Painting Again, with Some Added Thoughts about Style and Technique

Back in the Watercolor Studio, and Loving It!

Back in the Watercolor Studio, and Loving It!

Expression . . . is the very soul of composition–it animates its characters and gradations, as the human soul doth the body and limbs–it engages the attention, and excites an interest which compensates for a multitude of defects–whilst the most admirable execution, without a just and lively expression, will be disregarded as laborious inanity . . . 

John Flaxman, “Lectures on Sculpture”

I felt a renewed sense of joy and vigor as I left school this afternoon and returned to my studio.  My reading early this morning was so serendipitous that I just had to post this quote.  I re-opened a volume I had put down several months ago (I hate it when I get distracted from excellent books!): From the Classicists to the Impressionists: Art and Architecture in the 19th Century, edited by Elizabeth Gilmore Holt.  This volume is replete with primary source material handed down by the artists–some are speech manuscripts, some are published pamphlets and yet others are lecture notes recorded and preserved by their students.  I am mining so much gold from the discussions.

I love this notion of expression (or style) animating one’s work the same way the soul animates the body.  Without it, we are left with only mechanical skills.  I appreciated so much reading the comments posted today from my blog responders.  Once I got back into the studio, I thought of that line from the film Bull Durham: “Just throw the ball!”  The pitcher was off his game, because he thought too much about it; he just needed to throw the ball.  So, today I am throwing the ball, and feeling so much relaxation as I draw, revise, paint, revise, re-draw and revise some more.  I am not thinking about style right now.  I am just painting, and enjoying the quiet immensely.  The afternoon winter light slanting through my studio windows is so inviting and so affirming.  I have really missed these moments.

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.


2 Responses to “Painting Again, with Some Added Thoughts about Style and Technique”

  1. coreyaber Says:

    Your last two posts have been especially interesting. I think of some of the writers I love who have a very distinctive style–Pavese who books all sound as if they’re from the point of view of the same narrator, regardless of the narrator’s gender, or my other hero, Calvino, whose stories have a very wide variety of points of view, characters, and narrators, yet, despite it all, they are all clearly Calvino stories. I sometimes wonder if our style is something that we always simultaneously seek to embrace and escape, and by trying to escape it we only define it better. A nice case in point might be the writer David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas), who in his early books wrote only in the styles of other writers. No surprise there–that became his thing, his style. Cloud Atlas was the farthest he could push that, and then he wrote a semi-autobiographical book (Black Swan Green), which ended up emphasizing the “Mitchellness” of his earlier books by giving his readers more insight into himself and his imagination. Thanks for posting your thoughts.


    • davidtripp Says:

      What a thoughtful response, thank you. I’ve always been captivated by your synergy between literature and art, believing fully that one feeds the other for you. I’m still sorting out what I’m doing over here. I know I imitate many techniques from masters I’ve scrutinized over the years, but I believe my own style is an emulation of those techniques I find useful for what I’m putting together in a composition, and the combination I put together somehow adds up to a “style” (though I’m still not sure exactly what that style is). When I paint, I’m not conscious of “whipping out Tripps” for the trade. Truly I am pursuing my bliss when I paint. But when the works are done and I line them up on the wall, I’m still not sure how they all add up (or if I’m even making sense at this point). I’ll keep poking at it.


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