Archive for January, 2019

Sunday Morning Coffee in the Gallery at Redlands

January 13, 2019

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View from my Desk as the Morning Finally Breaks

Just as the potter’s wheel, once set in motion, still turns for a long time and then turns only very slowly and stops, so did the wheel of the ascetic, the wheel of thinking, the wheel of discrimination still revolve for a long time in Siddhartha’s soul; it still revolved, but slowly and hesitatingly, and it had nearly come to a standstill.  . . . But on the other hand his senses became more awakend, they learned a geat deal, experienced a great deal.

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Sunday morning, daybreak in The Gallery at Redlands is providing rich sanctuary. The words from Siddhartha come back to me:

Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself. 

A long shadow looms across my desk, crosses the floor and climbs the gallery wall before me: the towering edifice of Sacred Heart Catholic Church rises behind me. In a few hours, the sounds of traffic will increase, joined by myriads of voices of worshipers moving along the sidewalk and crossing the street to attend mass. The silence I know now will soon yield to that white noise. At this point in my life, I feel I live more in the silence than in the white noise, and the change is welcome.

As I move to the closing chapters of Siddhartha, the passage at the top of this blog came along, and I felt something stirring from deep within. My mind drifted back eighteen years to an intersection in my life calling for a life-altering decision. At that time I was teaching high school full time, university part time, and serving as education director of a large urban Methodist Church. I was commuting a considerable distance to all three of those locations. Life was spinning out of control, as all my time was chewed up by tasks–lectures, lesson plans, administrative meetings, and constant driving to appointments. I had just taken up the brush again, after a couple of decades of artistic hiatus, and wished for some quality studio time to create. I was just getting accepted into art galleries. I wanted to experience the soulful calming effect of the arts, but felt my life was burning out with too many occupational demands.

Things suddenly came to a head, and I immediately severed all my connections accept the full-time high school teaching post, deciding it was time to slow things down. But as we all know, nature abhors a vacuum. All the empty spaces created by the terminations were immediately filled as my high school saddled me with more courses and more responsibilities. So I continued to spin my wheels, cranking out lectures, lesson plans, tests and activities for new courses that just kept coming. In my final eighteen years of high school instruction, I taught ten different subjects, six of them brand new subjects for me. I switched to a different university for adjunct duties, and ended up teaching five new subjects, all of them for the first time in my life. In addition to this, I began to find more galleries to carry my art work, and began participaing in art festivals. So again I found my life incinerating in an inferno of responsibilities.

In May 2017, after twenty-eight years, I retired from full-time high school teaching, and I feel that life has finally slowed and calmed. My university courses are now online, and the subjects I know comfortably. My time in the studio, painting and drawing, is quiet, and my calendar has very few appointments. Of course, this has required quite an adjustment in my thinking: after decades of living in the hurricane, I frequently second-guess my status, sensing that there is some assignment I am forgetting to do. I am continually shocked to awaken to a day absent of demands.

Those who know me well are probably chuckling by now, knowing that I always seem to be “somewhere else”, always driving to another place. But I choose that; it is not demanded of me. What is most precious in my life now is that I generally awaken before daylight, but don’t have to dash into the shower, dress and eat quickly to make my 7:35 a.m. class (after twenty-eight years!). And I no longer have to come home tired at the end of the day, having watched 125 students storm through my classroom. I can enjoy bliss in my home, because I no longer have a myriad of tasks to accomplish in order to show up prepared for classes the following day. The league of morons in American society who believe public school teachers are overpaid for very little work have no clue at all. They don’t know that teachers face a stampede of students five days a week and then bring their work home at the end of the day–grading, preparing for the next day, returning phone calls to parents, going to bed late at night–and as for myself, I was never, never, NEVER caught up. There was always a task delayed, a report not filed, papers not yet graded, and then at the worst time, someone would manage to let me know that the students deserved better. (I just needed to get that off my chest. Two years after leaving it behind, I still taste the gall).

O.K. Finally to get to the real point of this post, the quote at the top of this page: The potter’s wheel of my life turns more slowly now. With the erasure of all those calendar deadlines, I now find quality time–hours–for daily reading and pondering and recording of ideas. Quality time for scribbling in the journal. Quality time to compose lectures now delivered to an audience of one–me. And I love and embrace this. I feel as if finally a reward is offered for all those decades of chasing deadlines and performing tasks on command. The wheel turns slowly now, but there is genuine quality in those revolutions. I can now savor what I read, take more time to write and revise, and create art at my leisure. And when I decide to travel the open road, I can.

These are truly turning out to be Golden Years. I am so happy I decided not to push my service to thirty years. Twenty-eight was more than enough. My life is worth more than the few extra dollars earned by staying another year or two at a profession that was chewing me up. I am extremely happy to be in this new life.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

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Return to the Gallery at Redlands

January 11, 2019

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Early Morning Country Drive

Waking at 5 a.m. is not my cup of tea, but I was motivated this morning: Smooth Rock 93.5 FM broadcasts out of the Gallery at Redlands in the historic Redlands Hotel in Palestine, Texas, two hours from my home. So, after being away several weeks over Christmas and New Year holidays, I decided I wanted to see my friends again, Kevin Harris and Marc Mitchell, during their live broadcast. Thanks to streaming, I listen to them nearly every weekday morning from 7-10:00 (I live outside their broadcast range), but this morning I decided I wanted to be in the gallery while they performed their magic. After driving through ninety minutes of miserable rain, I was greeted by an idyllic sunrise, and by the time I reached Palestine, was in the dry once again.

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Kevin Harris Broadcasting “Kevin and Marc in the Morning”

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And here is Marc Mitchell

Sure enough, when I entered the gallery, they immediately invited me to join them in the live broadcast. Oftentimes, Kevin gives me a heads up about what we are going to discuss, and then there are those times when I just hear the prompts the same time the listening audience does. This morning featured a little of both, as we discussed Leonardo da Vinci, Johannes Vermeer, and some related art ideas. I have that live slot behind me now, so I can just enjoy working at my desk and listening to this pair create this amazing radio presence.

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How many Radio Stations broadcast from an Art Gallery?

When I was notified last summer that a radio station was moving into The Gallery at Redlands, I was immediately enthusiastic, but had no idea just how magnificent this arrangement would turn out to be. I could not have asked for friendlier and more interesting “roommates” as I find with this duo. Their broadcast experience they manage to blend with a sense of humor and all-around joie de vivre that makes them a true delight to know. I have told countless friends that anyone feeling nervous about participating in a live broadcast will immediately find their fears allayed by the way these men handle live discussion formats; they melt the fear away immediately. And they have real fun in their work.

Moving on to another subject now . . .

I always love to pause and reflect over the emergence of a new year. Over the past two months, I have adopted the “Janus-faced” perspective I addressed in a recent blog. January is named after the Roman god Janus, depicted by a double-face looking simultaneously ahead and behind. As I prepare to retire 2018 and lean forward into 2019, I wish to comment on this morose passage I just read from Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf:

And while I ate and drank there came over me that feeling of change and decay and of farewell celebrations, that sweet and inwardly painful feeling of being a living part of all the scenes and all the things of an earlier life that has never yet been parted from, and from which the time to part has come. The modern man calls this sentimentality.

Frankly, I don’t recall ever entertaining these feelings during a New Year’s watch. For me, such times have always been an invitation to reflect, be thankful for the good that has been received, and find ways to deal with the not-so-good. I don’t look upon this past year as a bad one in my personal life, though plenty happened that I didn’t relish, and I don’t feel the need to gnaw on those distasteful bones any longer. Many wonderful things came my way, and I am thrilled to bring them into 2019 with me.

As far as goals and planning are concerned, I am very happy not to enter a classroom for an entire semester, and to see how successfully I can manage online instruction. As to art shows, I have nothing on my calendar until March and April, so, like a farmer in winter that gives attention to maintenance issues, I welcome this time to work on my art, my business, and tend details that need my attention. The planting season will arrive soon, and I pray for a successful harvest later in the year.

I have a wonderful stack of books waiting to be read, and am so glad to be free of deadlines for awhile. Hopefully, I’ll continue to find passages worthy of comment in future blogs.

Thanks for reading. And so, until next time, this is David Tripp signing off from the Gallery at Redlands, home of Smooth Rock 93.5 FM, situated in the historic Redlands Hotel in downtown Palestine, Texas.  I wish all of you an exquisite day.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Morning Coffee with Dave and the Journal

January 10, 2019

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Science is not enough, nor art;

In this work patience plays a part.

A quiet spirit plods and plods at length;

Nothing but time can give the brew its strength.

Goethe, Faust

Writing my memoir has forced me to spend more time thinking over my past, and currently I am working on the second installment from the Julia Cameron assignment (ages 6-10). That period, of course, comprises my sense of lostness during elementary school. Throughout those years, I never felt that I was on track as far as what was expected from good students. I was a daydreamer, and seemed to absorb very little from classroom instruction. I certainly did not feel that I was one of the “smart ones” and my grades certainly were nothing to admire.

Once I reached the university, I realized I was going to have to grow up and accept responsibility if I was to remain in school. I worked hard. Damned hard. And I felt that I was twelve years behind my colleagues. And forty years behind my professors. When I talked to trusted advisors about my deficiencies and my desire to acquire knowledge, they would smile smugly and simply say “It will come. Be patient.” It did.

Fifteen years later, in my first year of teaching high school, I read for the first time the poetry of Walt Whitman. These stanzas from “Song of the Open Road” went right to the core of things for me:

Here is the test of wisdom.

Wisdom is not finally tested in schools, 

Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another not

      having it,

.    .    .

Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,

They may prove well in lecture rooms, yet not prove at all under

           the spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing

           currents.

I knew, as a rookie teacher, that I was no longer lacking in knowledge and wisdom when it came to instructing the youth. But what I had never realized before that day reading Whitman was this:  There is no royal road to wisdom.  We live in an age that demands shortcuts, that wants to know the bottom line now, right now. And the reality of life is that there are things, including wisdom, that require time, much time.

When I was a student in public school, the craze was speed-reading. Courses were offered in speed reading. I always thought that I was a slow reader. One day I realized that yes, I am a slow, deliberate reader. I am a plodder, not a quick thinker. Quality ideas, for me, require time.

This has been a good morning for me at the desk. Last night I took from my shelf a pair of journals from the year 2017, and perused them out of curiosity. I read with delight the pages of notes I recorded from my first reading of Goethe’s Faust. I close this blog with yet another of his sterling quotes that paints the picture of my experience when moments in the study are at their height:

When in our narrow den

The friendly lamp glows on the shelf,

Then light pervades our breast again

And fills the heart that knows itself.

Reason again begins \to speak,

Hope blooms again with ancient force,

One longs for life and one would seek

Its rivers and, alas, its source.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with Dave and a New Semester

January 9, 2019

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. . . within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself . . .

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

This bright winter early morning finds me preparing for classes. College begins in a week for me and I just about have everything ready to load online. This will be my first semester to teach exclusively online. I’m curious to find out how it feels, not having to report to a classroom schedule.

For years, I laughingly told my students that teaching was my karma. That would make sense. I hated public school and was extremely lazy regarding assignments. I was bored beyond description in classes. But there was a poster hanging on one of the walls of a high school English class that I never forgot, the quote is posted above. A few years back I found out that it was a quote from Siddhartha, so I just now got around to reading it. Last night at bedtime, I came across the quote and felt the same soothing calm I felt in those lazy school days when I drew sustenance from the poster on the wall.

The Julia Cameron book I am reading has me writing my memoir for the first time, and there is a fulfilment I feel, getting the words onto a page. Currently, I can only describe my years from childhood through high school as years of listlessness. I felt lost and clueless. I had no identity, and knew of no skills except as an artist. And I felt that artistic skills would not find me employment as an adult. I’ll likely write more of that in future blogs once I get it written out more clearly.

The bottom line: I did not care about reading and pondering Ideas until entering college. Fifteen years later I graduated with a Ph.D., and after working blue-collar jobs a short time, decided to enter the teaching profession. Now, as a semi-retiree, I choose not to leave the profession totally; I have more to share with students than ever before.

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Our month of January is named after the Roman god Janus, who was depicted as two-faced–one looking ahead and the other looking backward. Knowing this changed my attitude about the New Year. Since learning that, I have enjoyed January periods, finding time to write more, evaluating my own past and projecting where I wished to go next. I also find more meaning teaching when the New Year commences than in August when summer is still scorching us in Texas.

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This is a famous drawing of G. W. F. Hegel lecturing his students. I have it at my desk, because this semester I will be teaching the second half of Humanities at Texas Wesleyan University, covering philosophy, literature and art from the Age of the Enlightenment to the present age. January, for me, is a great month for rehashing the eighteenth-century Age of Enlightenment. I will be sharing with the students online an essay from Immanuel Kant: “Was Ist Aufklärung?” (What is Enlightenment)).  My favorite portion of the essay follows:

When we ask, Are we now living in an enlightened age? the answer is, No, but we live in an age of enlightenment. 

In many ways, times have not changed since Kant laid down those words in 1784. In 2019, I personally do not feel that we live in an enlightened age, despite all the technological advances that have provided for us an age of enlightenment. I am preparing to instruct students enriched with smart phones, computer, Internet, email–all the gifts making possible a college-level education without leaving their homes. Yet we still in many ways live in a culture more fitting for donkeys than humans, with little respect for the quality of life and community.

When the curtain goes up next week and I type out my first words to the new students coming in, I will do it with the faith that improvement is still possible with education, and I shall earnestly strive to impart to these new minds life-changing truths gleaned from some of the best creative individuals from our past.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Memoirs

January 5, 2019

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Night Intruders

The new year has brought a number of new activites into my path, among them a series of exercises from Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond. I have already enjoyed from years past her recommendations of the Morning Pages and The Artist’s Date. But now, for retirees, she recommends writing a memoir. Over the twelve-week period, the activity prescribes dividing our lives by years into twelve segments, and then fleshing out one per week.

For a long time now, I have wanted to write my memoir, particularly the early years, while Mom and Dad are still living. Since I am the oldest child, there is no one else in my family that could answer questions surrounding the sketchy vignettes of my earliest memories. I phoned Mom a couple of evenings ago to find out all the places we lived during my first six years, since that was a migratory period in our family life. Dad, a few years after his return from Army service in Korea, made the decision to leave southeast Missouri and seek more lucrative employment in St. Louis. I was eighteen months old. Over the next five years, we would live in three different places in St. Louis, then move on to Fention, then two places in High Ridge, then on to House Springs, and finally back to High Ridge to live in the home where they still reside. Eight residences in my first six years.

I am now recording a memory I’ve never been able to shake, and have spoken about only a few times to trusted friends. Mom and Dad don’t even know about this. While living in an apartment on Southwest Avenue, I was young enough that I slept between my parents at night. Later, I would have to sleep alone in a baby bed. I remember waking in the middle of the night between them, and listening to their heavy breathing. As I lay there, caravans of tiny wagon trains loaded with various objects would move silently over my blankets. Reaching out to them, I picked up the objects in the wagons, and in my fingers they always distorted and collapsed into ugly masses. Everything I touched turned to ruin. In all my years as a developing artist, I have thought and re-thought those themes of creation and destruction: creation from out of destruction as well as destruction following creation.

As I fingered these small objects, I would suddenly hear something, and already knowing what I was going to see (because this happened many, many times), I would look up at our bedroom window. Every night, Mom drew the curtains shut before bedtime, but now they were wide open, and behind the darkened glass, blinking eyes peered at me. Every time they blinked, they made a snapping sound. A husky voice called out of the darkness: “What are you doing?” And then, looking to the right, at our closed bedroom door, the voice would call out: “Open the door.” Again and again, the voice questioned and commanded while I cried, wishing my parents would awaken and chase the eyes away. I never understood how Mom and Dad could sleep through that commotion, and why they were unable to awaken and save me from that terror. Finally, as most agree that dreams are accompanied by some kind of non sequitur: a brightly-colored beach ball would come bouncing into the scene from the right and come to rest next to the blinking eyes. And then the scene of terror was over.

It feels good finally to write this. Throughout my years I have thought over the themes of creation, destruction, and opening doors to what lies beyond. I am still searching for some kind of meaning.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

On the Road

January 4, 2019

Good morning, Friends-of-the-Blog. I am about to go On the Road for awhile, and don’t know when I’ll post next. But when I return, I’ll attach my childhood story to this image. The ideas just now came to me and I lack the time to commit them to writing. But I shall, as soon as I am able. Fair warning, the story is darker than the picture.

Thanks for reading.

A New Chapter in the Continuing Odyssey

January 3, 2019

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Every child is born an artist. The trick is remaining one as an adult.

Pablo Picasso

Still warmed by the rich feelings of Christmas and New Year’s Day, I just picked up from the bookstore a copy of Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond.  Over the yearsI have returned several times to her seminal work The Artist’s Way, and have appreciated the insights and exercises suggested in the reading, though I don’t really believe I’ve ever been “blocked” as an artist. If I am not producing works of art, I am either on the road, in the company of others, or obsessed with reading and writing. I never feel far away from the enterprise of art, even if visual images are not flowing out of my pencil or brush.

I purchased this book because it targets retirees. I have been semi-retired since June 2017, but went straight into the university classroom, so I still had a place to go either two or three times weekly, and so never really felt fully “retired”. That is over for now. All my spring classes are online, so I find myself in a different environment, and thought that this book would provide some structure to my artistic inclinations during the “wide open” days and weeks to come.

I also chose this book because its creative exercises include writing a memoir, something I haven’t yet done, but have been interested in pursuing for a number of years. With this being the commencement of a new year, I believe the timing is ripe for exploring a memoir. And since the beginning of my memoir will expore the importance of drawing in my life (my earliest memories include pencil and paper and my attempt to respond to my environment in pictures), I made a resolution for this new year to concentrate more on drawing, and attempt to hone my skills in that area.

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This book I purchased during the Christmas season of 2014, and I enjoyed the first 100 pages or so, but somehow it got pushed aside from new books (I’ve been such an addict when it comes to purchasing and stockpiling books) and I pulled it from my shelf just before Christmas arrived this time.

As stated before, I am ready to return to some serious winter tree drawing. Problem is, the temperatures here have remained in the 20’s and I don’t have the initiative to bundle up like an Eskimo and go out into the freezing wind to draw (actually, I don’t want to get sick again). So . . . in good time.

My second reading of Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf has been deeply rewarding. I love the way this man wrote. A passage that captured my attention last night as I read follows:

“You have a picture of life within you, a faith, a challenge, and you were ready for deeds and sufferings and sacrifices, and then you became aware by degrees that the world asked no deeds and no sacrifices of you whatever, and that life is no poem of heroism with heroic parts to play and so on, but a comfortable room where people are quite content with eating and drinking, coffee and knitting, cards and wireless. And whoever wants more and has got it in him–the heroic and the beautiful, and the reverence for the great poets or for the saints–is a fool and a Don Quixote.”

I feel the blush rising when I read texts such as this, for most of my life I certainly carried that inflated sense of self-importance. One of many reasons that existential thought has appealed to me throughout my years of teaching is because of the central tenet that we as individuals are certainly adrift in this boundaryless cosmos, and whether or not we wish to admit it, we are not the hub of society, but only a grain of sand in human history. No doubt many never outgrow this sentiment of being at center stage. As I write these words this morning, there is probably a 72-year-old child punching out a Twitter text, believing he is Master of the Universe, and that all souls are obsessed with what he thinks.

My blog is still what it was when I began it–little more than an online journal. Writing is therapeutic for me, and there are some who still tell me that I have a good word for them when they read me. That is my reward, knowing I can do something good for someone else as I figure out this life’s odyssey.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Welcoming 2019

January 1, 2019

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The passions are a kind of thirst, inexorable and intense, for certain feelings or felt states. To find or invent ‘objects’ (which are, more strictly speaking, relational structures) whose felt quality satisfies the passions,- that for me is the activity of the artist, an activity which does not cease even in sleep. No wonder the artist is constantly placing and displacing, relating and rupturing relations; his task is to find a complex of qualities whose feeling is just right – veering toward the unknown and chaos, yet ordered and related in order to be apprehended.

–Robert Motherwell

What an exhilaration to awake to a 19-degree winter morning on New Year’s Day 2019! With no appointments on the books, I felt a soothing calm as the day presented itself with leisure and books. Reading passages from Abstract Expressionist artist Robert Motherwell put me in the frame of mind to explore drawing with renewed vigor. He defined drawing as a method for organizing space on a two-dimensional plane.

The first day of the new year often witnesses a different trajectory in my art. Currently I am working on commissions, and will begin posting them, but I also laid down a New Year resolution that I would draw more. So . . . a few years ago, I drew one winter tree per day for the month of January, then matted each 5 x 7″ drawing, framed a few, and sold a large quantity of them. This year, I’m not thinking about the sale, only the hope to improve with the careful discipline and repetition of drawing. My intention is to spend January with a focus on drawing nature.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.