Archive for March, 2011

Memory Lane: Trautwein’s Red Goose Shoes on Gravois, St. Louis, Missouri

March 29, 2011

Trautweins Red Goose Shoes, 5227 Gravois, St. Louis

After two consecutive mornings of rising at 4:30 in order to devote one hour to watercoloring, I’m finally getting some projects finished, though my eyes are burning intolerably right now.  Today I finished my diptych of the 8 x 10″ Eureka Springs paintings.  After school, I returned to the above piece and believe it is now finished.

As a child, I was inundated with Red Goose Shoes commercials, though I never bought a pair.  This sign on 5227 Gravois, southwest of downtown St. Louis, I recall seeing time and time again.  Last Christmas, while visiting St. Louis, I poked around the remnants of Route 66 that wound in strange fashion through the city of St. Louis, and fortunately had bright sunlight and plenty of snow to provide a great shot of the defunct storefront. As I took my photos, I felt that warm “Proustian” remembrance of special things past.

Throughout my elementary school years, I raced home daily after school so I could watch The Three Stooges, The Little Rascals, and other assorted programs  my parents deemed “inappropriate.”  Nevertheless, they were aired on local children’s programming, such as Captain 11 Showboat.  As I watched daily, lucky children sitting in the “peanut gallery” (I believe that designation actually came from Howdy Doody) would win a box of shoes from Red Goose Shoes, along with the Golden Egg filled with prizes.

As stated in an earlier blog, I’m delighted to find a Red Goose Shoes vintage sign in Sundance Square, downtown Fort Worth, about twenty minutes from where I live.  My intention is to capture that in watercolor soon.

Thank you for reading.

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4:30 A.M. in the Painter’s Studio

March 29, 2011

Eureka Springs, Arkansas Flat-Iron Building

This morning, I entered the garage studio at 4:30 and worked on this for one hour.  Now, I sit in my darkened classroom–ambient perimeter lamps providing the only light, and pause to write in my journal, reflect, and perhaps put out one more blog on this piece.  The last piece contained somewhat of a rant–I was tired and ready for bed, yet I choose not to erase it.  I’m not pleased with my school district, or with our state legislature that has made decisions leading to the demise of public education funding in Texas.  But I’ve written all I intend to on that subject.  This day began with art, so it promises to be a good day.

No signature yet, but this painting is nearly finished.  As I pause and look over it, I realize that tinkering with details and “finish” work tend to suck the freshness and spontaneity out of a watercolor.  So it is likely that I will just add a signature and let it go.  I’m very happy with the last two 8 x 10″ pieces of the historic Eureka Springs business district.  My brief sojourn there during Spring Break was a cold and overcast one, nevertheless I managed to take a few photos, and am very pleased that I recorded the experience, and, I believe, these two paintings do indeed reflect an overcast, winter light.  In a more perfect world, I would have a painter’s studio on the top corner floor of this flat-iron.  Monet gushed that he didn’t have to leave his backyard at Giverny to find compositions to paint during his final decades.  I believe that if I could look out from this top floor, over the scintillating Eureka Springs town, that I could very well say the same.

Thanks for reading, and have a fabulous, artful day.

Five A.M. in the Painter’s Studio

March 28, 2011

Worm's-Eye View of Eureka Springs Business District

As an aging teacher, I have become certain of two things: (1) A man’s character is his fate, and (2) days that begin with art are better than those that do not.

(99% of that opening statement is not original, but as a creed, I offer it as 100% heartfelt)

For those of you who have followed my blogs, you are aware that I am suffering a slow-burn of fury and indignation that our school district (superintendent actually) has chosen to postpone (probably cancel) the International Baccalaureate Diploma program that my high school was going to inaugurate in 2012.  With that action, my heart/intellect was brutally amputated, and going to school every day I now find to be extremely difficult.

This morning, I rose at 4:30, went to the garage/studio (wow, the cold front had dropped temperatures to the 40’s!), and painted on the above work for about 90 minutes.  I found the experience so affirming and satisfying (something that has largely disappeared from the daily school routine) that I seriously believe I will try it again in the morning.

My college painting professor rose before dawn to paint in his studio, and usually expressed chagrin that he didn’t see that kind of “drive” in us when we dragged into the painting studio in the afternoons.  I am now about the age he was then, and I think I see his perspective.  At any rate, painting is a healing salve for me now, and I’ll continue to look for ways to pursue it.  By entering the studio at 5:00 a.m., I give to art the best part of my day, the best part of me.

Thank you for reading.

Eureka Springs Flat-Iron Building from the Extreme Ground Level

March 27, 2011

Worms-Eye View of Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Finally I return to the garage studio and get some quality painting time in.  I could not paint Thursday through Saturday due to high school and university teaching responsibilities, the hanging of a new show that finished last night, and attending a wonderful seven-hour symposium on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby.  Today I was privileged to sleep until nearly noon (only 4 1/2 hours’ sleep the night before) and then enter to paint for a while this afternoon.

This watercolor is only 8 x 12″ and the detail is slowing me down, but that’s a good thing at this point.  I have been working on rather large compositions, and have tried to work on large splashy wet-on-wet surfaces, which have yielded their rewards.  But now it’s nice for me to focus on small, minute details, and today I was thinking of J. M. W. Turner’s early watercolor and pencil compositions, particularly the wonderful small piece he did of Tintern Abbey cathedral.  I also mused over some of Andrew Wyeth’s smaller pencil and drybrush renderings.  I like to go back and forth between the splashy and the tight.  I go down  a dozen avenues as I think of these contrasts–Apollo vs. Dionysus, drafting vs. painting, Neo-Classical vs. Romantic art, and on and on.  Frankly, I’ve always been on the tight side, many would say the “anal” side of the artistic enterprise.  Three of my college painting professors said I did colored drawings, and they called it right.

Anyway, all of this to say–today I have fed the Apollo side.  I’m a little drowsy now–the past three days of intensive work are still taking a toll on me.  I’m thinking seriously of an afternoon cat-nap, and–if I revive sufficienty–an evening of further work in the studio.  I would really like to listen to this muse before I have to return to school (ugh!) in the morning.

Thanks for reading.

Lunch at a Romantic Mountain Town Getaway

March 23, 2011

Romantic Musings

Pausing for a romantic luncheon in the historic business district of Eureka Springs, Arkansas last weekend, my wife and I could not stop gazing down at Spring Street  below us.  The more I looked, the more I thought of Edward Hopper’s birds-eye views of New York City that he painted so enchantingly.  I realized that I had never tried this, so it was time.  I have posted a link to the Basin Park Hotel, where we enjoyed lunch, and this fabulous balcony view.  The link shows the flat-iron building across the street that anchors this composition.  http://www.eurekavacation.com/basin/

I am so pleased to get in-and-out of a small painting so quickly (this one is 8 x 10″ and will be available for $300 unframed).  I never thought it possible (for myself) to get so much minute detail crammed into such a small working space, and to be nearly finished this quickly.  I began on Sunday afternoon (the day after the luncheon), and have posted the picture as it appeared Tuesday.  I have yet to finish the handrails in the foreground, and still have some decisions to make on the overall composition (perhaps some broad darker tones in the background landscape, or the row of brick buildings–I don’t know yet).

My wife has suggested a diptych, again, something I have never tried in watercolor groupings.  I like the idea, so now I have the second one underway of the flat iron building, viewed from the end–an extreme low-angle view (worms-eye?).  The wet and sloppy sky is still drying, hence I pause to blog for a bit.  This second one is also 8 x 10″ and will be extremely, minutely detailed (I hope).

My poetic muse companions the past three days have been Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams.  I’m filled with a sense of wonder as I contemplate their theories of Imagism (Williams: “No ideas but in things”) and for the moment am attempting paintings of subjects that have no long-term personal history with me (The first time I visited Eureka Springs was last summer) but nevertheless arrest me with their grace and beauty.  In the cities I have always been fascinated with the co-existence of cosmetically beautiful objects and utilitarian ugly ones.  Ezra Pound noted in one of his literary essays that James Joyce juxtaposed the beautiful and the ugly in his stories.  Pound referred to these as the “bass and treble” of his arrangements.  Thus, in this painting (and the next) I am trying to present the  objects in which the tourist’s eye takes delight, as well as those which are either abhorred, or not even noticed at all.

One final thing I wish to point out–on that particular day in Eureka Springs, it was cold, windy, overcast, and there was absolutely no light or shadow to pick up on the objects.  I photographed it all anyway, and have chosen to paint it anyway.  Though the afternoon was a romantic one, it was nevertheless the last day of winter, and winter weather was in the air.  I tried to capture that gray, overcast, chilly atmosphere in the painting.

Thanks for reading.

An Edward Hopper Perspective of Eureka Springs, Arkansas

March 22, 2011

Second-Story View of Historic Eureka Springs, Arkansas

My pulse is pounding to paint, and it’s been so hard to find the quality time.  The last days of winter were spent last week in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  I’m doing this small (12 x 14″) watercolor composition from a photo I took from the balcony of a cool hotel in the historic district of this town.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity of trying out an “Edward Hopper” perspective, as I recall that he composed some of his New York City watercolors and oils from this high-angle view.  I seem to recall the French Impressionist Camille Pissaro doing the same with his “modern” Paris and its expanding boulevards.

So much is surging through me these recent days.  I’ve been indulging in Imagist poetry from Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Willliams, and now am re-reading James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I’ll have more to say of all that later, hopefully today.  I just walked away from the painting to allow it sufficient time to dry.  I’m itching to get back and work some more.  This particular scene definitely has my attention.

Thanks for reading.

T. S. Eliot poetry and Victorian Architecture Watercolor

March 16, 2011

Weatherford Victorian House

Aside from house cleaning (which was more interesting than usual), the day was given to reading T. S. Eliot and chipping away at my Victorian watercolor in the garage.  A nice cool day, and clear skies made the ambience ideal for painting.  My buddy David Slight also came by in the afternoon, and stayed the rest of the day, completing his third watercolor (posted previously) which came out superb.  I’ll probably retire to bed with Eliot’s “Four Quartets” still tumbling about in my consciousness.  What an amazing man of words!  I hope someday to render images in paint as clearly and attractively as he did in words.

Thanks for reading.

David Slight paints his Third Watercolor in my Garage

March 16, 2011

Sail Away

My name is David Slight.  I am sitting in David Tripp’s “studio” as it is and continuing on my own personal water color development under Dave’s watchful eye.  Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in one ear, on a record player no less,  and Dave Tripp’s tutelage in the other.  Bliss!!!  With the development of this talent, I am seriously considering a blog site of my own.  This is my third water color to finish under Dave’s encouragement and critique and already I am finding myself trying to experiment on my own and figure things out without having to stop him in his work to ask, “What do I do next?”  Several times during this watercolor setting he would look up and ask, “Focused?”  I am not sure I even answered.  Amazingly  I have found myself lost in this art and time essentially vanished for the afternoon.  My last question to him today was, “When do you call it finished?”  I am not sure he had an answer for me, but I am calling this one finished and already looking forward to study under David some more.

Hi!  I’m David Tripp, and I approved this ad!  I’ll be posting my stuff in due time, but wanted to encourage Dave to “send his stuff up the flagpole” and feel the thrill of blogging one’s art endeavors.

Druidic Texas Tree in Winter Dry Brush

March 15, 2011

Druidic Texas Tree in Winter Dry Brush

It’s nearly 10:00 p.m.  I have Muddy Waters playing on my turntable in the garage, and I’m suddenly seized with this compulsion to try an Andrew Wyeth-style drybrush of a Texas winter tree I photographed a few days ago while fly fishing in rural Hillsboro.  I was out fishing with a long-time buddy of mine from Lamar High School days–a custodian who always looked out for me in those days when I struggled as an inexperienced art teacher.

The crappie were hitting pretty good that day, but I couldn’t stop staring at this winter tree out in the overgrown pasture near the pond where I fished.  The Texas landscape is strewn with these druidic-looking trees, dripping with character.  The entire winter scene that afternoon looked like an Andrew Wyeth drybrush or tempera.  I have never been satisfied with my watercolor trees.  Something is still missing.  So, again I give it the old college try.  I need to capture that “essence” as the 6th-century Chinese painting master would have it.  I have a strong feeling that I will be giving this one multiple tries this week–it’s really gotten under my skin.  There are a host of subjects that hold my attention in watercolor, but these Texas winter trees always escape my brush and pencil.  So, let’s see what happens this week.

Thanks for reading.  Spring Break has been absolutely wonderful for a musing watercolorist!

Exploring Edward Hopper with Victorian Architecture

March 15, 2011
 

Victorian cropped

Revisiting Edward Hopper and Victorian Architecture

Spring Break has afforded quality watercolor time, and it is only Tuesday evening.  Daylight Saving Time has given me more quality outdoor light in the afternoon/evening as well.  The garage studio environment has been sublime for painting, reading, journaling and blogging.  I moved my antiquated stereo into the garage and am now enjoying a turntable that I haven’t played in a couple of years. Currently, I’m enjoying a pirated double-LP recording of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Live at the Los Angeles Forum 6-26-1970.  Standing in waiting is a large stack of blues LPs–Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lonnie Johnson, Brownie McGhee, B. B. King, Son House, John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson.

The pictures posted above are my attempt to paint a Victorian mansion I have admired for years, situated high atop a hill in Weatherford, Texas, along Highway 180.  A couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday, I was en route to the Brazos River near Possum Kingdom to do some fly fishing for recently-stocked rainbow trout.  The sun was strong that morning, and as I drove past this mansion, I had to pull over, turn around, return, get out and shoot some photos of it.  Finally I’m getting around to attempting my first watercolor on full-size paper (about 30 x 22″) with nearly 2/3 of the composition being hillside.  I’m flying blind here–don’t have any idea what I’m going to do with all this grass!  However, the mansion is coming along satisfactorily, and if I decide the grass isn’t working out, I can always take this to the paper cutter!  That should relieve some of the pressure I feel.

T. S. Eliot has been my companion for the day.  I’ve been spending plenty of time in “The Waste Land,” and am now reading the Eliot chapter in Howard Gardner’s Creating Minds. I’m fascinated with this poet, and am pleased that I can learn from his creative endeavor, even if he struggled over language the way I do over drawing.  I just finished reading a letter he wrote to his brother, explaining that he chose to write fewer pieces, concentrating on perfection and making each completed piece an “event” rather than being merely “prolific” and publishing pieces everywhere.  My goal in 2010 was to be prolific, as I have averaged less than twenty watercolors per year.  I completed nearly one hundred in 2010.  This year however, with my first ever one-man-show scheduled for September, I am concentrating on fewer and larger compositions, attempting to make every complete painting worthy of framing.  I know that is plenty to expect, but nevertheless, I am trying for quality over productivity this year.

And I’m certainly pushing some boundaries.  One of Edward Hopper’s neighboring artists commented that Hopper planned out each of his oils completely before he even started the composition.  The neighbor thought that was “a terrible way to paint, because you aren’t discovering anything.”  The critic went on to express admiration for Hopper’s watercolors “because in them you seem him experimenting all the time.”  I’m trying to keep this thought before me, and push each new piece I begin in a direction not familiar to me.  I don’t want to settle into any kind of “hack work,” pushing out watercolors for the trade.  So .  . . with this Victorian set high atop a hill, I try to complete my first Victorian in entirety (all my previous works are only partial studies of Victorian buildings, never completed), and I also try to devote some attention to a large plot of cultivated property.  We’ll see how it goes . . .

Thanks for reading.