Tributaries

Quiet Time in the Studio after the First Day of School

Quiet Time in the Studio after the First Day of School

He fumbled for some sheets of clean paper, forgetting where he kept them.  He had to write the editorial that would explain and counteract. He had to hurry. He felt he had no right to any minute that passed with the thing unwritten.

            The pressure disappeared with the first word he put on paper. He thought—while his hand moved rapidly—what a power there was in words; later, for those who heard them, but first for the one who found them; a healing power, a solution, like the breaking of a barrier. He thought, perhaps the basic secret the scientists have never discovered, the first fount of life, is that which happens when a thought takes shape in words.

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Throughout this day, I have been fumbling with words to couch the ideas tumbling about in my harried mind.  It was the first day of the spring semester, and a good one for me.  The three art history classes were huge, but we managed to study our content and struggled to organize it into meaningful structures. Today our key word in art history was axiology, the Greek term for the study of values. A close study of this word reveals the word logos for word, subject, study, etc. and the word axios from where we derive ideas like axis, axle, etc. The students had to stretch their imaginations to grasp this concept. As one looks at the hub, or center of the turning wheel, and realizes that it is the hub that creates the movement, the rotation, so also values are what move people and move cultures. We spent some time discussing the core values of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and finally the early Christians (today’s focus was on the first few centuries of Christian art). And I tried to prod the students toward the larger question of what values move our lives today. What exactly is it that drives us? What is the nature of our motor? What force lies at the core of our everyday behaviors and aspirations?

As the day progressed, I kept thinking about the notion of tributaries and how our scattered thoughts appear as tributaries, teasing us with the possibility that there is a common source from which they’ve sprung, or a destination to where they are all converging as a delta. And I wondered about what it is exactly that lies at my own core? What is my base of operation? What moves me? And of course, with a brand new semester of philosophy dawning tomorrow, I find myself thinking about the source and the destination. What exactly is my ultimate value, and does it lie at the beginning of my action, or does it stand at the goal and pull me toward that destiny? Currently, there are so many ideas, like tributaries, fighting for my attention daily, even hourly, and I am now wondering what exactly lies at the core of all this.

As I turned to the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, I found this from an 1873 essay of his:

That my life has no aim is evident even from the accidental nature of its origin; that I can posit an aim for myself is another matter.

Later, in his seminal work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he recorded these words in the prophet’s sermon:

The time has come for man to set himself a goal. The time has come for man to plant the seed of his highest hope. His soil is still rich enough. But one day this soil will be poor and domesticated, and no tall tree will be able to grow in it.

Currently, I am looking for a source to unite the scattered streams of ideas that I have accumulated with interest throughout my years, and hoping at age sixty that my intellectual soil is still fertile enough to grow this new tree (ugh! that’s an unattractive mixed metaphor!).  Oh well, this is a blog, right?  Let’s try this one again: I’m hoping to unite these tributaries into a single source, the seat of my values (better!). And when it comes to values, I have thought in recent years that I may uncover the ultimate meaning of all this as I pursue the making of art.

Oh yes, the painting above.  Most of what I’ve been hammering out in today’s blog has been clattering in my mind since I returned to my cold garage studio this afternoon (27 degrees is cold by Texas standards–glad I have a decent electric space heater to help me here).  I’m finding a genuine delight as I tinker with this watercolor and am really trying to give it daily attention now.  Today, I sketched in the hinge on the left-hand side of the screen door, then laid my first wash of shadow behind the door to make a dark frame on the left side of this composition.  My plan is for this to be the darkest part of the picture. I then laid some shadows to the left of the pail. I re-worked the shadows beneath the apples and laid some new washes on the shaded side of the apples themselves, relying for the most part on Winsor Violet. I peeled away quite a few layers of masquing to reveal where I want the scratches to show on the surface of the wooden floor beneath it all. Finally, I flooded the pail with water and began darkening and texturing the exterior of it and tried to define the ridges around the side as well as at the base of the pail. To someone looking at this painting since yesterday, perhaps it isn’t changing much. But I can see a world of difference emerging from the details, and hope that all these “tributaries” will unite to create an attractive painting ultimately.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am never quite alone.

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10 Responses to “Tributaries”

  1. lifeofawillow Says:

    your process is fascinating. i enjoy the detail immensly.

    Like

  2. lindahalcombfineart Says:

    I definitely see the shapes and textures emerging. Thought provoking and meaning flu post. You are a seeker and will find your source.

    Like

    • davidtripp Says:

      Linda, your comment got to me, thank you. When I’m seated I’m this cold classroom at 6:45, waiting for students to arrive, an encouraging word like yours goes a long way. My best to you.

      Like

  3. gyoungphd Says:

    Regarding the scattered streams: A line I’m sure we all know: “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it” (Norman MacLean); but also:
    There’s a river running under your feet
    Under this house
    Under this street
    Straight from the heart
    Ancient and sweet
    On its way back home
    (James Taylor, “Look Up from Your Life”

    Like

    • davidtripp Says:

      I just love that Norman MacLean quote! I also like Thoreau’s Walden remarks following the “time is but the stream I go a-fishing in”. He contrasts the flowing current with the foundational sandy bottom, much the same way MacLean writes of the quiet rocks below the flowing waters. I had never stopped to listen closely to the James Taylor line. Thank you so much for that.

      Like

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