Oracular Moments with Emerson

Small Watercolor Sketch of Yesterday's Lunch Outside the Art Museum

Small Watercolor Sketch of Yesterday’s Lunch Outside the Art Museum

Reference Photo

Reference Photo

We wake and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight.  But the Genius which according to the old belief stands at the door by which we enter, and gives us the lethe to drink, that we may tell no tales, mixed the cup too strongly, and we cannot shake off the lethargy now at noonday. . . . We are like millers on the lower levels of a stream, when the factories above them have exhausted the water.  We too fancy that the upper people must have raised their dams.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

I awoke this morning, feeling rather dull and sluggish.  There was no real reason for that–I didn’t exactly overdo it yesterday, and thought I had gotten plenty of sleep.  I rose from bed anyway, chalking it up to “aging” and tried to smile about it.  I made coffee and sunk into a comfortable chair to cozy up with words from Emerson.  It was Sunday, and I needed a Good Word.  He didn’t disappoint.  The selection I posted above came from an Emerson who felt his creative spirit sagging after years of explosive thinking and writing.  And with genuine wisdom, he addressed that sobering feeling of creativity leveling off.

For years I have been conscious of the ebb and flow of a creative life, and have tried not to let the barren stretches bring me down.  There are many ways to re-tool, to refresh, to trim one’s sails to catch the breezes once they blow again. And so, when I read the above passage, I laughed out loud, shook off my doldrums, and set about the task of getting tomorrow’s classes ready for school so I could pick up the brush again.

I have been so timid about rendering people in watercolor.  Figure drawing has always been difficult for me, and trying to render humans in watercolor even more intimidating.  But as I viewed the Edward Hopper collection over the past couple of months, I realize that some of his small renderings of people in watercolor and charcoal were not all that splendid.  So, I’ve decided I’m going to go after this subject and see if I can pull it off.  If I cannot do it with this one, I’ll do it with the next, or the next.  I’ll get it.  I’m starting with a small, modest-sized watercolor sketch, to see how I do with people.  And I’m intrigued by this new direction, not tired (wink).

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 “Oracular Moments with Emerson”

  1. coreyaber Says:

    Nice sketch. I like the food truck too. A nice piece of mobile architecture to set the people against. Seems like we’re on the same path. People have intimidated me too, and it is my goal this year to sort that out at least to the point where I don’t cringe at my attempts. Fortunately I have cafeterias full of colleagues to draw or paint, I only I can mange to work through lunch less often.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thanks for the encouragement, Corey. I’m excited about taking this new path, though it’s certainly not a strong suit. I’m just going to have to remember that, as an artist, I will always be a “work in progress.” When I am forced to think about what I’m attempting, I know I have to be turning a corner and on my way to improvement. Thanks again for looking and commenting. You’re always an inspiration to me.


  2. Bonnie Says:

    “Only a sketch…there’s always another.” These are words my hubby tells me when I’m “fearful” of messing up. I thought of them when I read the last part of your post. (.”…I’ll do it with the next, or the next.”) I love your sketch! The people look very nice. People have been my bane for years but in the last year or so I’ve been experimenting with them….faces , that is. (Slow, but showing progress.) We all ebb and flow…like a stream. Hard to remember that sometimes, but sounds like you are. You’ll get there. 😉


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you for that word of encouragement, Bonnie. I’m always trying to adjust to that ebb and flow. And I’m glad you understand my figure drawing anxieties! I was O.K. with portraits for years (life-size, not miniatures, and never in watercolor). But the human figure has always overwhelmed me and intimidated me with all those curves, proportions, thicknesses, thinnnesses, tapers, on and on and on–I could never seem to get all the elements to combine to look “human.” But I am enjoying the challenge now.


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