Archive for December, 2011

Ready to Deliver Christmas Watercolor Gift

December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas, Uncle Paul

The painting has been picked up from the frame shop.  I’m ready to pull out at 4:00 a.m. tomorrow, en route to St. Louis to deliver Uncle Paul’s Christmas gift, and spend Christmas with Mom, Dad and the siblings.  Still have plenty of packing to do, so I cannot linger here, though I wish I could.

Merry Christmas to all of you who keep my blog alive.  I cannot thank you enough for your visits and kind sentiments.  You truly are my inspiration to continue painting.  Have a fabulous and safe holiday season!

And thanks always for reading.


St. Louis Christmas around the Corner

December 21, 2011

Trautweins Red Goose Shoes, St. Louis, Missouri

I look forward to seeing my family again during the Christmas holidays.   There is a slight chance of a white Christmas this year.  I photographed this storefront on the south side of St. Louis last Christmas.  It is located on Gravois Road (which turns into Highway 30 eventually), lying on the historic Route 66 stretch through the city.  Unfortunately the store is abandoned, but I spent several minutes peering in through the display windows, remembering the Red Goose Shoe commercials from my childhood.  I hope to get a second look at this south side neighborhood this weekend when I’m in St. Louis.  I wish I could see more of these sites, there seems to be so little time to re-visit my home town.

Thanks for reading.

Finished the Christmas Watercolor

December 19, 2011

Grandpa Tripp's Dwelling

I’m feeling a sense of satisfaction and closure, now that I have completed this watercolor for my Uncle Paul.  He has been admitted to a nursing home facility, and his health is failing.  He has fond memories of his father’s cabin, so I’m happy to have this one ready to surprise him this Christmas.  I’m taking it to the framer today.

Thanks for reading, and for staying with me, helping me see this one through its stages.  On to the next one!

Christmas Watercolor Activity in the Man Cave

December 17, 2011

Uncle Paul's Christmas Present

Saturday has been a good day to spend in the Man Cave.  I have jokingly referred to my garage as my “man cave” though I have no power tools or table saws in place–just my drafting table, easel and watercolor supplies.  The winter light is really terrific now in Texas, and the temperatures today have hovered about the mid-fifties.  The sun is bright and the lighting is quite cool and clean.

I am hoping to finish this painting by Monday so I can get it to the framer.  It is for my Uncle Paul, an amazing man now in his 90’s and in failing health.  Paul lived in San Mateo, California since the 1950’s and did well out there.   He lived a quite life, working for Greyhound all those years, mostly night shift.  That was so he could support his habit as a writer.  The night shifts were quiet for a supervisor, and Paul loved to write and publish.

Paul was always a terrific humorist and story teller.  I had my own Garrison Keillor in the family while growing up, and never quite appreciated what a treasure he was.  In his final years, he re-lives the memories of rural Jackson, Missouri, where he lives now, and loves looking upon the monuments of his growing-up years.  This picture is one of them–the cabin where his father resided for the final decades of his life, about 20 paces from the main house on the farm.

I am trying to cool the colors as much as possible, because Paul always appreciated the blues and lavenders visible in the shadows of the snowdrifts that piled up on the family farm.  I am going to regret seeing this painting come to an end.  I’ve been chipping away at it slowly and methodically, enjoying every nuance of the decaying timbers of the cabin and every branch of the naked trees hovering overhead.  One day I hope to approach the “Andrew Wyeth” standard of dry brush as I continually explore rural winter landscapes.  The world indeed takes on a beautiful aura during those months of quiet.  I am so glad school ended yesterday.  The Christmas holidays are a splendid time to relax, enjoy the quiet, and attempt a few watercolor experiments.

Thanks for reading.

Watercoloring Grandpa’s Cabin

December 16, 2011

Grandpa's Cabin

I am returning to a scene I’ve painted several times, yet haven’t seen in over thirty years.  This is the converted “brooder house” where my Grandpa Tripp resided during the final decades of his life.  The main house was only about 20 or so paces away, but he spent his nights in this cabin, while taking all his meals with Grandma in the main house.  He passed away when I was in elementary school, and the memories grow fainter.  Still I recall the smell of the interior of this structure, and recall his card table, pot-bellied stove, large bed, and B&W TV.  Those were all the creature comforts he desired.

I sold a watercolor of this when I was in high school, perhaps my first watercolor ever to sell.  I remember a truck driver making deliveries pulling over on the highway and trotting down to our high school campus to see the sidewalk display our art department set up.  He asked if any of the pieces were for sale.  My teacher said “Yes.”  He said, “I want that one,” and bought mine on the spot.  I was in another class, and didn’t even know until hours later!

During Christmas 1988, I made another watercolor of this and gave it to my dad.  It is framed and hanging in his special room in High Ridge, Missouri.  Now, dad is welcoming back one of his older brothers from California whose health is in decline.  He has returned to his original stomping grounds in rural Jackson, Missouri.  He loved my dad’s watercolor, so we’ve decided to surprise him with one of his own for this Christmas.  I need to move quickly so we can have it custom framed in time to deliver for Christmas.

This is the painting in its beginning stages.  It’s not coming along as quickly as I had anticipated, but many of them don’t.  I just have to get used to that.  It will develop at its own pace, I suppose.

Thanks for reading.


A Frozen Moment along Route 66 at Christmas

December 15, 2011

Cold Desolation

I was happy to receive 2nd place in the Desoto Arts League Annual Member Show with this entry.  I titled this “Cold Desolation” and painted it back in 2007.  I photographed it much, much earlier, over a Christmas holiday season back in the 1990’s.  My father was driving me around abandoned towns in Franklin County, Missouri so that I could shoot my 35mm camera for potential watercolor compositions.

It was about 10 degrees when we came across this abandoned filling station in Robertsville, Missouri, not far from Pacific.  I had to add the signage, as the building had been stripped of all identification and advertising.  The automobile was photographed in New Mexico, years later.  As to this site, I still recall how frigid cold it was, and how I had to keep putting my hands back into gloves to survive the photo shoot!  I stayed around long enough to shoot over thirty pictures, though some of them did not turn out the way I wished.

This painting has had a hard life.  After I had finished the sky, I leaned the watercolor against the wall of my study.  In those days, I was stretching D’Arches watercolor paper over canvas stretchers.  I love the dynamic spring of the paper while working on it, and the water dries much more quickly than it does with blocks or 300 pound weight.  While the picture was leaned against the wall, I pushed some books off my desk, and they tumbled across the floor and punctured this painting in several places.  For that reason, I have been unable to sell the original through galleries (though I’ve sold a number of limited edition giclees, and now the original has won two awards in competition, including a Best of Show.  It was also juried into the annual show of the Southwestern Watercolor Society.  Nevertheless, it remains a damaged painting, scotch-taped from the back.

I’m attached to this work because to-date it remains the best watercolor sky I have ever laid.  I still cannot believe how the colors worked and the blotted clouds emerged the way they did.  It also marks a former period when I worked only in neutral colors, mostly under the spell of Andrew Wyeth.  The creation of the work also evokes warm memories, as I worked on the sky in the winter months, then abandoned the work when the spring semester got under way.  The next thing I knew, several years had passed.  Finally, I decided to take it with me during a 3500-mile road trip one summer that took me through Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.    It was during my Colorado fly-fishing expedition that the painting was completed, in Canon City.

I plan to re-visit this Robertsville, Missouri site in a couple of weeks when I return to St. Louis to visit my family for Christmas.  Currently, I have over twenty 35mm slides taken from all angles of this station, and I’m considering a fresh start on this composition again.  I think the time is overdue.  When Christmas comes, this is one of the few paintings from my past that I still own, and still spend plenty of time studying.  The painting will remain in Desoto City Hall until the first week of the New Year.  I”ll be looking forward to retrieving it and re-hanging it in my home.

Thanks for reading.

Ozark Court on Historic Route 66

December 14, 2011

Ozark Court on HIstoric Route 66

This watercolor was a quick-study of a scene I have returned to for nearly three decades.  I blocked in the sky as a demonstration for a student several weeks ago.  Finding this discarded study recently, I decided to put a landscape under the sky, and had been musing over an 8 x 10″ photo I took of this Ozark Court hotel on historic route 66.

This abandoned hotel site has been a sad scene for me during the years I have traveled back and forth between Fort Worth and St. Louis.  I have watched its decay throughout the decades, and now I am sad to report that the sign has even been removed.  I never recall seeing this business open during my travels, but the sign was always a reference point for me, and of course the nostalgic memories of highway motels always stirred my imagination.  This setting was always a welcoming sight for me, particularly when I felt weary and lonely from travel.

I was always touched by the lines from William Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey.”  The shell of that Medieval church stirred him in ways similar to how I feel when I travel and look upon ruins such as this–a reminder of yesterdays that will not be returning.  I miss many of these business establishments and their collective histories.

In a couple of weeks, I will be journeying past this lonely spot along Interstate 44 yet again, and no doubt will feel a tug when I drive past this pair of buildings marking what used to be a warm, welcoming spot.

Thanks for reading.


Converted my Classroom into a “Rustic Gallery”

December 13, 2011

Rustic Christmas Gallery

My sincere apologies for this lengthy hiatus in blog posting.  School is winding down the semester and preparing to dismiss for the holidays.  In addition to the extra duties, I have been involved in a couple of art shows and competitions.  I was delighted to take 2nd place in the annual members’ show of the Desoto Arts League last week.  And I opened a group show a week ago at the Burson Gallery in Hillsboro, Texas.

Every year near Christmas time, I decorate the back of my classroom at Martin High School, converting it into a “Rustic Christmas Gallery” and sell my art work to teachers and students.  I will have my little “store” open till 5:00 every day this week, then until 3:00 next Monday and Tuesday (we meet in the mornings for final exams).  And then it is home for the holidays.

I have a new watercolor planned, but haven’t gotten enough done to photograph and post on the blog.  Hopefully I will give you a snapshot of it by the weekend.  The events around me always seem to accelerate when the holidays arrive.  This year is no different.

Thanks for reading.