A Quiet Weekend–Quality Time to Listen to the Sages

Relaxing and Sketching at the Dallas Museum of Art

Relaxing and Sketching at the Dallas Museum of Art

[James] Joyce served my purposes then and now.  If you have taken on the adventure of modernism as I have–and the history of it–there have to be a few prophets to help you when you get discouraged.  You go back to them for reinforcement.

Robert Motherwell, Collected Writings

His soul had arisen from the grave of boyhood, spurning her graveclothes.  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable.

James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

By the time Friday afternoon arrived, I was thoroughly beaten down and discouraged from a grinding, thankless week in school.  I drove straight to the Dallas Museum of Art, convinced it was time to repay myself for enduring what I endured.  As soon as I entered the sweetness of the Edward Hopper Drawing exhibit, I knew I had entered a sanctuary.  Finding a padded bench, I sat for a few minutes, exhaled, then drew out my sketchbook and began working on thumbnails of Hopper’s figures.  Figure drawing has always been my Achilles heel, and I was determined to stay away from the comforts of architectural rendering and just stick with the human figure, trying again and again and again, until I had filled a page.  Long before the page was filled, I knew I had been restored.  So, I went on and filled a second page, then later began a third.

Going next to the museum café, I ordered a Starbuck’s coffee and sat sipping it while enjoying the view of downtown Dallas through the enormous windows.  Once the coffee was drained and a few more notes scribbled into my journal, I wandered upstairs and drifted slowly through the dark galleries of Central and South American Art.  Before I knew it, the time had arrived for the museum to close.  I headed for a warm home, restored and satisfied.

Rising today after a good night’s sleep, I determined that I was just going to sit, read, scribble in my journal, and think.  It was Saturday, and for the first time in weeks, it seemed, there was nowhere I had to be.  Why not just make a day of it?  After several years, I finally completed my reading of The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell.  This is not to say that I am a slow reader, or that I did not enjoy this artist’s mind.  On the contrary, I cannot read Motherwell quickly, because he makes me pause, again and again, ponder, take notes, cross-examine, and shake my head in wonder.  What a marvel of an artist, philosopher, writer and romantic!  I was truly saddened when I turned the last page, and seeing Appendix A, realize that I had completed the volume.  I did not just read from this book today–I also read several more chapters of Edward Hirsch’s The Demon and the Angel, Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Mary Ann Caws’s Robert Motherwell: With Pen and Brush, and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Circles.”  And of course, I continued to sketch.

The communion of this day was the sweetest I have known for awhile. I wholeheartedly agree with Motherwell when he testifies that an artist needs some prophets to offer encouragement now and then.  And my greatest encouragement as an artist comes from the “dead men”.  I chafe every time I hear someone scoff at those who draw inspiration from books instead of from live company.  Frankly, I do not find myself surrounded by the likes of Hopper, Wyeth, Motherwell, Emerson, Tillich, et al.  And those men (to me) are not dead, but encourage me daily in this enterprise.  Every time I find myself second-guessing my abilities or strategies, I return to the volumes and the museums and listen and view what these men have to teach me.  They are finer than any graduate school I have had the privilege of attending, and I shall forever remain grateful for the ways they have enriched my life and given me hope and encouragement.

As this Saturday night draws to a close, I am holding out hope that Sunday can offer more of the same.  I would cherish a full weekend, bathing in the aura of the arts.  This has been a true delight.

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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2 Responses to “A Quiet Weekend–Quality Time to Listen to the Sages”

  1. lindahalcombfineart Says:

    Hi David, I am a firm believer that we must occasionally put ourselves first. We must be kind to ourselves and take time to refresh and rejuvenate. (sorry, I probably sound too preachy!) I love a day like you describe – no commitmnts, time to read and draw. I just lose myself in it. PS I envy your chance to see the Hopper exhibit. When it was in NYC I looked to see if it had a catalog that I could order but couldn’t find one in the museum’s online store. Our museum has two beautiful Hoppers that I really love to explore.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Always a pleasure to hear from you, Linda. The catalogue for this exhibit is “Hopper Drawing” and is published by the Whitney Museum and Yale University Press. Carter E. Foster edited the fine book. I just love it. And thank you for your comments about the personal restoration time. More than ever before, I protect these and keep looking for ways to insert them into my frustrating work schedule. I need to make some serious decisions about the hours demanded by my job.


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