After the Blood Moon

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There’s a pervasive myth, shared by artists and non-artists alike, that art is a product of genius, madness or serendipity. Wrong. Art is not the chance offspring of some cosmic (or genetic) roll of the dice. Art is mostly a product of hard work. When you look back on the results of a lifetime of artmaking, even the role that talent played is insignificant. Living life productively, your artwork will take care of itself. If you do not live your life productively, nothing will save your artwork–not even talent. 

Ted Orland, The View from the Studio Door

Last night, while watching the beautiful “super moon” eclipse, I realized I did not have a journal with me as I did on the night of September 26, 1996. I was so thrilled on that night, that I dashed back into my house, retrieved some prismacolor pencils and tried my best to render what I saw in the heavens that night. Last night, I just sat back in a lawn chair and enjoyed. I had just finished unloading my gear from a three-day art festival and was bone-tired, and though I knew I had to get up early today to return to school, I owed it to myself to sit and enjoy a phenomenon that won’t be around again for another eighteen years.

Today I recall three days’ worth of conversations I enjoyed with art patrons at the South Street Art Festival. They often express amazement at the number of watercolor images I have hanging in my booth, along with trunks and crates filled with them. And they wonder how one person could produce so many paintings. The answer to that is simple: watercolor requires very little time to complete a composition. And in addition to that, I have been watercoloring more seriously since 1999–sixteen years now. And in addition to that–for the past four years, my production has increased from ten-to-fifteen paintings per year to over a hundred. That adds up to a large body of work. Unfortunately my art doesn’t sell fast enough to clean out my inventory, so the paintings accumulate. I appreciate it when someone tells me I have talent, but the reality is that I work hard to produce. And I’m hard on myself regarding self-critique. I want to improve. My deep-set belief is that anyone devoting hours, days, weeks, months, and years to doing a task is going to improve significantly as time moves on. Malcolm Gladwell, in his celebrated book Outliers, has made the argument that successful people have dedicated 10,000 hours to maturing their craft. I like that general rule. And as for my own work, I would rather look at one of my paintings from 2015 than 1999. The major difference is the number of hours’ experience I have piled up as the years unrolled. If I have any regrets now, it is the reality that I stopped making art from 1976 to about 1988, and I often wonder how my work would look now if there were not that hiatus from that past. No regrets actually–It was during those years that I was deeply immersed in graduate study, and I still believe that my ideas and experiences matured during those “silent” years.

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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5 Responses to “After the Blood Moon”

  1. Xraypics Says:

    Yeah. When I started doing digital art someone in the know told me to keep everything and to look back because I would be slightly amused at how naive my first works were. At the time I didn’t really understand. Nor did I understand the helpful criticism kindly given to me by good friends. But now, looking back I do smile at my early images and realise, not only how far I have come, but how much further I need to go. That figure of 10,000 hours work is probably conservative! I also agree that the silent years help to consolidate and mature the mind – provided the work is picked up again, which is something many people with talent do not do.

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    • davidtripp Says:

      I really like the way you expressed that. When I picked up the brush again after that long graduate school hiatus, I wondered if I had lost any skills, but discovered that I had actually gained real ideas, and was actually trying to paint experience rather than illustrate what only the eye sees. I’m glad I let that process run its course, and truly don’t spend much time wondering if I would be “better” today at what I do had I continued to practice my craft. I do believe, along with the philosopher Hegel, that wisdom comes at the end. Thanks again for responding.

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  2. Xraypics Says:

    It’s interesting, isn’t it, to contemplate what “better” means. No doubt there is a basic talent which means an artist does “good” work, and then there is the group in which ‘der mench’ is allowed to shine through the work, whether a singer who gives their inner passion, or a painter who just captures a moment of truth. For some it comes without apparent effort, others must actively seek it out, more often that wisdom comes only with time and experience. I discovered this during a course on clowning, those clowns committed to the moment shone out – the others were acting; OK but a world apart. So the Journal you painted and wrote on was immediately recognised for the truth it contained. It’s not surprising it sold immediately!

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    • davidtripp Says:

      Wow, Tony! It’s 6 a.m. and I’m supposed to be getting dressed to go to school, but I just read your comment. Too bad we can’t be siting over a pint and having this conversation in another place! You’ve nailed several areas where I have been absorbed in thought for years. I love your contrast between “good work” and “der mench” shining through. I’ve always feared that despite my efforts, I would be regarded as merely a talented illustrator. There have been art festivals where I listened for three days in a row people telling me I “had talent”. I felt as though I were being patted on the head as a fourteen-year-old artist wanna-be. I’m sixty-one, for crying out loud! I know I have talent! I knew that when I was in my teens. I always wondered what it was in a Hopper or Wyeth painting that made me want to cry–how does one paint “mood”? How does one’s work evoke emotion? And then, I began reading that some critics panned Hopper and Wyeth as illustrators. At that point, I stopped worrying about how to paint meaningful pictures and just followed my bliss making pictures. I’m still told by some that I have talent. But there are many (especially in this last festival) who tell me that my paintings draw them in, or that they feel moved by what I present. I’m affirmed when I hear that.

      I love your lessons derived from the course on clowning as well. So relevant. I can listen to musicians playing all the right notes, and I can listen to others whose instruments seem to cry out emotions. I can watch artists turn out pretty, detailed, accurate paintings, and I can see others crank out a composition that reaches out and tugs at my deepest feelings. I love discussing those distinctions with other kindred spirits who are always trying to get to the bottom of these things called creativity and expression.

      Thank you for the comment on my painting/journal. It was a good moment for me, and I was pleased to find a patron who connected to that moment as well. That’s what this stuff is all about, for me. And I really love reading your comments. I wish we had more time and that I could teleport myself to your country and talk face-to-face with you. We do live in a good age, with these communications possible. Despite all the negative things we say about social media, this is indeed a sacred connection. For that I thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

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