Mar 09

Marble Falls – Paint the Town

Marble Falls Paint the Town Plein Air Event

March 30 thru April 1, 2017, I will be painting in the 11th Annual Plein Air Juried Exhibition in beautiful Marble Falls, Texas. This Plein Air event called “Paint the Town”,  will feature artists from across the nation, painting scenes around historic Marble Falls and other Hill Country locations nearby. A nationally recognized plein air judge will award winners, and all works will be for sale during the event. There will also be a live auction and reception.

You can learn more about the event here: http://www.hlcarts.com/paint-the-town/

 

Jan 31

Trees

Plein Air Paint Box setup

Paint box setup at Loyd Park for “The Woods”

North Texas winters can be all over the map – snow, ice or close to 80 degrees. But this January, we have had some awesome days sprinkled throughout the month and hopefully it will continue into February. The temperature has been warming up to the 60’s and sometimes 70’s and the sky’s have been blue. Weather like this seems to stimulate the thoughts and memories of

spring.

One afternoon I had a little window of time and took advantage of the near perfect weather and packed up my paint box and headed out to paint. Access to land is always a problem, so I find myself painting in private parks and Texas State Parks…both provide easy access to quiet landscapes and usually crowd free locations to work en plein air.

Walking down a quiet path with paint gear in tow in the “dead” of winter, when the life of summer lies dormant and unseen, there is not much to see except bare trees and brown forest floors, dry grass and….not much else. But even in this silent, sleeping environment there is a warmth and kindness from the Creator Himself. A walk in the woods seems to refuel the soul and point to days to come. God created the earth and all it contains for us to enjoy and to remember and acknowledge Him.

The experience reminds me of words from an old song that has been sang by Elvis Presley and many other singers over the years. The second verse of the old song tells this story:

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze-

And then the chorus goes on with these words…

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee: How great thou art! How great thou art!

Of coarse this part of Texas has no mountain grandeur, and this particular day there was no sound of a brook as I wandered through the woods with paint and easel, inspired by the Creator and His creation. Just silence and barren trees. But some of the trees were awesome in shape; and subtle colors and shadows made interesting patterns on the ground.

So I painted a tree.

Psalm 96:11 and 12 say this: “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice”

Particular trees have always fascinated me. Trees are a gift from God, and a reminder of His “common” grace that He gives to all who live on the earth, whether they know Him or not. A tree is almost magical in all it provides for us. Shelter from the wind, cold, rain and heat. Wood for tables and chairs, wood for many tools that make our lives easier. Wood for boats to float on the vast oceans and rivers for both pleasure and food. Trees are really an incredible gift from God.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

Steve & Donna Miller at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

And I believe trees have fascinated many of us from the beginning of time. Authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis have personified trees in many of their writings. One year while my wife and I were driving through the mountains of North Carolina, we came across the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. We parked and walked a short trail through the Appalachian forest (this section was one of the last remaining virgin forests in the mountains) to two massive Popular trees. A thousand years old or so. Back in the parking lot we read on a display a poem called “Trees” written by poet Joyce Kilmer –

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

The Woods - Plein Air Oil on Panel, 12 x 9

The Woods – Plein Air Oil on Panel, 12 x 9

Jan 24

When the Boys Come Home…

A few weeks before Christmas, 2016 I was blessed to create a commission piece for Byron and Sidney Thorsen, who were wonderful to work with. We connected through a contact from Weiler House Fine Art Gallery in Arlington, Texas.

The Thorsens requested a painting of an old family homestead in Louisiana. I worked from several photos and snapshots and also with verbal input they provided about the family’s history.

Commission work, Oil on Canvas

30 x 24 Oil on canvas titled “When the Boys Come Home…”

Blue Star Service Banner

Blue Star Service Banner

One of the subtle details in this painting that relates to the family history is a small banner just to the left of the front door to the screened porch. The banner is a “Blue Star Service Banner” that became popular during World War II. Families who had members in the military during the war would put a banner in a window or door with a blue star on it for every family member who was off serving in the war effort. The Thorsen’s family had 4 sons who were serving their country in this world-wide conflict.

Byron mentioned to me that while the war was going on and the sons were absent,  his Great-Grandmother, when making various future plans would say “When the boys come home, we will….” An excellent memory indeed. There is nothing like a “Homecoming”.

The Thorsens also noticed the small scripture reference present on most of my paintings and requested to suggest a scripture for their painting. Since I had never been ask that before, my response was absolutely! Because of the nature of the artwork, representing a generational family place and the story I mentioned above, they  choose Malachi 4:5 and 6, which says this:

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”

Thanks Byron and Sidney.

Jan 02

Art, Law and a New Year

Christmas came and went at our house like a blue northern blowing across the Texas plains. The days seem to accelerate and gain speed with each passing year. But the meaning of Christmas remains constant and immovable.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

I want to backup about a week before Christmas of this year. We made a “mad-dash” to Memphis for three days. My wife and I, and my parents jumped in my uncle’s car (a very nice ride) and headed east to the Mississippi River. The reason was two-fold. It is always good to see my daughter and her husband, and of course the grandkids during the Christmas season. But, the main reason was to be present at the adoption of one of my granddaughters by my son-in-law. In a culture of “fatherlessness”, I really appreciate him “stepping up” to this challenge. I know our granddaughter is blessed by his courage as well.

The adoption was to take place at the Shelby County Courthouse in Memphis. So, to support all involved, several of us went to the courthouse on a bitterly cold Monday morning to see the adoption proceedings, something I have never witnessed. The morning proved to very enlightening and educational, both inside and outside the courthouse.

Shelby County Courthouse in downtown Memphis, Tennessee

Shelby County Courthouse in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, with sculptures by James Massey Rhind.

Being an artist who loves architecture, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the size and beauty of the courthouse. It sits in downtown Memphis and is simply a magnificent building. Built by architect James Gamble Rogers (he was the primary architect), the Shelby County Courthouse opened in 1910 and is the largest and most ornate courthouse in Tennessee. To say this Greco Roman structure made from blue limestone with its massive columns and pediments is impressive is an understatement. As I said, I love architecture and I stood in the freezing wind shooting photos of this elegant building as our group entered the building.

Sketch of sculpture at Memphis Courthouse titled "Authority"

Sketch of sculpture at Memphis Courthouse titled “Authority” (S. Miller)

But wait, there’s more…. The most impressive visual elements of this courthouse, in my opinion, are the six figures that sit to the right and left of the three main entrances to the courthouse. Each is carved out of a solid block of limestone by a very well-known sculptor at the turn of the last century, an artist born in Scotland in 1860 named James Massey Rhind.

James Massey Rhind, Scottish born sculptor.

James Massey Rhind, Scottish born sculptor.

He came to this country late in the 1800’s and was one of America’s most gifted sculptors, carving monuments and memorials for public buildings, cemeteries and parks across the U.S. Perhaps his most famous project was the “Victory” and “Peace” figures he carved at the entrance of Grant’s Tomb in New York City.

As I stood in the cold admiring these sculpted figures, I noticed a name under each of them. The names were Wisdom, Justice, Liberty, Authority, Peace and Prosperity. Interesting, I thought as my nose and ears screamed for a warmer climate. The stone characters meant something, they seemed to be telling a story –  A story that needs to be heard today.

The first of these six stone figures represented “Wisdom”. Wisdom must be the foundation of any society and culture. Governments must be built on wisdom, and God is the only one who gives wisdom. I think they understood that a little better in 1910 than we do now.

Proverbs 1:7 says “Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” The same book goes on the say in chapter two, verse 6 “For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

The figure that sat opposite Wisdom at the entrance at the far end of the building was “Justice”.  We’ll come back to Justice later. The two carvings that guarded the stairs we climbed to enter the building were “Liberty” and “Authority”. If you saw the 1997 movie “Rainmaker”, you probably noticed these two figures as Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) and Deck Shifflet (Danny DeVito) entered and exited the Shelby County Courthouse. (This movie was based on a John Grisham novel about ethics in law and business, which is exactly the story these six carvings that line the courthouse are quietly whispering today)

Limestone figures at the entrance to the Memphis Courthouse - Authority and Liberty

Limestone figures at the entrance to the Memphis Courthouse – Authority and Liberty

These first four works of art – Wisdom, Justice, Liberty and Authority – all work together, and Wisdom is the foundation. A people who govern themselves by a higher law, i.e. God’s law will have Liberty. But not all govern themselves, so the need for Justice, backed up by Authority is necessary. Justice governed by Wisdom is both Just and Merciful. And to keep order in this society, Authority must be set up and respected. This provides the setting for Liberty.

Just around the corner of the building where we entered, the final two of the six statues I mentioned were sitting, and like their four companions, they sat silent and unnoticed. They were titled “Peace” and “Prosperity”. Peace results from the healthy function of the first four. When godly Wisdom is the foundation, the outflow is Justice, Authority and Liberty, which in turn produces Peace.  It doesn’t matter where you are in this world, what country or culture, peace is desired and pursued. When the first four principles break down, there is no peace. But, when peace is present, what follows is “Prosperity”, the name of the last sculpture by James Massey Rhind.

Rough sketches of sculptures at Memphis Courthouse

Rough sketches of sculptures at Memphis Courthouse (skeches by S. Miller)

Here is the long and the short of it. Standing out in the freezing wind one December morning in Memphis being amazed by the work of an artist long since gone, I saw beautiful representations of principles that build up a society. The artist’s work was almost like an outline in stone. I was a bit perplexed by the observation that nobody seemed to notice this outline. It seems to be background noise or relics from another time and what now seems like another universe. Does it matter? Memphis is the 4th most dangerous city in the U.S. as of October, 2016. I guess it does matter some.

I’m not picking on Memphis, it’s much the same across the nation to one degree or another. How far we have fallen from those simple principles and guidelines.  Proverbs 14:34 reminds us that “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people.”

In other words, when a society fears the God of scriptures, there is Liberty, Peace and Prosperity. I think it is a general revelation of God’s great love for us,  His creation.

We just came through a year full of turmoil, both in the U.S and worldwide. The new year lays out before us, it’s pages yet unwritten. Who can argue with a set of simple guidelines that if followed, will produce peace?

I want to wish you a Blessed New Year of Peace from the true source of Peace!

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Dec 15

Open House at OPOMAC in Graham, Texas

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I wanted to pass along a special thanks to Marlene and Jim at the Old Post Office Museum and Art  Center in Graham, Texas for inviting me to hang an exhibit during the month of December, and for the awesome Open House event on December 10th. Donna and I really enjoyed the night in Graham, meeting many beautiful people and enjoying the band and food provided by OPOMAC. Many thanks.

Below is a slide show of the event. The exhibit hangs until January 13, 2017. If you happen to be in Graham in the next few weeks, check the exhibit out. Also at the museum is a famous mural by Alexandre Hogue titled “Oil Fields of Graham”. 

Nov 28

Exhibit at OPOMAC

DECEMBER 10th, 6:00 p.m.

For anyone wanting to break from the madness of the city or business of the holiday season, join us for a night at The Old Post Office Museum and Art Center in Graham, Texas. The museum has allowed me to exhibit almost 90 works of art this December through January.  December 10th at 6:00 p.m. the Museum is hosting an Open House reception for the exhibit.

Old Post Office Museum and Art Center

All the works hanging in this show are available to purchase. This exhibit will actually hang from December 5, 2016 thru January 13, 2017. Hope to see you there.

 

Old Post Office Museum & Art Center
510 Third Street
Graham, Texas 76450
Phone: (940) 549-1470
opomac@sbcglobal.net

Old Post Office Museum and Art Center

 

Oct 17

Fall Festival of Arts, Granbury

Saturday, October 15 – It is always a blessing and an honor to receive an award for a painting. Competitions are always a time to focus on strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps learn from the perspective and skills of the Juror, who for this show was Kaye Franklin. Kaye is an excellent artist working in oils and pastels. (http://kfranklinstudio.com/)

Two works were selected for this show, one called “Three Cows” (very original name, I know), and another piece called “The Blue Window” which won Second Place. Both are oils, The Blue Window is on canvas and Three Cows was painted on panel.

Original oil on canvas titled The Blue Window

Original oil on canvas, 24 x 18, titled “The Blue Window”

It was great to attend the reception at the Stanley House,  just off the Granbury courthouse square and meet some of the artist. I

wanted to thank the Lake Granbury Art Association for this great fall show, as well as the sponsors who donated the much appreciated prizes.

Sep 19

Art for Gas

My wife and I love to go on little excursions across Texas, and sometimes across the South when we have time, armed with a couple of cameras. Donna shoots mostly wildlife, and I am always on the hunt for, well, mostly anything that looks interesting that I might use to work out an oil or pastel.  An old barn, a landscape, city streets, or perhaps a person simply living life are things I find interesting.

Donna Miller Photography, 1st Place

Donna Miller, 1st Place in Photography

Sometimes we enter the results of our little mini trips in local art and photography shows. It’s always an interesting adventure to see what a judge may or may not give a nod to at these shows. And sometimes, we win a little money that helps to put some gas in the car or some bread on the table. September 18 we went to the Awards reception of the Grand Prairie Arts Council’s Annual Fall Show, a show we entered multiple pieces in. We were blessed to both win an award, and a bit of gas money, which these days is a huge help. It is always good to see a bit of fruit for the labor.

Donna won 1st Place in the Photography category with her photo of a group of Cormorants struggling to get air-born. She shot the photo down in Navarro County on one of our day trips, at the Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area near Corsicana, Texas. One of the cormorant’s struggle is magnified by the fact that it is carrying it’s supper with it – a good sized fish. The title of the photo is “Fishin’ for Supper”. (www.DonnaMillerPhotos.com)

2nd Place Oils at Grand Prairie Arts Council Fall ShowI had a couple of oils in the competition, a small one called “Fall Primaries” and another larger  one called “Autumn Music”, which depicts a man caring a guitar up the sidewalk in a neighborhood on an overcast day. I shot the photo reference while visiting Cleveland, Tennessee, a place where I spent several years in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Autumn Music won 2nd place in Oils in the competition.

The image reminds me of so many things in life. I don’t know this guitar man’s story, but he has a story to be sure. What dreams he may have dreamed when he was young – Perhaps he had dreams of Nashville.  What trials may have passed through his years? What disappointments might have staggered his steps? I paint what presents a story, what intriques me, and this one does.

 

 

This painting reminds me that there will be days when the sun don’t shine and the journey may be uphill all the way. But that’s ok. there is hope in the words of Christ when He said:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28 thru 30

Autumn Music won 2nd Place Oils

Autumn Music, 20 x 16 Oil on panel

Aug 30

An Artists Christmas

An Artists ChristmasMy wife Donna and I donated a couple of pieces of art and photography for this years fund raising gala, An Artists Christmas, for Camp Fire, held year at the Fort Worth Zoo. Our works, along with 80 other pieces from local artists, will be auctioned off at the event. The Gala is November 12. Click here for more information.

 

 

Jun 15

Do You Remember?

Memory is one of those functions of the brain that is most taken for granted, until it begins to slip away. God gave us the awesome creation of the brain… a small computer in our head that does all kinds of incredible things day in and day out. Recall of past events is one of those incredible things our brain does.

Remembering can be good and bad. Some things are best forgotten. If you break your wife’s favorite dish, the marriage would be best served if that particular incident was not remembered, but forgotten.  But some things are to be remembered because of the learning experience they provide, or because they contain warnings that would be best heeded. Deuteronomy 32:7 says  “Remember the days of old, Consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, Your elders, and they will tell you.”

Scripture also tell us to “remember our Creator” in Ecclesiastes, and to “remember His precepts” in Psalms. Remembering is a gift. It is beneficial and promotes the good.

Arizona at Pearl Harbor

Gun Turret No. 3 of the Arizona at the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Look close and you will see the oil that is still leaking…Black Tears.

I got to thinking about these ideas of remembering this past Memorial Day. To have a “memorial” is to intentionally remember. My wife and I were blessed to visit good friends in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu when this past Memorial Day rolled around. It was a pretty cool place to be on that holiday. The island has several military bases, and of course it is also rich in WWII history. Visiting the Pearl Harbor Museum and the Arizona Memorial were some of the highlights of the trip. Remembering what happened on December 7, 1941 was sobering, as well as a call to vigilance.

During the morning hours of December 7th, 2403 lives were lost, 1,177 of those were on the Arizona alone. The days and hours leading up to the attack were replete with careless attitudes, apathy and misinformation. That day at Pearl Harbor we stumbled in our vigilance and it cost us much.

While on Oahu, we stayed mostly on the Marine Corps Base Hawaii and on Ford Island. I was able to set up and paint several small pieces, both on and off the bases. Kaneohe Bay was one of my favorites as seen from the Marine Base, and the Northwest shore was another place I really liked. But then again, perhaps the beautiful beaches on Bellows Air Station were my favorite. Too many places that were absolutely stunning; each declaring God’s creative glory.

Plein Air oil on panel of Rabbit Island off Oahu's Coast

7 x 12 Oil on panel painted on location on Bellows Air Station on Oahu, looking at Rabbit Island just off Kaupo Beach.

Easel Setup at Bellows Air Station

Pochade box at Bellows Air Station, Oahu, looking towards Rabbit island

When I remember Pearl Harbor, I can’t help but see the parallels between that tragedy that took place in 1941 and the spiritual tragedy that is taking place in our nation now. Our nation slumbers as it declines morally, our institution of marriage crumbles and families weaken and no longer provide the protection God intended. Meanwhile, we sit on the beaches of the past, staring out at what we believe to be a clam, peaceful ocean. We are clueless of the tsunami that is gaining speed as it moves towards all we know and hold dear.

One last thought about remembering from an old book that contains the “Light of Life”:

‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. Revelation 3:3

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