Revised Thursday on the Laguna Madre

Note to reader: The following was composed on my laptop a week ago while at the Laguna Madre during my Artist in Residence activity:

Thursday Morning Laguna Madre Skies

Thursday Morning Laguna Madre Skies


My last full day on the Laguna Madre

I arose at 6:05, photographed the cloud-filled eastern skies, and wrote in my journal. Here is what follows . . .

Six Days to Get to Know Myself a Little Better

When someone asks how long I have been an artist, I never know how to answer accurately. I’ve had the artist’s eye from childhood: alertness, sensitivity to the visual and romantic imagination, fantasy, etc. I began drawing as soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil. I was encouraged. Throughout school, it was all I could do well, and I was always praised for my endeavors. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in art. But I experienced a Renaissance of learning. In college, I suddenly wanted to know everything. Studying the Bible led me to seminary where I pursued graduate study. Following my doctorate, I embraced literature and philosophy. After two years of teaching philosophy and religion as an adjunct instructor in universities, I signed a contract to teach in a public high school, and soon the humanities became my obsession. It was in the humanities that I was able to carve out a niche in the teaching arena (philosophy, art, literature and music).

The artists who seized my imagination between graduate school and teaching were Edward Hopper, Pablo Picasso and Andrew Wyeth. By 1988, I decided I wanted to pursue watercolor as deeply as time would allow, and Andrew Wyeth’s drybrush vignettes became my guiding force. As a subject, I chose dying America—the small towns with family-owned businesses that are now vacant buildings. I wanted to record the soul of these shells that used to be animated with a life and culture that is disappearing from our landscape but not our memory.

Art history became a renewed passion for me. I had taken twelve hours of it during my bachelor degree study, but began teaching it in high school, eventually expanding to the Advanced Placement curriculum. Art history I now read for pure pleasure, no longer needing to prepare lesson plans. I read now with a thirst to know all I can about the spirits and forces that drove those amazing visionaries whom I now revere as my guiding spirits.

So, currently I am a synthesis of visual images and abstract ideas. I did not pursue my studio craft for decades, but I did indeed suck the marrow out of books in pursuit of a world of ideas. Today I am a visual artist and a thinker. I doubt that my life would make an interesting story, but it’s important for me to understand myself better. And spending this week alone on an island in the Texas Laguna Madre has given me plenty of quiet and space to reflect on these matters. I needed this time and this space.

As the sun climbs higher into the sky, I notice for the first time all week the lagoon to my south taking on a much deeper teal hue. My plan today had been to paint shells, since I experienced such satisfaction from my first attempt yesterday afternoon. But I cannot stop gazing out at the waters while drinking my generator-powered-percolated coffee. Perhaps I should create my own label: Tripp’s Generator Coffee: Power Up!

Painting Number 15 on Thursday Morning

Having dashed out a quick watercolor sketch of the morning seascape with as much deep color as possible, I then turned my attention to a bag of assorted seashells that Dinah Bowman had gathered and presented to me the day before. They had been hanging overnight from a hook on the front porch. Taking out a few and pushing them around on a white sheet of watercolor paper in the bright sun, I delighted in the strong shadows cast by the small forms, and felt that I had returned to the discipline of closely-scrutinized still life disciplines.

Painting Number 16 on Thursday

Painting Number 16 on Thursday

This small still life vignette emerged rather quickly, so I exchanged the shells with more from the bag, and as the sun continued to move, I had to keep moving my small table and chair beneath the porch roof in ways to capture the sun on the paper before me, without sitting in the glare of the sun myself. In order to accommodate more easily the constant shifting of the still life, I placed the paper on a drawing board, slipped my knees under one side, and balanced the board with one end on the table in front of me and the other on my knees. As I began work on the second set of shells, I encountered a surprise:

H E L L O !!!!!!!!

H E L L O !!!!!!!!

A hermit crab emerged from the largest shell and began crawling straight toward my lap, like a large tarantula! He had been hanging in the bottom of a plastic bag all night, and now decided it was time to go back home. Picking him up by the shell, I walked down to the water and dropped him over the edge of the dock. He seemed to be smiling as he crawled away across the bottom of the lagoon.

Painting Number 17 Thursday

Painting Number 17 Thursday, this time with a dead crab

Returning to the plastic bag, I replaced the live hermit crab with a dead blue one and resumed the new still life. Again, it was a quick study, and I had Andrew Wyeth in mind, the way he drybrushed his Maine seashells.

As the afternoon stretched toward evening, I felt a deep-seated fatigue. But I had this crazy notion in my head of wanting to crank out twenty watercolors during my stay here. The boat would be coming for me in the morning, and I knew I could possibly squeeze out one more quick painting then, so if I did two more this afternoon/evening, I would have my self-imposed quota. Setting up an assortment of fish skeletons along with my crab corpse, I went for broke.

Number 18 Thursday

Number 18 Thursday

Feeling zero satisfaction from this painting of the bones, I decided to call it a day. Once this residency is finished, I’ll be satisfied with eighteen, or possibly nineteen paintings.

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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2 Responses to “Revised Thursday on the Laguna Madre”

  1. Cheryl Rose Says:

    It’s 4:55 a.m.! Wide awake! Enjoying reading your blog, the only one I make time to read in my hectic “retirement” schedule. It’s just fascinating to watch your work through your written words! Can’t wait to see one of your shows!


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