Archive for June, 2015

Revised Thursday on the Laguna Madre

June 18, 2015

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

T H U R S D A Y

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.

Trying to Close out a Laguna Madre Painting

June 17, 2015
Studio Version of Laguna Madre Field Station

Studio Version of Laguna Madre Field Station

I loathe posting a late-night blog as the classic whiner, but this week has been too demanding of me. After my eight-hour session at the Summer Institute today, I went immediately to another 90-minute session with members of the faculty and administration of my high school. And now I have homework to complete for tomorrow’s Institute, it is 9:27 p.m, and my eyes are closing.

All this to say–I may be nearing the end of this painting, but I’m honestly too exhausted to know. I did work on it awhile tonight, detailing the building in the distance and continuing to work the drybrush foreground. Tomorrow the Institute ends, I plan on catching up on several days’ worth of lost sleep, and then we’ll find out if this painting is going to be O.K. or if I should simply move on to the next.

Thanks for reading. Next time I blog I should be more awake and alert.

Revised Wednesday on the Laguna Madre

June 17, 2015

Note to readers: The following is what I wrote one week ago while on the island, but was unable to post on the blog.

W E D N E S D A Y

Media Day at the Laguna Madre Field Station

The Dawn of Media Day

The Dawn of Media Day

But what does all this scribbling amount to? What is now scribbled in the heat of the moment one can contemplate with somewhat of satisfaction, but alas! to-morrow–aye, to-night–it is stale, flat, and unprofitable,–in fine, is not, only its shell remains, like some red parboiled lobster-shell which, kicked aside never so often, still stares at you in the path.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, March 5, 1838

Rising refreshed at 6:10, I pulled on my clothes and wandered out behind the field station to take a picture of the eastern horizon. After taking the photograph and looking at my phone, I discovered such a backlog of blog and facebook posts, that I felt a compulsion to answer every single one, and it took a full thirty minutes. Then, taking time out to read from Thoreau’s Journal, I smiled inwardly at the piles of journal pages I’ve piled up since 1986, wondering how many of them are good only for starting fires this winter when the fireplace is ready. I found out that the media would be arriving between 10:00 and 11:00. I went ahead and began laying out a composition for the fire wheel flowers I have been practicing throughout the week, hoping to accomplish more of the Albrecht Dürer discipline.

Painting Fire Wheels in Preparation for the Media

Painting Fire Wheels in Preparation for the Media

Boats moved up and down the lagoon throughout the morning, each containing one or two occupants. When I looked up and saw with surprise a boat filled with nine people, I figured it must be my guests for the morning. As it slowed to approach the dock, I walked the distance from the field station to the end of the dock. A videographer already had a giant camera trained on me, and others raised their 35mm cameras and smart phones and began shutterbugging. I felt quite overwhelmed by all of this; there is no way to explain their enthusiasm and hearty greeting, and the effect it had on me.

The Media Arrives

The Media Arrives

The morning was like a press conference with interviews on TV (it was the NBC affiliate from Corpus Christi, KRIS-TV) and recorded for the local newspaper (The Caller-Times) and university communications department. Every single person was a ball of enthusiasm, filled with ideas and good words. I could have stayed all day with them, and was sorry when time came for them to leave. I photographed the boat pulling away, and they were photographing me, still!

http://www.kristv.com/clip/11598233/artist-paints-laguna-madre-part-of-new-program-at-tamucc#.VX9XGZV6Mc1.wordpress

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wr03ZJB84TI&feature=youtu.be

http://www.tamucc.edu/news/2015/06/061115%20Dr.%20David%20Tripp%20.html#.VXnajXoo7qB

Once the media departed, I felt more charged than ever to paint. Finding a better quality watercolor paper among my stock, I decided to stop using the Utrecht brand paper I had been using up to this point (a quantity of it had been given me), and went back to my old stand by: D’Arches 140-pound paper. As soon as I laid in the flat wash of a sky, I knew my problem had been solved. There was also no problem in lifting out the wet color for cloud effects with a cotton towel and Q-Tips.

Painting Number 12, on Quality Paper

Painting Number 12, on Quality Paper

Dinah Bowman, a well-known local artist in the Corpus Christi area who was the main driving force behind securing this Artist in Residence position for me, gathered shells and brought them to me so I could try some close drybrush study of them as well. For years, I had admired the Andrew Wyeth seashore studies executed during his summer months in Maine. This would be my first time to attempt painting seashells, the remains of a crab, and a discarded fishing lure.

Drybrush Study of Shore Debris

Drybrush Study of Shore Debris

As the sun sunk low and the sky and land filled with warm colors, I decided to try one more plein air study of the lagoon on the south side of me.

South Side Laguna Madre

South Side Laguna Madre

The day had been satisfied beyond description. Night is coming on. Time to lie down to sleep before it gets too dark to find my way to the bed.

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.

 

The Gift that Keeps on Giving! Another Newspaper Article Posted on my Artist in Residence Experience

June 16, 2015

http://www.recordstar.com/recordstar/article_388ea0aa-5301-5adb-9c11-85bb1b8d09de.html

I’m trying to go to bed, as the hour nears midnight, but I still have three chapters to read for a book study I am committing to attending tomorrow evening, after my eight-hour marathon summer institute experience at Texas Christian University.

Yet I found a new article posted in the Nueces County Record Star and paused to read it. Now I gladly pass it on to my friends.

Thanks for reading.

Struggling for Time to Paint

June 16, 2015

I’m working late into the night, as my daily summer institute schedule has me committed for eight hours of prime time daily, and tomorrow evening I will be attending a book study that I committed to earlier this year. I don’t have the proper lighting for photography late at night, so I’m not showing my readers a very good representation of this Laguna Madre site that I photographed last week. But I feel that I owe it to my readers to see my daily work, as I did while on the island. I very much appreciate everyone’s willingness to take a look, and don’t want to let anyone down by skipping a day. So, here it is:

The painting measures 14 x 18″ and I really thought I could complete it in two days. But the daily institute meetings are draining my battery, and now this is the third evening I have labored over this. It should be finished by the weekend. I am already wanting to move on to the next one.

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.

Revised Tuesday on the Laguna Madre

June 16, 2015

Note to readers: What follows is the blog I composed one week ago on the laptop at the island, but was unable to post (no Wi-Fi access):

T U E S D A Y

Man is the artificer of his own happiness. Let him beware how he complains of the disposition of circumstances, for it is his own disposition he blames. If this is sour, or that rough, or the other steep, let him think if it be not his work. If his look curdles all hearts, let him not complain of a sour reception; if he hobble in his gait, let him not grumble at the roughness of the way; if he is weak in the knees, let him not call the hill steep. This was the pith of the inscription on the wall of the Swedish inn: “You will find at Trolhate excellent bread, meat, and wine, provided you bring them with you!”

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, January 21, 1838

The morning was cool and breezy, and I dozed until 7:00 a.m. Pulling on my wading boots after breakfast, I walked eastward into Night Hawk Bay, entering the water for the first time. I quickly decided this was not a good idea. I could see redfish activity, far out beyond the grass beds, but decided not to wade out so far from shore that I could no longer see my boots. I had read enough about sting rays that I knew I did not want to disrupt my residency on the island by getting stung and having to call for medical help and thus losing a day or two. From where I stood there was only a sediment bottom visible to my eyes, with nothing to see but blue crabs scurrying away.

Returning to the station, I plugged in the gas-powered generator for the first time and brewed my first batch of Starbuck’s coffee. I then sat gazing westward across the waters from the front porch, wrote in my journal, and occasionally looked up at the paintings from the first two days arranged along my outdoor workbench. Finally, my two cups of coffee were drained, and it was time to go to work.

On the Third Morning, Finally Coffee!

On the Third Morning, Finally Coffee!

Work from the First Two Days

Work from the First Two Days

Passing between the dormitory and the electrical control room, I spotted a lovely composition between the buildings, framed up perfectly: the house on the first island north of me, backed by a large, dark forest, complete with a dock leading to the water, and a sprawling view of its green property, the lagoon, and then my own property replete with wildflowers and cacti. The clouds were piled high above and I began work on a small painting that I knew was going to take longer than the drybrush studies from the day before.

View Through the Doorway

View Through the Doorway

Soon after beginning my pair of Albrecht Dürer studies in the front of the station, I spied just off my east shore a man in waders in the water, away from his anchored boat, stalking. I retrieved the field glasses that Bobby Duke left on my conference table, and looked intently at the stalking fisherman, waiting, waiting, waiting, always surveying the water. Suddenly he casted. He was using a spinning reel, and was catching nothing. Though I am a fly fisherman and he was a spin-cast fisherman, we were both descendants of the same ancient Christian sect—the Coenobites. (I stole this pun from Thoreau’s Walden. For anyone unfamiliar with the pronunciation of the sect, it sounds this way: “See? No bites!”)

Albrecht Durer Inspired Dry Brush Study

Albrecht Durer Inspired Dry Brush Study

Albrecht Durer Inspired Drybrush Study

Albrecht Durer Inspired Drybrush Study

When I lie down to sleep tonight, I will be at the half-way point of my residency. I have not been lonely at all, and the time has evaporated quickly. I am on my third day now. The social media has had people chatting with me throughout each day, and every morning I have awakened to a backlog of messages. The blog has done very well too. Tomorrow the media group will arrive at the island sometime after 9:00. I have already met one of the contingency, Captain Jay Tarkington. He came out yesterday to work on the electrical problem and showed me how to use the gas-powered generator. He is also a professor at TAMUCC, taking seriously his scientific research as well as his educational theories. And Bobby Duke will probably come with the group tomorrow. Dinah Bowman plans to come as well. Dinah carries a plethora of fresh ideas with her and is always inspiring me. Because of all these newly-found friends, along with my host of friends on social media, I don’t know what loneliness is this week. This has come as a very refreshing surprise. When asked by acquaintances if I feared being alone, my answer was No. I expected solitude, and I am getting it. But I certainly do not feel alone. Well-wishers are sending their greetings, encouragement and warm sentiments around the clock, and I love them all for that.

Art History has been surging through my veins as I’ve painted out here. Andrew Wyeth’s compositions and vignettes, Albrecht Dürer’s drybrush grass studies and quotation about wresting art from nature, Motherwell and Matisse with the open door series, Richard Diebenkorn as I worked on my cloud portrait yesterday and laid down the horizontal bands on the lower border of horizon, lagoon and land. For several years now, I have read art history for the pure pleasure of it, instead of for purposes of preparing lesson plans. I love the notion of art history serving me in this capacity, feeding my imagination and creative eros as a visual artist.

I blink my eyes, and the residency is half-finished. I’m delighted that I have completed ten watercolor studies already. Perhaps I’ll have twenty by the time I leave this place. At any rate, it was my goal from the beginning to crank out a body of work worthy of this stay.

Before closing, I’ll post a few pictures of friends on the island. The great blue heron began on the edge of the lagoon, but has been landing closer and closer to where I sit on the porch. The swallow is nesting on five eggs above one of my doors. On the second day, she stopped flying away every time I passed by. I guess she is used to me now (perhaps I have a gentle, calming spirit after all). The jelly fish is the reason I’m glad I chose not to remain in the water for very long this morning.

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.

Re-Broadcasts of my Laguna Madre Story on Corpus Christi Television

June 16, 2015

This morning I was sent another email from the Assitant Director of the Center for Coastal Studies at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. He forwarded more links to local broadcasts of the time spent with the media last week at the Laguna Madre. I’m delighted that this story had legs for the Corpus Christi area, and that the university’s studies at the Laguna Madre are getting the attention they deserve. They’ve worked hard on this project for years.

http://mms.tveyes.com/Transcript.asp?StationID=4175&DateTime=6%2F15%2F2015+5%3A42%3A58+AM&Term=A%26M-Corpus+Christi&PlayClip=TRUE

Thanks for reading. I plan to post further developments of my painting of the Laguna Madre Field Station.  It’s been hard to give it quality because I am in the midst of a 32-hour week of A.P. Art History Summer Institute classes.

Extending the Laguna Madre Painting Experience

June 15, 2015

Maybe away from Paris I could write about Paris as in Paris I could write about Michigan.

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Working on the Field Station, Back in my Studio

Working on the Field Station, Back in my Studio

Today was my first day back on duty. I attended an eight-hour Advanced Placement Art History Summer Institute session. Three more days will follow. I came home, thoroughly exhausted, but in the mood to work further on the painting I started yesterday, using photographs I had taken of the field station while I was on the island. I’ve enjoyed working on it, but now it is clouding up outside, darkening and threatening to rain. I dislike painting from digital photographs I’ve taken when I was spoiled last week by plein air opportunities. But at least I have pure light coming in my studio windows. However, I will not turn on desk lamps and work from their yellow glow, so this painting will have to wait until tomorrow afternoon.

I like the Hemingway sentiment that he writes of locations better after he has left them behind. I am hoping that will happen as I put some time between now and the days I spent on the island. I do miss it so, and really miss the new friends I met while I was down there. But life moves on, and at least I still have a task to perform.

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.

Revised Monday on the Laguna Madre

June 15, 2015

M O N D A Y

When the first light dawned on the earth, and the birds awoke, and the brave river was heard rippling confidently seaward, and the nimble early rising wind rustled the oak leaves about our tent, all men, having reinforced their bodies and their souls with sleep, and cast aside doubt and fear, were invited to unattempted adventures.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Waking at first light, I lay on the comfortable bunk bed, enjoying the sounds of the occasional boat passing by, the birds along the coastland, and feeling the breezes coming through the open screened windows. I rose at 6:30, turned on the lights to see better to get dressed, and at 6:35 the power failed. I texted my contacts on the coast, and two university men came out promptly to inspect the electrical problem. Discovering that the problem could not be repaired within the week, they left with me a gas-powered electric generator, good for 10 hours, and promised to return in 48 hours to see if it needed more fuel. As it turns out, the only thing I would really prefer to do is charge my cell phone when needed, and percolate coffee once a day. I will have no lights inside, so I’ll need to go to bed when it gets dark. That suits me fine.

I tried twice to catch fish today. I managed three hard strikes, but landed nothing. Two of them I saw—big fat redfish taking my shrimp-patterned fly. They were really heavy, and I was excited.  I’ll try again later, but it was a thrill watching the redfish charge the bait. I need to keep my priorities in order–my first task here is painting, not fly fishing.

Today I painted the house on the island south of me, a bright yellow house that made me think of a Van Gogh painting in Arles. I loved the complementary purple structure immediately to its left, and tried to enhance that relationship. The clouds were delicious again, as they had been on the first day, and I wondered if the climate were this beautiful as far as the eye could see, at least to Mexico. As I painted, the sun highlighted the pier nicely to the right of the house, so I applied masquing to protect those areas and worked dark tones over the masquing. Later when I peeled it off, the highlights stood out just enough to satisfy. I’m still timid when I look at the shoreline, uncertain how to render the colors of the shallows alongside the bank. I’ll leave that to a later painting. So far I like what is happening in the upper part of the composition.

Painting Number 5

Painting Number 5

Looking eastward from this setting, I saw a gigantic cloud formation, so I decided to try a cloud portrait again. I thought of Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park compositions as I finished out the bottom ribbons of horizon, lagoon, and near shore. Before I came to the island, I wondered about the abstract possibilities of the landscape in this setting, and just now got my answer. I took a chance on rendering the light-colored shallows alongside the beach, but could not quite decide how to handle the sand. Another painting, perhaps. I’m deeply dissatisfied with the brushstrokes showing in the sky, and cannot believe that is happening. I’ve known how to do a flat wash since high school, and for some reason, I have lost that touch. The skies about this island are solid in hue, and I cannot seem to paint a “strokeless” sky. I’m going to have to figure that one out.

Painting Number 7

Painting Number 7

I also tried to paint the power station on the horizon for the second time, this time trying to capture the colors of the lagoon as well as the grasses, cacti and wildflowers on my side. Unsettled by the brushstroke issues in the sky, I chose to cloud this one up considerably, leaving little blue expanse to show.

Painting Number 7

Painting Number 7

I’m still trying to catch up on some lost sleep, and my energy is a little lower today. I was happy to have done four paintings on my first day, but will stop with three today.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

KRIS-TV, NBC affiliate for Corpus Christi, Broadcasts my Laguna Madre Experience

June 15, 2015

The Center for Coastal Studies at Texas A&M Corpus Christi selected Dr. David Tripp as the first artist for its new artist-in-residence program.

via Artist paints Laguna Madre, part of new program at TAMUCC.