Cleansing the Eye

"Fishing Memories" now at Bowman Studios, Portland, Texas

“Fishing Memories” now at Bowman Studios, Portland, Texas

But the painter most vividly present in [Matisse’s] mind in Tangier was Delacroix, who had recharged his own vision eighty years before under the brilliant soft light of the Moroccan sun, drawing strength, like Matisse, from the power and harmony of Oriental design and colour.  Matisse dismissed suggestions that he (like the Orientalists) had picked Morocco in order to retrace the footsteps of Delacroix, but he saw his work reflected everywhere in the landscape, even recognising the background to The Capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders as the view from the terrace of the Casbah cafe.   . . . For Matisse, as for Delacroix, travel was a means of cleansing the eye.  He needed an unfamiliar world and a new light, for the same reason that he needed the alien decorative discipline of Oriental art, so as to break through to a fresh way of seeing.

Hilary Spurling, Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Marisse, The Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954.

Throughout his painting career, Henri Matisse travelled broadly to different regions in search of different landscapes and subject matter.  This practice of getting out of his painting rut he called “cleansing the eye.”  I had the rare privilege of cleansing my eye over this past weekend, travelling to Corpus Christi for the first time in my life.

I am proud to announce that I have added a second art gallery to my market.  The Dinah Bowman Studio and Gallery has ten of my original watercolors on display and sale.  This gallery is located in Portland, Texas, just up the coast from Corpus Christi.  The eye-cleansing weekend was just what the doctor ordered for my recent treadmill of high school/university grading and teaching, along with the weekend art festivals.  It’s been hard to find quality down time.  In recent philosophy classes, we have discussed Descartes and his stove, Hume and his cottage, Emerson and his European Odyssey, and we are about to get into Thoreau and his Walden Pond.  I have ached for leisure, for quiet, for solitude.  I have needed a retreat, a getaway, a healthy withdrawal from this daily grind.

The six-and-a-half-hour drive Friday night from Arlington to Portland was only the beginning.  Driving through the darkness down Texas highway 77 (I chose to avoid most of I-35 with its infamous Austin and San Antonio traffic snarls), I rolled down my Jeep windows and breathed deeply the autumn night air, listened to the wind, and enjoyed the space.  After a good night’s sleep at the Days Inn, I enjoyed breakfast on the outdoor patio of La Iguana.  Breakfast was beyond excellence, and the extra cups of coffee over my journal and reading from the Hemingway biography provided a perfect respite from the recent labors.


Breakfast on the patio of La Iguana, Portland, Texas

Meeting with Mike Catlin, manager of the gallery and a former student of mine, was a perfect closure to a circle forming since 1990.  We looked through my porfolio at leisure, and he selected ten pieces for the gallery.  Later, as Mike met with one of his other studio artists, I retreated to a quiet place on the gulf beach, and sat beneath a shelter to write further in the journal and read from my Hemingway biography.  As I wrote, I felt that warm connection with Hemingway’s Key West days as a morning writer.  The winds carrying the salt scent from the gulf seemed to wash over me in the gentlest, most affirming way.

Hemingway Outdoors

Quality Time for Reflection over Hemingway

The remainder of my Saturday was spent with Mike as we travelled to Rockport and Corpus Christi, photographing everything available that would lend itself to a watercolor composition.  On Sunday morning, rising early, I made my return trip to Arlington, retracing my route on Texas highway 77 and photographing historic architecture in the towns of Refugio, Victoria, Hallettsville, Schulenberg, La Grange and Lexington.  The sun was bright, contrasts were strong, and the 65-degree windy day was perfect as I photographed nineteenth-century Catholic churches, courthouses, Victorian homes, and vintage gas stations.  I have enough material to last me through more than a dozen watercolors.  All I have to do now is find time to get after them.

I reach in vain for words to express the gratitude I feel for such a wholesome weekend of travel, art, photography and friendship.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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4 Responses to “Cleansing the Eye”

  1. Xraypics Says:

    What a wonderful break. Very good for the soul. Your post reminds me that I must do the same – we’ve had my ancient father-in-law visiting the last 3 months. An up-and-down ride with illness and frailty. Must take my lovely wife away to recharge batteries. Thanks for the timely reminder! Tony


  2. Bonnie Says:

    Congratulations on the new gallery!…I’m happy for you! I, too, must have quiet time. Alone, I can think…and my soul is revived. Often, some of my best art comes from a time of solitude. Alone, I can take the “whole of life”…thoughts, things I’ve read, happenings…and it becomes something I can use. Probably a vague description…but that’s how it works. 😉


    • davidtripp Says:

      I love reading comments like this. My “sick” day was a great one for regrouping and re-focusing, and the solitude was momentous. I’m still feeling the effects of it, two days later. I hope it translates into my art real soon. Best wishes to you!


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