Posts Tagged ‘William Wordsworth’

Morning Coffee with Dave & William

August 19, 2018

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Pondering William Wordsworth, “The Prelude” 1850

Imagination having been our theme,

So also hath that intellectual Love,

For they are each in each, and cannot stand

Dividually.—Here must thou be, O Man!

Power to thyself; no Helper hast thou here;

Here keepest thou in singleness thy state:

No other can divide with thee this work:

No secondary hand can intervene

To fashion this ability; ‘tis thine,    

The prime and vital principle is ‘thine

In the recesses of thy nature, far

From any reach of outward fellowship,

Else is not thine at all.

William Wordsworth, “The Prelude,” 1850

After a fifty-day hiatus, I finally return to The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas for the weekend! I have so missed this place, though my recent travels through west Texas, New Mexico and Colorado played their restorative roles in my soul. I thought it fitting to pack my Wordsworth “Prelude” for this weekend excursion. Before attending the eight o’clock mass this morning across the street at Sacred Heart, I felt this urge to re-visit Book Fourteen of this massive work.

For decades, I have been fascinated with the way thinkers have continually bifurcated the human experience–soul/body, spirit/flesh, Apollo/Dionysus, reason/passion . . . on and on and on. I have followed these discussions with fascination and don’t believe I shall ever lose interest. And now here, with Wordsworth, we have intellectual love and imagination. They cannot be separated, and no one can help us sort out how to let them thrive. I would not be telling the truth if I said I understand fully what Wordsworth meant by these categories. I know he wrote this piece for Samuel Taylor Coleridge and pleaded with him to understand it on the author’s terms. I hope I can do that as well, but in the meantime, I am intrigued, at what I am reading, and hope I can get to the bottom of his ideas.

In the prior stanza, regarding imagination, Wordsworth equates it with “absolute power”, “clearest insight”, and “Reason in her most exalted mood.” And then he lays out these words which truly stir my blood:

This faculty hath been the feeding source

Of our long labour: we have traced the stream

From the blind cavern whence is faintly heard

Its natal murmur; followed it to light

And open day; accompanied its course

Among the ways of Nature, for a time

Lost sight of it bewildered and engulphed:

Then given it greeting as it rose once more

In strength, reflecting from its placid breast

The works of man and face of human life;

And lastly, from its progress have we drawn

Faith in life endless, the sustaining thought

Of human Being, Eternity, and God.

Wow! Personally, I have been applying this stanza to my own reasoning life from its childhood, formal education, attempted liberation, and now my senior years. It fits, even if I am not interpreting this piece the way Wordsworth meant it. I smile as I apply the words “lost sight of it bewildered and engulphed” to my many years of education as I thrashed about, trying to find my own way through all those voices and texts. I still do not know where exactly these verses will take me, but I am enjoying the odyssey, to be certain.

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Perhaps I should have titled this entry “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”?

I am introducing fourteen new watercolors to the gallery collection this weekend. I have posted a few of them above. I regret that the glare of glass interferes with decent photography. In hindsight, I wish I had photographed these before framing, but–live and learn. Seated at this desk, I am looking up at them with delight, and feel warmed by some of the best memories of my life with these recent travels.

Time to go to church. Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to explore.

I journal, feeling alone.

I blog, reminding myself I am not alone.

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Hoping to Turn a Corner

August 5, 2018

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Sunrise View from my Cabin Deck

All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings . . . 

. . . the imagination must learn to ply her craft by judgment studied.

William Wordsworth, “Lyrical Ballads”

Every morning for this past week, I have been spellbound at the sight of this evergreen below my cabin deck when the sun rises and washes it like this.  After making a couple of watercolor studies of the rugged pine that is closer to my cabin, I mused about how to paint such an evergreen as this. For days, I ruminated over how to approach the problem. This morning, reading Heidegger’s “The Thinker as Poet”, I came across the following:

As soon as we have the thing before our eyes,

         and in our hearts an ear

         for the word, thinking prospers.

Recently, I revisited Annie Dillards reference to “the tree with lights” in her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  This morning, as Dillard, Heidegger and Wordsworth converged in my imagination, I decided to try and paint evergreens in experimental fashion.  I have brought along on vacation with me a children’s book, titled -Ish by Peter Reynolds. The story is a delightful one that has reminded me that I don’t have to copy nature with the accuracy of a photographer. Rather, I just need to make these trees look “tree-ish.” During my years of teaching art history, I was always intrigued by Xie He’s Six Canons, and decided today to see if I could put his principles to work. I split my time evenly between painting, reading, and scribbling observations in my journal.

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Work in Progress

I painted all morning, took a break for lunch, then again all afternoon. Throughout the morning, I was continually visited by the little wild critters.

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Here is a Bold and Hungry Little Fellow

Chipmunks continually scurried about the deck, searching for scattered sunflower seeds I had tossed about me. This one in particular climbed up my pant leg and looked in my lap for seeds. I decided to gather a few in my palm and reach down. Sure enough, he came fearlessly to me and ate every morsel.

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Guarding my Paintings

This gorgeous bird (I believe he is an Evening Grosbeak) has spent the last three days perched near me on this deck while I painted or read. When I take sunflower seeds to him, he might scamper a few feet away from me, but never flies away. He just stands nearby, like he’s waiting for something, and remains long after he’s eaten all my offerings.

I’m not certain that I have yet arrived at a solution for painting evergreens in watercolor, but I certainly pulled out all the stops as I experimented today, following Wordsworth’s message of spontaneously pouring out all my passions at first, then returning after the pieces dried to try and complete an attractive composition “by judgment studied.” I am exhausted by the process, but am exhilarated by the feelings I experienced today in pursuit of this process.

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That’s all for this day. Thank you for reading.

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I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Drifting Thoughts of Tintern Abbey

October 6, 2016
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Abandoned Gas Station in Claude, Texas

These beauteous forms,

Through a long absence, have not been to me

As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:

But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din

Of towns and cities, I have owed to them

In hours of weariness, sensations sweet . . . 

William Wordsworth, “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798”

In these final days, while inching closer to completing this watercolor, I have found myself spending more time gazing at it than actually painting. In many ways, the closing notes to a complicated composition are the most critical, and this one has certainly given me pause, again and again, throughout the past days.

This morning, Wordsworth’s haunting thoughts revisited me as I lay in bed, slowly waking in the predawn. I could see the image of this painting in my mind’s eye as well, comingling with all the sweet remembrances of passing through this small Texas panhandle town in the heat of past summer excursions to Colorado. And, true to the lines of Wordsworth, this quiet image has remained in my mind as a sanctuary amidst my bustling classrooms throughout the morning of this day. While growing older, recollections such as this wax sweeter, especially when I find myself in the nexus of nagging deadlines and job-related expectations. Memories and painting provide a precious sanctuary.

Thank you for reading.

I paint because I want to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

On the Road with Wordsworth

September 25, 2016

workshop-barn

Ye blessèd creatures, I have heard the call    

    Ye to each other make; I see          

The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;  

    My heart is at your festival,             

      My head hath its coronal,

The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.

William Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”

As soon as I was free from school Friday, I headed eastbound on I-20 for a 2 1/2 hour drive to the Tyler, Texas vicinity–a small town called Flint.  There, in the facilities of Saint Mary Magdelene Catholic Church, I led an all-day Saturday watercolor workshop.  The first painting posted above was the demo, with all participants observing and practicing the compositional pieces throughout the day: cloud-filled sky, barn, horizon foliage and ground texturing. When the day was done, each of us had a 9 x 12″ watercolor of a barn in a field.

Later that evening, my host and her husband took me to the shores of Lake Palestine just as the sun was setting.  We had ten minutes to kick out a watercolor sketch as we sipped wine, and my attempt is posted below:

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Throughout my combined five hours of driving, Friday afternoon and Sunday morning, I drank in the east Texas countryside and felt the shivers of joy I knew as a small boy growing up the first four years alone in Missouri.  Actually, my brother didn’t really become an outdoor playmate until he was about four, so I guess I had eight years of the outdoors to myself growing up with no company except for a vivid imagination.

I drank in that ever-expanding universe that enveloped me as I played in my yard, the garden, and the neighboring pastureland. And while I drove this past weekend, I recalled my childhood questions: is there a person behind those clouds watching me, why are the distant hills blue, and why do trees so far away appear to be no larger than my hand? As I grew older, scientific explanations drove away most of the magic, but not the curiosity and attraction of this world.

The Wordsworth poem flooded my consciousness as I drove home early in the morning. I cannot describe the feeling of overhearing oneself reciting the portion posted above while driving alone through the countryside, but 8:17 Sunday morning marked a sublime feeling of “eudaimonia” as I recited the words aloud, and looked at the sprawling, affirming countryside outside my windsheld.

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.

Ecstatic Revision

September 19, 2016

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Perhaps I feel happiest when, during the creative process, I simply let work “pour out”, so to speak, without critical intervention or editing . . . 

Robert Motherwell

After a weekend tour of five Texas universities with the senior A.V.I.D. students from my campus, I found myself quite exhausted and mellow when I finally awoke in my own bed Sunday morning. My gas station and passenger rail car watercolors are nearly complete, and I really was not in the mood to look at them and make final decisions. So, instead, I picked up this demonstration piece I began a couple of years ago, to see if I could edit it and pull out a finished painting. The site is an abandoned restaurant in New Mexico that I photographed a number of years ago while passing through from Colorado.

My first painting of this location has already sold to dear friends. I’m always glad to sell to a friend, but I missed looking up at that framed painting that hung in a prominent place in my living room. So far, this one is not living up to the standards of the first, but we’ll see what happens as I bump it a little more.

The original painting was titled New Mexico Closure, and it is featured on my website recollections54.com. With this current attempt, I am attempting to put more foliage around the back and enrich the foreground textures. So far, the bread crumbs and salt are not creating the effects I’m seeking, but I’ll give it another go this evening, hopefully.

I posted the Robert Motherwell quote above, completely affirming that joy in pouring out spontaneously all the richness of my emotions as I begin a work, then revising later. Oftentimes, the earlier joy far exceeds the work of revision. However, there are times like now that my ecstatic high is reversed, and I find more joy in the revision. That is true on this occasion because this painting began as a demo for a local art society. I fielded numerous questions as I put down the preliminary colors and shapes, and of course, was conscious of an audience, so I could not experience that “high” that I know when alone in the studio and pouring out a new work.

William Wordsworth opined once that “all good poetry is the spntaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” But he then later wrote that “the imagination must learn to ply her craft by judgment studied.” What makes this current watercolor experience enjoyable for me is the time I’m spending staring at the work from across the room, making compositional decisions. When I see something I don’t like, I don’t despair but wonder “can it be improved, and if so, do I have the skill”?  So far, I’m saying Yes and Yes.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

Suspended between Wordsworth and Pink Floyd

September 9, 2016

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Remains of a Gas Station near Brookfield, Missouri

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Remains of a Passenger Rail Car in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb.

Friday night has arrived, the week in school has been deeply rewarding, watching classrooms filled with students enthusiastic about pursuing new ideas. Evenings have been given to watercolor activity, and I’ve posted a pair that were inspired by some of my summer travels. Memories associated with these two images are so thick tonight, it seems I have to brush them away from my face so that I can breathe.

Tonight, a deep feeling has overcome me. I’ve returned from a funeral visitation. One of my precious students has lost a father unexpectedly, and her mother is a colleague of mine who has always been a generous resource when needed. Driving home, I listened to “Comfortably Numb” and the words I’ve posted really went deep into my heart. Once I was home again, I dug up Wordsworth verses, including “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” I have felt an intimate kinship with this poet when he speaks of childhood memories that have their ways of sweeping over us during our more pensive moments. And like Proust, he urged that those feelings were worth remembering, even when fleeting, and even when we cannot put our finger on what it is exactly we feel we have lost along the way. Again Thoreau’s haunting words of losing the horse, the bayhound and the turtledove come back to me tonight. I don’t think I’m sad. But something is stirring deep within, and I’m trying to find a way to express it. I’m glad the weekend has arrived and I can walk away from my regular schedule for a couple of days.

Thanks for reading.

Wordsworth’s Lonely Cloud

July 14, 2015
Beginning a Large Cloud Portrait

Beginning a Large Cloud Portrait

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
William Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”
Marcel Proust wrote of the primal remembrances we experience by surprise when certain sensations confront us in our adult life. That experience happened to me repeatedly while residing on an island in the Texas Laguna Madre a few weeks back. I wrote earlier today that I was cycling back to earlier remembrances in my art endeavors. As a child, I would lie in the grass and gaze up at the billowing clouds suspended overhead, often looking for recognizable shapes. In my adult years, I still admire cloud formations, but usually while on extended road trips. When painting en plein air, I have tended to give the clouds a cursory treatment, focusing instead on my main subject of architecture or other such grounded subjects. But recently at the Laguna Madre, when looking out over water, horizon and sky, I began trying for the first time to paint what I call “cloud portraits.”
The studio version I am beginning today of the island is my largest to date: a 20 x 24″ composition on stretched 140-lb. cold press D’Arches paper. The work is requiring a great deal of time and planning, but I’m enjoying the challenge. The Wordsworth poem is fitting for this watercolor composition and how I feel this day, with the Laguna Madre flashing on my inward eye. In the painting, however, fire wheels will replace the daffodils.
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.

Contemplating the Mermaid’s Winecup

July 1, 2015

I have an appointment to meet, so I will put up today’s work just in case I get back too late to post more tonight. Finally, I am rendering the cups on the end of this alga specimen, as well as the shell to whicih they are anchored. The stems in between I have worked on just a little. While painting, I have been listening to Youtube interviews with Robert Motherwell, along with a panel discussion of his show covering the East Hampton Years, 1944-1952. Jack Flam, the one who assembled the massive 3 volume catalogue raisonné on Motherwell, drew an amazing parallel between the artist and a quote from the Romantic poet William Wordsworth. The latter said that in writing, he poured out all the richness of his emotion, and then revised the torrent to shape it into a poem. Motherwell also said that in abstract art, the artists pours out all his/her richness, and then steps in and edits or corrects the output. That is much of what is going on with this piece I’m working now. Yesterday I poured, salted, spritzed and played happily with the surface of the paper to create an environment for the subject. Today I am trying to make the alga emerge from the atmosphere. The result is that I am working much more slowly and thoughtfully today as my eye moves from detail to detail, puzzling out how to present this subject.

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.

Consummating a Marriage of Imagination and Intellectual Love

May 19, 2015
Continuing work on the Laguna Madre project

Continuing work on the Laguna Madre project

This spiritual love acts not, nor can exist

Without imagination, which in truth

Is but another name for absolute power

And clearest insight, amplitude of mind,

And reason, in her most exalted mood.

This faculty hath been the feeding source

Of our long labor: we have traced the stream

From the blind cavern whence is faintly heard

Its natal murmur; followed it to light

And open day; accompanied its course

Among the ways of Nature; for a time

Lost sight of it, bewildered and engulphed;

Then given it greeting as it rose once more

In strength, reflecting from its placid breast

The works of man, and face of human life;

And lastly, from its progress have we drawn

Faith in life endless, the sustaining thought

Of human being, Eternity, and God.

–Imagination having been our theme,

So also hath that intellectual love,

For they are each in each, and cannot stand

Dividually.—Here must thou be, O Man!

Powers to thyself; no Helper hast thou here;

Here keepest thou in singleness thy state;

No other can divide with thee this work;

No secondary hand can intervene

To fashion this ability; ’tis thine,

In the recesses of thy nature, far

From any reach of outward fellowship,

Else is not thine at all.

William Wordsworth, “Prelude”

As night follows night, I chuckle to see my Laguna Madre files bursting with new pages of sketches and notes taken from my readings, and I’m beginning to see a similarity with Marcel Duchamp’s “Green Box.” This can be viewed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in a long trough mounted on one of the gallery walls–over a decade of sketches and writings of Marcel Duchamp as he secretly worked on his “Large Glass: The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even.”

Duchamp's

Duchamp’s “Green Box”

For a couple of months now, I have been feeding on William Wordsworth’s “Prelude”, particularly his eloquent meditation on the twin powers of imagination and intellectual love which drive the turbine of creativity. Tonight, as I sat down to my drafting table to plan further on my approaching residency, I recalled his words that no one else could direct us in this endeavor–if they could, then the powers would not be ours at all.

With a renewed faith and determination, I re-opened some volumes from my private library that discuss composition in two-dimensional art, comparing what I read to what I’ve been taught since high school and college. The one discipline that I have avoided throughout the decades is the thumbnail sketch, the compositional study, and value studies of a proposed painting. Looking again at the photos I took while on the island last weekend, I began again to work on small thumbnail sketches of proposed drybrush watercolor compositions. Turning to my favorite watercolorist, Andrew Wyeth, I selected about eight of my favorite drybrush compositions from him and outlined the subject matter, noting what kind of vignette shape lay upon the white picture plane. This was a first for me, and I could feel myself laughing out loud, because I was practicing what I preach on the first day of every semester at school concerning Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology and learning to approach a familiar subject in a different way. This I was doing tonight–planning my future painting compositions as never before in my life. And the activity felt good, real good.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Pausing for Memories that Matter

April 14, 2015

What though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now for ever taken from my sight,

          Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of spendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

                   We will grieve not, rather find

                   Strength in what remains behind;

                   In the primal sympathy

                   Which having been must ever be;

                   In the soothing thoughts that spring

                   Out of human suffering;

                   In the faith that looks through death,

In years that bring the philosophic mind.

William Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immorality”

Reliving Some Sacred Memories

Reliving Sacred Memories

The work schedule this week seems in conspiracy against the dreamer. As schools move into their final grading period, administrative details accelerate, and much of what teachers do has no connection with the task of educating students. I am moving toward another art festival this weekend, inventory matters need to be addressed during these evening hours, and I am addressing them. But there is this small watercolor I started over the weekend that has opened a portal for all kinds of Proustian memories from 1986-87 that just won’t stop flowing. Today as we worked on Emerson in my Philosophy class, I could not stop my mind from re-visiting this site where I lived. The house was then over a hundred years old, but still livable. I was writing my doctoral dissertation and preaching in a small church next door. During the fall semester, I rose at 4:00 a.m. two mornings a week, made a large breakfast of eggs, sausage and biscuits, and traveled one hour and 45 minutes south to Fort Worth to teach an 8:00 Religion class at Texas Christian University. During the spring semester I kept an office at the University of North Texas, one hour south in Denton, where I revised and typed my dissertation.

Fine-Tuning some Details

Fine-Tuning some Details

Despite the work details, I fell in love with the land that engulfed me throughout that year, along with the changing of the seasons. I had no close neighbors. The road in front of my house was gravel. The nearest city was twelve miles away. No airplanes could be heard passing overhead. No A/C units of suburbs humming into the night–only the sounds of birds, insects and wildlife. I returned to Thoreau’s writings during that year, began keeping a journal that has endured to this present day, and felt the embrace of nature.Though I now live in the suburbs of a major American city, I close my eyes and the memories take me back to this most perfect natural environment I ever knew. Hence, I gave myself an hour this afternoon to tinker with this painting. And now, I must return to the inventory details of the upcoming art festival.

Packaging art for the Festival

Packaging art for the Festival

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.