Early Sunday Morning, Listening to Robert Henri Sermons

My "Edward Hopper" attempt during Last Year's Plein Air Event

My “Edward Hopper” attempt during Last Year’s Plein Air Event

“I am not interested in art as a means of making a living, but, I am interested in art as a means of living a life.”

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Today, Sunday, I embrace the respite that has been offered.  After school Friday, I went straight to the Levitt Pavilion to set up for the 3-day festival.  I stayed until we closed Friday night.  Saturday I rose at 7:00, journeyed 40 minutes southward to Waxahachie, and cranked out two plein air watercolors, returning to Arlington in time to re-enter my booth and go into the night festival which ended at 10:30.  I was in bed before midnight, and scheduled to return to Waxahachie early this morning, but rain forecasts throughout the day and overcast skies convinced me to stay home, rest, close out the festival tonight, then rise in the morning to spend the entire day in Waxahachie for plein air activity on Memorial Day.  The Waxahachie event will last clear through next Sunday.  I should be going down after school every day.  I think it prudent to take it easy today.  I’m still not as strong as before my recent illness.

Yesterday, I posted the pair of watercolors I did.  Above, I have posted one of the watercolors from last year’s “Paint Historic Waxahachie” event, since I only plan to read and journal in the Man Cave today.  Robert Henri speaks with the Voice of a Prophet, to me.  Reading him, I feel like I’ve gone to Dephi to consult the Oracle.  I do not make a living off my art; school teaching provides that.  But I live now to make art, to try and live an artful life.  I believe it was Seneca that said “Philosophy is the Art of Life.”  After many years of casting about, I think I have finally come home to a life of contemplation, giving my reading and years of philosophical contemplation a chance to “compost” and grow into something to give voice to my painting attempts.  I never saw this blog event coming!  A writer I met on librarything.com, teaching in an Ohio college, convinced me to try Facebook, then convinced me to begin a blog.  I honestly expected no one to look at my blog, but thought it would be an online “extension” of the handwritten journals I keep every day.  I began to blog, thinking it would only be an online journal.  I’m surprised, and very pleased, to find new friends and colleagues through this network now, to learn from them, and feel encouraged as I continue this trek.

I really like the notion of Henri that art work is only the “footprint”, the “trace” of what an artist experienced.  It is a byproduct.  I read that that was how some critics regarded the Jackson Pollock drip paintings–the residue of his “dance”, of his “encounter” with Art.

“These results, however crude, become clear to the  artist who made them because they are records of states of being which he has enjoyed and which he would regain.  . . . Art is, after all, only a trace–like a footprint which shows that one has walked bravely and in great happiness.”

Even my best-chosen words in the journal and on the blog are unable to convey the exquisite, deep-seated delight that I feel when I am working in watercolor.  I love peering into the veneer of water on the paper surface, watching the colors billow and flow, dragging a pencil through it while still wet, cutting into it with an X-acto knife, all the time experimenting, looking, wondering, and encountering many surprises.  I just cannot seem to learn enough.  When it’s over, I feel a sense of disappointment, not because I think the painting is necessarily bad, but because the moment has passed and I have only the remnant, the residue, the record, which someone might purchase, but if that happens, the purchaser will never know what part of me lived through that process.

This may sound folksy or contrived, but much of what I get from watercoloring happens also in flyfishing, my other passion.  Time spent in a mountain stream changes my breathing, my heart rate.  Time spent working a fly rod, watching the line arc out over the water, watching it bend over the surface, waiting for a riffle to signal a rising trout–these processes excite me.  If I land a trout, great, I am likely to release it back into the stream.  But leaving a trout stream is much the same for me as stopping over a painting.  The moment has passed, and the process brought quality into my life that I cannot put into words.

I’m glad to spend this morning with Robert Henri and The Art Spirit.  After 178 pages, I know there still remains much to be said.  I can hardly wait to hear him further.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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11 Responses to “Early Sunday Morning, Listening to Robert Henri Sermons”

  1. lifeofawillow Says:

    What a lovely post. Depthfuly poetic. As usual, i enjoy both your painting and your writing.


  2. Playamart - Zeebra Designs Says:

    very strong painting; it triggered a memory of a house i sketched in belize city.. people walked by and seemed to wonder what i saw in that unpainted neglected house.. yours is happier, but i think they came from the same family tree.

    i have no idea where that sketch might be!



    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you for looking, and commenting. I love old, abandoned houses that just “drip’ with character and hold so many stories. My imagination really runs when I look them over while painting.


  3. artsifrtsy Says:

    Lovely thoughtful post – I love that opening quote. I like this painting a lot – so much structure and detail inferred by those strokes.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you. I was very pleased as this one developed. What I wanted to happen, happened. I was hoping to leave the paper untouched to reveal the whiteness of the house, hoping that my pencil work on the wood textures would be enough.


  4. Shelley Says:

    I had never thought of a visual artist (Pollock) as a “dancer” before! As one who feels never more alive than when in the process of dancing, I had always thought of visual art as so much more tangible because it achieves a lasting “product”. The idea that the finished piece is merely the byproduct, the “footprint” (!) of an act of passion, makes it not so different from other types of “dancing” after all (albeit more lucrative, unless one is a dance teacher). Life is a dance, isn’t it? We just choose the tempo and the steps that suit us. And when we tire of them, lest we stagnate, we change our dance shoes or our medium or our subject matter, and vary it up a bit. Thanks to Robert Henri and David Tripp, I suddenly “get” what makes artists tick, the passion of producing a work of art on paper.

    They’re dancing.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Nice meditation on the dance. Much has been made of Pollock’s “act” of painting as a dance, especially Robert Motherwell’s musings. I have always enjoyed the “act” of painting more than the finish, and always feel kind of a let down when the “dance” has ended. I do, however, spend time looking at some of them, recalling some of the steps and movements that created them. Nevertheless, they remain “footprints.”


  5. Shelley Says:

    Lovely footprints, all the same. Congrats on your well-earned successes this day! Only sorry I missed seeing the original footprints before they walked away with their buyers. : )


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