Posts Tagged ‘Walden’

Too Little Time for Painting Today

August 26, 2013
A Little Bit of Work on the Truck

A Little Bit of Work on the Truck

There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers.  Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once admirable to life.  To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.  It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Good evening!  All I had time to do this evening was block in the Dodge truck, and then my light was gone.  I really don’t wish to paint under house lights at night, I have become so attached to the natural light coming in through my studio windows.  Alas, I’m having to re-adjust the hours of the day now, to allow space for doing my job.  Today was more about living an artful life than making a piece of art.  I’m not finding the adjustment easy, but will have to find a way.

The first day of school went very, very well.  Two enormous classes, and one moderate-sized one.  My two A. P. Art History classes show great promise, and I regret waiting two days before seeing them again.  Tomorrow will be Philosophy and Sophomore English.  The latter course I have never taught before, so I cannot say I am looking forward to that with enthusiasm.  But, we’ll see . . .

There is plenty of work to be done still to prep for tomorrow’s courses, so I’ll be signing off early this time.  I really hope I can hit this watercolor a little harder tomorrow.  What I feel, however, is that I will need some days to adjust to this full-blown school schedule.  One way or another, I will return to the blog with vigor, trust me.  I love communicating with you.

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.

The Dawn

May 5, 2013
Working on a Watercolor of a Screen Door

Working on a Watercolor of a Screen Door

The Vedas say, “All intelligences awake with the morning.”  Poetry and art, and the fairest and most memorable of the actions of men, date from such an hour.  All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are the children of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise.  To him whose elastic and vigorous thought, keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning.  It matters not what the clocks say or the attitudes and labors of men.  Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me.  Moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I awoke to a beautiful Sunday morning, before 8:00.  After a quick shower, grooming and breakfast, I entered the Cave with delight and began whittling away on this screen door study which has gotten hold of me.  My companion this morning is this watercolor song sent me several weeks ago.  I cannot get it out of my head, and it has apparently been enriching many bloggers.  I enclose the link below:

Rae Hering has written a song here that really moves me, really helps get the creative juices flowing when I’m alone in my Cave.  I like her notion of “Getting to Know Myself Again.”

I’m hoping for another splendid day like yesterday.  I have a stack of books ready to be opened, a journal open and ready for recording thoughts, and of course, watercolors in progress.

Thanks for reading.  I should be posting later in the day.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Retreat to the Wilderness

March 27, 2013
"Walden" Painting hanging in Arlington Martin High School library

“Walden” Painting hanging in Arlington Martin High School library

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Rene Descartes crawled into a stove late one winter night, to think things through.  Ralph Waldo Emerson launched his two-year European odyssey following the tragic death of his young wife, hoping to figure out what to do next.  Henry David Thoreau retreated to Walden woods for two years, two months, two days, building a cabin and residing there to listen to nature, to learn directly from her, and figure out how to proceed with his life.  We always refer to these retreats to the wilderness as times to retool, to rethink, to retread and figure out how next to move on.

I just came off a disastrous art festival this past weekend–three days outdoors in the rage of arctic temperatures and gale winds (Texas weather the weekend before was in the 80’s and sunny).  The horrendous weather managed to chase away all patrons, leaving artists and musicians hanging out to freeze in the cold winds.  The event was finally canceled Sunday morning.  We folded our tents, packed our creations, loaded out, and headed for our home shelters.  In breaking down my tent, I sliced open my thumb on the right hand, making it impossible for a couple of days to hold a pen, a paintbrush, or even play a guitar.  Gloom.

Monday following the event saw me looking down the bore of a cannon called Progress Grade reporting.  Deadline was midnight.  So, after a day of teaching (following that disastrous arctic weekend of loading, unloading and injuring), I came home from school and inputted grades on the computer until 12:37 a.m.  Then it was up again at 6:00 a.m. for another weary round of teaching.

All of this to say, I haven’t blogged since Friday because I have been up to my eyebrows in trouble.  I have been unable to paint due to the injury and the crushing deadlines and loss of sleep.

But now, the wilderness has opened up and beckoned.  I have been invited to accompany the art club from my high school on a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art.  And at the end of the day, an invitation awaits to attend the evening events at the Amon Carter Art Museum in Fort Worth.  That, to me, is a gift from the Divine.  A chance to retreat to the wilderness, to immerse myself in the finest art, and to reflect on where to go next with my own pursuits.  A healing balm.  Long overdue.

My earnest hope is that the next blog post will be soon, and will feature my next endeavor.  I really want to push something else out, something new.  But for tonight, I leave you with a 3 x 4′ acrylic canvas I painted for our Martin High School library, featuring Thoreau and his treasured book Walden.  

Tomorrow, before leaving for the museum odyssey, I am thrilled to sit with my Philosophy class and discuss the text of Walden and to apply this spiritual principle of retreat and renewal, found in the solitary wilderness.

Thanks for reading.

Six Still-Life Subjects in Search of a Painter

January 14, 2013
The Beginnings of a Small Watercolor Still Life

The Beginnings of a Small Watercolor Still Life

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travelers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

With temperatures outside dipping to 34 degrees, I find the Man Cave still tolerable, as long as I wear this hoodie, and keep pouring the coffee.

I left this blog last Wednesday, boarding Amtrak on the following day to St. Louis to spend the night at my sister’s house, then drove four hours north to Hamilton, Illinois to say Good-bye to my friend Steve Mullins.  The funeral was difficult, but much love and comfort were offered, and I had the opportunity to visit once again with some whom I had not seen in over forty years.  Then it was time to return to St. Louis, board the train for the 16-hour trek back home and sleep a little before returning to classes today.  After an exhausting afternoon spent preparing for tomorrow’s classes, I finished my work around 8:30 tonight and decided it was time to re-enter the studio, set up a new still life arrangement, lay down the preliminary drawing, throw down some watercolor washes and hopefully find time to post a new blog.  And of course, the entire time I labored (played, really) over this task, my mind moved down a number of scattered paths.

I borrowed the title of this post from a 1921 Italian play by Luigi Pirandello–“Six Characters in Search of an Author.”  In the play, a director struggles to manipulate six unfinished characters seeking an author to finish their story.  As I search for a new still life arrangement to paint, I realize that I myself am also working to manipulate the pieces of my own life, my job, my relations with others, and now the sorting out of feelings and memories surrounding the friend we just buried.  Steve and I produced a plethora of scattered fragments–stories, shared wisdom, life observations–waiting now for an author, waiting for direction, for placement, for meaning.  As I work on still life arrangements, drawings and paintings, plenty of memories blister to the surface of the hours Steve and I spent in the studios of our high school, the makeshift studios in our bedrooms during those high school years, and then the university studios in later years.  We spent plenty of late weeknights together in the painting studio on the third floor of Baldwin Hall at Northeast Missouri State University.  Those memories are giving me comfort and warmth in the midst of this cold night in the Man Cave.

Thoreau wrote above about losing something earlier in life, and of his struggle to recover it.  None of us know what it was that he lost, and I suppose it is just as well–it makes it easier for us to pour ourselves into the subject he addressed.  There are plenty of things I have lost in my past, and have sought to recover in the succeeding years.  But I suppose we all are doing that–arranging, interpreting, re-arranging, re-interpreting our memories, priorities, life pursuits, and, oh yes, those New Year Resolutions.  So many floating, fleeting, flickering synapses of thought seeking order, meaning.  Six Characters in Search of an Author.

Thanks for reading.  I’m grateful to be back in the studio tonight, grateful for an opportunity to put my thoughts on the page, and grateful to know that someone else will read this and connect in some way.

A Close Second to a Parisian Sidewalk Cafe

February 24, 2011

Sidewalk Cafe Life at Eureka Springs

Texas temperatures are getting better–80 degrees and sunny today.  My garage has turned into an art studio/man cave for me, with a portable TV/VCR playing an assortment of tapes for my listening pleasure while I paint–lectures on Friedrich Nietzsche, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams to name just a few.  I feel myself entering this composition that I’ve tinkered with for several months now.  I can almost hear the voices around the table discussing poetry, philosophy, theology, books–all the artistic elements that keep us alive and alert.

This setting is in downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where it was my profound privilege to teach a week of plein air watercolor classes for the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.  It was my first time, and I have an application pending there now, hoping with all I have that there will be a class again this year.  My two favorite towns so far are Waxahachie, Texas and Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for on-site watercoloring.  Both towns boast streets lined with Victorian architecture, flower beds, cute shops around the downtown district, and compositions for painting in any direction one looks.

This particular painting is huge by my standards–30 x 22″–and it involves elements that are outside my comfort zone–people and a myriad of details.  I have avoided genre painting for a number of years, realizing that there are countless artists “out there” who do it so exceedingly well.  But I recently read something from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau that convinced me to go for this: “There is always room and occasion enough for a true book on any subject, as there is room for more light on the brightest day, and more rays will not interfere with the first.”  All I had to do was substitute “painting” for “book,” and I got his point.  My contribution to this genre of painting will in no way diminish what has been done by others, and yes, there is room in this world of art for me to contribute as well.  So . . . with that in mind, I was liberated to go after this composition.

Today was quite a full day–high school classes by day, a trip to the veterinarian this afternoon, and a college class tonight.  But there is still time to engage in the arts, and I so love returning to my studio, even when the day has been filled with “work.”  Thoreau said (I believe in Walden) “To effect the quality of the day is the highest of the arts.”  That I must remember.  Though packed to the rim, today has nevertheless been “artful.”

Thanks for reading.  Talk to you again tomorrow . . .

A Walden Pond Remembrance–January 15, 2010

January 15, 2010

Dexter, Texas (Ghost Town)

It looks as though tomorrow I can pursue new work, and stop posting these old watercolors from my past.  This one is of a cabin in Dexter, Texas (now a desolate relic of a town–probably a ghost town).  From the time I photographed the cabin (around 1986), I was smitten at its resemblance of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond.  I didn’t get to visit that historic site until the mid 1990’s, but the replica cabins I’ve seen at the Pond and at the Concord Historical Society match this as to size.  Only difference of course is Thoreau had only one door at the end, and a window on both sides.

A couple of year ago, I returned to the Dexter site, and was saddened to see only one wall still standing of this cabin, and completely overgrown with trees and underbrush.  It was not even approachable.  Nature always reclaims what isn’t overrun by people.

I was proud of the painting from the time I executed it.  Thrilled that the drybrush on the woodwork of the building “worked” as did the torn-up roofing.  I was pleased with the blistered wood around the door frame and window sash, and the way the horizon trees washed out in the distance.  These were several “firsts” for me, and though I do these kinds of techniques now without fear, I seem to lack the spontaneity that appears in this painting, and of course I no longer no the profound serendipitous delight of seeing something new emerge beneath my brush.  While I was in visiting family in St. Louis, I was surprised to receive a check in the mail from the Hillsboro Gallery with the notification that this painting had sold.  I called the love of my life (now my wife) and told her the great news over the phone.  Then when I returned home to Texas, and went to her place to visit, I was gratified to see this hanging over her fireplace–a secret sale!  Now it is in our home, belongs to her, and I’m still delighted that it is where I can see it any time, every day.