Lingering in the Shadow

Raw Photo of a Watercolor Sketch Attempted Months Ago

Raw Photo of a Watercolor Sketch Attempted Many Months Ago

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

WIth an art festival approaching this coming weekend, I came home from school today in a burst of energy and began cranking out reproductions of my recent watercolors, in images 5 x 7″, 8 x 10″ and custom greeting cards. This task ate up a number of hours of the late afternoon and early evening. Finally, I slumped in a rocking chair with coffee, deciding it was time to stop for awhile. An image suddenly flashed into my mind’s eye, and before I thought better, I was out of the chair and back at the computer, photoshopping, cropping, and playing around with one watercolor that I had forgotten completely over the past several months. Below are two cropped, photoshopped compositions of this painting:

Back in the rocking chair, I sipped my coffee and stared at these two images alongside my original, and like Andy Warhol, found myself fascinated in the abstract possibilities of the shadows and negative areas, not just the subject matter. I don’t know how much time elided as I sat, sipping and thinking, pondering these possibilies, But I was truly “drawn in” by these compositions. Since adolescence, I have looked at Andrew Wyeth watercolors, popularly called “vignettes”, and loved the way he allowed his colors to bleed off into a white wasteland beyond the focused subject matter. As for myself, I have often been too timid to leave my work this way, fearing that it would be judged “unfinished.” But I am changing my mind tonight. I’ve determined that I will eventually have this piece custom framed, leaving the unfinished boundary. After all, I’m not entering it into a competition. I’m not subjecting it to another judge’s opinion. And I really have no interest in selling the piece. I have not been “attached” to any single painting of mine for over a decade, but this one is definitely clinging to me tonight. And I am beginning to feel stirred by the idea of creative authenticity. After all these decades of practicing my craft, I feel that I could be drawing nearer to finding my own voice.

Another Partial Watercolor Sketch from Months Ago, and Forgotten

Another Partial Watercolor Sketch from Months Ago, and Forgotten

I decided I needed to get out of the house and do at least a two-mile exercise walk in the park. This habit of the past couple of weeks will hopefully provide a boost of energy that I’ve felt sagging in recent months. The longer I walked, the more my mind spun with ideas gleaned over the years from Paul Tillich, Robert Motherwell, Richard Diebenkorn, Andrew Wyeth and one of my high school art teachers, notably that compositional strength is frequently discovered in the boundaries, rather than the heart of the subject. No doubt, I have plenty of matters to ponder as I venture closer to the art festival, but these things definitely have my attention.

The borderline is the truly propitious place for acquiring knowledge.

Paul Tillich, Religiöse Verwirklichung (Religious Realization)

I did manage to return to a watercolor I began over the weekend, experimenting with some foreground texturing and figuring a way to transition from the painting itself to the surrounding white ground. My studio lacks decent photography lighting at night, so this is the best I can muster:

I close with this note from Irwin Edman that has lodged into my consciousness throughout this fertile evening:

An artist learns by repeated trial and error, by an almost moral instinct, to avoid the merely or the confusingly decorative . . . to say what he has to say with the most direct and economical means, to be true to his objects, to his materials, to his technique, and hence, by a correlated miracle, to himself.

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 “Lingering in the Shadow”

  1. coreyaber Says:

    I really like the use of “unfinished space.” It makes the images seem like memories half formed, which seems to work well with your overarching themes. Interesting, potent effect.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Corey, I really like your observation, thank you. It’s been said of Wyeth’s vignettes that they emerge gradually like a photo in the developing tray. My own take is that our eye only focuses on a small area, while the perimeter drifts out of focus. I really appreciate your interpretation.


  2. Jodi Says:

    So inspiring! Thanks for sharing


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