The Pulse of a New Year

Fiddler's Dream

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

(Maya Angelou, “On the Pulse of the Morning” January 20, 1993, read at the inauguration of William Jefferson Clinton.)

With the dawning of 2012, I have so much on my heart to share with my faithful blog readers.  I open with these soulful words from Maya Angelou, because I always feel the dual heaviness and lightness of Being when an old year dies and a new one emerges.  I cannot seem to shake the anxieties that have a way of creeping out of the shadows during the holiday season, and this one has been no different.  And I cannot help but turn pensive when January arrives.  “January” comes from the Roman god Janus, the two-faced image looking simultaneously backward and forward.  The dual head served as a fitting visual symbol of that human habit of looking over the shoulder at the past while trying to navigate the unfamiliar future.

New Year resolutions are always an obsession with me.  I have faithfully kept a journal since the late 1980’s, and sometimes I go back and re-read resolutions I have recorded in previous Januarys.  I am not going to bore my blog readers with my personal list of resolutions–I only wish to state that currently my prioritized list includes watercoloring better and blogging better.

I still intend to watercolor daily, though it will not mean completing a painting a day.  And so today I post this watercolor sketch, actually created yesterday morning, New Years Eve.  It is not yet noon today and I haven’t “awakened” sufficiently to get out the watercolors for today’s fresh start.

I have just returned from the Fiddler’s Dream Music & Dance Camp hosted by the North Texas Traditional Dance Society.  The camp was held in Oklahoma, and I had the experience of meeting a number of fascinating, talented people in the fine arts.  A highlight of the camp for me was the opportunity to lead a watercolor plein air workshop.  We pulled a work table out under the trees, and I enjoyed showing some eager painters a few things I knew about rendering winter trees in dry brush.  The image posted above is the sketch I did about an hour before the painters arrived.  It was around 10:00 in the morning, and I spent approximately 40 minutes on this sketch.  As I worked at it, I felt my breathing change and my pulse change, as always happens when I settle into a plein air activity.  The air became fresher, the slanting sunlight clearer, stirring winter breezes caressed the pores of my skin, and for a moment, the world became perfect again.  I felt as though the trees were letting out a deep sigh, exhaling the past and inhaling the present.  That is the pulse of a New Year.

While I looked into the Oklahoma forest, selecting a pair of trees to render in drybrush, my conscience was flooded with ideas from Xie He’s six canons of painting, formulated around the 6th century, and images of Andrew Wyeth’s renderings of winter trees in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.  I felt a gladness settling in as I worked in the comfort of this environment, and immediately decided that I would not let this winter pass without turning some significant corners in rendering the naked trees of winter in all their nuanced contours, neutral colors and arrangements.  I have always felt this was something lacking from my previous body of work, and now resolve to look more closely at these natural phenomena and work daily at recording them on paper.

As for the rest of this day.  I have plenty of quiet around me, and space to pursue some quality reading, reflection, journaling, and of course, watercolor study.  Maybe I’ll get back to you before I retire for the night, but if I don’t, I promise to return tomorrow.

To all my readers, again thanks from the bottom of my heart that you care enough to look at what I paint and write.  I appreciate you more than you know, and I harbor your supportive comments in the depths of a grateful heart.  I was thrilled last night when WordPress sent me the word, shortly before midnight, that my blog was viewed about 31,000 times in 2011–enough to sell out the Sidney Opera House for 11 performances.  That news came at a good time.  Thanks all of you for reading.  I wish all of you a splendid New Year in 2012, and hope you find what you are seeking.

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3 Responses to “The Pulse of a New Year”

  1. Turnbull Chapter - CAHSPierre Says:

    Happy New Year to you, David. I am one of your 30K plus blog followers and an admirer of your work to boot. For any of you who read David’s blog and who might be interested in the six canons reference in today’s piece, here they are:
    “In the Southern Dynasty (317-402), the art critic Xie He (500-535) established the “Six Canons” of painting. In their proper order, they are: animation through spiritual resonance (the painter must create vitality in the painting); strong brushwork; fidelity to the object (depiction of form must be natural and accurate); correct colour (use of colour must suit the subject matter); proper composition; and skill in copying earlier masters’ works (copying was, and still is considered a way of understanding and absorbing the creative genius of past masters). More than any other set of rules or principles, it is these that Six Canons best capture the essence of Chinese painting. In the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), the scholar Guo Ruoxu (11th century) described Xia He’s Six Canons as “valid for perpetuity”. Originally, Xie He intended his Six Canons to serve only as a framework for a critique of a small selection of what he considered the most important artists of his period. Nevertheless, later artists adopted the Six Canons as a guide on how to paint, while critics adopted the Six Canons as the principles according to which paintings should be judged.” Ref:


  2. davidtripp Says:

    Thank you. I have always appreciated your posts. And thank you for posting the canons of Xie He. I’m planning to take them more seriously in this coming year.


  3. tramedipensieri Says:


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