Gearing Down

May 22, 2016


You enter the raw edge of your mind; the naked line between you and your surroundings drops away. Whoever you are or think you are cracks off.

Natalie Goldberg, The Great Spring

The final day of an art festival always finds me tired and seated in the shade, looking for a subject to sketch. Reading Natalie Goldberg put me in a quality state of mind (I absolutely love writers with a Buddhist core), and looking up from my book at the tree in front of my booth, I could not help but gaze at the bark textures and twisting, serpentine lines of the grain. Alas, I had no pencil. But I decided to give it a try anyway, with a ballpoint pen. Within minutes, I was absorbed into the tree, and it no longer mattered that the Sunday-morning crowd was thin. As a student of art history, I have read of the form-creating possibilities of line when drawing with ink, but I have experimented so little myself with it. The morning has been sweet with this quiet space for drawing.

Thanks for reading.
I draw in order to learn.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Assessing the Weekend

May 15, 2016


The weekend plein air escape has been a respite-my only pause in the midst of a string of workshops and art festivals. While gazing on this stretch of sand dunes along the Gulf yesterday, I tried to solve the colors of the greenery and dried stalks spiking up out of them. Part of me wants to cut this loose (I’ve already signed it), and yet another part wishes to take out a liner brush and do some dark green-to-black calligraphy  in the midst of my greenery, as I did frequently on the island last summer. I’m delighted that I’ll get to return to the Laguna Madre in a few weeks, as I’ll miss this coastal area when I leave today.
One excellent part of this weekend escape has been trying out for the first time my Sienna pochade box and  MeFoto RoadTrip tripod. They worked magnificently, and I didn’t miss my battered, fragile duct-taped Winsor & Newton plein air easel. The latter had served its purpose, accompanying me on countless excursions throughout the years, and paying for itself many times over. But it was well past time to retire it with honors.
It’s raining cats and dogs on the coast now, so there won’t be any painting today. Unfortunately I still have a long, long drive home.
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.

Plein Air Watercoloring on the Texas Coast

May 14, 2016


I knew I only had Saturday to paint on the coast, with it being such a long drive. But I decided I needed to try out my new plein air easel, and wanted to look closely at the Gulf of Mexico and sand dunes. I’m happy with my first try, though the sun got hotter than I desired.


May 10, 2016


Art has to reveal to us ideas, formless spiritual essences.  The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring.

James Joyce, Ulysses

Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

Late last night, while trying to read Ulysses, I came across the above passage and just had to close the book and my eyes for a spell.  I needed some kind of epiphany, coming off a scintillating week of plein air painting activity in Arkansas and re-entering my high school to face a pile of work from my weeklong absence.  It was like plunging into a warm summer pond after leaving a sauna.  I had no idea how a single Monday could suck all the creative aspirations out of me, but I guess that is how the daily job can be.  Today is better, because I’m feeling the inspiration once again that fueled my desires last week.

I have an incredibly busy two weeks facing me before I leave for another round of art festivals and plein air workshop activity.  There is so much preparation that goes into leaving for these activities, and I enjoy most of those details, especially the anticipation of the events.  But at the same time, I have this need to stop, rest, contemplate, and make new art.  I have always believed that quality art comes out of the depths, and for me there is no depth when I am covered up in social encounters.  The book I read last year that has come to mean so much to me, Hamlet’s Blackberry, by William Powers, urged to the reader that depth is sacrificed when one’s life is immersed in social media.  I could not agree more.  The art events that have enveloped me the past several weeks (with more to come) have taken me to the heights, but alas, I am not making art, not exploring new frontiers, and feel that a significant part of me is drying up.  I’m glad that I know how to fix this; I just need to find a way to adjust my daily calendar in order to get back to drawing and painting.

I apologize if this has come out as a “whiny” blog (I detest those!). I suppose that what I’m putting  out there right now is more of my private journal musings.  But still, there may be many of you who need to read these kinds of things, so thanks for reading.

I paint in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

On the Road

May 8, 2016


Embarking on my 7.5 hour drive home would fill me with a state of sadness were it not for the blessed fact that I’ll return in 2 weeks to Eureka Springs, Arkansas for another week of plein air painting. The clear, warm light of the Arkansas sun on this Mother’s Day morning is lighting up the day like no other.
So my shift today is from Thoreau’s Walden to Kerouac’s On the Road, driving through Arkansas’s mountains and listening to the sweet guitar stains of Michael Hedges.
I’m grateful to savor this day and last week’s memories.

Closing Out the White River Plein Air Competition

May 7, 2016


Best of Show winner, Susan Hurst

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.  I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.  It’s thin current slides away, but eternity remains.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

This week in Cotter, Arkansas has been so enchanting for anyone wishing to pursue artistic bliss.  As for myself, I’ve enjoyed the perfect balance of plein air watercolor sketching and fly fishing in the White and Norfork Rivers.  The artists and fishermen surrounding me throughout the week have had their ways of affecting the quality of the day (Thoreau’s words) and I appreciate the special memories each has planted in my heart. I frequently return to Thoreau’s sentiments, posted above. All the sensations I enjoy throughout the passing of my days stand in bold relief against that backdrop of eternity.  The engagement of actvities is always in motion as I continue to pursue that moving target, especially the target of making art that satisfies.  And all the while I pursue the artistic dream, I realize that my works of art always pale against that backdrop of Art.  Art is eternity.  Matthew Arnold wrote it best: “Art still has truth. Take refuge there.”  As long as art remains my refuge, then I suppose I could testify that I am “living the dream.”

Today I had the formidable task of judging the works in oil, watercolor and pastel created throughout this past week.  I have posted above the Best of Show winner Susan Hurst with her exquisite oil landscape.  The cool, atmospheric colors of her distant hills along with those fabulous warm colors in the foreground took my breath away.  I should be taking plein air lessons from her.  I found her to be a precious soul when we got to chat after the judging.  It always bothers me that I don’t get to spend quality time bonding with these artists throughout the week, but playing the role of judge, I feel that they need to be free of my presence, and certainly should not feel that I am hovering about their easels as they create.  So, I remain as incognito as possible, finally stepping into their circle to talk frankly once the judging is done.  I’m glad I finally got to talk at length with Susan, with Marty Coulter (who won last night’s Quick Draw competition along with today’s first place in works on canvas), and Lorraine McFarland (featured below).  I also got to meet over a dozen other artists during this afternoon’s gathering.

Below, I have posted the winner of the works on paper category, Lorraine McFarland, with her pastel landscape.  In talking with her afterward, I learned a great deal about underpainting pastel works with watercolor, and the different looks created by soft, buttery pastels scumbled over the hard ones.  I am delighted to learn that Lorraine, along with one and possible two of the other artists, will be attending the week-long Eureka Springs plein air event coming up in just a few weeks.  I will be there as well.  What a reunion!  For years I have loved the camaraderie of fellow festival artists as we see each other annually at art festivals that mean so much to us.  But this will be the first time in a few years that I have gotten to bond with other plein air artists at such events.

Lorraine McFarland

First Place winner, works on paper, Lorraine McFarland

Before leaving Cotter, I just had to post this adorable photo I took of a ground hog munching bread right outside my cafe window a few days ago.  He ate so much, that he eventually had to sit while eating, and then recline as he continued to eat!  I laughed so hard, taking as many pictures as I could.  This one is my favorite.

ground hog standing

I don’t know what else to add, but to say Thank You to the White River Artists, especially the officers of the organization, for making my stay so delightful, and for providing such a rich forum for these plein air painters to pursue their passions.  The week has been so enriching to my soul, and I love every one of you.

And thanks to all of you who take time to read these words.

I paint in order to find myself.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Surrounded by Beauty

May 6, 2016

fly fishing 2016

Bill Barksdale Photo of David Tripp in the River

fly fishing 2016 part 2

Bill Barksdale Photo of David Tripp in the River

My friend Bill Barksdale picked me up again at six this morning to spend one more day on the river.  Again, the weather was magnificent and the water had beautiful clarity.  As for the fly fishing, I did not manage to land any brown trout, but I certainly sent many of them scurrying for cover.

My responsibilities today were to judge the Quick Draw event which was held this evening. I’m posting the winner today, a gorgeous oil that was done in under 90 minutes en plein air.  quick draw

This is an amazing group of artists, and tomorrow’s judging of all the work done this week will be more formidable than today’s Quick Draw event.

Thanks for reading. It’s been another remarkable day in Cotter, Arkansas.

Soothing Moments in the River

May 5, 2016


brown trout 1 photoshopped

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.
Norman Maclean

My friend Bill Barksdale arrived at my door at 6 a.m. and we made our second journey to the waters, this time the White River.  The water levels were low and sluggish, and so were the trout, but I did manage to coax this 5-inch brown to take my fly. Fortunately, I was able to lift his sweet face out of the waters for a portrait, and then a quick release.

I was pleased with the kind of photo my Samsung phone was able to make, but Bill went to work with his high-end camera and took several shots to record our morning:  I’m surprised that I’m not scowling more deeply as this river has required tiny flies that my eyes don’t see as well as they did in younger days.



I could not have dialed up a more perfect day, spending most of it in the river. Watching trout rise to sip flies from the surface (except for mine), thrills me to the core.  For much of the morning, I gazed at row after row of trout, lined up to feed on whatever drifted past them (except for my own flies), their tails and fins undulating softly in the current.  All of it produced such hypnotic sensations, and I felt that I could have watched these sights for days.  And wade fishing in trout streams has always settled my pulse rate.  The past week has been fast-paced for me, with much travel, many daily appointments and responsibilities, and plenty of second-guessing.  I now face two consecutive days of judging art competitions, but tomorrow’s will be held late in the day, and then Saturday’s will happen in the morning. Fortunately for me, the activities are spread out, allowing me quality time to unwind between my responsibilities.  And so far, I’ve managed the perfect blend of making watercolors outside and fly fishing.  The week has flown by at warp speed and I’m astonished tonight to realize I have only two full days remaining at this event, before journeying back home to return to my full-time job.  I’m confident that once I return home, my batteries will be charged sufficiently for me to resume my duties.

Thanks for staying with me this week.



Living the Dream

May 4, 2016

Cotter Bridge lampposts

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.
Langston Hughes

My best friend told me a couple of weeks ago (upon learning that I would be engaged in art festivals and workshops heavily in April and May) that I was “living the dream.”  I didn’t realize when I heard those words that she was right–this is what I love doing, and the gift has been laid at my feet.

I have been too exhausted to blog over the past day or so, and am trying now, with a second wind, to catch up.  The two-day workshop in Cotter, Arkansas for the White River Artists finished yesterday, and I was sitting up in the night, watching the St. Louis Blues (my home team) play the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup playoffs, when the phone rang, and my dear friend Bill Barksdale was inviting me to go fishing in the morning.  Bill is an astonishing photographer, and I have pored over the shots he took of me in the White River years ago, including this one:

fishing the White River

He arrived at six this morning, and drove us to the Norfork River.  I hadn’t caught a trout in three years (disgusting fact), and this morning I landed three rainbows and lost another. I can’t describe the sensations I felt, stepping into the river again, and finally holding a trout in my wet hands.  We used barbless hooks, so there was little effort in removing them and releasing those beautiful creatures back into the wild.  Watching a released trout swim away also stirs my heart.  Bill just phoned awhile ago, and he’s coming back again in the morning.  Six o’clock.  Wish it was now!  Bill is one of the most accomplished fly fishermen I know, with an intimate knowledge of the local rivers here that he’s fished since he was a teenager.  He is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to understanding fly patterns and what works in these waters.  I always know I’m going to be successful with his guidance.

After spending some time driving around and enjoying the landscape, Bill and I joined his wife Sandy (whom I hadn’t seen in years) for lunch and I got to converse with these two friends I’ve missed greatly during this long gap.  Sandy is a watercolorist with a reputation spreading across Arkansas and Texas (and probably other areas as well).

When I returned to my hotel room, I felt too tired to perform my next required task–a 4:00 watercolor demo for the plein air artists who arrived today for the first day of the White River Plein Air event.  Once I met them and felt their gracious manner, however, I quickly got in the mood to paint and cranked out a watercolor sketch in about an hour (I’m not posting it, because I dislike it, even though they said nice things about the work).

Coming home, I sat outside my hotel room to gaze at the golden late-afternoon sunlight. Opening my journal to write, I looked up and saw the light playing off the pair of lamp posts at the entrance of the Cotter Bridge, and thought it so lovely that I unpacked my gear and did a watercolor sketch of them, because I had to. And as I sketched, I wondered what I had ever done to deserve moments such as this. The answer came quickly: Nothing. I had done nothing to deserve this; it was a Gift. And I deeply appreciate the Gift. I appreciate every invitation to Live the Dream.

Thanks for reading. Please, keep dreaming. Dreams keep us alive, keep us believing.


Up early for another round

May 3, 2016


It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do.  To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.  Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Rarely do I retire to bed before 9:30, but I hardly remember last night.  Driving through severe rain storms from Arlington to Tyler, Texas for a one-day workshop, and then driving another six-and-a-half hours to Cotter, Arkansas for a two-day workshop took its toll finally.  My hosts have offered wonderful accommodations and hospitality, but finally I physically and mentally cratered.  Last night I wanted to blog, and did in fact put something up, but don’t care to return and read it.

The six o’clock alarm found me refreshed, optimistic and oh so happy to go the next round.  Today will be my final workshop day, followed by some days of demonstrating and judging a plein air competition, but the hardest part of the schedule is just one full day away from completion.  So glad to be rested!  And so glad I set the alarm for a three-hour cushion before going to class. Can’t wait to see the participants again, absolutely love their drive to paint!

Henry Thoreau is a man I wish to God I could have met and spent time with.  So grateful am I that he cared enough about us to leave behind such precious words.  I’m angered every time I read of how his fellow citizens regarded him as a waste of a life when he died at forty-four without ever holding down a regular job.  His two books were failures in his lifetime.  Yet when his family opened his locked trunk after his death, they found over four million words of publishable print.  Why did he write and save all those manuscript pages after his failed publications? Because he believed he had something to say and that someday there would be grateful souls with hands outstretched to receive his message.  I am one of those hungry souls. His every word nourishes me.

My waking thought at six a.m. was the quote I’ve posted above.  I love carving out pieces of the world to put onto paper for myself and others to view, but wish all-the-more to carve and paint the atmosphere through which I peer daily and thereby to live a more artful, satisfying life for myself and others.

Trout Lodge bridge

Early morning attempt

It is a chilly fifty-one degrees early this morning in Cotter, Arkansas.  Yet the sun is bright and warm enough that I decided to pull up a table outside my lodge door and do a quick watercolor study of this magnificent Cotter Bridge just one hundred feet from my door. My fingers finally stiffened enough in the cold that I decided I pushed this one far enough and have a good record to take back to the studio.  No doubt this subject would make a beautiful painting to frame one day.

It’s nearly time to leave for class now.  Thank you always for reading and spending some of your morning with me.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.


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