Posts Tagged ‘William Carlos Williams’

In the Studio, with Thanksgiving

November 17, 2016

studio

Listening to an Edward Hopper Interview while Painting

Broadly stated, art is one’s effort to communicate to others one’s emotional reaction to life and the world.

Edward Hopper

Once the clocks set back an hour and autumn (allegedly) arrives in Texas, I at least can appreciate the longer hours after darkness, if not the falling temperatures.  Today we reached the low 80’s again, and I’m disgusted with the perpetual warm temperatures deep into November.  Thanksgiving is next week and I recall days from my youth when temperatures had already reached the freezing mark.  People today walked around in Tshirts and shorts.

But once the sun goes down and the world darkens and the evening is still young, I find myself in a blissful state, entering the studio and watercoloring for hours.  I have a commission deadline to meet, so I’m basically in the studio now when I’m not in the classroom.  Tonight has been so delicious, as I’ve put DVD’s on the television and listened to various documentaries on the computer.  The house has been quiet save for the voices of the movie On the Road (DVD), William Carlos Willams (PBS “Voices and Visions” (https://www.learner.org/catalog/extras/vvspot/Williams.html), and Edward Hopper and the Blank Canvas (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk7nL27BxNg).  These creative muses keep me company in the studio as music does to many other artists I know.

The commission I’m doing is coming along slowly, but successfully.  When doing such work, I probably would appear to an outside observer as A.D.D., but that is not the case at all.  I am always looking at the work critically, pausing, stepping away from it, interrupting it with household chores and coming back to it.  The old adage “cut once, measure twice” applies to my painting when I have to get it right.  I don’t push the painting past my comfortable speed, but let it emerge slowly and thoughtfully.  At the rate I’m going, I intend to have it finished by Saturday night, even if I have to stay with it after school tomorrow until late, and then rise on Satuday morning and linger over it throughout the day.  I’m enjoying the process as I always do with watercolor.  Once this job is complete, Thanksgiving begins for me, as the schools are closing for the entire week.  I’m ready for a holiday.

Thanks for reading.  The night has been wonderful.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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Buried in the Work, and Ecstatic

June 2, 2015
So Little Time. So Many Books

So Little Time. So Many Books

An artist learns by repeated trial and error, by an almost moral instinct, to avoid the merely or the confusingly decorative, . . . to say what he has to say with the most direct and economical means, to be true to his objects, to his materials, to his technique, and hence, by a correlated miracle, to himself.

Irwin Edman, Arts and the Man

I found an amazing thread of continuity among some of the divines I’ve been reading lately: Ian Roberts, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway and Andrew Wyeth. Each in his own way addressed the notion of getting at a subject directly and honestly, with no decorative scrollwork. Hence my recent interest in creating “vignette” compositions with my watercolors, leaving plenty of undefined boundaries so the viewer can have imaginative room to enter the composition. Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams addressed this in literary fashion with their “Imagism” theories. Andrew Wyeth addressed it when he said the strength of a composition is not what the artist puts into the picture, but what s/he leaves out. Hemingway, during his early years of writing in Paris, acknowledged that he created his best work when he cut out all the ornamental prose as so much scrollwork, and returned to the truest sentence that always began his writing. And so, in recent sketches and compositional studies, I have been creating simpler works of art, and plan to do that when I get to the Gulf later.

Another theme I am trying to work out is that which involves the boundary or tension between two features. I’ve been reading Paul Tillich this week, fascinated with his focus on the littoral zone separating ocean from beach, and how he continually applied this to his studies in philosophy, theology, art and psychology. He once wrote that “the border line is the truly propitious place for acquiring knowledge.” I have always enjoyed working this idea in my philosophy and art history classes, but now wish to push it in my own theories of aesthetics as I pursue my watercolor attempts.

In closing, I’m going to post this crayon drawing I dug out of my closet last night when I was foraging for watercolor paper for my next project. I didn’t know I still had it: the earliest “work of art” from my personal collection. When I was in third grade, my teacher entered this drawing in the districtwide art contest, grades 1-12. I still remember entering the high school gymnasium and seeing my matted work hung on the wall among hundreds and hundreds of student works of art. If the Presocratics and Aristotle were right in saying “the end is in the beginning,” then perhaps I ought to look at this one more closely and see if I recognize any of my own features in it.

My Earliest Saved Artwork--Third Grade

My Earliest Saved Artwork–Third Grade

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.

Ongoing Search for Creative Alchemy

March 1, 2015

I am witnessing a unique physiological phenomenon: John Shade perceiving and transforming the world, taking it in and taking it apart, re-combining its elements in the very process of storing them up so as to produce at some unspecified date an organic miracle, a fusion of image and music, a line of verse. . . . Shade’s poem is, indeed, that sudden flourish of magic: my gray-haired friend, my beloved old conjurer, put a pack of index cards into his hat–and shook out a poem.

Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire

A veritable bouquet of benefits sprouted from this snowbound weekend. Perhaps an early spring is on the way after all. I’m posting two watercolors that just sold over the past few days. I always take pleasure in selling my original work, but it is so much sweeter when I know the patrons as friends, and these two paintings now belong to two quality men who have brought much more than money into my life. Visiting with them has reminded me of my first love: seeking ways to blend disparate elements of this world into some kind of original artistic composition, an alchemy if you please. My passion for flyfishing made possible the two watercolors posted above. But there is so much more to this complex life than flyfishing.

Preparing for tomorrow’s A. P. Art History session on Dutch and Flemish baroque art spurred my return to a fresh study of Peter Paul Rubens. Already I have enjoyed drinking from the fountains of Nabokov’s Pale Fire, and when I came across the words posted above, I was reminded of Rubens’s rich tapestry of interests: the Greek and Latin language, classical philosophy and sculpture, Renaissance drawing and painting, travel, connecting with several dozen artists who were masters of various media. All this, accompanied by my privilege of writing a letter of recommendation for an amazing art student from my past, now accepted into the American University of Rome (wow, she will have access to those wonderful works copied by Rubens shortly after he became a master at age twenty-one).

I’m sincerely hoping to have some time tomorrow to return to the studio. After a weekend of listening to classical music, translating portions from ancient Greek and Latin texts, practicing some sketching of human anatomy, and reading from Nabokov, Annie Dillard and William Carlos Williams, I am ready to make some visual art. The hiatus has been too long. Fortunately I completed the last of my grading around 2:00 this morning, and feel that an albatross has been cut loose from around my neck. Hopefully, I’ll face a more positive fate than Coleridge did.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Reminiscence over the Delicious Weekend Escape

November 2, 2014
Grateful for Athens, Texas, when Greece is too Far Away

Grateful for Athens, Texas, when Greece is too Far Away

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

John Keats, “Endymion”

Pausing in the midst of this chilly Texas Sunday evening to reflect over the past several days has led me to the conclusion that the only way I survived the grind of a very difficult school week was believing that a respite awaited me over the weekend.  I would not be disappointed.  As soon as school ended Friday, I pointed my loaded vehicle east for the two-hour-plus drive to Bullard, Texas, delighting in the sights of Arlington and Dallas fading in my rearview mirror.  As I drove along, all I could hear in my memory were the songs played during some impromptu jam sessions played by my students in my classroom earlier that morning:

“a thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases . . .”

I arrived at the Family Center of the First United Methodist Church in Bullard (south of Tyler, Texas) and promptly began unloading and setting up my art display for the 7th Annual Genny Wood Art Show to open the following morning.

Once I completed my set up, I was exhausted to the bone, and exited the building.  Once outside, I surprised at the beauty of the cold night air that greeted me.  Autumn had finally arrived in Texas, my short-sleeved T-shirt was insufficient for keeping my body warm, and I retrieved a leather jacket from the Jeep and walked with serene contentment down the darkened streets, watching Halloween Trick-or-Treaters moving along the shadows, laughing and calling out to one another, always with attendant parents in tow.  It was shaping up to be a most satisfying Friday night in Bullard, Texas, and I felt I needed to treat myself to barbecue at Ribmasters just down the main drag.

Dear friends of mine from Athens, Texas (an hour away) always reserve a bed for me to stay the night when I’m in east Texas.  How grateful I was that night when my head hit the pillow at 9:33 p.m.  I know I was asleep within five minutes.  The night before, I had stayed up, making preparations for the show until 1:30 a.m., and then rose at 6:00 to teach school, then hit the road for the weekend art show.  I was ready for lights out.

Waking Saturday before the 6:00 alarm, I was stirred to alertness by the 39-degree temperature outside.  I shivered as I walked to my Jeep and began the one-hour drive back to Bullard for a 9:00 opening.  The show this year was the best I have seen over the past few years that I participated, and I found such wonderful kindred spirits among several oil painters, watercolorists, draftsman, and even a retired sign painter.  We chatted throughout the seven-hour day, exchanging ideas and enjoying one another’s company.  The conversations with the patrons were also filled with reward, and I picked up a plethora of tips of small towns and settings that I can sketch and paint in my future.  The day was packed with satisfying conversation, art sales and all-around good feelings of affirmation.  I love it when the art world brings that into my life, especially coming off a hard week at work.

Once the show ended my art was loaded back into my vehicle, I returned to the home of my dear friends in Athens for more wonderful conversation and another delicious night’s sleep.  Daylight Savings Time added an hour to my sleep cycle, and I awoke this morning feeling better than I have in weeks.  After a few more hours with my friends, I hit the road for the return home, a happy man.

Recalling the warmth of the past few days has prepared me to face this coming week which promises plenty of new challenges.  But I feel profoundly changed from the way things were last week, and I’m ready to face the new prospects. The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams has brought me great company over this weekend, and renewed commitment to excellence in the arts.  In future posts, I hope to share more of what I’ve been gleaning from his confessions.  Life is good now.

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.

Musings on the Storm-Free Area and the Chambered Nautilus

July 24, 2014
Large Watercolor in Progress of Fort Worth's Scat Jazz Lounge

Large Watercolor in Progress of Fort Worth’s Scat Jazz Lounge

There is a great virtue in such an isolation.  It permits a fair interval for thought.  That is, what I call thinking, which is mainly scribbling.  It has always been during the act of scribbling that I have gotten most of my satisfactions.

William Carlos Williams, Autobiography

Kerouac escapes this encircling loss in the act of writing.

Howard Cunnell, “Fast This Time: Jack Kerouac and the Writing of On the Road

The past few days, because of my understanding that Jack Kerouac was fascinated with Melville’s writing, I turned to a copy of the original scroll of On the Road and have been reading introductory articles on the manuscript, and re-reading portions of the Tom Clark biography of Kerouac.  Many agree that his longing for the American road was a response to his sense of loss due to the breakup of his family life (death of brother and father along with his own early divorce). Thoreau himself intimated that his move to Walden Pond was a search for something lost.

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtledove, and am still on their trail.  Many are the travellers 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

For most of my life, I have been enthralled with the sense of the personal odyssey, and have myself benefited from many American road excursions.  But honestly, at this juncture in my life, I don’t really need the road; I have memories, photos and journals that pull up the past as often as I choose.  But I am pursuing the odyssey of the mind inside my newly reorganized home, and enjoying what feels like limitless space and extensive free time.  I think what I have been seeking recently is what the German scholars of the nineteenth century called a Sturmfreies Gebiet, storm-free area.  This was sought by Descartes, Hume, Emerson, Thoreau, Tillich, Kerouac, and a host of our revered luminaries, a storm-free area where one is safe to come to some sort of self-understanding.  William Carlos Williams found great satisfaction scribbling thoughts and poetic fragments on his prescription pads while on the road to make house calls, or pounding the typewriter in his office when patients weren’t lined up and waiting.

While pondering these matters over the past couple of days, I happened across “The Chambered Nautilus,” by Oliver Wendell Holmes.  Though I’ve read this piece several times throughout my life, I never really “got it” until this evening, when it washed over my soul with fresh revelatory power.  Having grown up in the shadow of the Prostestant pulpit, I came under the conviction quite early in life that there is a power in that word, that oracle that comes when the hearer is ready, when the teachable moment has arrived.  When the student is ready, the master will appear.  I guess I was ready this evening.  I had decided to go to a local Starbuck’s with an armload of books and my journal, and sit in the outside cafe with some iced coffee and a sense of anticipation that something could happen.  It did.

“The Chambered Nautilus” is Holmes’s meditation of a mollusk that has died and can no longer expand its chambers.  They now lie open to him, and he gets a sense of its developing natural history by examining the chambers in the house it’s left behind.  As I pored over these words, my soul poured out nine handwritten pages in my journal.  What a rush!  It led me to Emerson’s essay “Circles” and to Whitman’s poem “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life.”  I felt my entire being stirred from within as I felt the cooling carresses and kisses of the evening winds sweeping across the nearby prairie and across my cafe seating area.  It was truly a delicious night.

Now, back at home, I feel my heart stirred with gratitude at this gift received this evening, and in the spirit of the chambered nautilus, I wish to continue expanding new chambers in my existence as I continually read new things, think new thoughts, and try to figure out this wondrous gift called Life.

Oh yeah, the painting!  Posted above is what I worked on after summer school and before the oracle stirred me at Starbuck’s.  I finally got some texturing accomplished on the right side with the bricks, and tried to scratch in some grooves to show the lines of the bricks.  I then turned my attention to the sign, carefully painting in the red fluorescent tubing within the letters, along with the shadows cast and the brackets securing them.  This of course took a great deal of time, but I am in no hurry with it.

And now, I still have to continue working on material for this new online Logic course I’ll teach this fall at a nearby university.  The things I’m learning in that area are also opening up a new chamber of thought within me, and I’m grateful for that as well.  I’m delighted that this mollusk hasn’t yet perished.

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.

 

Art Festivals, Graded Papers, and a Search for the Balance of Idea and Image

October 4, 2013
8 x 10" watercolor created during a festival

8 x 10″ watercolor created during a festival

As soon as we have the thing before

            our eyes, and in our hearts an ear

            for the word, thinking prospers.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

The artist is the origin of the work.   The work is the origin of the artist.  Neither is without the other.  Nevertheless, neither is the sole support of the other.  In themselves and in their interrelations artist and work are each of them by virtue of a third thing which is prior to both, namely that which also gives artist and work of art their names—art.

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

Again, a lengthy hiatus has inserted itself between my blog posts.  I participated in a three-day art festival last weekend where there was no wi-fii available for posting on the blog, and the twelve-hour days left me wasted each night–too wasted to write and post to the blog.  I lost plenty of sleep, though the festival was a success.  And then . . . I was greeted by a week where the public school was ending its six-week grading session and the university was entering its first cycle of unit exams.  So, I was covered up by educational “wing-nut” details all week.  Now, with the weekend drawing near, my grading is (nearly) caught up and I have some leisure creative time.

I am drinking deeply from the Heidegger springs today.  I will be facing three consecutive weekends of art festivals and will find it difficult to paint (the art “business” certainly disrupts the art “making”) and perhaps even difficult to think, read and journal.  But I’ll work my hardest to preserve the balance, because these are the areas where I truly live.  The best part of my creative life flourishes when I am able to move back and forth between literature and art, between ideas and images, between writing and painting.  Both of these realms feed off of each other, and when both are nurtured, my personal life is at its best.  A real eudaimonia pulsates, and I am truly at my happiest.  This past week, it has been difficult recovering this.

At the time of this posting, I am about halfway through The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams.  I also find myself wishing I could have been part of that physician’s circle.  He was always finding his inspiration from daily encounters, and from the world of art: “What were we seeking?  No one knew consistently enough to formulate a ‘movement.’  We were restless and constrained, closely allied with the painters.  Impressionism, dadaism, surrealism applied to both painting and the poem.”  Today I find myself moved by my visual encounters of daily life and by the printed word.  I have wished for years that I could be part of a “circle” of creative spirits that fed off of ideas as well as images, literature as well as other paintings.  So far, it hasn’t happened.

One reason I draw so much inspiration from the work of Corey Aber (http://coreyaber.wordpress.com/) is because I see in him that perfect contemporary blend of literature and art.  He is both an accomplished writer and painter, never satisfied with where he is, but always learning new things, always exploring new vistas, and exuding a felicity of life fed by these impulses.  I wish he lived in my neighborhood, but I’m grateful through the blog to be connected to his quest.

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.

Still Scraping for Quality Painting Time

September 11, 2013
Pushing Ahead on the Sinclair Station

Pushing Ahead on the Sinclair Station

Good evening.  I did manage to put in a little work on this painting late this afternoon, but had no time to fling it up on the blog.  I worked on the pebbly textures in the pavement, enriched the seams a little more, then reworked the shadows under the truck and refined the tires some more.  I also worked more on the shadows on the left side of the building and the white columns between the gas pumps.  I’m still trying to make up my mind about the orange sunlit backdrop, how many more trees to drop into it, and how to transition the ground into the atmosphere in the back.  I’ll get to that later, maybe tomorrow.

While reading late last night, I came across this gut-wrenching passage from the Autobiography of William Carlos Williams.  I hated to go to sleep on such a passage, and indeed it contributed to the rough morning I endured shortly after I awoke this morning.  But here it is:

I’ll never forget the dream I had a few days after [Pop] died, after a wasting illness, on Christmas Day, 1918.  I saw him coming down a peculiar flight of exposed steps, steps I have since identified as those before the dais of Pontius Pilate in some well-known painting.  But this was in a New York office building, Pop’s office.  He was bare-headed and had some business letters in his hand on which he was concentrating as he descended.  I noticed him and with joy cried out, “Pop!  So, you’re not dead!”  But he only looked up at me over his right shoulder and commented severely, “You know all that poetry you’re writing.  Well, it’s no good.”  I was left speechless and woke trembling.  I have never dreamed of him since.

How horrible.  I had trouble sleeping after that, and I didn’t awake to the best of days this morning, probably largely because of that residual memory.  I am not very far into the Autobiography, but so far I have gleaned that his father wasn’t around much, always working to support the family.  I can identify with that.  My father worked long hours, came home late, and needed his space.  And he never said much to me as I grew up.  But I recall only a time or two when he verbally put me down, but never as seriously as this.  In fact, what I recall as a teenager is my father constantly bringing his mechanic buddies into my bedroom to show them my art pinned to the walls.  He always said good things about my skills to them, though not to me.  But it was O.K.  I knew he was affirming my work the only way he knew how.  I don’t know how I would survive if he ever would have said to me what WCW encountered in his dreadful dream.

Though it’s been twenty-four hours since reading that, I’m still feeling kind of heavy tonight, unable to shake that.  I guess we all go through this, but I find myself second-guessing many ways I handled younger people in my years as a father and as a public school teacher, and tonight I seem to be remembering those bad moments more than the good.  What we say to others indeed impacts, shapes lives and has a way of living on for years in memories, theirs and ours.   Perhaps this will find me entering the classroom tomorrow more sensitive and caring than I’ve been in the past.  I hope so.

Oh well.  I still have plenty of prepping to do for tomorrow’s classes and the hour is drawing late.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Objects Embodying the Stuff of Revelation

May 2, 2013
The Screen Door and Coffee Still-Life, Unmasked and Stained

The Screen Door and Coffee Still-Life, Unmasked and Stained

Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you advert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands?  Because it is up to you.  There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain.  It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin.  You were made and set here to give voice to this,your own astonishment.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

William Carlos Williams, the poet/physician, daily drove the streets of Rutherford, New Jersey, household to household, making his calls, and gathering images and ideas for his poems.  He was always engaged, always interpreting and re-interpreting his life.  Andrew Wyeth wandered the rolling hills of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, his eye taking in the images of his surroundings and the village life of Little Africa, all the while his romantic nature extracting meaning from the objects he found in everyday households.  Neither of these artists made apologies for the enthusiasm they felt as memories associated with the everyday mundane warmed their hearts.

Several blog readers have posted to me their warm memories of the slapping screen door from childhood, and the amusement they gained from annoying their elders with that irreverent pop.  All day long at school today, I could think only of getting back into the Cave and resuming work (play) on this screen door and coffee tin.   My mind drifted over all those popping screen doors (at both grandparents’ farms, Marlin’s general store in the grandparent’s vicinity, the wonderful old general store in Pine, Colorado where I stopped for provisions after a hot day of fly fishing at Cheeseman Canyon, feeling like Ernest Hemingway).  I cannot explain my fascination as a child with that screen door, and later as an artist when I looked more closely at its features–blistered painted wood, a hook that left its arc carved in the wood from its years of swinging back and forth, the cut of the spring into the wood, leaving its rust stains over the years, the sloppy paint job that left white paint around the perimeter of the screens–all those things excite me for reasons I can never put into words.  I guess I’m more of a painter than a writer.  These things I just cannot explain.

I removed the masquing first thing this afternoon.  Since then I have been re-staining the screen wire to get rid of the stark white left by the successful masquing.  It’s not going away willingly.  I still have more staining, more darkening to do.  I haven’t yet decided how to re-draw the screen wire over the white label of the coffee tin–I’ll have to experiment with that on separate paper.  I’m thinking about a hard-led pencil, perhaps even a mechanical pencil.  Perhaps a Prismacolor Verithin pencil which features a pretty decent hardness.  Again, since I’ve never done this before, I’ll have to experiment.

I have really enjoyed roughing up the wood and blistering the paint textures on the screen door frame.  I finally worked up the nerve to paint in the hanging spring and gouge the rusty imprints it left along the horizontal frame.  In all of this I am finding pure joy.  For years and years I have gazed upon the Andrew Wyeth drybrush renderings of whitewashed sidings of houses and window sashes blistered by the sun and weather, and always wanted to give it a try, using watercolor, pencil, fingerprints, smudges–anything that would simulate that weathered appearance.  Finally I am getting into it and absolutely loving it.

Yesterday afternoon, the Texas temperatures climbed to 83 degrees and I had to have a box fan running in the Cave to survive working out here.  Now it is 42 degrees with arctic winds howling outside the garage door, and I am wearing a heavy pullover sweater and drinking hot coffee to stay in the Cave.  But I love it.  The Cave environment has been welcoming, quiet, affirming.  I’m thrilled to enter a three-day weekend (no school tomorrow) and hope to have long, uninterrupted hours painting and reading in the cave.

I’m going to post a picture below of the painting after I removed the masquing, for anyone curious about this process.  When I apply the masquing to the untreated, white watercolor paper, it bonds well and does its job, but once it comes off, the stark whiteness is unacceptable.  I always know it’s going to happen, so I no longer feel those “uh-oh” moments when it comes off–I just know that there is plenty of work still ahead, staining the white areas, toning them down, getting them where you want them.  And that part does not come easily for me.  I have to keep applying more layers of wash, continue rubbing with my fingers, getting rid of that stark white.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The painting unmasqued, before re-staining and re-working

The painting unmasqued, before re-staining and re-working

The Man Cave Studio as I work Tonight

The Man Cave Studio as I work Tonight

Working on the Cafe Theme, Late at Night

April 20, 2013
Cafe Still Life at Night

Cafe Still Life at Night

To mean something, anything, art must provide a specific sense of where you are and where you have been, of your particular take on the larger history of which you, willingly or not, form a part.

Gordon Theisen, Staying Up Much Too Late: Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and the Dark Side of the American Psyche

I am driven to paint daily.  When a day goes by and I am not en plein air or in my Man Cave, I feel something was taken away from me, like missing a meal, or getting shorted on a decent night’s rest.  As I say repeatedly, I paint to remember.  Whether I use a word like “nostalgia” or “Proustian” to describe my sentiments, I just merely want to work on images that have played an integral role in my life’s composition.  “No ideas but in things” writes William Carlos Williams.

I turned 59 today, and all those closest to me had their beautiful ways of sending me the warmest, most loving sentiments.  I love and appreciate all of you, thank you so much.  During this exquisite day, I’ve had the opportunity to paint in a beautiful park setting, kicking out a pair of watercolor sketches.  And during that time outdoors, it finally dawned on me what I want to do with my next series of cafe still-lifes.  And this delicious day and night afforded me plenty of silence and space to work and play over this piece that slowly emerges beneath my gaze, like a developing photograph in a dark room.

This composition that I’m toiling over now (and loving the scrutiny and problem-solving) truly resonates with me.  The setting is a cafe, where someone has opened a letter while relaxing over coffee.  The spectacles I recovered from the estate of one deceased about twenty years ago.  The letter, postmarked 1962 was given me by a dear friend who deals in antiques and always has the objects I request for these kinds of compositions.  The diner mug I found in an antique store two days ago.  And the pillow case, also found in the antique store, will have to serve as my cafe tablecloth.

These days, I love the emails and text messages I receive from those I love.  And in the days of yesteryear I loved receiving the letters in the mail (I really love the handwritten letters that I still receive occasionally in these current days).   Communication has always been our lifeline, and coffee in the cafes has always been my spiritual life’s blood.  I wish I could find the right words to describe what a sanctuary the cafe has become for me in recent years, and how precious the moments are when I can sit with coffee and re-read something sent from someone who matters.

So, as  I linger over this piece in the days and nights ahead, I just wanted to let anyone out there who reads me know, that this is a personal composition for me.  And I have the desire now, the genuine compulsion, to work on a series of cafe still-lifes depicting these quiet, pondering moments harbored in quiet contemplative American lives these days and nights.

Thanks for reading.

I paint to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

There is a Certain Slant of Light

February 6, 2013
Watercoloring in the Afternoon, with thoughts of Emily Dickinson

Watercoloring in the Afternoon, with thoughts of Emily Dickinson

There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything,
‘Tis the seal, despair,-
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, ‘t is like the distance
On the look of death.

Emily Dickinson

This afternoon, as I chip away at this still life, I am flooded with the silence of the day, the slanting light that I cannot keep away from my garage door windows (all the blinders I taped up day-before-yesterday have fallen off), and the sense of relief that follows a noisy day of high school teaching.  Only the drone of my clothes dryer just on the other side of the utility room door is heard, except for the occasional rustle of dead, dry leaves blowing across my driveway.  It is an affirming ambiance for painting.

Emily Dickinson’s poem is considerably darker than what I feel right now.  I thought about her “slant of light” as the sun came out a few minutes ago and threw its shafts through my windows and across my still-life arrangement.  And I recalled that it was a winter light of which she spoke.  And I knew that the poem was overflowing with the mixed feelings of sublime and depression in regard to religious sentiment.  That final note is not on my heart as I write this.  I’ve been listening to Voices and Visions broadcasts of the works of Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams, and I once again am finding myself lost in these objects before me, and I regard that as a good thing.

Thanks for reading.