The Urge to Soldier On

Sketch of a Bait Shop on the Texas Gulf

Beginning Sketch of a Bait Shop on the Texas Gulf

Who cares what sensibility or discrimination a man has at some time shown, if he falls asleep in his chair? . . . Of what use is genius, if the organ is too convex or too concave and cannot find a focal distance within the actual horizon of human life?

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

This statement from Emerson knocked the wind out of me this afternoon (oops, yesterday afternoon–midnight has already arrived) when I was closing out one of my classes and thinking about my recent reduced watercolor and sketching output.  Too often I use my job as an excuse, but frankly I’ve been able to average over a hundred watercolors a year for several years in a row now.  So it has to be something else.  Inspiration has been on the flat side.   But when I read this Emerson statement from “Experience” (a fabulous essay that I hadn’t read in over ten years) I was reminded of something I read last year from Ian Roberts in Creative Authenticity, namely that no one cares how much talent you have if you’re not creating anything.  Good point.  I’m glad that I spent the better part of this past evening working at my drafting table.  It’s a good feeling, being a part of something much larger than my individual self.

O me! O life!  of the questions of these recurring,

Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the


Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than

I and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the

            struggle ever renew’d,

Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I

            see around me,

Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me inter-     


The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these,

            O me, O life?




That you are here—that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.


Walt Whitman, “O Me! O Life!


The watercolor sketch above is something I started a couple of months ago and then abandoned as other projects crowded in.  A former student of mine, Mike Catlin, is now managing Bowman Design and Framing in Portland, Texas, near Corpus Christi. He invited me into that gallery last year, and I traveled down there in November to deliver some of my work.  We spent a couple of days together, renewing an old friendship, then traveled about the coast to take pictures for future sketches and paintings.  I got after this 8 x 10” watercolor rather quickly, but then stalled.  So I’m now trying to breathe life back into it–something I always find hard to do when I’ve let a piece lie about and get cold for awhile.  I took several dozen photos of old bait shops in that area, and really like the compositions of some of them.  I just need to put my head down now and get some of them kicked out.  Soon, I will be leading a watercolor workshop for that gallery, and I would really like to get some paintings together of the area before I show up for the sessions.

Thank you, Mike, for helping me get untracked again.

And thanks to the rest of you for reading me.

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 “The Urge to Soldier On”

  1. Heidi Russell Says:

    I only recently discovered your blog and artwork; I fell in love with both and look forward to every new post. I read in today’s blog that you are planning to do a workshop on the coast. Any chance you will do one closer to Fort Worth? If yes, would that include beginners since I really just have started exploring with water colors?

    …Heidi 🇩🇪



    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you, Heidi, for finding my blog and showing interest. I have never done a watercolor workshop in Fort Worth and don’t have anything on the radar. If you’re a beginner or novice, I could offer my services for the same kind of fee. For $50 I could give you private one-on-one instruction, and you would only need 2-3 hours max. You probably would require nothing further. I have done that many times with others. Sometimes one will return and hire me by the hour for additional study and practice, but I really believe the 2-3 hours is enough to send one well down the watercolor path. If you’re interested you could email me at I live in Arlington. My website is Again, thank you for the good word.


  2. Xraypics Says:

    Fascinating how someone else can say what one feels, and always so much better! Throughout my career I’ve had people come with ideas for scientific papers. I always say the idea is nothing till you put it down on paper and start writing it. Thanks for that. I must now read the book. Tony


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thanks so much for that word of encouragement! Creative spirits such as yourself keep me motivated, and I appreciate that. It feels good to get some momentum flowing after this recent slump.


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