Posts Tagged ‘Walter Isaacson’

Layered Mornings with Einstein

October 25, 2019

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Morning Watch with Einstein Reading

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

Albert Einstein, letter to his son, February 5, 1930 (thank you Walter Isaacson!)

Twelve years ago. Summer 2007. Heavy rainstorms pounded Leadville, Colorado. Safe inside the Mountain Laundry, I inserted coins into the washing machines to clean two weeks’ worth of clothing during my trek across Missouri, Kansas and Colorado. The storms chased me off the headwaters of the Arkansas River in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. While the laundry churned and I plotted the remainder of my trip across Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, I opened a volume I had just purchased: Walter Isaacson’s Einstein: His Life and Universe. Not only did the book convert the coin laundry into a sanctuary that dark stormy morning; it kept me company the rest of the trip. But by the time I reached home, I put it back on the shelf, having read only the first 108 pages. So I reopened it this morning (Wednesday) and decided to begin from page one and finish the work. Every biography from Isaacson is a true gift; I have read in their entirety his works on Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci. The Benjamin Franklin tome met the same fate as Einstein, but I intend to go back and finish that one too.

The quote above about riding the bicycle resonates with me at this moment in life. The past couple of weeks have been frenetic as I have moved from demonstrations to workshops to art festivals to private art lessons. A few days of rest intervened, and I feel much renewed from that dormant period. But now it is time to kick it up once again; I have the Hot Pepper Festival this weekend in Palestine, followed by a workshop, followed by a plein air event. Finding the balance to continue on this bicycle has not come automatically for me, but I am focused on the effort.

Einstein horizontal

Reproduction of my 1990 pen & ink drawing/collage

5 x 7″ in white 8 x 10″ mat–$20

In my earliest years of teaching high school art, I created a pair of pen & ink drawings of Einstein partial portraits and then completed the works as collages. I gave them away as gifts, but photocopied them before letting them go. In the decades since, I have digitized them and sold them as greeting cards for $5 each or placed them in a good framable size mat to sell for $20. After all these years I am still proud of the pair of works, and now that I am immersed once again in this biography, I intend to begin a new series on Einstein.

Today is Friday. I am settled into The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine for the weekend’s Hot Pepper Festival. My friend Patty, a marketing specialist who has an office in this hotel, told me that her husband Tim had a drafting table he was willing to pass on to me if I had use for it. Enthusiastically, I received it and now have it next to my gallery desk near the window so I can work on art here in the gallery without converting this nice desk into a work table. Thank you Patty and Tim!  I hope to begin some new Einstein-related art in addition to my watercolors in progress throughout this weekend’s festivities in Palestine.

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View of the Gallery through the Lobby Window

Einstein long face

Reproduction of my 1990 pen & ink drawing/collage

5 x 7″ in white 8 x 10″ mat–$20

My renewed reading in the Einstein biography has flooded me with new ideas that I am transferring to my world of art from his world of physics and music:

Music continued to beguile Einstein. It was not so much an escape as it was a connection: to the harmony underlying the universe, to the  craetive genius of the great composers, and to other people who felt comfortable bonding with more than just words. He was awed, both in music and in physics, by the beauty of harmonies.

I was always a poor student of science, but reading this biography allows me to transfer some of Einstein’s ideas to my own creative world. Because of this reading, I am renewing my studies in aesthetics, seeking to understand better the laws of composition lying at the foundation of good art.  As I look over these composite drawings of Einstein from 1990, I intend to begin a new series in the Gallery today. Waves of enthusiasm are sweeping over me as I prepare these new materials.

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Kevin Harris doing the Morning Show

I always enjoy mornings with Kevin while he does his radio show on Smooth Rock 93.5 FM. He invited me into the studio this morning to pitch this weekend’s activities with the Hot Pepper Festival that runs through Saturday. I will work in the Gallery as before, and take a few trips out into the streets to meet the vendors, always in the hunt for local artists to promote. Festivals always excite me, and I of course am glad to have a permanent headquarters inside this gallery. I won’t have to travel and set up a temporary festival booth until December, I am happy to say.

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“Thinking of Jack Kerouac”

30 x 24″ framed watercolor–$400

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1902 Cabin from Cotter, Arkansas

24 x 30″ framed watercolor–$300

I have put out two new large framed watercolors in The Gallery at Redlands. In addition to these, I have a number of works in progress that I intend to resume today, covering subjects ranging from historic landmark homes to landscapes. In addition to the composite Einstein pieces and some new railroad themes, I should be pretty busy with the creative process throughout the weekend.

Jean Mollard, owner of The Redlands Hotel, always introduces me to her guests as the “artist in residence.” I have always relished the sound of this introduction, since I first heard it in 2015 when Texas A&M University Corpus Christi named me their artist-in-residence for that week-long Laguna Madre excursion. Prior to that, I was stirred by the sound of the title during my university years when the institution brought in an artist for a short series. But here at The Redlands, it is so much more. The community has embraced me, making me feel a genuine part of these surroundings. I cannot express in words the absolute beauty and class of this hotel and I am humbled to dwell in it.

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The New Queen St Grille Bar now Open for Business

The Queen St Grille, across the lobby from The Gallery at Redlands, had to wait for a liquor license before opening the bar. The process was completed last week, and now this beautiful space is open. The bar area is small and intimate, with access to the Queen St Grille to the left and an additional room conducive to meetings to the right.

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To the left, the bar has direct access to the restaurant

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To the right, a meeting room is being prepared as well

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My Attempt at a Panorama

Activity is beginning to heat up at The Redlands Hotel. It is now Friday nearing noon and the sounds of people are beginning to fill the lobby. Time for me to get back to work. Following Einstein’s dictum, I need to keep this bicycle moving if I hope to sustain any kind of balance.

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.

Morning Coffee in the Wilderness

September 16, 2018

Crockett

Morning Coffee in my Favorite Location

Take notes, on paper. Five hundred years later, Leonardo’s notebooks are around to astonish and inspire us. Fifty years from now, our own notebooks, if we work up the initiative to start writing them, will be around to astonish and inspire our grandchildren, unlike our tweets and Facebook posts.

Walter Isaacson, Leonardo da Vinci

My mind still swirls from the events of the past couple of days. Spending time on a friend’s farm (without Wi-Fii) gave me quiet and space for reflection, which is always a luxury for me. And while there, I met a cuddly little Shih-tzu friend that I hated to leave behind. Leaving the city behind is always a soothing respite for me.

Bailey

Saturday, when I finally arrived at The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas, I found a film crew inside the gallery rolling tape for future publication. As I stated in earlier posts, Smooth Rock 93.5 FM will be broadcasting from the gallery, probably by October 1. The antenna is being installed atop the historic Redlands Hotel as I write this, and cable is being fed to the gallery’s broadcast booth. I finally got to meet Kevin Harris, the DJ for the station (wearing the red “We Are Texans” Tshirt below). What an inspiration he was in conversation, overflowing with energy and ideas of what he wishes to bring to his broadcasts! The Redlands Hotel has surged with new life since the Red Fire Grille (across the lobby) changed hands and the new owners put in a beautiful bar, and the hotel owners tore out the offices and opened up a spacious lobby. Now a radio station is coming in, with offices on the second floor, and a broadcast booth preparing to set up in this gallery. Kevin shared at length the ideas he has for the broadcast format, and I will be sharing those details as he gets closer to launch.

smooth rock

redlands gathering

Amberly Russell, Kevin Harris, Rich Baur and Luke Walker

The other three individuals were on location to continue filming their next video. Last April, they won the film competition at Thin Line (a film, music and photo fest) in Denton, Texas with their film documentary titled A Piece of Texas. Their work provides material for the magazine Texas Highways. This trio has been traveling around the state, interviewing and featuring on film the smaller cities too often overshadowed by the booming urban centers. This weekend they have been filming Palestine, visiting its sites and meeting different personalities.  They reached out to me as well, spending time in the gallery looking at the art and asking questions. The young men are musicians, and I greatly enjoyed visiting with them and learning of their work. They returned to the gallery later in the evening and we had the pleasure of visiting further. What I found so inspiring about them was their interest in discussing their art, and the processes involved in creating. They were enthusiastic in discussing how artists, musicians and writers are on parallel plains when engaged in the creative task–beginning with nothing and pouring something into that space that comes from the creator’s consciousness.

Below is the link to their award-winning documentary, A Piece of Texas, complete with the song they composed and recorded.

piece of texas

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDVHz2R3XAQ

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Back in the Gallery at Redlands

It is a quiet Sunday in the gallery. I have plenty of reading to pursue for class, but since it isn’t until Tuesday, I am in the mood to read for  pure pleasure. I have returned to a Leonardo da Vinci biography by Walter Isaacson that I have already read in its entirety, and am enjoying the experience now of  re-visiting portions of the book that I have underllined for additional scrutiny. The quote posted above captures my fancy. My personal journals extend back to 1985 and I enjoy the occasions of going back to re-read things I scribbled long ago. On my weekend journey, I randomly packed a stack of  them to look over and ponder during some quiet moments, should they arrive. And now they have finally arrived. In an age of digitalization, I still enjoy writing things out longhand in notebooks and returning to them at later times to remind myself of matters that were important enough to record throughout my Odyssey.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Taking Notes, on Paper

January 9, 2018

solo show

Take notes, on paper. Five hundred years later, Leonardo’s notebooks are around to astonish and inspire us. Fifty years from now, our own notebooks, if we work up the initiative to start writing them, will be around to astonish and inspire our grandchildren, unlike our tweets and Facebook posts.

Walter Isaacson, Leonardo Da Vinci

On Monday, I returned to the public library in Hillsboro to put the final touches on my solo watercolor exhibit which will hang till the end of February. Once the task was complete, I sank into a comfortable sofa at the end of the gallery and read for awhile, enjoying the perfect silence and rest. This marked a transition into my next enterprise–the Humanities curriculum for Texas Wesleyan University had just arrived via email, and I had only nine days till the start of the spring term. So . . . I sat in the soft light of the soothing gallery, surrounded by my art, and began reading and sketching out broad ideas in preparation for the new class.

That was yesterday. Today, Tuesday, I spent the entire day in my study, going over all my resources for the seventeenth-through-twentieth centuries of Philosophy, Art, Literature and Music. Once I laid out the scope and sequence of the spring semester and drafted a syllabus, I settled into writing an introduction to the seventeenth century, and then the reading of Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum, a treatise I had known about for decades but never actually read as a primary source. And as I read, I scribbled, in my journal, on index cards, on sheets of computer paper, sheets of legal paper and post-it notes. And the more I scribbled, the happier I felt, recalling the thrill of the search in college days and early days of teaching.

Humanities is a course I was privileged to develop for the public high schools way back in 1989, and then later was invited to teach at Texas Wesleyan University. But I haven’t taught the course for nearly ten years, and I am so enthused to return to the discipline. The history of ideas has always fueled my imagination, and now once again, I am granted access to these fine minds of history, with hopes of inciting interest in the young minds of our culture. A part of me is glad that I’m still a week away from the first day of school, as I’m still preparing, but another part of me wishes I could walk into that lecture room in the morning.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Warm Sentiments for 2018

December 31, 2017

new year

It stimulated me, roused my long-held desire to be an architect of ideas.

John Sculley, after his meeting with Steve Jobs about becoming President of Apple.

New Year’s Eve finds me enjoying a quiet one at home. For the past couple of days I have fought back against an upper respiratory illness (I’ve been dogged with it for over a week now) an spent most of today in bed. Fortunately, I’ve felt much better since around 6:30 and have been at my desk reading stacks of books, scribbling resolutions in a journal and focusing my mind and heart on 2018 just around the corner.

I hope I feel good enough to resume painting tomorrow as I have several ideas seething that want to come to expression. Meanwhile, I’m continuing to find inspiration from Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs. John Sculley left Pepsi to become President of Apple, and the quote above moved me. I myself have wanted to be an architect, or designer of ideas since the 1980s, and have given my life to pursuing that dream, both in classrooms and in the art studio. I am just grateful to move into a new era of 2018 and lay the foundations for new endeavors.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year to all of you.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Weekend of Leisure

October 30, 2017

300 in progress

Taking my Time on this New One

It seemed to him that the hand was not able to attain to the perfection of art in carrying out the things which he imagined.

Vasari’s account of Leonardo da Vinci

A weekend of rest was so welcome to my weary soul. Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci, after eighty-some pages, is a veritable literary feast. I have always been fascinated with the curiosity and endless journaling of this Renaissance Mind, and after reading several biographies already, am so thrilled at Isaacson’s way of bringing in new material on Leonardo’s life that I had not encountered before.

I posted the quote above because it fits what I’m wrestling with as I work on my latest watercolor. I had this notion of what I wanted to accomplish, and so far it is not happening. I’m not giving up, but rather, slowing down and spending more time looking at it, puzzling over it, than actually working on it. My November 11 show already has around twenty or so framed original watercolors of trains and doesn’t need this one to be completed. And, as a good friend said recently, it wouldn’t hurt for me to have this “in progress” painting in the gallery during show time. At any rate, I’m not under a deadline to complete it. I like that feeling: letting a painting emerge under its own time.

As to the Leonardo quote above, I’m reminded of a story I read several years ago about a guitar student frustrated while doing his lesson. When the guitar master asked him what was wrong, the student replied that he could always hear the music much better than he was able to play it. To this the master replied: “And why do you think that is  ever going to change?” That quote remains at the heart of my art work. I never complete a painting with the “look” that I was striving to achieve. Nevertheless, I love the process, and try not to let the end result frustrate me. Art is a gift. Art is life. And the thrill and leisure of making it successfully marks the time in my life as quality time.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Predawn Portals of Possibility

October 25, 2017

leonardo

. . . Yet did I never breathe its pure serene 
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold: 
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies 
When a new planet swims into his ken . . . 
John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”
For a month, I’ve waited for Walter Isaacson’s biography on Leonardo da Vinci to come out. I have been enriched by two of his earlier works on Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein. Finally, yesterday, I purchased this latest work and pored over its pages until I could stay awake no longer in the night. Retiring to bed early, I set an alarm and rose at 5 this morning so I could return to it. Throughout my life, I have known the exhilaration of Keats when he happened upon Chapman’s translation of Homer. Indeed, I feel the thrill of the astronomer discovering a new planet. A new portal opens before me, welcoming me to a broader, more enchanting world.
Isaacson has chosen to focus on Leonardo’s notebooks, and I’m finding that to be a refreshing point of departure. I have had the pleasure of reading a number of Leonardo biographies, and I’m fascinated with Isaacson’s emphasis on the curiosity of this Renaissance Man. I myself have journaled since 1985, and now have over 130 volumes on my shelf. Some of the pages are worth re-reading, many are not. Nevertheless, my mind has stayed fresh because of this habit of scribbling constantly the ideas fleeting across the screen of my consciousness. I believe that journaling has contributed to the energy necessary for writing and making art, and above all, believing. Journals, to me, are nets for organizing wonder.
I could never exhaust the list of creative spirits who have inspired me throughout my years, either through their scholarship, their creative writing or their visual art. The ones I find myself continually rethinking and re-examining include Paul Tillich, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, William Carlos Williams, Robert Henri, Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Robert Motherwell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger . . . and the list continues to grow.
My interests, I admit, appear scattered. I make art. I read. I journal. I watch documentaries. I blog. I play my guitar. I get in my Jeep and drive. And I understand Leonardo’s attention deficit disorder that frequently left projects unfinished. But I take solace in Isaacson’s words: “Vision without execution is hallucination. . . . Skill without imagination is barren.”
The contemplative life has saved me repeatedly throughout the years. If finances go bad, relationships sour, employment stales, artistic momentum fades . . . I can always depend on this constellation of geniuses to inject new blood into my system. I am aware of the conventional wisdom urging us to maintain a broad network of friendships, and I believe my friendship network is rich. At the same time, I acknowledge that I am an introvert and many times find the need to draw my inspiration from the “dead heroes” who to me are not dead–they still reach out to me through the creative tracks they left behind.
Thanks for reading.
I make art in order to remember.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.