Artistic Inspiration from Ernest Hemingway

Interior of my Man Cave

Interior of my Man Cave

This is a delicious moment on a quiet Texas Saturday afternoon.  I’m sitting in my Man Cave with the garage door open, watching the occasional dead leaf flutter in and out of the waning sunlight across the neighbor’s yard.  The afternoon was a flurry of activity as I prepared more cards and matted additional prints to take to an art event that begins at 6:00 this evening (hopefully) my final art show of the year.

I arrived about half an hour early this morning for the event load-in.  I had no idea what kind of Gift awaited me in that space of thirty minutes.  Taking a seat outside the barn of the K Star Ranch in Mansfield, Texas, I looked out across the sprawling land and saw the makings of a winter landscape beneath those overcast skies.  The rolling countryside could just as well have been Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and I could just barely visualize the image of an aged Andrew Wyeth hobbling gingerly along the distant fence line.  Wyeth was on my mind, because I had spent some time early this morning watching a documentary about his life while enjoying a country breakfast of fried potatoes & onions, sausage, cheese and coffee.  The cool, crisp morning that greeted me felt like winter already, though the official day is still a couple of weeks away.  I had to pull the comforter a little tighter about my face as I dozed in the pre-dawn, and noticed that the cat was sleeping closer to me than usual as well.  The house was quite chilly.  And then later, as I sat at the ranch, I noted the muted colors of the winter landscape and the heaviness of the dark sky.

While waiting for the load-in time to arrive, I mused about my recent work and wondered what kind of painting I should pursue next.  I wasn’t sure at that point.  I then resumed my reading of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, which fortunately I had brought along with me.  And these were the words that greeted me:

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next.  That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made.  I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry.  You have always written before and you will write now.  All you have to do is write one true sentence.  Write the truest sentence that you know.”  So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.

What a relief swept over me!  How splendid when a writer delivers an oracle fitting for a visual artist.  Though at the moment I was unsure of what to pursue next in watercolor, I felt that reassurance–I have always painted before and I will paint again.  All I need is to lay down one true stroke with the pencil or the watercolor brush, and then go on from there, as I have done thousands of times before.  So simple, yet so penetrating.  I felt a genuine gratitude to Hemingway for speaking to me in the quiet of the morning the way he did.

One of my philosophy students yesterday shared a journal entry of a sign she had seen in a bookstore window in Paris–The fact is, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are more real to me than my next-door neighbors.

Well, I feel that way this afternoon about Hemingway and Wyeth.

Thanks for reading.

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2 Responses to “Artistic Inspiration from Ernest Hemingway”

  1. Chris Rice Says:

    Just thought you might like to know that the line your student recorded from a Paris bookshop was in fact taken from Shakespeare and Company– which is alluded to at some length in A Moveable Feast. George Whitman’s bookshop is more of a spiritual successor to Beach’s original, however, which was closed during the German occupation. George’s daughter Sylvia was named after Beach and is the owner now…


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you so much for sourcing that quote and for the background of that phenomenal bookstore. I hope one day to get to Paris and experience this environment.


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