Returning to Watercolor after a Hiatus

Still Life Set Up in the Studio

Still Life Set Up in the Studio

Large Watercolor in Progress

Large Watercolor in Progress

I don’t play with Crazy Horse all the time.  You can’t wear it out.  You know, it’s like you can’t constantly be doing everything.  You have to give it a rest.  It’s like planting stuff.  You’ve got to let the field rest for a year.

Neil Young “American Masters” PBS

I did not intend to get away from watercoloring.  Several things entered my life the past couple of weeks.  Summer school got busier (my class has grown by one-third this second semester, accompanied by a chronic absenteeism that wasn’t happening the first term).  I also picked up my guitar again and played in a live gig that required some rehearsals.  Then an unforseen series of events led to my standing in my waders, waist-deep in Windmill Lake at the LBJ Grasslands, flyfishing for largemouth bass.  It had been too long since I last enjoyed that avocation, and I was very grateful for the experience.  I also have become friends with a remarkable guitarist, Reid Rogers ( who has me doing things with an electric guitar that I have never before accomplished.  Reading has also chewed into my lifestyle.  I took off three days to read Dan Brown’s Inferno, which then led me to Dante’s Divine Comedy.  I’m also reading The Andy Warhol Diaries.  And my mornings still begin with the Journals of Henry David Thoreau over a cup of coffee.

Texas temperatures are dreadful in the summer, so my garage Man Cave has been abandoned till probably October.  I brought my favorite vintage Coca-Cola sign into the house from the Cave, and set it up on an easel next to my northern light windows.  Behind it I positioned this gate that was a Father’s Day gift from a lovely friend.  The previous owner of the vintage sign sent me a photograph of it fronting an evergreen tree, so I am looking at that image on a computer and trying to paint it into the backdrop.

This watercolor is on a full sheet (22 x 28″) of 300-lb. D’Arches cold-press paper.  I usually don’t quake over a $20 sheet of paper, but since I hadn’t painted this large in over six months, and hadn’t painted at all since my last 8 x 10″ over a week ago, I felt somewhat timid as I approached this one early this morning.  Lacking the technical tools, I used a frying pan to draw the circle of the sign.  I had to re-draw the gate several times, fitting the sign to its dimensions in a satisfactory way to suit the composition.  Next came the odious task of all that masquing–so many bent, twisted wires, steel framework and scrollwork on the top.

Though I have been at this since 7:15 this morning (it’s 8:21 p.m. as I write this), I have never worked on it for more than forty-five minutes a session.  As I wrote earlier, I’m a little gun-shy since I hadn’t painted on this large of a scale for awhile.  I kept backing off from it and re-checking the proportions of the composition.  Like the carpenter who cuts once, measures twice, I kept erasing and redrawing the Coca-Cola bottle on the sign.  Since high school, I have found the drawing of bottles extremely difficult.  I constantly measured and put this bottle on a grid, to make sure the proportions lined up, and kept double-checking the symmetry of the opposing sides.  But I enjoyed every moment, truly.  During my breaks, I continued to read from Dante, Thoreau and Warhol.  And of course, I’m always scribbling in my own journal.

Once the masquing dried, I mixed a cool highlight for the leaves of the evergreen and began by spritzing the paper with a spray bottle and floating the light bluish-green pigments all over the gate.  Once it was dry, I used the Fine Line Resist Pen to draw the highlighted leaves.  Once that dried, I mixed a concoction of Winsor Green, Winsor Violet, Alizarin Crimson, Transparent Yellow, WInsor Blue (Green Shade) and Permanent Rose to make as-near-a-black as I could for the shadows in the tree.  I applied this liberally over all the tree, then sprinkled salt in it and used the spray bottle to break it up.  After all that dried (plenty of time to read today!) I came back and removed all the masquing, applied Transparent Yellow to some of the highlighed leaves, then rendered some of the twisted wire and metal gate framework.  I also did a tiny bit of work on the Coca-Cola bottle cap, and some staining of the damaged sign.

The light outside has gone away for the night, so I’m finished for now.  But I cannot wait to wake up to this again tomorrow.  Today has been splendid, with painting, reading, journaling, and guitar playing marking the time, all of it exquisite.  I actually feel that my breathing has slowed down somewhat.  And school doesn’t resume until Monday!

Thanks always for reading.  It’s nice to be back in this mode again.

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17 Responses to “Returning to Watercolor after a Hiatus”

  1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs Says:

    i hit a really high-productive week as well and balanced it with reading, walking, woodworking, etc while paint dried. i’m working on a new area of the bodega (concrete) floor, and it’s going well.

    i cannot picture you w/an electric guitar! acoustic, yes! you’ll have to post a video!!!

    one can never go wrong with thoreau to start the day.

    glad to see that you’re squeezing the most out of your long hours of daylight. the sun rises and sets 12/12 hours light/dark year round here, and i sometimes miss those long summer days.



    • davidtripp Says:

      Z, I have been unable to match the energy you’ve put out the past few weeks. I’m so glad the muses are stirring you so. I’m just now getting back into my watercolor groove, having chased music and literature (disproportunately?) the past couple of weeks. I hope you keep finding inspiration down there with your 12-hours’ of daylight.


      • Playamart - Zeebra Designs Says:

        ‘down time’ is important. we recharge the batteries – physical and mental and emotional – all so important to staying well. we both know what it’s like to get kicked down; our bodies will make us slow down if we don’t heed the warnings!


      • davidtripp Says:

        Good point. I’m excited to look at what you’ve been up to lately. I must say, the morning provides the the best part of my creative energy, and the 7:30-12:45 summer school manages to sap quite a bit of that from me. Nevertheless I push ahead . . .


  2. lifeofawillow Says:

    Thank you for posting. I enjoy your work always.


  3. redharparts Says:

    I’d noticed that there had not been a post in a while and nearly posted a query. Glad your absence this time was due to a number of good experiences rather than illness!

    I look forward to watching how this painting progresses.


  4. Xraypics Says:

    Hey! Mate, I really missed you. Glad to see you are back, and it is wonderful to hear you have had such fun with the guitar, fly-fishing and reading. I too have been doing other things – am just completing a slightly over ambitious animation to be shown as part of a group project on the side of a building down-town. Sometime when I found out how to convert it I’ll post it on my blog. Cheerio, Tony


  5. Duncan Says:

    Glad to see you’re back! As I read through your posts, it’s funny to me how many things we have in common. That’s a nice reference to Mr. Young. His “unplugged” album is my autumn soundtrack. I haven’t had a chance to read “Inferno” yet. My wife loves it but I’ve been busy with Atlas Shrugged and Walden. I’ll get to it before my fall term begins. As I said, I’m glad to see you back. I always enjoy seeing your beautiful paintings coming to life. Keep it up!


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thanks for the good word, Duncan. I haven’t yet read Atlas Shrugged, and should, I know. Inferno was a real page-turner. Thoreau I have loved since ’92. I read him probably more than anyone, except perhaps Emerson. I hope to read his complete journals, but there are 12 volumes of them. I love Neil Young’s prolific ways, and hope one day to say that I crank out watercolors with the consistency and intensity that he has his music over the decades.


      • Duncan Says:

        I was actually introduced to Neil’s music through one of my favorite current bands, Pearl Jam. Neil was a big inspiration and mentor for them and it definitely shows – they’re probably the only band from the early nineties that still has staying power. I’ve seen them twice and am really looking forward to seeing them in October! One of the best live acts going.


      • davidtripp Says:

        Ahhh yes. I remember “Mirror Ball.” I read Neil’s biography “Shakey” and couldn’t put it down. It’s his fault that I ponied up the money and bought a Martin guitar. And now, I guess it’s his fault that I’m trying to cross over and do electric as well. I know the Dylan legacy, but I’ve been more attached to Neil, his writing, his willingness to go back and forth between acoustic and electric. It adds more facets (and interest) to my pursuits.


  6. Deanna Tennent Masterson Says:

    So glad to receive this post, David! I missed your musings & paintings. Reading that you played in a live gig is so fun & adds to your charm!


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