Pre-Dawn Meditations

cropped fire wheels

Experiment in Watercolor Masquing, Spritzing and Spattering

To create oneself through making (either by writing or painting) is an ethical act of decision and passion: you become formed, differentiated from others; you  feel your place in the world and find your wholeness, integrity.

Richard Schiff, Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Inerviews

The pre-dawn mornings in Portland, Texas have been soothing this week. Temperatures are always lingering around 70 degrees, as a foggy mist hovers over the dawn. I love driving through the darkness toward the local Starbucks, and then watching the grey light emerge. The atmosphere is rich for reading and writing, and I am enjoying immensely this book of Barnett Newman writings on art that an artist friend has lent me. I always manage to settle into this coffee shop before 7:00 and the workshop doesn’t begin until 9:30.

My ideas this morning are driven by the comment posted above from the Introduction to this book. Yesterday’s experience of watching watercolors emerge from the brushes and minds of various individuals renewed for me that joyous “shock of recognition” (Motherwell’s words) as I saw how these artists view the world through their own eyes and filter their interpretations through their own souls. One of many highlights for me was meeting a retired Episcopal priest who expressed much of my own sentiments as we discussed our seminary training and how our lives have unfolded since that training many decades ago. Both of us are grateful for our education, and for the subsequent freedom to explore new vistas, applying our old disciplines to new discoveries.  I could feel his passion for making art, and was astounded as I watched his harbor watercolor come into focus. I could only admire the effects of his solid training and at the same time appreciate his willingness to explore new methods rather than cranking out the same thing he was used to doing from the past.

I also delighted in the work of a retired architect, one who referred to himself as “old school” because he drew his creations with his own hands and tools instead of relying on computer-generated schemes. His adept skill in using a straightedge and watercolor brush showed a disciplined eye, and at the same time he knew how to use the brush in a painterly fashion, instead of being bound by precision alone. I have always enjoyed that Apollo-Dionysus tension, with Apollo representing the rules and structure, and Dionysus representing the flourish and spontaneity.

I am anticipating today’s session with eagerness because these painters, most of them belonging to the same watercolor society, are not carbon copies of one another. And during the closing critique session yesterday, I was touched by their genuine regard and respect for one another. When the artist community is a nurturing one, everybody grows and experiences the very best of the art-making enterprise. So, here’s to new and affirming experiences . . .

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.



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4 Responses to “Pre-Dawn Meditations”

  1. Xraypics Says:

    A provocative post, thankyou for that. I feel as though I have reached a plateau in my own work, having found the technique to extract what I can from my material, it is now passe in my mind and I’m not sure how to move forward. So your comment about not cranking out the same thing struck home. It would be good to join a nurturing community, and I shall look around for one.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Tony, you deserve that nurturing community and I am confident you will find it. I know those plateaus oh so well and never find satisfacion in whipping out Tripps for the trade. When I wrote that comment, I was thinking of the sad state of Jackson Pollock when he didn’t know how to evolve from his drip paintings. He was true to himself that he wouldn’t keep cranking out his signature style just because a gallery world expected it of him. But it seems he never figured out what to do next, and died tragically when he apparently thought he had nothing left in the tank.

      I’m sort of hung right now myself–I developed a body of nostalgic middle-America watercolor subjects for over a decade, and then got transplanted to the Texas coast where I began painting themes completely foreign to me. I wondered what I would do when this residency closes–go back to nostalgia, continue with these coastal themes, or something else new altogether. As it turns out, I don’t have to decide just now, because I’ll be doing an island workshop on the Laguna Madre in early June, around the anniversary of my first island stay. But then after that . . . I have no clue what I will pursue.

      However . . . since I’m known as a schoolteacher locally, and not really known as an artist aside for some communities here and there, I realize there are no demands on what I do next. It is strictly up to me. I love the comments I read from Creative Authenticity, that the world will get along just fine without our art; they’re not anxiously awaiting our next creation. Or, as Motherwell poignantly put it, “If no one gives a damn what you create, why not just create what you want?” I love that sentiment, and it helps me out of the troubled spots when I wonder what I should pursue next–it’s up to me. What a wild freedom, knowing we can pursue what we choose.

      Thank you for breakig my mind loose this morning, Tony. I awoke this morning tired from last night’s reception, with still have a half-day workshop to lead, and now you have lifted me to a level where I’m excited about meeting these artists one more time before I depart.


  2. Xraypics Says:

    Thanks so much for the insight, I shall continue to plough my own furrow, but like a log in a fire, it burns more brightly when there are other logs burning around it. This WordPress blog, and the people I follow do something towards that. (I’ve just realised how I mixed my metaphors above.) I hope I don’t follow the same fate as Pollock! Cheers, have a wonderful day at your workshop.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you, Tony. The experience was a rich one, and I’m back to the day-to-day grind of school now. My newly-formed “Artists’ Cafe” has really given me a much-needed shot in the arm. I’m so grateful to them as well as you and others who keep me in good spirits on the blog.

      Liked by 1 person

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