Posts Tagged ‘watercolor’

The Harmony Beneath the Disarray

August 29, 2017

grapevine train.jpg

Nearing Completion of Another Watercolor 

The ancients, struck with this irreducibleness of the elements of human life to calculation, exalted Chance into a divinity, but that is to stay too long at the spark,–which glitters truly at one point,–but the universe is warm with the latency of the same fire. . . . Underneath the inharmonious and trivial particulars, is a musical perfection, the Ideal journeying always with us, the heaven without rent or seam.  Do but observe the mode of our illumination. When I converse with a profound mind, or if at any time being alone I have good thoughts, I do not at once arrive at satisfactions, as when, being thirsty, I drink water, or go to the fire, being cold: no! but I am at first apprised of my vicinity to a new and excellent region of life.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

Rising at 5:40 this morning, without an alarm, it didn’t take long before I felt bathed in the warmth of Emerson’s words. As an older man, he soberly assessed “experience” as a replacement for his earlier romantic flourishes as a thinker and writer. I love the quote above as he acknowledges that the spark in later years may lack the white hot dynamic of ideas that struck him in his youth, but the warmth and duration remained. Ideas such as this have helped me in my transitions in life, from a young educator, to one middle aged, and now retired.

More than ever before, I have come to embrace the “musical perfection” underlying the “inharmonious and trivial particulars” of daily life. In my early days of the ministry, I would devote all my energies of a particular day to poring over the biblical writings, believing that they contained the Word of God, and that I would be encountered, confronted by their message. I expected some kind of an oracle. For the past several decades, I have known that oracles would come through a multiplicity of avenues–literature, philosophy, conversation, art, music; I would no longer have to seek an encounter aggressively, but rather let it happen when it happens.

Today has been spectacular, though the bare details of the day sound pedestrian. I have divided my time between reading Emerson, writing a college lecture for tomorrow, listening to documentaries on YouTube on Hemingway and Joyce, finishing up a watercolor begun two days ago, and practicing guitar songs for tonight’s Open Mic. And all day long, a Presence has lingered with me, though I live alone. That Presence has been the underlying harmony of all the disjunctive tasks I have pursued. And I didn’t have to force any kind of encounter; it just happened, as it always does.

open mic

Fun at Dr. Jeckyll’s Open Mic

Thanks for reading.

 

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Independence Day Gratitude

July 4, 2017

4th of July

Before the Zen calligrapher begins his first stroke, he pauses to bring himself into full awareness of what he is doing.  That moment’s pause is crucial to what follows.  Instead of plunging pell-mell into the task at hand, he takes a moment to settle down in order to be at one with what he is about to do.

The Creative Spirit

I enjoyed my early morning reading today, particularly the passage that I posted above. Reading it made me think of the gymnast who pauses before plunging into his/her routine, or the guitarist before stroking the opening strains from the guitar. Having prepared my ground last night for this new watercolor of the old #610 Texas and Pacific locomotive housed in Palestine, Texas, I spent a considerable time of quiet, looking over the composition this morning before making my first move.  Using a toothbrush, I splattered masquing fluid all around the perimeter that I hope will translate into stars or cincders.  After it dried, wishing for a deep blue background that lightens as it approaches the engine, I sprayed the page with a bottle, then mixed a considerable quantity of Antwerp Blue, Winsor Blue (Green Shade) and a touch of Cerulean Blue and then applied these pigments to the moist paper, occasionally spraying it with a small bottle to feather the pigments toward the train.  As it began to firm up, I sprinkled stale bread crumbs all over the area, again hoping that it would look like debris in the steam once I get to putting that into the picture.

Fourth of July finds me with all my family, and the homecoming is always sweet to me. There will be a houseful this evening and several of my family members will be cooking and preparing dishes throughout the day.  I’m in someone else’s kitchen, so I guess I’ll spend the day working on this watercolor and trying to stay out of the cooks’ paths as I pore over this composition.

Thanks for reading, and happy Fourth of July.

 

The Afterglow

April 10, 2017

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All I Needed this Morning was a Puppy to Hug

Just when I concluded that this Monday morning following my show couldn’t get any better, a sweet puppy trotted into the copier room at school. One of my colleagues was preparing to take him to the vet. I have had shih tzus in my past, and certainly miss their affectionate nature. This one was no exception. Having these moments to love him before walking into my first class was the ice cream on the cake. Thanks, Molly, for sharing him!

Fishing Memories

Fishing Memories, coming out in limited editions for $100

I am very pleased to find my “Fishing Memories” watercolor now getting attention. This morning I have been approached by two friends asking for a limited edition giclee. This print will be the same size as the largest ones I’ve sold before (“Summer Morning in Sundance Square” and ” Fort Worth Cattle Drive”). Today I will place an order for the first four with the company that designs my limited editions. Thank you, Mark and Kathy, for your interest that got this started. I still believe this is the best watercolor I have done to date. My original is still available in its frame for $1200. These limited editions will be priced at $100.

I am feeling profound withdrawal. I knew I was going to miss the people in Palestine, Texas, but had no idea how profoundly I would miss them this soon. I have opportunity to return to that town for future work and I cannot wait for that to happen.

Again, thank you so much for all of you that took interest in my One-Man-Show, clearly one of the best experiences of my art career.

I paint in order to discover

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Silence

March 11, 2017

creel-redone

Elected Silence, sing to me

And beat upon my whorlèd ear,

Pipe me to pastures still and be 

The music that I care to hear.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Habit of Perfection”

One of my precious friends, Dian Dar, a retired English teacher, recently shared with me poetry from Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the timing was sublime. Spring Break has arrived, and I slept in soundly this Saturday morning, waking to a dark and rainy day.  The watercolor above I have just delivered to the Texas Friends and Neighbors Regional Art Exhibit to open in Irving, Texas April 29.  About half of the remaining 75 pieces had already been submitted and I was able to peruse the gallery and see them up close.  The show is a very strong one, and I am honored and humbled to be included. This evening I plan to attend the gallery talk given by the juror and view the slide show that has been assembled of all the works. I’m sorry to wait a month and a half for the exhibit to open.

Spring Break has arrived and I certainly need the rest.  Today has been burned up by delivering art work and catching up on all my college grading that was a week old.  I still have week-old high school stuff to grade as well, but I guess it can wait another day or two. Strangely, I’m not in the mood to paint today though my heart is filled with artistic aspiration, strange as that may sound.  I have been more inclined to read, and especially to spend time lingering over poetry.  Hopkins certainly has not disappointed me on this gray day.  He and Paul Tillich have filled my weary soul with ideas that are uplifting and satisfying.

I devoted some considerable time to staring at this painting before delivering it, because I won’t have it around for viewing for quite a long time.  That is the downside of exhibits–it’s nice to know others are looking at my work, but I do miss some of the images when they are no longer on my living room wall.  I still remember the hours spent in the garage (man cave) studio when I worked on this one.  And I recall the thrill of finding the creel in a Missouri antique store, of my good friends and fly fishing buddies lending me the antique fly box to open and include in the show, of the bamboo fly rod given me by an equine instructor in Colorado whose father had it custom made for him when he was a teeanger.  The hat has spent years on my head, and I took delight in baptizing it in the Atlantic, Pacific, Aegean and Adriatic waters.  The chair I found in a Missouri antique store. This picture just overflows in personal memories, and I was attached to it ever since I saw it taking shape beneath my brush.

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.

Firming Up Details for a One-Man Show

March 8, 2017

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Serene Catholic Contemplation

I am re-posting this image of a watercolor I completed on a full-size sheet of paper a few years back. It has just been delivered to my local frame shop. The new gallery in Palestine, Texas is getting ready to run an ad in the local paper.  Though I’ve ceased the daily blogging, I’m thinking seriously about daily posts from now until showtime.

My website has been updated with the relevant information (www.recollections54.com).

And the new gallery, opening with my show on March 24, has opened a facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/thegalleryatredlands/photos/a.1817965165135990.1073741827.1817960541803119/1817963798469460/?type=1&theater

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To my delight, I’ve been told that accomodations have been made at the hotel for me to be at the gallery all three weekends of the show, March 24-April 9.  I had always hoped I could have a “presence” during the show’s weekend hours.  The proprietors of this new adventure are wonderful friends and working tirelessly to make  the gallery show a success.

Thanks for reading.

A Quiet Afternoon for Reflection

February 22, 2017

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Latest 20 x 16″ Watercolor in Progress

This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

After hours of house cleaning and domestic chores, I was ecstatic to find a block of a few hours to paint late this afternoon before dashing off to an evening commitment. Because of an impending One-Man-Show, I have had this desire to return to a Blues theme for a new series of paintings. This one is barely off the ground, and already I’m second-guessing the composition. When such happens, I choose longer gaps for merely staring at the painting from across the room, rather than going full steam ahead.

As I drew and painted and stared for long periods from a distance at this piece, I listened with delight to some YouTube book talks given by William Powers, author of Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age.  This book has changed my life profoundly, convincing me that I don’t have to blog daily, and don’t need to live a life chained to my smart phone, anticipating the next alert.

This evening, I will present a brief talk at a monthly gathering that we call “the Salon.” This is a small group of people I adore who love to discuss ideas once a month. Most of the group is retired, having formerly worked in education, industry, politics and journalism. The topics are always approved in advance, and last month I volunteered to lead a discussion over William Powers’s book.  Hoping that none of the salon participants will look at my blog before this evening, I’ve decided to go ahead and post the substance of my presentation.

Thanks for reading . . .

Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age[1]

Shelley listened to an interview on NPR with author William Powers who had just published Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age.  She purchased two copies, giving one to me.  Henry David Thoreau, in the “Reading” chapter of his book Walden, writes: “How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.”[2]  Over the span of my life, only a few books have marked new eras, and this book is one of them.  At any age, it feels gratifying, to think of turning a corner or opening a new chapter.

Hamlet’s BlackBerry, offers these words: “The simple act of going out for a walk is completely different today from what it was fifteen years ago. Whether you’re walking down a big-city street or in the woods outside a country town, if you’re carrying a mobile device with you, the global crowd comes along”[3]  I found this passage very confrontational to me personally.  It brought my attention to how obsessed I had become to being “connected” digitally, because of a smart phone that was continually beeping, always alerting me to my blog, facebook, emails and text messages—my life was being chewed up chasing all these prompts, and it took this book to point that out to me.

I am not sounding a negative note for our improvement of technology, this digital age. Technology has transformed my teaching in the high school classroom as well as teaching online at the university.  Technology has connected me to the art and business world.  Computers are wonderful as are smart phones.  But there are two elements attending this digital age that run counter to my idea of a quality life—one is the fast pace, and the other is the emphasis on connecting all the time with others.  The fast pace disregards the importance of time to mature ideas; the social connection neglects the importance of solitary space and depth to find oneself.

I am quoting a chapter title from the Powers book: “Digital Busyness is the Enemy of Depth”.  The point he makes is that when we spend our lives surfing the Internet, flitting from site to site, platform to platform, screen to screen, we are not experiencing the depths of life, but merely skimming over the surface of the media.  In 1963, Paul Tillich addressed the fortieth anniversary of Time magazine, pointing out that America “was a free society, to be sure, but one without depth: its ceaseless expansion, whether into outer space or on the production line, had created an almost irresistible temptation on the part of everyone to produce in order to produce still more.  Tillich exhorted the producers of cultural goods to stop moving in this one-dimensional direction—to come to a halt in order to ‘enter creation and unite with its power,’ in short, to add the vertical line of depth to the horizontal line of extension.”[4]

In his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig pleaded for a more contemplative life, and wrote: “What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua—that’s the only name I can think of for it—like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America, this America, the one that we are now in, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer.  The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster-paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement.  Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep.  The old channels cannot contain it and in its search for new ones there seems to be growing havoc and destruction along its banks.  In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale and platitudes too often repeated.  “What’s new?” is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow.  I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question “What is best?” a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream.  . . .   Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, losing its central direction and purpose, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than the wasteful fulfillment of  its own internal momentum.  Some channel deepening seems called for.”[5]

A major argument proposed by this book is that digital connectedness sacrifices depth.  One does not contemplate the qualities and meaning of life when clicking on links and flitting from headline to headline, text to text, opinion to opinion. It seems that the only motivation for such a lifestyle is to feel connected to humanity.

Well, I don’t believe that being connected to others is the sole quality of life. In Anthony Storr’s book Solitude, the noted psychologist maintains that Sigmund Freud shifted clinical opinion toward the emphasis of social relations as a measure of human quality. Storr argues for the merits of solitude, that an intrinsic outlook does not mean that the individual is lacking in human quality. In today’s world, so much emphasis has been placed on connectedness that many feel they are inadequate or uninteresting if they do not continually post on facebook or Twitter, or find someone to call or text on their smart phones.  Many feel chained to chat rooms and blogs on the Internet, convinced that the more connected they are, the more well-rounded and healthy their lives are. William Powers urges: “However, the external validation provided by incoming messages and the number of times one’s name appears in search results is not as trustworthy or stable as the kind that comes from the inside.”[6] I would also point out a relatively new best-seller by author Susan Cain: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

Is the fear of disconnecting a fear of loneliness or is it really the fear of irrelevance?  When I became immersed in my blog activity, I first regarded my daily posting as a matter of discipline, convincing myself that if I held myself to a daily deadline, like a newspaper journalist, that I would improve my disciplinary lifestyle in other areas as well. As time went on, however, I confess that what drove me was not a sense of discipline and self-worth, but rather the fear that I would become irrelevant and eventually forgotten, if I did not keep the blog fires burning by daily shoveling fuel into it via a new post.

The heart of this book argues that our age is not unique with the conflict between social connection and solitude, between speedy technology and plodding contemplation.  The author writes compelling chapters covering Plato, Seneca, Gutenberg, Shakespeare, Ben Franklin, Henry David Thoreau and Marshall McLuhan. What these great figures share in common is living in an age of technological advance with its temptation for speed, and they used it where it was beneficial, but refused to abandon their contemplative natures.  They consistently maintained that technology and shortcuts would not rule their lives.

In addition to the chapters of Powers’s book, I would suggest some of the New Testament Gospel accounts concerning words and practices of Jesus of Nazareth.  His words from John’s Gospel:  “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  Think on those things for a moment: there are forces that try to steal from our lives—all we have is a measure of time, and whatever is taken is never recovered. Jesus said the thief takes, but he has come to offer abundance. Think about that rhythm—losing and gaining. And let me share a few examples from the life of Jesus that illustrate these rhythms.

After a full day of pouring out his life for the crowds in Capernaum, Jesus rose the next morning seeking restoration.  He departed for a solitary place, and there prayed. When his disciples finally caught up with him, they said, “Where have you been? Everyone is looking for you!”[7]  But of course.  That is why he left; he had already given, and now it was time to recover.

This rhythm of public ministry and private retreat is a thread running throughout the Gospel narratives. Jesus did not hesitate to urge that practice upon those whom he loved. There is a time for pouring out our lives, and there is a time to restore.  When his apostles finished their first preaching tour, they came back to him overflowing with success and enthusiasm.  They had given, and they were enthusiastic, but exhausted.  His words: “Come aside with me to a solitary place where you can rest awhile,” because there was so much coming and going that they could not even stop long enough to eat. [8]

When Jesus went to Bethany to visit in the home of the sisters Mary and Martha, Mary sat at his feet with the other men, transfixed by his spoken words.  Martha was prattling about the kitchen. “Jesus!” she urged, “Don’t you care that I have no help in here?  Tell my sister to come and help!”  His answer: “Martha.  Martha.  You are distracted over many things.   One thing matters.  Your sister has chosen that one thing, and it will not be taken away from her.”[9]

When the digital age distracts us to follow the myriads of links, meetings and tasks throughout each day, then we should remind ourselves of this: You are distracted, harassed by many things.  One thing matters.  Don’t let them take away from you that one thing.  It is O.K. to disconnect from this connected world from time to time and find yourself in the quiet gaps of solitude.

I believe that this rhythm of social and private has kept me alive and vital over twenty-eight years in a public classroom.  Yes, I have known burnout, but I also have known how to recover.  I have witnessed complex changes in technology and social networking and I have always heard that call for acceleration.  But that is not my life.  I still live for the reflection, the quiet, the delicious moments of solitude.  And I always seek for ways to make time for those things that matter the most.  All we have is a measure of time.  Ralph Waldo Emerson got it right when he wrote: “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”

 

               

[1] Presented at the North Arlington Salon, February 22, 2017.

[2] Henry David Thoreau, Walden (New York: Penguin, 1983), p. 153.

[3] William Powers, Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age (New York: Harper, 2010), p. 15

[4] Wilhelm Pauck, Paul Tillich: His Life and Thought  Volume 1: Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1976),  p. 274

[5] Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (New York: Morrow Quill, 1974), pp. 15-16.

[6] Powers, p. 46.

[7] Mark 1:35

[8] Mark 6:30-32.

[9] Luke 10:38-42.

Not the Rooftops of Paris, but Dark and Rainy Nevertheless, and Quite Good

February 20, 2017

 

grandma

Second Day on a 20 x 16″ Watercolor

But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the litle oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made.  I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.  All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence that you know.”  So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Waking early this morning to a dark and rain-soaked world, I was glad not to go to work but to do as I please for the entire day.  Late last night I had begun work on a new watercolor of a Blues theme that I used to pursue fervently, but had stopped doing in recent years.  Soon I’ll release details on a new One-Man-Show that has been offered me, and I would love to complete some Blues art to hang in this venue.  I chose as a backdrop for the painting my grandmother’s abandoned house.  Then I took some selfies in my backyard, holding my late uncle’s pre-World War II Gibson archtop guitar.  I have high expectations for this composition and have already enjoyed a full morning of layering washes and drybrush details into the piece.  I’m taking my time with it.

As I worked, I dialed up on Netflix “Papa Hemingway in Cuba.”  When I’m painting, I love listening to movies, documentaries, and YouTube lectures.  They keep my mind engaged. And as this film rolled, my mind went back to some intense reading I enjoyed a few winters ago: Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and Carlos Baker’s Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story.  And as I worked, I thought of all those times when I’ve struggled over whether to make art, read, or write when I had time to myself.  This weekend has produced another one of those environments for me that I love so much–what Paul Tillich referred to often as “creative eros”, an urge to create, period.  And when I find myself unable to resolve whether to paint, draw, read, write, or just sit in a comfortable chair with coffee to think and do nothing else–I realize that life could not possibly be better.

desk

Working on a New Lecture Series

Just before the weekend arrived, I discovered that among the post-retirement options offered to me this coming fall is a chance to teach Ethics at the university for the first time. Pulling from my shelf a volume from The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, I was surprised to find myself absorbed in a very lengthy History of Ethics article.  This came as a surprise because I seldom find myself interested for very long in an encyclopedia entry, particularly one that goes on for page after page after page, four columns staring back at me every time I turn the page.  But this article has really taken me in new directions.  For decades I have been interested in the history of philosophy, but usually focused on metaphysics and theories of knowledge, never ethics.  Now, as I read the ethical portions of these philosophers and schools, I am amazed at the new ideas I’m grafting onto the structures already learned.  The new directions are quite exciting.

Reading this article has also led me back to a famous book that I have never successfully stayed with over the decades: Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be.  Now, having read twenty-seven pages and scribbling out a pile of notes, I feel that I am finally into this book as well. The reading of just these two sources has already produced pages and pages of journal entries, paragraphs, diagrams and illustrations of new ideas waiting for further development.

creel-redone

“Thinking About the Next Catch”

Last night I received my email notification that the piece pictured above has been accepted to show in the 32nd Annual Texas & Neighbors Regional Art Exhibition to be held at the Irving Arts Center April 29-June 3. There were 585 pieces juried, and 75 selected.  Over the years, I have visited this show and always wished to participate, but continually missed the application deadline.  Thanks to an artist friend, I met the deadline this year, and now am very happy for this opportunity of hanging one of my pieces with works selected from Texas and several neighboring states.

The weekend has been full and rewarding.  Thank you for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Passing Through Portals

February 1, 2017

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. . . Albrecht Dürer, did after all make the well-known remark: “For in truth, art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it.” “Wrest” here means to draw out the rift and to draw the design with the drawing-pen on the drawing-board. But we at once raise the counterquestion: How can the rift be drawn out if it is not brought into the open region by the creative projection as a rift, which is to say, brought out beforehand as strife of measure and unmeasure? True, there lies hidden in nature a rift-design, a measure and a boundary and, tied to it, a capacity for bringing forth–that is, art.

Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”

In the darkness of the night, I trained a light on the aged door of the store where I resided for the weekend, and another light on my easel. Working in the stillness of that environment, I felt a depth of feeling and connection with my childhood overnight stays at my grandparents’ farm–nights spent lying awake, staring at the door knob and locking system dimly present in the quiet night. Musing over what lurked on the other side of that door became a lifetime fascination from me.

As I wrestle with this lengthy and cumbersome essay from Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”, and make use of his distinct vocabulary, I gather a new idea from his philosophy that my process for making art involves a struggle between my world of memory and the earth which yields up the objects I encounter. As I mingle my memories with my vision of these objects, a work of art emerges.

Painting through the night at the store, and later with re-visits and revisions of this painting, I mused over the portals of my past and the ones that lie in my present and future. Robert Motherwell and Henri Matisse wrote eloquently about “open door” motifs in their bodies of work. As I wrote in an earlier blog, I am considering a series of paintings of antique doors that I have acquired over past years, hoping that some significant ideas and symbols might emerge from these attempts.

The idea of “portal” has kept me preoccupied lately. My eye is a portal, through which passes this fascination of the ancient door allowing access into the next room, the next chamber, the next chapter. And as I move through my life, I am passing through portals, from one world to the next. This lifetime odyssey has passed through countless doors, most of them fascinating.

frame-door-cropped

And so, with a heart exhilarated with anticipation, I approach my next attempt at making art.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Studio Off the Grid

January 29, 2017

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I have just completed a weekend in the embrace of my Sanctuary, my Studio Off the Grid. Far away from the city, with much thanks to precious friends, I am privileged to take up residence in an old store with living quarters in the back. The residential section is centrally heated, but the front store room relies on a small heater. Temperatures early Saturday hovered in the thirties and it was difficult heating the front of the store where I prefer to set up my easel and paint the interior. So, much of the day was devoted to reading, writing and reflecting in the residential quarters. I had over two hundred pages left to read in Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and by the afternoon I had finished it with shudders of deep feelings hitting every mark between sadness and satisfaction.

In addition to Steinbeck, I read much about Martin Heidegger, finishing Adam Sharr’s Heidegger’s Hut and resuming my reading of Rüdiger Safranski’s Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil.  I also read from Heidegger’s 1934 radio address “Why Do I Stay in the Provinces?”.

Once the front of the store was warm enough for painting, I entered my studio sanctuary and resumed work on a watercolor I started a couple of weeks ago, but abandoned because I had trouble rendering the objects surrounding me. I am increasingly dissatisfied with painting from photographs, and though I cannot avoid the practice when painting myself, I found it much more satisfying to look at my actual surroundings in this store instead of copying the objects I see in the photo. My struggle between photographs and live models goes back a few winters, when I made my first stabs at watercoloring still life objects from my garage. The antique doors stored there have given me a very satisfying grounding, first in the actual garage, and more recently dragging them into my living room studio. They are worth the physical effort. The door I painted months ago in this actual store also yielded some great advantages, much more than if I had photographed the door and worked exclusively from the photo in my home residence over three hours away. The same goes with the antique objects I’ve collected over the decades: my paintings of the objects are far superior (to my eye) than objects I’ve photographed and painted. I have trouble explaining why I feel that painting from life offers benefits beyond painting from images. My problem explaining this reminds me of Heidegger’s struggle matching words to his ideas:

On a deep winter’s night when a wild, pounding snowstorm rages around the cabin and veils and covers everything, that is the perfect time for philosophy. Then its questions become simple and essential. Working through each thought can only be tough and rigorous. The struggle to mold something into language is like the resistance of the towering firs against the storm.

So now I try to wrap words around my resisting issue of making art from photographs vs. the real objects before me: I find much more satisfaction from my watercolors and drawings done from three-dimensional subjects rather than two-dimensional photos. Granted, there is much more work and anxiety involved in editing a 360-degree environment and translating the three dimensions onto a measured two-dimensional picture plane, I feel that something special emerges from that struggle. When I work from a photo, I feel that I am doing paint-by-number, merely struggling for a one-to-one correspondence from one square inch to another. When looking at a real world before my eyes with depth, changing colors, light shifts, etc., I feel that I am actually recording a world onto the paper before me. And in viewing the watercolor months and years later, that world still pulsates on the surface, to me.  This never happens with my works of art transferred from photos, even if I feel that the skill levels are sometimes higher. I don’t know that this is making sense to a reader, but it’s the best I can do for now.

Thanks always for taking time to read me.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

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The Quiet Zone of the Morning

January 16, 2017

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Painting During the Morning Hours

. . . Samuel rode lightning on top of a book and he balanced happily among ideas the way a man rides white rapids in a canoe. But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Thnks to Steinbeck, I could not retire to bed until about 1:00 this morning. This book is scratching me in mental areas that have not been scratched in years, and I could never sufficiently express my gratitude for such engaging ideas. I must confess that I have always read more like Tom, which explains why I am trying, yet again, to understand the philosophy of Martin Heidegger as recorded in Being and Time.

Though retiring to bed rather late, I did manage to rise at 8:30 without an alarm (For nearly three decades now, I have detested those 6:00 alarms yanking me out of the sack in order to report to a 7:35 class on normal workdays). I showered and broke my fast as rapidly as possible so I could light a fire and resume my reading of Steinbeck over coffee for nearly an hour, as soothing jazz played in the background (I so love music playing as I read and write!).

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Ah, the Warmth and Intimacy of a Fireplace!

After an hour of Steinbeck, I returned to the drafting table and immediately got up to my elbows in the watercolor that I resumed yesterday. Like Tom in reading, I also burrow into the details of painting, pushing constantly at new ways to apply the paint. I spent about an hour scratching with brushes and pencils on the corn and the burlap around it. Last night, late, I worked over the textures of the door above (somehow I managed to paint the masking tape residue in places, and my technique worked!) and am happy with the way the overall painting is beginning to form. I was deeply dissatisfied with this piece when I stopped work on it over a week ago, and have had it displayed across the room from me so I could gaze at it repeatedly, day after day, and try to cope with the shaping of the composition. At this point, I am feeling some satisfaction, and I like that–I do indeed hate to lose a painting. Sometimes I just need time to “compost” as I gaze at the work critically and try to determine where it is failing.

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Another Crack at Heidegger’s Being and Time

And finally, thanks to YouTube, I’m getting some help, listening to excellent lectures on Being and Time. This morning I listened to the first of a series of 28 lectures delivered at University of California Berkeley by Hubert Dreyfus in 2007. Thanks to him, some of Heidegger’s concepts are beginning to become clear to me. Reading Heidegger’s Hut by Adam Sharr warmed me with its ideas about working in a solitary place, away from the workplace. Now, I wish once again to try and understand this thinker’s difficult philosophy.

It’s been a productive morning, and I’m happy that so much of the day and evening remain. 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.