William Burroughs–Life is a Cut Up

Dry brush study of a tree

So, what does the Beat writer William Burroughs have to do with a tree?  I’m spending some time in the book Ports of Entry: William S. Burroughs and the Arts.  I have always gotten a kick out of his “cut ups” and I myself used to pursue collage quite seriously.  But during this past week or so (while the blog has unfortunately lay dormant) some disparate elements have been “composting” within my consciousness, and I’m now trying to find a way to bring them to the surface.

I don’t want to say I am facing dissatisfaction with my watercolor work.  Rather, I am creating a rather unsatisfying body of work as I’m experimenting with new images and studying new techniques and approaches.  Currently I am trying to solve some “tree” problems–I have never, ever, been satisfied with my watercolor trees, though many have spoken very well of them.  My actual foliage (to me) is nothing more than Jackson Pollock techniques that somehow translate into foliage.  Right now, I’m staring at leaf clusters of various trees in parks and in neighborhoods as I drive daily, and have decided it is time to figure out how to capture their structure, or “essence” if I want to go in the direction of the “canons” of Xie He.

I’m getting closer to what I want with the tree bark, though I must confess I spend hours gazing longingly at Andrew Wyeth dry brush studies.  What a Gift he was!

To return to my rambling discourse (perhaps I should edit this carefully before sending it up the flagpole), I’m comparing some of the remarks of William Burroughs in writing with statements I have pulled up from the Autobiography of William Carlos Williams and his ideas that launched Imagism in poetry, and also some real gems from The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell.  In all three of these brilliant minds, I see this idea of “abstracting” from daily life the elements that arrest our attention and rendering them artistically in some form or fashion.  This is what I am trying to do with trees (and Victorian homes and simple framed buildings, etc.–it never ends!).

I’m going to try again today to get some watercoloring done.  I did manage that on Sunday and Monday, but the work was really God-awful bad to look at, so I kept it off the blog (I know, it goes against my principles of what blogging is all about, but really, the recent work is really bad!).

Thanks for reading.

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6 Responses to “William Burroughs–Life is a Cut Up”

  1. lesliepaints Says:

    Hi David,

    Love this post and what you talk about. I know none of these authors you are referring to, but recall that you spent some time with pouring paint a while back and then back to your Wyeth drybrushing. I can only speak from experience. If I thought I had to render what I saw in one specific way, always, to achieve some kind of likeness from one work to the next, I would go mad. Each finished piece, for me, is about the way I see, at that moment, and is a reflection of the tools that inspire me at that moment. The order happens on the page and not from painting to painting. Like trees. Oh yes, there are similarities, but they are as much about differences as similarities and I’d rather paint what I see and feel at that moment. Technique I practice to keep in my back pocket for those times when the subject screams for something. Interesting all you share this post. Like that very much.


  2. davidtripp Says:

    Thanks so much, Leslie,

    I love listening to another artist revealing what goes on in the thinking/creative process (that’s why I love reading Motherwell’s writings). Interest take you have, describing the way your vision focuses on the paintings one-by-one. I think my better work happens that way. Lately, I have had several side-by-side pieces of “in progress” work, and I am starting to suffer some distraction by this.

    I’m seriously considering walking away from the works on progress and just doing a series of plein air watercolor sketches and dry brush renderings–at least that is what I have in mind with the trees right now.

    Thanks again for letting me hear your perspective.


    • lesliepaints Says:

      I read Linda’s comment and then re-read mine. I apologise if I sounded a bit trite in mine. I was not criticising your style. I believe, wholeheartedly, that an artist’s style shines through any experimenting and that is what I meant by mentioning the pouring. Your style shone through even in those, regardless of the new techniques attempted. I think they are two different things.


      • davidtripp Says:

        Oh my, Leslie! I took no offense from anything your wrote, and I certainly found nothing trite in your last post. In fact, I’m going to try (today or tomorrow–what a dreaded school week!) to put some of the things to work that you and I exchanged–about letting each piece stand on its own as a self-contained composition.

        Every comment you have made has been treasured, and has helped me grow in my experiences making art. I note with pleasure that you and Linda both give me great direction and great ideas to ponder and explore.

        Please, never second-guess what you write. We artists need each others’ observations, and appreciate that they are always sensitively given, never trite, and thankfully, never hurtful.

        I hope your own painting is giving you pleasure lately. Mine has not! I’ve had several dry runs, and also several days of not even getting into the studio. This has to end! I would like to put something new on the blog that represents some progress.


  3. lindahalcombfineart Says:

    David, You have a very specific style. Be careful how you modify it. We all must evolve and grow and learn but never lose the “David” in the painting. Your sketch of the tree is full of movement and life. Like you have been doing, the solution is probably looking and studying what you like but never lose your own uniqueness.


  4. davidtripp Says:

    Wow, thank you Linda. Others have said what you just wrote, and, to be honest, I still have a blind eye to what my “style” is. But I’m so glad to know that I have some king of a “signature” that is recognizable by others. There was concern earlier that, once I switched to color and discarded my sepia-toned works, I would compromise my style. No one has expressed that, saying “I like the old stuff better,” so I guess I’m still chipping away at the style. The past week has been quite barren with very unsatisfactory stuff flowing from my brush, but we’ll see what happens when the weekend arrives. I guess I’ve too much other stuff interfering with what I’m trying to do.

    Thanks again, Linda. Your comments are always pointed, and greatly appreciated.


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