Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Thanksgiving Gladness

November 22, 2018

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A New Kerouac Collage

Kerouac saw On the Road as a story of America, and the split in his own character–between his wanderlust and his desire to “work and make your life” . . .

John Leland, Why Kerouac Matters

The highway rolled out as an endless manuscript and the American landscape punctuated it with chapters and illustrations. For days now, I have found delight filling my journal with observations from roadside parks, truck stops, cafes and gas stations. All of this came together in collage fashion in my mind’s eye, and the ideas of William Burroughs and his “cut-ups” were refreshed. All of us cut up the world differently with our visions and our thoughts.

Thanksgiving offers a warm, welcome embrace after countless hours and days on the road in recent weeks. I have enjoyed my lifestyle, balancing college responsibilities with gallery, studio work and personal life. But I never dreamed of rolling out so much time on the road. One of the better results of this has been a return to the writings and life story of Jack Kerouac, and a fresh look at the work of the other Beat writers. The romance of the American highway and landscape has remained with me throughout my life, but not until this past year have I had opportunity to experience it fully.

From time to time, I have reached into my bag of scraps to explore collage techniques. Recently, it has been difficult doing plein air watercolor on the road, and the temperatures have been quite frigid as well. Collage-making has been a nice change of pace for me.

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My Messy Work Area

I am enjoying a second read of Why Kerouac Matters, particularly the dualism of his character, as he vacillated between his road odysseys and the desire to build something permanent with his life. I have known that tension for years, but am living more contently with it in recent days. I am old enough to know that I cannot accomplish all I wish to accomplish. Perhaps coming to terms with that reality has made things better for me. At any rate, I am enjoying the serenity now of the holidays, and am spending much of this leisure time playing solitaire at the kitchen table. I occasionally lay aside the deck of cards to read another chapter from my book, or scribble out a few more pages in my journal, or build another collage, or chip away at this evolving blog entry.

Thanks for reading. I wish you the happiest of Thanksgiving.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Grinding

November 19, 2016

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Nothing memorable was ever accomplished in a prosaic mood of mind.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal (undated, but among his pages written while residing at Walden Pond)

My coffe mug has “Daily Grind” wrapped around the outside.  I pulled it from my cupboard this morning as my message for the day.  As a school teacher for twenty-eight years, I know the daily grind–too many subjects to teach to too many students in too many class periods with too little time for absorption per day.  In twenty-eight years that has not changed, and I’m confident will not change.  I love the film Rounders and the role played by John Turturro whom they refer to as “The Grinder.”  He makes a living playing cards, finding a way to pay the mortgage, alimony and child support (“My kids eat.”).  He is portrayed as a rather joyless sage who knows what he has to do daily to pay his bills.

But the paragraph just written is not what I consider the core of my life.  For twenty-eight years, though grinding, I have blissfully educated myself, poring over the texts and materials necessary to put fresh bread before the students.  And even if they did not absorb that daily nourishment, I did, incrementally, semester after semester, year after year. And I felt the growth of my own soul, appreciating every new shoot.  My life has been enriched through the decades, doing what I’ve been hired to do.

For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

Mark 4:28

I echo the sentiments of Thoreau.  I don’t sense within me a “prosaic mood of mind.” Throughout life, I have found a way to celebrate as I have fed on the religious sentiment, the literary and the artistic.  It has all been good.  And this day particularly has been good. Rising to my first cold morning of the season, I chose not to turn on central heating, but to go out back to my woodpile, fill the fireplace and begin a day-long fire.  For four hours now, the crackling sound has soothed me as I’ve labored over a watercolor commission in my living room studio, enjoying the crisp winter light slanting across the drafting table and listening to Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” This day has been filled with splendor because it marks the commencement of the Thanksgiving Holiday.  Our schools are closed the entire week, so I will not be returning to the workplace on Monday.  My holiday schedule is not exactly set in stone, but at least I know I have all the time necessary before me to complete this commission, then move on to the holidays.

Thanks for reading.  The morning has been truly delicious.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Happy Thanksgiving

November 26, 2015

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Life is being wasted.  The human family is not having half the fun that is its due, not making the beautiful things it would make, and each one is not as good news to the other as he might be, just because we are educated off our natural track.  We need another form of education.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Happy Thanksgiving to anyone out there reading this.  I don’t think I could have planned a better one for myself.  Waking in the darkness before dawn, enjoying the warmth of covers, and thinking good thoughts, I decided the first thing I wanted to do once I got up was go back to the third watercolor I started over the past three days, and see if I could finish it.  I did.  I took some chances in color that I’m not used to taking, and am glad I did.  I also tried out some new techniques in drybrush with the foreground–a combination of masquing, staining with a drybrush, and pencil rendering/scribbling–which was also enjoyable.

Returning to a book I’ve read once all the way through and am nearly finished with my second reading, I’m amazed at the insight and clarity with which Robert Henri wrote.  The man was truly a prophet, a seer, a visionary, and I’m grateful that he recorded his thoughts for posterity.  He has been a real gift to me personally.  I love the quote posted above.  And I’m glad, in retrospect, that I returned to my artistic roots.  I laid down the pencil and brush to pursue graduate studies in academic subjects, and followed a career in education.  But one day I woke up and decided to return to what gives me the most deep-seated pleasure in life–making art.  My job is still a good experience for me, but I live to pursue my passion when not on the job, and the activity never lets me down.  The holidays have been meaningful this year because I’ve had uninterrupted time to pursue painting and thinking, and it’s all been very, very good.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

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

 

 

Freedom from Want

December 3, 2014

Freedom from Want, by Norman Rockwell

The Thanksgiving hiatus brought a welcome balm to my overworked soul.  I journeyed to my boyhood home outside St. Louis, Missouri, and enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal with my parents, siblings and their children that took on the spirit of this Norman Rockwell painting posted above (I was so delighted to see that painting at a show this past summer at Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum).  Along with the excellent food came several days of snowy weather that yielded a quantity of watercolor attempts and hours of reading pleasure from James Joyce.  I plan to post more on that later.  I had read Joyce’s Portrait back in the late 1980’s, and was moved by it then, but moved much more profoundly during this recent odyssey.  I was of course glad that talk around our Thanksgiving table wasn’t filled with the toxic religious debate featured in the Joyce novel during their Thanksgiving.

At the risk of sounding Buddhist, I want to say a word about Thanksgiving and the ability to let go.  The painting above is part of an important Rockwell series, and Freedom from Want is a theme that resonated with me throughout this recent break and in recent days back on the job here in Texas.  The human condition is often overwhelmed with this sense of want, particularly a desire directed toward something that is not easily sated.  I often wonder if part of growing up is realizing that life can improve immeasurably to the proportion that one is able to let go.  I’m reminded of some of Henry David Thoreau’s dry humor in Walden:

. . . a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.

One of the more painful lessons I’ve endured in life is learning to relinquish things that bring more pain than pleasure.  Of course there is always talk from the other side about high-yield risks, but one can never lose what s/he doesn’t put out on the table.  So much gets put out there in life that yields no return, or worse still, yields pain that we are better off without.  Freedom from want.  I’m a little better tonight because of some hard lessons learned along that vein.  Perhaps this is one of my better Thanksgiving seasons.

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.