Posts Tagged ‘Texaco’

Texaco Gas Pumps in Lexington, Texas

December 28, 2013
Gas Pumps in Lexington, Texas

Gas Pumps in Lexington, Texas

A car whipped past, the driver eating and a passenger clicking a camera.  Moving without going anywhere, taking a trip instead of making one.  I laughed at the absurdity of the photographs and then realized I, too, was rolling effortlessly along, turning the windshield into a movie screen in which I, the viewer, did the moving while the subject held still.  That was the temptation of the American highway, of the American vacation (from the Latin vacare, “to be empty”).  

[A woman in Texas] longed for the true journey of an Odysseus or Ishmael or Gulliver or even a Dorothy of Kansas, wherein passage through space and time becomes only a metaphor of a movement through the interior of being.  A true journey, no matter how long the travel takes, has no end.

William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways

On November 3, while returning from Bowman Gallery in Portland, Texas, I chose to take the long road home, avoiding Austin and San Antonio (it was Sunday and I did not want to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic).  The trip lasted the entire day, as I could not help stopping in virtually every small town along the way to take photographs and record information for potential sketches and watercolors.  This abandoned Texaco station I found on Highway 77 in Lexington, Texas, next door to the Texas 77 Diner at North Street.  So far, I have been unsuccessful in finding information on the station’s history, ownership, closure, etc.  Below is the thumbnail tonal sketch I attempted before beginning the watercolor while at my parent’s house near St. Louis this past week.  I spent about a day on the painting.  It measures 8 x 10″ and I am listing it for $150.  I will probably attempt additional compositions, as I took over twenty photos of the structure from various angles.

Thumbnail Sketch

Thumbnail Sketch

Texaco Pumps in Lexington, Texas

Texaco Pumps in Lexington, Texas

In my quiet moments, I have been re-reading portions of William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways, along with other works he’s produced.  At midnight last night, I completed a fifteen-hour road trip with my son, returning from our Christmas vacation with my parents and siblings.  Our conversations along the open road, in both directions, I found very fulfilling, as he’s always been a fabulous conversationalist.  And during the quiet moments, I was grateful for the vistas that filled my imagination, priming my aesthetic pump to get new work started for the coming season.  The American road trip has been my passion since the 1980’s, and I hope that good health will allow me to pursue this for several more years to come.

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.


What are the Ideas that Lie behind these Things? Musings for the New Year 2013

January 1, 2013
Still Life on New Year's Day

Still Life on New Year’s Day

“People who don’t look at my work think I’m a painter of old oaken buckets.  I’m anything but that!”

Andrew Wyeth, interview with Richard Meryman, First Impressions: Andrew Wyeth

I got a late start in the studio today, January 1, 2013.  No regrets–I got to spend the best part of this day engaged in meaningful conversation with a kindred spirit.  There seems to be not enough of that in my life these days, and good conversation is a gift.  Now I find myself conflicted between painting and reading (that is nothing new).

I did find enough energy to work on the lettering at the top of the Mobilgas sign, and then painted in the Pegasus, then finally scarred up the sign itself, to depict decades of weathering and abuse.  I also devoted considerable attention to working on the shadows and deeper colors falling across the Maxwell House tin at the lower right.  I have the desire to work on other parts of the composition, but the night has arrived and the daylight that I depend on, coming through the garage door windows, has vanished.  The lighting on the still life itself is inadequate for me to proceed, so I suppose I’ll let this one compost for another night.  I have been moving it to a bedroom easel so I can spend evenings looking up at it, from a good book.  Andrew Wyeth always preferred to put his work in progress up on a wall somewhere in his home, where he could glance up at it occasionaly and get a “glimpse” of it “out of the corner of the eye.”  He was convinced that those fleeting impressions of a work told him more than hours of staring all over the composition.  I tend to agree.

I’m grateful for such an affirming start to 2013, and hope all of you have had a wonderful first day as well.  That first movement, that first revolution of the wheel, I believe, is significant.  It sets the tone for what follows.

Thanks for reading.


Final Art Studio Posting of 2012–Watercolor Still Life Still Growing

December 31, 2012
Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

Watercolor Still Life in the Man Cave

The drilling machine for the Aargau lecture (“Biblical Questions, Insights, and Vistas”) is going at full strength and an unbroken pillar of smoke is rising from my pipe to the ceiling as in the best times of my life. 

Karl Barth, letter to friend Edouard Thurneysen dated March 17, 1920

What an amazing age in which we thrive today!  The above fragment is from a letter sent by one Swiss pastor to another.  They lived on opposite sides of the mountain and traveled once or twice a week to see one another for hours of conversation.  Between visits, they sent letters almost daily back and forth.  In this letter, Barth paints in words the picture of a day in his study where he worked furiously on a lecture and the smoke from his pipe never ceased.

Well, today, the water and pigment in my watercolor brush never ceased or dried up.  And as I painted alone in my Cave, I was inundated with phone calls, emails, text messages, Facebook messages and Blog comments from dear, dear friends and associates, all of them kindred spirits.  Thank you, I love you all.  You made this day very, very meaningful.  I can close out 2012 and move with confidence into 2013.  You’ll never know what a Gift you gave this day.

I have posted my last picture for this year.  I spent most of this afternoon and evening tinkering with the Maxwell House coffee tin, the stove top percolator, the Texaco oil can and the kerosene lantern.  Of course, I continued to play all over the rest of the composition–the darkened background, chips in the paint on the doors, the locking plate, the Mobilgas sign, the frying pan.  I work all over the composition, even while focusing on one key object.  And all of it was just as grand as the conversations I enjoyed with friends.  I can retire to bed happily tonight, thank you again.

Thanks for reading.  All of you have made me even more enthusiastic about blogging my painting experiences.


A Frigid Day Warmed by Watercoloring, T. S. Eliot and Soulful Conversations

December 30, 2012
Still Life in Progress

Still Life in Progress

Subject matter, if the artist is even using it, is just an armature for the artist to engage his intensity of feeling.  It is the quality of your attention that influences how you see and how deeply you feel.

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

Before painting this morning, I sat down to breakfast and played part of a taped lecture by the late Robert Solomon on Husserl, Heidegger and Phenomenology.  As he spoke of “intentionality” and the emphasis on one’s consciousness directed at a particular object, I came to the conviction that I had found another piece to my “Imagist” puzzle and my efforts to grasp William Carlos Williams’ “No ideas but in things” remarks.  Staring at this still life brings to my remembrance Uncle Lloyd, in his full beard, working in a Texaco filling station in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  The Mobilgas sign stirs my earlier fancies in the Pegasus images I used to stare at as our car rolled past those stations in southeast Missouri.  The coffee pot reminds me of the predawn sounds and smells of coffee percolating as Mom prepared Dad’s breakfast before he left to work a full day at a filling station in south St. Louis.  I read somewhere that art helps us remember.  Perhaps I paint to remember.  I don’t know.

What I do know is that I am coming to the close of a very sublime day.  The 42-degree temperature outside has a “real feel” of 36, so The Weather Channel informs me.  And, despite the close proximity of this space heater, I am feeling a chill in my bones that I cannot seem to shrug off any longer.  So, I’m going to put this painting on my bedroom easel to look at tonight while I cozy into my bed and read T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets.”  I always appreciate the comments received from those who follow my blog.  And today, a kindred spirit has pointed me back to Eliot.  I am most grateful for that prompt as well as the many other rich ideas that have been born from fabulous chats throughout the day.  Thank you.

I am posting below a close up of the still life as it stands now.  I spent considerable time on the Texaco oil can, laboring over the letters and logo.

Sunday Night Still Life

Sunday Night Still Life

I have decided to lay this to rest for the night, not only because of the cold, but because of the inadequacy of light on the objects.  I posted yesterday that the frying pan is little more than a silhouette at night.  Likewise the lantern, which I really want to work on now, loses much of its highlights  and middle-tones in this darkened garage.  So, I suppose I’ll need to await the morning light.  I’m fatigued anyway, for now.  So I’ll say Good Night to you, and Hello to Eliot.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday Morning Solitude

December 30, 2012
Large Watercolor Still Life in the Works

Large Watercolor Still Life in the Works

Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius.

Edward Gibbon

After retiring to bed long after midnight, I arose a little later this morning and couldn’t wait to re-enter the Cave.  The fried eggs and sausage just couldn’t cook quickly enough!  Coffee is brewed, I allowed myself the luxury of reading from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau (I’ll post that below), and I have now completed two hours in the Cave, loving the silence that envelopes me (even my cat is keeping still, as long as he can lay close by).

Now that I have some daylight streaming through the garage windows, the skillet has ceased being a silhouette.  It was nice to add some modeling to it.  I then went to the locking plate and doorknob below, and then the blistered paint of the door.  The Mobilgas sign I worked on after midnight last night (this morning, actually!) and I am still tinkering with the Barq’s Root Beer sign.  The circles are starting to expand concentrically as I try to find my way back to the perimeter which I darkened before I began the actual painting (the end is in the beginning, said Heraclitus and T. S. Eliot).

I have turned to this blog, because I was warmed by the thought (as I was working in absolute silence–44 degrees outside means the neighbors are not working in their yards or getting into their cars to go somewhere) that I have an environment of silence and solitude that allows me to paint at my leisure–no deadlines, appointments or meetings until January 8.  Realizing that this could go on for another week warmed me all over.  I have always dreamed of this kind of space and time, and I don’t recall it ever happening, except perhaps that year in 1987 when I worked on a doctoral dissertation and did little else, living far out in the country of north Texas.  It is a nice sentiment.  If I live long enough to retire, maybe I’ll know more of this kind of life.  But for now, I’ll accept the gift.

I close with something I read this morning from Thoreau’s Journal.  A most unusual thought:

Unless we meet religiously, we profane one another.  What was the consecrated ground round the temple, we have used as no better than a domestic court.

Our friend’s is as holy a shrine as any God’s to be approached with sacred love and awe.  Veneration is the measure of Love.  Our friend answers ambiguously, and sometimes before the question is propounded, like the oracle of Delphi.  He forbears to ask explanation, but doubts and surmises darkly with full faith, as we silently ponder our fates.

In no presence we are so susceptible to shame.  our hour is a sabbath, our abode a temple, our gifts peace offerings, our conversation a communion, our silence a prayer.  In profanity we are absent, in holiness near, in sin estranged, in innocence reconciled. 

Thanks for reading.

A Frozen Moment along Route 66 at Christmas

December 15, 2011

Cold Desolation

I was happy to receive 2nd place in the Desoto Arts League Annual Member Show with this entry.  I titled this “Cold Desolation” and painted it back in 2007.  I photographed it much, much earlier, over a Christmas holiday season back in the 1990’s.  My father was driving me around abandoned towns in Franklin County, Missouri so that I could shoot my 35mm camera for potential watercolor compositions.

It was about 10 degrees when we came across this abandoned filling station in Robertsville, Missouri, not far from Pacific.  I had to add the signage, as the building had been stripped of all identification and advertising.  The automobile was photographed in New Mexico, years later.  As to this site, I still recall how frigid cold it was, and how I had to keep putting my hands back into gloves to survive the photo shoot!  I stayed around long enough to shoot over thirty pictures, though some of them did not turn out the way I wished.

This painting has had a hard life.  After I had finished the sky, I leaned the watercolor against the wall of my study.  In those days, I was stretching D’Arches watercolor paper over canvas stretchers.  I love the dynamic spring of the paper while working on it, and the water dries much more quickly than it does with blocks or 300 pound weight.  While the picture was leaned against the wall, I pushed some books off my desk, and they tumbled across the floor and punctured this painting in several places.  For that reason, I have been unable to sell the original through galleries (though I’ve sold a number of limited edition giclees, and now the original has won two awards in competition, including a Best of Show.  It was also juried into the annual show of the Southwestern Watercolor Society.  Nevertheless, it remains a damaged painting, scotch-taped from the back.

I’m attached to this work because to-date it remains the best watercolor sky I have ever laid.  I still cannot believe how the colors worked and the blotted clouds emerged the way they did.  It also marks a former period when I worked only in neutral colors, mostly under the spell of Andrew Wyeth.  The creation of the work also evokes warm memories, as I worked on the sky in the winter months, then abandoned the work when the spring semester got under way.  The next thing I knew, several years had passed.  Finally, I decided to take it with me during a 3500-mile road trip one summer that took me through Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.    It was during my Colorado fly-fishing expedition that the painting was completed, in Canon City.

I plan to re-visit this Robertsville, Missouri site in a couple of weeks when I return to St. Louis to visit my family for Christmas.  Currently, I have over twenty 35mm slides taken from all angles of this station, and I’m considering a fresh start on this composition again.  I think the time is overdue.  When Christmas comes, this is one of the few paintings from my past that I still own, and still spend plenty of time studying.  The painting will remain in Desoto City Hall until the first week of the New Year.  I”ll be looking forward to retrieving it and re-hanging it in my home.

Thanks for reading.

Another Route 66 Service Station Relic from a Dying America

March 3, 2011

Cold Desolation, Robertsville, Missouri

I have decided to post an older work now featured on my website (and the original is still for sale at the Weiler House Fine Arts Gallery  A demanding school schedule has jerked me out of the studio for a minimum of two days, it appears, and I really wish to blog daily.  I’m having to work hard to make this possible.  Hopefully tomorrow I can return to my Spencer’s Grill painting and (maybe) finish it by the weekend.

My father has always taken an interest in my art work, even from my early childhood.  Once I launched Recollections 54, he was even more diligent in scouting for me these out-of-the way, forgotten towns that had once flourished throughout the fifties.  During one Christmas visit, he took me on some county roads west of St. Louis, adjacent to Route 66.  Stopping in Robertsville, I photographed this abandoned station from every possible angle.  It was about 10 degrees out, and snow was everywhere, and my 35mm camera lens was continually fogging up.  But I managed to get some decent photos, and put these images in the back of my mind’s eye to “compost” for a few years.

Of course, there were no signs left on this abused structure.  I added all of those, using props I’ve collected over the years.  The automobile was actually found alongside Route 66 in New Mexico, somewhere near Santa Rosa.  No such vehicles were to be seen on this property.

Once I finished the wintry, stormy sky and was ready to begin painting the building beneath, I had an accident in the studio.  Pushing a pile of books off my desk to clear room for an armload of “junk,” I hadn’t counted on the books bouncing along the floor and hitting this painting which was on the floor, propped against the wall.  I prefer to work on D’Arches paper, soaked in a shower and stapled on canvas stretchers, as though I were preparing a surface for oil or acrylic painting.  When dry, this surface is stretched tight as a drum skin, and delightful to work on with wet-on-wet watercolor.  Anyway, the books tore three holes in the painting.  My first reaction was to rip it off and throw it away, but it was the best sky I had ever painted!  So, I turned it over, scotch-taped the rips from behind, and proceeded onward with it.  I’m glad I did.  The painting won Best of Show in a competition the following year and a handsome check.

Something that attaches me to this painting is the reality that it was painted all over the Midwest, West and Southwest.  The summer that it was painted was a time when I decided to do a “Kerouac-style” road trip.  I loaded my Jeep and drove from Dallas/Fort Worth through SE Oklahoma, across Missouri and to St. Louis where I stayed awhile and visited with my family, painting on this from time to time.  Then I drove west to Kansas City, and onward to Denver.  From there I fly fished my way west to Kremmling, and then all the way down the Arkansas River, from its headwaters in Leadville, and on down through Buena Vista, Salida and Canon City.  Then it was on to Santa Fe, New Mexico and finally back home to Arlington, Texas.  I finished this watercolor in Canon City, Colorado, but enjoyed thoroughly working on it in St. Louis, Kremmling and Leadville as well.  All of this is to say–I saw much of this kind of “abandoned town” setting throughout my lengthy road-trip excursion that summer, and all of those sights fed this painting.

Incidentally, I had another “accident” in my garage studio day before yesterday–my French easel collapsed (a small piece of wood with 2 screws tore loose on the back leg) and crashed to the floor with “Spencer’s Grill” on it.  The result is two holes in this painting, now.  Anyway, I scotch-taped those from the back as well, and hope this will be alright.  I like the painting too much to throw it away.

Thanks for reading.

A Hot Afternoon at Trackside, June 1, 2010

June 1, 2010

Waxahachie Trackside

Another extremely hot day, nearing triple digits.  Today was the official last day of school.  The next two days will be final exams.  I’m nearing the end of the school term, but also nearing the end of the Paint Historic Waxahachie event.  The event ends Friday at 2:00, which means Thursday evening for me, since Friday is a teacher’s workday at school all day.

My friend Chris was under the weather from the grueling schedule and harsh weather.  So I traveled solo to Waxhachie today, arriving around 2:00 after finishing my school responsibilities.  I decided to do this trackside structure, two blocks southeast of the town square.  I feel that I did some “hack work” since I’ve done these kinds of structures before.  This looks similar to a Decatur painting I completed last summer.  The bottom line: there was no real discovery for me in this work.  No risk.  Nothing new.  Just another painting that I seemed to “whip out for the trade.”  Perhaps it is.  My objective this week is to experiment in plein air, but also to create as many works as possible for sales or at least inventory replenishment.  I guess the heat was so unbearable that I just wanted to get another watercolor piece completed, and hope for better conditions tomorrow for painting.

It was good to get home earlier this evening.  I have a mountain of school work to complete, and hope to get to bed early enough to get decent sleep so that tomorrow I can get through the schoolwork and return to Waxhachie with enough energy to do some decent work.  Maybe I’ll get two paintings accomplished tomorrow–I hope to anyway.

Thanks for reading.

First Real Day of Spring Break, March 15, 2010

March 15, 2010

Decatur Texas--Whistlestop Cafe and Petrified Oil Station

Hopefully I’ll have a new watercolor sketch to post this evening.  Spring break began last Friday after school, but I was committed to a 4-day art festival.  Today is my first day of freedom, with a week stretched out before me.  I’m in the mood for plein air painting, and Texas weather is ideal for that right now.  This painting I finished in my booth during the first day of the art festival (last Thursday).  It’s been posted during its “in progress” stages, but now I’m glad to sign off and be finished with it.  I finished several other works in the booth as well, and will post them soon.  But now, I’m off to paint for the afternoon!

Sorry about the disappearance, readers! February 16, 2010

February 16, 2010

Decatur, Texas panorama

I never intended to break my New Year Resolution of an art blog-a-day.  However, I never intended to go without electricity for 3 days.  A Texas snowstorm of 9.5 inches knocked out the electricity and I had to move into a hotel.  No Internet (except for BlackBerry), no studio for painting, and hence, no blogging.  But I’m back now.

It has been a sublime evening, returning to my  studio after my first day back in school.  Though I have had to balance painting time with A.P. Art History preparation (Southeast Asia before 1200), I did manage to get several hours of uninterrupted watercolor work done.  I’ve been working to resurrect a painting-gone-bad, that I started in mid-summer 2009.  This began as a plein air experience in Decatur, Texas.  I aborted after about an hour of drawing and watercolor sketching, because a rainstorm had drenched the area that morning, and a strong sun drove the humidity index up to the point that my hand was sweating all over the composition.  I didn’t much like what I saw when I got it back home, so I set it aside, and made a few furtive stabs at it with the brush in the ensuing months.

Tonight I have added a second sign, darkened the side of the cafe, and have begun to render awnings, doorways and storefront windows in greater detail.  I still have three gas pumps to paint in red, and plenty of foliage to finish, as well as the petrified wood exterior of the defunct Texaco station.  Plenty of work remains, but I do like (for the first time) the way this is shaping up.

I have been playing two Andy Warhol DVDs I purchased at the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum last weekend (during my dry spell without electricity).  There is a wonderful show of Warhol’s final decade there, and I didn’t want to leave it.  I always enjoy playing Warhol documentaries while I work in the studio (the Factory!).  I now have four of them, and they usually run non-stop while I’m in the creativity zone.  I am inspired to produce when I hear of his workaholic lifestyle in the Factory.  I feel a kinship with him, and am sad that we lost him while he was just getting back to the brush.

Thanks for reading, and I apologize for the gap in the blog.  Hopefully there won’t be any more interruptions in 2010.