An Entire Saturday of Plein Air Watercolor Activity, Some of it Good

Red Goose Shoes, Sundance Square, Fort Worth, Texas

This was an unbelievable Saturday (yesterday, May 7).  I set out early in the Jeep and came to rest in sun-washed downtown Fort Worth, Texas.  Sundance Square is a delicious setting with an abundance of historic sites that I wish to watercolor, hopefully very soon.  So, here is my first sketch of Red Goose Shoes (sign only, the store below long gone) next to the historic theater, formerly the AMC Sundance 11, at 304 Houston Street.  It also is long gone (suites of meeting rooms now) though the facade is still intact.

I remain deeply dissatisfied at my own watercolor sketches.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love watercolor sketches and gaze at them for hours–just other people’s watercolor sketches!  I have come to appreciate more my own “finished” watercolor paintings.  The spontaneity of a well-done on-site sketch I recognize in other artists, just not my own.  But, I’ll get there.

The experience of sitting in a cool shade and sketching the facade of this building and magnificent sign defies description.  I worked on it for about 34 minutes (I’m so obsessive/compulsive with the journal I keep at hand–10:08 until 10:42!), and the result was very bad.  I’m not sure if I’ve already posted this in a previous blog (not sure if I’m thinking too much or just getting old), but I’m reading with great delight Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit.  This amazing artist/teacher is truly prophetic in the writings he has left behind.  The testimony of his “presence” and power to inspire others around him is well-documented.  In reading him, I laughed, being caught off guard at one of his remarks–few artists can finish a painting because they cannot seem to start one well.  Ouch!  Many, many of my paintings start out very badly, and I find myself working slavishly to “rescue” them.  Some just have to be abandoned.

So here I was, with another bad start to a plein air watercolor sketch, though I was truly “in the moment” and enjoying the outdoors immensely–every sound, smell and sight absorbed into my excited and receptive pores.  I love the bustle of a city waking up on a weekend.

I packed my gear together and proceeded south on Houston Street to duck into a Starbuck’s enjoy a tall bottle of cold water, fiddle around on my laptop (so much delicious correspondence to enjoy, thanks to the blog, Facebook, email–thanks all of you!) and to take another look at this.

I took out my journal and made critical notes, then returned to my painting spot, enriched the reds, detailed the sign, tried to load in some better contrast, and delineate the bricks in the white facade.  Finally, the painting appeared to do all it could, and each new stroke seemed to diminish it, so I quit, and moved on to the next location, which I will record next, in “Part 2.”

I have posted other “Red Goose Shoes” paintings on this blog.  There is a magnificent sign like this in south St. Louis that I completed earlier this year.  Red Goose Shoes is a memory from my childhood, even though I never bought a pair of shoes from them.  My parents always took me to the local Fischer’s Department Store in High Ridge, Missouri.  I liked Fred Fischer, but he didn’t offer golden eggs filled with prizes!

Thanks so much for reading.  Hope your Saturday was sublime as well.

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4 Responses to “An Entire Saturday of Plein Air Watercolor Activity, Some of it Good”

  1. Janna McDonald Says:

    I like your Red Goose sketch! Shoes were a big deal for me in the early

    40’s because leather was mainly used only for our soldiers’ boots.

    What I had, came from Montgomery Ward in Fort Worth.


  2. davidtripp Says:

    Thank you for your post. I have a much better painting of a Red Goose Shoe sign from south St. Louis (Trautwein’s Shoes). I painted it in the studio with plenty of time and TLC. This plein air sketch turned out rather badly, but I have plans for a serious studio watercolor of this Fort Worth location very soon.


  3. Sean Patrick Kupisz Says:

    Hi David. I really find this kind of painting so inspiring, it makes me want to go out and just do it! Thank you so much for sharing!



    • davidtripp Says:

      Thanks, Sean. I truly love the plein air painting lifestyle, even if the results don’t come out so great. It is always a good thing, being face-to-face with the subject, and feeling oneself “drawn in” by the encounter. I think I’m going to stay with this practice.


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