A Note about Authenticity

College Street Rhapsody Waxahachie, Texas

College Street Rhapsody
Waxahachie, Texas

If we are to say something authentic, we need to stick with an idea for a while.  We need to gnaw at it, mine it, obsess over it.  I’ve met creative people who are painting, yet also distracting themselves trying to learn Photoshop and taking singing lessons.  It’s true that Bernini managed to sculpt some of the most virtuosic marble sculptures ever produced, while also finding time to design buildings and monuments that changed the face of Rome, write and produce plays and compose the music for them as well.  But that was Bernini.  

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

I have read and re-read this book by Ian Roberts, with much delight, just as I have enjoyed re-reading Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit.  I like the point he raises here.  My own time is divided between watercoloring and teaching public school full time, and that is distraction enough.  I used to belong to bands and tie up much of my time with rehearsals and gigs, and I frankly no longer miss that life.  I would indeed like to be single-minded in my pursuit of watercolor, but that is not going to pay my bills, so there it is.  I can also throw into the mix books–I am a bibliophile and I cannot read enough art history and poetry.  That also requires quality time and composting.

I am also struggling with authenticity and a sense of identity with my recent watercolor pursuits.  Every time I think I have found my voice, I find myself turning yet another corner and exploring another realm.  For the past month of weekends, I have been gearing up for the Paint Historic Waxahachie annual event by painting in historic towns in north Texas.  Since last Saturday, I have spent every day in the town of Waxahachie making plein air paintings.  My heroic model for these exploits has been Andrew Wyeth.  I have focused on improving my drawing skills and seeking greater detail.  But a few days ago, when looking at the body of work that emerged from the past month, I grew tired of the sameness of it all, and took greater delight in looking at my colleagues’ work in oils featuring vivid colors.  So, I decided to go for brightness and contrast with the last four paintings.  I haven’t much liked the results, but do appreciate the difference between these and what I had been cranking out for a month.

Today was the last day for competition, with a 4:00 deadline.  I set up this afternoon on S. College Street, across from the College Street Pub (that I’ve painted three times over the past years), and looked up the hill toward the square.  Last Sunday, I painted the Ellis County Courthouse cupola peeking over the rooflines of the businesses.  This time, I looked away from the courthouse and focused on the backside of the imposing Rogers Hotel.  I decided once more to try and go for bold color.  I spent two hours on this composition and feel O.K. about it.  I would like to try and do a large studio watercolor of this same subject under the morning light instead of the afternoon.  There is much character in the windows, and I would welcome the chance to go after them with some fine draftsmanship and detail, instead of the sketchy way I cranked it out today.  I worked faster than I would normally choose, because a deadline was looming.

Now that the Paint Historic Waxahachie deadline has passed, and today was the last day of school, I look forward to some “chill” time as I try and figure out what direction I want to take next with my painting.  I need some wilderness time now, some solitude, some quality time for reflection and figuring some things out.

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 “A Note about Authenticity”

  1. coreyaber Says:

    In addition to being brighter, your event plein air paintings seem to be more geometric–able to be read abstractly as well as representationally. What got you interested I stressing that?

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    • davidtripp Says:

      Good question, Corey. I don’t have a satisfactory answer. I just got tired of seeing my own work looking the same with every painting–even if the subject changed, the color scheme and drawing “tricks” all looked the same to me, and I felt kind of stale. It’s not fair to compare watercolor to oil, but I did think my stuff looked really conservative, safe and stale next to the vibrant oils painted en plen air. I moved to bolder, more aggressive color, and since I was choosing architecture, the geometrical nature of the buildings does appear more “solid” to the eye now. I’m not sure I like it, though I appreciate that I’m not looking at “more of the same.” I did about 13-14 paintings for this event and felt symptoms of burn-out. I made myself paint every afternoon after a full day of school, and most days I really didn’t feel like it. Tonight I’m trying to finish a large commission in the studio, and I’m trying to shake off the inertia I feel encroaching from so many days running at this watercolor subject. I’ll get to feeling better next week, probably. The commission will be finished and so will the plein air event. I really need to find some relaxation and reflection time.

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  2. sga Says:

    Remarkable that the same artist’s brush created this bright geometric rendering, the Classical column and foliage, and the 19th-century Louisiana estate. I know that “musicians’ musicians” can play in a variety of styles, but have only recently realized that the same is true in the visual arts. And to my (admittedly unschooled) eye, you rendered all three of them beautifully. No wonder it’s hard to decide which path to go down next! I’m sure whichever you choose will round the corner to something else wonderful.

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