quickly with a glad heart. I don’t know that anything I create could ever serve as a “dew line” for our society, but I can say with clear authenticity that making art does something special to me. At this late age, art has become more important to my day-to-day living than any other task I’ve been trained to perform.

Thanks for reading.


Musings out of St. Louis

May 1, 2023

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

I received the call last Thursday. Dad was being rushed by ambulance to downtown St. Louis for emergency vascular surgery. He is 94 years old. I crumpled. Then I packed a suitcase and items I felt I would need, and began my drive to St. Louis. At age 69, I don’t possess the energy for these long road trips that I used to know. Leaving Arlington, Texas after 3 p.m., I found myself sleepy in Strafford, Missouri by 11, and pulled over at a truck stop parking lot to sleep behind the wheel for three hours. Then on to St. Louis, arriving around 6 and looking for a 24-hour restaurant for breakfast. My sister phoned around 8 and I felt comfortable going to her house where they graciously provided me a guest room. Showered and dressed, I arrived at the hospital in the late morning to find my dad in the ICU, looking small, crumpled and helpless. Now it is Monday, late. Dad is in a private room, still speaking incoherently (this is expected from the anesthetic effects on the elderly). But today he fed himself, requiring no assistance, so I found something on which to plant hope.

Tonight, sitting up in bed reading, waiting for sleep, I came across the Rollo May observation posted above. I found it timely. I know all too well the existentialist anxieties spawned by uncertain futures. The past few days have beaten me down, with twice a day travels downtown to the hospital and twice a day visits to my childhood home to check on and comfort my mom the best I can. By the time I get back to my sister’s house at night I am wrung out like a moldy sponge, and I’ve had difficulty beating back despair. My home is far away, my family, my gallery, my circle of friends. And I needed someone like Rollo May to encourage me to push forward into the abyss and do what I know how to do.

Tonight I went ahead and laid out my plans for the four watercolor classes I’ve scheduled for the rest of this month. If any of you, my readers, wish to participate in any of these classes, please notify me through this blog, or my phone (817) 821-8702, or email

My calendar is as follows:

Wednesday, May 10, 1-4:00–painting the bison in the snow at Studio 48, 4720 S. Cooper, Arlington, Texas, in the Gracie Lane Boutique building.

Saturday, May 13, 1-4:00–painting the bomber fishing lure at Gallery at Redlands, 400 N. Queen St., Palestine, Texas.

Saturday, May 20, 1-4:00–painting the Oxbow Bakery, Gallery at Redlands

Saturday, May 27, 1-4:00–painting the bison in the snow, Gallery at Redlands.

Vintage Bomber lure lurking in the depths

Palestine’s historic Oxbow Bakery

Bison in the snow

Making art is the only way I know how to push into the uncertain future and assert myself in the face of the abyss. In a way beyond describing, I have found peace tonight, and invite kindred spirits to join me in these creative activities that lie ahead.

I’m looking forward to seeing Dad again in the morning, and hoping to see more progress. My thanks to all of you for the notes of encouragement you have sent my way.

And thanks for reading.

A New Angle on Prometheus

September 3, 2021
Breaking Ground on a New Painting

Zeus was outraged. He decreed that Prometheus be punished by being bound to Mount Caucasus, where a vulture was to come each morning and eat away his liver which would grow again at night. This element in the myth, incidentally, is a vivid symbol of the creative process. All artists have at some time had the experience at the end of the day of feeling tired, spent, and so certain they can never express their vision that they vow to forget it and start all over again on something else the next morning. But during the night their “liver grows back again.” They arise full of energy and go back with renewed hope to their task, again to strive in the smithy of their soul.

Rollo May, The Courage to Create

In today’s reading Rollo May has astonished me yet again. From my youth, I’ve heard heard the myth of Prometheus, but with no interpretation, only the gory details. May’s interpretation of this myth as the nightly restoration of the artist to begin again the following morning has suddenly become medicine for my soul. This last week at the university tired me out, and the knowledge of a new class made me crumple a little more. But thanks to a weekend in the Redlands Hotel, I feel renewed, and eager to begin the next painting as well as the next lecture.

Yesterday I broke ground on a new watercolor, drawing in a few essential details, then masquing a myriad of objects that needed protection from the initial washes. Early this morning I laid in the sky, then masqued some more on the landscape elements. Now I’m ready to plunge up to my elbows into the forest behind the pair of mounted mules. I’m anticipating as much fun as a kid in a sandbox as I work with pencils, brushes, Xacto knife, stale bread crumbs, salt, spritzing bottle, and plenty of surprises. Hopefully by the time I’m finished playing, a forest will have emerged. Then I’ll move on to the pair of mounted mules in the creek below.

As the watercolor goes through its series of drying stages, I’ll move to the desk and work on next Wednesday’s ethics lecture (university will be closed for Labor Day). I love this old feel of moving back and forth between making a piece of art and reading/writing in preparation of a new lecture. Always, the dual aspects of art and scholarship have fed each other, nurtured each other. I’m expecting this to continue throughout the semester. Not only do I hope to continue creating art worth looking at (and purchasing, of course), but I also hope to steal fire from the gods and give it to the university students. And every time I experience fatigue, I hope a decent night’s sleep will yield a fresh morning after, my liver restored, and a readiness to face the new day of possibilities. Thanks to Rollo May, The Courage to Create has been creating new fire within my soul along with a procreant urge to create new material for the gallery and the university.

Back to work now . . . 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.

Waiting for the Oracle

February 17, 2021
Enjoying the fire and soft music playing
Winter sotrm warnings continue till 8 tonight

We cannot will to have insights. We cannot will creativity. But we can will to give ourselves to the encounter with intensity of dedication and commitment. The deeper aspects of awareness are activated to the extent that the person is committed to the encounter.

Rollo May, The Courage to Create

Rising early this morning I breathed a prayer of gratitude for shelter and warmth during this horrid winter storm. So many around us continue to suffer power outages. In the midst of this, verbal poison cascades across the airwaves from small political figures, striving to fix blame on someone else for Texas not being sufficiently prepared for such an onslaught of snow, ice and sustained sub-freezing temperatures. My only wish is that elected leaders would expend their energy fixing these problems occurring on their watch, rather than fixing blame.

Grateful for shelter, my morning has begun like most of the others–sitting with coffee, reading, thinking, recording thoughts in my journal, waiting for some kind of oracle, some encouraging word to get me going on the day’s tasks. With the inclement weather forcing us to stay indoors, Sandi and I continue to lay down plans for our gallery’s Meet the Artist reception set for March 20. The various organizational tasks add plenty of variety to the day, but again, I pledge to be just as much the artist as the gallerist.

Rollo May once again has kickstarted my impetus to roll the creative wheel further. I have always affirmed his statement that we cannot will creativity; we simply have to adjust our sails in preparation for the winds of inspiration that will ultimately blow. Now that May’s words have sufficiently stirred me to action, I quickly dash out this blog before entering Studio Eidolons. An 8 x 10″ beginning to the Fort Worth Union Pacific railyard near Tower 55 lies on my drafting table, awaiting my next move. I’m trying to find a way to work atmosphere into the composition rather than mere minute details. Somehow I hope to get fog and exhaust into the picture. I’m still experimenting. Hopefully by my next blog I’ll have more painting to show along with a piece of the new Hank narrative I’ve been working on for several days now.

I hate to disrupt the sleeping dogs and leave the fireplace, but the oracle has arrived and I am ready to respond.

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 through the Freeze

February 15, 2021
Lovely View through the Windows of Studio Eidolons

Zeus was outraged. He decreed that Prometheus be punished by being bound to Mount Caucasus, where a vulture was to come each morning and eat away his liver which would grow again at night. This element in the myth, incidentally, is a vivid symbol of the creative process. All artists have at some time had the experience at the end of the day of feeling tired, spent, and so certain they can never express their vision that they vow to forget it and start all over again on something else the next morning. But during the night their “liver grows back again.” They arise full of energy and go back with renewed hope to their task, again to strive in the smithy of their soul.

Rollo May, The Courage to Create

Heavy snowfall has swallowed the Arlington neighborhoods. More is expected Wednesday. Living in Texas since 1977, I can testify that I have never seen this before down here. I’m glad to be inside with the fireplace going full tilt, enjoying the lovely views out every window of our house.

Rollo May has sounded excellent chords with his observations posted above. Late into the nights, Sandi and I have been talking over our gallery plans in the coming weeks as we prepare to introduce The Twelve on the night of March 20. There is so much to do that we find ourselves exhausted mentally late every night. Nevertheless, as Rollo May pointed out, on the morning after, I always discover my liver has grown back, and I am ready to burst into the studio and go to work afresh. Today I spent a large part of the morning writing and re-writing my latest Hank story to add to my collection. And I’m beginning a watercolor composition of Tower 55 in the Union Pacific yards on the south side of Fort Worth to coincide with the new Hank story. We have decided to add a Gallery Talk to the weekend festivities at Palestine’s Dogwood Festival, so Wayne White and I are busy talking almost daily of our new plans.

New Work in Progress

I can honestly say that the heavy snowfall that has already occurred, along with the forecast for Wednesday, keeps me from driving about town chasing down errands. I plan on using the time wisely this week to continue planning the business end of The Gallery at Redlands. Hopefully we can travel there this next weekend and pick up where we left off two weekends ago.

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.

Winter Solitude and Artistic “Visitations”

February 12, 2021
Pleasing Winter Fire and Hygge Environment

All my life I have been haunted by the fascinating questions of creativity. Why does an original idea in science and in art “pop up” from the unconscious at a given moment?

Rollo May, The Courage to Create

We never come to thoughts. They come to us.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

Winter weather in Texas cancelled our plans to work in The Gallery at Redlands this weekend. Fortunately, creativity is not restricted to a particular space. We now continue our gallery opening preparations in Studio Eidolons. With temperatures hovering now at 19 degrees along with meteorological rumors of snow, it was pleasing to build a fire and enjoy coffee, journals and books here in the living room with dogs sleeping nearby. Glowing candles about the room have enhanced the hygge environment Sandi and I have been reading about in recent weeks. Time, weather and space have mingled to create a lovely zone for reflection.

As a compulsive re-reader, I have re-opened Rollo May’s The Courage to Create. The author and psychologist was inspired by his mentor Paul Tillich’s work The Courage to Be, where the argument is advanced that courage is demanded to affirm life while living in a threatening enviornment. Rollo May responds: “one cannot be in a vacuum. We express our being by creating. Creativity is a necessary sequel to being.” This called up deep reminiscences of my own sojourn in this life. Though nurtured by my family, I endured anxiety throughout my entire childhood and adolescent years, feeling inferior among my peers at school. The only talent I felt I had was in art, and engaging in this activity gave me inner strength to face my small world. As an adult, self-confidence took hold, and making art fell by the wayside for the most part as I went to work the way everyone else seemed to do.

Since retiring a few years back, I have been writing my memoirs, seeking a better understanding of my past. I cannot overstate the luxury of time to think on these things and write out my perspectives of what has happened. Perusing stacks of personal journals accumulated over the years, I’ve been trying to determine when it was exactly that art came back to the center of my life. At this point, I feel that art was something I did as a coping skill when a child, then something induced by talent in teenage years, only to be dropped completely in favor of academic study during college and graduate school years. Once I entered the teaching field, art came back into my life, but it seemed more personal, more reflective than it had been in younger years.

Now, art is something I have to do. Ideas and mental pictures cascade into my consciousness throughout the day. Visions invade my dream world while I sleep. Every morning, I awake to compulsions to pursue an idea or draft an image. Echoing the sentiments of May and Heidegger quoted above, I find myself wondering over the origin of these visitations. Throughout the years I have enjoyed reading musician Neil Young’s biographies and autobiography, along with listening to his interviews with Charlie Rose replayed on YouTube, where he discusses his songwriting experiences. Frequently, Young has admitted that particular ideas and jarring images just arrived uninvited–he has no idea what prompted them to visit his imagination. That is exactly how I feel. For instance, the picture below–a couple of days ago, I “saw” this remembrance in my mind’s eye of a lone fisherman I saw many winters ago while fly fishing for trout stocked in the Brazos River beneath the Highway 16 bridge below Possum Kingdom dam. Going back through my archives, I located the picture I took of him with a digital camera years before the smart phone took over. I had to go to the drafting table and give this image a try in a quick watercolor sketch.

Life is like that, for me, and has been for years. I am excited and overwhelmed to take over the ownership of The Gallery at Redlands, and look forward to our opening event in late March. Sandi and I have been consumed with ideas for this space for nearly two weeks now. I have answered several friends who have questioned whether my new life as a gallerist will impede my work as an artist. I honestly don’t see that happening. My attention to creative pursuits has not waned in past weeks. Ideas continue to stampade through my consciousness throughout each day and night. I cannot refuse to answer the call when it comes.

Still adjusting this 5 x 7″ watercolor

I placed a mat over this 5 x 7″ watercolor sketch, but have decided to tweak it further. I have already added another framed 5 x 7″ to The Gallery at Redlands and plan to join it with this one once it’s finished.

Already on dispaly at The Gallery at Redlands

It appears that I will need to bring this meditation to a close–I’ve received another visitation.

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.

A Fulfilling Weekend in the Studio of Dreams

September 30, 2019


Paintings in Progress Piling Up

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.

Rollo May, My Quest for Beauty

In the quiet of the dark Monday morning predawn, music wafting softly from the adjoining rootm, I sit at my desk, inhaling the pleasing aroma from this freshly pressed mug of coffee and . . . nothing. After forty-eight hours of wall-to-wall quiet and creative bliss, I thought surely by now that I would have something meaningful to blog. Twenty-two watercolors, in progress, are scattered across three drafting tables in my living room. The past two days have been pure heaven, moving from painting to painting, book to book, manuscript to manuscript. Yes, painting, reading and writing–three of my favorite activities for which I still work to find sufficient time, even in these glowing retirement years–and I now have this urge to blog, but nothing seems to bubble to the surface.

Opening one of my favorite volumes from Rollo May, I now re-read this timely word:

There is a danger in erasing chaos too easily, for it then takes away one’s stimulation. Several years ago I took the training for transcendental meditation. I have always been interested in meditating and have done it more or less on my own. When I finished that course and my mantra was given to me, I was instructed to meditate twenty minutes in the morning as soon as I woke up and twenty minutes at four or five o’clock in the afternoon. So I, being an obedient soul, started out doing that. I found that after meditating I would go down to my desk in my studio and sit there to write. And nothing would come. Everything was so peaceful, so harmonious; I was blissed out. And I had to realize through harsh experience that the secret of being a writer is to go to your desk with your mind full of chaos, full of formlessness–formlessness of the night before, formlessness which threatens you, changes you.

The essence of a writer is that out of this chaos, through struggle, or joy, or grief–through trying a dozen or perhaps a hundered ways in rewriting–one finally gets one’s ideas into some kind of form.

I suppose he has a point there. I recall one of Nietzsche’s maxims from Thus Spoke Zarathustra:

I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star

I have managed to glide through an entire weekend without chaos. In fact, once I got on the other side of the two-hour presentation I gave a couple of weeks ago, a presentation that had pressed on my psyche for month after month, life has been slower and there has been no chaos to organize.

Not to say I’ve been indolent; I’m managing some kind of physical exercise daily and have thankfully taken off more than twenty pounds over the past couple of months. Energy is increasing, and I take much satisfaction in that reality. And . . . I now have twenty-two watercolors in the making. Perhaps soon I will be able to share some kind of insight and discovery while working on them. And of course, I’ll gladly post photos of the new work once it is further along.


One of Twenty-Two Paintings in Progress

I feel the compulsion to go back into the studio now that the morning light is coming through the windows. 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 Oracle Comes in the Morning

May 28, 2018

coffee 2

Coffee, Books and Democritus


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.


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. (

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.