Posts Tagged ‘Rollo May’

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

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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.

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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

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.

 

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.